aikidoWhen I was a kid, I signed up for Judo classes with my best friend. After learning some basic rolls and flips, we moved on to Karate, because, if I remember correctly, we thought it was a little bit tougher than Judo. This was before UFC style mixed martial arts fighting had taken root, or Brazilian Jiu Jitsu had appeared on the North American scene. We wanted to learn martial arts, of course, in order to become hard-hitting children who were indestructible — at least in our young minds — who could take on a single attacker, multiple attackers or even the world if the need should ever arise.

If you check Yelp or do a simple Google search of the biggest town or city near you, you’ll most likely come across a variety of boxing clubs, dojos and martial arts studios offering some sort of fighting or self defense training. When I checked the mid-sized town I grew up in, I found plenty of opportunities to better my combat techniques, and sharpen the dangerous edge of my overall physical presence. Here are just a few that I ran across:

Dragon Martial Arts

Kim’s Taekwondo

Warhorse Jiu Jitsu

Krav Maga

When I was in university, I dabbled in Kajukenbo for a little while. Kajukenbo is a Hawaiian-based collection of eclectic fighting styles, including boxing, Judo, Jujutsu, Karate, Filipino Eskrima, Korean Tang Soo Do and Chinese Kung Fu. While I’ve forgotten all but the most brutal fighting techniques, I do recollect training sessions where I was taught how to disarm a firearm from an attacker — just like you might see in a Hollywood action movie. I wasn’t too shabby when it came to performing the moves, but when push comes to shove, as my instructor informed me at the time, the person most likely to win a fight is the one who is heavily armed — or whose buddies show up with a few decisive fire arms.

If guns really do rule the day, why do so many people invest massive amounts of time into mastering a martial art in order to become mean and lean ninja-like fighting machines in a country that’s as heavily armed as ours? Rock beats scissors every time. A Glock or an AR15 will generally beat a karate chop every time too.

Self-defense, mental discipline, serenity of the soul and a renewed sense of confidence and physical fitness motive many to tackle a difficult martial art, but at the end of the day, I suspect, some people (especially men) nurture the ideal of the lone gunslinger battling against impossible odds, or the fighter who can kick the living daylights out of a small cadre of villains singlehandedly, thus ensuring his own safety, and the safety of people in need.

Humble braggers (or perhaps not so humble) take pleasure when others recognize how rough and badass they truly are. We’ve all seen the reluctant one-man killing machine inhabiting our films try and lead a simple life, but thanks to his exceptional fighting skills (a blessing and a curse) he’s called back into battle once again because no one can do what he does, which makes him the most needed — and oftentimes most desirable —character around. The unrecognized fighter residing in the souls of many a would-be hero could very well propel them toward hardcode Krav Maga or Jiu Jitsu training, or something similar, which for some could be the first step in playing out these fantasies in real life.

Of course, if you live in the West Bank or a Brazilian favela (shanty town), your knowledge of the deadlier arts just might save your life, irrespective of your action hero complex or not. Just pray, if the day should ever come that you’re actually fighting for your survival, that your attackers aren’t packing heat, and they don’t have any friends armed with hard-to-defend against ballistic weapons that you won’t be able to disarm with a quick karate chop loitering around the corner.