Here at the frontier, the leaves fall like rain. Although my neighbors are all barbarians, and you, you are a thousand miles away, there are still two cups at my table.

Ten thousand flowers in spring, the moon in autumn, a cool breeze in summer, snow in winter. If your mind isn't clouded by unnecessary things, this is the best season of your life.

~ Wu-men ~

Saturday, February 22, 2020

What Motivates Fakes Martial Artists

Today we have another guest post by Jonathan Bluestein. Jonathan discusses the motivation behind fake martial artists.

The Real Reason Why
Fake Martial Arts Exist

By Jonathan Bluestein

In recent years there had been much uproar over the Internet, concerning the existence of ‘Fake Martial Arts’. These types of frivolous activities have been around for centuries, but in the age of digital cameras, suddenly knowledge of them have spread like wildfire. With these fake martial arts, I speak of martial arts teachers, who may or may not possess real knowledge and skills, but nonetheless fool people with silly and worthless tutelage, to glorify their egos and wallets. They peddle deadly ‘death touch’ techniques, move the na├»ve around the room with mystical energies, and engage in strange dancing maneuvers claimed to be of self-defense value. The difference between mere unskilled teachers and full-blown martial arts charlatans, is that the latter are fanciful and nonsensical to the point of universal mockery. How do you define what a ‘fake martial artist’ is? Well, as the United States Supreme Court once defined pornography: “You know it when you see it”.

21st Century Western Culture, and American Culture in particular, have taken a liking to witch-hunting ‘perpetrators’, whilst elevating ‘victims’. Sometimes this distinction between ‘good’ and ‘evil’ is indeed quite prominent and clear. Other times, no so much. In the case of fake martial arts, the tendency is, as usual, to chastise the wicked instructors, and shelter the poor souls who have fallen victim to their depravity. There are occasions indeed, when this is warranted, especially when children and teens are involved. After all, not only personal abuse is in question, but also that of ‘stealing’ one’s money and time, and teaching ‘skills’ which may result in serious harm to oneself. But is that matter always as clear-cut as it seems, and can we paint a picture all in black and white, with respect to this vile phenomenon?

In my books, I always write about the three things which all people covet in life:  HappinessMeaning and Continuity. When the martial arts are taught correctly, they can help one cultivate Happiness, Meaning and Continuity in their lives. But the fact of the matter is, that people will chase the attainment of Happiness, Meaning and Continuity by all means necessary or available, because they cannot feel complete without these three things. This is why many turn to addictions and self-abuse, when either Happiness, Meaning or Continuity is missing from their lives.

Fake martial arts instructors are charismatic individuals, who have the willingness to con others out of their money and wits. They oftentimes understand better than other, real martial arts teachers, that people covet Happiness, Meaning and Continuity. They understand this well, even if they do not necessarily have the language to explain it as eloquently. Therefore, they make these three things their selling point, and among the three, tend to focus on the subject of Meaning.

We would all like to have a meaningful life. How do you create a life which is meaningful? 

Commonly, you gain meaning by having something special – knowledge, skills or experiences, which other people do not have. But in this mundane and generic world of mass-production Capitalism, where could most people possibly find such Meaning?          
There are those who become specialists, in a trade or within the academia. But having such specialization takes lots of effort and education, and to really stand out, commonly over a decade or two of labour is needed. Others obtain Meaning via the path of becoming famous, via the venues of sports or politics. But here again is required a special effort, and are needed a character, a body or both which are uniquely suited for the task. Meditation and an authentic spiritual or religious practice are also viable and useful methods for obtaining 

Meaning, but alas, these too are not very commonly used by laypeople for that purpose. All of the above then, are measures of obtaining Meaning which are complex, lengthy and tiresome. This is why, many opt for trying to develop a sense of meaning by engaging in activities promising quicker rewards. Hence – fake martial arts.

