There is grudging admittance that dim-mak was, and is, a traditional aspect of the internal arts, and it is still possible to find modern teachers who know something about that aspect, even though they are rarely willing to teach it. Conversely, after all of these years of training, meeting, or observing a variety of Chinese martial arts experts, I have not seen any real evidence that kong-jing ("empty" force) or the ability to project Qi from a distance to affect an aggressor are anything other than an empty farce in martial terms.
Of course, having said that, many people continue to believe in it, and a number of internet "masters" seem to be charging and earning large amounts of money from those who buy their books and videos and attend workshops on this subject. It is also true that projecting Qi in various ways is considered legitimate in Traditional Chinese Medicine, and it is possible that some talented qigong doctors can emit Qi from their hands for healing; but their hands have to be very close to the acupuncture points they are trying to affect. And, martially, an expert using his Qi defensively must still be able to do everything else to keep an attacker from making contact with and hurting him before Qi can be applied.
I think the idea of being able to defend yourself at a distance is very seductive to the types of student that are often attracted to bagua and to the internal arts in general ... until they find out that hard work, sweat, and the odd bruise are the main secrets to learning how to defend yourself. Most of these leave the legitimate instructors, to go in search of those teachers who specialise in mystery, neo-taoism, and what a cynic might call stage magic.
Misplaced faith is bad enough when limited to solo practice, it is even worse when the instructor claims to teach martial techniques which only work on a student who is subconsciously co-operating with their teacher. For example, if I tell my students that I will be able to attract them towards me with the Qi in my hand, by hovering that hand close to their chest, it will work with a significant proportion of them. If I then explain that it is not really Qi but just their subconscious co-operation (i.e., autosuggestion) to moving my hand towards and away from them, it will still work on a significant proportion of the students—even though their intellectual mind knows that it is a trick.
To make it even more confusing and interesting, it is also true that a traditionalist would not argue with such a modern interpretation of Qi. For him, this would only be an example of how one person's stronger Qi can influence or defeat the weaker Qi of another person.
I also think that many of the martial arts "hype masters" do actually start to believe their own stories after having repeated them often enough to audiences that swallow the stories or have never seen better. It is easy to be a big fish in a small pond if the people we teach have never seen the ocean and sharks. And a lie repeated often enough begins to sound like the truth!
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