Today’s Lesson: Like Snopes, but for Punching (Disspelling Myths and Misinformation)

The world of martial arts and self defense is vast and has an amazing and varied and long history to it. However, therein lies the problem, is that in the thousands of years it’s existed, a very long and ongoing game of telephone has been going on and we’ve lost information along the way or some legit stuff has gone through the crap filter so much it comes out the other side wholly unrecognizable as any kind of decent or correct information.

There’s, basically, a lot more misinformation out there now than there is anything true. This is especially true regarding basic self defense, and it’s sad. Most people are taught these things and believe they’re true without trying to bring harm to anyone or the idea of defense or martial arts, but some definitely are perpetuating it to harm it out of whatever agenda they’re pushing. This also leads to people preying on fears and trying to market things for it because capitalism sucks and fear sells. Here’s some of the more common things you hear, and what to do if you encounter this information or these products out in the wild.

Minor content warning for mentions of crass crimes, but nothing detailed.

Marketing Tactics Based on Fearmongering
Our first one is one of the more obvious ones: guys, if you don’t learn this technique/buy this weapon RIGHT NOW you are definitely going to get raped horrible, your wallet emptied, your kids taken away, gangs will leave you for dead, and dogs will piss on you. If you don’t reblog this list of (possibly endangering and useless) tips it is the end. Repent, sinner, judgment day is at hand. You cannot afford to not have this in your purse because it slices it dices. You get the picture. You either have it or you’re doomed.

The thing being advertised, be it a product or a class or seminar or book or what have you, could very well be legitimate, but I am very wary of anyone or anything who sells or markets stuff for such a serious subject based on fear and shame. It’s a level above victim blaming, because it’s saying if you don’t have it, well, kind of your own fault if a thing happens! Support those that treat these subjects with the gravity and respect it deserves. Yes, these topics can and will come up in classes and literature and such, but it shouldn’t be the only selling point and it shouldn’t be treated as a shameful inevitable, nor should what they’re selling be advertised as the “only” way out.

Tazers/Stun Guns + Pepper Spray + Mace + Keychain Blades + Knuckles + Other small weapons
These ones are a common first line of defense for many people, especially women, and especially for those that don’t feel like they could physically fight, either because they don’t want to (which is a valid choice) or they’re taught they can’t be strong/would never be able to overpower an assailant, usually a woman being told she couldn’t overcome a man (a horrible and gross inaccuracy). What better way than to use something easy to whip out, distract/stun your assailant, then escape?

Except two problems: One is the legality of these varies by country, state/province, and area. Always be sure what you’re carrying on you or with you at all times is within the weapons/self defense laws of where you live. While you may be able to obtain these or have them sent to your place from elsewhere, actually using it or even having it on you if you’re in question with law enforcement for something else could spell big trouble for you, even if you had a right to use it in self defense. Frustrating, I know, but unless you’re willing to risk these things on your record, or the fact it would start a criminal record in your name, it pays to check.

The other problem is, sadly, these aren’t always great or hot solutions. Some of these have little or no effect on your attacker beyond pissing them off and making them more determined to hurt you, placing you in more danger. Or they could take it and use it on you. That’s the downside of weapons is it can always be taken and used to end you instead. I’m not saying not to use these or have these, especially if you really have no other options, but be aware of the risks associated with using and carrying them.

“Pink” or “Women’s” Bullshit
This one ties in with the two above it. A lot of this stuff comes in pink or other stereotypiclaly “women’s” colors or shapes or sizes or whatever the hell, treating self defense like a Barbie accessory instead of the serious topic it is. Congrats, manufacturers, on being huge pieces of actual shit. There’s nothing wrong with pink, or women’s anything, or accessorizing, but the idea of making self defense “cute” or whatnot just sits horribly on my stomach. Also, these versions of items are usually marked up in price and may be a lot more cheaply made and viable to break or just plain not work. I’ve actually seen more reports of some of the “pink” versions of these objects not working as intended somewhat more frequently than I have others. What a fucking scam.

