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#369437 - 11/10/07 11:34 PM Fraud and the Martial Arts
Raul Perez Offline
Professional Poster

Registered: 08/08/02
Posts: 2805
Loc: Lake Ronkonkoma, NY, USA
Being an Auditor by trade part of my responsibilities are to design tests to detect if any fraud or illegal acts have occurred at a client’s business. Although it is a difficult task, businesses have to adhere to federal, state, and/or regulatory provisions and laws. Therefore I can design tests to validate if the entity adhered to those specific laws or regulations.

Unfortunately to apply such procedures towards martial arts schools is an extremely difficult task. Besides having to adhere to State and Federal taxation laws and Generally Accepting Accounting Principles for bookkeeping there is no organization that regulates how a martial arts school operates. There are small and large organizations that attempt to govern and standardize specific martial arts styles however enrollment in these organizations is not mandatory.

Because of this glaring loop hole the martial arts market has been flooded with fraudulent activities such as: Forging of rank or status, buying rank from an incredulous organization, creation of a new system of martial arts with little or no actual formalized training, creating fake masters or teachers to support the newly created system, and claiming to have and teach “mysterious” martial applications. All of which has been easily perpetuated due to the general public’s ignorance regarding martial arts and the general perception of oriental customs, mysticism and folklore.

Martial art schools that may contain a higher risk of such activities are commonly referred to as “McDojos”. A McDojo as defined by www.wikipedia.com is, “a martial arts school where image or profit is of a higher importance than technical standards. While using the term McDojo primarily indicates judgment of a school’s financial or marketing practices, it also implies that the teaching standards of such school are much lower than that of other martial arts schools, or that the school presents non-martial arts training as martial arts. Sometimes, a McDojo's practices may border on fraud.”

Based on this it would appear that the only litmus paper to validate if the martial arts school is credible is to see if the practitioners/instructors can apply their chosen discipline in a combative environment (incorporating all ranges of combat) aka an actual street fight. In an effort to save yourself from unwanted medical bills and lawsuits from issuing challenge matches there are other ways to gain reasonable assurances regarding the credibility of a school.

Inquiry:

Have a conversation with the head of the school. Gain information regarding his former teachers, a description of his style, the origins of the style, how long has he/she been training, the current rank of the head instructor, is it tournament oriented or is it self defense oriented, do they spar and what rules are associated with the sparring, does he/she have documented proof of his lineage and certifications, which organization (if any) is the school affiliated with, what is the payment plan to enroll, how long have the other instructors been involved in the system, and who primarily instructs the classes (both children and adults).

Be aware that there is a significant issue of concern regarding 10th degree black belts (aka Sokes or Masters). Especially if the instructor is associated with or awarded rank from the “World Sokeship Council” or a similar organization. There have been no cases against the organization, of which I am aware of, but many cases of “suspected” schools with founders of martial arts systems have been affiliated with such organizations.

A system that does not engage in some sort of full contact environment is also suspect of being a “McDojo”. Any system of martial worth engages in some sort of resistant training or sparring. Schools that often lack credibility do not engage in such activities. There are many reasons why they do not. The usual answer is that their techniques are too “deadly” for sparring. The reality is that if full resisting partners were introduced most of the techniques these schools taught would be ineffective in subduing, injuring or even killing the assailant. Therefore to protect themselves from this reality the full resisting training is eliminated.

Payment plans used have also raised some issues of concern. Although it is not a universal litmus test, many schools that require students to sign contracts are often suspected of being a “McDojo”. The reason being is that once you have committed to a contract and you wish to discontinue your enrollment you are obligated by law to continue payments to the school until the contract has reached maturity. Non-payment would result in negative effects on your credit rating and/or impending law suits. Therefore the school has achieved a locked commitment from the student and ensured a steady revenue stream. More credible schools adhere to a monthly, class pass, or pay per class system whereby no contract is signed and discontinuing your enrollment would be of a less financial burden.

Observation:

Once the inquiry has competed and you are satisfied with the outcome of the discussion you should observe the class in which you or your family members are going to participate. You should also observe the advanced classes or black belt classes.

During the observation of the class you or your family members are going to attend you should note some of the following: does the instructor properly control the class at all times, does the instructor stress proper body mechanics, are some students treated as “favorites”, how does the instructor deal with non-attentive or disrespectful students, and are the techniques targeted at a low level (waist level or lower) or are the techniques targeted at a high level (above waist level).

