Fact Or Fiction, How Real Could Martial Arts Be

martial-arts-movie-starsWatching martial arts with amazing stunts played in the movies always leave a flicker of curiosity in the eyes of the audience and moviegoers. With the amazing body coordination and superb fight choreography, a lot of people often wonder how real could it be or could they even be real. Being a martial artist like me, some people already knew the basics and would still be amazed on how well they executed or expanded such a simple and limited routine into a very nice choreographed combat.

Dr. Maung Gyi, the creator and grandmaster of the martial arts called Bando, enumerated the three essentials in martial arts: the function, the form and the fantasy.


The form is defined as the definite mechanical movement of the routine. Forms can range from the simplest fist punch or kick up to the most challenging series of simple routines with names having “juru”, “kata”, “jutsu” etc.


In real martial arts, the forms should be done in great accuracy and precision to the opponent unlike in theatrical martial arts, where each form should be demonstrated with big movements, sometimes with slow motion and choreography, in order to be more comprehended by the audience. Rhythm and timing are always highlighted during the show.


Fantasy is most applicable in theatrical martial arts than real martial arts. In real life, fantasy is just used for a mere fraction of second before sparring to give inspiration to the person. In theatrical martial arts on the other hand, it is commonly used in combination with simple forms such as “flying” kicks, jumping from one roof to another and many others. Some martial arts movies are highly embellished whilst others are actually quite realistic, personally I like to watch only the best choreographed martial arts movies. When you watch a martial arts film that has a lot of shaky camera scenes and a lot of close ups and you don’t have a clue what the hell is going on, you know you are watching a low quality movie.


Here is a list of examples of martial arts and fighting techniques used in the movies. Could they also be applied in real life? Let’s get this started.

Catching an Arrow Shot in the Air

Fiction: Often seen in ninja movies, catching arrows by hand that are continuously shot in the air is one of the most amazing stunts seen in the theatre. Ninjas are perceived to be highly-trained warriors with outstanding speed and also the ones that are believed to be arrow-catchers. Arrows, only a little slower and bigger compared to bullets, are still a little less realistic to be caught by bare hands to most of us.

Fact: But would you believe if I tell you that there’s a human who made this possible? Yes, there is. Holding the Guinness World Record of catching a handful of arrows in the air for two minutes, Anthony Kelly surprised the world for this superhuman ability. He did catch an arrow, not only one – but thirty-three of them! Imagine that. He started practicing this ability in year 2000 at New England Martial Arts Center.

Gun Kata

Fiction: Started in the Chinese and Japanese movies mixed with martial arts, gun kata has been a famous style used in extreme action films like in the movie, Equilibrium. It is characterized by shooting using both hands each carrying a gun, in a manner that is combined with cool poses from the actors as the bullets are shot. The guns are used together with a series of hand-to-hand combat before finally shooting the bullets without even looking at the direction, using either or both hands. The gun kata expert could kill a number of people even in close range.

Fact: As a martial arts fanatic, I heard some news about some people learning the Gun Kata. However, the trainings aren’t applied in real life wherein you shoot real people in a combat. In reality, the best way to survive a shooting battle is to aim your target with a straight line of sight while holding the gun with both hands – not the other way around. The rate in shooting the target with a single hand is low and even lower for firing without looking where to shoot. Guess it would be better for Gun Kata to remain in theatrical martial arts, for me.


Fiction: Popularized by the movie Bloodsport starring Jean-Claude Van Damme, kumite is a battle of endurance and strength of a single man against a hundred other experts. In the movie, Van Damme joined an underground bloody combat, winning one after another until he reached his way on top. Just like in boxing, kumite in the movie is fought in a scheduled event. Weapons are not allowed during the fight, the hands and legs are used to win the battle.

