The following is my response to a master's email. In the response, I broke the original email into sections and responded to each section. The master's comments are in bold text, my response is in normal text. I never heard from the master again.
I was really tempted to be offended about your notes on accreditation, until I realized that it is no insult to me or anyone else, but only a display of your own ego and narrow mindedness. The fact that someone holds another job in no way implies that they are not a "true" Master - in fact, it quite often means exactly the opposite - they aren't willing to sell out and give out black belts like the McDojos in order to make a professional living. Quite often the people who do it only part time are the people who would not sell their integrity out for money. I am one of those people.
Remember the name of the article, it’s “Accreditation.” Other articles in TKDTutor cover other bogus claims made by self-made “pseudo-masters”; this one covers their bogus education claims. I consider it a service to the public to inform them about fraud in the martial arts.
You seem to imply that people who operate large, successful martial art schools have sold out their integrity, and the integrity of their arts, for money. While this may be true in in some cases, there are also many large, highly successful schools that have high standards. While some may seek the easy way to get a black belt, such as by just declaring themselves one or by buying rank online, there are others who prefer to earn it the traditional way so that it means more to them. There are several “old school” martial art businesses in my area that have been successful for decades.
You've got a great deal of awesome info here, and I've spent quite a bit of time reading it. As a martial arts instructor of nearly 25 years nonstop, I would suggest that you be very careful about the accusations you level at other people attempting to discredit them. Often what you reveal does not achieve the intentions you hope for, but only reveals a misguided lack of insight or lack of experience on your own behalf. I consider us all students and instructors of each other, so I hope that you take this in a spirit of constructive criticism and consider really revising this article.
Are you saying that it is wrong to discredit frauds? Are you suggesting that we should just accept what every “master” or “soke” claims and not question it? How should I revise, the article? Should I tell people it is wrong to question a “master’s” credentials until they have been defrauded by him? Or, should I tell them to be aware of fraudulent instructors and tell them how to verify an instructors claims and credentials? How is wrong to discredit a “master” who claims false education degrees and titles? Just because someone founded a “new” martial art (new usually means it is just a new combination of other arts with a different name) it does not mean we should automatically believe what the “master” says and put years of our time and money into pursing the art only to find the rank awarded by “master” is worthless outside the front door of the “master’s” school.
In addition certification began with something even less accountable than asking someone else for it or mailing off for it - it began with someone make up rank and giving it to others. It began with people awarding themselves rank. Before we get too high on our horse we need to consider people like Jigoro Kano and ask ourselves if he was really a piece of trash and a fraud, as articles like yours would make him out to be (without naming him, of course.) I'd wager that there are thousands of Judo practitioners worldwide that would love to debate that. All ranks are made up. What really matters is whats being done in the classroom and in life.
I agree that all ranks were made up, but so was every man made thing in the world, including college degrees, medical licenses, real estate licenses, etc. What makes these things valid is their national acceptance as indicators that the persons holding them are authorities on the subjects. Just because a storefront martial art “organization” awards rank and title certificates to anyone who pays the membership fee does make the certificates valid. Some “masters” collect these certifications from every “certifying organization” on the Internet in a feeble attempt to appear to legitimate.
It easy to say that all that matters is what’s being done in the classroom and in life, but that does not make it correct. This is what we say to people who fail to achieve something. This is what the instructor says to the new students who failed a rank testing. This is what a coach says to players when they lose the game, but he knows that what really matters is winning and being successful, especially if he wants to keep his job. You can tell the bar association that, although you did not earn a law degree, you really worked hard in the classroom and you are a good person in life, but that will not get you a law license.
One of my instructors who lived, learned, and taught in Korea told me that this pride over certification is largely a heritage from people who came here and manufactured prestige and value around their own certifications in order to sell them for higher prices. He told me tha He said that us Americans are too naive to see the bigger picture, that all rank is a concept and created or imagined by someone else. Joe Lewis got his black belt in six months. Jigoro Kano awarded himself rank (as have many masters). So before we go waging too much war about pieces of paper and trying to make everyone else look like a fraud, we need to look at the bigger picture.
Let me guess, that instructor also had a collection of these “prideful” ranks. I agree that too much emphasis is placed upon rank, but putting too much emphasis on tangible things has always been the case with people. People have always wanted things, such as rank, that indicate their status, and that is not going to change. Rank also serves a useful purpose. Within a school or organization, rank serves as an indicator of expertise and experience; however, outside the school or organization rank is basically meaningless. People need to be made aware of this before they devote years of their time and money to a particular art, instructor, school, or organization.
