Last week I watched the much acclaimed film ‘The Raid’ after receiving many positive comments from my friends, it was ok. See I am no Barry Norman, I am a book person really, but I do enjoy film but not really martial arts films and after a promising start it became so so predictable. It was so much more than the usual slug fest but it was unbelievable, totally unbelievable, how in a matter of just a few hours so much physical punishment can be dished out, so much pain absorbed beggars belief. It is not a bad film, but in my eyes not a good one either, when it ended I was glad. This is one of the more realistic scenes.

It makes for the right level of gore if that is what you want but the fact that everybody in the film who fought, if they were not killed immediately, was a martial arts expert of incredible skill. How likely is that in a tower block in Indonesia inhabited virtually entirely by criminals? It may be very likely, I do not know. Maybe it is, maybe it is not, does it matter, not really as it is fiction. Or is fiction sometimes mistaken for real life? well better people than me have argued over the effect of film or the following game, Lt Col Dave Grossman for one. On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society is an analysis of the physiological processes involved with killing another human being. He looks at the role of film and fiction, and in particular, computer games, and how they may be contributing to creating a more violent civilian population, the old argument is that the more graphic the violence can be multiplied by the amount of our exposure to it, to contribute to our increased level of violence when we resort to it. This is particularly so in the first person shooter game.

I have seen young children playing these games, blowing away, quite graphically, thousands of enemies, in a single episode. Lt Col Grossmann stated clearly, post Sandy Hook, that he thought such games contribute to altering the realities of some enabling them to become desensitized, killing for them, is a game they like to play.

The Raid has a warning on the cover stating that the film “Contains frequent strong bloody violence and gore”, yes, it certainly does, there is blood in bucket-loads and the angel of death is kept very busy indeed. Violent films are not new, but they, as film-makers and their technologies allow, have become extremely convincing.

I may have mentioned recently reading ‘The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid’ by Bill Bryson. Set in America in the 50’s it describes his childhood and some of the stories are incredibly funny. It reminded me of so many of my childhood memories and experiences, nostalgia can be intoxicating, I loved the book. I loved the stories of the Saturday morning trips to the cinema where an army of kids, a kind of 20th century combination of the Mongols, Goths and Vandals, would descend on said cinema for several hours entertainment. Our such cinema in Sheffield was the ABC and it is almost exactly as Bryson described it in his book. It really was a much more innocent time in many ways but there was violence, shock horror, on the screen too, have a peek at the stuff we were still watching well into the late 60’s.

Slapstick, it is still funny, maybe not to younger generations but these slapstick fights had us rolling with laughter back then, the beauty of YouTube is I can watch them now, whenever I want, for free, and I do. Fights and fighting have been in films since films began, almost. With the increasingly cheep video cameras, palm held camcorders and now phones people record thousands of aspects of daily life, including fights, the internet is crammed with them and people I communicate with on Facebook are posting stuff all the time. Used appropriately they make sensational teaching aids to highlight interactions in violent situations, to be honest I could use lots of clips from the Laurel and Hardy clip just as well and I find people learn very well when humour is used as opposed to horror.

But what about the real fights, individuals, gangs fighting gangs, gangs attacking and savagely beating individuals, stabbings, shootings, they are available at the click of a mouse, so how do we use those, well it is an ethical and moral dilemma and I am not preaching here, each individual will come to their own decision if they use them at all. This following clip sent to me by Bill Barrott induced side-splitting laughter when I watched it. It is a serious bout, there is some real punishment being dished out, and taken, not least by the referee. Watch it please, I hope it makes you laugh too. One last point I do lean-to the idea that constant exposure to violence makes some people susceptible to imitating what they see, be it on film, in a game, on TV, YouTube, wherever, just as some people become addicted to substances. Where does this leave us martial artists? Where do you stand on the issue? I really would appreciate your views.