Martial Art Urban Legends

Discussion in 'Articles' started by SifuPhil, Aug 10, 2012.

  1. SifuPhil

    SifuPhil Lucky Cat Is Lucky

    Urban legends, or myths, are the modern-day equivalent of folklore. They are based upon misconception, misinformation and false beliefs and are to be found in practically any topic you can name.

    From my mouth to God's ear​
    The world of martial arts is not immune to urban legends; in fact, we have some of the best ones around. From flying Buddhist monks to having to kill someone to get your Black Belt, urban legends abound in the arts. Here is a collection of martial art urban legends you may or may not have heard about and the reality behind them ...​
    1. A Black Belt Means You're A Master of Martial Arts
    Not quite. Most schools see the 1st-degree black belt as a starting point, much like a high-school graduate who is now ready to begin their REAL education in college. The Shodan simply means that you're ready to start a serious study of your art and that you've pretty much mastered nothing but perhaps how to properly tie your belt.​
    2. You Have To Register Your Hands As Deadly Weapons
    I've heard this one many times - that because I'm a trained martial artist I have to register my hands as deadly weapons with the local police department. OK, first off, if I were to walk into ANY police station in the country and ask for the form to register my hands as deadly weapons I'd have to wait at least half an hour before the laughter died down.​
    Strangely enough, there IS an element of truth in this legend, though. If you get into a fight and do some serious damage to your opponent, above and beyond what is considered self-defense, you might find yourself being held accountable at a much higher level than usual because of your training. The authorities buy into the associated legend that martial artists all have exquisite control; we should have been able to pull our punches enough to minimize the damage we did. For example, in the case of Matter of the Welfare of DSF, 416 N.W.2d 772 (Minn. App. 1988), the Minnesota Court of Appeals concluded that the defendant, who had “substantial experience in karate,” was aware enough of the potential of his blows to deliberately break the plaintiff’s jaw.​
    The fact that we aren't ALL masters of fine-motor skills somehow eludes them to this day ...​
    Age is just a number​
    3. Martial Arts Are All Ancient
    The common perception is that martial arts all hail from thousands of years ago. Get into a discussion with any "civilian" and they'll regale you with tales of how their great-uncle Egbert studied the ancient art of Mummy-Fu, all the while keeping a straight face.​
    But the cold, harsh reality is that while there ARE a few arts that can trace their lineage back thousands of years - the Indian art of Varmannie (5,000 years), Kung-Fu (3,000 years) and Jujitsu (1,000 years) - most arts practiced today are less than 100 years old. Judo was founded in 1882, Aikido in 1935, Taekwondo in 1955.​
    Many martial arts were founded last week.​
    4. Bruce Lee Was Assassinated by Shaolin Monks For Teaching Their Secrets
    Wow. Really? Yep - after Lee's death in 1973 from an allergic reaction to painkillers the conspiracy floodgates opened wide, letting free a tsunami of theories about Bruce being killed by Shaolin monks because he dared to teach their secrets; Bruce was killed by ninjas; he died in a to-the-death match that was held on the movie studio grounds; there's even a theory that he died from a "death touch".​
    Conspiracy theories abound when an icon dies at such a young age. Bruce Lee's exceptional level of training and fitness led some to insist that foul play must have been a factor in his death. While these theories sell books and add an air of mystique to Bruce Lee's legend, the facts (and rational thought) simply don't support such notions.

    old karate belt.jpg
    Used and abused​
    5. You Should Never Wash Your Belt
    This one has been around even longer than me. "You should never wash your belt" the story goes, "it is disrespectful, and it should collect dirt and grime as a badge of honor".​
    If I went with THAT theory I'd make a homeless guy smell sweet in comparison. What's really interesting is that this legend ties into another legend concerning belts, namely that belt colors were derived from hard work - as the years went on and you fell, sweated and bled for your art the belt would grow progressively darker, ending in the ultimate Black Belt. So by washing your belt you would be literally and figuratively washing away all of your experience.​
    The simple truth is that the concept of belt colors was invented by the founder of Judo, Jigoro Kano, around the turn of the century as a means of motivating students and keeping track of their progress levels.​
    6. You Have To Kill Someone To Get A Black Belt
    The first time I heard this legend I was flabbergasted - kill a guy? For a belt?!? Who the heck came up with THAT idea?​
    I had a hard time researching this legend, but I know it's out there because not only have I heard it but I've had it mentioned to me several times by fellow instructors who heard it also. I suspect that the legend started soon after the arts made their first appearance on American shores back in the '40's, but that's an unverified hypothesis - I'd appreciate if anyone with solid evidence could help me out here.​
    7. Dim Mak Death Touch
    This may well be one of the most-enduring legends in all of martial arts. Dim Mak is the art of striking points and energy meridians on the body to cause immense injury and even death, often hours after the strike is made. Stemming in large part from the Wuxia genre of Chinese martial arts fiction and reinforced by such "Masters" as Counte Dante, Dim Mak has held a revered place in the world of martial art urban legends.​
    I've had more than a few people ask me if I could perform a death touch, probably because they figured that a martial artist who also practices Chinese medicine must be a double threat and would certainly know how to kill a man with just a light tap to the body. Heck, I could take one ride on the Seventh Avenue IRT and reduce the population of New York City by at least 1%!​
    And yet ...​
    There ARE certain points on the body that are naturally vulnerable to a strike, whether administered by a hand, a weapon or an acupuncture needle. Stimulating these points can result in minor symptoms such as dizziness, nausea and localized pain, but struck with enough force they can also result in death. The trick of course is getting your opponent to stand in one place long enough so that you can properly aim and deliver said strike.​
    Apologies to fan's of Bill's Five Finger Palm Exploding Heart Technique but it just doesn't exist.​
  2. Aaron Hutto

