Top 1 Most Ridiculous Comment: There Can Be Only One!
Martial Arts is a subject near and dear to me in recent years. I began training in Krav Maga in 2008, so naturally, I took my skepticism on to the training floor with me in order to filter out any potential crap. Luckily there was not much crap to be found in the Krav Maga studio, and I still enjoy Krav training to this day. However, along the way, as I have met hundreds of other martial artists from many other disciplines, I learned that the “industry” was RIFE with ridiculous ideas. So as they continue to crop up on the internet, I can’t help but spend a little extra time delving in to the ridiculousness of some martial arts claims.
I learned of this week’s most ridiculous comment from a website I check every once in a while, called Weird Asia News. At the top of their page is an article titled: North Korean Soldiers Display Steely Prowess in Martial Arts Training. The article links to a video of some of the soldier’s training exercises, along with an interview from a former captain of the North Korean Special Forces. The Captain has this to say:
“You wrap a tree trunk with ropes, and keep punching it. You throw 5,000 punches day and night — do that for a month, the inside of your fist swells up until you can barely curl your fingers … Then you open a tin can and set it up on a stand. You keep punching the sharp part. When your hand turns into mush with blood and pus, you start punching a pile of salt. Repeat it, and your hands become like a stone.”
Trying not to let pedantry overtake the issue at hand (pun intended), I am not going to get bogged down on whether or not the Captain literally means 5000 punches a day. However, the concept of punching a hard object until your fist swells, then mangling your hands with sharp objects, capping it off by compounding the badly wounded appendages in salt is not only hard to stomach, but hard to swallow as anything beneficial to a person, soldier or otherwise.
There are some concepts in martial arts having to do with deliberately injuring parts of the body in order to make those areas “tougher” (microfracturing of bones will make them harder as they heal – this is knows as Wolff’s Law.) But what is being described here by the North Korean Captain goes way beyond reasonable training regiments. While the toughening of the skin by cutting it through abrasions from repetitive punching could be plausible (scar tissue replaces some of the skin which hardens the wounded areas, to a degree), it is not practiced by any mainstream martial arts program. Then punching piles of salt with your wounded fists makes no sense, other than to exacerbate the pain, perhaps increasing the pain threshold of the individual soldier, but this is highly subjective. You are very likely to yield similar results for hand strengthening if you were to perform knuckle push-ups on a regular basis on hard surfaces (wood or concrete.) The act of doing the exercise will build up the muscles in the hands, thereby strengthening the fists. No deliberate cuts or salt in the wounds would be necessary.
If you take 3 minutes to look at the video, you will see the soldiers performing what seem to be amazing feats of power and fortitude (such as breaking rocks with a sledgehammer placed on the stomachs of the soldiers) Perhaps the most “impressive” stunt being performed is that of a soldier taking a fire ax and swinging it at the torso of another soldier, only to see the ax bounce harmlessly off his body. Just how sharp is the blade of that ax anyway? And is the person swinging the ax “pulling his blow” at all? Who really knows.
The point is that while somethings in the video look cool, there is nothing here extraordinary that people haven’t seen before in performances by circus folk back in the days of Barnum’s travelling oddity shows. And whatever you do, severely injuring yourself in the pursuit of your martial arts goals is not a practice that a reputable studio would have you pursue. In the case of the military, these sorts of showcases of talent are just that – showcases. Performances. Acts to please the dictator of North Korea, Kim Jung Un. Nothing more.