During the observation of the advanced level class you should note some of the following: do the advanced level students performing crisp technical forms, is there a snappy aspect to their technique, is their technique somewhat lazy or sloppy and do they have proper body mechanics (i.e. hips square when punching). The advanced ranks are your barometer for the teaching ability of the instructing staff.

Again, although this is not the universal truth most schools labeled as “McDojos” offer more flashy and acrobatic techniques. This is associated with high level kicks, flying and spinning kicks as well as back flips and radically spinning weapons techniques.

Also, most but not all “McDojos” offer point sparring. This is which the participants engage in a sparring match where scoring is based on contact from the waist up. When contact is made there is a break in the match and a point is awarded. A common trait of “McDojos” is that point sparring is based on light or “fake” contact. “Fake” contact constitutes a technique coming close to the scoring area but not actually making contact but a point is awarded regardless of contact being made. To be clear there is nothing wrong with this type of training if that is what you are looking for. However, if you are looking for a more realistic or self defense oriented school a continuous full contact sparring that allows contact to most of the body (lower and upper extremities) is more suited toward your needs.

Participation:

After you are satisfied with the inquiry and observation of the potential school you should participate in the class. Most schools offer a free trial class to see if you like the training. During the participation you should feel welcomed in the class, the instructor should spend some time with you acclimating you to the techniques of the system or designate a proper upper rank to do so, and you should be involved in a sufficient amount of physical exercise whereby you are “breaking a sweat.

There has been a significant trend in some systems in which “no touch knock outs” have been employed as part of the training regimen. During such training a heavy amount of emphasis is based on energy projection of “chi” or “ki” and pressure point methodology based on “Traditional Chinese Medicine” or TCM for short. This type of training is regarded within the martial arts community as highly radical and the actual combative application of such methods are suspect to a high degree of criticism.
The techniques in such training usually involve passive resistance and static opponents to achieve a “knock out”. Also, the degrees by which each participant varies as to how they react towards energy projection and pressure point attacks. Some people are very “sensitive” toward such attacks while others are basically not affected. Often those of an athletic back ground are not as susceptible towards such attacks. Based on this high degree of variability the sole reliability on such techniques does not seem logical if your goal is self defense oriented. To date there seems to be no substitute for hard training based on blood , sweat and tears.

External Parties:

Finally, information obtained during the inquiry, observation, and participation phase should be confirmed through an external party. Such external parties include discussions or correspondence with the school owner’s former instructors, association to which the school is governed by, and internet research regarding the system, system lineage, and the school owner.

During your internet research you may obtain information which would bring to your attention areas of concern regarding the system or the particular school you are about to enroll in. There are currently internet organizations that dedicate their time to researching and exposing schools in which conduct themselves in a less than ethical manner. Most of these organizations conduct themselves in what is called “forums” whereby martial artists from various styles and ranks discuss elements that are commonly found in more legitimate organizations and systems. During these online discussions many schools suspected of being fraudulent or adhering to a “McDojo” practice are uncovered and/or exposed. These forums are usually discovered during your internet research if the school has had a turbulent history in the views of different organizations.

Although none of these techniques are absolute standing alone a combination of these procedures will give you more insight and empower you with the proper amount of knowledge to make a more informed decision. I wish you a happy journey on your quest for the right school and above all else train hard.

Regards,
Raul
_________________________
"I'm gonna come at you like a spider monkey"

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#369438 - 11/11/07 12:12 PM Re: Fraud and the Martial Arts [Re: Raul Perez]
MattJ Offline
Free Rhinoplasty!
Prolific

Registered: 11/25/04
Posts: 15634
Loc: York PA. USA
Excellent post, Raul! This is sticky material. I would add to the internet inquiry/research phase, a check of the school on the Better Business Bureau (or local equivalent) would be a good idea, too.

Great job, bro!
_________________________
"In case you ever wondered what it's like to be knocked out, it's like waking up from a nightmare only to discover it wasn't a dream." -Forrest Griffin

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#369439 - 11/11/07 12:24 PM Re: Fraud and the Martial Arts [Re: MattJ]
Raul Perez Offline
Professional Poster

Registered: 08/08/02
Posts: 2805
Loc: Lake Ronkonkoma, NY, USA
Thanks. I've been on the forums for well over 5 years so I figured I would contribute something of value instead of giving people the finger and biting ankles
_________________________
"I'm gonna come at you like a spider monkey"

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#369440 - 11/11/07 02:34 PM Re: Fraud and the Martial Arts [Re: Raul Perez]
cxt Offline
Professional Poster

Registered: 09/11/03
Posts: 5823
Loc: USA
Raul

Excellent post.

