Recently I was on a conference call with a “consultant” about social media. They recommended that all martial arts instructors make a “fan page”. I argued with them saying that creating your own “fan page” for yourself (not your business) is completely against martial arts ethics and shows no humility. It was stated that using a fan page makes you a “local” celebrity. Sorry but I have to disagree…it makes you an arrogant pompous ass when you make a fan page all about yourself. I see a lot of instructors doing things like this these days as well as inflating their “accomplishments”, “ranks” and even the number of years they have been teaching. All of these things are wrong. Here are some examples I have written down in my journal in the past few years. All are authentic and real things I have witnessed.
- Instructor earned their black belt as a little kid and stopped training. This person hasn’t trained since they were a teen and then they open a martial arts school. In their marketing, and from their own mouth, they claim to have over 20 years of training but the fact is they only have about 8 total. I was there, I know their real history and this is lying yet they proclaim to teach “Christian” martial arts. Wrong on more than one thing.
- Instructor disappeared for a few years, closed down their school and was only a 2nd degree black belt when it happened. Flash forward five years later and they are now an 8th degree, opening another school and proclaiming to be some great “international” instructor. There is no way one can go from a 2nd degree to an 8th degree in five years unless they are lying or bought a diploma from one of the many fraud organizations out there that will sell them to anyone regardless of skill, knowledge or dedication to the martial arts.
- An instructor has a school and in their advertising they claim they have over XXX number of years of “combined” experience. Adding up the years you and your black belts have trained and then claiming that as “combined” experience is stupid. It is also trying to pull the wool over people’s eyes. In this particular case the main instructor only has 14 years of experience training…yet he claimed his school has over 102 combined years of experience…sadly it was all a lie because when I did the math (which I know for a fact on every black belt in that school) they only had 42 years of combined experience. Regardless it is wrong to advertise this way.
- One school advertises the instructors grand champion and 1st place wins in tournaments but this instructor has never been to a tournament that mattered. Going to some small local tournament and winning 1st place is cool but never facing top level competitors and then making a big deal about winning 1st place is unethical. In this case many of the wins came because no one else was in their division (which happens at small local tournaments). Yet they made a big deal as if they are the best in the area however they have never faced a real champion and had they then they would not have won (yes I watched their acclaimed great fights). They also make a big deal about their students winning at these same events but we never see them at tournaments where real champions compete.
- Making Facebook, Twitter or other social pages calling yourself Master, Grand Master, Soke, Kancho, Shihan or whatever. In that same conference call I was told that I had to use my title in my Facebook name. I politely refused and told them that was all about arrogance. The consultant said it is about making a “name” for yourself and since I am a Master of Karate that I should have that in my title. Sadly the social media world is full of self inflated title pages. Last year I unfriended over 300 people who used a title in their Facebook page. Some of them because I never interacted with them but most of them because they were full of crap and self promoting their rank.
- Proclaiming to be a Grand Master or founder of some new, great martial art system. Sorry but this is getting so old however the public falls for it all the time and sign up to learn from these people without ever stopping to understand what they are getting which is Mixed Up Martial Arts. Ever hear of the phrase “jack of all trades master of none” well you can be assured that applies to anyone under the age of 60 with less than 45+ years of training claiming to be a Grand Master or founder of a martial art system. There is an instructor in my area who claims to have been trained by his Dad as a child and then, when his Dad passed away when he was 9, he was trained by another self promoted Grand Master in my area. He also claims to have black belts in Goju Ryu, Shotokan, Jujitsu, Kenpo, Aikido…pretty much every art that has a popular name…and it is all a lie. Over the years he has opened schools and changed the name of his art at least 6 times. Today he claims to teach Shotokan at a local Salvation Army depot but he doesn’t even hold a black belt in Shotokan (even though he claims he does). Unfortunately the general public doesn’t know a fraud from the real thing and he does have students. He is also one of those instructors running around claiming great tournament wins but he has NEVER faced a real champion or competed in a quality tournament.
- Instructors who demand to be called by their title in fact don’t deserve them. I was at an event a few years back and saw a female instructor demand to be called Grand Master and referred as such. I just smiled and walked away. She complained about it to the promoter who basically laughed it off. She made a scene and ruined the entire day for everyone there throughout the event. That is exactly what a real Grand Master would never do. I have also had an instructor demand to be called Hanshi at an event I was attending. Everyone was catering to him (he was about 38 years old and I know his history and he paid for a title from one of those organizations I mentioned earlier). While I was covering the rules he asked a question and when I didn’t respond to him with his title he looked me square in the eye and said “that is Hanshi”. I had referred to him by his first name when I answered his question. So I looked him right back in the eye and said “get over yourself”. He then wasted over 20 minutes of our meeting arguing with me and the promoter so I threw him out of the event. A few minutes later he came back in, in street clothes, and proceeded to cause problems for the first half of the event until I finally threw him out and told him he comes back he will leave on a stretcher. Never saw him again after that.
When we market our martial art schools it is important to remember that teaching the martial arts is NOT about us, the instructor. It is about helping our students. We are about the benefits that we can build for them, not about our rank, titles, championship wins or other ego based things. The goal is humility. Sadly the general public can’t tell good, authentic martial arts training and quality instruction from the people I mentioned above. Over the years I have taken the high road and not publicly discussed these things until this post. I want people to know that they need to verify the claims, the rank, the experience and never take an instructor’s word when looking to sign up their child, or self, for martial arts classes. You are paying for the lessons so you should get real, quality and authentic training…not some guy who has outlandish claims and talks about his rank in 10 different arts and so on.
Ego has no place in what we do. My own accomplishments over my 38 years of training and 25 years of teaching fill a resume but my advertising is about how I want to help people with martial arts. My marketing is not about how “bad” or great I am. That doesn’t matter at all. What does is that I teach an authentic martial art system and have helped thousands of people better their lives. That is why we should be teaching but, unfortunately, many open schools to just flame their ego. I have watched many students get hurt in these schools…and ripped off by fraud instructors out there. Quality is not about rank, not about titles…quality in the martial arts is about learning to teach and passing on a REAL martial art system that helps people. I just wish all martial arts school understood this.