Martial arts and contact sports are really wonderful. Thanks to them we can learn a lot and become better people. They’ve got a positive impact on our condition, body shape, well-being, etc. More traditional martial arts teach us also discipline and more modern ones are really good for self-defense. Practicing them is a beautiful experience. However, as with everything, even in this awesome world of so many great sports such as BJJ, Judo, MMA, there are rotten apples. All together they are called fake martial arts.
What are fake martial arts?
At first glance, they look like normal martial arts. There are special unforms for practitioners, there is some kind of belt system, they’ve got their own dojos, of course, there is a coach, etc. Just like in normal martial arts or other contact sports. However, when it comes to practice and the things they rely on you can see how unrealistic and fantasy based these “martial arts” are. Their techniques are almost always deadly and too dangerous to practice. Often they also include things like knocking out your opponents without touching them etc.
Moreover, there are no clear sources of information about these “martial arts”. For example, you cannot find what it was based on, what is your coach lineage, etc. In fake martial arts trainers also often avoid any kind of questions or challenges (or it is totally the opposite and they are the ones challenging others, but more about it later).
Best known Fake Martial Artists Exposed
If you thought nobody would fall for fake martial arts you are terribly mistaken. It happened, not once or twice, it still happens all the time. Below are just a few of the most famous cases. Most of the time they get well known because of how they were brutally exposed. However, these are only a few examples. And who knows how many more such fake martial arts are out there? And we just didn’t hear about them, because they are so small, niche, etc.
Count Juan Raphael Dante – Father of fake martial arts
One of the first people, if not even the first one, to create fake martial art was Count Juan Raphael Dante. Btw born as John Timothy Keehan, but I guess Count Dante just sound cooler. He was an American martial artist figure during the 1960s and 1970s who claimed he could do stuff like a touch of death. Technique reputed to kill using less than harmful force targeted at particular regions of the body.
It all started with Dante heavily promoting himself via ads in comic books. He was describing himself as the Deadliest Man Alive and encouraged readers to buy his instructional booklet World’s Deadliest Fighting Secrets. In these ads he claimed he known many paralyzing and crippling techniques that could easily kill many Judo, Karate, Kung Fu, Aikido, and Gung Fu experts at one time with only finger-tip pressure. Dante’s fight system was known as the Dan-te system, “Dance of Death” or sometimes the Kata-Dante. Theoretically, by learning all of the steps of his “Dance of Death” you were thereby an effective fighting master.
Count Dante was also the center part of infamous Chicago Dojo wars. In 1965, he was charged with attempted arson when he was arrested while taping dynamite caps to a rival academy. In 1970 it gets even worse. At that time Dante came up with the idea of attacking some other dojo. According to press coverage, upon entering the school, Count Dant with some of his students claimed to be police officers and attacked the rival dojo’s students. The brief battle resulted in the death of one person – Dante’s friend. It all ended with the death of Deadliest Man Alive in 1975.
George Dillman and Ryukyu Kempo karate
George Dillman is an American martial arts instructor who popularized the use of pressure points. He called his martial art Ryukyu Kempo karate. His fighting style emphasis on light-touch pressure-point knock-out and even includes such techniques as touchless knock-outs. He promoted it by aggressive marketing of his books and seminars.
Everything that Dillman claimed was brutally checked in 2005. At that time people from the program Is It Real? aired on National Geographic Channel asked for a demonstration of his technique. They were especially interested in a no-touch knockout. During the presentation, the instructor Leon Jay was unable to knock out Luigi Garlaschelli, a skeptical investigator. Dillman’s explained the failure in a completely bizarre way. He said it didn’t work because the skeptic was totally non-believer and he got his tongue in the wrong position in the mouth and that nullified the power of knockout. He also said some other crazy things, you can listen to in the video below.
Yanagi Ryuken no-touch master
Only one year after George Dillman infamous exposure in Nationa Geographic Yanagi Ryuken, a Japanese man claiming to possess psychic abilities case happened. At the training, he led you can see him defending against many opponents only by using psychic energy. At some videos, you can even see Yanagi Ryuken being able to control his enemies like marionettes.
For his own misfortune, he created a 5 000 dollar challenge in which he claimed he can beat any MMA fighter. In 2006, at that moment 65-year-old Ryuken was challenged by way younger (then 35-year-old) journalist and MMA practitioner Iwakura Tsuyoshi. Yanagi Ryuken was of course defeated and it wasn’t even funny, but just said. The older man didn’t stand a chance and just get brutally beaten. He said he lost because his psychic abilities were temporarily weakened due to illness that day. Failure did not prevent him from further teaching his special style.
We were already in the XXI century, buy now we will go back a little bit in time to the case of James Hydrick. He declared he was able to use telekinesis to change the pages of books and make small objects such as pencils spin around. Hydrick also started martial arts classes and claimed that through special training techniques he could pass on his ability of psychokinesis to children.
Hydrick’s even gained national attention thanks to the performance of his skill on one of the television programs. However, he was quickly exposed. James Randi retired stage magician and a scientific skeptic in another TV show demonstrated that it was just a simple illusion and not the product of telekinesis. He showed that Hydrick was actually turning the pages and pencils by blowing on them. In 1981, Hydrick’s psychic powers were again exposed as frauds by investigative journalists and professional magician Dan Korem. Hydrick told the journalist that he had learned his trick in prison and he was not taught them by a Chinese master as he said earlier
Unfortunately, before these exposures happened Hydrick taught children. Which was shown in 1989 to be a front for his coercing children into performing sexual favors for him, and was a factor in his conviction for sexual assault of a minor. He was jailed to 17 years for molesting 5 boys.
Another example of how fake martial arts and all other false stuff like this, are near crime is a story of Rafiel Torre – Fake BJJ black belt and convicted murderer.
Joe Rogan and Fake martial arts
Topic of fake martial arts was covered in Joe Rogan Experience #995 podcast. More in the video below.
Why is this happening?
After reading the examples above you may wonder how it is possible that people believe in fake martial arts. This applies to both teachers and students. Are they so detached from reality to think you can knock out someone without even touching them? The answer in many cases is, unfortunately, yes, people believe in fake martial arts. The question is what psychology is behind it.
Being a master almost in anything gives you prestige and status. And creating a fake martial art is just easier than mastering something real. You are just skipping the part of blood sweat and tears, hours of hard training, etc. and you still get recognition. It is just an easy illusion to trap yourself into.
The case with teachers is kinda easier to understand. But with students it still seems unbelievable they can believe such things. The best here is a comparison to cults. Fake martial arts work on the same principle. You are looking for some comfortation, group that will accept you. So, you put faith in one charismatic individual claiming he got some special abilities, etc, and promising to teach you how to defend yourself against some things such as evil. In fake martial arts case, it is a promise of teaching you how to self-defense, save your life in dangerous situations, etc. It also highlights the more sinister side of fake martial arts: people looking to defend themselves are being sold poor techniques that fail in real-world fights.
Exposures of fake martial arts can be funny and entertaining (this is the case in the video at the end of the article), but at the same time, they are showing how these “martial arts” can be dangerous. On the one hand, they can lead to the conviction of many people that they will be able to cope in a dangerous situation and thus expose them to danger. On the other hand, their worship-like atmosphere can lead to such abuse as James Hydrick committed. So, if you think some of your friends or family are a part of fake martial arts, you’d better get interested in this, talk to them, etc.
However, just because a place seems shady doesn’t always mean it right away is a fake martial art. It can be also a MacDojo.