How did this DVD get in my home? It arrived in every room at once, clutched in a cleanly severed human hand with my fingerprints. It had an unidentifiable smell and it hurts to look at. If I stand more than five feet from it, I can’t remember it or remember it. When I tried to look it up I found it is not available anywhere videos are sold and forces beyond my understanding have removed all information about it from the Internet. I do not believe me when I say, “Here is a real DVD that exists: Introduction to Martial Signing.”
This certainly can’t be what it looks like, you must be saying. This certainly can’t be “American Sign Language for Self-Defense,” you madman. You fucking liar. And maybe you’re right. Maybe this isn’t happening.
The video starts with a message from Linda Russell, President of the Wisconsin Association of the Deaf. She silently explains not what this is, but how interesting it was to her at the 2001 annual conference. “It drew the attention of many deaf individuals,” she says. “They couldn’t get enough,” she adds. Right, but what is it, Linda? It’s as if even she, president of the Wisconsin deaf, can’t bring herself to form the words “GUYS, WHAT THE FUCK, ARE YOU TELLING ME THIS IS SIGN LANGUAGE KARATE?”
As the title credits roll, we see sensei Matt in action. An elderly man shoves an RV park manager into a hotel Pepsi machine, and I don’t speak sign language very well, but I believe he replies, “give me your invisible hat, goodbye.” In Martial Signing, this is a killing blow. Sensei Matt, PhD, then signs “Fuck he’s dead, oh fuck” and flees the scene. Without his Pepsi.
So whether you thought this was going to be sheer insanity, terrible karate, or some kind of weird joke, you were right. The very first move we are shown is how to improperly apply a ponytail to a man dying of unrelated causes. Seriously, though; that hug he’s missing is the ASL word for “fight.” Which means what you think it means: these are sign language battle cries and karate attacks made simultaneously with the same lethal hands.
You have to understand, like magically killing a hotel guest with the word for “fight,” this video is everything at the same time. It is awesome and tragic and useless and inspiring and… you still don’t believe that I’m not making it up. Okay, let me see what I can uncover…
That quote is from a 2002 issue of Black Belt Magazine, one of the only two only known mentions of Martial Signing on our earth. It was documented on the martialsigning.com web page, which was abandoned about six years ago. As far as I know, the online store never worked, so I had to get a copy by mailing a $24.95 check to Matt himself in New Jersey. He was very polite and asked if I was deaf. Maybe because, according to that Black Belt Magazine quote, he thinks talking with your hands translates directly to tearing faces off with them. I’m not sure he’s right. Not only because that’s stupid as shit, but because I looked up his karate instructor.
Matt was a student of George Dillman’s pressure-point karate, and credits him on the DVD. If you’re not familiar, George Dillman is a many-time exposed fraud who claims to be able to knock people out without touching them, but it only seems to work on students who have been paying a man $200 a month to learn how to knock people out without touching them. Anyone who can look at George Dillman and think, “Jedis aren’t real, but hold on maybe this is one,” probably shouldn’t be taken seriously. But on that note, I fucking DARE YOU to take this seriously.
The philosophy behind this fighting system adapted from grift into deaf and then back into grift, is to use the muscle memory you already have from sign language to attack so you don’t have to learn how to chop or punch. So with that in mind, here’s how you battle your way out of an ambush by utilizing your natural instinct to say, “Welcome, Hello!“
I should mention by this point in the video, Matt has spent five minutes explaining martial arts. Not his martial arts, just martial arts in general. All that stuff about utilizing ASL muscle memory was from an article in a 2001 issue of the deaf newspaper, Silent News. Matt tells us, for the third time, how our attacker will be bigger and stronger, but we will use our superior intellect and senses to attack his “weaknesses.” Matt, if I’m your intended audience I can’t hear my enemies coming, am smaller than all of them, and only learned what “fighting” was 30 seconds ago. This “Welcome, Hello!” move better be amazing.
So you use the word “welcome” to bash their arm, paralyzing them. And then you use the word “hello” to wave their face into the ground. The only thing I’m leaving out are the awkward pauses and the lucky break of having an attacker with off switches on their arm and forehead. He does this move once, then replays it in slow motion, then again at full speed. Martial artistically, I’ve never seen anything like it. If you did this move on my four-year-old, she would thank you for helping her get out of her jacket and ask you why you’re such a pussy.
