Martial arts is the deadly art of killing people the way your grandfather used to--with your bare hands.

The Evolution of Martial Arts in Pop Culture

Just The Facts

  1. Martial arts is the best way to kill someone when no weapons are available.
  2. Martial arts is the best way to kill someone even when weapons are available.
  3. Martial arts has inspired various movies and video games and romance novels.

Styles of Martial Arts:

See Cracked article: 6 Great Martial Arts for Killing a Man with Your Bare Hands.

Krav Maga:

It was developed by Israelis who got together to protect themselves from Hitler. Krav Maga is the martial art of the Israeli special forces. As a matter of fact, Krav Maga means "Oh shit, let's get out of here" in Palestinian. Unlike most other martial arts, Krav Maga focuses on defending knife and gun attacks and killing/gouging out the eyes of/groin smashing multiple attackers as well as deadly strikes.


Ninjas are secret assassins from Japan. Batman trained in ninjitsu.

When ninjas go out to kill someone or make a movie, they always make sure they are prepared. Here are some of the things ninjas typically bring with them:

Pictured above: ninja outfit, ninja sword, ninja boots, and ninja climbing claws.

The ancient art of the ninja was almost lost until the spirit of capitalism aroused the dormant assassin. A drama student named Stephen Hayes went to Japan to search out the ancient art. He met a man named Masaaki Hatsumi, who taught him the way of the ninja and they have been selling it and writing books about it ever since. For $35.00, you too can learn the secrets of the ninja with this:

Here's one of the ninja secrets: What do ninjas eat? Brown rice. If you are out on an assassination job and can't cook it on the stove, put it on a hot rock and let it cook in the sun. For the rest of the secrets, you will have to buy the book.


Karate was developed in Okinawa and focuses primarily on strikes and stances and kata - a series of rehearsed movements. Karate also has belts ranging from white to black. Traditionally, the belts weren't colored. They were just the only part of the uniform that never got washed, so a fighter's belt got darker with training.

Kung Fu:

Unlike other martial arts styles, kung fu is fucking weird. Kung fu lethally combines the moves of the praying mantis, the monkey, the drunkard, silk button up pajamas, and bizzare weapons.

Kung fu is one of the fastest martial arts. It has such moves as the one inch punch, which kind of makes up for the weirdness:


Perhaps the only martial art without any strikes. It relies on joint locks and using your opponent's momentum against him. Steven Seagal uses Aikido.

In his movies/SNES video games, Steven Seagal uses a bastardized version of Aikido because a martial arts movie/game with no kicking or punching is lame:

Muay Thai:

Muay Thai has some of the most deadly strikes in martial arts. Muay Thai weapons include the elbows, the knees, and the shins.

See how Muay Thai matches up against other martial arts, courtesy of National Geographic:

Jeet Kune Do:

Jeet Kune Do was invented by Bruce Lee. He took the best parts of different martial arts and stitched together JKD. It focuses mainly on hopping around, making noises, and keeping your mouth open. And kicking ass. One of Bruce Lee's students asked him one time advice on how to make his kicks faster. Bruce Lee responded, "Kick faster."

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu:

Made popular by the Gracies in Brazil, BJJ focuses on joint locks and chokes. If a fight goes to the ground, it will be won by whoever has better BJJ.


Capoeira was developed by African slaves taken to Brazil. It is a mixture of dance and ass kicking.

Martial Arts in Movies:

Enter the Dragon:

Effect on pop culture martial arts: Set the standard for bad ass.

Bruce Lee goes to a martial arts tournament held by an international one-armed drug lord. Bruce Lee is up against killer prostitutes, mirrors, snakes, martial arts soldiers, the man who raped his sister and dishonored his temple, and the one armed drug lord himself. Unlike your typical one-armed drug lord, this drug lord knows kung fu and has interchangeable knife/claw hands.

Kung Fu Hustle:

The effect on martial arts pop culture: The first romantic comedy about kung fu. Paved the way for men being able to watch kung fu movies with their girlfriends.

A romantic comedy about Kung Fu, Chinese Mafia, poverty, and hatchet murders.

Shaolin Soccer (same cast): Kind of like Happy Gilmore, but replace Hockey with Kung Fu, golf with soccer, and Adam Sandler with a guy who has skill.

Karate Kid:

The effect on martial arts pop culture: showed everyone that with minimal training, you can challenge black belts in martial arts and steal their ex-girlfriends.

