Why Fake Martial Arts / Teachers Exist (And Why They Always Will?)
Disclaimer: This article aims to provide a truthful view of the world of martial arts. It was not written to bash any one particular martial art style, way of training, or family of martial arts styles / systems. It was not meant to bash any individual, or martial arts practitioner. If you are easily offended, please do not read this article. For those seeking truth about the martial arts, please read on.
This article is part of our series on the subject of "Fake Martial Arts". Read more:
- Top 5 Lies Fake Martial Artists Keep Telling Everyone (And What They Really Mean)
- Top 12 Signs Your Martial Arts School Is A McDojo
- Top 15 Signs Your Martial Arts Teacher Is Fake
- What Is A Kung Fu LARPer?
- Jet Li on Fake Masters & What Is Real Kung Fu
In the world of martial arts, most of us were first exposed to it through movies and media - such as Kung Fu classics made by the Shaw Brothers' studios, Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, Jet Li, the Karate Kid movies, or some similar combination of the above.
The romanticized idea of martial arts was always presented to us more or less in a very classical way: Learn martial arts, defeat the bully, exact revenge on the bad guy, win the tournament, and become the hero.
To us, martial arts was about training as hard as you could, winning the most amount of competitions as you could (in forms or fighting, or both), becoming a tough, hardened bad ass with world class martial arts / fighting skills, and becoming the best version of yourself that you possibly could be in the process.
Former Two-Division UFC Champion Georges St-Pierre, the definition of a model martial artist and champion.
The mindset of a true martial artist was to continue to train for life as an eternal student to keep bettering oneself on the path of perfection (perfection of course, doesn't exist), and continue to seek new challenges, conquer new plateaus and reach ever new heights - as long as the body was able and the circumstances allowed it.
We had always thought this was the way of the warrior, and the "hardcore" path that everyone took to mastering their martial arts.
Then we realized, we were in the minority that held that mindset or belief.
In reality, the lifestyle of a warrior was more of a thing of the past, an outdated ideal that existed only because fighting and war was a common daily occurrence in the olden days of ancient warring civilizations.
Most people who practice martial arts nowadays actually don't fall into this category of a "fully dedicated" practitioner at all, because in today's world, martial arts is largely a sport or hobby, and not a necessary component for daily survival.
Most People Are Hobbyists (And That's Okay)
While for a select few, martial arts may be their lifestyle, most people who try martial arts today often quit in a few months time or stick around for a few years at most.
In arts such as Karate or Taekwondo (the generic kind, not the Kyoukushin branch or the Olympic level Taekwondo), the average practitioner nowadays takes about 3-5 years to achieve their "black belt" (at an average school), and then they quit. We know that a "black belt" in your typical Karate or Taekwondo school doesn't mean very much most of the time, as black belts are handed out quite easily in these martial arts disciplines, and represent only the "beginning" of one's martial arts journey.
In Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, most people quit after receiving their blue belt, which can take anywhere from 2-3 years, on average. Achieving the rank of blue belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is not an easy feat, but at the same time, in the world of Jiu Jitsu, it's the approximate equivalent to achieving your "black belt" in an average Karate or Taekwondo school. A blue belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu means you're good enough to handle a bigger, stronger, but untrained opponent - but that's it. It doesn't mean you can defeat skilled foes.
Just like with any hobby, sport, or game - in the world of martial arts, the majority of martial artists, are casual ones.
Why Do We Train Martial Arts?
Most people nowadays train martial arts for one, or maybe for a few of the following reasons:
- Health / Exercise
- Learn A Tradition / Culture / Spirituality
- To Be Social
- For Hobby
- Their Parents Made Them Do It
- Self Defense
Most people do NOT train for the following reasons:
- To become a professional fighter (full time career)
- To become a master of martial arts (train for more than 30+ years in multiple styles or disciplines)
- To become a martial arts instructor (train for more than 10-20 years in one style)
Not All Schools Are Equal
For the longest time, it also didn't occur to us that, the toughest, grimiest, "hole in the wall" gyms with the best fighters, often have the least amount of students training there. The only other people who train there are other fighters, which means there won't be a whole lot of people.
