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Sword of Truth

Here’s another for the file of self-deluded martial artists. This man believed that he could perform a ritual that would protect him from his own razor-sharp blade. Result? He nearly hacks off his own left arm.

It’s fascinating what people can convince themselves of.

Warning: if you’re squeamish about the sight of blood, don’t watch. It’s not excessive, but there is blood.

Another example of how faith must be placed in things that are true. The damned hard part is finding out what is true.

I wonder what he learned from this. Will he try to shrug it off as inauspicious spirits? Or perhaps a lack of training? I hope for his sake that when the wound heals and the embarrassment wears off, he can let go of his dangerous delusion.

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I’ve practiced a small amount of martial arts (enough to get myself beaten up while looking like a fool), but all the same I feel somewhat qualified to comment on what’s real and what’s not in that world. I’ve seen a fair share of martial arts snake oil.

A few months ago, I learned about Yanagiryuken, a martial artist who I believe practiced Daito-ryu Aikijutsu (no word on his credentials). He specialized in spectacular feats of channeling qi, a mysterious invisible force, to defeat his opponents at a distance, never laying a hand on them. You can see a video demonstration of his prowess.

He wagered 1,000,000 Yen that he could beat anyone who would pay 500,000 Yen to face him in a no holds barred match. A young MMA fighter took up his wager. (warning: don’t view this if you would be uncomfortable seeing an old man given a bloody nose and knocked on his rear)

What I find fascinating is that he and his students bought in to his fraud so completely. What made the students dance around when there was obviously no reality to Yanagiryuken’s powers? What made Yanagiryuken believe his own press releases and get into the ring with a real fighter?

It seems to be a great example of communal reinforcement. I can imagine a new student not wanting to stick out of the crowd and tell the emperor that he’s got no clothes. This student also would also feel a subtle social pressure to react to the teacher’s buffoonery as if it were real. This is a great example of the principle of insufficient justification. (How Denial Works—Denial in General and Mormon Denial in Particular, p. 87)

I feel bad for those who are duped by their teachers into a false sense of security. I can only hope for their sake that the student’s aura of confidence will dissuade any potential attacker from making the attempt.

They lied to each other often enough that they all came to believe the lie to be truth. What a fascinating case study of how groupthink can overcome an individual’s otherwise rational judgment!

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