Subliminal Gestures

by James A. Keating

Subliminal Gestures Part I


Part One: Subliminal Gestures ("SG" throughout the rest of the text.) are not really so mystical as they may initially seem. Agreed, they are not something found being taught in common dojos and studios. But, they are out there, if you care to look hard enough, they are out there in a large way. So much in fact that I bet you’ve experienced one of them without even knowing it! No kidding, more on this later as I explain the effect and cause of a well executed SG. A truly well-timed (Timing is everything) SG first catches the attention (Vision). The doorway to the mind.

The mind is the key to the body. Now, it’s time to deceive the adversary’s mind. An SG is a fake or feint, a misdirection or draw. The SG is an exploiter of human psychology that has its roots embedded deep into our "Survival DNA." So deeply that medical science is not fully aware of what these hidden trigger mechanisms are capable of in life or death situations.

An SG must pose a threat to the well being, a problem that must be solved, an obstacle that must be overcame or something that leads their mind to the wrong conclusion or position to where they are easily taken. It will, for safety reasons, always be a part of an existing system. Acting as an augmentation to that existing system or an auxillary back-up system or method. But almost never do you see an SG operating by itself. When you do, it’s a given the person doing it is one badassed SOB! Think of a timed move which has as its main goal the surprise or startling of the opponent (without touching them) and you have the basic concept of the SG.

Theatrics are involved with the execution of an SG. So are body language (position), facial expressions, direction of gaze and tonal inflections of the voice. (Hell, even something as simple as a well-timed and placed puff of air can be enough to augment an SG so that the opponent goes crashing). An SG may be performed with the hands-arms, legs-feet-footwork, fingers, eyes, weapons or clothing.

An SG must not touch the opponent. Once the SG makes physical contact with something (hand, foot, etc.) then it must by nature, automatically become either attack or defense. You may only touch the mind of the adversary with this sort of weapon.


Think of some commonly experienced SGs and then compare them with some I’ll provide you with in the next segment.


Subliminal Gestures Part II


Earlier I mentioned that some of you have probably already experienced the effects of some sort of subliminal action and you just did not recognize it. A classic example of this:

You are in your car at a stoplight. Fully stopped, unmoving and foot on the brake. Other cars all about you. The vehicle next to you lets the clutch out and rolls just a few inches backward. At that moment, in your car, you are seized with the feeling of this movement you perceive. You react, you push down on the brake but your car still seems to be moving...whoa...whoa...whoa...but it’s all an illusion. The senses have been tricked inadvertently. A well performed SG works off of the same covert manipulation of the peripheral vision. If you have felt this example (the car), then this should tell you, "Yes, this is a real phenomenon." Now, take the concept and apply it.

More Homework


Some simple to grasp, easily found SGs are:

  1. The action of tossing something toward the eyes or face.
  2. Serpentine motion of any kind.
  3. A backhand blow.
  4. A lowering of the head and looking out the tops of the eyes.
  5. Straightening or crouching the body.
  6. Specific breathing patterns or breath related noises.
  7. Making a "capturing" action with hands or arms.

SGs done in combination work well also, but that is a very advanced level. The basic concepts above work on a man or beast…largely universal in affect. Explore some! In installment III it gets stranger, you’ll get some real tools to work with.


Subliminal Gestures III


Here is something you can experiment with. Be mature, give honest feedback and train safely (intelligently). This is not a test of any kind, it is a method to try these principles and concepts out. Then you build upon this understanding. This is an academic exercise, train together…do not compete.

Frame Shifting is a unique skill and it’s also a method to do a few reality checks. In other words, if you’re asking if this stuff is really workable or not, here is the check. Everything and everyone has to have a start somewhere…somehow. And this start is as good as any to introduce you to the general idea of what we are hunting for.

First, raise your hands (like a stick-up) and create a "visual framework" as your Guard. The Great Mas Oyama actually advocated this Kamae as one of the best! The two hands should be somewhat in front of your facial/upper torso area. The idea is to make the opponent see through this framework created by your arms. Yes, like a TV screen or picture frame effect! (You have seen the Photographer(s) put their thumbs together and hold up their hands to get a "picture-like" effect. Just do the same on a larger scale with your arms and hands.) The adversary sees you in this frame (Or on the TV, whichever analogy you prefer). This is where the fun starts!

OK, this is the picture…the "Frame" is the first step. Raise both hands just like you were being stuck-up. Hold the hands in front of you outstretched. Look at the opponent through this "Frame." This unconsciously becomes his perceptual portal to you. You must remember that all of this is happening very fast. The opponent must not be touched, if you do, it becomes a physical parry (and the enemy can react or recover from such a cue).

To shift the Frame you employ a quick, lateral jerk of the frame as he punches. Always send the Frame in the direction of the body’s natural curve (inward). He will miss you by mere inches if done correctly. First passing by your ear. Learning this builds confidence. This leads to further sophistication of the skill. Be ready to parry if the Shift fails to draw them off target (your face). At that point…FIGHT!

To shift the Picture/Target means you leave the Frame still. It’s the Target that shifts in a sideways manner, out of the Frame. You duck out. They go through the Frame because they are visually bound to play that Line.