He’s off to a rocky start, but Sensei Matt, PhD is about to turn things around. Because after he demonstrates the arm-bonking, face pushing power of “Welcome, Hello!“, Matt moves on to the devastating “I Arrest You.” I know it may get confusing to have the wrong title in every gif, but I wanted to preserve the stunning transition effects of Introduction to Martial Signing.
Again, Matt opens with a speech about how much bigger than us our attacker is going to be. But he has some good news: “No matter how large an attacker is, their finger is always going to be smaller than your arm.” So what you’re going to do if someone points at you with a finger is point to yourself, grab their finger, and then point at them. This is, kind of, how you sign “I arrest you.” Take him away, officers. One count of pointing while being a little bitch.
Next up is “Love, Push.”
This one is easy. If someone’s shoving you, catch their wrists and use the ASL word for “love” to cross their arms. Matt explains how doing this will cause your attacker to, for a second, not be able to tell which hand is which. And it’s in that moment of confusion when they are looking down at two wads of fingers they don’t recognize, you “push” them. And as luck would have it, the sign language word for “push” is pushing. So to recap, if someone shoves you, no fuck that, you shove them. And it’s all thanks to the reflexive way the hard-of-hearing sign “Love, Push” at rude people.
Another important thing to know about this video is Matt walks the viewer through his reasoning behind each phrase. In fact, he spends much more time on this than he does on the moves themselves. In this case, he tells us how in martial arts, if a person is attacking you they are “sick.” So you give them love to “heal” them. Then you push them away because it didn’t work? It’s more than a stretch. It’s like watching a Zack Snyder fan represent himself in divorce court. So for each martial science move, Matt executes an attack that won’t work adapted from sign language words changed too much to be recognizable meant to form a phrase related to the situation only through a rambling magician’s generous interpretation. I’ve never seen anything so proudly confused about as many things as Martial Signing, and I’m an American.
Next up is Matt’s signature move, “You’re a Monster.”
The ASL sign for “monster” is to make kitty cat claws with both hands, and I already know what you’re thinking– my god, that’s the perfect way to grab a human head and slam it into the ground. This is an attack most people with heads and necks would call “optimistic.” Once again, Matt seems to have devoted more time to making this shaky premise work than he did on the actual technique. But to his credit, he really nailed it with this one. I’ll let him explain it in his own words: “If somebody attacks you, they’re a monster. So I’m going to call them… A MONSTER.” I would tell Matt he’s a genius, but I’m worried after his teachings, signing the word would shatter my own skull. Speaking of me, I once again promise I’m not making any of this up.
Next let’s learn “Grow Up and Be Nice.”
Sensei Matt, doctor of biostatistics, gives his full academic explanation of how he came up with the Grow Up and Be Nice move: “If somebody attacks you, it’s not a very mature thing to do.” During the first step, “grow up,” you lift your hand to slap them in the forehead. Then you “nice,” by sliding one palm over the other. It doesn’t sound like much, but if you do this while one palm is still on your opponent’s face, it should pop their head off. Grow Up and Be Nice utilizes the fundamental martial arts tenet of applying a very small amount of pressure to the hardest part of the human body and then doing something equally gentle while hoping your enemy stops attacking to see how it ends.
This next sign language karate move is going to sound like cheating because it’s simply called “Boxing” and the ASL word for boxing is boxing. And guys, boxing is punching! I think this one is going to work!
Leave it to Matt to take “as many punches as you want” and turn it into “one harmless forearm bash against our bully’s chest.” He doesn’t even give an elaborate origin story for this one. He only says, and I quote, “We’re going to do now is box. And you can… box.“
This move haunted my thoughts for days. How could someone with a full human skeleton conceive of this and think it would work? It’s not even a pressure point attack– you’re hitting him with the entire meat of your arm. It’s almost specifically the least amount of pressure a human body can produce with an attack. Then I remembered the words of Sensei Matt who once said, “A wise man once said, aim small miss small. Aim big, miss big. Somebody grabs you and you go to punch him in the chest and you miss… … chances are you won’t hit anything. However… if you aim for a small point on the chest and you miss, chances are you’ll still hit something. So aim small, miss small.“
I think he’s saying a point-blank-range chest punch is hard to land, and so is a finger poke to a hidden pressure point, but if you miss the pressure point, you’ll still poke one of the other pressure points. And what is a forearm other than hundreds of finger pokes going off at the same time against all of the chest’s secret weak spots? It’s like when football players evacuate their bowels, go unconscious, cum, and die after every insignificant impact. Anyway, we now know Matt is confused about at least one of the following: chests, sizes, aiming, points, or hitting. We’re ready to put it all together with “Not a Good Night.”
