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Bullets and Black Belts: Myths of the Martial Arts

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Dodging the Bullet

Being impervious to bullets is one thing--dodging bullets is another. While it would seem impossible to be able to dodge bullets, like Keanu Reeves in The Matrix, there's some history about training in the martial arts to dodge projectiles. For example, at higher ranks in some martial arts, black belts attempt to dodge thrown knives or even catch arrows. Ninjutsu, karate, and kenpo practitioners have all demonstrated the arrow catch--even on US television's That's Incredible show. But because of the incredible danger involved, catching arrows and dodging bullets seems to be still the domain of fantasy, something Xena, Warrior Princess could do, but not mere mortal martial artists.

Yet the legends persist. There's even an account of the legendary Morehei Ueshiba,  founder of aikido, dodging the pistol fire of six army men in a demonstration of his skills. Common sense would tell you this has got to be bunk.

But as it is a personal account by Gozo Shioda, himself an aikido legend and founder of his own style of aikido, it makes you wonder if it really could be true:

One, two, three. The six revolvers fired at the same time and a cloud of dust whirled around us. Then, suddenly, one of the six marksmen was flying through the air! What had happened? Before we could figure it out, Sensei was standing behind the six men, laughing into his beard.


Facing Ueshiba Sensei were the barrels of the six revolvers which had been fired. This far I could remember clearly, but the next stage, where Sensei had moved the distance of 25 meters and thrown one of the six marksmen, I simply could not understand. I couldn't find any explanation for other than "God techniques."

There's so many facets of the martial arts that are just too mystical to explain, at least within the science of today. Perhaps in the future we'll understand more about human reflexes, coordination, and skills, and determine ways to amplify them to a level where blocking bullets with bracelets like Wonder Woman would be possible. But for now, these tales are just another part of the fascinating mystique of the martial arts.

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