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rec.martial-arts FAQ part 4 of 4 (LONG)

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		  rec.martial-arts FAQ - Part 4 of 4
Note: The sole author/maintainer of the Groaner FAQ is Lauren Radner.
Please address any replies to Lauren (

           The Groaner FAQ for Martial Arts Newsgroups (ver 1.0)
                           by Lauren Radner (with lots of help)

One of the primary reasons for creating the rec.martial-arts.moderated
newsgroup was to avoid "Groaner" topics... you know, the kind of
thread-from-hell that pops up over and over, with just enough
variation that you probably can't killfile it successfully. 

In short, every time you see one of these come up again, you *groan*.

In these threads, nobody's mind is going to be changed, tempers will
probably flare, and the topics may even be based on assumptions that
are unprovable, insulting, or just plain wrong.

Maybe you got directed here by someone who's been around longer, and
told you something like, "Go read the Groaner FAQ, number 19".

Most of these are *not* "Frequently Asked Questions". Many of them are
more like "Frequently Made Assertions" (TKD sucks. Kata sucks. 90% of
all fights go to the ground. Gracies are invincible. etc.). Few of those
are ever raised as actual, *legitimate* *questions*. Even if they are,
they almost immediately devolve into rude and foaming assertions, or,
at least, wearisome assertions, anyway.

Many of these are off charter in rec.martial-arts.moderated for exactly
these reasons.

A "Groaner" is any of the following:

1) A question guaranteed to start a flame war or a style war, no matter
   how innocently asked.

      For example, "Is <style A> any good in a street fight?"

      Anybody who practices <style A> will say yes. Anybody who doesn't
      will say no (that's why they practice <style B> instead).

2) A question so vague that it generates no useful answers, or a flame war,
   or a style war.

      For example, "Which martial art is best?" averages about three posts
      before devolving into a flurry of "Mine!" "No! Yours sucks! Mine's
      the best!". Everybody else is wondering "Best for *what*?" and
      doesn't bother to answer your question.

3) An old chestnut that people are tired of refuting or correcting. This is
   the martial arts equivalent of an urban myth. These topics elicit the
   same response that you have when you see "Craig Shergold Needs Your
   Cards" in your e-mail inbox.

      For example, "Belts have all those colours because you start out
      with a white belt, and the more you work out, the dirtier it gets,
      until it eventually turns black, when you're really, really good."

4) A statement about which there are strong contradicting opinions, and
   nobody is EVER going to change anybody's mind. These are the religious
   wars of martial arts newsgroups.

      For example, "Chi(Qi,ki) does/doesn't exist", or "Kata is/isn't

5) A statement guaranteed to annoy, and impossible to prove.

      For example, "Bruce Lee would have kicked Stephen Seagal's a**!",
      or "<style/person> must be the best in the world because <it/he/she>
      has never been defeated!"

      (I would like to point out here that I am undefeated in all of Asia.
      Of course, I have never fought in *any* of Asia. Which pretty much
      guarantees I'm undefeated there.)

The purpose of the Groaner FAQ is to beg you, PLEASE, have the courtesy
not to start these up again. There's nothing new that can be said, and the
bandwidth and flaring tempers are intolerable. If you've read the below
and *Really* think you truly have something *New* to add, well then, sigh,
I can't stop you. But don't say I didn't warn you.

Right now, this is a "work in progress". A team of us have identified
what we consider to be "Groaners", and we're churning out answers as
best and as fast as we can, meaning, when we can stand to think about
them ourselves. At this point, only the "FINISHED" answers are appended.
You'll see the rest handled in due time, I hope. A screen-wide line of
"=====" separates each answer.

F = "FINISHED"- Groaners whose answers are complete (or nearly so).
P = "PARTIAL" - Groaners that have some foundation for an answer, but
                aren't finished.
N = "NOTHING" - Groaners that haven't been touched (We don't like thinking
                about these either, ya know).

F -  1) My martial art is better than yours. (see "What is a martial art")
P -  2) X is/isn't effective "on the street".
N -  3) <Movie Star> is/isn't a superior martial artist.
N -  4) <Movie Star A> could/couldn't whip <Movie Star B's> ass.
F -  5) Wing Chun Roolz. (see "What is a martial art")
N -  6) Bruce Lee was the best martial artist ever, philosophically and
          physically ahead of his time.
N -  7) TKD was practiced by one-celled amoebae who passed it down to
        Jhoon Rhee, and is therefore the oldest martial art.
P -  8) Guns/knives do/don't make you invincible.
F -  9) A three-day course does/doesn't make you invincible.
N - 10) Gracie Brothers are/aren't invincible.
N - 11) Kata are/aren't useless.
N - 12) How do you fight an attack dog?
N - 13) TKD is/isn't a dessert topping.
F - 14) Style X is trash/wonderful because it does/doesn't include a
          philosophic aspect. (see "What is a martial art")
P - 15) The belt system colours are like that because as a white belt gets
P - 16) Which constitutes a worse attack, gun versus knife?
P - 17) Will I get sued/jailed if I use my martial arts?
P - 18) Do sprays work, do tasers work, do whistles work?
F - 19) What's the best martial art for self-defense?
F - 20) 90% of all fights end up on the ground.
F - 21) Is a gun the best martial arts defense?
F - 22) What are the chances of an unarmed martial artist versus a
P - 23) So I'm sparring and the other guy starts to bleed, can I catch

Below answers these Groaners:

 1) My martial art is better than yours. (see "What is a martial art")

 5) Wing Chun Roolz. (see "What is a martial art")

14) Style X is trash/wonderful because it does/doesn't include a
         philosophic aspect. (see "What is a martial art")



The term "martial art" is used in (at least) two different ways. This
can be confusing. Some dictionary definitions only make things worse.

