A sad footnote. The death by suicide of a San Quentin inmate who blew himself to a netherworld with a bomb fashioned from a pack of cards. For those who doubt the seriousness of the subject or the tone of the tome.
On a pleasant, breezy day a short while ago, a letter of great significance was received by the Secretary of Defense.
The letter is reproduced on the following page.
The plausibility of this idea and its importance to each and every citizen is the subject of this book.
Columbia äkftool of Carb Ojrotomg
37 RIVERSIDE DRIVE, NEW YORK, N.Y. 10023
Ricky Jay, President
Date: 31 May 1976
SUBJECT: Martial Projectiles
TO: The Honorable Secretary of Defense
The Pentagon Washington, D.C.
1. I have spent the last ten years actively engaged in researching and analyzing the military applications of the ordinary playing card.
2. Drawing on techniques used hundreds of years ago by "ninja" assassins, I have developed my own system of self-defense based solely on a pack of cards.
3. I have simplified the techniques to a degree where they could be taught to our servicemen in a matter of weeks. I would be willing to go to Fort Dix in Nutley, New Jersey to give a demonstration of these skills. My cousin Stanley Felber was stationed there some years ago and when I visited him I found the camp quite pleasant although the goldenrod did bother my rather sensitive sniffer just a little.
4. Currently there is widespread concern about our economy; fiduciary matters are on the tip of everyone's tongue. I believe I have discovered a viable method of reducing the national Defense budget while keeping a few steps ahead of the Russkies.
5. I have also given thought to the serious problem of peacetime morale and am convinced that playing cards could do a great deal to solace and uplift our men before an actual attack.
Please do not misconstrue my meaning; I of course abhor the evil of gambling and the onanistic pleasures of solitaire. I have, however, discovered that the deck of cards can serve one as Bible, Prayer Book, and Almanac:
(a) The Ace reminds us that there is but one God; the Deuce of the Father and Son; the Trey of the Holy Trinity; the Four reminds us of Matthew, Mark., Luke and John; the Five of the five wise and five foolish virgins; the Six stands for the six days In which the world was made; the Seven for the seventh day on which He rested; Eight reminds us of the eight good people saved from the Flood; the Nine of the nine lepers whom the Lord cleansed; the Ten of the Ten Commandments; the Jack of Jack Anderson who In the next world shall suffer the fate of all infidels; the Queen of the Queen of Sheba and hence the wisdom of Solomon; and the King is the Creator — the King of AIL
(b) The three-himdred-and-sixty-flve days of the year are shown by the total number of spots in the deck; the fifty-two weeks by the number of cards; the four seasons by the four suits; and day and night are represented by the red and black cards.
So you see, Mr. Honorable Secretary, the cards can serve as Bible, Prayer Book, and Almanac, thus providing a deadly yet Inexpensive means of self-defense.
6. It would be unwise to further elucidate the subject of this missive for fear the information would fall Into the wrong hands.
7. I am awaiting your reply so that a meeting may be arranged at our mutual convenience.
RICKY JAY President and Pasteboard Projectillst
A brief account of the origins of playing cards with some subtle speculation as to when they were first thrown.
To determine the inventor of the playing card is as difficult as determining who ate the first lobster. And if it was a very hungry man who wrestled that bizarre crustacean to his mouth, so it must have been a very bored man who fashioned the precursor to the card by carving symbols on a stick or stone.
Noted scholars have suggested that both cards and chess were derived from the arrow. In fact, divinatory systems with the arrow are frequently cited as the basis of all games, as well as the classification of all things. The entire structure or order of known things, in almost every ancient culture, was based on the Four Directions expressed by crossed arrows. All things not shown in this obvious scheme of things were considered different, hence magical. It seems that from the very earliest times, the roots of cards lay in both the mystical and martial thoughts of man.
Picture, if you will, a single card, inscribed with a magical prayer, hurled through the air with the speed and accuracy of the mighty arrow. Whish! Swat! Swoosh! Thwack! And a hated adversary stumbles, desperately clutching his furrowed brow, where that card, that weapon, has become implanted. Watch now: a spurt of blood, and the insidious foe crashes thunderously to the ground! The day is won. The city is saved. And the weapon, the use of the mighty card, is seen as a natural evolution of a process with its roots in all antiquity!
These systems of arrow divination were integral to the peoples of ancient China, Korea, Egypt, Persia, and the American Indians. At some time in the dim past arrows gave way to gaming sticks, pebbles, and what we now call dice. Soon thereafter symbols
Proof of the existence of cards as weapons during the Viking invasion of North America.
were marked by hand on strips of paper and playing cards were born.
And if it is difficult to trace the origins of the playing card, it is equally difficult to speculate as to where or when the first card game was played; or at what point mysticism gave way to idle pleasure, mathematical diversion, or gambling skill.
