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Aug 07 2016
by Elizabeth Robinson

12 Things Martial Artists Are Tired of Hearing

By Elizabeth Robinson - Aug 07 2016

The martial arts community in the US is expansive and diverse, yet movies and the media portrayed every martial art in the same way ever since these sports were first introduced. So you can't really blame the uninitiated for the mistakes they make. How else are they supposed to know?

Time to set the record straight.  

1. "Show me what you’ve got/fight me."


The best way to win a fight is to not engage in one. Martial arts are meant to teach self-defense in the most extreme scenarios, and “control” (the ability to not accidentally break a bone) isn’t taught until later on in training. This is like asking a boy who just went through puberty to punch you as hard as possible. He. Does. Not. Know.

2. "I bet you couldn’t beat someone with a gun."


Would a shark beat a lion? Are they on land or in the water? How long have they been there? Does the lion have its pride with it (which is kind of, you know, its entire evolutionary strategy)?

Is the gunman alone? Am I standing right next to him or a few meters away? Is there cover? What type of gun is it? Which martial art am I trained it? Are they actually willing to shoot me? Has either of us ever been in a fight before? Is one of us significantly taller?

Either way, some people seem to forget that weapons have been around for as long as martial arts have. It’s not like thousands of years ago people just couldn’t afford to sharpen a stick and decided, “You know what? I’ll just use my hands and hope for the best.” No. The entire point of martial arts is this: a weapon can be stolen and used against its owner, but hands cannot.

3. "I bet you couldn’t beat a tank."


Well, I’d do better than you.

4. "But you’re a girl."


Another major characteristic of a martial art is the lack of emphasis on natural ability. Martial arts are meant to maximize your body’s performance by using optimal positioning and technique, essentially making it so that you don’t have to lift regularly to be able to punch a hole in the wall.

That being said, in my experience, men have more of an advantage in a martial arts fight because of one thing only: height. Not strength, because a sidekick to the solar plexus is still a sidekick to the solar plexus and a hookkick to the temple is still a hookkick to the temple. Yet at the same time, American physical education generally has boys building up and girls focusing on balance and flexibility, leaving the adult men at my academy almost incapable of kicking above the knee without falling over.

5. "Can you do that one move from the movie?"


Probably not. Even if I took the same martial art as that guy in that movie, the directors probably took the “coolest looking” move as opposed to the “move you would actually learn and use in real life”.

6. "My favorite martial art is kickboxing."



Just why?

Why do I always hear this? Why is kickboxing a martial art but not wrestling or gymnastics?

Is there an official classification I don’t know about? I would be perfectly willing to accept kickboxing as a martial art but when did this become a discussion point?

Someone please tell me why.

7. "Taekwondo isn’t a real martial art."


“Martial” = adj. Warlike or befitting a warrior.

“Art” = noun. The quality, production, expression or realm, according to aesthetic principles, of what is beautiful, appealing, or of more than ordinary significance; any field using the skills or techniques of art

“Martial Art” = noun. Any of the forms of self-defense or combat that utilize physical skill and coordination without weapons, often practiced as sport

Where in those definitions is the word “old”? What, Taekwondo can’t be a martial art just because it’s not old? So Taekwondo isn’t a martial art now but it will be in three thousand years?

Taekwondo is a style of martial arts developed in Korea in the early 1950s. It draws heavily from other traditional forms of martial arts and focusses mostly on foot techniques as opposed to hand techniques. Some moves are meant to be more utilitarian and some are meant to be more stylized. Taekwondo instructors focus on moral philosophy and meditation. For all intents and purposes, it is a martial art. It is used like a martial art, based off other martial arts, teaches the same lessons as a martial art, looks like a martial art, tastes like a martial art...

It is a martial art.

8. "Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and/or Capoera aren’t real martial arts."


What? They can’t be because they’re not Asian?

9. "I bet you paid for your blackbelt."


Why, yes I did. But my instructors didn’t accept payment in the form of cash.


10. "Do you take karate?"


Although “karate” technically speaking just means “empty hand” in Japanese, implying the characteristic use of body parts in lieu of weapons. “Karate” therefore applies to any martial art not employing weapons, though it isn’t generally used that way. Many schools in the US will just have “karate” as their style, but there are many different types of karate as well as many martial arts that aren’t classified as karate.

So…yes and no.

11. "What’s the proper way to pronounce your martial art’s name?"


Heck if I know. This isn’t a language class.

12. Misuse of the words “dojo,” “sensei” and “shifu.”


Speaking of language class…

These are indeed real words, pronounced correctly or not. But they don’t apply to every martial art. A “dojo” would apply to traditionally Japanese martial arts, whereas in Korean martial arts it would be a “dojong.” “Sensei” is another Japanese word meaning “teacher,” so it would be kind of stupid to call a Kung Fu “sensei” in the same way it would be stupid to call your algebra teacher “sensei.” “Shifu” is one of the ways to say “teacher” in Chinese, so the same applies above.

Lead Image Credit: DreamWorks Animation

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Elizabeth Robinson - University of Texas at Austin

I'm a sophomore at UT Austin majoring in Dean's Biology. I've loved writing since elementary school and published my first novel in high school. I love reading, writing (obviously), foreign languages, doggos, martial arts, anthropology, theater, and watching far too much YouTube. I dream of being a fiction author and geneticist after graduate school, hopefully combining my two loves to change the world. Follow me on Twitter @MetokaPublishi1, Instagram as BlackPage13, or (best option) visit my website,!

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