The Manchurian Approach – hypnotism for magicians

September 2009, Derby

A review by Jon Holt

A beautiful sunny weekend, a conference centre in Derby, a world-class hypnotist and 15 willing participants – it could only be ‘the Manchurian approach – hypnotism for magicians’. I was not a hypnotist before I arrived at the Derby Conference Centre and had no experience whatsoever in hypnosis. Indeed, it would be fair to say that I was actually quite ignorant as to what hypnosis actually is.

The course was run and delivered by Anthony Jacquin (pronounced rather un-exotically as ‘Jack Quin’), a professional hypnotherapist and entertainer with many years of experience and thousands of subjects under his belt. Imagine Ewen McGregor in a Dr Who suit and you will have a good mental Polaroid of Anthony.

I was first attracted to the course as I had bought and read Anthony’s book ‘Reality is Plastic’ (reviewed in MagicSeen) which I thoroughly enjoyed but thought ‘there is no way that I could do this for real!’. Therefore, when I saw the course advertised in the same issue, I took the plunge and booked myself a place.

There were sixteen people in total which included Anthony himself, Kevin Sheldrake (his business partner and assistant on the course) and a few previous course attendees (Amit Badiani, Ben Cardell and Vince Lynch), who had popped in to help out with some of the practical sessions. Most of the rest of the group were all hypnosis virgins although a few people had dabbled.
Anthony is a firm believer in the ‘get out there and do it’ approach to training which was reflected in the format of the first day. The morning was spent going through some of the theory of hypnosis but focussed on a series of practical exercises where we rehearsed the exercises, learnt the patter and had a go at hypnotising our fellow attendees. This was very interesting and I was amazed to see how simple the actual hypnosis process is – the set pieces, the induction, the main act and then the exit. The exercises were interspersed with Anthony hypnotising a few of us in front of the class which was nothing short of breathtaking! It is one thing seeing hypnosis on a YouTube clip or even on stage, but for me there is always that nagging doubt concerning set-ups and stooges. When you see it done in front of your eyes in under a minute, it is incredible!

I thoroughly enjoyed the morning and would have been quite happy going home at that point with what I had learnt and still considered the course good value – but the best was yet to come. We went out and hypnotised the good folk of Derby. We all headed into town to eat lunch in a food mall and where a few of the guys started to hypnotise fellow diners. Just walk up to someone, introduce yourself to them and, to quote Anthony, ‘Bosh’ them in. This is what we were told to do – and we did it! We went out into the high street in small teams and started to stop people and basically ask people if they would like to be hypnotised. This inevitably led to different people having different degrees of success – I, for example, happened to stop a professional hypnotherapist on my first attempt which did wonders for my self-confidence. Surprisingly, probably about half of the people were happy to give it a go. The thing is though, bearing in mind what I said about my own ignorance of the subject, the simple truth is that most people have no idea of what it is either. It is possible to go through the set pieces (set-up exercises) with people, to stop at that point, and the subjects are, without exception, really impressed. This is despite not actually having hypnotised them! This was a real confidence boost for me as it gave me the perfect out and people were still pleased with the result, yet had no idea that you have cut the whole process short.

The street hypnosis was just the starter-for-ten, as we then moved into a local bar (with prior arrangement with the manager) and proceeded to perform magic and hypnotise people. The bar was quiet when we arrived with just a few groups of drunken Derby fans (they lost that day) to practise on, but as the evening progressed the bar got busier and louder. Anthony’s theory is that if you can hypnotise a drunk stranger in a loud, jam-packed bar, then you can hypnotise anybody anywhere. And guess what, I finally did it! After a few near-misses, I found a young lady who was out with a group of her friends, we did the set pieces and the induction, and I stuck her hand to her head. She was absolutely delighted with the whole process and I was euphoric. It may seem like a small start but within a few hours of learning the techniques, I became ‘The Hypnotist’.

Day two was back to the class-room environment with an emphasis on how to use hypnosis, or give the impression of using hypnosis, for magic. This was terrific. After the intensity and excitement of the first day, the second day really put things into perspective and allowed us to appreciate many of the subtleties of the hypnosis itself and its implied use. Anthony gave a demonstration of a routine that he had developed and, all in all it was another outstanding day.

The course itself was delivered at the Derby Conference centre which had excellent facilities and offered basic, cheap (read: student) accommodation. The course cost £275 which was, in my opinion, outrageously cheap. Be prepared for a very long day on day one (9.00 am until 4.00 am for some!) so get there the night before. We finished at around four on Sunday afternoon after a ten o’clock start which allowed everyone to get back at a reasonable hour.

The good points of the course – excellent tuition, fantastic experiences (reverse mind-reading being my favourite), pragmatic experience and great value. Bad points – I’m really struggling to find any. Perhaps the cost of the course could have included a copy of the book but, to be fair, most of us had already bought the book and that is why we were there.

Overall, I can thoroughly recommend this course for mentalists and magicians, but be prepared to be thrown in at the deep end. Get on this course before Anthony sees sense and puts the price up and become a Jacquinnian!

© Jon Holt, September 2009


Jon Holt is an engineer by day and a mentalist by night. He is based in Swansea in South Wales.