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Sunday, January 3, 2010

Try Bullshido

I just read a little something on a martial artist that made me mildly curious, did a little searching, and came up with pretty much what I expected: the person about whom I was searching gives every indication of being a fraud. Not merely a fraud, but quite possibly a rather perverted fraud, at that.

Friends, you would not--would not, repeat, NOT--believe how much fraud there is in martial arts. Fraud, exaggerated or outright fabricated stories of incredible skills or abilities, exaggerated claims of rank, and so forth.

Off the top of my head, I can think of, very easily (Heck, no, I'm not going to name names! You think I'm eager to get sued?):

One local instructor--and I mean, in this case, "in the Tulsa area"--claims to be a high-level black belt in several different systems, including at least two that appear not to have heard of him at all.

Another person in Oklahoma who claims to have been granted teaching rank in a system that, last I heard, says that he attended a seminar--at most. Perhaps not coincidentally, the first person I mentioned claims to have been trained by this person--among others.

One person who very obviously had picked the "ninja" sections of the martial arts supply shops completely dry, and, having mastered some basic American Kenpo or something similar, attempted to pass himself off as a ninjutsu instructor. This person was also in the Tulsa area.

One person who attempted to pass himself off as a teacher of a school of kenjutsu, as well as a few other varieties of martial arts, including, if I recall correctly, a form of aikijutsu. I was utterly unable to trace the man's background. Every link, every mention, of those "martial arts" led directly back to this man. To this day, I strongly suspect that he picked up his skills from video and books. He actually wasn't bad; based on what I have seen elsewhere, I would have said that he would make a fairly decent aikido brown belt, and I would never knock someone for picking up skills from video and books (done it myself, for at least a few things), but if I'm correct, it's reprehensible that he passed himself off as having instructor's rank from anywhere.

There was a person running a "karate" school in Tulsa for a while who'd earned his shodan in Taekwon-do from a reputable instructor and then struck out on his own, and, according to what I've heard from people in a position to know, attended a seminar or two with Taika Seiyu Oyata and then tried to pass himself off as qualified to teach pressure-point techniques.

At least one fairly well-known system of martial arts is, as best I can tell after looking into it, simply Hapkido under another name, marketed as an ancient martial art practiced by a certain caste of Oriental warriors.

Taekwon-do itself is often marketed--or at least I've seen it marketed this way more than a few times--as the modern form of ancient Korean martial arts, when the reality is that it was founded in the 1950s and was, at the time, Koreanized Shotokan, right down to using the same kata. It has since changed and is now basically a kicking sport. Hasn't appreciably changed the marketing, as far as I can tell.

I can think of at least two highly-respected--and truthfully, pretty highly skilled--practitioners who promoted themselves to tenth dan (tenth-degree black belt).

The number of people who try to pass themselves off as masters of pressure-point techniques is, at this point, legion. At least one well-known figure has tried to pass himself off as having mastered no-touch knockouts, or knockouts by voice alone!

Another very popular system of martial arts in the United States was, as far as I can tell, founded by someone who added makiwara training and basic Okinawan karate to what he'd already learned from unknown sources in Hawaii and passed it off as a centuries-old family system. His students took off from there and added this and that and eventually came up with something that is actually not too bad, but it's amazing how many people think they're learning something centuries old when it really only dates back to the thirties, max.

Then there are the airport promotions--where a person gets on the plane in the Orient at second or third dan, and gets off the plane as seventh, eighth, or ninth dan.

I've seen one advertisement repeatedly in some martial arts magazines that advertises a video course of instruction that, if I recall correctly, guarantees to get you up to black belt level in that system. It's only a thousand bucks. You don't think they're actually selling black belt certificates for a thousand bucks, do you?

As far as I can tell, one of the first karate teachers in the United States came to the United States with some very basic training in what might be termed "generic" karate and gradually added to it over the years, picking up training from others when he could, 'til he knew enough to teach a whole system--only he didn't have a name, so, again, as far as I can tell, he made one up. It's not necessarily bad karate, as karate goes in the United States, it's just that you would get the impression from the name that the system was practiced by the palace guards on Okinawa or something, and the reality is that it's about as good a cobbled-together karate system as you could hope to find.

Shoot, years and years ago, when I was just a sprout, a Marine Reservist not too long out of Infantry Training School (I think I have the time frame right), I was working in a restaurant and the topic of martial arts came up. A co-worker said that he'd studied tai chi. Knowing that there are several different styles of tai chi--Chen, Wu, Sun, and Yang spring rapidly to mind--I asked him which style. He said, "Claw."

Ummmm--Hmmmmmm. And the pitiful part is that he didn't even stand to make any money off his deception, was just trying to impress me--me, a simple fast-food employee at the time. Other people have tried to tell me that they studied "ninja" (apparently not knowing that the name of the ninja's art was ninjutsu) or similar things.

I could go on. That's just what comes to mind off the top of my head, without having to refresh my memory in the slightest. I don't mean to be depressing. I'm just telling you that not every claim you see out there is legit. Some people rely on stuff like the Mormons do--you've heard about the "burning in the bosom" thing? Where they tell you that if you feel a burning in the bosom, that's their god telling you that the Mormons are telling you the truth?--and will make you think that your hot flashes are signs of internal energy and so forth. Some people rely on ridiculous stage magic. Some people just misrepresent themselves and what they teach.

If you're interested in studying martial arts, for cryin' out loud, please at least go to the trouble of doing some googling. Or search Bullshido, not to say that I agree with every jot and tittle of what those guys write, but since their ostensible specialty is ferreting out martial arts fraud, it's a good place to start.


  1. Nice post. I wrote a similar article a few months back - - but forgot to include airport promotions. I love that term by the way; did you coin it yourself?

  2. Glad you enjoyed the post; I'll take all the compliments I can get!

    I vaguely recall having heard the term "airport promotion" in a magazine article on TKD many years ago; I'm afraid I couldn't tell you anything more specific than that, but the term stuck with me.

  3. I just searched Bullshido for the guy that I had taken kung fu from (and actually I was a student of two of his students) and it seems that he has had a bit of a sordid past. The stuff I learned seemed completely legit and I only met the head of the school a couple of times.

    How legit are the opinions on this site? It makes me sad to think that this guy might be a fraud.

  4. Their opinions are as good as the evidence they cite and the links they post. They're not infallible, but in general, it seems to me that they're pretty good at sniffing around the internet and making phone calls. While I wouldn't want to take their opinions as the final authority on martial arts and martial artists, I would say that in general, if they think something or someone might not be legit, it deserves careful scrutiny before committing your time and/or money to it.

    I know to whom you're referring, Dave; all I can tell you is that based on what I found by googling around, he appears to be like so many others: someone who's got a good set of skills but is determined to market himself as something he probably isn't. Bottom line: get what you can out of your DVD, and when you've squeezed it dry, there are plenty of other resources available, some for free, that you can pick up at that point.

    Just my two cents.