Martial arts are fascinating – the history, myths, and legends are alluring to both enthusiasts and the curious alike. Watching martial arts demos, we imagine how cool it would be if we could do some of those amazing flips, kicks, or throws. There are countless scenarios in movies and books wherein we imagine ourselves fighting off bad guys. This popularity helps the styles to grow and most of the time the myths and legends are harmless fun.
There are, however, some myths that drive experienced martial artists – students and instructors alike – insane! With that in mind, let’s look at some of the weirdest, rage-inducing, face-palming, headache-causing myths in martial arts.
1: Not for Kids
The idea that martial arts aren’t for kids has been around for quite a while and I doubt it’s going to go away anytime soon. This is because people who are largely unfamiliar with martial arts assume that it’s too dangerous. They see what’s happening in UFC fights and Muay Thai fights and assume that all martial arts are like that.
Martial arts training is for everyone – including kids. Muay Thai fighters start as young as 10 or 12 and fight until they’re in their late twenties or until they physically can’t fight anymore. Martial arts training is encouraged for children because it teaches them discipline, self-control, and respect while giving them a boost in self-confidence.
2: Martial Arts Encourages Violence
The myth that martial arts training encourages people to solve their problems via violence is unfounded. Most martial arts instructors actively discourage the use of violence to solve a problem preferring instead to focus on avoiding the situation altogether or disable an attacker using appropriate force. When people say that martial arts encourage violence, they’re typically judging based on a misconception that they have. People often see kicks, throws, and takedowns in isolation – such as in demos – and they form their perception that martial arts are violent by intention.
3: Martial Arts and Self-Defense are the Same Thing
Martial arts and self-defense are not the same things. I’ve touched on this before in other articles and I’m touching on it again here: these two subjects are entirely different from each other. There are martial arts systems that lean more towards self-defense and there are traditional styles that use realistic training methods, but this isn’t the norm; it’s the exception.
For the most part, traditional martial arts teach self-defense in a stylized, sequential manner which is largely impractical. The techniques used in the self-defense stuff are completely different from what you do in forms or sparring. Due to certain rules barring the use of self-defense techniques in sparring, this means that you almost never get to pressure test those techniques.
4: Too Deadly for Pressure Testing
Pressure testing is where you take what you’ve been taught, and you test it under stress to see what works and what doesn’t. A common form of pressure testing is sparring. Suddenly, all those fancy spinning techniques are much harder to execute because your sparring partner is actively trying to stop you from successfully pulling them off.
However, there’s no such thing as being ‘too dangerous’ for pressure testing. You should know if what you’re learning is going to work, especially if you’re training for self-defense reasons. Anecdotal evidence is not evidenced that it works. What works for one person won’t work the same way for someone else. There is always a way to adapt something for pressure testing.
5: You Aren’t Allowed to Ask Questions or Voice your Opinion
This is more of a misunderstanding than a myth, but it tends to cause serious problems. The assumption that your instructor knows everything and therefore shouldn’t be questioned is not only false but also creates problems further down the line. You absolutely have the right to ask questions and voice your opinions. The fact that your instructor outranks you doesn’t make your input invalid and as long as it’s done respectfully you can and should speak up if you have a question or thought to share.
Without questions, learning is inhibited, slowing progression and making training more difficult.
6: You Have to Train for Years before you learn anything ‘Real’
When I talk about ‘real’ martial arts techniques, I’m talking about the practical applicability of a chosen discipline in a real self-defense situation. The idea behind this myth is that you don’t learn anything practical until you’ve been training for a few years.
However, it won’t take long for you to realize what works and what doesn’t. Within a few months of training – if your discipline uses sparring or something similar for pressure testing – you should have a better understanding of what you can or can’t do in a fight. Anyone can punch or kick in a fight, you don’t need to train for 10+ years to know how to do that. Martial arts training just gives you a more extensive skill set on which to draw.
7: Registering your body as a dangerous weapon…
As far as I understand, this myth dates to the early days of boxing and stories about boxers having to ‘register their hands’ as deadly weapons. Yes, you read that correctly – there’s a myth going around that says you have to register your body as a deadly weapon if you train in martial arts.
How is this a myth? If you ever saw Wrongfully Accused with Leslie Nielsen, a parody of The Fugitive that centers on a plot by terrorists to kill the Secretary General of the UN, you will remember that towards the end of the film, one of the terrorists is trying to snipe the group’s target with a gun disguised as a prosthetic leg. Nielsen’s character spots the would-be shooter and yells: “Look out! He’s got a leg!”
So, I guess anyone with hands and feet is also carrying unlicensed, unregistered, deadly weapons!
8: Secret Techniques and Knowledge
This one irritates martial artists to no end. Why? Because it just refuses to lay down and die and leave the martial arts world in peace. You may have heard something like this before: “Train with me for 15 years and you’ll learn secret arts not taught in any other style!”
Despite these claims, there are no so-called ‘secret arts not taught elsewhere’ – most styles teach strikes, kicks, throws, grappling, submissions, and pins. Though differing in name, much of what you’re learning can be found in other styles. There’s nothing secret about it.
9: It’s not the Style, it’s the Practitioner!
This myth dictates that a good system won’t fail, and if it does fail, then it’s the fault of the practitioner and not the style itself. Surprisingly, there’s actually a grain of truth to this one.
Every style has flaws and it’s up to the practitioner to ask questions and test themselves to see what works and what doesn’t. It’s also up to the instructor to ensure that the training is done honestly and properly, meaning he doesn’t lie to you and say you’re training for self-defense when you’re really training for something else.
10: MMA and Self-Defense Practitioners Hate Traditional Martial Artists
This one taps into the subject of ego in the martial arts community. People on the MMA and self-defense side of the argument think that traditional martial artists are elitists with big egos. The same is true of the other side, where traditional martial artists think of MMA and self-defense guys as closed-minded and egotistical.
It should be obvious that this is wrong, but it doesn’t seem to be. I’ve had the pleasure of sparring with people from a variety of backgrounds including MMA and Krav Maga. They’ve been some of the nicest and most entertaining and challenging sparring partners. Are there egotistical people in martial arts? Yes, absolutely, but it’s not limited to the MMA and self-defense circles, it’s apparent across the board.
It’s not fair to paint anyone with broad strokes; there are egotistical people who irritate everyone else in the Dojo or Studio. Despite this, we (traditional martial artists and self-defense/MMA practitioners) don’t hate each other.
These Myths are Weird and Irritating
These myths are slowly going away, but I doubt they’ll ever truly disappear from the martial arts world altogether.
Well, there you have it; a list of 10 of the weirdest and most irritating myths in martial arts. Believe me, when I tell you, there are many, many more on the web. I hope you guys liked the article, and that you found it helpful.
As always, thanks for reading and I’ll see you all again in the next one very soon! Take care and keep kicking!