There are a number of Martial Arts-related documentaries and reality TV shows (Human Weapon, Fight Quest, Fight Science, Kill Arman, Deadliest Warrior...) from the last few years, but I have my doubts about the validity of their information content. I'm a long-time martial arts enthusiast but a beginning Martial Artist so it's difficult for me to judge these myself. Are any of these shows particularly good or particularly bad in their discussions of individual martial arts and comparison between arts?

In other words, are there any worth watching for sake of learning something as a martial artist, as opposed to merely being entertained with something that looks like science?

  • 4
    I found Fight Science and Human Weapon nice for the physics breakdowns.
    – BenCole
    Nov 16, 2012 at 20:53
  • I would agree with Fight Science and Human Weapon. Nov 16, 2012 at 23:18
  • 3
    I would emphasize that these shows are shooting for sciencey, not science. The veneer of science, through whiz-bang graphics and a dash of technobabble, is plenty for them. Using electronics to measure one punch is more sciencey than it is science. Nov 18, 2012 at 15:51

3 Answers 3


I'd say, none of the shows are by definition useful as a source of truth or any really useful information. They are mostly entertainment programs targeted at a specific audience of would-be martial arts enthusiasts.

Do not get me wrong - martial arts shows are nice in the sense that they give general overview of what's out there, but I would not refer to any of the "facts" represented in those.


There's one series I've been following - it's a Chinese series called Kung Fu Quest. You can find a few seasons on Youtube with English subtitles. Season 1 is more cheesy, after that it becomes quite good.

The show has a rotating group of hosts - they usually pick 2-3 guys to study a particular art for few weeks or months - a decent amount of time to get something out of it. The hosts are knowledgeable - they'll usually pick one person who is more familiar, and one person who is less.

Each episode covers usually 3-4 schools/instructors, goes over in detail a bit of the history and the camera tends to stay more on the instructor or their head students - a lot of the US based shows tend to stick to the hosts who... don't move as well since they don't know the style really.

The focus tends to be on learning more than some hyped up "match to win" at the end, like Fight Quest does. This also means after they spar or move around, the hosts actually spend some time analyzing what the person did that was particularly good and how it worked with a particular style.

Obviously, this is not going to "teach" you the style, but it's way more informative than most of these shows out there. You get to hear from several teachers/high level students, you get some nice cross comparison of the styles, and history of them, along with footage mostly of the people who know it well.


I'd like to answer this in two parts: first, I really like watching Burn Notice. Although it's about a burned spy, there's quite a bit of fighting and the voice-overs give you the why and strategies behind many of the choices that are being made which is very interesting.

Second, I also think you'd really enjoy reading Meditations on Violence, A Comparison of Martial Arts Training and Real World Violence, by Sgt. Rory Miller. As the subtitle explains, he writes about what a fight is really about. This includes psychology and the effects of adrenaline. He has a nice discussion about the violence we see on TV and the movies and makes the point that first and foremost, that type of violence is for entertainment and generally does not represent the violence one would really encounter. This is a wonderful book and really good companion to martial arts training. Sgt. Miller really knows what he's talking about.

  • -1. This does not answer the question at all. First, it talks about Burn Notice which is fictional instead of a documentary that the question is asking about. Second, it reads like a endorsement of Miller's books which again have nothing to do with TV documentaries on martial arts. Oct 23, 2014 at 12:04
  • Harsh! I've found these very interesting for someone thinking about the 'validity of their information content' and 'discussions of individual martial arts and comparison between arts' which I thought was a more general view of @Tony 's question.
    – CZollweg
    Oct 25, 2014 at 14:12

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