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10 Misconceptions About Martial Arts That Hollywood Fed Us

by Peckham
fact checked by Darci Heikkinen

Lights, camera, action! Hollywood has definitely made an impression on our collective imagination when it comes to martial arts. For years, we have been captured by breathtaking martial arts performances in popular movies. From high-flying kicks and accepting that a blow to the groin is harmless to how you can kill a person with your finger or pull out the spine easily.

But it’s important to distinguish fact from fiction amid the exciting show these performances give. So let’s look at 10 misconceptions Hollywood has continuously fed us about martial arts.

Related: 10 Best Fight Scenes in Movies

10 There Are Ancient Ways to Kill with Your Finger

Kill Bill: Vol. 2 (2004) – The Five Point Palm Exploding Heart Technique Scene (12/12) | Movieclips

In the movie Kill Bill Volume 2, the main character deals with the head of a criminal organization and her former boss Bill with the help of a secret blow taught to her by the Tibetan kung fu master Pei Mei. She touches five points on Bill’s body with her fingers, and when he takes five steps, he dies.

These moves are often seen in martial arts films and are referred to as dim mak or, in Cantonese, “touch of death.” And in Japanese, it sounds like kyusho-jutsu. But in fact, “delayed death” is just an oriental tale that developed from the teachings of acupuncture. The idea of dim-mak is that chi (qi) energy flows through the body along special lines, and touching them can heal or kill.

Though modern science has found that there is a possibility of qi energy in people, the effectiveness of acupuncture and related techniques is questionable. It is impossible to make a person lose consciousness, stop the heart, or otherwise harm a person by clicking on some “secret points.”

And although death, which did not occur immediately after the injury, but after some time, is quite possible, it is unlikely that it will be possible to cause it consciously. For example, a strong blow to the head can lead to a “concussion.” Still, the maximum damage this can cause is that you’ll be disoriented or confused, as this is the least serious of brain injuries.

In addition, the myth of the “touch of death” could have appeared because cunning fighters to the east (for example, ninjas) used brass knuckles, rings, and spikes with poison in battle. Their blow can indeed cause a “delayed death,” and it does not matter where it was inflicted.[1]

9 Blows Are Accompanied by Special Sounds

Punch sound design from Fight Club explained by Ren Klyce

Watch any martial arts movie and hear the “juicy” sounds human bodies make when they come into contact with fists, boots, and other beating tools. But real sparring is not at all accompanied by a cacophony of slaps: Athletes sniff and stomp louder than they hit each other.

Blows to the human body don’t make much noise and look unconvincing on screen, even if they are strong and technically executed. Therefore, filmmakers resort to various tricks when dubbing films, making the sounds of the battle as spectacular as possible.

Fight Club sound engineer Ren Klyce had this to say about blows sound effects “We beat chicken carcasses with baseball bats, smashed walnuts, tossed pork legs, and then mixed those sounds. We have made an extensive library of strokes.”

So the next time you watch a beautiful fight in a movie, you should know: You’re likely only hearing the sounds of splitting watermelons and slicing chickens, as well as the crunching of celery. The latter is most often used when you need to voice the twisting of the limbs.[2]

8 Striking in the Groin Is Unpleasant But Harmless

Many below-the-belt comedies include groin punches. Funny characters regularly get hit on sensitive organs, scream in falsetto, make faces, grab onto sore spots, and curl up into a ball. And then they get up and continue their adventures as if nothing had happened.

In fact, a blow to the groin can lead to very serious injuries, up to rupture of the groin muscle or even a fracture of the pubic bone. This means hellish pain and the need for surgical intervention. A lethal outcome is unlikely to occur—unless the victim decides not to see a doctor.

But infertility and decreased sexual activity are more than likely. A blow to the groin is clearly not something that should be considered harmless. And yes, contrary to stereotypes, attacking below the belt is dangerous not only for men but also for women.

If you inflict such a blow on a woman, then she, too, can easily be maimed and cause severe torment. Women MMA fighters suffer from accidental low blows just as often as men. The situation is aggravated by the fact that they are not required by the rules to wear groin protection.[3]

7 From the Throw, People Fly Five Meters to the Side

Fast Five (7/10) Movie CLIP – Hobbs vs. Toretto (2011) HD

The big guys in the movies (like Luke Hobbs from the Fast and the Furious series, played by Dwayne Johnson) just love to throw people. Grabbed and thrown to the ground or against a wall, like a sack of potatoes.

You say that a strong man like The Rock can easily do this? No matter how. Let’s see how it really works.

In the Swiss city of Interlaken, about once every 12 years, a competition of strongmen called Unspunnen takes place. Among other tests, there is a trick with throwing a huge block weighing 185 pounds (83.5 kilograms), which is called the “Unspunnen stone.”

Strongmen prepare for a long time before throwing a stone because it still needs to be raised correctly. The thrower raises the block above his head, makes a short run, and throws it. The official record—13.48 feet (4.11 meters)—was set by strongman Markus Maire.

If throwing a simple stone from a running start is such a difficult task, how much more difficult is it to throw people who are also resisting?

