Dogma in the martial arts

Jusroc

Orange Belt
Joined
Sep 23, 2021
Messages
85
Reaction score
40
Over the years, I have experienced a lot of dogma within various martial art communities, and in some styles, the leader becomes almost like a cult leader or guru,
with his followers hanging on every word and instruction.

I was wondering what other people's experiences were in this area.
 

Xue Sheng

All weight is underside
Joined
Jan 8, 2006
Messages
31,592
Reaction score
5,999
Location
North American Tectonic Plate
Been training martial arts for almost 50 years in multiple styles and I have never run into anyone or any group looking at the teacher like a guru or cult leader. Has there been dogma in some styles? yes, but research can generally help with getting away from that..... but that dogma generally comes from the students more than the teacher
 

Flying Crane

Sr. Grandmaster
Joined
Sep 21, 2005
Messages
13,868
Reaction score
3,392
Location
San Francisco
Ive experienced a bit of it, the cultishness in a group. I steer clear when I realize what is going on. Its out there, but I wouldnt say its rampant.
 

skribs

Grandmaster
Joined
Nov 14, 2013
Messages
5,752
Reaction score
1,419
I remember a long time ago, a pastor told a joke during his sermon. It went something like this (I'm paraphrasing and butchering it, so bear with me).

Two men are seated next to each other on a flight in row 17A and 17B. The man in 17A bowed his head for a silent prayer before take-off.
17B: It looked like you were praying. Are you religious?
17A: I am.
17B: Me, too! I'm a Christian. How about you?
17A: I'm also a Christian! Are you Catholic or Protestant?
17B: Protestant.
17A: That's awesome! So am I! What denomination are you?
17B: I'm a Baptist.
17A: No way! Me too! Are you a Southern Baptist?
17B: No, I'm a Seventh Day Baptist.
17A: You're going to end up burning in hell. I'm not talking to a heathen!

Some of the arguments I get drawn into on this site and others are just bizarre. People pick something out, and if you don't do this one thing their way, then you're a failure, your school sucks, etc. etc. For example, I've seen:
  • One person says, "I'm not here for exercise, I'm here to learn. I can go to the gym on my own time. Don't waste my time on warmups. If your school does any of that, they don't have enough to teach you and just need to pad time."
  • Another person will say, "If you don't spend at least 15 minutes of every class on warm-ups and workouts, your school is a fraud."
Is one right and the other wrong? IMO, both training methods are right, both attitudes are wrong. Both have taken this one thing to become a dogma. Do you do warmups or not? If you have this dogma, you're going to blind yourself to schools that do things different.
 

Kung Fu Wang

Sr. Grandmaster
MT Mentor
Joined
Sep 26, 2012
Messages
10,994
Reaction score
2,890
Location
Austin, Tx/Shell Beach, Ca
17B: No, I'm a Seventh Day Baptist.
17A: You're going to end up burning in hell. I'm not talking to a heathen!
This remind me the following conversation.

A: My mon is dying. I'm afraid she won't be able to go to heaven.
B: Are your mother a Christian?
A: Yes, she is. But her branch of church just can't go to heaven.
 

isshinryuronin

Master Black Belt
Joined
Feb 28, 2019
Messages
1,080
Reaction score
996
Location
Las Vegas
Cultism and its dogma is like prostitution. It wouldn't exist if there wasn't a demand for it. So, I agree with Xue Sheng. There are definitely people who are looking for such. It fills some void, strokes their ego, provides a "leader" figure, fascinates them with mysticism, etc. These people are searching (consciously or not) for someone that can supply it.

There are some martial artists with charisma, either as a born gift, or as a result of their MA training and the internal power it gives them. Like any ability, it should be used responsibly. If they desire, they can gather in the aforementioned seekers and create a small following.

I've seen it happen 50 years ago when MA was novel and mystical to some, and to a lesser extent, today. It takes two to tango, and if consenting adults, relatively harmless. Better to be in a karate cult than many of the other kinds out there.

My first sensei had power (internal and external) and a lot of charisma. We teens tended to idolized him. But he did not allow us to get there. He always spoke to us as equals and as a regular guy. No dogma - whatever respect he got, he earned. We all had a kind of loyalty to him, not blind, more like you'd give family, flaws and all. So, maybe we were in a cult of our own choosing. Not all are bad. They're only bad when they limit one's ability to think and learn new things.
 

Steve

Mostly Harmless
Joined
Jul 9, 2008
Messages
19,266
Reaction score
4,770
Location
Covington, WA
Cultism and its dogma is like prostitution. It wouldn't exist if there wasn't a demand for it. So, I agree with Xue Sheng. There are definitely people who are looking for such. It fills some void, strokes their ego, provides a "leader" figure, fascinates them with mysticism, etc. These people are searching (consciously or not) for someone that can supply it.

There are some martial artists with charisma, either as a born gift, or as a result of their MA training and the internal power it gives them. Like any ability, it should be used responsibly. If they desire, they can gather in the aforementioned seekers and create a small following.