To shift Target and Frame in opposite directions is to employ both Frame Shifting concepts. Leads and Draws are similar. Found in the Aiki Arts more than other Arts, such techniques are unique in their benefits offered to the Practitioner. Kali utilizes leads, palm leads to be exact. Kali in fact teaches the empty hand fighting Guard not as a Boxing Guard, but just like a Frame Shifting Guard…could it be? Yes, it could, the higher adepts of Kali are also aware of this skill. (Nothing mystical, just sound science at work). Again I advocate your using Stage Magic as a study to enhance your knowledge of human psychology, illusion and of skills such as Frame Shifting.

Subliminal Suggestions IV


Here is a progression formula for you to monkey around with. It’s logical and produces multi-level results with sincere, controlled practice.

The three methods of using Subliminal Gestures:

  1. Block with SG.
  2. Block and SG.
  3. SG and block.


Pumping forward motion with the hands cause imbalance and unsettles the spirit.

Use in-computable circles to overload the CNS Survival Center.

The low growl immobilizes and stops, cause the opponent’s body to sink.

High, yipping screams cause the adversary to go upwards, sometimes they flip in the air, fish-like.


An SG can be hidden behind another movement (this may or may not touch, either way it will play). This type of action creates a "Startle Response" in the opponent. These SGs are directed to the vision-eyes, but again do not touch unless they must. Whatever touches should be punished, either by destroying it or controlling it.

You can find fertile ground to discover more applicable SG-like movements in simple drills like Hubud-Lubud, most Traditional Kata and in some types of Sword Play. Consider that all things have a light side and a dark opposite (shadow). Please conceptualize the total yin side of what you already know in the Martial Arts. If a blow normally hits hard, then this yin type must not hit at all! OK, if an arm normally contacts the opponent’s arm on the outside of the forearm…then it must, in the yin phase lead the blow with the inside of the arm in a wave of capturing energy, towing the blow behind in a vortex of invisible energy. Like a very vigorous and controlled miss. Over-do the SG when you use them, we need the bad guy to really see it for the gesture to rack’em up deep in the mind-body-reaction-danger-vision zone like we want. Can you use an SG on a pet during play? Where are circles in The Big Picture of using magic, SGs and combat?

Subliminal Suggestions V: The Knife and More


The application of SGs in edged weapon combat is very profound. The knife heightens the sense of danger, the threat doubles. The reactions of the enemy are usually swift, coarse and sincere! This is because they are fighting for their very life. Because of this state of high-alert, the opponent can be faked even easier than before (as in the empty handed fight mode). Yes, Subliminal Gestures (overt and covert) can fall into the Realm of Enganyo (faking) just as easily as do any of the other tricks and ploys from the SG Arsenal we discussed previously. Pete Kautz and his ongoing studies at Alliance Martial Arts should have augmented your grasp about this broad spectrum of study of that which seems to defy the rules of the physical world and combat as most men know it.

The knife itself often becomes an almost hypnotic-like icon to the adversary. In skilled hands the weaving actions employed are in effect like that of the classic snake and bird example. Snakes can paralyze their prey with gaze and intent. Powerful waves of subliminal command energy are like a Bio-Microwave System which all creatures possess, obviously some more than others, as in the snake’s case. I have personally seen Pit bulls hypnotize squirrels out of trees. Swaying, low moaning, intense staring and random shifting of position to keep the critter in their psychic Pit Bull sights. Pit Bulls not only bite one hell of a lot harder than a normal K-9, they also have a lot of intensity/psychic force about them. It is this aspect which makes them frightening, people feel it radiating off of them. So I think that a concentrated Warrior Mind is also capable of generating and projecting a strong psychic force and intent too. This natural gift, this intent or power (Kraft) should be used in conjunction with subliminal gestures, fakes and magic. It adds belief to the combat deception-murder mix. When you believe, you see, they believe too…every time. It starts with you.


Simple SG-based ploys you can try when using the knife.

SG ideas for The Knife.


Here is one that is done almost as you would normally execute what is called a "scissors" cut to the opponent’s limb/arm. Ideally you would do this same motion but employ it as a high-speed lead. Taking care to have distance and timing well in hand before the feathers fly. (You are playing off of the peripheral vision-survival software in their head. That, you see, is where the game really takes place.)

A more advanced version could run somewhat like this…


This may seem implausible to some. When you see it done to another it appears to create a tornado like swirl of action/energy that "sucks" the adversary’s attention away momentarily. Destroys his Guard and his will to attack. Confusion. It leaves them ripe for a deceptive play at Arms. It only takes a second and some good timing and the fight is won! And…this level of SG is quite doable by almost anyone willing to practice a little and invest in their future.


Some things are transferable and may be "passed along" to others…think of yawning, one person in a car yawns and soon, everyone else is yawning too! Nervousness is transferable too…can you think of a way that "nervousness" can be spread to others? Confusion also passes between people, groups and programs very easily. What are the dynamics of confusion? How can such an element be applied covertly? Is this "Monkey Wrenching" or something else? "Monkey Wrenching" is another name for a type of illusion-terror…identifying and mastering the concept of "Transferable Things" is not Monkey Wrenching, but in the same family.


[This Article is placed on this Site with the Full Permission of Mr. James A. Keating and is protected by all Rights from Mr. Keating's Website(s) as well as my own.]

Back to main index