To grab, lift and throw a man escaping to any noticeable distance is only possible for the Incredible Hulk. No wonder wrestlers don’t do that.[4]

6 An Unarmed Martial Artist Can Easily Deal with an Armed Opponent

Knife Fight Scene | NIGHTSHOOTERS (2018)

No matter how champion you are, there is little chance of staying alive and well in the event of a stabbing, despite any preparation.

In the movies, villains wield blades, giving the martial artist plenty of opportunity to intercept their hands and disarm them. But in reality, no one in their right mind will do this. A thug just needs to take a knife and stab, closing himself from the blows of the victim with his second hand.

No sophisticated blade techniques. And simple stabs with a knife in the abdomen, chest, or face cannot be blocked in any way—unless you are a knight with a shield.[5]

5 A Person Can Be Knocked Out by a Blow for Several Hours

Steven Seagal Aikido Specialist | Fight Scene – Above The Law (1988)

Sometimes heroes in action movies don’t want to kill the opponent, but the opponent must be neutralized. We all know what happens next.

But what the hell are they doing?

That’s right, the hero famously hits the villain on the chest, and the villain falls like a mow down. Then the hero either knocks him on the head or grabs the opponent by the neck and pinches the carotid artery, causing the helpless victim to go to sleep for two hours.

And at the right moment, the victim wakes up, rubs the bump on his head, and immediately rushes into battle—without any harmful consequences.

In fact, if you knock out a person with an accurate blow, he will come to his senses in about 10-20 seconds or five minutes at the maximum. If a person does not wake up almost immediately after a knockout, then he has a serious injury—a concussion or a brain hemorrhage from a blow. Often, nausea, disorientation, and dizziness are included.

After this, you won’t be able to jump up and rush into battle, like in the movies. You undergo surgery, maybe risk coma, then end up in a vegetative state, or you will have to spend several weeks in the hospital and recover for a couple of months. And such injuries do not go unnoticed—it is not for nothing that Parkinson’s disease is common among boxers.[6]

4 A Martial Artist Will Single-Handededly Defeat a Crowd of Enemies

Jackie Chan Vs 100 Men | Drunken Master ll ( HD)

In almost every action movie, heroes have to fight against superior enemy forces. But numerical superiority is nothing against training and preparation! A group of thugs (often armed) often attack a lone warrior, and nothing can oppose him.

However, if in real life any MMA champion fights several opponents at once, he will almost certainly be killed or maimed. The thing is that movie villains sacredly observe the unwritten rule—attack in turn. While the hero beats one of them, others humbly wait, waving their arms and making menacing faces.

In a real fight, you will be attacked by a crowd—no beautiful alternate duels, as in the movies. So the only correct way out of a “one against all” battle is to run away, no matter how much of a martial arts master you are.[7]

3 Hitting the Head with Full Force with a Bare Hand Is a Great Idea

Marvel’s Daredevil | Hallway Fight Scene [HD] | Netflix

In movies, you see the hero hit the enemy on the head or knock down walls of concrete. Sometimes, they even go as far as punching through titanium with their fist without protection, and nothing happens to their hands.

In real life, it would be bad not only for the bruised man but also for the one who struck. He can even break his arm on someone else’s skull, not to mention a titanium surface.

There is a special designation for such a phenomenon—”boxer’s fracture.” when one of the metacarpal bones breaks from a strong punch to a person. Even athletes with gloves or bandaged fists sometimes suffer from this injury. Humans are strong but, at the same time, rather fragile creatures. So Hollywood punching through walls is absurd.

Hitting the enemy on the forehead with all your might is clearly not worth it. And what about aiming at the teeth? You can injure your hand and also get an infection if the enemy has a problem with oral hygiene. In especially neglected cases, just know you are getting an amputation.[8]

2 There Are No Rules in “Fights without Rules”

You know the rules, no rules. Leon is fighting in the parking lot. Lionheart

In fact, what we habitually call “fighting without rules” is officially called “mixed martial arts.” And there are a lot of restrictions.

In professional organizations, such as the UFC, it is forbidden to strike with elbows and knees on the ground. Biting, blows to the groin, throat, nape, and spine, poking in the eyes, breaking fingers, and tearing tissues, such as ears, the mouth, and nostrils, are also unacceptable. Violation results in disqualification.

In addition, duels have a time limit and equipment standards that are strictly adhered to. So in “fights without rules,” there are actually plenty of rules.[9]

1 A Strong Person Can Rip Out an Opponent’s Heart or Spine

The Mountain crushes Prince Oberyn’s head.

Contrary to all sorts of creepy films where directors endow their characters with simply superhuman strength, it is simply impossible to rip out someone’s heart or separate a head or limb from the body with bare hands.

I mean, the human body is not like fabric that has good tear strength. If you don’t believe me, buy a piece of raw beef or a piece of shank in the store and try to tear it in half.

The stretching of the spine, which the alien hunter from Predator likes so much, looks even more ridiculous: The spine is firmly attached to the ribs and tissues around it, and without a long surgical operation, it is impossible to get it completely.

And yes, crushing the head with bare hands, as the Mountain from Game of Thrones did with Oberyn Martell, will not work either. Even if you are Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson. This conclusion was reached by neurosurgeon Tobias Matte and biomedical engineer Cynthia Bir. But an ordinary skull fracture can be arranged without having the parameters of an Icelandic strongman.[10]

fact checked by Darci Heikkinen