Monday, April 01, 2019

Won't Get Fooled Again

I like a good laugh just like the next person, and for the last few years I've been running a gag blog post every April Fools' Day. In a weird twist of fate (and a bit to my chagrin) a few of my most popular posts are the ones tagged 'humor' and I don't think people are looking for laughs. My blog is subtitled Martial Arts, Philosophy and The Art of Living but most people aren't putting that into their search engines. Viewers want to know how to register their hands as deadly weapons, where they can learn Iron Crotch Kung Fu, and have info on some guy from Italy who holds black belts in 22 styles. You get the idea. Not really humor, but extreme and even bizarre stuff is what often piques people's interest in the martial arts. 'Body hardening workouts' and 'How to karate chop bricks' as search phrases find their way to my blog more often than inquiries into the loftier aims of martial arts, such as character, spirit, or even self-defense.

This site actually started life as part of a monthly newsletter for students at a karate school I used to train and teach at nearly twenty years ago. When the school closed I found another, but my days of writing a column were gone, so my wife suggested starting a blog to export my articles to. At the time I had a couple of dozen, and I wanted to keep future material philosophical in nature; writing posts on the traditions and history of combat systems, including references to authors that were experts in Japanese Martial Arts, such as Donn Draeger and Black Belt magazine contributor Dave Lowry.  After about a year of blogging, I acquired a modest online following.

To expand my newfound readership and to keep things interesting I began to lighten things up with the Top Ten Most Annoying Things in the Martial Arts and The Way of Spock. Later I uploaded videos from Enter The Dojo, a comedic web series starring Master Ken, a delusional instructor who hawks his self-proclaimed street lethal fighting system. In time I began to revise my humor into reservations I had for arts like The Drunken Style and dubious claims such as the ability to knock people out without touching them.

Several years ago I found and posted a video that featured someone performing so-called ki enhanced throws and takedowns on his students that looked suspicious, to put it mildly. The demonstrator came from a martial art I was familiar with. I had previously attended a one-day workshop in this style given by an active member of the NYPD that showcased brutally effective techniques, minus any of the woo nonsense in the video, and I mentioned that in my article. My point was that the video I put up was a grossly inaccurate and unfair representation of an otherwise legit style that was being peddled by a conman. Soon, my article in its entirety ended up on a very popular martial arts forum (with a link back to my blog) where many of the commenters were actually sympathetic to the "master" in the clip. Some of them claimed to have trained under him.

The comment section on this forum became a train wreck of believers versus realists. Rage ensued on both sides. The critical thinkers there had my back, but soon I began to receive threatening emails from wack jobs, including the chief instructor of a school. Somebody else derided my style (as if that mattered), and another promised God would retaliate for my flagrant disrespect. No, I argued, you cannot drop five people simultaneously with the flick of the wrist. Apparently I was the bad guy for pointing this out. It amazes me how certain "martial artists" don't like to have their fantasy bubbles burst.

The clip below features a similar demo with a different guy from the one I originally posted, now long removed by the owner. If you've never seen this before, brace yourself for a display in breathtaking stupidity:

Bear in mind that this is intended to be taken at face value. It's ridiculous, of course, so most of us can't help but laugh at this. Humor can be a way to cope with inanity, but in the form of satire (e.g., Master Ken) can be an antidote for credulity. I see it as providing a public service. So today if you can, goof on someone to enlighten them —  but do so with the best intentions. Happy April Fools' Day!

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