Matt is now implementing every aspect of sign language and pressure point karate — the two pillars of self-defense. He says, “Somebody grabs your wrist, we’re going to manipulate… the wrist joint. Somebody grabs your wrist, you’re going to tell them, hey, this is not a good night.” You pronounce this by swatting their wrist, causing it to break? He warns several times this technique is very dangerous, and sigh, let me try to explain why.
Matt was taught by George Dillman, discredited wizard, that slapping a body part sends the signal “this body part is in danger.” This same signal also tells the muscles around it to relax so the part in danger can be easily broken off? If there is any medical or karate data to support bones splintering when you slap them, it was not given and anyone with body parts can debunk it at home by missing a high five. It’s weird I’m this much smarter than them. I mean, deaf people have bones. Karate students have bones. I guess it’s sort of nice when you think about it because it means no matter how goddamn stupid or wrong Sensei Matt has been, no one in his life has ever told him. Anyway, let’s learn how to kill someone with the sign language word for “Music.”
Music uses more “joint manipulation” but we’re rubbing instead of slapping. First grab your enemy’s arm by signing “common sense” in ASL. Matt helps you remember this by saying, “It’s common sense to play some music.” And why not? Anyone sticking to this plan is going to die; you might as well let your murderer be haunted by the mystery of your final words.
I learned from Sensei Matt there’s a pressure point “like half an inch up from the elbow” that generates incredible pain when you rub it. You can try it now if you have the courage to feel 1.2 times the normal amount of arm-rubbing agony. Matt’s attacker is obliterated by it. The mighty pressure point master throws him down with an elbow wiggle and masturbates the sign language word for “music” into his tricep while glaring into the camera. We are next.
Next up is a move called “I Give You My Money” because everything about this is just the fucking best.
Matt levels with the viewer. “Suppose somebody wants your money. Best thing to do is give it to them.” He’s right. Not everyone’s sleeves are short enough to give you access to an elbow wiggle. Sometimes the safest move is to “give” your mugger what they’re asking for. Too bad for them, because in sign language “give” is pronounced “BITCH SLAP TO THE BACK OF YOUR NECK.”
The “you” and “my” and “money” part of this phrase aren’t really used. The little phrases were already something between pointless and counterproductive but now they’re being ignored completely! You’ve made it this far, Matt. Stick to the premise. I think I speak martial sign language well enough now to know the better phrase to use against this guy was “Grow Up and Boxing Boxing Boxing Boxing GIVE! You. Boxing!“
Matt’s next phrase is only the word “Break.”
This is somehow Matt’s dumbest yet best move yet. Someone approaches you, so you sign “break” while you break their pinky. It’s the same thing Steven Seagal does to you if he thinks you’re holding a subpoena. Matt says one thing to look out for, and this is real, is how the human nervous system will adjust to pain quickly, but you can outsmart it by wiggling their pinky for a while after you shatter it. I understand all the reasons you should never tell a hard-of-hearing person, “Are you fucking listening to yourself?” but Matt clearly would have benefited from that here.
This is kind of the danger in becoming an expert on something that doesn’t exist like pressure point karate — you can keep speculating on and adding more made-up things to it, and it feels like you’re gaining deeper expertise when in fact you’re getting further and further from reality. Then one day you look around and realize you’re doing Star Wars powers and using sign language to poke elbow chakras and you’re having your advanced students incorporate pinky wiggling because only they can be trusted with it. I’m making it sound like I don’t like it, but this nonsense clearly rules. We should all live our lives like Sensei Matt– lost in a world of imagination and incapable of hurting anyone even if we tried.
The last move is called “Remember Love” which sort of looks like you’ve hugged someone too slowly so they fell asleep. The best Matt could do to link the phrase to the attack was babble, “Remembering that a person attacking you is sick, we’re going to tell them to… remember love.” So let’s skip this one. It would get you killed, and for nothing. Let’s instead go to the surprise guest after the credits. Because like all good superhero movies, Introduction to Martial Signing has a post-credits sequence where a surprise guest appears.
It’s Linda Russell! The president from earlier! Throwing Matt into the carpet by his face with the power of sign language and calling his dead body a monster! I can express my thoughts on this only one way:
This article was brought to you by our fine sponsor and Hot Dog Supreme, Bim Talzer: who killed an entire biker gang by singing Stan Bush’s Fight to Survive with his hands.