Self-defense techniques often entail using deadly force against an attacker, but before they're taught to students — especially younger ones — due consideration must be given to what it means to end a human life.

I recently attended a martial arts seminar that was just plain disturbing. The highlight of the demo portion was a series of defenses against a knife attack. Nearly every routine went like this: Block the stabbing arm, throw the attacker, apply a wrist lock and cut his neck with his own knife. What bothered me was the thoughtlessness with which the students drew rubber knives across bare throats. Their actions meant death, and there was no sign these martial artists — some of whom were as young as 12 or 13 — understood it. Killing someone is horrible. Even if you are justified in taking a life, it means the absolute end of another human being. No one ever really makes peace with having killed someone. It is a humbling thing, a black stain on your soul that never goes away. I’d wager that no one in that demonstration ever cut into another living thing, much less a human throat. If they had, they wouldn’t have taken it so lightly. Reality I guess what really bothers me is that this cavalier attitude toward killing is not confined to that demonstration or even the art that was featured. I’ve seen attackers get dispatched with their own rubber weapons in a dozen demos from as many different arts. What is disturbing is that we no longer take death seriously. We don’t take death seriously because we don’t have to. Most of us live comfortable lives in a relatively safe society. The martial arts are no longer a necessity for survival. They are a bourgeois hobby — $75 a month to get in shape and learn self-confidence. But the level of comfort we’ve achieved in contemporary martial arts is a subtle betrayal. Comfort is not what brought the arts into being or sustained them for thousands of years; an omnipresent threat of assault and murder did. History The people who founded the martial arts we now study took death seriously. They did because they had to. They couldn’t count on police to protect them or hospitals to heal them. In the lawless societies that spawned the fighting arts, violent confrontation was part of everyday life. And without the safety net of dependable and accessible health care, each injury was potentially fatal. This is why the ancient masters were so secretive, treating each technique with ritual awe. Their actions had absolute consequence, and they were acutely aware of it. Death was never far away. Now that violent confrontation is no longer an everyday occurrence, we no longer feel our own mortality. We play at death, carving each other up with rubber knives to titillate crowds. We give lectures on our “deadly” or “lethal” techniques, then congratulate ourselves on restraining our righteous anger. We talk about death like we understand it and have it under control. But we don’t. Necessity If there is one thing that is sorely lacking in the martial arts, it is an understanding that life is brief and fragile and that this is the reason we learn discipline and respect in the dojo. As martial artists, we must always remember that our actions can have absolute consequences. Resources To order Keith Vargo's book Philosophy of Fighting: Morals and Motivations of the Modern Warrior, go here. To download a FREE Guide titled Hoplology: Martial Arts Weapons and How Humans Fight, go here. For more information about Keith Vargo and his martial arts writings, visit his blog.

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Bruce Lee Enter the Dragon
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Bruce Lee really did have the Midas touch when it came to training. Most people think Bruce was advanced and complicated, but he was the master of simplicity. He was not worried about doing the jump-up flip spin-around back kick. Not sure if there is one. But by the time you land, Bruce would just throw a simple kick or punch to knock you down as you landed to the ground. However, that is the point. Simplicity is often overlooked because of the coolness and the latest and greatest workout when simplicity produces the most significant effect. Super complicated does not mean superior. This is actually reverse in fact. We see super complex exercises that don’t need to be. Truthfully, if an exercise or method is not straightforward in its approach, then it probably is not good.
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Woodley Paul 2
Photo Courtesy: CBS Sports

Tommy Fury, half-brother of heavyweight champion Tyson Fury, has withdrawn from his upcoming bout with undefeated YouTuber-turned-boxer Jake Paul due to injury, per ESPN. The match was supposed to be contested at 192 pounds for eight, three-minute rounds on December 18. Thanks to former UFC welterweight champion Tyron Woodley, the show must go on.

Woodley, who was defeated by Paul via controversial split decision in August, will seek redemption on short notice. The announcement of the rematch comes less than two weeks before the event takes place. According to Paul, Woodley will receive a $500,000 bonus if he is able to land a knockout. However, Paul doesn't expect this to happen, claiming that he is going to "punish" the 39-year-old mixed martial artist.

The Woodley-Paul grudge match is not the only exciting fight on the Showtime pay-per-view card, as ESPN's #3 ranked female boxer Amanda Serrano will take on Miriam Gutierrez in the co-main event. There will also be another celebrity matchup between 3x NBA All-Star point guard Deron Williams and 5x NFL Pro Bowl running back Frank Gore, who will duke it out in a heavyweight bout.

A social media sensation versus a former MMA world champion. Two world class lady warriors. A former professional basketball player versus a member of the NFL 2010's All-Decade Team. Who will have their hand raised that night? Stay tuned for more news and updates about the event from Black Belt Magazine, both here on our website and on social media.

Instagram post from Tyron Woodley:



Karate training
Shutterstock / Kzenon

I have a confession to make: I’m a romantic for cheesy martial art movies.

One of my favorite things to watch in kung fu cinema is a teacher tortu–er, training a novice student. Of course, it is easy to see how we fit in the script. Regardless of our level, it is important to have a mentor who can help guide us properly in our training.

A big part of our growth as people and martial artists is finding the correct ways to be challenged and to promote our depth of understanding. While that duty often is seen as only befalling on the person you study under, there are various things we can consciously do to mix up our training to glean better benefits.

Check out these methods and you’ll soon be able to add new levels of realism to your training and find any hidden holes in your techniques!

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