Martial Arts Madness in the Martial Arts World Today – Shihan Bohdi Sanders

Martial Arts MadnessMartial Arts Madness

Everywhere I look today, it seems like the world of martial arts has gone mad. When I started martial arts back in 1984, I never heard of a “grandmaster.” The only people I personally knew with a rank of 8th or 9th Dan were Japanese masters and they did not call themselves grandmasters. The rank of 10th Dan was basically unheard of back then; we knew that it was the highest rank you could obtain in karate, but we didn’t know anyone who had obtained such a rank.

Thirty-three years later, I see grandmasters everywhere! I have met so-called martial artists who claim to be masters in 5-6 different styles. I have seen 10 year old “masters.” I have met one guy who claims to be a “living legend” (self-proclaimed of course). I met another guy who claims he is such a badass that the marines actually declared him to be a “one-man army.” I know of another so-called martial artist who claims military honors which he never had such as being a sniper. I know another martial artist who claims he is the best martial artist in the United States (of course this is only when he is not high on crack or meth). THIS is martial arts madness!

It seems that the martial arts community has become a magnet for those guys who have ego issues, who were bullied as a child and now have a chip on their shoulders, and guys who want to buy their respect and their rank. The martial arts community appears to have strayed so far from what Master Gichin Funakoshi envisioned when he stated, “The ultimate aim of the art of karate lies not in victory or defeat, but in the perfection of the characters of its participants.”

Today it seems that the ultimate aim of martial arts is to inflate your ego, learn to yell very loud, get as much rank as possible, purchase a martial arts hall of fame award, and declare yourself a master, grandmaster or lord poopa. Where is the drive for perfection of character? Where is the honor and respect? Where is the humility and work ethic?

The search for perfection of character seems to have been replaced with a search for rank, certificates, and cool belts. Honor seems to have been replaced with deviousness, politics, slander, and backstabbing. Respect seems to have become something you buy instead of something you earn. Humbleness seems to have been replaced with arrogance and lies. And work ethic seems to have been replaced with smoke and mirrors. This is not the way the martial arts community should be. THIS is martial arts madness!

The advancement of technology has greatly increased the loss of true martial arts values. Today, people can create their own rank certificates and buy their own black belts for as little as $5. And if you have enough money, you can even buy your rank from another grandmaster. It seems you can get anything you want in the martial arts world today, for a price – anything, that is, except for the ability to actually defend yourself in a real fight.

Technological advancements even help the cowards fight their fights today. Today cowards and those with low character can hide behind their computer screens and fight their battles from the safety of their own homes, or their mother’s basement. They just set back and spread malicious gossip and lies. It is easy for them. They simply make up lies about someone they dislike, and then post a few blog posts on the internet, send out dozens of emails to someone’s acquaintances, and BOOM, they have damages some poor guy’s reputation.

They know that most people will believe their gossip as soon as they read it or hear it. It’s a given. After all, these so-called “martial artists” figure that most people are too stupid to question their lies or to actually do their own research on the subject. So it’s easy for them to destroy anyone that they don’t like. How far the martial arts world has fallen! THIS is martial arts madness!

When I started martial arts, my instructors were people who you absolutely did not want to get in a real fight with, but today, many “martial arts” instructors are more like dance coaches than true martial artists. The actual definition of the word martial has to do with being warlike and fierce, but in today’s politically correct environment, many have turned the martial arts into a hobby, kid’s games, and a sport. The martial arts were never meant to be a sport, but a means of self-defense. Competition was a way to build self-confidence and to compare your skills with other martial artists.

Go to any tournament today and you will see lots of people screaming holly terror, squatting as low as possible, and basically doing gymnastics routines. What the hell does any of that have to do with self-defense? Yes, they are good athletes, but does anyone actually believe that these guys can defend themselves in the streets against some MS13 member or an experienced street fighter? If what I see at today’s martial arts tournaments is the example of a martial artist, please don’t call me a martial artist; I think I prefer the term self-defense connoisseur or something.

The difference between sports and self-defense is like night and day. I no longer go to tournaments or do belt tests, and I never have any intention of being called a grandmaster. I train with a higher purpose than sports training or recognition. I train for one thing, and one thing only today – to keep my skills sharp for the one day when I might actually need to use them to save my life or someone else’s life.

In my humble opinion, the martial arts world has lost its way. Too many martial artists have forgotten the traits of honor, character, respect, humility, courage, and endurance. Martial arts have become a game, a sport to be played. The “martial” part of the arts has been ignored. It is more about athleticism and memorization today. THIS is martial arts madness!

