Here is an edited report of the 'Tomorrows World' Firewalking Fiasco March 22nd 2000 - The name of the 'Expert' has been changed to 'X' - just to save his blushes...but he knows who he is. " Expert firewalker Xxxx Xxxxxx and his team planned on 22nd March to break the official Guinness world firewalking record. They aimed to walk 60 feet over red hot embers, to beat the existing record of 50 feet held by a team of firefighters in South Africa.
To qualify for the record, the embers have to be between 1,000 and 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit. So how do they do it? According to Xxxx Xxxxxx and his team it is all about personal empowerment - "to walk in power is to walk in safety." But scientists disagree. Parapsychologist Dr. Richard Wiseman says that, actually, firewalking is not as dangerous as it looks. Although the embers themselves are undoubtedly hot, they do not transfer their heat as quickly as you might think. In fact, wood is a very poor conductor of heat which is why pan handles are made of wood and not metal.
But this does not mean that we can stand on red hot embers. The heat is transferred slowly, but not that slowly. One step will only raise the temperature of your foot by a few degrees but there is a cumulative effect. It is difficult to make precise predictions as there are so many variables, but Dr. Wiseman reckons that anyone could walk 12 feet or so, but after about 15 feet, the walkers will begin to experience some discomfort. Certainly after 30 feet, just halfway to the record, the walkers may begin to burn their feet. After that, he says, it becomes a test of endurance. Not so for Xxxxx and his team. For them, mind over matter is the key. Science accounts for only 20% of the phenomenon, says Xxxxx, who has attempted to walk in a non-empowered state and received several burns. For him the distance is irrelevant, state of mind is the key.
Sadly,Xxxx and his colleagues only made it to 40 feet. All suffered minor blisters, and were treated by paramedics before a precautionary visit to hospital.
March 25th - Thoughts about the Tomorrow's World Firewalk
There are several claimants to the world firewalking record but only one recognised by the 'Guiness Book of Records'. This was a 50 foot walk achieved by a group of South African firemen over coals at an average temperature of over 1000 degrees F. ( Most firewalks are in fact conducted at a temperature considerably less than this temperature, with black and grey ash revealing twinkling red embers ). At a temperature of 1000 degrees F one is faced with a pretty much complete red hot incandescence.
However, I have always gone in for these high temperature firewalks - walks that are conducted immediately the coal bed is raked out, rather than after the sometimes quite lengthy ritual and ceremony which some "spiritual" firewalk instructors employ. For this reason this high temperature firewalk did not alarm me. The BBC contacted me about three weeks before the event to seek my advice and to enquire whether I wished to participate. I accepted without hesitation. I guess some part of me was confident that the task was within my capabilities.
The circumstances for the walk were not ideal - repeated rehearsals, including rehearsals for my possible failure to cover the 60 foot coal bed, were not designed to help my focus or those of my friends and co-walkers. I was especially uncomfortable about seemingly practicing for failure. In retrospect I should have asked for someone else to stand in for me.
I chose not to run quickly over the coals in an attempt to increase my chances of success but rather to walk in power. I covered about 40 feet before being forced to walk off the coals to protect my feet. I suffered two singed feet due mainly to the fact I had to cover half the width of a fairly wide coal bed before reaching the safety of grass. If I have the opportunity to attempt this task again I will try to ensure that the coal bed is as narrow as possible, and that all the larger unburnt embers are raked to one side only to facilitate walking off. It is large uneven coals that can unbalance you and put your feet at greater risk.
Despite the seemingly less than successful result I feel absolutely OK about the outcome of the event. Yes, the circumstances were not ideal, but I was happy to accept the challenge on the terms offered. I employed my energetic resources to the best of my ability in the manner of my choosing. That my resources proved inadequate for "success" is not relevant or important to the life I have chosen. What is important for the warrior, (however great or small his or her power) is to approach the task with impeccability. To me and my fellow firewalkers there seemed little point in acquiring a firewalking world record which depended primarily on our fleetness of foot. Instead we trusted absolutely in our power.
NEW - March 30th - Tomorrow's World Firewalk Update at bbc.co.uk
Last week 3 volunteers attempted the worlds longest firewalk
Firewalking seems to defy logic: how can people bear to walk across glowing embers hotter than 500 degrees Celsius? Science can explain why skin doesn't burn over short fire walks: carbon is a bad conductor of heat and also the feet are not in contact with it for long periods of time. For this reason, most people could manage to walk three to four metres over hot coals. But things are different over longer distances. Then science would predict that through repeated contact with the coals, enough heat would be transferred to the feet to cause burning - the so-called 'cumulative theory'. Some firewalkers contend that their skill is in using their mindpower to prevent burning through a process of empowerment.
Three firewalkers attempted a record-breaking walk of 18 metres across burning embers, at around 600 Celsius to test out the scientific 'cumulative' theory against their own endurance and mindpower. Each firewalker managed ten to twelve metres: an amazing feat - three times more than an average person could manage. But since the heat overcame their endurance, no records were broken.