Whereas schools with more relaxed instructors, where the skill level or difficulty is lower, might actually have more students (mostly catering to children or older dads and moms) in their classes.
Which begs the question: If we know that hard training and competition takes us to new heights, and easy training without any pressure makes us soft, then why do people choose mediocrity instead of greatness?
Or maybe we phrased that incorrectly.
Maybe we don't have a choice.
Maybe the sobering, bitter truth is that for most people no matter how hard they try, not everyone is capable of being "great" martial artists or fighters.
By "great", for all intents and purposes of this article, we mean achieving a high level of technique both in understanding and in practical use in the martial arts whether through many hours of live sparring, personal competitive achievements, or through successfully coaching championship level students / fighters.
At the time of this writing (in the year of 2020), it is suitable to use the rank of black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu as a baseline symbol of a quality martial artist.
Perhaps in the 1970's, a Karate or Judo black belt would be used as a baseline symbol of quality.
Just having amassed a large "knowledge" of the subject of the martial arts but without practical "pressure tested" experience either through winning competitions, fighting, or coaching others to success, does not count in this case.
We'll get to why "just having theoretical knowledge" isn't enough later on in this article.
Not All People Are Made Equal, Either
We like to tell ourselves that "through hard work" anything can be achieved, and that "skill beats size", or "technique beats strength", but that's only because we suffer through survivourship bias.
The truth is, many people have quit because of, or aren't naturally gifted enough to endure hard martial arts training.
Cody McKenzie, a man who most likely had to work hard every single waking moment of his life to get to the level of martial arts skill that he obtained, exemplifies the "everyman".
We have to admit to ourselves at some point that, not all of us are born (or going to be) A-level athletes, tough as nails, with top of the food chain genetics, and possess the mindset needed to succeed as a "great" martial artist / fighter.
Brock Lesnar (steroids aside) is a freak athlete and a former NCAA Division I Champion, two-time NCAA All-American, two-time Big Ten Conference Champion, and 2000 NCAA Heavyweight Champion, and former UFC Heavyweight Champion. Brock Lesnar without a doubt has an insane work ethic, but you cannot ignore his genetics as well.
The truth is, size, strength, speed, and athleticism matter - a lot.
When two people put in the same amount of effort / work, the one with the better attributes will win.
It's A Numbers Game
Out of the entire world population, there can only be so few that dedicate their lives to training to becoming great at martial arts. Probably 10% of people that start martial arts actually stick with it (although that number could probably be even lower).
- Kids train martial arts as a form of discipline / physical activity, but few stick around to become dedicated martial artists. Most kids move on to school, and pursue other interests and hobbies.
- Most adults have jobs, need to work and provide for their families, have other people they must take care of, or have other interests or hobbies.
- Other people, cannot afford martial arts lessons or live in an area where there are no legitimate martial arts teachers.
But, what does all this have to do with fake martial arts? Hold on, we are getting to that part.
What we need to point out is that, if we remove the romantic lens on martial arts, the truth is not everyone is cut out for, or will decide to dedicate their every waking moment in pursuit of martial arts "mastery".
Habits / Attributes For Success
In order to reach a high level of competency in anything, or martial arts "mastery", one must:
- Sacrifice their time
- Sacrifice their money
- Sacrifice their bodies
One must also typically have the following attributes or "gifts":
- Physically gifted / athletic
- Mentally talented / quick learner
And the following personality traits or mentality:
- Hard working attitude / work ethic
- Perseverance through adversity / challenges
- Not giving up after failures, injuries, or setbacks
- Not making excuses
Thus, because most people are average, they aren't looking for, nor will ever reach "mastery" even if they wanted to, and that's okay.
Levels To This Game
Not all of us can become a "Greatest Of All Time" candidate in undefeated professional MMA fighter and former UFC Champion Khabib Nurmagomedov.
