Note: The sole author/maintainer of the Groaner FAQ is Lauren Radner. Please address any replies to Lauren (Lauren_Radner@tivoli.com). 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 useless". 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 dirtier... 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 gun-wielder? P - 23) So I'm sparring and the other guy starts to bleed, can I catch AIDS? =========================================================================== =========================================================================== 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") =========================================================================== 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 simplification: 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 dirtier... ======================================================================== What do all those different colored belts mean? Where do they come from? 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 teacher. ------------------------------------------------------------------- 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: email@example.com (Stephen O Gombosi) Newsgroups: rec.martial-arts Subject: Re: Belt colors -- why black? Date: 20 Feb 1996 14:48:45 -0700 In article <1996Feb19.firstname.lastname@example.org>, <email@example.com> 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 Travers: >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 >custom >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. Steve ------------------------------------------- .... and... to further clarify: From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Stephen O Gombosi) Newsgroups: rec.martial-arts Subject: Re: Belt colors -- why black? Date: 22 May 1996 16:12:43 GMT Rick Shank <email@example.com> wrote: >Stephen O Gombosi <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote: >>Neil Brydges <Neil.Brydges@dpb.co.nz> wrote: >>>One reason I heard for belts being black was that you started off as a >>>white belt. As you trained the belt gathered dirt and eventually after >>>many years became black. This was then modified in more recent times <snip> >>... The kyu/dan ranking system, and the white/black belt >>distinction that goes with it, is a recent (post-1880) invention. >But your accounting does not deny that the motivation for the chosen >colors was consistant with Neil's version does it? Well, let's examine this fable in a little more detail. First: the rank system predates the practice uniform itself (although only by a few years). The obi distinction is a bit later than the rank system and a bit earlier than the modern uniform and its (modified) obi. Kano originally had his students practice in formal kimono, as some traditional jujutsu systems *still* do, complete with a wide, traditional obi (really closer to a sash than the modern "belt"). Let's just say that Kano's students were as likely to show up with a dirty kimono and obi as you are to show up for a job interview in a mud-caked suit. Second: the notion that there would be a certain cachet associated with filth in a culture as obsessed with cleanliness and ritual purity as Japan is pretty absurd to begin with. Third: very high ranks in Japanese and Okinawan arts are often indicated by red and/or red&white belts. It's hard to see how this is consistent with the idea that colors result from progressive staining or overdyeing. To clarify: such systems tend to reserve red obis for 9th or 10th dan. If the staining theory is correct, why is this the case? Note that this accounts for the unease many practitioners of such systems feel around 14 year-old TKD red belts ;-). Steve ======================================================================== Below answers the following Groaner: 9) A three-day course does/doesn't make you invincible. ======================================================================== Can you really learn to defend myself after only a three-day course? Many people are so uncomfortable with the notion of being attacked that they "freeze". Many people have been so conditioned against responding to an attack that they simply don't feel *capable* of resisting. There are short "self-defense" courses which seek to break these inhibitions by confronting students with an "attacker" in a safe, supportive environment where physical resistance is not only permitted, but strongly encouraged. Many people have reported that such courses have been useful to them. If you feel you're in the same boat, you may wish to investigate these courses. Note that *none* of these courses can provide you with the sort of conditioned, automatic response that constant repetitive training provides, nor will they do much to increase the power or skill with which you execute those techniques. In other words, they're not a *substitute* for long-term training in a martial art. What they *can* do is help break down the psychological barriers which may impede you from defending yourself to the limit of your current knowledge and abilities. ======================================================================== Below answers the following Groaner: 19) What's the best martial art for self-defense? ======================================================================== The answer is "it depends". Before you can answer this question (and, make no mistake about it, you *are* the one who is going to have to answer it), you need to ask *yourself* some other questions: 1) What do you *mean* by the term "self-defense"? What sort of situations do you envisage that require some sort of "self-defense"? Single or multiple opponents? Armed or unarmed? Size relative to you? Do you expect to be grabbed, thrown, kicked, or punched? Can you speculate on the motivations for an attack? Do you expect merely to be robbed, or do you consider rape, maiming, or murder a possibility? These are very unpleasant questions to think about, but they're necessary to figure out what your *personal* definition of "self-defense" is. Essentially, what you have to figure out is: a) What do you consider an "attack" that requires some sort of response? b) What sort of response do you, deep in your heart of hearts, consider appropriate? Note that the law where you reside may have a very different definition from the one you have in mind. 2) Who are you? What sort of personality type are you? Are you timid or assertive? What are your physical attributes? Note that an art which works well for a 220lb (100kg, for those of you in *rational* countries) 18 year-old female body-builder may prove useless for a 70 year-old man half her size, or for a small child. 