Sunday, May 16, 2010

Bad Business, Fake Black Belts and the Internet

The Internet has really changed the business of martial arts. It provides fantastic access to a variety of styles. It provides information, opinions and videos of martial arts in action. I often spend spare time searching various martial arts topics. The Internet has provided me the opportunity to share this blog. I'm a big fan.

The Internet is one of the easiest ways for a budding artist to find a school, club or dojo in their area. It's great for clubs to showcase their style and provide information on their art and their qualifications.

As with anything, buyer beware. I've noticed lots of websites where the instructors list black belts in multiple styles, sometimes in to the double digits.

How is this possible? How can an instructor in his/her 30's, 40's or even 50's have gained that many degrees?

I'm not suggesting that there aren't qualified instructors out there with multiple black belts, but earning black belts takes years and years of intense training.

So how does it happen? Bad business and give away belts, that's how.

A Sensei whose skill and experience I highly respect shed some light on the subject. He sometimes posts videos on the Internet of seminars, demonstrations and special events for his dojo. This is available to all and is a great showcase of his art and a training tool to his students and other viewers. He received an envelope in the mail. It was postmarked from overseas. Inside was an "official" certificate promoting him to a 2nd degree black belt in a style he had never taken. The certificate was sent from a self proclaimed master that wanted to be issued a black belt certificate in return, to 'beef' up his credentials. The Sensei I know had chuckled and threw the package away but told me that it's not an uncommon situation.

That 'master' from overseas likely has a whole bunch of black belt rankings listed on his website.

This is a sad state of affairs. It is made more unfortunate for anyone starting out. How is a new person starting out supposed to know that the website that lists an instructor having one or two black belt rankings is likely far superior to one that lists a dozen?

Any belt or any rank should be earned. If it's not, it's not worth the paper it's written on or the dye in the belt. This phenomenon of trading belts and rankings essentially sight unseen over the Internet is disturbing.

When searching for a school or instructor, ask lots of questions. Legitimate teachers won't mind and will provide lots of information about their qualifications and any rankings they may hold. They are proud of their accomplishments and their teachers and won't hesitate to share this information. Source what they tell you.

My Sensei would list only one style. He has incorporated aspects of some internal arts into his Jiu Jitsu teaching. He has spent over 3 decades learning, teaching and perfecting his art. If he had a website, he would only list the one black belt (albeit a high degree black belt). It is my fear that in this world of 'more is better' and shifty fake belts, potential students might be drawn to a school that lists the instructor as having mastered 15 styles.

It takes a lifetime to truly master an art, so do your homework.

I believe it was Bruce Lee who said "I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.

Use the Internet to your advantage. It contains vast amounts of great information on martial arts. Remember though, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.


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  2. Great post!

    You are right..."the internet has changed the business of martial arts".

  3. Buyer beware has never been so relevant. Thanks for the comments.

  4. Learn Japanese says: I agree, the Internet is both a great sea of both information and misinformation. Asking questions might be a good way of filtering the legitimate businesses from scam artists... but the latter will always find ways to convince you that what they offer is "legitimate"... oh well, for these instances nothing like visiting a dojo in person I think.

    Journeyman, one question... have your marital art skills come in handy in a real life situation? Have you ever used them in order to defend you life?

  5. Great point. There is always some new, shiny program out there to take your dollars.

    As for your question. I have used my martial arts on several occasions. They have worked in more situations than they have not, but I have also learned some hard lessons. Equally valuable is learning what doesn't work and why. I have been fortunate overall, but real world application caused me to re-evaluate all of my training and I am now very critical of what I learn. In my mind, it must work in a dynamic environment.

    I guess to answer you question, yes, I have used my training to defend my life, but more often than not, it was the ability to recognize a threat in advance and negate it before engaging in a life and death battle. Awareness and the proper mindset trump technique most of the time. Thanks for the question and comment.

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