I've seen it happen 50 years ago when MA was novel and mystical to some, and to a lesser extent, today. It takes two to tango, and if consenting adults, relatively harmless. Better to be in a karate cult than many of the other kinds out there.

My first sensei had power (internal and external) and a lot of charisma. We teens tended to idolized him. But he did not allow us to get there. He always spoke to us as equals and as a regular guy. No dogma - whatever respect he got, he earned. We all had a kind of loyalty to him, not blind, more like you'd give family, flaws and all. So, maybe we were in a cult of our own choosing. Not all are bad. They're only bad when they limit one's ability to think and learn new things.
I think it's more insidious than that. It's the diet fraud thing... if you want to lose some weight and you have on your left a person telling you that it's going to involve fundamentally changing the way you think about food and exercise, and on your right you have a person telling you that it can be easy, comfortable, and you can still eat your bacon cheese burgers and lose weight while you watch TV... a lot of folks are going to move to the guy on the right. And when that guy gets these folks in, he starts gaslighting them, pumping up his own system while undermining common sense dieting strategies that we all know on some level just work.

We have a lot of those, even one or two on this forum, saying things like "self defense" training can be easy and comfortable, teaching you what you really need to know, no fitness or effort necessary, and don't trust those competition based systems, because they're for sport not reality. It's irresponsible at best.
 

Buka

Sr. Grandmaster
MT Mentor
Joined
Jun 27, 2011
Messages
11,741
Reaction score
8,371
Location
Maui
I've seen the cult thing various times throughout my career. Haven't in some time, though.
The ones that I did see were really strange. Never figured out how some people could get sucked into that, but they did.

I used to go to the same barber for many years. One of the other barbers, "hair stylist", actually, was working on a client in the next chair. She said to me, "Buka, can you help me?" I said, sure, Maureen, with what?"

She had told me that her husband joined a Martial Arts school a couple years before. They had since put him in an accelerated instructor's program. They were video taping him and sending the tapes to the grand Poobah in Korea for his review.

Besides his monthly tuition, he had spent sixty thousand dollars that went straight to the aforementioned Poobah. Sixty fricken' thousand dollars. I reached out to someone I knew in the FBI. They jumped right on it, eventually closed down the school and were charging them with something, fraud, maybe, I forget.

But he never got his sixty grand back. And within the next year he couldn't believe he fell for it.

Another time, in the 80's, I was checking the mail at my dojo. Got a letter that was really well written, reaching out to "fellow martial artists" about joint training to share with each other. I was getting excited reading it.....then it started to smell.....then stink.
As I get to the end of it, it was sent by Reverend Moon.

Reached out to the FBI on that one, too.

And don't get me started on Fast Freddie V. He didn't exactly run a cult, but bs'd his unsuspecting students pretty much the same way.
 

dvcochran

Grandmaster
Joined
Nov 7, 2017
Messages
6,794
Reaction score
2,128
Location
Southeast U.S.
Been training martial arts for almost 50 years in multiple styles and I have never run into anyone or any group looking at the teacher like a guru or cult leader. Has there been dogma in some styles? yes, but research can generally help with getting away from that..... but that dogma generally comes from the students more than the teacher
Fully agree. With the ease of information these days almost anyone can get reasonably informed on almost anything. Plus, with the sue happy society we have nowadays I think leaders are more apprehensive about selling snake oil.
 

Holmejr

Yellow Belt
Joined
Dec 23, 2017
Messages
39
Reaction score
15
Dogma simply means that which seems good. Would you say that Adapt what is useful, reject what is useless, and add what is specifically your own. Is dogmatic? I accept the momentary dogma of my specific style, because that is what GM taught. But his art was aways evolving, so how dogmatic could it be. During my forced break from the FMA arts, I joined a local TKD club. I progressed to brown belt, but during sparring I often reverted back to my FMA. Of corse this pissed off my TKD instructor. He would say knock that Kung fu **** off!. I totally got it. He was teaching a pure art (whether it worked or not). The dogma was necessary to carry on the art. The art of TKD is beautiful. Each pure art has its beautiful dogmas. Whether they work or not
 

dvcochran

Grandmaster
Joined
Nov 7, 2017
Messages
6,794
Reaction score
2,128
Location
Southeast U.S.
BTW, I've always wondered ,,,is that oil made from snakes ,,,,or for snakes?


...maybe I should ask Oily Dragon? He should know!
Now we know:

 

dvcochran

Grandmaster
Joined
Nov 7, 2017
Messages
6,794
Reaction score
2,128
Location
Southeast U.S.
I remember a long time ago, a pastor told a joke during his sermon. It went something like this (I'm paraphrasing and butchering it, so bear with me).

Two men are seated next to each other on a flight in row 17A and 17B. The man in 17A bowed his head for a silent prayer before take-off.
17B: It looked like you were praying. Are you religious?
17A: I am.
17B: Me, too! I'm a Christian. How about you?
17A: I'm also a Christian! Are you Catholic or Protestant?
17B: Protestant.
17A: That's awesome! So am I! What denomination are you?
17B: I'm a Baptist.
17A: No way! Me too! Are you a Southern Baptist?
17B: No, I'm a Seventh Day Baptist.
17A: You're going to end up burning in hell. I'm not talking to a heathen!