What is becoming "great" anyway? How do we really define "mastery"? How do we really know if a martial artist is "legit"?
Is being "great" in your local community of practitioners enough?
Your town, city, province / state, country?
How about being a UFC World Champion, or Olympic champion?
Or how about becoming a cultural, international icon?
All of this is in theory possible and can be defined as great.
You can become "great" or be considered "legit", but just know that there are always levels of greatness, and one person's definition of greatness will differ from another.
Can You Be "Legit", Without Concrete Evidence?
We didn't cite one particular type of "greatness" or legitimacy in the above list, because this question requires special attention:
Would you consider personal mastery, mastery of an art, showing a high level of skill and knowledge, without having ever competed or be tested against other practitioners, or trained great students, as greatness or legitimacy?
Many people would answer "Yes" to this question, and they would be right... but only to a certain extent.
There are indeed, many martial arts masters who do have great knowledge and mastery of their art and do not need to compete with others to prove it, or pass it onto someone.
There are many martial arts masters hidden around the world, who don't necessarily need to fight or compete in a ring, in order to have great knowledge or skills.
With that said however, there exists a dark side to this coin.
If you're a secret secluded martial arts master, but no one is really around to verify if this was true or not, then how good were you really?
When we say "mastery of an art", we should take note, that the keyword of importance here to emphasize is "art", and less on "martial".
Martial implies fighting (on the street, in the ring, or in military), and that the master must have verifiable and actual experience in using their martial art for fighting OR have trained students that have proven themselves as fighters.
This master has both trained for a lifetime, fought / competed, AND coached students to fight in tournaments. That looks like a legitimate master.
We understand that not every martial artist can have both teaching skills and fighting skills together - as some fighters are terrible teachers and some teachers are not good fighters.
Therefore, if a martial artist has done at least ONE of those things, then bravo, they can be considered legitimate.
If they can do BOTH, then they're considered a true master.
A great example of a legitimate master who isn't known for fighting himself is John Danaher. He has an unbeatable track record in producing high level, World Champion students without being a notable BJJ champion himself.
But, if this "martial" component cannot be proven by anyone else other than:
- The master claiming it, or
- The students believing in it
...but no objective evidence exists (either with testimonials from quality people who've trained / sparred with them, fight experience or consistent quality students), then they might be a Frog In The Well.
"Frog In The Well"
The subject of greatness or legitimacy as we've established, is completely objective.
So, what if hypothetically you are "great" according to some, but in reality you're just a "frog in the well"?
"The Frog in the Well" is a Chinese idiom that refers to a narrow-minded person who doesn't see the larger world around them. The story is about a frog who lives happily in a well. He has no idea what's outside of that well.
What if you're a self-proclaimed "master", or "Sensei", or "Sifu", or "Kru", or "Coach" of martial arts, but in reality, once you step outside of your own bubble (your school, your community, your group of friends), you're just a below-average martial artist?
Enter the world of fake martial arts, where bluntly put, bottom of the barrel "martial artists" pretend to have great skill or knowledge because they have nowhere else to go to or hide.
Most Martial Arts "Styles" Are Not Made Equal Either...
We can all objectively agree that a great martial art / martial artist is one that is constantly tested, competes against both itself and against outside styles, and evolves through time, staying "alive" instead of becoming stale.
Speaking of levels, it would be incomplete and dishonest to not address the fact that martial arts styles / systems also have varying levels of quality.
While we hate to talk about and compare "styles" because we don't believe in dividing them, human beings will always like to simplify, generalize, and compare.
Just like there will always be different classes (objective and subjective) of food, cars, clothing, etc.
That's just how we as humans operate to make sense of things in our world - we divide them and give them classifications or labels.
We cannot avoid comparing martial arts styles, either.
And to be as honest and blunt as possible, not even martial arts "styles" (if we are to believe in such a label) are created equally.
As long as there continues to be people of different sizes, shapes, body types, cultural / geographical / historical backgrounds, and abilities - there will exist different martial arts styles, disciplines, and ways of fighting.