    Aaron Hutto Master

    As a student of Dim Mak and Kyusho, I get #7 a lot. Could I? Maybe ... Would I? Probably not. As much as I love pressure point fighting, in my experience, it only works some of the time. That is why I split my training between points, striking and grappling. I figure between the three, I can find something that works well.
    Ryannmnzo and SifuPhil like this.
  3. SifuPhil

    SifuPhil Lucky Cat Is Lucky

    Exactly! That's what I always tell my students - when the fancy stuff fails you better have some strong basics to fall back on.

    Did you ever get the "What if they're wearing a coat?" question? What do you say to that?
  4. MadoreGojuRyu

    MadoreGojuRyu Master

    #2 cracks me up and I hear it a lot when people find out I have a black belt. when i can feel it coming, i try to save face for some of these people but most of the time it just makes them even more persistent to make their case.....of which they know nothing about, except for hearing it from their friend, who told them after he met this short fat white 60 year old business man that was really a ninja in disguise that had to register his hands and for some unknown reason was bragging about being in diguise....which of course he swore the friend of the original moron to secrecy.
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  5. Aaron Hutto

    Aaron Hutto Master

    Yes, I got that by some 300+ pound guy looking to prove that pressure points don't work. I had him put his winter coat on and come at me with a training knife. A single arm shot to lung five and he couldn't make a fist for ten minutes, much less keep a hold of that knife.
    SifuPhil likes this.
  6. Aaron Hutto

    Aaron Hutto Master

    When people ask me that, I always tell them yes but the hardest part of the registration is picking names for them. I usually just get blank stares on that one.
  7. Judah

    Judah fights in tights

    Here's a couple more

    • you have to warn someone 3 times that you're a black belt before you do anything. Uh yeah right....

    • you have to tear your tendons to kick high (and if you can do the splits your dick won't work) - this one's kinda perpetuated by van Damme movies such as kickboxer

    • Bruce Lee was the greatest of all time. - really? Dude died over 30 years ago you sure there haven't been improvements since then? C'mon!

    • there's also the belief that martial artists are possessed of zen like patience and it's therefore ok to subject them to more verbal abuse than a normal person would put up with.
  8. RJ Clark

    RJ Clark Tree Ninja Staff Member

    Add to this list Killing someone via strike to the nose and driving bone fragments into the brain. If this had any validity boxers and mma fighters would be dropping like wheat to a scythe. Airbag deployments would kill more people than they save, and Marsha would have died on The Brady Bunch...
  9. Judah

    Judah fights in tights

    Yes! The amount of times I've tried to tell people this, theres no passage from your nose to your brain just have a look at a human skull!
  10. Fin Smith

    Fin Smith Disciple

    Biggest giveaway is that it's not even a bone! Ever seen a skull with a nose?
    Judah likes this.
  11. Judah

    Judah fights in tights

    Yeah it's all cartilage isn't it?
  12. Enkidu

    Enkidu Destroyer of your martial arts fantasies

    You all know what I am going to say as a major myth:

    Martial arts that are built around application of fine motor skills attacks that are "too dangerous" to spar with have some likelihood to work in a real self-defense situation.

    Here is another:

    Speed is power.

    No, speed is speed, strength is strength, and speed times strength is power. In the realm of striking, power is far more indicative of damage than speed. If that weren't the case, the jab would be the strongest strike in a boxer's arsenal. It isn't. Much slower punches pack more power and do more damage.
    TheWhiteTiger, Judah and Kevin like this.
  13. Judah

    Judah fights in tights

    Your first point is why I quit ju jitsu, the techniques we learnt were "too dangerous for free sparring". Really? How will I be able to use them against an un-compliant opponent who wants to fuck me up if I can't practice them that way.

