First off, I understand where Chris is coming from but don’t really agree with his reasoning. I’ll cover things point by point and try to make as much sense as possible (not always easy for me, please be understanding.)
This is the consensus view among self-defense instructors: if you are attacked with a knife, you will get cut. You should expect to get cut. Your goal is not so much to avoid getting cut, but to avoid getting killed. So next time you meet a self-defense expert, look at their arms. Do you see any knife scars? Have they even once tested their theories against a real, razor-sharp blade?
The problem with the “expect to get cut” cliché is that it leaves no room for debate. It flat out presents your blood flowing as a fact where in reality, that is certainly not always the case. I can cite a large number of friends and fellow instructors, along with a bunch of authors I know, who faced knives repeatedly and didn’t get cut. Following this logic, they don’t know what the hell they’re talking about. That just doesn’t track with me.
I also know an interesting Asian gentleman who’s nearing 60 now and started training at around five years old. He practices his knife techniques with a live blade and has in the mean time had plenty of opportunity to test the theories of his art (I’m understating big time). Last time I saw him, his forearms were not riddled with scars. So he should be clueless too if we follow that line of thinking. Again, I don’t agree.
Having scars from a knife attack means you got cut. It doesn’t mean you did a great job using the techniques you learned. It only means you got cut. Not having scars on your arms doesn’t by default make you clueless about knife defense. There just isn’t a causal link there.
Yes, he failed the test, and nearly chopped his arm off in the bargain. I am not particularly surprised at this outcome. Nevertheless, I wish we had more self-defense instructors of his caliber, and fewer of the type who are so casually mocking him now.
As Chris pointed this at me in particular, here’s my response:
My mocking him was about him deluding himself that he could avoid getting cut by a razor-sharp blade if he did some moves and breathing exercises. I did not mock him for “testing his theories” nor did I do it casually. I’ve seen my share of similar (better and worse) demonstrations and they all failed to prove anything but (great) showmanship. And wasn’t the whole point of these demos to prove you could withstand somebody else cutting you? I’ve yet to find one of these guys willing to let anybody from the audience cut them or use any other blade but their own…
This stuff is just a trick, and an old one at that. You can take a random guy from the street, teach him this stuff in a couple of minutes and he’ll pull it off after an hour of practice. All the hoopla before the sword comes down is not necessary to pull it off; it’s just putting on a show:
- You cut some fruit (soft tissue) to show the blade is “sharp”. It isn’t really dull, just sharp enough to go through fruit if you swing the blade.
- You make a big production out of preparing for the cut.
- You then cut your arm, stomach, whatever.
- The crowd goes wild.
The problem is that there is never a “cut”. You see it clearly in this clip: he never draws the blade across his arm, he only chops it down like a hammer. With most blades, you can chop down pretty hard and only have a slight red line in your arm. Hell, I just did it with my Böker Gemini a few times before I wrote this sentence: not a drop of blood and I hit down pretty hard.
These type of demos were pretty common in China back in the day and the demonstrators traveled from one town to the next, trying to make a money impressing the audience. I know there are some books out there who describe how to pull off the tricks they performed (this cutting yourself being one of them) but I can’t remember which one anymore. Just think of them like a magician pushing swords through a box where somebody just stepped in. Now would you really try that one if you didn’t know how to do it?
Do these results prove the man to be a self-deluded idiot? I sure hope not, because if the rare martial artist who actually tests his theories is subsequently labeled delusional, what does that say about everyone else?
I don’t think he’s an idiot. I think he deluded himself into believing he could sharpen his sword that much and still pull off the trick. And he failed to pull it off. Perhaps he wanted to up the ante by cutting down a tree instead of some fruit. It sure does look more impressive but it also requires a sharper blade. He overdid it and that’s something I find funny.
I also mock him because he cheapens the arts by claiming his trick has any bearing on them. It doesn’t. He’s not testing any martial theory. He’s doing a circus trick. Just like these guys do an act and claim it’s martial arts:
It has nothing to do with martial arts and everything with (group) psychology. But they do charge $461 for their DVD study course…
When this clip hit the Internet, I laughed pretty hard too:
Again, this is not about martial arts but about money.
Then there’s the value of testing your theories: sometimes there isn’t any. I don’t have to go break somebody’s nose to prove my left hook works. Last time that happened and I felt the crunching as my fist landed, I mostly felt sorry for the guy (having had my nose broken a few times, I know just how much it sucks the day after.) But it didn’t make me a better martial artist, not in the least. I also don’t go stabbing people to see if my knife work is up to par. What’s the point? (Oh, the razor-wit, the slashing humor!) There are limits to what you can get out of testing your theories; sometimes there’s just no added value.
I’d like to offer a final point for consideration: Why don’t we see somebody like Mr. Dan Inosanto, perhaps one of the foremost authorities on Filipino martial arts, doing these tricks? Simply because there’s no point. It wouldn’t prove any martial skill whatsoever. There are some martial arts demos that look like tricks and require actual martial skill. But they seem few and far between.
As always, feel free to comment on this post but keep it civil and without personal attacks. If Chris and I can disagree without turning things into a childish shouting and cussing match, you can too.
UPDATE: Chris replied in the comment section of this post and so did I. Not sure if this discussion can go much further though.