Throughout history of humankind, better and more efficient martial arts styles have evolved, emerged, and come to be known year after year, while some have faded into irrelevancy (turned into more of an art form or tradition).
Some martial arts styles, systems, or disciplines are much harder to learn, grasp a hold of, or achieve a high level of skill in than others.
The harder a martial art is to train whether it is due to its:
- Level of physicality required (Anything full-contact or requires full resistance, such as Boxing, Wrestling, Muay Thai, Kyokushin Karate, Judo, Sambo, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Sanda, Shuai Jiao, etc.)
- Level of difficulty in its learning curve or return on investment versus effectiveness ratio (Kung Fu / Wushu / etc.)
- Level of accessibility (obscure styles that no one knows about or styles you cannot find a good teacher in, heavy duty weapons fighting, or requires a lot of money to participate in such as Kendo with its expensive protective gear)
- Level of truthfulness required (you're constantly being tested on your knowledge and skills in live sparring in every class, leaving no room for "fakery")
- Level of talent pool / competition available (The deeper and more well-known or prestigious the martial art system, the more athletes / competitors it will attract depending on geographical location, making it harder to become the best of the best).
...then the likelier it is that people won't train in that direct style, and / or people will find an "easier", more "casual", or less intense martial art to train in instead, including the following but are not limited to:
- Cardio / Fitness Boxing or Kickboxing or Muay Thai (Exercise to lose weight without the sparring or fighting)
- Self defense focused arts such as Japanese Jiu-Jitsu, Aikido, Krav Maga, Systema (theory and self defense technique training, but no live full-resistance sparring or fighting)
- Tai Chi, Qi Gong, or "Internal" Kung Fu styles (slow moving, forms training, theory and philosophy without any actual fighting), or any Kung Fu that does not involve real live sparring or pressure testing
- Anything commercialized / watered-down (geared towards kids or families with very little sparring, or no-contact point fighting)
- Casual Weapon Arts such as Stick Fighting / Fencing (Popular amongst cosplayers, anime / video game fans as a form of casual martial arts, but largely practiced without the physicality or serious sparring of that of other weapons fighting arts such as Historical European Martial Arts (HEMA) or Filipino Martial Arts (FMA))
- Any other martial art that has a low barrier of entry and is friendly to casuals
The point of having this comparison is that the easier it is for someone to get into a martial art, and stay untested against other practitioners or reality, the higher the likelihood for that martial art (or similar art) to harbour and cultivate pretenders and fake martial artists / teachers (ie. The Frog in the Well scenario).
Do you think someone with the skills, talent, and physical gifts as Mike Tyson would need to train an "easier version" of boxing, or an easier art in general? Maybe, if they were curious, but unlikely. "Easier" martial arts tend to attract those who are less capable, because they couldn't excel in a harder martial art with higher level competition even if they tried.
There's A Martial Art Out There For Everyone (Choosing The Easier Path?)
Now, we're not saying that less physically demanding or non-competitive martial arts are necessarily easier to get good (achieve a high level of skill) at.
Using Mike Tyson or Brock Lesnar as examples again, just because they're good at boxing or wrestling respectively, doesn't mean they will be able to skillfully wield a sword, shoot an arrow, perform Wushu Taolu (forms), or Karate Kata with beauty and grace, or do a 720-degree Taekwondo spin kick.
Rika Usami, Queen of Karate Kata. Not many people can achieve her level of mastery with Kata.
We recognize that different people, who all have different attributes, will gravitate towards different martial arts, because they all require a different set of skills or cater to certain tastes (and that's totally fine).
However, what we can generally agree on, is that on average, if people were given the choice, most would compromise and take the easier road by going to an easier martial arts school, with quicker belt rank promotions and a lighter training atmosphere as opposed to a difficult one.
Most people in general want to have a more "fun" time where they get to train and learn in a comfortable environment, get hurt / beat up less, and don't have to train as hard (in order to achieve a higher perceived rank or belt) - ie. the path of least resistance - except in this case it would do you more harm than good because you wouldn't be able to carry your ranking in real fighting (or some other realistic test of your skill).
