Martial arts myths: Stuck in the swamp of deadliness

By: Torbjorn Arntsen

How wandering too far off into the land of ancient martial arts myths will get you nowhere ... fast.

Did you know there's a significant number of online searches for terms such as "deadliest style of martial arts"? Having taught and trained the fighting arts for the better part of my life, I tend to find this somewhat disturbing, as well as sad.

You can ask any martial arts teacher, and I'll bet he or she have faced more than one young student eager to become a "lean, mean killing machine". Young kids sometimes even ask outright: "When will we learn to kill?" Coming from the mouth of a 7-year-old this can cause a few smiles as well as raise the occasional eyebrow.

However, there are other issues involved, reaching far beyond those of juvenile curiosity and frankness. Even adults will occasionally be taken in by these martial arts myths, shady concepts and legends. Why is this so? How come otherwise educated and well-informed people tend to believe in the mythical power of The Black Belt? After all it's just a belt and a color; it really is nothing more than a step along the way to martial arts mastery.

Keeping the dream alive

There is likely more than one answer to this riddle. For one, I think we all - young or old - like to believe in tales and mysteries. Maybe it is a human trait after all to engage in wishful dreams about supernatural powers, as exemplified here by unbeatable karate kicks and invisible ninja? Perhaps we need this hope that owning a black belt (The final master level), gives you the "bully-proof" as well as bulletproof seal of approval?

Furthermore, let us not forget our inherent willingness to seek, and use, every shortcut imaginable.

If there is a quick fix, we'll happily take it; just give me the drug doc! Personally, I tend to think that the online searcher for deadly warrior arts probably is being more lazy than he is curious, ill-informed or inclined to believe in fairy tales. He probably want the "bulletproof stamp", without the sweat and years upon years of rigorous training.

Meet the masters

Having met quite a few real - way beyond black belt level - martial arts masters, I have to say there are indeed people out there with some amazing skills and abilities. However, these true masters have honed their chops day in and day out for 40 or 50 years ... at least. A master with four years training and a black belt, you say? That will be the day!

Could these folks hurt or perhaps even maim and kill someone? Probably all of them could. Are they dangerous people? No, at least not in the hyped-up sense of the word. They are, in general, more peaceful, calm and easy-going than anything else.

If you absolutely crave to hurt someone, the martial arts is not what you would want to take up. After all, you'd probably just end up a fun-loving tea drinker; someone who knows how to kick butt, without the need to do so.

Armed ... with knowledge

Here is something else to consider adding to our collective pool of knowledge. Anyone interested in personal power trips and ego-boosting ventures will be much quicker off the bat by picking the nearest club-like instrument or rock; I suppose almost any tool will do.

But oh no, the keyboard warrior on a mission will not settle for this. He probably also needs the coolness factor of the martial arts - the verbal, instant knockout power of a "Watch out, I'm a black belt in karate!", or "I know martial arts!" phrase.

He needs to savor the fantasy of being able to deliver a "deadly judo chop" - not just any old sucker punch or cheap shot - in style! The biggest mantra of today is to be entertaining, whereas it used to be sufficient to be someone. The biggest sin it seems, is to be boring, average or uncool. If it ain't got flash, it's trash!

In effect, the young male will buy, steal or cheat his way to the martial arts mastery status. Buy a fake certificate or inflate ones skills? No problem! Just the thought of being handed the mortal combat skills through a course, in a book or at the movies, will bring out the shopping mood in no time.

He is hungry for the instant death-touch ability and the scare factor that goes along with it. He needs the ability to unleash his "instant pain guaranteed" eBay skills upon his perceived enemies. Simply put, he wants the lethal pay- out without the investment.

Luckily, the martial arts are not designed that way. Our ways are rather designed as avenues leading from "How can I hurt you?"Health Fitness Articles, to "How may I help you?"

The only real "danger" is spending a considerable amount of time working towards being a nicer person. And how much of a scary perspective is that after all?

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