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Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Beware Oklahoma Martial Arts Frauds

It is with some regret that I find that some people are still being taken in by tellers of lies and tall tales.

People, please understand: it is actually not all that uncommon in martial arts circles for people to tell lies. There is money in it. All someone has to do is convince people that he really does have rank from multiple organizations or arts, or has created his own art, or--one of my favorites so far--that his art was revealed to him in a dream by the ghost of a long-departed samurai, and people will actually pay to learn basics the likes of which can easily be picked up off basic instructional videotapes.

Or he might offer to instruct you via video and even promote you based solely on your performance of his techniques--on video! Yes, in some cases, it's true: you need neither actually attend classes nor actually do your belt tests in person. All you have to do is order the tapes, practice, and then have someone videotape your performance, and then send it in for evaluation. And pony up a fee, of course.

There are at least two notorious martial arts frauds in Oklahoma. I will not name names, as the modus operandi of at least one of them seems to be to respond to inquiries and criticisms with threats of lawsuits. Not that the fraud can't be verified, but last I heard, just fighting a lawsuit is an expensive proposition even when you win, so instead of just flat-out telling you who these people are, let me caution you: not every martial arts instructor in Oklahoma is telling you the truth about his qualifications and background. Be skeptical--very skeptical--about claims of extremely high rank in multiple systems. Take the simple step of googling his name and looking for criticism.

And lastly, don't exaggerate your ability to judge martial arts proficiency. Unless you have spent considerable time training in the martial arts, your ability to distinguish between a genuinely high-level martial artist and someone who is decently competent at a handful of basics may be worse than you think. In other words, the fact that your prospective instructor looks good to you may not amount to a hill of beans! Be careful before you waste time and money on a fraud.

AFTERTHOUGHT: I just looked, and much to my amazement/amusement, both these gentlemen have actually taken the risky step of putting up little videos on YouTube. No, I will not link, for the reasons stated above. But they are amazing, they really are. One of them showed a defense against a knife thrust, and this is what interested me: to the uninitiated, or to someone who was only familiar with sport karate, it had a surface appearance that looked very attractive. What the defense amounted to was a basic deflection, followed by rapid multiple hand slaps--ok, he did have a "knife" in one hand. It was done very fast, and if you didn't slow it down (I did), you might have missed the facts that:

A) They were just slaps, all slap and sting, no weight or power or zip behind them. For darn sure not palm strikes. Anything done with the non-knife hand was going to be little but annoying. And I'm none too sure about what was being done with the knife hand.

B) Not only did they appear to be largely undirected to specific targets, let alone vulnerable targets, it looked to me--heck, "look" isn't strong enough, they did--land on, in some cases, the sides of the attacker's upper arm. Understand: those weren't "checks" or "traps" or strikes to pressure points. The attacker just got slapped on the upper arm.

Oh, heck, go ahead and thlap me on the upper arm, you bwute! Yeah. That'd work.

C) Considering that the gentleman in question is touting his credentials as an instructor of an art that showcases trapping skills, it is interesting that, not only did the attacker's weapon remain completely uncontrolled, it actually wound up directly beneath the intructor's scrotum at one point. I am not certain that he noticed this himself, but it goes without saying, I should think, that you might want to avoid your attacker having his cutlery directly under the family jewels.

I will not criticize the total compliance of the "attacker." Demonstrations are demonstrations, after all, and as a rule, I don't expect the attacker to do more than go through the motions, since the instructor is usually attempting to illustrate possible responses rather than engage in high-intensity simulated close combat.

The upshot? It was precisely the sort of thing I would expect to look good to someone who was not actually all that familiar with the martial arts, but not at all like something I would be impressed with in the real world. You can deliver a barrage of relatively undirected slaps at an extremely high rate of speed. Try it yourself on a bag sometime. But that doesn't mean that they amount to a hill of beans.

Again, buyer beware. In this case, the buyer should be aware that, last I heard, this man charges something like sixty or seventy simoleons a month for one lesson a week.

And the other guy? He didn't look so hot either.

Maybe I'll recommend some martial arts videos...


  1. The youtube video is good for a laugh, and your right not to name names, he is quite quick to file legal action. Its a sad state of affairs and the thought of the poor saps world wide who send this fraud money just goes to point out that sometimes you do not get what you pay for.

    BTW do you have any knowledge of the Shikara Ashi Te Ryu group in Tulsa?

    Asian Festival is comming up again, hopwfully you will come introduce yourself to me.

  2. I remembered googling Shikara Ashi Te Ryu once, but didn't recall what I'd found, so I just did it again. Now I remember. Everything was in Spanish, except for a link on the Wild Bunch's website giving the time and location of classes. I went to YouTube and didn't see much of anything. The very little I did see did not appear to differ much, if at all, from what you would see in your typical American karate class.

    I can say that in all the reading I've done on karate history, I have never heard of Shikara Ashi Te Ryu. That does not mean it does not exist in Okinawa or Japan, but I think it is safe to say that it is not widely known there--if at all. If I had to make my guess, I would guess that it is a system comprised of Japanese or Okinawan roots, but formally organized as a system elsewhere, probably in Latin America. That kind of thing is not unknown. That is pretty much the story behind Robert Trias' Shuri Ryu, for example.

    I usually manage to make the Asian Festival and will try to do so this year, but the odds of me making myself known are very slim. More than likely, the only way you will be sure that I was there will be if you see some pictures of yourself showing up here. :)