Being a black belt used to mean something! It used to stand for something special. Thirty five years ago, if you were a black belt it meant you could absolutely defend yourself. Today it means you paid your instructor for at least a year or two of “training” and belt tests. For God sakes, I have seen six year olds wearing a black belt!

Our culture has become so politically correct that everyone needs a reward to continue their training. If they don’t get a new belt every three or four months, they quit and go to someone who will give them a new belt rank. If the only reason that you are training is because of the belt rank, then you don’t understand what martial arts is all about. It is a game to you and nothing more. You should be training for the wisdom, the knowledge and the skills, not a piece of paper and a $5 belt! THIS is martial arts madness!

If you are only training to stroke your ego, why not save time, go down to the court house and have your name officially changed to Grandmaster Badass. It is faster and cost much less than a few years of martial arts instruction. Martial arts are supposed to mean more than this! Martial arts are supposed to help you develop yourself spiritually, mentally and physically.

Too many instructors today are sending sheep to the slaughter. They are giving their students a false sense of security. They are promoting students who absolutely cannot defend themselves, to the rank of black belt. What will happen to one of these “black belts” when they actually have to try to use their “martial arts skills” to save their own life? Whose fault will it be when they die in the streets because they were not actually taught martial skills? THIS is martial arts madness!

Furthermore, it is not only kids who appear to need constant ego stroking in the martial arts. Today, there is over 1,000 martial arts hall of fames and over $4 billion dollars are made from the martial arts industry in the United State alone! There is somewhere around 18.1 million Americans who participated in some form of martial art at least once in the past year. That includes 9.4 million adults, 5.5 million teenagers and 3.2 million kids.

Why in the world would the martial arts community need over 1,000 martial arts hall of fames? How could that many martial arts hall of fames even stay in business? The answer is because so many martial artists are ego driven. Most of these halls of fames are pay-per-play. They are simply a business meant to make money; they are not there to honor deserving martial artists. This means that anyone can pay to have himself inducted into the hall of fame, and there is no shortage of “martial artists” who are willing to pay in order to stroke their ego. THIS is martial arts madness!

Now, I do want to make clear, there are some good, credible martial arts halls of fames out there which are meant to honor deserving martial artists; not all of them are pay-per-play. But, the vast majority of them are nothing more than money-making schemes that are raking in thousands of dollars annually. Why is this possible? It is possible simply because too many “martial artists” are more interested in marketing themselves, collecting awards and certificates, and simply bragging about themselves, than they are in becoming true martial artists. THIS is martial arts madness!

Give me authentic, one-on-one training in a garage or backyard any day of the week. The martial arts skills are the only reward I need for my training. Yes, I do consider it to be an honor when I am legitimately recognized by martial artists who I have admiration for. I have been inducted into the martial arts hall of fame. I have been recognized by true martial artists for whom I have great respect for and I do cherish those titles and honors. These are all very special to me, but the real reward for me is the training itself and the life path that the martial arts have given me.

I am greatly saddened by what I see in the martial arts community today. Martial arts frauds and con men are abundant and have hurt the martial arts world. Martial arts brothers are at each others’ throats over ego-driven bullshit. Too many martial arts instructors have no clue how to defend themselves, much less how to teach others self-defense.

Lies, slander, and libel are abundant throughout the martial arts world. Martial arts tournaments have become little more than silly gymnastic displays. Character, honor, respect, and courage seem to have taken a back seat to belt ranks and ego. A sport mentality has replaced the martial mentality. Titles and paper tigers have outnumbered true masters of the arts. Respect for the martial arts has been lost to maneuvering, politics, and backstabbing. THIS is martial arts madness!

I am now a grandfather, and I truly hope that something happens in the martial arts world before my grandson gets old enough to become interested in the martial arts. God willing, I will train him myself and not have to worry about him getting involved in all the martial arts politics, dirty maneuvering, backstabbing, or half-ass instructors who are only interested in money.

He will be trained to be able to defend himself. He will be trained to respect his elders and the true masters of the martial arts. He will learn the meaning of true character, honor and integrity. He will earn his rank and develop his spirit, mind and body. And every day, he will seek the perfection of character which Master Funakoshi spoke about being the true meaning of karate. In my humble opinion, this is what martial arts is really about.

Shihan Bohdi Sanders
award-winning author of
the #1 Bestsellers,
MODERN BUSHIDO and MEN of the CODE
and the new book, BUSHIDO: The Way of the Warrior
Check out: The Wisdom Warrior Bookstore!

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