3) How much time and effort are you *really* willing to put into this? Note that most people *drastically* overestimate this - you're probably no exception to the rule. Almost any martial art can be used for "self-defense" *IF* you're willing to invest the effort to become truly proficient at it. This includes a lot of arts which don't look too practical at first glance. A lot of martial arts practice is repetitive, boring, painful, sweaty, exhausting WORK. How much of that are you really prepared to endure solely for something as nebulous as "self-defense"? Now that we've scared you sufficiently, let's discuss some specifics. Almost all martial arts have some "self-defense" application, but that application may be of marginal utility to you. For example, the art of Shindo Muso Ryu Jodo is probably hard to beat if you have to fight a traditional Japanese swordsman while armed with only a stick. But few people find themselves in that situation these days. Nevertheless, such an art develops excellent timing and an instinctive sense of distance - both of which are of great utility in defending oneself. More mundane, and, if you will, "practical" specialties include throwing, punching, kicking, groundfighting, and so forth. There is endless argument about which of these is more "street applicable", with not much general consensus. Some are probably better for one class of attacks, some for another. To sum up, what you need to do is peruse the various style descriptions in the "Martial Arts FAQ", and read the "Newbie Guide" which was written explicitly to help you begin to look for a school that suits you, even if you know relatively little about martial arts. Both are available at: http://www.users.fast.net/~paiyili/faq/#top . Look these FAQs over in light of the answers you've given to the questions above. Then, see what's available in your area. If you still can't decide, feel free to ask on rec.martial-arts.moderated (and rec.martial- arts). If you phrase your question carefully, you can avoid being flamed and probably get a lot of helpful advice. In other words, *don't* ask "What's the best martial art?", "What's the best martial art for a street fight?", "What's the best martial art to learn self-defense?". Instead, ask something more like, "I'm a 28-year-old female, about 5'2", strong, but not aerobically fit. I have a two-year-old child I take with me everywhere I go. When I go shopping, I'm always afraid that some guy is going to try to rob or rape me in one of the parking ramps. Of course I can't run away and leave my two-year-old, and I don't really want to hurt anybody, just get away safely. I can devote four nights a week to practicing *something*. Does anybody have any suggestions? ======================================================================== Below answers the following Groaner: 20) 90% of all fights end up on the ground. ======================================================================== Many people feel that ground-fighting is an important aspect to consider in a potential attack, citing an often quoted (but never attributed) statistic that "90% of all fights end on the ground". This may or may not be true. It's kind of hard to tell, since the sources for that statistic are unknown. Note that even if it is true, it may simply mean that 90% of all fighters are incapable of punching or kicking effectively enough to do any real damage, or that 90% of the people who get into fights are too drunk to stay on their feet. Having said that, if you ever *are* taken to ground, being able to fight there is a useful skill. Note that this doesn't necessarily imply grappling. Note also that being on the ground can place one at a disadvantage when dealing with multiple assailants (especially armed ones), and can make escape or evasion rather difficult. Not to mention the condition of the ground itself at the time (broken glass? gravel? mud? snow?). There are frequent discussions about whether ground-fighting is, or is not, an essential aspect of most attacks, and whether one needs to be versed in ground-fighting tactics to be considered sufficiently versed in self-defense techniques, in order to be prepared for an attack. There is not, however, a lot of consensus on the answer. ======================================================================== Below answers the following Groaner: 21) Is a gun the best martial arts defense? ======================================================================== Should you get a gun? Especially in the United States, there's a lot of concern about the use of firearms in self-defense as well as their use by assailants. In the martial arts newsgroups, there is considerable disagreement about the entire topic of gun ownership and usage. Never-ending debates are easily resurrected about whether a gun: ...is safe; will be available when needed; can be made readily available if needed; might be taken from you and used against you; can be brought into play fast enough against someone [unarmed/armed with a knife/armed with a gun]; the legalities of if and when a gun can be used; etc.... Three key questions if you are considering the purchase of a gun for protection: o Are you willing to put the time and effort into learning how to use it, and maintaining those skills? o Are you able to deal with the psychological consequences of injuring, permanently maiming or disabling, or killing someone as a result of you pulling the trigger? o Are you able to deal with the possible legal consequences of injuring, permanently maiming or disabling, or killing someone as a result of you pulling the trigger? If you want advice on the purchase or use of such weapons, it's probably best to seek it in the newsgroups devoted to firearms: rec.guns, and for the verbosely masochistic, talk.politics.guns. The NRA certifies instructors in a well-proven basic pistol syllabus, and can probably help you find a local gun club that offers an NRA-type course. Most gun stores and ranges will also be able to direct you toward one, perhaps more efficiently (note that this is neither an endorsement nor a rejection of the NRA's political views). If you feel you must have a gun for self-defense, at least have the good sense to learn how to own it responsibly and use it safely. ======================================================================== Below answers the following Groaner: 22) What are the chances of an unarmed martial artist versus a gun-wielder? ======================================================================== As far as defending oneself from firearms is concerned, the best advice is to avoid getting yourself into situations where this might be necessary. From close range, it's certainly possible for an unarmed person to effectively deal with a gun - but it's *very* difficult and *very* dangerous. The odds of failure are pretty high, and the cost of failure is death. Remember that the next time you see someone kick a gun out of someone's hand on TV. If the assailant is out of reach, unarmed techniques are practically useless. ======================================================================== Acknowledgements ---------------- Thanks to the following people for contributing their wisdom, prose, suggestions, and encouragement to this guide. (The appearance of their names here does not signify agreement with everything written here, of course.) Stephen Chan Steve Gombosi David Poore Terry Chan Peter Hahn Lauren Radner Joe Chew Michael Lawrie Bill Rankin Doug Cohen Mary Malmros Michael Robinson Bud Glunt Jeff Pipkins Andy Vida-Szucs (C) Copyright 1997, Lauren B. Radner. All rights reserved.