One of the most nefarious side effects of incorrect martial arts practice is the potential to fall into unexamined groupthink. This effect can be disastrous. It is damaging not only for one’s progression in the martial arts … but also for one’s progression in life, and for one’s spiritual pursuits (if any).
“Self Delusion” or “Groupthink” In The Martial Arts
While I usually confine this blog discussion to taijiquan and the Chinese Internal Martial Arts (CIMA) in general, this is a topic that applies to a wide variety of martial disciplines (and many other group-focused activities).
I’m sure you’ve experienced this, or at least heard of it somewhere. A charismatic leader convinces people to follow him or her blindly, leading them into falsified belief systems inevitably destined for failure & suffering. It is prevalent across all sorts of disciplines & social groups, as well as across many forms of martial arts.
You can find the Self Delusion / Groupthink mentality all around the martial arts world … from the “hard styles” to the “soft styles” … from the “traditional” to the “modern”. Some foreshadowing: you might find it particularly often in those martial arts that don’t engage in any form of full contact competitions, sparring, or regular battle testing.
On the tame end, it can result in a form of dependence on the instructor or the group. On the extreme end, it can lead to bizarre cult-like behavior, and … worst of all: the belief that you can defend yourself using certain skills, when in reality you can not (and will likely get severely injured if you try).
People Want To Believe In Magic
While there are many subtler forms of “martial magic” and mind control, one of the most memorable forms of “self defense” (that only works on compliant stooges :: er … “students”) is the ridiculous but never boring school of the “no touch” attack.
In taijiquan (and other CIMA), this is often referred to as the ling kong jin (凌空劲) or “empty force” …
In schools that profess allegiance to traditional Japanese martial arts, you can find the no-touch-attack alive and well among practitioners of “kiai knockouts” …
And elsewhere you can find everything from the “psychic force” to “hypnotic strikes” to the “dim mak” poison touch of death! You name it, people want to believe that they have magic powers to inflict injuries on opponents without touching them!
And who wouldn’t? Telekinesis is a natural progression for those of us with power issues. Martial artists already train to defeat unwieldy opponents using our minds & bodies … why not simplify and just use the almighty mind-power to defeat our enemies. And I’m not talking about brilliant strategy or command of troops … I’m talking about TELEKINESIS people! However, no matter how much we all wish it was real and we could do it…
In practice, this kind of “no touch” crap DOES NOT WORK.
Full stop. These types of techniques have literally never worked when put to the test in any credible instance where the opponent is fully non-compliant. Fortunately, at least we can find plenty of entertaining examples of these martial-art-fraudsters getting debunked the hard way – via ass whooping and / or televised humiliation! Popcorn time.
For instance, take the shameful / hilarious example of…
The Yellow Bamboo (School Of Yelling Power)
Pretty remarkable stuff. Frankly, I’m surprised that anyone ever bought into this crap… but I do understand the dynamics of Groupthink, LGAT procedures, group hypnosis, and the like and – as mentioned – people want to believe in magic.
However, what do you think would happen if the folks from the Yellow Bamboo got a little dose of reality? Hmm, I wonder…
The Yellow Bamboo vs. Reality
I’m not saying that one example of self-delusion (imagining your yelling power capable of dispatching intent attackers) disproves the whole idea of something. Of course not. But I’m building up to something here, and there is definitely a lot more than just one example of this. Be warned, this next one’s painful to watch (and even more painful for the aged martial arts “master” therein).
kiai master vs mma (with over 9 MILLION views on Youtube)?
Wow. Ouch. That guy was claiming a record of 200 – 0 … I guess he just got his first loss?
But wait, how can this be?? He was knocking the stooges :: er … students … left and right in the first segment with nary a flick of the risk. Just looking at those “black belts” from his cult+class seems ample to knock them flat on their tush. However, when Mr. Kiai Master actually starts fighting a non-compliant, genuinely attacking opponent, he is finished after a brief 10 seconds (most of which was spent waving his arms around & dancing around the ring).
Now, I must admit, I could go on posting debunked martial arts “masters” claiming some supernatural (or at least highly unusual) powers all day. For instance, there was:
- Ashida Kim (the fake ninja),
- Tom Cameron (the “Human Stun Gun” – a student of Dillman’s),
- Lothar Lee (the “Karate Conman”),
- Peter Yeung (aka “Lama” Dondrup Dorje),
- Yan Fang (expelled from Jing Wu for her Taiji scam antics),
- and too many more to keep naming…
But, the most classic example of all … the crowning achievement of the martial arts con … is none other than:
George Dillman Scam “No Touch KO” Fraud
This is one of the most well known, hilarious, and cringe-inducing “no touch” martial arts debunkings of all time. Dillman’s career definitely got hit pretty hard by this, but – alarmingly – he still does alright teaching the same exact crap! Cult thinking in a nutshell … and the power of hypnosis in martial arts to lead the unwitting down a path of self delusion & groupthink.