Few however, purposefully choose the path of hard, suffocating, gruelling training, where their skills, respect, and applicable rank or belt is earned legitimately through honest, hard work.
Firas Zahabi on the Joe Rogan Experience talking about the watering down of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ). Even nowadays, the belt system in BJJ is starting to become watered down and mean less than it did 10-20 years ago (the 1990's - 2010's).
Everyone Wants To Be The Hammer, But Not The Nail
Simply put, the harder a martial art is, the higher quality of a martial arts practitioner it will generally develop.
The easier a martial art is, the lower quality (and perhaps faker) of a martial arts practitioner it will allow to exist.
It's like being a big fish in a small pond.
Or being a "champion" in a martial arts competition that no one of quality actually practices or competes in.
Or medalling at a tournament where no one even showed up to compete in your weight / gender / age division.
Winning a "Chi Sao" (Sticky Hands) competition is not the same thing (level of difficulty required) as winning a full-contact fighting competition like a Sanda tournament, a Boxing match, a Wrestling match, or a Muay Thai fight.
In general: The worst practitioner of a difficult martial art system or environment, will almost always beat the best practitioner of an easier martial art system or environment, simply because the level of skill and attributes required are higher and more competitive.
For example: A fighter who has lost every round of every single wrestling match training with Khabib Nurmagomedov in Dagestan, Russia, is probably still much more prepared and equipped to beat a fighter who has won every single Tai Chi push hands grappling match at a national level in China.
Please let the "but"'s and "if"'s slide, it just makes logical sense.
McDojos = Diet Version of Fake Martial Arts
We can't talk about fake martial arts without first addressing McDojos.
We know McDojos (extremely watered down or easy martial arts schools) exist as a business.
They largely operate as a daycare center for kids, churning out teenage "black belts" month after month, year after year.
It's marketed to the general masses and when done correctly, it's an effective money maker.
The belt rankings are systemized and easy to obtain (just show up to class and participate, basically) and there's very little to no hard training whatsoever.
"McDojo" schools are like a diet version of fake martial arts schools. Safe and good for kids and moms / dads, but offers not much more beyond that.
But at least inside a McDojo, the head instructor may (or may not) still have legitimate martial arts skills or fight experience, and is just doing what "needs to be done" to manage a profitable business.
Maybe the instructor takes it a few steps further and becomes a savvy businessman or marketer, and have hundreds of students made up of kids that have their parents pay thousands of dollars on their path to becoming a "black belt".
All the power to them for being successful, and as long as they're not deliberately harming their students or giving them false confidence if they have to go compete in a fight or find themselves in a self defense situation (because then, that would be bad), then it's a free country.
If there's a demand, then they'll be the supply.
To take this to the extreme however, a surprisingly significant group of people out there in the world may choose the way of cowardice, and start training in fake martial arts schools or fake martial arts systems to make up for their lack of self esteem or skill.
Bruce Lee’s disgust for fake martial arts ‘cowards’ revealed in rare phone call recording. Lee rails against ‘pathetic looking, very amateur’ Tai Chi and "self defense" practitioners, saying they embarrass true martial artists.
Truly Fake Martial Arts / Fake Teachers / Schools Are A Complete Scam (And Dangerous)
A fake, "energy" / "force field" martial arts "master" being knocked out cold.
Fake martial arts / schools / teachers are a completely different ugly beast altogether.
There are teachers out there who aren't only running McDojos, but their school is completely based on swindling their students out of their hard earned cash by teaching them something that completely, absolutely, 100% doesn't exist and doesn't work in the real world.
They include the following completely fake "techniques" or "concepts" but are not limited to:
- Deliberately misusing vague terms like "internal", "Qi", "Chi", or "Ki". Teaching their students that there is some kind of mystical life force energy that they can tap into, such as "internal" arts or "internal Kung Fu".