Realizing, however, that we are inclined to 5 believe that all peoples who preceded us were savages, we can no doubt assume that shortly after the first card game, an enigmatic Egyptian, inscrutable Oriental, or self-righteous Hindu picked up the pack of cards and clouted his more successful partner over the head with them.
It is this moment, difficult to document but sure to exist, about which we are curious.
The major documentary studies of weapons seem to overlook cards in much the same way our contemporaries overlook the beauty of a rich thick fog. As the accompanying evolutionary chart will show, playing cards have their proper place in the developmental sequence of martial projectiles.
There is little doubt that cards are one of the earliest of impractical weapons.
The Evolutionary Chart of Weaponry
The Evolutionary Chart of Weaponry
A reflective look at the shuriken and other deadly throwing weapons of the venerable Orientals with a lucid parallel to the modern card assassin.
Cards and the martial arts may be coupled in the same fashion as many of the most famous pairs in American song and food: the horse-and-carriage, the ham-and-egg, the buck-and-wing.
The martial arts have always stressed spiritual control based on physical and mental accomplishments. Cards lend themselves wonderfully well to this process. In the right hands, cards will become a meditative tool similar to the Indian mantra, and the esthetic pleasure in holding and feeling a deck of cards cannot be denied. One can become so relaxed and engrossed with the cards that he may soon be transported to another world; such is the special power of the pasteboards.
Dai Vernon, the dean of American magicians (and, in this author's opinion, the greatest living contributor to the magical art), has said that cards are like living breathing human beings and should be treated accordingly.
Tomes have been written on the divinatory and predictive powers of the cards and from their earliest history to the present day, many people have made this study their life's work.
These concepts may be more readily fathomed by the Eastern mind. In fact, to paraphrase an ancient parable, he who masters his art (be it karate, the tea ceremony or the handling of cards), masters the art of life.
It is, therefore, necessary to trace the origins of cards and card-like devices used in self-defense before a complete understanding of our subject may be reached.
The ancient Chinese and Japanese have documented the origins and use of many classical weapons and it is best to start our study with these.
(retired), Barrister-At-Law, Middle Temple, and Member of the Chinese Government Historiographical Bureau in Peking, wrote the classic English work on Chinese weaponry in 1932. Chinese Weapons, Werner's book, was recently republished in the United States (Ohara Publications, Los Angeles, 1972). The book deals with the origins and use of Chinese weapons. Though Mr. Werner limits in large part his discussions of hand-thrown weapons to spear-like devices, he makes some observations which are relevant or at least interesting enough to be mentioned. Werner traces the origin of iron caltrops, devices which look like children's jacks, but with highly sharpened points. These were thrown in the path of pursuing foes and were an effective deterrent. The ninja or "invisible assassins" of Japan used these caltrops which they called tetsu-bishi but Werner finds them mentioned in the time of Emperor Wen Ti (179-156 B.C.) and the Emperor places their origin at a much earlier period.
The use of the caltrop is the forerunner to a self-defense technique called "Springing the Cards." A deck of cards is held with thumb on the bottom edge and all the fingers along the top in the cupped right hand. The cards are bent until they are under great pressure and then are released directly at an assailant's face; they leap out in a confusing spray giving the dealer ample time to escape.
Crossbows invented by the Chinese around 2600 B.C. came to be made in a variety of materials and designs. Some of the earliest wooden models used to launch arrows bear a marked similarity to a product called Zing-It, marketed by one R.A. Hamilton of Plainfield, New Jersey. Mr. Hamilton is also the inventor of Whippersnapper, Zoomerang and Mr. Molasses. We will discuss Mr. Hamilton's product at some length in the chapter dealing with mechanical devices, but for the moment it will suffice to say that Zing-It is a crossbowlike T-shaped piece of wood which propels a playing card a considerable distance.
Werner also mentions a secret weapon named hsien-chien "which caused death when hurled at an enemy's forehead." To this the author adds his own subtle conjectures: first, that this weapon is a rectangular piece of thin metal very similar to a playing card; and second, that it required hitting the enemy's forehead to cause injury, let alone death.
Another weapon thrown by the ancient Chinese was a large jar filled with the whites of goose and duck eggs mixed with the oil of the dryandra tree. This was thrown on the deck of attacking war vessels, the combination of the pieces of the bottle and the incredibly slippery solution making it difficult for the sailors to keep their footing. The solution was flammable and when sparked by fire arrows it caused the vessel to ignite. "Possibly," says Mr. Werner, "this was the prototype of the stinkpot. ..."
The ninja mentioned briefly a short while ago were one of the most amazing groups of men ever assembled. Originating in Japan during the reign of the Empress Suiko (593-628 A.D.), their early work was as secret agents gathering information for civil actions. They grew to be an incredible group of almost superhuman spies and assassins. By the thirteenth century the art of ninjutsu or "stealing in" had been developed to include proficiency in the use of almost all the weapons and martial arts of the day.