“Chi Nullification”: George Dillman vs. Luigi The Chemist
To summarize the entire genre of martial arts “super-power” cults succumbing to this type of hurtful self-delusion, please allow me to quote Mr. Dillman himself, explaining why this effect only worked on the stooges / students – but not the totally untrained (and un-brainwashed) skeptic [emphasis added]:
“The skeptic was a totally non-believer. PLUS … I don’t know if I should say that on film … but if the guy had his tongue in the wrong position in the mouth, that can also nullify it.
Yeah, you can nullify it. You can nullify a lot of things done to you. In fact you can nullify it if you raise those two big toes. If I say I’m going to knock you out, and you raise one toe and push one toe down … [I] can’t knock you out. And then if I go to try again, you reverse it. If you keep doing this, I won’t knock you out.”
-George Dillman, Martial Arts Comedian (actually, Cult Leader / Con Artist)
Guess what else you can nullify:
The effect of years of indoctrination, conditioning, brainwashing, and self-delusion caused by frauds like George Dillman & his ilk.
Unfortunately, reversing the effects of self delusion brought on by martial arts con men can be a time-intensive & emotionally painful process.
Now, this post is already over 1,000 words here … and if you watched all the videos in their entirety, the experience thus far has probably consumed at least a half hour of your time. That is why, for now, I will conclude with…
3 Easy Steps To Avoid Falling For Martial Arts Scams
(And To Save Yourself From Self Delusion / Mind Control)
#1 – DO NOT accept the training at face value … Question EVERYTHING!
This is a rule that could perhaps serve us all in our general lives more broadly, but in the martial arts it is critical. In some hierarchical kwoon / dojo settings, questioning the teacher is discouraged (to put it lightly). That doesn’t mean you still can’t question everything, you just need to do so with tact & courtesy. Perhaps it means approaching senior students outside of class to find out their experiences with the training material. Perhaps it means doing a bit of Google-fu on your teacher, your lineage, your school, or anything else about which you might have questions.
Most importantly: DO NOT become complacent accepting that whatever works in the classroom will work in the real world.
#2 – DO visit different schools, and cross hands with any & all martial artists who are willing.
Even if you are not going to be competing in some form of non-compliant setting against uncooperative opponents, you absolutely must orchestrate some type of unscripted, intensive practice with people who study other martial arts (at least, if you expect anything you’ve learned to have any hope of working in a “real life” setting). I hope you’ve heard the old adage that “you fight how you train.” If you only train to cross hands with your classmates, in a cooperative / scripted setting, and you never face tough opponents who knock you flat outside your comfort zone, then your “martial” training is really just a social work-out dressed in the clothes of “combat” or “self defense.”
Remember: if you are training a martial art with the hope of achieving some modicum of self defense skills, you absolutely must diligently test what you’ve learned in a controlled setting if you hope to be able to perform under the pressure & stress of a real life violent encounter.
#3 – DO be ABSOLUTELY 100% certain to include truly “alive” elements in your training.
First off, what do I mean when I say “alive” elements of your training? Basically, it means that rather than following a patterned drill, or working with a cooperative opponent, you need to spend at least a portion of your time working with an opponent who is seriously trying to get you. Even if the setting is still controlled, the difference is that your opponent provides “real” aggressive energy, changing dynamically, and making you work for even the smallest victory.
The following video from Matt Thornton (of Straight Blast JKD gym) is a classic & very helpful explanation that will evolve your training in an instant – just by watching – if you have never thought about this before:
The lack of “aliveness” in training is one of the biggest faults that leads directly down the path of self delusion.
I’ve seen martial artists with decades of training get totally dominated by rank amateurs, simply due to the fact that the beginner has trained in an alive way against opponents (while the experienced “martial artist” has become conditioned to working with cooperative opponents – expecting techniques to work effortlessly that actually have no basis in reality). The Kiai Master vs. MMA video is a classic example of a guy being painfully confronted by presumably years of self delusion … all because he never practiced in an alive setting!
Don’t be that guy who believes in his great super-human abilities, only to be quickly debunked in the form of humiliation, injury, or death at the hands of a truly skillful (and realistically trained) opponent.
Next time, I will outline exactly how this LGAT groupthink martial arts cult effect is achieved … be on the lookout for Part Three.