They perform feats of science fiction magic like pushing a person back 10 feet, getting out of an armlock or grappling position with no effort, or simultaneously defending oneself from 10 attackers at once with "Qi" force.
- "Death touch". A concept where touching someone at a certain hidden secret place on their body will render them unconscious (knocking them out) or even death.
- “No touch" / mind trick / hypnosis. Some kind of art of suggestion where one can have control over an opponents thoughts or actions by just using their brain, or a concept that suggests one can manipulate or defeat their opponent in a fight without touching them.
What do all of these concepts have in common?
They're not real, and none of it has ever been proven with modern science or sports science.
Martial Arts Cults And The World Of "Woo Woo"
Fake martial arts teachers are great at lying.
These types of snake-oil martial arts are defined in the dictionary as "woo woo":
woo-woo / ˈwo͞oˌwo͞o
INFORMAL • DEROGATORY
1. unconventional beliefs regarded as having little or no scientific basis, especially those relating to spirituality, mysticism, or alternative medicine. "some kind of metaphysical woo-woo"
1. relating to or holding unconventional beliefs regarded as having little or no scientific basis, especially those relating to spirituality, mysticism, or alternative medicine. "quartz crystals that were so popular with the woo-woo crowd"
Joe Rogan talks about fake martial arts and how they're essentially cults:
At best, fake martial arts schools give some really sad (or just plain delusional) people something to do with their time, but is ultimately not only a waste of time but a waste of money, wrapped under the guise of "spirituality", "self defense", or "exercise".
At worst, fake martial arts schools put peoples' lives in serious danger and drag the legitimacy of real, actual martial artists (who train in a similar style or system) down with them.
Why Do People Believe / Train It If It's Fake?
They Believe In Their Cult Leader
A leader of a fake martial art, is perhaps convincing, suave, or knows how to market their fake martial arts in a clever and unassuming way. They use ambiguous terms and techniques that may have some grounds in reality but are ultimately wrapped up in a bunch of fake nonsense mysticism or claims that simply are not true or real. They may have been an actual martial artist and trained seriously at some point in their lives (doubtful), but how they operate today is by peddling fake martial arts for pure commercial profit and self gain.
Make Believe Is Fun
Star Wars is one of the most popular Kung Fu science fiction franchises of all time. People love it when martial artists (Jedi) fight it out with swords (Lightsabers) and do Wuxia Kung Fu things in space like blast Force Lightning (Qi Gong) out of their palms.
Fake martial arts are popular for the same reasons fictional literature, fantasy novels, and science fiction movies are popular - most people are either tricked into or want to believe something magical and out of this world exists.
Simply Not Good Enough / Don't Want To Work Hard
As we've established earlier, most people aren't gifted or talented or athletic enough to be legitimate martial artists, so instead of working hard and dealing with actual competition, pressure testing, and sparring, they choose a lower level "fake" martial art to be "good" at, and call themselves a "Sifu" or "Sensei" or "Master" at it, and swindle people to believe them.
Most people have average levels of patience or determination and don’t want to actually spend the time, effort, and energy to get good at anything difficult so they choose to peddle a fake martial art, or choose to study a fake martial art so they too, can make believe.
Much like real life, you only get what you put in. And most people don't want to put in any kind of work or effort.
Most people just want the magic potion, the short cut, the junk food version of martial arts (tastes great or looks cool, but bad for you in every way).
Living A Lie
Nothing wrong with cosplaying or live action role playing as a form of fun, by the way. It just gets weird when you actually believe you ARE the person you're PRETENDING to be, and make other people PAY YOU to PRETEND ALONG with you.
Fake martial arts allow teachers and students alike to live in a fantasy world they've constructed themselves.
Or live their life as a "live action role player" (LARPer).
Fake martial arts exist because it allows people to stay inside their bubbles without judgement, real challenge, adversity, or actual pressure to perform.
If you want to believe you're a martial arts master, you can do just that by creating a fake martial art or persona, and actually living in that fantasy by opening a martial arts school and accepting "students" or cult members into your fantasy club.
