While eLuddite is obviously a troll, his comments really do reflect the mindset of a not-insignificant percentage of the population. And, unfortunately, as with most decent trolls, there's enough kernel of truth in there to make it difficult to dismiss him completely out of hand. In the interest of disclosure, let me say that I've got a fair amount Kung Fu training, but I'm not really interested in disclosing how much (since I'm not really big on the whole bragging thing).
I want to try to talk about one of these generalizations in a more reasonable light, rather than the inflammatory rhetoric that they've been thus far presented with.
"Martial artists can't fight".
Unfortunately, this is sometimes true. Probably even more true than not. The logical problem is in the quality of comparison. eLuddite wishes to compare "decent" or "good" boxers with crappy martial artists. Unfortunately, at least in the US, there seem to be a whole lotta crappy martial artists out there. (There are crappy boxers, too..but on the whole, there are less boxers than claimed martial artists, so you hear less bragging from the 'crappy boxer' camp).
There's likely a great many reasons for this. We've all heard of the proverbial case of the kid who has made the specious claim to know martial arts to try to scare off bullies. I'd wager that in a lot of instances, the 'martial artist' was anything but. I also knew a kid who claimed to be a "golden gloves boxer" to try to scare an opponent, and got his ass handed to him on a platter. Does he prove that "boxes can't fight"? Of course not. Mostly, he proved that bragging about non-existing fighting prowess is a dumb tactic.
There are other reasons for martial artists who don't have good fighting prowess, such as the de-violencing of many martial arts into sports (such as much of judo), pretty exercises (many wu shu schools), or spiritual retreats (much like softer aikido). I wouldn't expect many schools of these styles to produce hard-core fighters. I also wouldn't expect to get a decent fighter out of a Tae Bo class, but you might be surprised at how many folks who take Tae Bo think it's a cool way to exercise AND learn a martial art. There are more of these than boxing schools, because boxing has a bad rap: It causes brain damage and ugly mugs. Few parents let their little angels come home bloodied and bruised, and presuambly a little more stupid, every week. Nobody really expects to get brain damaged from Tae Bo...what they really want is to develop a nice ass, and maybe to be able to brag about learning a martial art.
I think there's a big reason, though, that hasn't been touched on: Most martial arts students are kids. I don't have any hard numbers to back that up...but in the interests of expanding my knowledge, I *have* taken a little bit of a lot of styles: Wu shu, wah lum, aikido, '5 animals' style kung fu, kick boxing, tae kwon do, bushiban ninjitsu, kali, to name a few. I've been to an even greater number of schools (dojo/kwoon/what have you), looking for ones that fit my acceptability criteria. In every case, what I've seen is at least 80%-100% of the students are minors. I'm not raggin' on kids. I was one...and got into martial arts when I was one. But my serious devotion, study, and understanding didn't come about until I had matured...(not to mention not having to re-train a large majority of moves every time I had growth spurts). In a similar parallel: Lots of kids are forced to take piano/violin/whatever. Only a few of those kids (unless they are prodigies) ever really get good at it while they're kids. Very few also stick with it long enough to get good as adults.
Now, having taught martial arts classes, and having dealt with parents, it's a sure fact that if training is painful (as good training often can be), and training is hard work and not "fun and cool", his parents will likely pull him out of the class. If little Johnny doesn't keep getting belts and learning new stuff, soon he'll get bored, and leave the class. Anyone who teaches martial arts for a living, unless they have a good reputation and are able to command high prices are high numbers of students, has to make small sacrifices between quanitity of students, and quality of students. And lets face it..your average 7-14 year old sucks as a martial arts student. Their attention span sucks, and they're full of Hollywood-crafted pre-conceived notions about martial arts and trainng.
Part of the 'crappy martial artits' equation has to do with school dynamics: A lot of folks never make it through a full year of training. Far less make it through two. We (the instructors and 'hard core' students) would call this steady churn of transient students "tourists". They'd come to visit a while, and then go about their way. I've already given reasons why there are many more folks who go through a martial arts class this way than go through boxing lessons this way.
Unfortuantely, many people have the expectation that they should be "good" at a martial art after a year or two. Heck, a first year piano student (to continue our analogy) isn't that great, and nobody's trying to hit you in the head whil you're playing (unless you really stink!). Many of those people call themselves "martial artists", even though a first-year piano student wouldn't be really qualified to call themselves a "pianist". And the same kind of folks that don't have the gumption to stick with training for years to get really good are also the same kinda folks who'll lie about how much training they've had. Heck, I've caught my own little brother telling his friends he's a black belt, when the most significant training he's had was being whupped by me and my older brother. When he gets whipped, as happens, cause he has a big mouth, he helps perpetuate the "black belt doesn't mean anything" concept.
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