Politics in MA

Discussion in 'General Martial Arts Talk' started by Finlay, Jan 11, 2018.

  1. Finlay

    Finlay Green Belt

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    I recently came across quite a long post by a senior ranked TKD master dicussing a political situation within their art.

    While I know nothing of that situation it did prompt the question of how much politics has changed the martial arts as a whole and people' own martial arts journey .

    For myself I see more martial arts as whole being changed, possibly because I haven' reached any great height within any organisation.

    Politics altering the arts though, one person''s idea or method being pushed forward because of alliances rather than any practical reason.

    Techniques being withheld from some or taught early to others

    And of course belt promotions are often tainted with politics.

    So how much has politics directly or indirect influenced your journey in the arts

    Is politics inevitable where groups are involved?

    Similar to 'lucky punches' are politics only claimed by those who feel hard done by?

    Are politics worse then before or has it always been this way?

    And whereas politics is always seen as bad are there any positives to it?
     
  2. _Simon_

    _Simon_ Brown Belt

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    I have a feeling this thread will open up a can of worms

    I guess it depends, but to be honest I think fracturing and splitting of organisations is inevitable. People have different agendas, expectations and attachments and I think splits are bound to occur. Sometimes it's for the best, it can allow arts to branch off and develop and evolve in a different direction with a different emphasis, which will attract certain people that the art didn't before. Other times it can just be pretty nasty, and groups can then claim they are training with the founder's 'original intention' and then really bag the other groups... not healthy nor productive.

    Coming from Kyokushin, the amount of splits since Sosai's death was ridiculous.. but for sure inevitable. We've had many instructors leave our branch too to go independent, which to be honest has been heartbreaking at times and very sad, but I understood why. Especially when people gain higher ranks, alot of ego can creep in and self-imposed authority status conferred upon oneself just defeats the purpose of what the higher ranks mean.

    So can be beneficial, can be destructive, depends on the motive and intention of those who split off...
     
  3. Headhunter

    Headhunter Senior Master

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    I just keep away from that side of things I'm there to train that's what I do
     
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  4. JR 137

    JR 137 Senior Master

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    Kyokushin has to be the worst example of politics coming into play. As Simon said, it started at Oyama’s death. Actually, it started shortly before his death. There’s so many versions of the story it’s mind-numbing. Here’s a brief rundown of that situation I’ve put together from many sources...

    Oyama’s will has been contested since it appeared almost immediately after his death in 1994. It still hasn’t been fully resolved by the Japanese court system that I know of. He was dying of cancer, and his family was with him in the hospital throughout the entire process. Somehow he dictated and signed a will a few days before his death without any family members present. There was allegedly a window of about an hour when this could’ve occurred.

    The will placed Shokei Matsui in charge of Kyokushin. Matsui wasn’t close to being one of the highest ranks in Kyokushin, nor was he someone who was on anyone’s radar as being considered a legitimate replacement. He stated he was shocked when he was named.

    Oyama’s wife and daughters (he didn’t have a son) were almost completely cut out of the will. They got a minuscule financial portion and nothing else. His family fortune (ownership of the honbu itself and the organization) was given to people not very close to him. Matsui and the people in the will have done everything they can to claim full ownership of everything Kyokushin and have taken everyone who broke away to court and have been taken to court over it. They’ve sued people over the Kyokushin name and trademark. Japanese courts somewhat recently ruled that Oyama’s daughter is the rightful owner of the Kyokushin name, but others are allowed to use it with royalty clauses. They’ve also ruled that Matsui is not the sole kancho of all of Kyokushin (which he claimed), thereby allowing factions to run independently and use the name, hence what are referred to IKO 1, IKO 2, IKO Sosai, etc.

    The various groups did not want much to do with each other for quite some time. More recently they’ve gotten along, except Matsui’s group who still tries to exert absolute authority. It’s calmed down a bit, but there’s still quite a lot of bad blood directed toward Matsui.

    It’s an absolute shame this happened. Kyokushin was a multimillion dollar international entity. The good in it I guess is people learned to get their affairs in order and make them well known before any issues arise.

    Whenever a founder dies or there’s a regime change, there’s always going to be people leaving. They may not agree with who’s in charge, or they may not like the direction the new leader wants to take the organization. Some will claim they want to do things the way the founder did, and others will claim the organization isn’t evolving enough.
     
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  5. gpseymour

    gpseymour Sr. Grandmaster

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    I guess it depends what you consider "politics". We tend to use that to label what we don't like about organizational interactions. As Simon says (I love typing that!), splits are fairly inevitable, and can even be good for an art.

    I did not join the loose federation my instructor helped form. Not because I disagree with anything going on there, but because my approach is significantly different from his (and the others in that group), so I don't feel my program adds to the strength of that group. I was also invited to rejoin the NGAA, which we were both members of at the time I received my shodan rank. I didn't join it for much the same reason (if anything, I'm more different from them). For me, I like the direction I'm going. I am extremely open to input from others, but am not open to giving anyone a say over how I do things in my program (what ranks are, how to test, etc.), so it's unlikely I'll join an association. If I promoted some instructors and they started schools, I'd consider creating a loose association if enough of them had similar aims and liked my approach.

    But I have seen things I consider "politics" (which, in my usage, usually means I think someone's ego is involved). I've seen splits driven by ego, rather than reason. I've seen instructors get upset about differences in rank usage (NGAA has 6 dan ranks, as does NGAF, while some use a 10-dan system, and I use what is either a 1-dan or 3-dan system depending how you view it). I've had folks further up the chain get incensed about things I posted when I was a student. I've seen people leave one part of an association and move to another because of an ego clash with their "instructor" (actually, by that point, simply "supervisor" in reality).
     
