Bullshido: Martial Arts Magic

Some call it Bullshido: Martial arts tricks like touchless attacks and the Touch of Death.

Brian DunningBy Brian Dunning via skeptoid
Read transcript below or listen here

In dojos all around the world, martial arts masters practice mysterious forms of attack. They can kill or render an attacker unconscious with a single touch, or sometimes, with no touch at all.

Bruce Lee, the seminal inspiration for bullshido (Photo credit: Wikimedia)

Bruce Lee, the seminal inspiration for bullshido
(Photo credit: Wikimedia)

The dim mak and kyusho jitsu are just some of the secret techniques reserved only for the masters, that are jealously guarded, and will not be taught to just anyone. Some call these techniques bullshido.

Bullshido is, obviously, a joke term which mocks made-up or exaggerated martial arts claims. Bullshido comes in many forms. The touch of death and the knockout without touching are just a few of the most popular, originally made famous by the stories telling this is how Bruce Lee was killed (in fact he died of cerebral edema after a dinner party, possibly due to a drug interaction). Bullshido also encompasses newly invented martial arts techniques by self-described masters who market themselves as the founders; schools claiming to be too exclusive to let just anyone in (sometimes called McDojos); and claims by instructors of having been taught by various great masters, the missing documentation of which is sometimes explained as being sacred or hidden away in a remote Asian temple.

The many various forms of bullshido have long been criticized by legitimate martial arts practitioners, and dismissed merely as marketing claims intended to attract students to a particular school where one of these supposed masters teaches. blue_hands_on_glass_250pxBullshido practitioners shoot back that such naysayers are merely crying sour grapes because they have not yet learned the secret techniques, or achieved the special level.

The most famous of example of bullshido, which you’ve no doubt seen several times over the past couple of years, involves instructors who claim to have developed a technique of rendering an attacker senseless without actually touching him. The volunteer attackers are always the instructor’s students in these videos. They’ll charge at him one after the other, and as he punches or swipes at the air, they’ll often dramatically fly back as if struck by a train. Every time an outsider volunteers to receive the touchless attack, the instructor either fails with some excuse, or refuses on the grounds that it would be too dangerous.

Danielle Serino

Danielle Serino

Harry Cameron is a martial arts instructor who goes by the moniker “The Human Stun Gun”. Danielle Serino, a reporter on Fox Chicago’s prime time news, decided to check out his claim on her segment Does It Work, Danielle? She watched him knock out some of his students by, basically, what amounted to little more than going up to them and shouting Boo! Danielle got suited up and volunteered to have the Human Stun Gun knock her out without touching her. He refused, saying it would be too dangerous for her, even though she went to the trouble and expense of having a team of paramedics standing by. However he was willing to actually punch her on the side of the head. Even that didn’t have any real effect except to tick her off.

Danielle decided to give him the opportunity to prove his ability on someone he wouldn’t be afraid of hurting, namely, a group of jiu-jitsu athletes from another gym who were not his students. His touchless attacks had no effect on any of them. Predictably, he had an explanation handy: Natural athletes like these students learn to “translate the energy” and are not affected by it. I guess Cameron’s own students are not as enlightened. One red flag waving over Cameron’s head is that he says he was instructed by George Dillman, often cited as one of the great pillars of bullshido.

There’s also a famous YouTube video you may have seen where an elderly martial arts master, Kiai Master Ryukerin, does the same thing to a room full of his students, easily sending them all tumbling with waves of his hand. He offered $5000 to any modern Mixed Martial Arts athlete who could beat him. One guy took him up on it, and in front of Japanese TV cameras, casually beat the poor old guy to a pulp.

It’s actually a little sad, and hard to watch. Did Ryukerin actually believe that he had this power? Was it a mass delusion shared between him and his students, or was it all part of the show, and Ryukerin hoped that his actual martial arts skills would defeat the MMA guy? The only thing we know for sure is that his touchless attack failed.

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