Just Get A Gun
This is one of my biggest pet peeves when it comes to the whole issue of martial arts and self defense is the one guy who thinks he’s so goddamn clever because his response to this subject? Is always “Why are you wasting your time/money on this when you can just get a gun and blast them away? Problem solved."

Now, I personally have nothing against guns. I believe you should have to pass some checks to own them, but in and of themselves they’re just another tool like any other here. They’re not exactly my style, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t work as a solution for others, which if it does for them, then I’m okay with that.

Ammo is money. You have to also practice and train in how to pull vs squeezing the trigger, you have to find targets/ranges to practice on which is also money, you have to clean it. Guns are a lot of work and require a lot more components you have to keep buying to make work. They’re not exactly a hot option for people low on cash. Anyone who believes you don’t need to train or practice is one of those ones you’ll hear about sometime next week on your local news on how they shot their left ball off or their kid got ahold of it and shot their left ball off or their drunk friend did and shot both their left balls off. You get the picture.

Guns are also in as much only effective up to a certain range before bullets start swaying off. Mostly, it’s the fear of them that works, but not everyone is going to be afraid or intimidated by it. And again, we run the risk of you being disarmed and having it used on you. And unlike the other weapons, this one has a very high chance of doing more than irritating your eyes/skin for a while. What will you do if you run out of ammo in a fight, too? Better have your fists or something else as backup.

Ultimately, if you have a license and regularly upkeep it and your training, if that’s the route you want to take to protect yourself/your house/loved ones and are most comfortable with it even after trying other things, by all means, let that be your route. Just don’t think it’s an automatic win button, and as with all weapons, treat it with the respect and love it deserves, or you’ll find yourself on the wrong end of its fury very, very quickly. Please do not become a local headline and shoot your left ball off.

Kick ‘Em In The Dick/Vag/General Genitalia Gamut
Now if this one isn’t the be all end all of ultimate overused bad self defense advice, then I don’t know what is. We all know it. Your dead great grandfather knows it. Future kids will know it. Cartoons REALLY know it. So do bad comedians. To quote Homer Simpson "But 'football to the groin’ is 'football to the groin.” But don’t do it. It’s the worst idea yet.

For those with more dangling participles, what you want to actually aim for are the testicles, and while smashing works on them, you want tearing and tugging motions to REALLY do some damage, but it’s incredibly hard to pull off (aha) without proper training. At our dojo, we call them 'Squirrel Techniques’ because squirrels always find the nuts. We’re super mature. But while these ones actually do work (and my sensei knows to unfortunate personal experience how well they can) they require a lot of time and dedication to know how to do well, like anything else would. Smashing them in the shaft doesn’t do as much.

Also, like with some of the other weapons, this may only serve to anger your attacker more and make them assault you more severely and more determined than they have been.

This goes for those with more inward leaning parts. Vaginas can and will hurt and sting like very little else on the body can if abused or kicked or punched at (why are you punching a vagina, I don’t know) and while it’s not as extreme of pain or damage as can happen to those with the other set of bits, without going inside you’re not gonna do much damage, and good luck getting your foot or fist up there, whether you’re both into it or not. Again, it may only serve to piss of your attacker. Use caution.

What should you do instead? We recommend attacking the eyeband (eyes, temple, outer and inner ears, back of the skull/medulla) since it’s all fragile and it’s on every human and you can’t exactly train your eyes to be tougher. We also advocate pressure against the suprasternal notch and kicking a knee in sideways in a way it doesn’t naturally bend this way your attacker risks being able to walk normally ever again unless they get to a hospital that instant. And then, of course, at your first available instance, get the hell out of there.

Now just because I told you this, don’t go trying it without training. Remember what I’ve said about trying to learn without doing; I don’t want you hurting yourself. This is mostly so you know what kinds of things can and should be taught in its place.