  6. gpseymour

    gpseymour Sr. Grandmaster

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    You can't always avoid it, even when you just train. I ran into it on two notable occasions before I became an instructor.
     
  7. Buka

    Buka Grandmaster

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    What a shame when stuff like this happens. It's always the students who suffer.

    A buddy of mine trained with Oyama and Shihan Bobby Lowe for many years here in Hawaii. I love all the stories. It's why I never ask about the politics.
     
  8. Anarax

    Anarax 2nd Black Belt

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    Master Oyama, may he rest in peace, was a great man. It saddens me to hear what took place after his death. One thing I will say about the Kyokushin name, it's held up very well in the martial arts community. Their practitioner's are still renowned for their training methods and fighting ability, correct me if I'm wrong. At least that's some consolation, that your art's repetition has remained well intact, though as a student you know more about what takes place behind the scenes. It's more disheartening when a style falls apart and the overall quality declines after a master's death.
     
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  9. JP3

    JP3 Master Black Belt

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    My very first experience with "politics" in MA was in the American Taekwondo Association a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. The ATA was a strong, thriving community with many of advanced rank, a single, highest authority (H.U. Lee), and the typical pyramid structure all the way down to the brand-newest white belts. Then, someone's ego got the best of them, and started trying to push a slightly different idea system, or philosophy or whatever, no clue who it was and then all of the sudden we just didn't talk about so-and-so any longer. They either left, or were asked to leave, the association, and the association suffered for that, as it showed how things "could be" for other people who were discontented for some reason. The ATA is still out there of course, but there have been quite a few of these high-level fracturings with it over the years.

    Now in the Tomiki Aikido, itself fractured off and away from the rest of the aikido world almost as a black sheep among other family members due to the whatever it was difference in thought and approach Tomiki had, in the Tomiki I know now, my own group is a fractured-off gathering of a bunch of schools which were at one time, organized under Sensei Karl Geis before his death a couple year back. He did things, they said things, the schools peeled off and away from the parent organization, one and sometimes groups at a time.

    Now the new thing, is sort of a looseorganization of these groups trying to pull back together to benefit everyone, but without any real formality to such coming back together. A confederation, so to speak. That, I think, is a good thing.
     
  10. _Simon_

    _Simon_ Brown Belt

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    Ah wow, very informative, thanks for that. Yeah it boggles my mind, and to be honest I have no idea what these supposed 'differences in opinion' even are that caused the split! Was it becomes one group wanted to have certain ido geiko combinations as a part of the curriculum, and another DIDN'T?? Wow, deal breaker... XD (*sarcasm* hehe). Or perhaps just who is in charge was the thing in debate.. bizarre.. But the last point you said made sense regarding evolving or staying true to tradition. I can't really comment much on the politics stuff as I'm ignorant of alot of its workings.

    That's a great point Anarax. All groups that I've seen have truly still upheld what Kyokushin is all about, and it's principles are still adhered to, regardless if there's a slightly different curriculum and slightly different way of doing techniques. And I've still seen alot of respect amongst groups I've trained with. With my past dojo it holds a memorial training session every year to honour an instructor that passed away, and people from all groups who knew or trained under the instructor attend, and it's great to see :). We just get together and train regardless
     
  11. JR 137

    JR 137 Senior Master

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    It all stemmed from Matsui being named kancho. Many of the higher ups/ranks flat out refused to acknowledge his appointment. Then a lot of Matsui’s business/administrative decisions drove out many who remained. That’s in addition to pretty much every group saying “if you associate with anyone outside of our group, you’re out.” That caused a lot of people to have to choose sides.

    Amazingly, pretty much all Kyokushin groups are doing the same stuff on the dojo floor. The biggest shame in all of it IMO is that it’s all political/administrative/ego driven and has pretty much nothing to do with actual karate. Most of the IKOs outside of IKO1/Matsui have reconciled and even have events together - competition, seminars, camps/gasshuku, etc.

    I’ve never officially been a Kyokushin student. My first organization was an offshoot that was Kyokushin in pretty much all but name. I started a few months after Oyama’s death and heard a lot of the stuff as it was going on. Then for some reason unbeknownst to me I’ve continued to read up on it.
     
  12. JowGaWolf

    JowGaWolf Grandmaster

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    Politics in general destroys or eats away at good things in life and it's the same with Martial Arts. It turns into "what's good for martial arts system and it's evolution" to "what is good for the person in power." It splits people into the world of "Either Or."

    Politics have always been horrible like this. Probably more so in the past than they are now with schools trying to position themselves within a local setting to be better than another school. More students = more money. C.R.E.A.M

    Ironically the martial arts has this Hollywood image of being virtuous, but you'll real Martial Arts organizations aren't like that and some really crappy stuff is done and said in the name of organizational politics. The only thing you can really do is train and be above negative personality characteristics. Define who you want to be as a person vs trying to be what the organization wants you to be. You'll get more respect in the long run and a lot of the Political Stuff will bounce off of you because, a "Good Person" is a "Good Person" and people will acknowledge and defend good people. Getting into the politics of things is sometimes easy to do even when you aren't trying to be involved in it. Something as simple as an opinion on how you train can cause ripples.
     
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  13. _Simon_

    _Simon_ Brown Belt

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    Yeah exactly, none of that has to do with actual karate, more of a structural/organisational thing I guess.. And too true, the training and philosophy is pretty much across the board. I know of one Kyokushin group which introduce all sorts of weapons training however at lower grades and even have a different coloured dogi (black) for that, but otherwise all still seems like one big family. And my instructor was always one to say he never got involved in any of that silliness and we were all there just to train. And he's incredibly welcoming and says anyone from any group could come train with us, a credit to him.


    Very well said, just train and not worry about controlling others :)
     

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