Not everything in the martial arts is real. There can be a good deal of fraudulent activity about which you will want to remain vigilant. In this article we will cover some of the questionable things you will see in the martial arts.
An unfortunate issue in the martial arts is that there are numerous charlatans who make some pretty fantastical claims about their abilities. People who claim to be able to throw someone from across the room without ever physically touching them is a typical example.
As another example consider someone who demonstrates their abilities with a student or other partner. The student makes a straight forward attack and then the person doing the demonstration strikes their partner seven times and then throws them to the ground, stomps on them, and explains this is one of the many ways in which he or she might handle such an attack. You may wish to notice the student struck once. The defender struck at least nine times. This is a very unlikely scenario, especially if the defender did not somehow immediately compromise the structural integrity of the student. Any scenario in which a person attacks with a single strike, and the defender then responds with innumerable subsequent maneuvers is highly questionable.
The above situation can occur if the student was first rendered incapable of striking again by manipulation of his or her structure. But if the student is simply standing there and absorbing blows then it is not a realistic demonstration. And of course if you were able to render someone incapable of striking you why would you then need to strike them multiple times?
The other thing you may wish to notice is it seems nearly every third person in the martial arts is a grand master. We don’t use terms like this in Tensoku Ryu because we think it is misleading and frankly demeaning to those rare individuals who were grand masters. When you see someone who looks to be about 30 years old who is claiming to be a grand master, you must pause to consider how much they could possibly have learned in the relatively little time they have been a practitioner. While the person may have viable martial arts skills, they may yet to have gained the level of maturity and experiences associated with someone who has been working in the arts for two, three or even four times as long. You should not disrespect someone who makes such claims, but you need not hold them in high reverence simply because they claim that title. Allow the person’s skills, knowledge, demeanor, experiences, and wisdom to help you decide who is worthy of reverence.
Cult following is somewhat related to the earlier discussion regarding charlatans, but it goes beyond that significantly. Some charlatans are able to convince relatively large groups of people to accept their principles and fictions as fact. This may happen even though logic would suggest that people should avoid the charlatan and his or her teachings.
As you examine any martial arts system you must look to see whether the art is designed to promote an individual or to promote an art or system. Where an individual is promoted above all else you may have uncovered a cultish organization. You may want to proceed with extreme caution.
When I was still a relatively new instructor I encountered this phenomenon very close to home. The head of our school was looked upon with great favor by most of the student body. There is nothing at all wrong with that. If you have a great instructor you should cherish him or her and what they can bring from you. However, many of the students began to take it too far and began to infer that the head instructor had god-like qualities. For some reason this spread and the school started to feel more like a cult than a martial arts organization. People started proclaiming they would follow the head instructor anywhere and do anything he asked.
Luckily, the head instructor is not a cultish type person. He seemed to recognize what was happening and took rather dramatic steps to put an end to it. The problem went away quickly, and just in the nick of time. I had decided I would need to leave the school and seek training elsewhere. Luckily the changes occurred before I had fully explored this option. We never again had a similar problem in the school. However in retrospect, I could have done more to dispel the growing cult-like behavior, but I was still a relatively new instructor and not yet wise enough to recognize I could be effective at squashing this growing problem.
I recall another case in which the head of a martial arts system was looked upon with great reverence. A student was promoting this system-head to others on a martial arts forum when another forum participant mentioned that the head of the system had a questionable past. The student then replied that he did not care if the head instructor was named Hitler, he would follow him anywhere to learn what would be taught.
Whoa! I couldn’t have made the point better myself. The martial arts is more than simply the study of destructive fighting skills. It has more to do with being a good person than anything else.
Do Not Draw Conclusions (Verify Everything)
It is easy during studies of the martial arts to reach conclusions that are not founded on fact. It is prudent to therefore adopt a policy that everything you conclude should be supported by some form of research.
Unfortunately there is a tremendous amount of misinformation in the martial arts. Sometimes this comes about from people reaching unfounded conclusions, but sometimes it comes from the culture of the martial arts or from outright deception. Sometimes deception is used to take advantage of students. Sometimes deception is used, in a more positive vein, to withhold fundamental information from students until they have achieved a certain level of capability and trustworthiness.
Here are a few examples of misinformation common in the martial arts.
- Japanese martial arts are “Hard Style” while Chinese martial arts are “Soft Style”
- Japanese martial artists are very linear in their movements while Chinese martial artists primarily utilize circular movements.
- Everyone with a black belt is a devastating fighting machine.
- This or that martial art system is completely ineffective.
- Martial Art A is better than Martial Art B.
- This or that martial art system is unbeatable.
- This or that martial art is the most complete system in the world.
- You can break someone’s nose and then drive it up into their brain to kill them.
There are, unfortunately, a very large number of these myths and false perceptions about the martial arts. It is easy to hear one of these misconceptions and to take it as fact. The problem is compounded when we then relay this “fact” on to others. Over time the fact is further twisted and amplified until it becomes widely accepted as absolute truth. It is a bit like the myth that when you achieve the rank of black belt you must register your hands as deadly weapons. This is a very widely held belief in the general public. If you live in the United States or Canada it is also complete nonsense. It is possible that a few countries may have other traditions, but for most of the world this is no more than a myth.
Many martial artists are lured into the world of fantasy by the origin myth. Many martial arts are promoted as having been developed by some secretive elderly bearded monk who lived in a cave and taught only a very limited number of worthy and extremely humble students. These secretive and deadly skills were then passed down from instructor to student for generations all while maintaining absolute secrecy about the associated skills and training practices. As a student of this art you now have the privilege of learning some of these advanced and wondrous secrets that nobody else will ever learn, understand, or appreciate.
The fact is that most martial arts systems you read about have been around for a century or less. This includes Karate, Aikido, Taekwondo, Krav Magaw, and of course, Tensoku Ryu. Judo is a bit older, originating in about 1882. To be fair, all of these styles make reference to skills that were learned from earlier teachings. Usually these styles evolved as a way of pulling together and unifying information from several different existing systems. But these were not the first group of people to unify various martial arts systems. It has been going on for centuries. Nobody can validly claim that they are teaching the original martial arts style. There is no such thing.
The point of all this is that the martial arts culture has more than its share of myth, rumor, falsehoods, and deliberate deceptions. Most of what you hear will be valid information, but some may be not based on fact. To ensure you are viewing things correctly you should always strive to seek out the underlying truth about anything you learn. Verify everything. By undertaking these verification efforts you will undoubtedly learn a great deal more about both what is true and what is not.