The Dance of Death – Dim Mak and Count Dante

Yes, this is the DEADLIEST and most TERRIFYING fighting art known to man—and WITHOUT EQUAL. Its MAIMING, MUTILATING, DISFIGURING, PARALYZING and CRIPPLING techniques are known by only a few people in the world. An expert at DIM MAK could easily kill many Judo, Karate, Kung Fu, Aikido, and Gung Fu experts at one time with only finger-tip pressure using his murderous POISON HAND WEAPONS. Instructing you step by step thru each move in this manual is none other than COUNT DANTE—“THE DEADLIEST MAN WHO EVER LIVED.” (THE CROWN PRINCE OF DEATH.)…..      

Any fans of the American comics on the 1970s must remember the lurid adverts for Count Dante? The deadly master of martial arts whose touch could kill and main! But who was the Count and what is his legacy to martial arts in general and street defence in particular?Many older martial artists will be aware of the late John Keehan, a.k.a Count Juan Raphael Dante, who was possibly the most colorful character of the late-’60s/early ’70s US martial arts scene. His goatee-bearded and devillish good looks gave him a place in international pop-culture through those  “Deadliest Man Alive!” comic book advertisements.

How much of these comic books claims are true is a subject for another time  but Keehan’s gift to “pragmatic” or street based martal arts came about because he grew disillusioned with conventional karate focus on tradition over what he felt to be “effectiveness” and began to focus on his own style that he would promote as street defence. He trained with former champion boxer Johnny Coulon and was a close friend of heavyweight boxing champ Jack Johnson.
After high school Dante/Keehan joined the U.S. Marine Corps Reserves and later transferred to the U.S. Army. During this period, from 1958 through 1961 he was stationed on the West Coast and trained with Shaolin kung fu master Wong Tim-yuen and Kenpon Karate great, Ed Parker, one of the earliest pioneers of American karate. He also trained with James Yimm Lee, the  author of a self-published  series titled “Modern Kung-Fu Karate: Iron, Poison Hand Training.”
Dante also claimed to have met Bruce Lee during this time and it would have been fascinating to have learnt what Lee who was also concerned with effective fighting, would have made of the braggadocio inclined pseudo-noble.He developed a system that is now known as the Dan-te system, “Dance of Death” or sometimes  Theoretically, by learning all of the steps of Keehan’s “Dance of Death” you could be an effective fighting master. Like so much of the man, it’s difficult to tell if this is true, I have witnessed the so called dance of death and its difficult to say just how street effective this dance would be.
How much of anything claimed by Dante is true is always open to discussion. It is known that in  July 22, 1965, Dante was charged with attempted arson when he and an accomplice, Douglas Dwyer (The Second Deadliest Man Alive), were arrested while taping dynamite caps to a rival Chicago dojo. Both claimed to be under the influence of alcohol at the time but Dante explained this was the result of a disagreement with the dojo’s owner over payment for a tournament that Dante had arranged there.
In the 70s Dante seems to have fuelled a series of disagreements with other karate schools over who was best these  culminated in the Dojo War incident of April 24, 1970 where Dante and his students went to the  dojo of the Green Dragon Society’s l. According to the papers of the time,  they claimed to be police officers on arrival and attacked the dojo’s students. The  battle lasting only a minute or two resulted in the death of Dante’s friends and fellow sensei, Jim Koncevic.  Count Dante was planning a comeback to his preferred career of tournament promoting when he died in his sleep of internal hemorrhaging caused by a bleeding ulcer, on May 25, 1975.
I don’t want to spent too much time on the life and times of Dante,  For more information about Dante, check out is wiki entry here A Google search on Dante will give you all the information and a surprisingly still current interest in the man and his style even to present day and its his style that I want to talk about now.

While information about the man is easily found on the internet, information about the style is less easy to come by, but I recall an article in Black Belt magazine in the middle 1970s, although not read by me until the early 1980s when I first started karate that spoke about the way Dante trained his student and I think Street Defender readers will find it interesting and note the commonality with modern day thinking enshrined in arts such as Krav Maga and Kajukenbo.

Its fairly clear that despite his priviliged upbringing, Dante was no stranger to the ins and outs of street combat and his modified Karate has a lot in common with the applied karate of Gary Spiers or the techniques of Dr. Dennis Hanover of Krav Maga fame.

