This is part of a series of articles inspired by an interview with Matt Thornton.  It is a collection common fallacious arguments and strategic errors regarding martial arts efficacy.  From here on, when I write an assertion like, "X works," I mean:

  • Substitute for "X" any specific martial art, system, or technique.
  • "X" is generally applicable in a real fight.

Time Dilation

A follow up video with Rokas (the interviewer from the Matt Thornton video) and the talented and entertaining semi-pro Internet troll from ForRealFightMoves ( shows another trait that commonly appears when unrealistic self-defense or fighting techniques are demonstrated: time appears to run at different speeds for the good guy and bad guy.  For every move the bad guy makes, the good guy makes two or three.  They demonstrate with Aikido's Kotegaeshi.

I'll pick on an example where it's obvious that the bad-guy/attacker's behavior is unrealistic for emphasis.  Watch the attacker in these videos; ignore the defender.

Taekwondo knife defense

How does the attacker move before, during, and after their attack?  Usually, the attacker becomes a mannequin the moment the defender counterattacks.  Think of the attacker and defender as two separate video recordings.  The attacker video starts to play.  As soon as the defender video starts to play, the the attacker video pauses.  The attacker's posture and limbs essentially "freeze" and he becomes a barely-animated punching bag.

I'm not saying any specific technique in this video is useless.  However, because the demonstration has this time-dialation quality, it provides no evidence that the techniques are viable in any way.

There are several generous interpretations of this training practice:

  • It's the first step in learning the technique, when resistance would impede the initial acquisition of the proper body mechanics.
  • It's intended to keep the "assailant" training partner safe by holding them in a predictable position so that the defender can stop strikes and grapples without injury.
  • It assumes that the defender's resistance will be so surprising and/or overwhelming that the attacker will have no time to react or respond.  (This may happen, but it's a serious strategic error to rely upon.)

If one of the generous interpretations is true, it's critical that they be called out explicitly.   Every student must understand the limitations of what they're seeing, and understand how to achieve the ability to employ them for real.

There's a less generous interpretation, too: The techniques demonstrated don't work against a thinking, resisting opponent, and to include one in the training process would reveal the improbability the techniques would work in the real world.