Snopes-ing Them Out
Snopes dot com is a wonderful site. From the most your uncle works at Nintendo stories to serious potential political scandals to if your X-Files Bigfoot fanfic is true or not, they tell you what is and actually isn’t true in the world of rumors and misinformation and myth. This is where sites like Twitter and Tumblr where it’s easy and fast to spread information come in. They love their email fwd fwd fwd fwd your uncle type posts about FORWARD THIS TO EVERYONE YOU KNOW TO SAVE A LIFE OR YOU’RE A SHITHEAD type deals. I call it guiltblogging.

You ever see a post like this one? Yeah you have. We all have. They’re all full of unsourced shit and link back to the first thing I listed on this: fear sells. I’ve had to debunk so many of these posts myself, but with stuff like this, sites like Snopes may have already done my job for me. Definitely check it and similar sites to see if it’s even close to real.

If it smells like shit, walks like shit, talks like shit, it may just very well be a shit sandwich of misinformation. Look at all this nonsense, all of it unsourced, all of it maybe only half true at best for each point and even then ehhh. Use your common sense, or ask your local Atma. If she chokes laughing, you know it’s because you just fed her a shit sandwich and she can’t swallow it.

But Can You See Why Kids Like…
This is one I forgot to address initially, but is also insanely common in the west is this view that martial arts is a hobby only children and mentally stunted adults partake in and has no actual value beyond something you do after school. While we train kids as young as 2 in our school, and a lot of lifelong martial artists start in their childhood at some point (I’m one of them), and it’s offered in a lot of schools over in various parts of Asia instead of doing PE (see Japan), it is absolutely originally not a thing for them and only for them.

A lot of parents mistakenly use us and a lot of other schools as some sort of after-school or weekend day care, or a way to get them out of the house for summer or akin to summer school, thinking it’s at least exercise and gives them somewhere and something to do while the parents finish work or errands or whatever it is they’re doing. Once past a certain point, it’s “weird” to keep doing it and following it, despite the fact we need adults to teach it. It’s all just pretend anyways, right? It’s personally crushing for me to see so many parents not care about what it is their kid is doing, so long as they’re out of their hair, and that they don’t pay attention to how much their kid is happy doing this and what they’re learning, unless it’s to complain to us why didn’t their kid automatically win gold in a tournament, despite the fact the kids are well taught and usually don’t care about winning first and just doing well participating. It’s also obvious some of the children don’t want to be there but they’re stuck with us because this is what mom picked out for them and there’s not much we can do for them and they rarely if ever advance in rank, since we only give it to people, even the youngest of students, whom show a genuine capacity for their curriculum.

Given the root word of martial, and how even in languages like Japanese the words for it imply a historical military based lineage or “art” of war (-jutsu) and the “way” (-do) of life versions came only recently in history, this should tell you that while children may be taught it, it is ultimately a more mature and adult subject when dealing with the details of it, harder training, and what it does and does not entail for defense or what certain techniques do. We restrict our self-defense classes to 18+ or 13+ with someone 18+ accompanying you solely due to the subject matter being discussed includes topics like rape and murder and kidnapping. Things routinely discussed in swordsmanship include proper beheadings, shitting/pissing in your armor, and stuff like disembowelment and how it’s not just blood you clean off your sword but various viscera like guts/tissue/muscle/fat/brains/bones/etc. It’s not a pretty topic, because life and the defending of it can and does also mean killing and dying. It has to be taught with that in mind and with the gravity it deserves or you will absolutely not survive a real encounter.

If your idea is to send your kid off now to any random ass school and expect results, even if it’s just to keep them out of your hair a bit longer, please ask yourself why and if this is the playful environment you expect it to be. A real dojo will treat the children’s training as serious as the adult’s, only toned down to their capacity and maturity level. If this is not something you’re comfortable with your kid doing or learning or hearing about, then I have to wonder what it was you expected from us or martial arts to begin with. Rethink your priorities, and hopefully you will send your kid to us because they either want to do it genuinely themselves or you think we can help them out. Otherwise, you’re only wasting your time, our time, and most importantly, your child’s time. It all could be served better, especially for us, where we can focus on the training of people who actually want to be there and put effort in.