One interesting and concise definition of Dante’s style came from Fighting Arts International who pointed out it was basically all the moves that had been based by America’s World Karate Organisation, strikes to the face, eyes and throat, kicks to the knees and groin.Dante emphasised multiple strikes, to those soft targets, the aim being to get your opponent down and then finish him with a series of kicks, interesting when I viewed Youtube video of the karate that enshrines his techniques I noted a Gary Spiers style knee drop in the latter part of the defence. Although in the main, legs were for transportation only.

Dante also understood that the chances were that a fight would happen not when the student was nicely warmed up and dressed in comfy white dogi but more likely when in a bar or restaurant, with glass in one hand and a cigarette in the other. He taught students to fight in those situation and actively for some sessions encourage students to spar after serveral drinks to get the feel of “drunken Dante.”

At the time I recall myself and most others regarding him as some kind of heretic but in the 21st Century his style comes across as solid effective infighting.  If I can find more about the “most deadly man in history” I will post it here.

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Ayoob on safety

This is a little Ameri-centric but Masad Ayoob is highly competent to talk about self-defence, I’ve chosen a couple of videos which don’t focus so much on guns but on awareness of potential situations. Sad to say in this country it is not quite possible to find yourself confronting an armed robber in a shop without the option to defend yourself.

Massad F. Ayoob (born 20 July 1948) is an internationally-known firearms and self-defense instructor. He has taught police techniques and civilian self-defense to both law enforcement officers and private citizens in numerous venues since 1974. He was the director of the Lethal Force Institute (LFI) in Concord, New Hampshire from 1981 to 2009. He now directs the Massad Ayoob Group (MAG).[1] Ayoob has appeared as an expert witness in several trials. He has served as a part-time police officer in New Hampshire since 1972 and holds the rank of Captain in the Grantham, New Hampshire police department.

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What we have here is a situation!

English: Gunsite Ranch, 1977. Jeff Cooper is t...

English: Gunsite Ranch, 1977. Jeff Cooper is third from the left of the photograph (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The original colour code was invented by Colonel Jeff Cooper, a combat pistol instructor, the code he developed is used by many USA military and police organizations, to differentiate different levels of awareness. His colour codes help recognise and avoid potential threats. I tried Col. Cooper’s code and while it is undoubtedly an excellent system for the USA and the it’s plethora of armed citizens, in my opinion at least the code was too complicated for a Brit looking for a simple system on which to pin his response to a potentially dangerous system. I offer a simplified version here while by no means attempting to claim it as anything other than a modification of Col. Cooper’s original paradigm which acknowledges the slightly less hostile conditions faced by a citizen of the UK compared to their USA compatriots. Here drive by shooting are rarer, gang colours far less of any issue and it is entirely possible to walk for several miles across a major British city without being mugged or otherwise harmed.

I have based this modification on traffic light system; Green, Amber and Red


  • You are in a reasonably safe environment, ideally indoors or with friends in a safe or reasonably safe environment. This could be a pub or a bar where it is known that there is no trouble and where incidents are unlikely.
  • This doesn’t mean that you are completely unaware, this is not a good mental state to be in at any point.

Even in your own home you should be sufficiently aware so that unusual sounds or event treated with suspicion. Some improvised self-defence aids dotted about the house may seem over the top but could be a literal life saver. The “it could never happen to me” mindset is fine until the day that it does.

Col. Cooper’s definition is perfect here. You are cautious.

  • You should spend most of the time in this state.
  • You are aware of such environmental danger spots as secluded doorways, entries, and alleys. Aware of people, vehicles, areas of shadow behind large objects, area of blackness perhaps because of lighting.

Remember this is not about behaving like a Ninja in some 1980s martial art flick, but simply being aware of areas and environments that pose threats. Slow down a fraction and give yourself time to assess the situation. I sometimes stop and check my pockets for some supposed lost item, I have perfected that absent minded half turn that people sometimes find themselves in when searching their own pockets and using that I can check almost 360 degrees around me.


  • A threat situation or target is identified.
  • Someone may be giving oral indicators such as direct threats or using suspicious language.
  • Look out for exaggerated movements and one person rapidly becoming the focus of attention of several others. This can often indicate a threat.

