10 Popular Martial Art Myths That Won’t Go Away

Myth #1: Learning to Defend Yourself from a Dangerous Situation takes Years of Training!
Studying traditional martial arts or martial sports for many    years doesn’t necessarily mean you can fight on the street.  Being able to defend yourself from a violent street attack can take as little as a few months of intensive training.  Conversely there are many professional fighters who have lost street fights through lack of awareness.

We’re not talking about developing cage fighting skills, merely defense and escape.  I’ve seen great results with students who studied basic reality-defense for a few months and also maintained a serious and ongoing practice schedule.  Most street fights are won more with awareness, a proper mindset and the will and determination to do whatever’s necessary.

Myth #2: The Military & Police all Know how to Fight!
They know how to shoot firearms. Reflecting on all the military and LE personnel I’ve taught over the years, most of these guys can’t fight without their guns, however they don’t have to.  Of course there are a few who have outstanding skills, but for the most part, they are the exception.  The state sees soldiers and police as expendable.  They consider that if a soldier loses his rifle and handgun that’s it. In addition the military doesn’t have the time and resources to promote intensive CQC programs.

Myth #3: I practice the Real Style, not the Watered-Down Styles Everyone Else Practices.
These statements started gaining popularity with the advent of the UFC. All of a sudden traditional martial arts were on the defensive, why, because they couldn’t win!  The only recourse was to say that everyone else was studying the watered down version, and that a real master didn’t fight in the ring, he only fought to the death.  I noticed this trend specifically with wing chun and karate.

I had a conversation with a wing chun instructor last year. He informed me that his master’s master was better than Bruce Lee’s master’s master.  Well if you recall, Bruce Lee created Jeet Kune Do because he had lost faith in wing chun as a fighting style? (Read his interview in Black Belt magazine, where they actually quote him.) Many Karate practitioners use this line as well, “well my master was the true master, not the phony master, but he only teaches from his cave because he’s so deadly.”

Myth #4: My Master’s Hands are so Tough he can break any Inanimate Object at Will, and Feel no Pain.
Conditioning limbs and body parts to break inanimate objects are as old as mankind. It has nothing to do with martial arts and more to do with circus tricks. Being able to break huge slabs of ice, bricks and boards doesn’t mean you have any fighting ability. I once met a bricklayer who would break stacks of bricks with a moderate slap of his trowel. He never studied martial arts in his life.

Actually if you closely observe breaking contests you’ll notice that there’s more ingenuity used than martial skills. In many cases boards, stones, bricks and tiles are carefully spaced apart creating a domino effect which helps break the entire stack. Training to break inanimate objects is also not healthy, it can injure bones, muscles, tendons and ligaments.

One of the most famous breaking acts was Mas Oyama, His breaking off of bull’s horns wasn’t as noble as you may have heard. He procured sick bulls (tied up inside pens) and would attempt several strikes before the bull would go down. Robert Smith noted as Oyama got older, he had so much pain in his hands due to arthritis that he could barely touch anything.

Myth #5: The Hollywood Neck Snap
We’ve all seen this in most Hollywood movies for a while now. A soldier comes up behind his victim, grabs his head and suddenly twists it quickly to one side, the victim falls down dead. This has been so overused that they’re even using this in horror films. Although neck snaps can cause injuries they won’t cause death.  You can actually kill or cripple somebody by dislocating neck vertebrae and damaging the spinal cord, but the Hollywood method is incorrect!

Myth #6: If you Hit someone Hard Enough in the Nose, the Bone will Penetrate the Brain and Will Cause Death
To this day, I’m still shocked by all the intelligent people who believe this myth. A major portion of the nose is made up of cartilage. Cartilage will not transmit the energy of a strike up through the bone. Also, if you examine the nose bone, it’s not made up of a long shaft-like bone that can travel anywhere.

I spoke to an ER doctor about this and he said “I have never heard of a reported case of death in that manner.  Most of the nasal septum is made out of cartilage. There is a bone – it breaks when you have a “broken nose.”  I have seen a lot of broken noses, sometimes caused by high-energy impacts (unrestrained car accidents), and never saw a nasal bone penetration in the skull cavity. There is also a significant distance between the nose and the brain.

Myth #7: Never Pull a Weapon on a Criminal, They’ll Take It Away and Use it Against You
This is one of the biggest myths around, going back decades; the “liberal media” propagate this myth big time. Believe it or not, just a few days ago, I had to correct this viewpoint from a new student of mine. The media wants you to believe that we are all helpless and there’s nothing you can do. I’ve spoken with numerous ex-cons and they all tell me the same thing, they don’t want to get hurt, and if someone pulls a knife or gun on them, they’ll get out of there fast.

But, they also say, it depends on the person; if there’s no intent behind the threat they may just fight it out. This myth has been most successful in countries such as England, France, Australia, USA and Canada, where people are encouraged not to resist criminals.

There’s actually so much we can all do, #1. Awareness of your surroundings, #2. Don’t act like a victim – be ready to fight back at a moment’s notice #3. Get training and learn to use your weapon #4. Always carry a weapon.

Myth #8: When we Learn a new Skill and Perform it many times, it is Internalized by the Muscles – this is called “Muscle Memory”
There is NO SUCH THING as “muscle memory”. For years fight practitioners (as well as other athletes) have relied on endless repetition to try to lock their body movements into memory. The name for this, “muscle memory” was coined for this process. But there are no muscle memory cells, and without being actively engaged in the process, the brain won’t remember any body movements. The correct term is “MOTOR MEMORY.”

It’s the brain that remembers the movements, not the muscles. The best proof for this comes from people that have partial or total amnesia. Contrary to Hollywood’s take on the subject, in cases of amnesia, many individuals with high-level skills (in any field) cannot always access [those skills] and indeed will never know they have them until they regain their memory. So as much as notion of someone tapping into their hidden skills automatically as in the movie “The “Bourne Identity,” in reality, it probably won’t occur (however there are some exceptions depending on the amount of damage). The correct term for internalizing any skills is “Motor Memory;” and skills (i.e. fighting) that are linked to the body’s balance auto-response system are more quickly learned and retained than other methods.

Myth #9: The Karate Reverse Punch is the Most Powerful of all Punches
Far from it. Years ago, Egami, a noted Japanese karate instructor went out to prove how effective karate punches were comparatively to other styles of hand strikes. After conducting a series of scientific tests he concluded that karate punches were the least powerful of all.  To his credit he released his findings to the public.  Boxing punches and some Chinese forms of hand strikes tested far superior.  It seems that reverse punches lose much of their power with the opposite pull and turn of the hips.

Myth #10: The Kung Fu Death Touch
Another classic, you see this a lot in kung fu movies.  While in China, I met an historian aged 83, who lived through Mao’s purge.  He also happened to be a martial arts adept.  He told me that the true story was that a fighter would carry a flesh painted thimble or palm device that was dipped in snake venom. He showed me an illustration of this in an old martial arts manual from the turn of the century.

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