Filmmakers have long enjoyed creating action-packed fight sequences in movies. In fact, some of the earliest American silent films depict scenes of gunfights, epic chases, and hand-to-hand combat. However, it wasn’t until Bruce Lee exploded onto the cinematic scene in the 1970s that martial arts and self-defense entered the American cultural consciousness at large.
Since then, Hollywood has focused more and more on action movies as a genre. More often than not, these movies include elaborate, choreographed fight scenes. And while these movies are immensely popular and entertaining, the ways in which they depict fighting are often wildly inaccurate. This misrepresentation creates misconceptions about self-defense at best and offers dangerous examples of how to defend yourself at worst.
Below, we’ve tried to set the record straight by explaining six things Hollywood frequently gets wrong about fighting in the movies.
1. In real life, self-defense is messy.
We’ve all seen action films with well-choreographed fight sequences. Many of Jackie Chan’s classic films come to mind. In his films’ fight sequences, Chan’s characters always seem to find a convenient escape from danger, manage to land a well-placed kick, or are able to wriggle free from an opponent’s hold.
In real life, fight scenes are much more unpredictable, ugly, and dangerous.
There’s no way to know the capabilities or intentions of an attacker, and as such it’s important to neutralize their threats by any means necessary. Techniques like groin kicks, eye-gouging, strikes to the back of the head, and attacking the throat are all effective means of doing damage to someone trying to hurt you, though you might not see this style of fighting in movies
However you approach self-defense, be prepared for a grittier reality than the one depicted through fighting in the movies. You’re not going to land every punch and kick, and you’re not always going to be in control of the situation. You’ll have to act on instinct. Like Mike Tyson said, “Everyone has a plan ‘til they get punched in the mouth.”
2. It’s best to avoid the fight altogether.
Heroes like The Avengers are always running toward a fight and taking on powerful villains with hand-to-hand combat skills, mystical powers, high-tech wonder-type weapons, and super strength. None of which exists in the real world.
In a real conflict (unlike fighting in the movies), there are real consequences, and this means that someone is most likely going to get hurt. If de-escalation and avoidance don't work, Krav Maga Worldwide self-defense training is about preserving your well-being and getting home safe. If that means hurting someone who is intent on hurting you, that's what you have to do.
3. It’s never a good idea to take on multiple attackers.
Just about everyone is familiar with The Matrix. Some of the film’s most iconic scenes are of the main character, Neo, confronting dozens of attackers simultaneously. In true movie fashion, he’s able to use his superior fighting skills and fast reflexes to overpower and defeat his attackers.
If you’re ever approached by multiple attackers in real life, we strongly suggest that you do not engage them. While it isn’t impossible to confront multiple attackers, your odds of overpowering and deterring all of them are very small.
Your best option is to avoid or flee from the situation altogether. Be especially careful not to get surrounded or trapped by your attackers. Remain on the outside, and create as much space as possible.
4. In a conflict, weapons should make you take pause.
Fighting in the movies often includes scenes in which a good guy is confronted by an assailant with a gun or knife, and through his quick reflexes and a few well-timed moves is able to disarm the attacker. An example of such a scene comes from The Transporter, in which the protagonist is attacked by thugs armed with knives and lead pipes. He engages all of his attackers, disarms them, and emerges unharmed.
While this kind of action might make for an entertaining film, it’s a terrible example to follow in real life. As soon as weapons are introduced into a conflict, the situation becomes exponentially riskier.
Chances are, if a knife is pulled out, someone is going to get cut. Chances are that if a loaded gun is brought out, someone is going to get shot.
Krav Maga Worldwide self-defense training can teach you techniques to use against armed attackers. We teach students that if there is something material that the attacker is demanding, give it to them in the hopes of de-escalating the situation. If compliance doesn't work and you MUST take action against an armed attacker, Krav Maga Worldwide self-defense training will give you the tactics and skills to fight back.
5. You can take more damage than you think -- and so can your attackers.
We’ve all seen those action movies where the hero takes swipes at hordes of villains and knocks each one down with a single punch. Consider Iron Man 2. There’s a scene where Black Widow (played by Scarlett Johansson) and Happy Hogan (played by Jon Favreau) break into a secured facility and start taking down the guards one by one.
Using a combination of high-tech gadgets and slickly choreographed martial arts, Black Widow incapacitates a dozen guards almost effortlessly. Meanwhile, Happy spends the entire scene in a brutal fistfight with just one guard. He takes the guard down, but then realizes that his partner finished off the entire group in the same amount of time.
While this moment provides comic relief in the film, it actually illustrates an important point. Real fighting isn’t as easy as the Marvel Avengers make it look. You’re not typically going to knock people out with one well-placed kick. If you’re defending yourself, you need to stay on your guard and remember that your attacker can take quite a bit of damage. So can you. Prevailing in a fight requires aggression, and it requires the mindset that you’re going to keep fighting until you eliminate the danger.
6. Self-defense is about survival. Period.
Too often, characters in the movies approach fighting as a way to defend their honor or to assert themselves over another character. A recent example of this comes from Black Panther, in which the villain Killmonger confronts T’Challah—the Black Panther—in a duel. While Killmonger’s story is complex, much of his motivation in fighting T’Challah is prideful, coming from a need to dominate his opponent.
Self-defense is not a matter of pride or dominance, and approaching conflict from a prideful perspective can lead you to engage in fights that you really don’t need to be in.
In addition, worrying about your ego during a dangerous situation can cloud your ability to think clearly and quickly. By learning and practicing self-control, you increase your likelihood of remaining unharmed in the face of threats.
At Krav Maga Worldwide, there are no gimmicks—just results.
At Krav Maga Worldwide, you won’t see any of the mistakes that are so common in fighting scenes in the movies. What you will find is a staff with decades of experience practicing and teaching Krav Maga to students of all ages.
Why Krav Maga Worldwide? Krav Maga Worldwide’s founder, Darren Levine, trained directly under Krav Maga’s founder, Imi Lichtenfeld, so you can be sure that you’re learning authentic Krav Maga from some of the best in the business.
Whether you’re interested in learning essential self-defense skills, getting in shape, or adding new fighting techniques to your repertoire, Krav Maga Worldwide can help you achieve your goals.
Krav Maga Worldwide offers programs targeted for law enforcement, fitness, fighting, female-specific self-defense, and Krav Maga instruction certification. From complete beginners to the most advanced practitioners, Krav Maga Worldwide has something for everyone. Visit us today!