Thanks!

Can't tell you how many times someones marketing claims got them into trouble.

Fakes, frauds, chislers and scam-a-rei they just can't seem to help themselevs.

Educating the public is a neverending task.

The "soke" group you mention is often suspect because they extraordinarly low standards for membership, yet "sound" impressive ot the layperson.

As an aside, I'm not a fan of "continious" sparring unless closely watched---it has similar problems to "point-sparring" unless ITS ALSO closely watched.
Its hard to "continiously" spar after getting hit hard--so what you get is people "pulling" their shots.
Same problem with using the bogu to much, you sorta get dependent on the armor.

IMO, its not "types" of sparring that need to be avoided, its how they are used that matters.


Edited by cxt (11/11/07 02:44 PM)
_________________________
I did battle with ignorance today.......and ignorance won. Huey.

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#369441 - 11/11/07 10:05 PM Re: Fraud and the Martial Arts [Re: cxt]
JAMJTX Offline
Enthusiast

Registered: 12/01/02
Posts: 585
Loc: Fort Wayne, IN
The real problem is that fraud is so rampant that there is just no way any more to tell. Some of the most well known "experts" in the U.S., (especially on forums) are frauds themselves. Even respecetd publications have been known to prop up fakes and discredit good people.

Anymore, you students just have to find a school that they like and go there with the knowledge that most of the competing instructors in the area will say that teacher is a fake.

The best thing to do is just stay away from commercial schools in general. Look for someone that teaches out of thier home, a community center or other non-profit place.
Never sign any kind of contract.

One of the best things that "legitimate" schools can do is do away with the ranking system. If there are no ranks, there's no way to sell ranks and then there's no way to be accused of selling rank. Which has been happening since the very start of it.

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#369442 - 11/12/07 08:51 AM Re: Fraud and the Martial Arts [Re: JAMJTX]
harlan Offline
Professional Poster

Registered: 07/31/04
Posts: 6665
Loc: Amherst, MA
Commendable post, and I hope it gets 'stickied' for future reference.

I'd just like to reiterate JAMJTX's position that it's good advice for commercial dojos, with the reminder that not every newbie is looking for a discipline for it's 'martial worth'. Face it...many people that are very happy with their arts are not concerned with the martial side/potential.

As for scratching a bit deeper, to find non-commercial training, I think it's a bit trickier to go about verifying the 'credentials'. I wouldn't suggest the 20 questions approach if applying to koryu, or private dojos. Research is good, and an openness to answering questions is always preferable...but the 'contract' is different...and different rules apply.

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#369443 - 11/13/07 02:22 PM Re: Fraud and the Martial Arts [Re: JAMJTX]
Raul Perez Offline
Professional Poster

Registered: 08/08/02
Posts: 2805
Loc: Lake Ronkonkoma, NY, USA
Quote:

The real problem is that fraud is so rampant that there is just no way any more to tell. Some of the most well known "experts" in the U.S., (especially on forums) are frauds themselves. Even respecetd publications have been known to prop up fakes and discredit good people.




I'd have to disagree mainly because that is an extreme defeatist attitude. There are various ways as indicated in the initial post to validate that what they say they teach and the credentials which they say they have. If there is a lack of a paper trail that should be the first sign of something "wierd". Just because there may be a high amount of fraudulent behavior does not mean there is nothing we can do about it.


Quote:

The best thing to do is just stay away from commercial schools in general. Look for someone that teaches out of thier home, a community center or other non-profit place.
Never sign any kind of contract.




Disagree again. Just because it is commercialized does not mean that the instructor is not valid or has fraudulent tendencies. However, this may increase the risk. To just say all commercial dojos are fraudulent is unacceptable. I would just recommend obtaining more information corroborating the assertions made by the owner.

Quote:

One of the best things that "legitimate" schools can do is do away with the ranking system. If there are no ranks, there's no way to sell ranks and then there's no way to be accused of selling rank. Which has been happening since the very start of it.




