After I had been studying martial arts for a little while, I began to have people ask me about some pretty strange things. It usually started with “Can you…?” and it was then followed by something they saw in a movie or a video game. Some people would even volunteer outlandish things of their own, and it usually started with: “I knew a guy who could…” More on that later.

The nature of martial arts seems to attract myths, legends, and strange stories. When I was deciding on the subjects for this piece, I chose to look at a few of the things that come up most often when I speak to people about martial arts. So, without further ado, here they are.

5 Myths in Martial Arts

#1 Registering Your Hands as Weapons

myths martial arts
myths martial arts
myths martial arts

This myth was the first thing I ever heard regarding martial arts, and it is still around. I heard it a lot as a kid growing up in the 1970’s, especially on comedy TV shows. It seemed like an obvious joke, so it was surprising to me in later years to run into people that asked me about it and were deadly serious.

My completely unscientific reasoning for the prevalence of this idea is the sudden and massive popularity of martial art films and TV shows in the 1970’s. “Enter the Dragon” had been a big success, and then there was the “Kung Fu” TV show. I don’t know if this idea predates that era, but it was definitely popular then.

You should note that I am not talking about the legality of self-defense regarding martial arts. That is a whole other issue, and I am not a lawyer. There just isn’t, to my knowledge, any special form to fill out for dangerous body parts. You don’t have to register your hands or feet or anything else that I am aware of, so if you run into anyone that thinks they do, gently set them straight.

#2 Amazing but (Usually) Apocryphal Legends about Martial Arts Masters

myths martial arts

There are many of these stories in every art, and they usually go like this: “He (the Master) defeated (insert large number of people) with just his (pick a body part) in (insert short time frame) without ever breaking a sweat!” You get the idea.

Now I can’t possibly say that all of these stories are false, but I find it hard to believe that they are all true either. If it requires a suspension of disbelief, and/or violations of logic and physics, then it should be suspect. For me, the best way to approach these stories is like listening to an aging relative at a family function: I just politely listen and don’t argue.

#3 Qi is like “The Force” in Star Wars

myths martial arts
Cosplayer dressed as 'Kylo Ren' from the Star Wars series at the Yorkshire Cosplay Con at Sheffield Arena.

It is pretty well known that George Lucas based his idea of “The Force” on the concept of Qi in martial arts. However, that doesn’t mean that you can do all the stuff you see in Star Wars if you study Qigong. Qigong is great meditative exercise, I teach it, and I have been practicing it for years, and I feel great. You can improve your overall health through Qigong.

Some people (and I love those people) say that I look younger than I am, so I think that’s a pretty good advertisement for practicing it! My balance, breathing, and martial arts are all better from practicing Qigong. Through Qigong you can do a lot of amazing things, but you can’t levitate an X-Wing: For that, you need the force.

#4 Martial Arts is For the Young?

myths martial arts

I always ask the parents of my young students to try martial arts, and they often use the “I’m too old” excuse. In some cases it may be a legitimate misunderstanding of the expectations of studying martial arts. People see things on TV, and they think that is what they will be doing. “I’m too old to fight in a cage!” I was once told. I replied, “Me too! Good thing we won’t need to!”

I have known people that started martial arts at many different ages, and all of them were able to get something out of it. If martial arts were only for the young, then that would be a tragedy. It also wouldn’t explain the many people like me who are older and practicing martial arts. (I am 49) There is an art for everyone, regardless of age, and you will be better off studying it than not.

#5 The Power of Truth

myths martial arts

Martial arts are great on their own. You don’t need anything extra to enhance it and you don’t need any additional confusion. Misconceptions, incredible stories and enhanced expectations of lethality are totally unnecessary to have a great experience studying martial arts. I have found that the truth about studying martial arts is exciting enough.

(By the way, that myth about kids and sugar isn’t true either, so it isn’t just us.)

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