We don't know if these fake martial arts teachers truly believe they have skills and are simply delusional, or if they're just incredibly smart business people.
It might actually be a bit of both!
Dragging Real Martial Artists Down
Many fake masters are so crafty with their marketing and use of terminology that they've largely got the world fooled.
By mixing up Eastern words or hard to grasp / foreign concepts with martial arts marketing, they peddle this "woo woo" and hook clueless people off the street to train in their "deadly" martial art where they can literally produce "mystical energy force" from their bodies.
This is not only harmful to everyone involved in this racket (except for the fake masters themselves), but it actually drags down the legitimacy or recognition of certain martial arts styles or practitioners who actually train it seriously.
For example, real Kung Fu (not the fake "woo woo" stuff) is extremely difficult to train and learn, hard to grasp a hold of, highly repetitive, and relatively boring.
The majority of real, legitimate Kung Fu training is learning to breathe properly, learning to relax and contract your muscles, hold isometric positions for hours, build conditioning and strength through stances and forms, and drill techniques and movements thousands of times.
The learning curve of something like traditional Chinese Martial Arts or Kung Fu styles are extremely steep and the applicable results generally come slowly (depending on the practitioner), and this is why either no one learns it (the real stuff), or a bunch of pretenders show up to peddle the fake stuff (pretending to have energy shooting out of their palms) and tell others they know some "hidden secret technique" or "lost art" with murky, pseudo-science language and made up myths of old masters who never existed.
Turning A Blind Eye?
"The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing."
Many practitioners of the martial arts opt to turn a blind eye to fake masters and schools and choose to focus on themselves and "lead by example" and "spread positivity" instead.
While that is a noble (and civil) approach, as we can never truly stomp out bad martial artists, in some martial arts communities where fake (bad) martial arts have outnumbered or outweighed the good, there may not be much left to spread around or salvage if we keep allowing them to exist (and be our representatives).
Fake masters have done so much damage to certain martial arts that, without some heavy housecleaning at a government / state level, will never reclaim the legitimacy or prestige it might have once had generations ago.
Even when a governing body (such as an organization that hands out belts or certifications only after you've officially tested with them) or a sporting organization that regulates tournaments exist, fake masters can still find loopholes, play political games, use their status, or avoid them altogether and operate their schools on the fringes of their martial arts community (and hide behind the computer and keyboard).
This is why, we believe as a martial arts community, we can only stomp out fake masters at an individual level, and as a collective whole.
Xu Xiao Dong, an MMA fighter who has done a little bit of clean up work within the borders of mainland China. We think there should be more people like him in all parts of the world, not just China, stepping into martial arts schools and giving some notable "fake masters" a real test.
Action is needed to stomp out the frauds that are plaguing the martial arts styles that we truly love and enjoy.
More martial artists in the community that care about how their martial art is represented or passed down should start calling out each and every fake master there is, and demand video evidence of their "woo woo" claims, or ask how their teachings can actually be applied.
If any excuse is given, challenge them to a friendly sparring match and get it on video.
Pay a visit to their school / dojo / kwoon and ask to spar with them, and get it on video.
Unless some measure of authenticity or honour is restored in certain martial arts circles, it won't get any better for these martial arts and it will only get worse as fake masters keep inventing clever marketing ways to deceive clueless bystanders.
If allowed to peddle their fake martial arts, then these fake masters and schools will never truly go away, as if there is money to be made (commercialization or commodification of an art form) then there will always be slimy, low quality opportunists, and the weird pocket of people that follow them.
If we personally don't take action in stopping the evil, immoral spread of fake martial arts, then not only are we ourselves failing at upholding martial arts values and virtues such as honour, respect, dignity, honesty, and good etiquette, we are effectively complying with the reality that we, too, may be okay with being "fake" ourselves, and thus, what we pass on will be filled with fakery, and the generations that come after us may not be able to enjoy real martial arts ever again.
"Do you remember the good ol' days when black belts actually meant something?"
- Dynasty Team