Wishful thinking but not going to happen. Judo started the belt fad. But most judoka are pretty tough. Especially the higher ranks. Hell, BJJ is derived from Judo techniques and their belt system has strong merit. The problem is not the belt system. Is what each belt system means for each system. If all belt systems represented actual skill resulting from countless hours of being tested against resisting opponents we would have less "masters" amongst us.
_________________________
"I'm gonna come at you like a spider monkey"

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#369444 - 11/13/07 02:35 PM Re: Fraud and the Martial Arts [Re: harlan]
Raul Perez Offline
Professional Poster

Registered: 08/08/02
Posts: 2805
Loc: Lake Ronkonkoma, NY, USA
Quote:

I'd just like to reiterate JAMJTX's position that it's good advice for commercial dojos, with the reminder that not every newbie is looking for a discipline for it's 'martial worth'. Face it...many people that are very happy with their arts are not concerned with the martial side/potential.




Disagree with the commercial dojo situation. However I do agree with you regarding each person's expectations regarding different aspects of the martial arts. I tried not to make the initial post to go against the flashy martial arts but I tried to make a distinction. Because, in my opinion, the flashy stuff has a higher risk of fraud.

Quote:

As for scratching a bit deeper, to find non-commercial training, I think it's a bit trickier to go about verifying the 'credentials'. I wouldn't suggest the 20 questions approach if applying to koryu, or private dojos. Research is good, and an openness to answering questions is always preferable...but the 'contract' is different...and different rules apply.




Disagree. Everything applying to Koryu systems should and can be validated. Anyone can teach out of their garage and say they teach a secret, unchanged classical Japanese Koryu. What do they have to prove it. How was it handed down? Who was their teacher? can you verify it? Got Menkyo Kai Den?

Why, in your opinion, would questioning a teacher such as this would be inappropriate? Why is the contract different? What rules are different?
_________________________
"I'm gonna come at you like a spider monkey"

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#369445 - 11/13/07 10:52 PM Re: Fraud and the Martial Arts [Re: Raul Perez]
JAMJTX Offline
Enthusiast

Registered: 12/01/02
Posts: 585
Loc: Fort Wayne, IN
"Everything applying to Koryu systems should and can be validated"
Not necessarily. Some things can be verified through generally accepted history. But as for who is legitimately teaching Koryu, for the most part it's just a matter of whou you choose to believe. The politics has made it that way.
Take a look here at the Kondo Sensei thread in the Daito Ryu forum. Kondo Sensei is seen by some, including Aikido-Journal (a respected publication here in the U.S.) as being the inheritor of Daito Ryu. Now they try to paint other Daito Ryu teachers as illegitimate or atleast not teaching Daito Ryu. Yet, it is quite common knowledge in Japan that there are problems with Kondo Sensei's claim. So who do you believe?
I was just looking today at another well known and respected koryu web site. They have information about 2 koryu systems, 1 Kenjutsu the other Iaijutsu. I know that both articles contain fabricated information. The one person who they are holding out as "Soke" has changed his own training history on his own web site several times over the last few years. Also, his "sokeship" is widely disputed in Japan. But anyone looking for information on these styles may very well end up not training with a legit teacher based on the politics of this web site publisher.

The same publisher had an article that discredited a very well known teacher of Ninjutsu. Then they started selling books on the web site of one of this teachers students. Suddenly, that article is gone.

The Budo has become totally corrupt and polluted. Rank, titles and now even history and lineage mean absolutely nothing outside of your own dojo.

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#369446 - 11/14/07 10:51 PM Re: Fraud and the Martial Arts [Re: Raul Perez]
Ronin1966 Offline
Professional Poster

Registered: 04/26/02
Posts: 3116
Loc: East Coast, United States
Hello Raul:

Let's jump in this with both feet

1) What do you do with the my teacher is dead factor? How do we ask a dead person if you trained with them or not?

2) They have disappeared factor? (ie ~...she trained me back in 61-68 but became an alcoholic, disappeared completely off the map routine (or some variation of that kind of story)...~) How do you penetrate that one?

3) Trained in Foreign Lands. ~... she trained near the shuri district in a school in 1975 (sic. now closed)...~
How do you get around this logistic/linguistic nightmare?

4) Monk status/monk trained individuals? ie They trained you, you claim to be a Taoist/Buddhist/Hindu/Tibetian/etc. Priest. Better yet you changed your name. How the blazes do you pin this Jello down?


I can think of a dozen more easily.

Jeff

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