Someone I knew told me that if a black belt in martial arts is pulled over, he/she has to tell the police that he/she is a black belt because he/she is a deadly weapon.

I told him that I didn't believe him because that sounds way too much like a threat, but he seemed really convinced that it was true.

Is it true?


1 Answer 1


Hard to prove a negative, but the answer is no. Here's some support:

By Jonathan Maberry

This is one of the oldest American martial arts legends, and there is absolutely no basis or reality in it. First off, there is no department or process within the U.S. government to regulate martial arts, which means there is no instrument in place to identify persons practicing fighting arts, and no governmental method by which practitioners can be evaluated. ... Actually there is not a country on earth where martial artists are required to register themselves as weapons, deadly or otherwise.

This myth has its roots in two different aspects of mid-20th century history. In post-World War II Japan traditional martial arts were made illegal, and records were kept of those persons who were experienced practitioners of the arts. This was a bit of anti-Japanese backlash following the war and lasted only a few years. It has not been repeated, and it never spread beyond the borders of Japan.

The other root is planted in the soil of the rich and often outrageous history of professional boxing. In the Joe Lewis era (the boxer, not the karate master), it was a common publicity stunt to have police on hand during a press conference to “register” the boxer as a deadly weapon. Understand, this was just a publicity stunt and carried no more legal weight than receiving the Key to the City actually means you can open any door with it and just walk in.

In court cases involving violent confrontations, lawyers and judges may advise the jury to bear in mind a person’s martial arts, boxing, or military combat training when evaluating the facts of the case. For example, in the Matter of the Welfare of D.S.F., 416 N.W.2d 772 (Minn. App. 1988), the Minnesota Court of Appeals concluded that the defendant, who had "substantial experience in karate," was aware enough of the potential of his blows to deliberately break the plaintiff’s jaw. But that is a lot different from legally stating that the person in question is a registered or licensed “deadly weapon”.

  • 2
    Not exactly. They can be charged with felony assault, and the prosecutor can argue they were likely to cause grave bodily harm due to their training/expertise, but I defy you to produce a finding in law that bare hands or feet constitute a "deadly weapon," because that is a defined term of art.
    – feetwet
    May 27, 2015 at 3:26
  • it is also worth considering that one can cause any manner of bodily harm and even death without a weapon, even in the absence of any training or expertise.
    – phoog
    Jun 15, 2015 at 19:33
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    @phoog Indeed. The FBI keeps data on the weapons used in US homicides. The category "Personal weapons" (punching, kicking, pushing, etc.) accounts for more homicides than rifles and shotguns combined. Jul 4, 2015 at 17:19
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    @DanHenderson: It is also purely B.S. I would love to see a form and/or statute from any U.S. government for "registering a deadly weapon." We don't even have gun registries, except for a few rogue municipalities.
    – feetwet
    Jul 30, 2015 at 3:52
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    @DanHenderson: I also can't imagine a reasonably sane person would have tried more than once to "notify an airline" of one's status as a "deadly weapon." Or maybe this happens frequently enough that they have a canned response, like, "OK, sir, we'll notify Homeland Security." Or, "Sir, as you know, the TSA has banned deadly weapons from commercial flights. Please be sure to remove your hands before passing through security. You can put them in your checked luggage."
    – feetwet
    Jul 30, 2015 at 13:16

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