The dictionary definition handy at the moment defines a martial art
as "Any of several Oriental arts of combat or self-defense, as karate,
judo, or tae kwon do, usually practiced as a sport."

That definition is guaranteed to offend just about everyone who reads
this group.

Typically this group uses "Martial Art" in one of two ways:

1) The first definition is a generic one, which defines a "Martial Art"
   as the study of any kind of combat and/or self-defense techniques.

   This definition includes non-oriental arts like boxing. This definition
   includes both those arts practiced primarily as a sport, and those arts
   practiced primarily for self-defense. This definition includes those
   arts that emphasize only physical technique. This definition also
   includes those arts that emphasize a philosophical or mental aspect in
   addition to physical techniques. In its broadest usage, this definition
   includes learning how to drive a tank or drop bombs out of a plane as a
   Martial Art. This explains the somewhat facetious references you will
   see to "Gun Fu", the martial art of learning how to use firearms
   (implying, as the dictionary definition does, that a martial art must
   be oriental to be legitimate).

2) The second definition is much narrower, and draws a distinction
   between a "Martial *ART*" and a "Martial *WAY*". To offer a gross

   A martial *art* is the study of an art that emphasizes only physical
   techniques. Perfection of technique is the primary concern.

   A martial *way* emphasizes the study of both physical techniques and
   a philosophical or mental aspect as well. Perfection of the self is
   the primary concern.

   The emphasis on this distinction is very clear for those arts that have
   Japanese names.

   Typically, Japanese martial *art* style names end in "jutsu", such as
   "jiu-jutsu", "aiki-jiujutsu", or "ken-jutsu".

   Typically Japanese martial *way* style names end in "do", such as
   "ju-do", "aiki-do", or "ken-do".

A lot of bandwidth has been wasted by those arguing about whether something
is or isn't a martial art, without first establishing which definition -
including the dictionary definition - is being used.

According to the dictionary definition, boxing is *not* a martial art.
According to definitions one and two, above, boxing *is* a martial art.

According to the dictionary definition and definition one, above, karate
*is* a martial art. According to definition two, above, karate (frequently
written as karate-do) is *not* a martial art (it is a martial *way*).

In the end, it is really the attitude of the individual doing the
practicing that determines whether, for *them*, what they are learning
is a "martial art" or a "martial way". The person standing next to you
in your school may or may not be practicing with the same attitude as
you are - one of you may be treating what you learn as a "martial way",
and the other may be approaching the same material as a "martial art".

A Note About Posting Etiquette In rec.martial-arts.moderated
and rec.martial-arts

A word of caution.

Posting that your martial *art* is superior to another martial *art*
will always get you into trouble, since it is a breach of not only
netiquette, but the charter of this group.

You will get into trouble for the following reasons:

1) If you are proclaiming superiority because your "Art" has a
   philosophical aspect that some other art lacks, you will seriously
   annoy those who use the definition of "martial ART" as meaning "the
   study of technique with no inherent emphasis on philosophy". You will
   be forever embroiled in a semantic clash based on the differences
   between definition one, and definition two, above.

2) Proclaiming superiority of one art over another involves some extremely
   annoying assumptions, such as that:

   a) You are fully aware of all the philosophic principles (if any) and
      physical techniques and applications of the art you are condemning.

   b) You are fully aware of all the philosophic principles (if any) and
      curriculum intended by the founder(s)/leader(s) (if any) of the
      art you are condemning.

   c) You are intimately familiar with the motivations, philosophies,
      skill level, abilities, method of practice, and experiences of each
      and every practitioner of the art you are condemning, especially
      those practitioners who may read your post (trust us, you aren't).

   d) You have enough familiarity with the philosophical foundations
      (if any) and physical techniques of whatever you practice, and
      you exemplify these sufficiently, that you can legitimately
      represent yourself as an authority of your style.

   e) Your definition of "better" is somehow universally accepted as the
      One True Basis For Evaluation. (Better for what? Defending oneself?
      Becoming limber? Winning trophies? Subduing without injuring an
      aggressor? Killing an aggressor? Meeting people? Learning Japanese?
      Being lethal to music? Building self-esteem? Firing a gun with the
      most accuracy?)

Posting that one art is superior to another is bad manners.

A posting which also violates any of the above is a combination of
arrogance and stupidity for which you will probably never be forgiven.

An unfortunate side-effect is that you will probably ruin your credibility
as far as any future postings on *any* martial arts topic to this group.
Except for whoever agreed with you to begin with, of course.

