Why Martial Artists Make Great BS Detectors

Hint: it involves pain.

In case you hadn’t noticed, a few years back Bullshido expanded the scope of its operations beyond the BS in the Martial Arts and Self Defense industries. This move greatly upset some people–at least a dozen or so, judging by the occasional whiny comment on our Facebook page–but the rest seemed to appreciate the wider selection of targets.

The truth is, we won the battle against BS in the Martial Arts world–as much as anyone could have, given that there are always going to be liars, cons, frauds, and delusional weirdos. The average person, minus those few outliers that overlap with psychological issues on a Venn diagram, now knows what effective Martial Arts look like in practice. To be fair, we can’t take all the credit for this. The fact that Mixed Martial Arts as sport took off few years after we started calling BS on McDojos, Ninjas, etc., had a lot to do with it as well.

That time Alex Trebek said “Bullshido” on television…

So while we put in a lot of effort to help promote MMA in the early, pre-television days of the UFC before they even owned the .com domain for their website (you’re welcome for all the free promotion, Keith), we can’t toot our horn over the excellent timing of a cultural phenomenon coming to our aid in the fight.

But regardless, now there are only a few people left that think dressing in feudal Japanese underwear, standing in neat lines, and beating the crap out of air is an effective method for learning how to fight. Even so, the ride was glorious. From “Gong Sau” challenge fights with Kung Fu “masters” in parking lots, to the dozens of death threats, and legal threats, and actual lawsuits, it made for some amazing Internet.

Bullshido Throwdown 2007
Participants from the 2007 Bullshido Throwdown in Kansas City… holy crap was that 10 years ago? What the hell was growing on my face?

Hell, at one point I was personally accused of being in a “rival ninja clan” with the founder of Wikipedia, who then went on to personally delete the article of the bullshitter in question. (I’m still waiting for an invitation to Shidoshi Jimmy Wales training compound to learn how to throw shuriken shaped like “[Citation Needed]” tags.)

There are hundreds of incidents just like that buried in the depths of our forums. Someday maybe I’ll write a book about it.

The B-Team

Tribute video to Bullshido.net "Forum Bullies".

Posted by Bullshido on Thursday, February 5, 2009

Video of Bullshido members in action back in the days before pixels were as plentiful as they are now

Lessons Learned

Over the entire first decade of Bullshido’s life, two simple realities became clear, transcending the relatively small niche of rational skepticism that we’d been occupying in the world:

  1. people everywhere are full of shit
  2. it’s a huge damn problem

So this got us thinking, and we had to confront our own hard truths: The consequences of being full of shit in the Martial Arts are relatively trivial in the grand scheme of things.

To put things in perspective, if you’re a BSer in the Martial Arts, when empirical reality comes knocking at your door, you’re probably going to get your ass kicked. At worst, you might get yourself or someone else hurt, maybe killed killed if relying on bullshit training in a self defense situation. This is a genuine problem, but is it one that could possibly bring an end to our freaking species?

This walking justification for the development of retroactive prophylactics may end up being responsible for wiping out the entire Human race–no exaggeration or hyperbole whatsoever. We felt this was just a little bit more important than calling out a tubby Karate instructor from suburban Oklahoma who doesn’t deserve a black belt

So we decided to apply our principles to industries that affect vastly more lives: fitness, nutrition, and healthcare for example. People who are full of shit in those spheres of influence are literally responsible for the deaths of millions: scaring people into avoiding vaccines or food products that have saved countless lives from the horror of starvation, for starters. Hell, it’s entirely possible that the next global pandemic could wipe out much of the Human race, all because a cluster of fucking idiots can’t tell the difference between an axis of bullshit like that of Wakefield-McCarthy (Andrew, and Jenny, respectively) fearmongering for fun and profit, and credible immunology. Bullshitters are even responsible for killing off icons of technology that push us all into the future.

So the fight against BS is much more serious than making fun of a few whackjobs who think they can stop a charging attacker by projecting their “chi” at them, or a doughy suburbanite Ayn Rand sycophant trying to sell you books on how to use a katana for self defense in the city. Unfortunately, it’s a lot more work too.

But here’s the amazing thing about all this: people who train in legitimate Martial Arts are uniquely qualified to spot bullshit. Why? Because in the Martial Arts, bullshit hurts.

Evidenced-Based Training

Sambo NYC
Coach Stephen Koepher instructs a Sambo class

The Scientific Method, in a nutshell (drawn in crayon, on construction paper, with your feet, in a dark room), involves coming up with an idea, testing that idea, and then having others test/confirm the idea themselves. But in the Martial Arts, there aren’t really any new ideas–at least not until Human beings start growing extra limbs or start fighting with powered prostheses. For now though, punching/kicking/choking work the way they’ve always worked.

…or not work.

However, there are always new people looking to practice those punches, kicks, and chokes. And these people need to learn for themselves what works and what doesn’t, because everyone’s physiology is a little different. Jack might have long, skinny arms and legs with excellent flexibility; Sally might have a lower center of gravity and fists like lunch boxes. What works for Jack might not work for Sally. But the only way either of them would know what techniques work for them, is to step onto the mat and see what works against someone else doing the same.

If Jack watches a bunch of old Mike Tyson videos and decides one day that he’d like to switch up his game from being a guard-pulling Human anaconda to a knockout artist, he’s going to have to prove empirically that he’s even capable of landing a punch on someone, let alone knocking them out.

Otherwise, Jack’s going to be in for a whole lot of bruises and maybe a concussion or thirty. And that’s it’s just a short, cognitive leap from painful lessons in physical epistemology, to a broader application of rational skepticism in all areas of life. Because when it comes to separating reality from BS, a Scientist might put his or her credibility on the line, a Martial Artist puts their ass.

Holly Holm Knocking out Rhonda Rousey
One’s grasp of Empiricism sometimes comes as a result of a shin to the head
I don't write articles for people who read the New York Times or Nature, I write articles for people who read microwave pizza instructions more than once but are significantly more dangerous as a group. Head Knuckle at Bullshido.
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  1. And you can’t teach bs’ers either. The problem is they believe their own bs. As my instructor once said, if they knew they looked terrible (performing their martial art) they wouldn’t put it on the Internet.

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