Thursday, May 28, 2009

The Science Behind Voodoo; And "No Touch Knockouts"

Readers may find this article in "The New Scientist" to be an interesting yet profound explanation for our ongoing study of "The No-Touch Knockout". I have written about my views on the subject HERE, but the article in "The New Scientist" made me think about the power of belief in health practices shuch as Chi Kung and the cultivation of Chi.
Once again, the scientific mind puts the burden of discovery in the power of suggestion.

Here are a few excerpts from "The Science of Voodoo: When Mind Attacks Body":

Late one night in a small Alabama cemetery, Vance Vanders had a run-in with the local witch doctor, who wafted a bottle of unpleasant-smelling liquid in front of his face, and told him he was about to die and that no one could save him.
Back home, Vanders took to his bed and began to deteriorate. Some weeks later, emaciated and near death, he was admitted to the local hospital, where doctors were unable to find a cause for his symptoms or slow his decline. Only then did his wife tell one of the doctors, Drayton Doherty, of the hex.
Doherty thought long and hard. The next morning, he called Vanders's family to his bedside. He told them that the previous night he had lured the witch doctor back to the cemetery, where he had choked him against a tree until he explained how the curse worked. The medicine man had, he said, rubbed lizard eggs into Vanders's stomach, which had hatched inside his body. One reptile remained, which was eating Vanders from the inside out.
Great ceremony
Doherty then summoned a nurse who had, by prior arrangement, filled a large syringe with a powerful emetic. With great ceremony, he inspected the instrument and injected its contents into Vanders' arm. A few minutes later, Vanders began to gag and vomit uncontrollably. In the midst of it all, unnoticed by everyone in the room, Doherty produced his pièce de résistance - a green lizard he had stashed in his black bag. "Look what has come out of you Vance," he cried. "The voodoo curse is lifted."
Vanders did a double take, lurched backwards to the head of the bed, then drifted into a deep sleep. When he woke next day he was alert and ravenous. He quickly regained his strength and was discharged a week later.
And This:
Take Sam Shoeman, who was diagnosed with end-stage liver cancer in the 1970s and given just months to live. Shoeman duly died in the allotted time frame - yet the autopsy revealed that his doctors had got it wrong. The tumour was tiny and had not spread. "He didn't die from cancer, but from believing he was dying of cancer," says Meador. "If everyone treats you as if you are dying, you buy into it. Everything in your whole being becomes about dying."
The "Nocebo Effect"
The placebo effect has an evil twin: the nocebo effect, in which dummy pills and negative expectations can produce harmful effects. The term "nocebo", which means "I will harm", was not coined until the 1960s, and the phenomenon has been far less studied than the placebo effect. It's not easy, after all, to get ethical approval for studies designed to make people feel worse.
What we do know suggests the impact of nocebo is far-reaching. "Voodoo death, if it exists, may represent an extreme form of the nocebo phenomenon," says anthropologist Robert Hahn of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia, who has studied the nocebo effect.
Depressed after splitting up with his girlfriend, Derek Adams took all his pills... then regretted it. Fearing he might die, he asked a neighbour to take him to hospital, where he collapsed. Shaky, pale and drowsy, his blood pressure dropped and his breaths came quickly.
Yet lab tests and toxicology screening came back clear. Over the next 4 hours Adams received 6 litres of saline, but improved little.
Then a doctor arrived from the clinical trial of an antidepressant in which Adams had been taking part. Adams had enrolled in the study about a month earlier. Initially he had felt his mood buoyed, but an argument with his ex-girlfriend saw him swallow the 29 remaining tablets.
The doctor revealed that Adams was in the control group. The pills he had "overdosed" on were harmless. Hearing this, Adams was surprised and tearfully relieved. Within 15 minutes he was fully alert, and his blood pressure and heart rate had returned to normal.

The above picture is one I took at a seminar in Portland. Jack Hogan demonstrates a "No-Touch Knockout", this one successfully. That is to say, I have seen others fail miserably. As for the ones that work, there is definately something going on. Call it the power of suggestion, hypnosis, Mesmerism, Voodoo or whatever, the effect appears to be real from what I have seen. The United States Military (and others, no doubt) are also dabbling with this phenomonen as Jon Ronson describes in "The Men Who Stare At Goats".
-- I think that what all these studies confirm is that the power of suggestion and visualization affect us on a physical level both for better, and for worse. If we believe in healing through Chi cultivation, it will work for us. If we believe our instructor will knock us out, it is likely he will. Just because it is our mind controlling the event, it doesn't make the experiance less valid...


Rick said...

Your readers might be interested in these two articles below. Richard Mooney, who is a proponent of "Empty Force" was put to some scientific testing. These articles are the result. There used to be a third article inbetween the other two, by Mooney giving his explanation of the results, but he had that article pulled.

Man of the West said...

If we believe our instructor will knock us out, it is likely he will. Just because it is our mind controlling the event, it doesn't make the experiance less valid... Agreed. But it's not the guy who believes in my mystical powers that I'm worried about...

Dojo Rat said...

Good articles, with scientific controls, but perhaps too sterile in some way.
For instance, the article refers to dowsing rods actually being manipulated by the individual holding them. I have to disagree with that, they nearly jump out of my hands when I use them, with no manipulation on my part. Even so, how is it that you locate the water line or whatever you are dowsing for?
This gives me an idea for an upcoming topic.
-Regardless, I believe quantum physics is coming close to explaining a unified field theory that might help explain some of these examples...

JoseFreitas said...

I met Richard Mooney some years ago. I don't know too much about the Empty Force stuff, as you may have noticed I don't quite believe it. I think there's something going on, perhaps there may be some "force" being transmitted, but I seriously doubt that it will affect someone within the context of a fight.

But Richard Mooney was.... intriguing. He managed to make me feel... something. With our eyes closed it was possible to feel a circle of light or a strange half-heat, half-kinesiological force when he was trying to affect us. Dr. Glenn Morris, who was also a practitoner of something like that, could do it, but less intensely (he was better at dream-sending). But Rich Mooney did something quite amazing. He fixed a broken finger on the spot. We did a morning of training with some savate guys, and I got a little carried away with a big (HUGE!) Mexican guy, and his kicks were coming in at a weird angle, and I broke my middle right finger on one of them. Rich Mooney's seminar came next and he worked on my finger and had me do some stances with the hands. I felt this amazing heat in the finger, and the next day I was fine - even though the pain became much worse on the hours after he worked on it. When I came back to Portugal, some months later, I had an X-ray because I hurt my hand, and the doctor asked me: did you break this finger a few months ago? I said, No, I don't think so. He went: Weirdest thing, it looks like it was broken, but you would have known, right? It would have been very painful. I didn't connect the dots until some days later.

Rich Mooney also taught a nice Qin-na and knife defense seminar which was a lot of fun, no non-sense, just plain cool, useful techniques, with lots of Yes-Touch Knockdowns!

(this was way back in 2000 at the first Kai Zen of the Hoshinroshi Ryu in Texas, before Doctor Glenn Morris died)