I am not surprised to see one of the groups that I was volunteered onto has become embroiled in a large discussion over whether or not we ought to be outing the fakes and denouncing the frauds of the budo world. I remembered a much more interesting discussion from the past where someone was wondering if he himself was legitimate.
My answer is that all we can do is teach as we were taught and as we please (as we feel is correct). Our students will stay or go, learn or not, and generally go on to teach as suits them, but we can’t hand it to them on a plate any more than you can hand on your values to your kids by giving them whatever they want whenever they want.
The martial traditions aren’t entrusted to us any more than our culture is entrusted to us. Our teachers taught us and gave us permission to teach, and that’s the extent of it. We either follow their way, find a new way, or go some other way but no matter what we do, in the long run what matters most is that we’re good people. Perhaps some of our students will see that and learn how to be good themselves but that’s hardly our main concern.
Worrying and watching and playing Koryu Kops may be fun but it really is no substitute for simply practicing. One can’t legislate skill, talent, integrity or kindness. One can only embody and demonstrate it oneself.
One can “teach” how to beat people up, one can only “show” how not to. One can worry about “keeping the line pure” and “revealing fakes and frauds” or one can simply practice. I highly recommend the latter, it saves a lot of time, does your own students a lot more good in the long run, and does no real harm. The “fakes and frauds” of the martial arts world are no more dangerous than any other school of physical skill out there, like dance schools, yoga classes, or what have you. Anyone damaging or abusing kids will be sorted out by parents or police long before we on the net would find out and need to worry about it.
It’s only hubris that leads us to think we need to (or can) protect something that cannot be protected, and does not need protection. No one of us can “save” a martial art from extinction. If we’re not the “last of the line” we’re not in charge of that, and if one of us is the “last of the line” it’s not likely to survive us the way it was handed down to us (otherwise we wouldn’t BE the last of the line), and if we change it (to get more students) it isn’t what was handed down to us is it?
And if we “invented” the line… well that speaks to hubris itself.
So, to repeat myself yet again, we simply practice. Students find us or they don’t, they practice or they don’t. Our line continues or it doesn’t.
Somewhere I’ve got video of one of the major budo cult figures ever to be around the West, a fellow who, as far as I know, knew next to nothing, set himself up as a major inheritor of the koryu, and had some of the biggest of the big guns looking to break his neck at one point… this was quite a few years ago when it was thought that a more direct approach than internet forums was appropriate.
OK it was before the WWW.
Thing is, aside from some students who may have felt cheated and or embarassed, I don’t see any particular harm from his era. In fact I’ve met some of his students over the years and they are extremely polite, well mannered, and do what they do with great enthusiasm and precision. I did call it a cult didn’t I?
I see no lasting problem with his teachings, and I haven’t heard anything from him in years so I suspect he and his group will simply disappear as time goes on. I’ve watched a lot of frauds disappear.
When I was younger, during the ninja craze, we also had our local grandmaster show up and I was actually in the club for a while… helped him start up in fact, since his first adventures as a grandmaster were in an informal bunch of us head-bangers who did several different martial arts and met a couple times a week to beat the hell out of each other and do situps until we threw up. (That particular bunch of frauds even developed their own single and double baton exercises for some reason). It was fairly obvious from day one that he was not legit, but it was all exercise and nobody died while I was involved at least.
On the other hand, the decidedly legitimate Do Pi Kung Fu group that was around at the same time did have the occasional dislocated hip from the way they stretched. The group was booted out of the full/semi contact circuit in the area because they kept knocking people out in tournaments.
As for necessary warnings, I don’t see too many threads around that are telling of clubs where the women are regularly preyed upon by senior students, where instructors have put cameras in the women’s changerooms, where… oh you know what I mean, and these are all things that I’ve run across personally, not rumours. They are also all things that happen in legitimate dojos as much as in the “fakes”.
But I also know that these things happen in yoga clubs, in volleyball leagues, in schools and in homes. I have taught women’s self defence for 25 years so I’ve heard it all.
All of that is best taken care of by the police, not by internet chat forums, but by all means, let’s discuss those folks. Oh wait, lawyers. I don’t see a lot of value in discussing legitimate lineage but I’m afraid that’s what we’re left with.
“OY this guy is pathetic, his students don’t even fall down nicely for the camera, you want to believe this stuff and study with him, go ahead. It’s not going to hurt you, and you’ll learn something perhaps… if only to ask questions next time.”
Fakes and frauds? They’re everywhere, you can find the same sort of threads on the modeling forums, all about fake modeling agencies. Those go from harmless twits who simply can’t get models jobs but like to pretend so they can be around purty gurls, through small town agencies that make their money selling modeling lessons to scam artists that hook up with photographers to charge hundreds of girls thousands of dollars to develop a portfolio and then skip town to set up under a new name.
Given a choice between a couple hundred dollars in fees for some exercise and thousands of dollars for a major loss of self esteem just when you can’t afford it as a young girl, I’d say the martial arts fraud is an easier lesson.
Sure it’s all sleazy and distasteful, but it’s also self-correcting. The students themselves will alert everyone else and parents will involve the police when necessary. I don’t have to go looking for it, I find enough of it just being around.
How best to serve your traditions? I suggest that for me, it’s by getting on with my practice, and I won’t ignore that further to advise anyone else to do the same.