Real X-Men

01 Dec 2017

Those familiar with the X-Men movies will know they are a team of mutant superheroes committed to using their superpowers for the benefit of humanity, even though normal humans shun them as freaks. Wolverine, Cyclops, Professor X, Storm and Rogue are some of the more popular characters that everyone knows about, but there are people amongst us who are endowed with preternatural physical or mental abilities! Some of these individuals are actually born with a rare genetic mutation that enables them to perform feats well beyond the boundaries of what is “humanly” possible.

Here are four of these fascinating human phenomena!

Wim Hof
The Iceman

Think you can stay immersed in a tub of ice for an hour? If you believe half an hour is about the longest you can last without freezing your digits off, then you would probably be astounded to learn that 53-year-old Wim Hof of the Netherlands survived being entombed in ice for a staggering 1 hour 53 minutes and 2 seconds!

How does he do this?

Wim Hof apparently has the ability to control his body’s temperature through a self-taught technique that has been compared to an ancient Himalayan form of meditation in yoga known as Tummo. Although more commonly practised by monks, Hof has mastered the technique to such an extent that he never feels cold, even in sub-zero temperatures that could cause severe hypothermia or even death. “I’m able to control the body through just the power of the mind,” claims Hof.

To date, Wim Hof holds 21 Guinness World Records which include running a marathon above the Arctic circle in shorts, swimming under ice for 66 metres and running a full marathon in the Namib desert without consuming a single drop of water. These are indeed superlative exploits of human endurance!

Real X-Men
How much cold can you tolerate?

Isao Machii
Modern-Day Samurai with Super Reflexes

40-year-old Isao Machii’s lightning-speed wielding of the katana, or long single-edged sword used by Japanese samurai, truly needs to be seen in order to be believed. He has been recorded on video slicing a speeding pellet shot from a BB gun 182 metres away in half with a sword. The film crew used a special high-speed camera to slow down the footage by 250 times; otherwise, it would not have been possible for the feat to be registered by the human eye. In the video, viewers can see Machii’s blade slicing into the pellet, which was moving at 320 kmh.

Machii processes things that are happening around him at a different sensory level. While normal human beings like us would attempt to process such stimuli as a speeding bullet with our eyes, he does not. Instead of tracking a bullet moving through the air with his eyes, for example, he can simply anticipate or “sense” where it is at a given moment. At the tender age of five, Isao Machii began honing his skills under an old master and is now the headmaster of a samurai school.

Machii currently holds multiple Guinness World Records, including one for most sword cuts to straw mats in three minutes. Machii’s record of 252 cuts was achieved in Milan, Italy, in April 2011.

Real X-Men
Are you as agile as Isao Machii?

Liam Hoekstra
Strongest Boy in the World

Think back to the time when you were a baby – would you have been able to execute a gymnastics manoeuvre at 5 months old, do a pull-up at 8 months and climb up and down the stairs by 9 months?

Meet the strongest boy in the world, Liam Hoekstra, now aged 8, who could perform such feats of unusual strength and dexterity while still a mere infant. The reason for his superhuman strength can be attributed to a rare genetic condition called myostatin-related muscle hypertrophy. As a result of the condition, the production of a protein called myostatin that normally limits muscle growth is blocked, causing Liam’s muscles to grow at an uninhibited rate. Other than that, Liam appears to be a normal healthy boy albeit with a monstrous appetite.

Real X-Men
Can you remember all the details in this picture?

Stephen Wiltshire
The Human Camera

Can you recall from memory every single detail of a place that you have just visited? Or perhaps endeavour to draw from memory every item in your bedroom? For most of us, this would be well nigh impossible. That is why Stephen Wiltshire’s ability to sketch entire panoramic views of metropolises such as London, Rome and New York from memory only after a brief helicopter ride is no mean feat.

Born in 1974, Stephen was diagnosed with autism as a child and suffered from mutism. Unable to communicate verbally, he turned to drawing as an outlet. He drew everything ranging from animals to people, and by the time he was eight, he was demonstrating immense talent for drawing buildings. His most well-known piece of work was executed after a 20-minute helicopter ride over New York. Using his remarkable photographic memory, Stephen sketched a 5.48-metre drawing of the world famous skyline. The Empire State Building, the Chrysler Building, along with many thousands of other buildings, were all accurately depicted to the finest detail. Some of his other sketches of buildings are precise to the level of depicting the exact number of windows and columns!

If you could have a super power, what would it be and how would you use your powers?

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