Mythology, Mysticism and the Martial Arts – Part 1

Currently, the world is plagued with tens of thousands of fraudulent self-proclaimed masters of martial arts, hand to hand combat and self-defense experts. For the most part, these are charlatans taking advantage of people's fears and insecurities, their desires to emulate their heroes on the silver screen and their need for empowerment. The cause of this unfortunate state of the arts is commercialism. The media. By the time the Asian martial arts exploded into the US in the late 1950's early 60's, they had become so exploited and distorted that they had no bearings of resemblance to the true arts. They had merely become commercialized clones, and bad ones at that.

To make it in North America, one cannot get by on talent alone… you have to be a salesman. Marketing will get the students. And so, the con-artists were born. For example: There's a commercial Karate school in New York City that advertises that it doesn't take everyone who applies, but if you read between the lines you'll find that they only take those with money.

Then there are the ones who have mastered the art of verbal diarrhea. John F. Gilbey writes in his book "The Way of a Warrior" (although the book should be taken with a grain of salt as more of an entertainment piece of literature rather than educational, it does offer some valuable insight) about a mantis boxer who allegedly can throw a soccer ball into the air and before it hits the ground, can put his fist through it (yes, a fully inflated one). Or the guy from Syracuse who printed up a bunch of business cards stating how deadly he is after completing a 20-hour course in something or other. Called in the street once, he reaches into his back pocket to get his wallet so he can give his attacker a card, and the guy used this convenient moment to drop a right cross and knock the guy out flat on his ass.

Even the so-called qualified have resorted to stupidity. Aikido master M. Mochizuki from Paris told how a 3rd dan in Judo surprised a saber-armed burglar in his pad and warned him of his devastating power and rank in Judo. Apparently, the burglar was so scared he lunged at the Judo master and cut off his arm.

At a no holds barred event I attended with a few of my students in 1995, we had run into a group who was competing. This group, were practitioners of pressure point debilitation techniques. I looked at them and chuckled much to their dismay, which immediately prompted a demonstration. One of these jokers (a black belt no less) picks one of my students to demonstrate on. He then goes into a 10 minute prep, lifting my student's left arm all the while searching for that mystical point that would supposedly leave my student a paraplegic. He then finds it (after at least 4 failed attempts no less) to which my student wiggles away begging him to stop because it tickled. Needless to say, they didn't do too well at the competition.

It is said that some masters, with their bare hands, no doubt… can penetrate a human's epidermis or chest cavity and extract from them the heart or intestines. Does someone here watch too many movies while smoking grass through a vodka filtered Arabic pipe?
It is impossible folks. Have the next con artist who tries to feed you this horse shit attempt to spear his way through a slab of beef or deer carcass thrown up against a wall or hanging off a meat hook. The only thing he'll manage to do is break every finger in his hands.

Another Karate master claims to have beaten bulls in the ring. Yep. Bulls. In Spain, during the real bullfights, they never, ever let the same bull fight twice. The animal learns too quickly and would make porridge out of the bullfighter. Not to mention the fact that the bullfighter is armed, the bull slowly bleeds to death by way of stabbing and is finally killed with a sword; definitely not with bare hands. If you ever hear of an event where a man fights a bull barehanded, put your $$$ on the bull.

There's a guy in the mid west who used to call himself a "4 skull master", he calls himself that because he allegedly keeps the 4 skulls of the men he killed up over his mantle.

How about the 20 year old 7th degree black belts? How about the black belts in Chinese Boxing? (Since when did the Chinese give black belts?) Nowadays any Chinese or Asian individual can claim he's a master on his nationality alone and presto, everyone believes him. What is up with that? Then there's the black belt who claims he fought in 3 or 4 death matches, when allegedly asked if he lost any he apparently looked puzzled.

I know of a local (Montreal) martial arts "master" who jumped for joy the day he got 3rd place in a kata championship. There were 4 competitors including him. He now proudly displays his trophy at his school. Another local fellow claims he has the fastest hands in the world and advertises that his system is considered to be the most effective system taught in Montreal. When called and asked what he based this on, this pillar of virtue stated that it was his opinion.

