IMG_9037The internet has reached a point of being predictable. At least, in the comments sections of every website. I saw a post today regarding a huge storm about to hit Hong Kong, and I don’t need to read the comments. The same species of lame humour attempts will fill up most of the space, next to a few sporadic attempts to correct what was wrong with the original article, and maybe one or two hapless “oh, those poor people” posts. For the most part the comments are all going to be various attempts at being the class clown. Used to be one in every class, now it’s everyone in class.

With martial artists, the new class clown is the Realism guy. This started with a few small voices in the nineties gaining prominence in the martial arts magazines. It was refreshing to hear people call out some obvious bullshit that was showing up, and demand some more realistic approaches to displaying what our arts are capable of. Before this creak of reason starting squeaking the doors, the usual technique article was a bad guy throwing a punch, followed by the good guy retaliating with a blizzard of technique…all while the bad guy stood obediently still.

I’d like to say it’s better, but it’s not. It still happens. The bad guys are still one-shot-and-pause cardboard cutouts, and the good guy still throws a series of shots. Realism of technique is now judged based on how close it seems to feel to the viewer compared to the “Tactical” fashion overlay that is currently trendy. Something is considered good or cool if it’s shot well, fashioned as if it has some air of old-boy backroom realism to it, or is done by one of the what have become accepted masters…especially in the HEMA world..just add a dose of “historical!” to the realism mix.

The realism guy got his internet warrior spurs courtesy of the Bullshido forum. A site that started out as a place to expose quackery in the martial arts with an attempt at amateur journalism combined with humour, it descended into knee-jerk bullying of any martial arts style or school that didn’t fit within a narrow spectrum of approved MMA types. “Is this real, or bullshido?” is one of the first things someone will ask online when they are investigating a potential new school to train at, or wanting an opinion on a video clip or something they found online.

It’s sunk in enough that now online martial artists are quick to judge things they see as bullshit. It gets under my skin a lot. I’ve written about it before, and I’ll probably write about it again. Someone sees a technique that’s outside the body of what they know, and calls it bullshit. Or they see something that they’ve been told time and time again by an authority figure is bullshit. Bullshido goes hand-in-hand with Ameri-do-te.  To confidently decry a martial arts technique as bullshit is to make a claim to superior knowledge that few people have.

The wisdom of realism is that spinning attacks don’t work. Up until very recently, any kind of spinning attack being taught was a prime example of bullshido in action. Obviously any attempt to use a spin attack for real will get you killed. Intentionally turning your back on an opponent? Losing sight of what they are doing? Giving up forward pressure and dominance of your opponent? Obviously mystical kung-fu bullshit that would never work for real. Obviously.

Aikido as a martial art is obviously pure bullshit. None of that crap will work on a non-compliant opponent. Fancy wrist locks don’t work in the heat of combat. Certainly not in a noisy smelly bar against someone way larger than you who’s drunk and can’t feel pain. Which is why I imagined dragging that big lunk out by his dislocated wrist. It was all in my head, because Aikido is obviously bullshit.

Just about any online martial artist will tell you that a swan-lock is a bullshit fantasy move that is way to complex to apply for real. The Vancouver Police Department ERT instructor agreed…which is why when I took the weekend tactical force certification course back in the nineties, he insisted on it being applied in less than a quarter of a second…starting by facing your opponent, an arms length away. It’s pretty amazing what you can do with the right training.

I used to believe that kicking a knife out of someone’s hand was bullshit. I’m sure as hell not going to teach someone to do it, or tell them too…but that’s not the same thing as saying it’s impossible. Or even implausible. I’ve done it sparring against some very, very good knife fighters who weren’t being the least bit compliant. I was a smidge more surprised than they were.

I don’t think it’s much of a stretch to say there are no bullshit techniques in martial arts. There are some beautiful exceptions, obviously. The real difference between a good and bad technique is training. With poor training, nothing works. With good training, anything can work. Good training is training with an open mind and a lot of testing. You have to have the mind of a scientist when training in this art. Experiment in the safe confines of the training hall, test your ideas, test your beliefs. Take nothing for granted, especially your own assumptions.