When Joe Lewis got his black belt in six months and Kano founded Judo, they were breaking from tradition, and they were criticized for it by the martial arts community at that time and anyone considering studying under them should have been made aware of what they were getting into. After being made aware, if they still wanted to train with them, then that was their choice. In these two cases, if people chose to follow them, they would have made a good choice. However, “new” martial art styles and organizations appear and disappear every day, and any students who followed them wasted their time and money.
I'd agree with you that people should stay accountable to other people, as it benefits us all in various ways. I'd agree that in this day and age there's a lot of opportunity to do that, but I would not agree that everyone who holds a job as a security guard is not a real master.... In fact, I'd say that's pretty shallow and materialistic on your part. What if his morals do not involve material gain? I also would not agree that the way a person gets a piece of paper determines their value as a martial art instructor. Bruce Lee didn't even claim any paper and was repeatedly proving his skills superior when he was a college student and dishwasher... but I guess that makes him trash?
Did I say that everyone who holds a job as a security guard is not a real master? What I said was “Ask yourself, Why does this "professor" with so many PhDs behind his name have to work as a security guard?" Usually, the answer is because of a problem with the “professor’s” credentials. If a person with so many credentials is only working at menial jobs, it may be because the credentials are bogus. I changed the paragraph in question in TKDTutor to make this point clearer.
As to a security guard who considers himself master, if he attained his master status from a legitimate source, then he is a master, otherwise he only a master in his own mind.
As for Bruce Lee, he was a martial artist who was a successful television and movie star. If he had not been a movie star, only a few people would even know who he was. At the same age, Jackie Chan was just as skilled as Lee, and he has achieved even more film success than Lee, but he does not consider himself a master.
I work in a [regular job] because I need the money and have health issues. I also have no desire to have a prestigious job or become rich, because that kind of material gain could interfere with my personal moral beliefs. I've been teaching martial arts nearly 25 years without a break. I've watched TKD people who have a ton of certificates come in and sell black belts in 10 months to casual hobbyists who can't throw a front kick without being off balance even though there's nothing wrong with them. They keep 200 students consistently because people love to be called black belts and brag about their certificates.
What does having a prestigious job, being successful, and being rich have to do with one’s moral beliefs? Is it immoral to be successful and rich? It appears that you are being, dare I say—judgmental. There is nothing wrong with wanting money and prestige, and most people attain it while maintaining their integrity, morals, and religious beliefs; cases in point are Dave Ramsey and Samuel Cathy, the founder of Chic-fil-a.
In a spirit of friendship, but certainly one of constructive criticism and some degree of admonishment, I suggest you think about what you are suggesting about the lives of other people. I suggest you think about having this great and helpful website for an art you obviously love, and how you might influence them to be self-righteous and condemning in their views of decent martial artists, as you yourself have obviously become. As for the last paragraph under "note" that's just laughable... I'm sorry. Really. All I see is you being judgmental and ignoring the obvious truth - paper doesn't make martial artists, whether you like that or not.
What is laughable about the “note” at the end of the article? Do you deny there are frauds in the martial arts? Do believe in the “death touch” that can be used to kill now or at some later time? Do you believe in the “mind flash” that can incapacitate an attacker without touching him? Do you believe in the “deadly burp” that, after you eat special herbs, can propel deadly fumes at an attacker? Do you believe that a PhD awarded to a “master” by a “university” that the “master” created is valid? If you do not believe these things, then what is wrong with showing people that these “masters” are frauds, and that their instructors and students are dupes who are also frauds by association?
You say that “paper does not make martial artists, whether you like that or not.” That’s a grand statement; one that is stated all the time in various forms, such as “having a college degree does not make you smart” or “being certified does not make you a better mechanic than me.” While these statements may be true in some cases, the “paper” lets the uninitiated public know that some nationally recognized body of legitimate experts has verified the person’s claims and certified the person to be what he claims to be. Otherwise, the public can be easily fooled by a friendly, smooth talking con man. However, the paper must be from a legitimate certifying body. Using your logic, a person with no law degree and no bar certification who is able to perform all the skills of a lawyer should be able to practice law. This means that “prison lawyers” who spend their life sentences studying law should be considered lawyers. For some one who does not think much of certificates, you sure have collection a lot of them from "certifying" organizations.
It seems hypocritical for you to call me judgmental, self-righteous, condemning, narrow minded, misguided, shallow, materialistic, and egotistical for daring to question the credentials of “masters,” while:
- you judge me to be all of the above,
- you say there are masters who award black belts just to make a professional living while selling their integrity out for money, while you see nothing wrong with Joe Lewis being awarded a black belt in six months,
- you equate the success and wealth of some masters with them being immoral, and
- you think that I am wrong for questioning the claims and credentials of self-proclaimed masters, while you condemn TKD people with tons of certificates who sell black belts to unskilled hobbyists who know nothing about the real martial arts.
I guess the point of your comments is for me to practice what you preach, not what you do.