Ninja were trained from childhood in all methods of self-defense in addition to such special skills as muscular and breath control (especially under water), disguise, acting, concealment, medicine and pharmacology. According to Ninja, The Invisible Assassins (Ohara Publications, Los Angeles, 1970) by Andrew Adams, "The ninja was a superb escape artist who would have made Houdini look like a rank amateur. He could dislocate his joints at will to slip out complicated knots. He hid in bells, above ceilings, under floors, remained under water by breathing through reeds and tobacco pipes, concealed himself in trees and wells and even disguised himself as a rock or tree stump. In fact, this ability to appear unobtrusive and disappear into the surrounding scenery was what probably gave rise to the tales that the ninja could make himself disappear at will. It should come as no surprise then that ninjutsu has been defined as the 'art of invisibility'."
Here then is something for every would-be conjurer to think about.
One of the ninja's chief weapons was the shuriken, a flat sharp pointed object of metal that came in a variety of shapes and sizes. There were at least ten different types of shuriken; the five-pointed star and four-pointed or card-shaped were the most common. Great amounts of time were spent in learning to throw these articles from unusual positions and with a minimum of arm motion. It was also important to be able to hurl the shuriken while running at top speed. The expert could throw them into dime-size targets at distances of up to thirty-five feet.
Though the ninja were banned by the Tokugawa Shogunate in the seventeenth cen tury, their methods have intrigued scholars and students of the martial arts to this day. Some martial arts supply houses carry a sort of deck of thin rectangular shuriken which are held in the left hand and flipped outward by a sharp pressure of the right thumb against the back of the metal. Care must be taken to see that the right thumb does not hit the edge of the metal which is extremely sharp. With the proper stroke, an incredible repeating action can be mastered and a number of steel cards sent flying in less than a second.
This parallels a modern card propelling method used by the very inventive Dutch conjurer "Flip." He places his extended right forefinger flush against the center of the pack which is held firmly in the left hand. By moving the forefinger sharply forward and creating friction against the rest of the pack, the top card is propelled forward with surprising speed and velocity.
Many present-day scalawags have taken ordinary playing cards and inserted razor blades strategically around the edges. This makeshift tool of terror can cause great harm, but so too can a large stick in adept hands. Unless experts are using this technique there is little to fear.
The use of poison-coated cards is nearly as ancient as the cards themselves. Over the years many substances have been used to hasten the demise of princes and peasants alike. There is no time to explain all these toxins but the author will discuss what is, in his opinion, the most effective of these terminal additives.
First, get a blowfish. Not just any blowfish, but one of the poisonous variety. The cognoscenti will use only the fugu fish found primar ily in the Sea of Japan. This fish possesses a poison called tetrodotoxin which adds verisimilitude to an otherwise bald and unconvincing fish. This poison, like the curare employed by the Jivaro Indians of South America, produces its deleterious effects by a paralysis of the central nervous system (CNS), death usually occurring by suffocation as the respiratory apparatus gasps to a halt. This poison may be spread on playing cards (the specific quantity and method of application have been omitted from this manuscript at the request of certain Agencies) and if the flesh is pierced death supervenes within five minutes.
Specially licensed Japanese chefs are permitted to prepare the poison-tinged flesh of the blowfish for human consumption. Only enough poison remains to give the piscatorial gourmet or Yakuza Sammy Glick an intoxication in his epicurean Russian roulette.
The use of lethal cards by modern-day hit men has of course been hushed by the authorities.
Training camps for these paid assassins exist frequently right under the noses of those most eager to learn of them. Some have tried to exploit the author's knowledge of such but his lips are sealed both by honor and constitutional privilege. These highly secret installations have been in operation for years; Sun Tzu mentions them in his essays on the art of war (about 400 B.C.). Further information is available in documents entrusted to the Mis-katonic University Library in Arkham, Massachusetts.
Mastery of multiple weapons is essential to the modern-day mercenary and he would no more think of overlooking cards than catgut.
Every now and then a story will appear in a
small-town newspaper about a sinister looking outlander apprehended with his violin case containing only cards, but in this frenetic day and age such events go largely unnoted.
In the movie Goldfinger the character Odd-job is able to decapitate statues and even unapotheosized flesh with the toss of a steel-brimmed hat.
A hat, indeed!
Ian Fleming spent years as an intelligence officer and knew full well what the real weapon was. (Devotees of the 007 series will recall that James Bond was apparently done in by the aforementioned poison of the fugu fish in the closing pages of From Russia With Love.)
It is impossible to write a chapter on the martial arts without mentioning the late Bruce Lee.
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