By Matthew McKernan
It seems you can't get into a discussion about martial arts without someone claiming that the style they practice is the best. Of course this isn't possible, because at least someone else in the group either practices the best martial arts style or knows someone who does. If you go online you will find thousands of opinions on the subject. Each person claims they can prove that their style is the best. Like religion, martial arts practitioners defend their style vehemently and aggressively. This can be pretty confusing especially if you don't know anything about the martial arts. But no matter what your level of experience, it always comes down to one question: Which martial arts style is the deadliest?
Well, that is actually a trick question and it is often asked by people who are uneducated about martial arts. Anyone saying they teach or know the most deadly style of martial arts is a liar or they're very much mistaken. The truth is there isn't one martial arts style that is the most deadly and if there was don't you think everyone would be studying it? Nothing can be kept secret for very long so don't believe the hype when it comes to martial arts. There are a lot of cliche's when it comes to martial arts and self defense.
If you want a style of martial arts that is effective in combat you have to look back in history and find out what style worked in street fights and on the field of battle applicable to modern times. All martial arts claim a combat heritage, but not all styles remain combat effective. They become either out dated or become "civilized". It doesn't happen overnight, but over time a style can become sanitized with rules and restrictions.
Take karate for example, which started out as a practical martial art where the primary goal was killing or disabling your enemy. Sounds pretty brutal, but that isn't what's being taught in strip mall schools around the United States. The martial art being practiced is a sport or 'nice' watered down version of karate. All the potentially deadly moves and strikes have been removed to prevent injury or death in competition. Remember just because something was created for combat doesn't mean it is still effective; the yo-yo started off as a weapon, but when was the last time you heard of someone killing somebody with one?
Films and TV add to this misconception and are largely responsible for misinforming people about martial arts, and can't be used as your guide. Many great martial artists like Chuck Norris and Bruce Lee have made martial arts films, but even they needed to change their styles so it would have more of a theatrical impact. On screen, conventional martial arts aren't "flashy enough", so like anything theatrical in nature they have been made bigger and louder. In real life, if a smart and well trained martial artist is surrounded by armed thugs they're going to try to fight their way out so they can run to safety NOT fight them all at the same time. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon was nice to watch, but nobody can catch bullets, fly through the air and break the laws of physics no matter how hard they train. The Hollywood scriptwriter, not a fighter's martial arts knowledge, dictates how a fight goes and anybody's style can be made to look cool on camera. Enjoy martial arts films as entertainment, but remember it isn't real not by a long shot.
Another over exaggeration of a martial artist's capability is the image of an elderly Asian martial artist killing or disabling an attacker with a single touch known as the death touch or "dim mak". Now, while it is possible to kill with one strike the idea of "tapping" someone and watching them pass out is ludicrous. I know there are a lot of martial arts videos on the market and on the internet that show martial artists claiming to have this ability, but you should seriously think about it. If there really was a "death touch" don't you think everyone would be using it? With all the money people invest in professional fighting and sports and all the contact that happens, don't you think more people would be dropping dead in the ring or on the field by accidentally hitting these areas? If the "death touch" truly existed, people would abandon what they were practicing and learn it or spend their time building defenses against it, because why would you bother with anything else. Remember, there's no documentation or police report that exists that has the cause of death as "dim mak"!
Even some of the best martial artists in the world have admitted that in a real fight to resorting to grabbing an attacker's testicles or gouging an eye or even biting to survive a deadly encounter (Read Gichin Funakoshi's Karate-Do). In reality, most people die from being strangled, blunt force trauma or serious blood loss, not magic or secret moves. If there is a "deadliest style" or system of martial arts it is one that teaches you to do the above quickly, ruthlessly and without regard for human life.