I’ll post links to some useful videos on threatening behaviour here

Defence posture

  • Focus on the potential attacker.
  • Check to see if there is an avenue of escape, potential weapons available, and if others around you are friend or foe.

Fight or flight. Flee, defend, or attack.

You have evaluated the situation, and if there is a threat, you prepare to fight or run. Never stand or fight if there is a possibility of fleeing.

Final thought courtesy of Col. Cooper If use of physical self-defence techniques is necessary, use the level of force appropriate to the threat. Don’t treat someone who pushes you because he is rude like someone who is trying to stab you with a knife.


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Krav Maga at Youtube

I went looking for a decent explanation of Israeli Krav Maga and found this video on Youtube. I would suggest not bothering to read any of the comments which are the usual mix of “I can kick your ass, blindfold” and borderline racist pretending to be humour, however the video does describe some KF techniques and is worth a skim through if nothing else.

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Martial Arts are not self-defence.

Martial arts are not self-defence!

Martial arts is a popular pasttime in China. T...

Chen style Taijiquan a wonderful martial art, but is it any good on the street?

OK before I am inundated with responses from students informing me that their instructor, Sensei or Sifu can can break boards with his or her little pinkie and defend him or herself from legions of robo-Ninjas armed only with a copy of The Financial Times,  I had better explain.

First disclaimer coming up. There is nothing wrong with being a black belt, being a Dan grade in a martial arts is undoubtedly better than nothing at all. But anyone wandering, even the relatively peaceful streets, of the United Kingdom confident that their 1st dan in Shotokan Wado Ryu or a couple of years on the Judo Mat will keep them safe could be in for a rude (and painful) awaking.

The Black Belt myth.

You hear about children aged 13 and 14 and even younger getting their black belt and I say, well done!  A young person trained in a martial art will have greater self control is less likely to get involved in crime or is unlikely to be easily pressured into activities by a gang or peer group. But if that kid got involved in a fight outside a pub or club one evening do you really think his skills would make all that difference?

Martial arts and self-defence on the face of it,  may seem very similar.  In Karate and Kung Fu you learn to kick and punch and any self defence course is likely to have those same core elements. The ability to kick and punch in an athletic fashion over the course of a two hour training session could well lead people to believe they have developed viable street defence skills. So let  just explore some of the differences.

A karateka using body armor

Very skilled, but likely to get you killed if you use it on the street. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Dojo No! Your opponent will not warm up, stretch, bow and spar with you!

A fight could happen anywhere and any time, outside a pub or a club, in the street on your way home, in the car park, the possible scenarios are endless.  The ground could be paved or tarmacked or covered in broken glass, blood and vomit from some earlier encounter in the night. Flashy ariel kicks and and clever ground defence is probably not your friend here. If you self defence does not include fighting after a couple of beers and a nice meal at 2am in the morning in a car park or around the tables of a pub with broken bottles and glass in abundance, you need to think again.

The Marquis of Queensbury is dead, probably shot by a drugs dealer!
20 years ago I seldom needed to teach weapon defence, knives were rare and guns unknown. These days you have to assume that the other guy or guys will have a weapon or will improvise one during the fight. If you have not trained to deal with you have a problem.

Black belt and no bruises?
We live in a litigious world now and you can understand why instructors are not keen to see their student go home with even a bruise much less a black eye fractured rib. But the simple fact is that unless you have some experience of getting hit the first time it happens for real, the shock will slow you. Many styles emphasise no contact and while there nothing wrong with this as a martial art as a viable street defence it’s a complete waste of your time.

No rules!
No ref to step in if things get too heated, or one person is injured or winded or put out of the game in some fashion. In a street fight you go down and the next thing you will feel is a boot in the gut or head. You may be bitten or gouged in the eye,  your attacker may drop a knee in your back or guts.  He will not fight fair.  And neither should you! 

This blog contains what I hope is useful advice to ordinary people about how you can look after yourself on the street, it is aimed in the main at the 50+ generation but younger people may find it useful as well.  My advice is based on 30 year experience and observation in various parts of the UK and abroad, I may no guarantees but suggest you read and see what you think. Find what works for you and if you need it use.

RC August 2012 

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