Some of the arguments I get drawn into on this site and others are just bizarre. People pick something out, and if you don't do this one thing their way, then you're a failure, your school sucks, etc. etc. For example, I've seen:
  • One person says, "I'm not here for exercise, I'm here to learn. I can go to the gym on my own time. Don't waste my time on warmups. If your school does any of that, they don't have enough to teach you and just need to pad time."
  • Another person will say, "If you don't spend at least 15 minutes of every class on warm-ups and workouts, your school is a fraud."
Is one right and the other wrong? IMO, both training methods are right, both attitudes are wrong. Both have taken this one thing to become a dogma. Do you do warmups or not? If you have this dogma, you're going to blind yourself to schools that do things different.
dog繚ma
/d繫氶m/
noun

  1. a principle or set of principles laid down by an authority as incontrovertibly true.
hy繚poc繚ri繚sy
/hp瓣krs/
noun

  1. the practice of claiming to have moral standards or beliefs to which one's own behavior does not conform; pretense.


    ***For some reason I cannot get out of the indention I pasted into the comment so I will roll with it.*** It seems to me this thread is evolving into talking about hypocrisy more than dogma. Heck, by definition a school teacher that teaches a specific subject is involved in dogma. And where does simple preference fall into this argument? "He likes to warm up". "She does not warm up". Both do the same drills. Can't they both be allowed and accepted? Yes, in the rigors of a formal class this would be a bit of an issue but I am certain there a many folks who only have way stretch during warmups everyday just to get to the drills. What do you call this? It is some kind of exception.
  2. So is the consensus that a dogmatic society is a cult? If so you would have to include the scientific society into the cult category which is a pretty Major leap.
  3. Where it gets difficult and challenging to me is the 'incontrovertible truth' part. As ever evolving creatures this is in conflict; albeit change usually comes in slow, measured amounts. This is true in the physical world. If we are including the meta-physical then the conversation gets much, much deeper. In this respect I do think there are incontrovertible truths.
 

SahBumNimRush

Master of Arts
Joined
Dec 17, 2009
Messages
1,790
Reaction score
151
Location
USA
I've seen it a bit, both in our own organization and within the greater martial arts community. Isolation and insulation are the most important keys in developing the above mentioned "dogma." Oscar Wilde said, Travel improves the mind wonderfully, and does away with all one's prejudices.

Cult-like tendancies often require the leader to be the sole source of information/talent/power/etc. Interacting, if not training, with other martial artists from various groups outside of your own tends to break the cultish mentality.
 

dvcochran

Grandmaster
Joined
Nov 7, 2017
Messages
6,794
Reaction score
2,128
Location
Southeast U.S.
I've seen it a bit, both in our own organization and within the greater martial arts community. Isolation and insulation are the most important keys in developing the above mentioned "dogma." Oscar Wilde said, Travel improves the mind wonderfully, and does away with all one's prejudices.

Cult-like tendancies often require the leader to be the sole source of information/talent/power/etc. Interacting, if not training, with other martial artists from various groups outside of your own tends to break the cultish mentality.
One of my favorite quotes.
 

Steve

Mostly Harmless
Joined
Jul 9, 2008
Messages
19,266
Reaction score
4,770
Location
Covington, WA
BTW, I've always wondered ,,,is that oil made from snakes ,,,,or for snakes?


...maybe I should ask Oily Dragon? He should know!
The term comes from a liniment that (IIRC) was mostly mineral oil, with some camphor, some capsaicin, some menthol and a little animal fat (theoretically derived from a snake). Ironically, those are all the active ingredients in most modern liniments, including tiger balm and icy hot. And they're all still overpriced. :)
 

J. Pickard

Green Belt
Joined
Jun 8, 2020
Messages
124
Reaction score
109
In my experience the people who join a martial arts cult are [subconsciously] looking to join a cult regardless of where it comes from. It makes them feel like they are special because they are part of the one true group of people that have all the answers. This is more common in some styles than others but is easy to notice and avoid. Don't try to reason with these people, don't try to discuss theory with them, just nod your head and move on.
 

Steve

Mostly Harmless
Joined
Jul 9, 2008
Messages
19,266
Reaction score
4,770
Location
Covington, WA
In my experience the people who join a martial arts cult are [subconsciously] looking to join a cult regardless of where it comes from. It makes them feel like they are special because they are part of the one true group of people that have all the answers. This is more common in some styles than others but is easy to notice and avoid. Don't try to reason with these people, don't try to discuss theory with them, just nod your head and move on.
Folks who are susceptible to being pulled into a cult need something, but they can be helped. Writing them off doesn't seem very nice to me. I have friends and relatives who are in the q-anon cult, and I haven't given up on them yet.
 
Top