Misconceptions About Martial Arts from Pop Culture Debunked: Part One » Skip to content

Misconceptions About Martial Arts from Pop Culture Debunked: Part One

You’ve seen the TV shows and the movies, you’ve heard the songs. It’s a common theme to find martial arts in pop culture, but those depictions aren’t always accurate. There are lots of misconceptions about martial arts that can give the average person a flawed understanding of this ancient and beloved physical art. We’ve got the common misconceptions you should know.

Hands of a Martial Artist Must Be Registered as a Deadly Weapon

You’ve probably encountered the idea of martial artists having to register their hands as weapons at some point. Whether it’s in movies or TV, this trope is pretty familiar. Yet, is it just a misconception? In the United States, martial artists don’t register their hands as deadly weapons, so yes, this instance of martial arts in pop culture is false. Yet, this particular myth is a little more complicated. 

If you find yourself in the unincorporated territory of the United States known as Guam, this martial arts misconception is not longer just a misconception. This small island in the middle of the North Pacific happens to have a large military base on the island and is probably the source for this martial arts in pop culture myth. Guam’s legal code (10 Guam Code §§ 62100 – 62106) states the following: 

“Any person who is an expert in the art of karate or judo, or any similar physical ar(t) in which the hands and feet are used as deadly weapons, is required to register with the Department of Revenue and Taxation.”

It seems like this misconception about martial arts becomes a fact if you find yourself in Guam. 

Martial Arts Practice is Dangerous

People often have the movie-like image of martial arts training as a dangerous, bloody practice. In reality, martial arts training is less harmful than many sports commonly played in schools. What makes this martial arts in pop culture myth especially unfounded is all the research on this topic that shows otherwise. 

One study in the Sport Journal looked at Shotokan Karate and compared injury rates against other martial arts and contact sports; hey also included an age breakdown. Depending on the age group, soccer has similar injury rates as Shotokan karate. Ice Hockey exceeds the injury rate compared to Karate in every age bracket but one. Less injuries were reported for Volleyball players than karate for the most part. Most likely sparring is a large part of the injuries documented, since this looked at competitive sports clubs in colleges.

This is different than training at a dojo in martial arts. In non-competitive martial arts training—especially for younger children and lower belt levels—sparring is optional. If sparring is a part of the class, students wear protective gear like helmets, mouth-guards, and many different types of padding. 

Some martial arts are slightly riskier than others and injuries differ between them. Karate and Tae Kwon Do are striking martial arts; they have lower injury rates than Jiujitsu and Wrestling, which are grappling martial arts. Mixed martial arts or MMA has the highest injury rates; that’s to be expected, since so many MMA fighters actually try to hurt each other to win. Even so, MMA is safe to train with a qualified instructor and especially if you aren’t training for competition. If you’re just doing MMA to lose weight and get some exercise, that’s a lot different than regular fighting in the cage or octagon.

Martial arts training isn’t scary or dangerous. Sure, if soccer frightens you, then maybe martial arts practice will, too. And yes, people can get small cuts and sprains like any other exercise. Like any sport, there is always a possibility of injury while practicing martial arts. However, most of the myths about martial arts training being dangerous likely comes from a mixture of fantasy and history. Training in Japan and China hundreds of years ago at monasteries or amongst warriors was much harsher and dangerous. Television and movies often portray martial arts training as dangerous because it makes stories more interesting and the hero more likable. But in today’s world, the dojo is as safe or safer than many sports. 

Ready to Start Your Martial Arts Journey?

  Now that you can separate fact from fiction when it comes to martial arts, getting your real-world training started is the next step. At Premier Martial Arts, we welcome students of all levels to enjoy the benefits of this ancient physical art. Find one of our many locations nationwide to start your own martial arts journey today.

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