A Tae Kwon Do expert in Bristol jumped over 8 men smashing 4 one inch boards and shattered the dojo door landing, on his feet none the less, outside in the alley.

Pick up martial arts magazines, flip through the advertisements, you'll find such garbage as "Devastating secret fighting techniques of the Russian armies", "Learn to hit a man 15 times in 11 seconds", "Secret military Navy Seals combat tactics now revealed to civilians" These are actual ad titles... *sigh*

Then you've got the almighty internet. Since technology advanced and we got access to the world through a 15 to 17 inch screen in the privacy of our homes, the myriads of then unknown masters, killer street fighters and martial kings have emerged. These are known as keyboard or internet warriors. They are everywhere, usually armed with a Hotmail or Yahoo account and an anonymous name proclaiming their experiences and mastery of combat yet no one has ever seen them or heard of them before. They are on every forum at all hours of the day and night with hundreds of posts and aliases preaching their mantra to whomever will listen. They claim experience and high degree of combative abilities yet they are on the internet 20 hours a day 7 days a week. When do they train? When do they research? When do they have the time for anything?

I've met and encountered countless "experts" who have never been in nor witnessed for that matter, a real fight. Yet, they are teaching fighting systems. One particular guy, who preaches to teach a streetwise system, has never been in a real street fight. His system is solely based on theory and research but absolutely no practicality. He goes as far as saying, to back up the fact that he's never fought, that it doesn't matter since most of the famous Boxing coaches in the world never fought either but produced such great champions as Muhammad Ali, Mike Tyson and Sugar Ray Leanord.

The simple fact that Boxing is a sport with rules, rounds and referees seems to have slipped his mind. Sports with rules can be easily learned under the parameters and limitations of their faction. Reality poses a much vaster range of gray area that only experience can make one truly understand. Knowledge is simply information understood, experience is information applied.

Not to say that research alone cannot produce a wealth of information. But when dealing with life and death, would you rather be operated on by a doctor who "knows" what he's doing and is operating for the first time or by a doctor who's performed at least 50 successful operations prior?

Take the likes of Sammy Franco, Geoff Thompson, Gavin DeBecker, The Gracies… these men teach from research and experience. I myself have been involved in numerous confrontations, both through unfortunate timing, I.e. wrong place, wrong time, involving myself to help another in need and through work.

I understand fear and stress. I'm very familiar with the rage attack. I know the effects of drugs and alcohol on the frail male ego. I learned the hard way what Marc MacYoung refers to as, if I remember correctly, "The poker ante" (sorry if I misquoted ya Marc!) where both parties have too much invested in the ego battle and inevitably, the weapon comes out and then it's too late to back down. I understand through experience what the first shove of a fight is. I know the dynamics of a knife attack. I know the feeling of a blade cutting my skin, a broken bottle opening up my face, I've worked with ex-street gang members and have been tested by them on a number of occasions; I know how they work. Compiled with all that, I've trained in the martial arts for over 26 years. I have had the pleasure to work, train and learn from many innovators, fighters, philosophers and teachers. My experience combined with my research speaks for itself.

Oh, and one more thing... many experts who've never 'been there and done that' will state that if you have fought than you don't know how to defuse or de-escalate a situation and therefor have no business teaching self defense... I disagree. Here's why. That is a very myopic and judgmental statement. There are those who are victims of racial violence because of where they live and have too physically fight to defend their very lives almost daily. There are those who work in high-risk environments. To simply pass judgment without knowing all the facts is ignorance. Not to say that there isn’t trouble makers and bullies out there but don’t pass judgment until you’re equipped with all the facts.

Another thing is, as a trained fighter we pick up on subtleties that regular folk don’t pick up on. Intention to action... the pre contact phase of an assault in the making. Once that is picked up on, any Good Samaritan would immediately intervene and come to the aid of the defenseless or potential victim. This will put us in an immediate confrontation, which cannot necessarily always be defused. To be an 'expert' in our field and not see these signs, well, then you're not truly an expert... to see them and ignore them makes them socially irresponsible. To deny the fact they exist and simply state 'those who've been there and done that look for trouble' is either a statement of clear misinformation and lack of experience or a downright lie to excuse the fact that they have no experience of their own... so... you make the call.

Richard Dimitri