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cults in MA

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  • cults in MA

    this is a very serious and touchy subject and i'm not sure i want to get into it either, but i think that the topic, in general, is conspicuously avoided on the web, and it shouldn't be.

    i was browsing the web yesterday (another thing i do when i should be working), and i came across an article that got me thinking about a subject i hadn't really seriously considered. the types of attitudes and behavior described in this article definitely match a few martial artists i know personally, and i can't help but think that, if they signed up for the wrong karate class, they could be in serious danger of finding themselves in a bona fide MA cult. for an idea of what i'm talking about, you might want to give this article a once-over (it's pretty damn long and it gets repetitive, so you probably don't need to read the whole thing to get an idea of what it's talking about).

    i was going to post this link in the "virtues related to martial arts?" thread, but i decided against it. the two topics are certainly related, but cults are a very extreme case of good MA gone wrong, and they definitely comprise the minority of MA schools in the states today. i didn't want to insinuate otherwise by getting the threads mixed up.

    any kind of cult is dangerous, especially religious and political fanatic cults, and MA cults are probably less so. however, they still pose a danger to those whose insecurities make them susceptible to this kind of behavior. being a creation of the MA world, i think it's up to martial artists to discredit these groups, possibly by dispelling the "superman"-type myths that draw potential victims to them. i think we might be surprised just how popular some of these groups may be, especially on the internet. how many times have you found yourself in this conversation?

    There is a weird mindset shown in many Internet martial arts forums--especially those belonging to a particular system or organization. It's where the true believers of a self-defense guru/ultimate fighting system get together and divide their time in five basic ways.

    One: Telling themselves--and everyone else--what badasses they are for studying the ultimate art of "bigdikdo." They show how advanced in the art they are by going into filibusters over the most inconsequential details and obscure advanced techniques.(1)

    Two: Trying to convince themselves that bigdikdo never fails by coming up with fantasy scenarios where their uber-fighting system will kick ass--if it ever happened (which is very unlikely). (2)

    Three: Ripping people apart who a) don't agree with them, b) are foolish enough to point out that something is wrong with the true believer's spiel or c) sometimes just ask an innocent question.

    What is most revealing about this aspect is how often these attacks boil down to the attacker charging the victim with not having the right knowledge, mindset, warrior spirit or understanding--not problems with physical technique. In other words: To "get it," you must think a certain way. And that brings us to one of the most telling signs of a cult, mind control/group think. And as George S Patton said, "If everyone is thinking alike, then somebody isn’t thinking.”

    Four: Sneering at any style other than their "revealed" way or ultimate fighting system. And let's not forget displaying rude, contemptuous behavior toward practitioners of these "lesser" systems.(3)

    Five: Deriding any other instructor who isn't their grand master/self-defense messiah. The head of their system is the all-knowing poo-bah ultimate warrior, and everyone else is full of ****, dontcha know? (4)

    All levity aside, this too is an incredibly telling point. One of the major criteria experts use to determine cult status is "revealed" or "superior" teachings. And these teachings supersede conventional knowledge or even that of other experts in the field (e.g. , David Koresh, as the messiah, was considered by the Branch Davidians [and himself ] to be superior in understanding to all other religious experts/priests/ministers/institutions. That's a lot of knowledge and experience to be superior to). This can come in many forms, (i.e., the right interpretation, the true version, the better mousetrap version or the modernized system). With this idea in mind, arguments over which camp has the true version of a martial art style take on an entirely different--and more sinister--perspective.

    These five types of behavior have nothing to do with effective self-defense and far more to do with being a cult member. Cults come in many flavors and many degrees of involvement. Although martial arts/self-defense cults have a few very specific spins and tweaks, when you compare overall behavior, you can see how they fall into the same general patterns as religious cults.

    Below are links to various professional sites that give not only the warning signs of cults, but also members' behavioral patterns. We invite you to take a minute and follow them. Many of the warning signs mentioned there can be applied to much of the behavior you see on Internet forums. And if you are really unlucky, you will see it in your martial art school.

    Links to "warning signs of a cult" Web pages Cultic Studies Journal FactNet Religious Movement Resource Center Ross Cult Information Centre (UK) Dave Arnott
    granted, as the article stresses many times, the line between a legitimate school and a cult is not always clear. but just as there are definitely 100% legitimate schools out there, there are definitely cults, and it seems to me that, not directly having to do with the practice of their own martial art, a lot of martial artists simply ignore the problem.

  • #2
    Interesting, yes, one thing the system I study in, is taught, is there are no big secrets.

    There are some stuff that just doesn't matter. Thing is too live in schools. I think it could be difficult to tell a martial arts school for a cult. But you bring up David K, what is it he wanted? He wanted power over people. He wanted to help himself, not others, this I think is the exact opposite of what a martial arts school should be.


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