Like many others I see a website or instructor promoting their induction into some sort of Martial Arts Hall of Fame and think awesome, wow, they must be incredible…but wait. You need to read on about this before you think such things.
To date there are at least 15 martial arts hall of fames that I can think of in the United States alone. Each one has their own flair, their own following and their own purpose but in reality almost all of the share the same common theme. That theme is “Send us money and we will induct you”. When I first began teaching martial arts the only sort of hall of fames that we had around were solid, prestigious and included the following:
Trias International Society
USKA Alliance Hall of Fame
USKK International Bushido Society
While there some other ones, mostly local or State associated, these were considered the cream of crop so to speak. The only way to get into them was to be of stellar and incredible martial arts ability as well as have a solid resume of success in your chosen field of study.
In 2005 I got a letter inviting me to attend and be inducted into the US Martial Arts Hall of Fame in St. Louis, Missouri. I was excited and freaked out at the same time because I couldn’t figure out what I had done that would get me into such an honor. So I booked my room, sent in the form, my resume and money for the weekend event. While it was a weekend full of some great seminars it became clear to me that the 250 people in the room were being inducted and many of them I had never heard of before.
From 2005 to 2013 I was inducted into four different Hall of Fame for the martial arts, and one of them I have over 11 awards because they held events multiple times a year. It was in 2013 that I began to actually pay attention and investigate these awards and associations handing them out. While they perform a service they do get paid for it. I know of only a few people ever being turned away and that was because I was directly involved in calling about them and their lies to the association I was involved with at the time.
Here is how it works. You get a packet to attend with a letter of “official” induction into the hall of fame. It is accompanied with a price list and a huge listing of things you can “choose” to be inducted for. You send in the packet, a resume, check off the listing you want to be inducted for and pay the fee. Then you make the trip to the event, dress up, get on stage and get your induction. This often comes with a press kit so you can go back home and brag about it or publish it to make sure your local area is aware that you are now part of the “Elite” hall of fame for whatever group it was that inducted you. In simpler terms…it is all a marketing scheme and award that ANYONE, yes I said that right, anyone can get period.
In 2012 I attended two different organizations inductions but I refused to pay to be included. I just went to support my friends and attend the seminars. I was inducted both times and given an award but I hadn’t paid for it. I guess after paying for 9 of them they thought I deserved a couple (chuckle on that one). Needless to say I have no interest in who is inducted into these pay for your award types anymore.
The Trias International Society ended when Robert Trias passed away. The USKA and USKK are still going strong and still consist of the elite. There are two more that have been founded which include:
The Professional Karate Commission Elite
The Hawkes International Society
Both of these are carrying on the same methods as the others that I listed which are still the elite of the elite when it comes to martial arts. You cannot buy your way into these hall of fames, ever. You have to earn them. At a time in our society where people are being awarded for inferior accomplishments I am glad to see these original three and two listed above still out there setting standards. Even though I doubt I will ever be good enough to qualify for any of them I am very fortunate to know many people who are members of each of them and they set the standard very high compared to the “quality” I have seen at the pay to be inducted places.
Next time you hear or read about a person and their hall of fame induction I hope you remember this article. I am certain it will upset quite a few people but one thing we are supposed to have as martial artists is integrity. I am not ashamed to say I paid for some of the inductions I have been given but I am proud to say that I learned a valuable lesson not to do so in the future and take hall of fame awards from those type of organizations with a grain of salt.