    Your second point is just physics and can't really be argued with. :)
    Enkidu likes this.
  14. Enkidu

    Enkidu Destroyer of your martial arts fantasies

    I am assuming you are referring to Japanese Jujutsu and not Brazilian JJ. Admittedly, there can be a lot of variation in schools of JJJ, but this is one of the reasons Jigoro Kano created Judo. I recall that 4-5 JJJ students from a local school came to train at teh BJJ academy where I used to train years ago when I was a white belt with maybe 2-3 months under my belt. Despite that these guys had YEARS of experience, I was tapping them like a drum when we rolled. So was everyone else in our academy. Apparently they trained at one of the "bad" JJJ schools.
    TheWhiteTiger likes this.
  15. Master of Nothing

    Master of Nothing Psychotic Pacifist

    On warning people. I just say, "Not a great idea tonight" I figure that is good enough warning.
    I've had the misfortune to see someone separate their hamstring. EEEEEEWWWWWWW
    My master did the traditional "Kick the students leg while they stretch" bit. BUT, he waited for his students to improve their flexibility for the first year first. As an "Original Tkd master" he knew how much would be painful and how much would be harmful. Of course, Never trying to rip tendons.
    I'll get back to Bruce.
    "Zenlike Patience" When I was younger the conversation with an asshole would go something like this:
    Asshole: "Blah, Blah, Blah" (insults, jokes, ignorance)
    Me: "Blah Blah HAHA" (witty retort)
    Asshole: "Something Threatening" (I usually have to stop laughing so they can finish)
    Me: "Something Witty" (mixed with observational, truth based insult)
    Asshole: "Oh yeah M-----F=====?" (followed by posturing for peers and louder voice)
    Me: "Well Actually.........." (see previous-no increase in volume)
    Asshole: Now acting in a threatening manner. But still not "doing" anything because of MA rep.
    Me: "I'm sorry. But, are you asking me to kick your ass? It would be easier just to knock you the fuck out, dislocate something on you, or just separate a muscle group from the bone. It really doesn't matter to me. Just let me know and I can help you out." (my voice is stern but not louder)
    Asshole: (said in sarcastic voice) "I thought all you "karate guys" are suppost to be pacifists and all peaceful like?"
    Me: (in a direct "I WILL hurt you now" voice) "You know all those martial art movies with the evil badguy that knows martial arts? I'm THAT guy and this isn't a damn movie!"
    It usually stops there. 8-/
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  16. TheWhiteTiger

    TheWhiteTiger Taoist Immortal

    This goes back to your other thread, and incidentally, is a myth itself: you can fight despite never having tested your techniques against resisting opponents. Not to say all JJJ schools train like that.
    Enkidu likes this.
  17. Master of Nothing

    Master of Nothing Psychotic Pacifist

    Back to Bruce!!!
    Exceptional artist!!! But, people fail to understand. He DID NOT start training until age 17. By the time he died. He hadn't trained long enough to have a heightened understanding of the arts to match his heightened skill. One of my favorite things to teach students- Areas where Bruce Lee was wrong. I.E. "traditional stances don't improve yourfighting ability", "mediation isn't for fighting", "ettiquette doesn't improve your fighting ability", etc.
    I teach the folly of these ideas. Not by "Telling" the student "What is". But, by "Asking" the student "What makes sense". While demonstrating a traditional technique, explaining the research done with active visualization, or pointing out how their ettiqutte puts the mind in the training set without (or at least less) ego.
    Then I usually have to explain that JeetKuneDo is a philosophy that is Applied to any art. Not a martial art itself. Jun Fan Gung Fu was Bruce Lee's martial art.
    Dpendleton, Battodoka07 and SifuPhil like this.
  18. SifuPhil

    SifuPhil Lucky Cat Is Lucky

    Of course there have been improvements, but name ONE martial artist who not only opened up an entire hemisphere to the arts but ALSO was a fantastic physical specimen AND studied so many arts so extensively AND created what is widely seen as a highly useful "overlay" for each and every art.

    ... oh, and was a world-renowned actor that single-handedly rejuvenated popular Asian cinema, wrote successful screenplays and was a sought-after private instructor. ;)
  19. Master of Nothing

    Master of Nothing Psychotic Pacifist

    Not to mention the movie "The Big Boss" basicly made him a national hero in China.
    SifuPhil likes this.
  20. Ryannmnzo

    Ryannmnzo "Harmony Energy Way"

    just to be clear..lee jun fan was bruce lee's name in chinese and gung fu or kung fu mean chinese martial arts

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