The below answers this Groaner:

15) The belt system colours are like that because as a white belt gets

   What do all those different colored belts mean?  Where do they come

   The belt system, as a formalized method of indicating rank, was
   popularized by Professor Jigaro Kano, founder of Kodokan Judo, around
   the beginning of this century.  There are varying opinions as to
   whether the practice predated Kano's use of it, and where it may have
   come from, but it certainly wasn't common (the more traditional
   practice in Japanese martial arts was, and is, the granting of scrolls
   indicating various levels of abilities).  The practice was adopted by
   Karate, formerly a fairly obscure Okinawan folk art, as that art was
   brought into the mainstream of Japanese martial arts.  Many arts have
   since adopted it -- for example, some Western schools teaching Chinese
   martial arts use it, though this practice is somewhere between uncommon
   and unheard of in China itself.

   Some of these schemes are elaborately hierarchial; some schools
   use no belt ranking system at all. White belts almost always
   indicate beginners, black belts indicate those who have reached
   some level of ability.  There are various colors used for rankings
   both below black belt, and for high ranking black belts, and various
   explanations as to what they mean.  The color scheme -- and the
   implications for school etiquette -- vary from system to system and
   perhaps from school to school.

   An often heard story holds that the colours are explained as
   follows: a trainee's belts, which, traditionally, were never
   washed, became progressively dirtier with time (starting out white,
   becoming yellow with sweat, green with grass stains, and so on),
   finally changing to black over the years. This explanation, alas,
   is almost certainly fanciful. 

   The best source of information on the meanings of belt colors
   and the proper behavior with respect to rank is, as always, one's

That's the Tactful answer to the "Belt Colours Groaner".... here's
the not-so-tactful (and therefore, much more fun) answer, with
thanks to the ever-thorough and factual Steve Gombosi:

From: (Stephen O Gombosi)
Newsgroups: rec.martial-arts
Subject: Re: Belt colors -- why black?
Date: 20 Feb 1996 14:48:45 -0700

In article <>,
 <> wrote:

>What does it take to put a stake through the heart of this one?

A bigger hammer, obviously...

>Gombo? It's time for your biweekly post on this one. I do hope you just
>have one version of it in a file somewhere, that you can just cut and
>paste routinely for a response. If you don't, post just one more time and
>I'll save it for you and do you the favour in the future. How's that?

So, you want me to chime in on the Thread That Will Not "Dye", eh?

Your wish is my command, O Redheaded One...but I'm afraid most of my
saved posts evaporated when my former employer (Cray Computer) went down
the tubes. Bill Rankin was kind enough to send the following from a couple
of years ago - I'm flattered to know he thinks my drivel is worth
saving. The original was in response to the following from Danial

 >Danial E. Travers writes >
 >> In tradtional days before Jigoro invented Judo, the martial artist of
 >> okinawa only used white belts. When the belt turned black, you were a
 >> black belt.

To which I responded:

 >Ahem. I didn't know you were on a first-name basis with Kano. Anyway,
 >"in the traditional days before Kano invented Judo", there *was* no
 >kyu/dan ranking system. Kano invented it when he awarded "shodan" to
 >two of his senior students (Saito and Tomita) in 1883. Even then, there
 >was no external differentiation between yudansha (dan ranks) and mudansha
 >(those who hadn't yet attained dan ranking). Kano apparently began the
 >of having his yudansha wear black obis in 1886. These obis weren't the
 >belts karateka and judoka wear today - Kano hadn't invented the judogi
 >yet, and his students were still practicing in kimono. They were the wide
 >obi still worn with formal kimono. In 1907, Kano introduced the modern
 >gi and its modern obi, but he still only used white and black.
 >Karateka in Okinawa didn't use any sort of special uniform at all in the
 >old days. The kyu/dan ranking system, and the modern karategi (modified
 >judogi) were first adopted by Funakoshi in an effort to encourage
 >karate's acceptance by the Japanese. He awarded the first "shodan" ranks
 >given in karate to Tokuda, Otsuka, Akiba, Shimizu, Hirose, Gima, and
 >Kasuya on April 10, 1924. The adoption of the kyu/dan system and the
 >adoption of a standard uniform based on the judogi were 2 of the 4
 >conditions which the Dai-Nippon Butokukai required before recognizing
 >karate as a "real" martial art. If you look at photographs of Okinawan
 >karateka training in the early part of this century, you'll see that they
 >were training in their everyday clothes, or (!) in their underwear.

The Korean dobok is, of course, a (slightly) modified karategi. I'll be
happy to let Dakin expound on the events that led to its adoption in
Korea, since he's the author of the definitive scholarly history of
TKD and related arts (when is it gonna be *published*, Dakin???). As far
as Mike's Shuai Chiao statement is concerned, I have read other authors
who claim that the Chinese  adopted the convention during the Japanese
occupation. I have a lot of respect for Mike's opinions, but I've never
seen any real evidence one way or the other. There certainly isn't any
evidence that Kano got either the belt convention or the uniform itself
from the Mainland - especially since the uniform can be traced to
traditional Japanese undergarments.


.... and... to further clarify:

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