What Works and How Do We Know?

A few weeks ago, someone made a very good point, that if a style, or a technique works as advertised or claimed then there should be no shortage of evidence to support it online. I don’t mean theoretical evidence citing some sort of pseudo science, I mean actual video of the technique or style working.

In the modern era, by which I’m generally referring to the time when video capable smartphones and online video hosting services like Youtube became fairly common place. If you can’t find a technique working as advertised in video evidence, then it probably doesn’t. I recently had a spirited debate with a fellow karateka, who adamantly insisted that kicks to the knee are devastating techniques that ‘maim’ people.

I will admit that I was initially wrong when I said that there’s no evidence that kick to the knee has ever even ended a fight let alone maimed anyone. I found two clips of MMA fights where a kick to the knee was the last technique used before the referee stopped the fight resulting in a TKO, but my ‘sparring partner’ could provide no documented cases of a knee kick maiming or seriously injuring the kicked knee in a fight. The best he managed was some anecdotes about people he knew that got hurt from them, and a video of what appears to be a negligent instructor demolishing his static partner/student’s knee while he attempted a demonstration. For years I was of the same belief as this other guy, I thought knee kicks were fight ending kicks, so I practiced them, and even used them in sparring at various levels. I thought the lack of devastating effect was just me needing more practice and more work. The best effect I got out of it was during a sparring session with a friend who trained ‘ninjustu’. The knee kick was my first attack, it caused him to drop onto that knee allowing me follow up with a few punches as I moved in to choke him out, but the knee kick did not end the fight on it’s own, nor did it cause any serious damage. Theoretically knee kicks and some other techniques should be devastating, but the requirements for them to be devastating are so rare against a moving target who is actively defending themselves you might as well wait for the planets to align, and world peace be achieved on the same day.

Bottom line, don’t just take someone’s word for it that a technique works or is useful, do some research, find out if there are any documented cases of that technique having the stated effect in a fight, and make sure the source is reliable if the documentation isn’t a video. If you can’t find a video of something as general as a certain martial arts technique working in 2019, there’s a pretty good chance that the technique just doesn’t work. Don’t be afraid to do some research.