Daniel moves to Modesto and gets beat up by local hooligans. The maintenance man in his apartment building is Asian, and naturally Daniel assumes that the Asian man can teach him karate. The Asian man makes Daniel do manual labor for him and Daniel infers a mastery of karate from this and also watches the maintenance man practicing a kick at the beach. The hooligans challenge Daniel to a karate tournament and Daniel wins using the kick he saw the maintenance man use on the beach.

Ong Bak:

Effect on pop culture martial arts: Brings Muay Thai into the picture as the world's most deadly martial art.

Thai mafia saws off the head of Ong Bak, a small village's Buddha statue. The village, without the spiritual protection of the Ong Bak, the village becomes victim to drought and sends the village Muay Thai warrior, played by Tony Jaa, into the city to recapture Ong Bak's head. Tony Jaa messes up everyone who gets in his way. As if the storyline needed any help, cage fighters keep getting in his way and in order to get Ong Bak's head back, he must fight in a series of underground martial arts matches. Also, there is a golf cart chase scene that has explosions.

The Protector (same cast): Tony Jaa is from a small village in Thailand. Thai mafia Australia branch steals two of Tony Jaa's elephants and take them back to Australia. Tony Jaa goes to Australia to get his elephants back and messes up everyone who gets in his way. Tony Jaa shows off his ability to fight thousands of men at a time.

The Perfect Weapon:

The effect on martial arts pop culture: Showed good old fashioned karate can still mess people up.

Jeffrey Speakman is an out of control youth. The only thing that can calm his savagery is the discipline of Kempo Karate and Escrima sticks. He becomes a deadly dangerous rugged tight jeaned loner with the speed of a rattlesnake. Then, Chinese mafia members kill his sensei. The only way to get to the bottom of the murder is punching, kicking, and using Escrima sticks to fight his way to the mafia leader.

Best of the Best:

The effect on martial arts pop culture: Created the genre: martial arts action drama.

James Earl Jones is putting together a team of elite martial artists to compete in a Korean Tae Kwon Do match. In doing so, he sets the stage for martial arts action drama. Here's how: 1) A one-eyed member of the Korean team killed the older brother of one of the members of the American team, and 2) Julia Roberts's brother is on the American's team. All sorts of martial arts and drama ensue. It cumulates with both teams hugging each other's broken bodies at the end of the tournament and crying.


The effect on martial arts pop culture: pioneer film in martial arts extreme violence.

Ricki-oh uses his martial arts skills to punch holes in people, punch people's heads off, punch their arms off, and just mess people up hardcore. The low budget for special effects combined with the high creativity for death scenes created an unrivaled recipe for campiness.

American Ninja:

The effect on martial arts pop culture: Displays some of the many powers of the ninja, such as catching arrows in mid air and shooting lasers, which paved the way for the commercial whoring of Ninjitsu.

A band of ninjas attack a military base. The ninjas assumed that since the it was an American military base, that there wouldn't be any ninjas among them. They were wrong. Joe, the American Ninja, fights the ninja henchment, bangs the Colonel's daughter, and then fights the master ninja, who shoots lasers out of his arms. Then he makes like 8 sequels, which were horrible.

Martial Arts Weapons:


Most karate weapons were improvised farm weapons because the samurai wouldn't let the peasant farmers train with real weapons. Here are a few examples.


In retrospect, letting Okinawan farmers harvest rice with Nunchuks turned out to be one of the biggest mistakes ever made. Not only do they appear to be a pretty retarded harvesting tool, but they kick serious ass. They consist of two small staves connected by a small piece of rope or chain. They are whipped around to create great force.

Follow one boy's journey through the years as he progresses in nunchuk skill (and diabetes):


Katana: The samurai weapon of choice. Extremely sharp and slightly curved.

Bo Staff: A large stick used to swing around and hit people.

Shuriken: Ninjas hid these all over inside their costumes.

Escrima Sticks: A half-sized staff used to mess people up.

Martial Arts Myths

1. Ninjas Can Run Up Walls and Fly:

The problem with ninja myths are that the only thing we know about ninjas is what the ninjas have allowed us to know.

Here are some modern non-ninjas who can do such feats:

2. Ninjas Can Turn Invisible: This is not a myth. They actually can turn invisible

3. Ninja Mind Reading:

4. Dim Mak: