I also find some of the "new age" martial arts displays unbelievable although I'll continue to maintain an open mind. Back in the 50s - 60s I also impressed audiences by breaking boards with my bare hands. I soon stopped doing demonstrations that played on the audience's lack of knowledge of karate and focused more on trying to show people a "believable" art they could identify with.
Many teachers thought they could get students by impressing them with circus tricks. My feeling is that normal people get turned off by such displays. . . and eventually their trickery would be discovered.
In a recent Taichi magazine, there was a story about a very old master (who died shortly after the article was written) who was "tossing" a student all around the room using "chi". Phil S. recently posted video clips of a similar application of chi. I don't wish to downplay the talent, strength and ability of these teachers, but I find it hard to believe that the person being "tossed" wasn't 80% responsible for the action/reaction.
I notice this same phenomenom in class or at demonstrations where I'll ask a student to help out. For some reason or other, the student will "cooperate" with my demonstration. Knowing what I'm going to do, he will, even if I deliberately pull the defense, still move and without touch on my part, be mysteriously thrown aside.
I don't want anyone to get defensive about these comments. I might be 100% wrong and I certainly don't wish to infer that the people involved with these demonstrations are not entirely convinced that what they are doing is legitimate. And I certainly don't wish to infer that these demonstrations of 'chi' falls into the same category as breaking huge blocks of ice that were precut prior to the demo. But I would like to discuss the possibility that the application of chi, in this "tossing" demonstrations, may have something to do with the mindset of the "tossee".
[This message has been edited by gmattson (edited 09-22-98).]