Fact: As crazy you think as it is, kumite exists in real life. The system on how the sport is played makes a big difference between the movie and reality. Unlike the movie, real kumite is between a single man against a hundred skilled men in a continuous fight process. Each battle lasts roughly for 2 minutes until the opponent is knocked down. Then after a 60 second time-out, the next battle is up for the challenger. This system goes on until the challenger could no longer fight. The most popular to be in this field is Akira Masuda, who won over 44 other trained kumite experts in 1991. Whew, that’s a whole lot! I guess the movie version is a lot humane than the reality, don’t you think so?


Fiction: As seen in the movie Star Trek, Moq’bara is a form of martial arts used by the Klingons. Though for some people, the method showed much similarity to Tai Chi, wherein slow and controlled movements are used as well. It also involved the usage of irregular-looking swords or weapons named “batleths” for self-defense.

Fact: The closest form for Moq’bara in reality would be Tai Chi since the concepts of slow, controlled movements and meditation are very similar in most ways.


Fiction: Using folded fans as weapons in Japanese action films, tessenjutsu sparked my interest in martial arts history. Tessen is basically a fan, made of bamboo, wood and a hard metal plate, which could be folded or could remain flat. It is being used in the movies mostly by timid Japanese women, who held the fans wide open just below their eyes, only to surprise the opponent with their expertise to kill. Tessen also plays a role in ninja or samurai movies during the combat scenes.

Fact: Aside from the museum displays, tessens nowadays could still be found and sold worldwide. It is not considered illegal and some are just sold for souvenir purposes. But who would have thought a simple fan could be used as a murder tool? During the Edo period in Japan, the great samurais carried tessens in places where swords and other obvious killing weapons are not allowed. It was a great cover-up for their highly confidential missions. We can now actually believe that ninjas and samurais were certainly wise and smart.

Drunken-Style Kung Fu

Fiction: Being a famous martial arts actor, Jackie Chan commercialized this type of Kung Fu in his movie Drunken Master. The rivals weren’t threatened to see an intoxicated man who could merely stand up, making them lower their defences while laughing. Not until Jackie Chan showed superior strength while drunk, enabling him to win street combats from one to another.

Fact: Drunken-Style Kung Fu is a realistic type of martial arts depicting three “drunk” techniques such as drinking, falling and swaying movements. You don’t necessarily need to consume alcohol for this kind of martial arts. Funny as it may appear, the techniques are intended to lure the opponents by showing weak and foolish movements with majority of swaying evasions and basic assaults that would target tough body spots. Now, don’t underestimate tipsy men!

Hollywood Multi-foe Hand-to-Hand Combat

Fiction: Seen majorly in Hollywood movies, the main character is usually enclosed by a number of bad guys before the attacks begin. For the sake of cinematography, each of the bad guys could get their own movie shot as they attack the hero one by one. This is often seen like waiting for each other’s turn to beat up the main character.

Fact: Seriously, if you need to beat up someone, do you need to wait for your fellow gangster to be knocked down first before you attack? This doesn’t happen in real life since street wars do not follow rules. The bad guys will most likely attack a single person all together at once, otherwise told by their leader not to do so. Knowledge in basic martial arts would help you survive this situation.

One-Inch Punch

Fiction: In the movie Kill Bill Volume 2, Uma Thurman played the character of a bride who was buried alive inside a wooden coffin. She also characterized a martial arts expert who possessed incredible strength, making her think of a simple way to escape by punching the coffin lid. With a limited space to move, roughly around 3 inches to execute a blow, Uma Thurman still managed to knock the lid open in no time.

Fact: If the 3-inch distance raised your brow, be ready for this: Bruce Lee is the expert in one-inch distance punches! He managed to show his perfect stunt to everyone else when he was still alive and amazed millions of people worldwide. With only one tiny inch for manuever, he destroyed blocks of wood without sweating a bit. Imagine the strength and the amazing skill of his hands! Bruce Lee is really a movie and martial arts legend, not only for an enthusiast like me, but to most action film fanatics out there.



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