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FIRE WALKING . . . Find out about the history and science of fire walking . . .
WHERE, when, how an even why fire walking began is not known. There are references to it in the holy books of many religions, and ancient peoples in many parts of the world practised it many forms - walking on hot stones, on lava, and hot chains as well as in fire.

There have been a number of theories put forward to explain the fact that most firewalkers are not harmed. These include...

Find out about the World Fire Walking record

/ Leidenfrost Effect

Physicists have suggested that moisture on the sole of the foot creates a vapor barrier that prevents the foot from actually making contact with the hot coals. This is similar to licking your fingers and touching the plate of a hot iron to se if it is ready to press clothes. If the iron is hot enough, it literally vaporizes the moisture on a fingertip, and the finger itself is repelled from the iron by water turning to vapour. This is termed the Leidenfrost Effect, and is named after the man who first documented it.

The Leidenfrost Effect can be easily observed by placing a few drops of water on a hot metal plate. If the metal plate is hot enough, the water forms beads and dances around. This is beecause the heat is so intense that the bottom of the water drop is vapourized before the drop reaches the heated surface. The rising water vapour pushes up against the underside of the droplets, causing them to bounce off the escaping steam before even reaching the metal plate.

A physicist named Jearl Walker was so convinced of the validity of this theory that he believed it was impossible to get burned while fire walking. He severely injuring himself on a coal bed. He lost faith in his theory. There may be a Leidenfrost effect when fire walking - but it is not a significant effect and most certainly can not explain the phenomenon.

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/ Conductivity Theory

Other physicists have proposed the Conductivity Theory to explain how humans can walk accross coals at over 1000 degrees Farenheit. They illustrate this idea as being similar to reaching into a hot oven to remove a cake pan. The air inside the oven is at the same temperature as the metal cake pan, yet one can reach an unprotected hand into the oven without suffering an injury. If you were to touch the pan itself, the result would be a burn. The reason for this is that air is a poor conductor of heat, while the metal pan is a good conductor. Physicists theorized that the coals were poor conductors and that this is why a fire walker’s foot is not burned when fire walking.

In 1994, physicist Bernard Leikind visited the Firewalking Institute and tried to dramatically illustrate this concept by strapping two sirloin steaks to his feet and then walking across a bed of coals while The Discovery Channel filmed the event. The steaks seemed to be unaffected by the coal bed. He then placed a metal grill in the coals and, when it was glowing red, he placed the same steaks on the grill and the metal instantly seared the meat. He felt this sufficiently demonstrated that mental state had nothing to do with the phenomenon of fire walking. He emphasized that it would not be possible for humans to walk on the glowing, red grill without injury.

As soon as he said this, a number of people from the Institute walked on the grill without harm. The grill was so red-hot, the weight of people walking on it bent the softened metal and left impressions of the fire walker's feet on the grill. They keep the grill with its molded footprints as a souvenir to help debunk the conductivity theory.

Someone in America recently walked on coals measured at 2,200 degrees Fahrenheit without injury! Another person has walked 167 feet accross glowing embers, and a number of people have made multiple passes accross 40 feet of coals walking a total of over 500feet. Obviously, physicists do not yet fully understand the process.

Fire walks usually take place on coal beds ranging between 1,200 and 1,500 degrees Fahrenheit. Dr. Ron Sato, faculty member of the Stanford University Medical School and director of a nearby burn unit, says that human flesh momentary exposed to 1,200 degree heat should sustain third-degree burns to the epidermis and dermis, charring the entire thickness of skin to a blackened carbon residue. Dr. Sato has treated people who have accidentally stepped on glowing coals and were so badly burned that they required skin grafts. When commenting about people who voluntarily fire walk without injury, Dr. Sato says, “There’s no logical explanation.”

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/ Tolly Burkin Insights

Tolly Burkan, the father of western fire walking, offers the following insights...

"Boiling Water In A Paper Cup...

Two scientific experiments have helped me form my present theory.

One is a simple demonstration used by school teachers. Perhaps you saw it in your own science class when you were a teenager? The teacher fills a paper cup with water and places it over a flame. The water boils and the cup does not burn. The reason for this is that the water can only reach a temperature of 212 degrees Fahrenheit before it turns to steam. Since the water is in constant contact with the paper cup, the paper cannot get any hotter than 212 degrees. However, in order for the cup itself to burn, it must reach a kindling point… which happens to be higher than 212 degrees. The water maintains the temperature of the paper at a constant 212.

The other experiment was conducted by the United States government during the early days of research into space flight. When a spacecraft reenters the atmosphere, friction heats the craft to extremely high temperatures. It had to be determined whether the person at the controls could still function if the interior of the craft became very hot. To simulate this situation, scientists created a heat chamber. Volunteers entered the chamber and the inside temperature was raised. It was discovered that though an egg was cooking within this atmosphere, the human subjects were unharmed. In fact, the measured air temperature within the nose of a subject was actually cooler than the air in the chamber itself.

Mind In Matter

These two experiments form the basis of my own theory regarding fire walking. The reason Dr. Leikind’s steaks were seared by the glowing metal while human feet were not is simply because the human foot was connected to a living, conscious being who is more than inert matter. The human body has a mechanism to cool itself. Respiration, perspiration and circulation all play a part in this process and all are connected to the brain, which is obviously influenced by the mind. Observe someone sucking on a lemon, or entertain a few sexual fantasies, and you yourself can instantly see how the mind can change the electro-chemical state of the brain and then the central nervous system relays that electro-chemical change to the body systems and cells of your being.

You can have physical experiences when nothing physical is impacting you. This is not “mind over matter,” but rather: “mind in matter.”

When a fire walker is in the proper state of mind, the blood flowing through his or her body is akin to the water in the paper cup. The blood is 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit. As it moves through the soles of the feet, it continually cools the tissue and prevents it from reaching its “kindling point,” in the same way that the water maintained the temperature of the paper at 212.

Of course there are limits, and it has never been our intention at the Firewalking Institute of Research and Education to push the limits. Rather, we have simply looked for an explanation of the basic phenomenon of fire walking as it has been practiced throughout thousands of years and have sought new applications that can enhance the lives of those of us living in society today.

When humans walk on coals measured at 2,200 degrees Fahrenheit without harm, they are able to do so because the body is obviously capable of cooling and protecting itself up to a certain point. By-the-way, engine blocks for cars are made by pouring molten metal at 1,100 degrees!

My explanation of why people can walk on glowing coals without injury also implies why some people have in fact been burned. During the 1970s I set out to demystify fire walking and created the world’s first fire walking seminar. I trained hundreds of instructors to conduct the seminar around the planet and, as of the year 2000, well over two million people have participated in the fire walking seminar. How many were burned? About 50. Since people are sometimes injured, that too needs to be addressed. (I’m not counting those who’ve tried to stand still or linger on the coals.)

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