What the Fake Martial Arts are, for the majority of participants (barring real victims), is nothing more than a ‘game’ people play. Yes, in case you are wondering – I am herein directly referring also to the brilliant psychological theory presented by Eric Berne in his 1964 book: ‘The Games People Play’.   
The entire phenomenon of fake martial arts is manifested by the need of various individuals to generate Meaning, in a culture which has been growing devoid of meaning over the past few centuries due to the loss of a spiritual backbone, and lackluster connection with the natural environment and a human’s role within it. Now you could say, that all martial arts are a part of people’s need for Happiness, Meaning and Continuity – this much is true!  But the difference is, that under the stress and duress of a society and culture devoid of meaning, the individual who feels empty on the inside, turns to the absurd and is willing to accept the irrational, if only in it there is the promise of salvation.

Examining this debacle from the odd angle presented herein, one could begin to cultivate a less-biased point of view. We can then start to realize, that fake martial arts are not entirely the evil creation of cynical crooks, but rather, a ‘product’ which has been designed to meet the needs of many potential ‘customers’. Surely, the victims would later complain of the exploitation, and the injustice done unto them. Society will then shelter and caress these poor souls, whilst demanding the harshest of punishments for the nasty culprits. But unlike in the case of rape, robbery or murder, the crime of soliciting fake martial arts is a more ambiguous venture, in which both sides play along willingly (in most cases at least), and sometimes almost equally bear the blame. Yes, there is truth in the notion that a perceived position of authority and dominance caries its own weight and sway (and is always negative with children and teens!). But as they say, ‘two are required for a tango’, and with a group of gullible willing students, you typically have more than just a duo of willing believers.

What else must be admitted, is that Meaning is sought by many people in Judeo-Christian societies, by appealing to miracles. Western Culture is dominated by the influence of the Old and New Testaments. These books, which I have read many a time by the way in the original Hebrew, are full of divine intervention, and countless acts of miracles, which we more commonly refer to in everyday language as ‘magic’.
The typical citizen of a Western nation is haunted by a paradox which arises from these texts. That paradox is, that the Old and New Testaments are full of great meaning, which is derived in part from ‘the literal magic’ in them, whilst in our time, no such magic has been known to take place, in the same manner or intensity as described. It is only natural then, for the person who has grown up in a Judeo-Christian culture, whether he be secular or religious, to subconsciously yearn to produce Meaning by looking up to the miraculous. 

Especially and in particular, some Christians are more drawn to find meaning in ‘magic’ which is to them reminiscent in some ways of the abilities of Jesus Christ.     
Here I must explain, that it is not exactly Jesus Christ himself whom the fake martial arts instructors imitate, or their followers aspire to learn from. Especially, as the great majority of fake martial arts instructors do not appear to mix religion with their charlatanism. Rather, inspired by Jesus Christ, there had grown in Western Culture the tradition of the charismatic priest performing magical feats to sway and awe his congregation. Some of these feats, by the way, include the moving of people around a room or a stage with mystical energies, or using pseudo-martial techniques on them as an expression of spiritual power. The fake martial arts instructors follow in the footsteps of that other fake tradition, and this makes their ‘show’ a type of sales pitch which delivers many themes that the student can subconsciously identify.    
The exact same psychological phenomenon and process, is undertaken among fake martial arts in the Orient as well. The only difference being, that rather than having Christian traditions as an inspiration, other religious folklore similarly fills-in the blanks.

In a sense, this whole phenomenon goes back to the times before Christianity and modern Asian religions. In some respects, the fake martial arts scene originates from not only the search for Meaning, but also the deeply-rooted human desire for a shamanistic experience. 

The fake martial arts instructor, as ridiculous as he may appear, tends to fulfill the role of the Shaman – a person of some spiritual authority, who is supposed to help the pupil transcend the mundane, and in so doing obtain Meaning. In Christianity, especially within its more orthodox modalities, the priests have to a great extent replaced the social role of the Shaman. But in a secular society, in which shamans and priests are absent, or are of weaker influence of some individuals, the human animal naturally seeks another authority figure to take over that important function in his or her life.

Nonetheless, as usual, the tendency in 21st century Western society is to blame, rather than to discuss. It is far easier to ‘burn the witches’, than take an honest look at ourselves and the delusions we have helped create. Would we have a better world, by admonishing the fakes, shaming them, beating them up, incarcerating them or the likes of these punishments? Surely, many more shall arise to take their place, like mushrooms after first rains. Why? Because as typical of 21st century Western culture, we have tackled the symptoms of the illness, and not its roots. Where might these roots lay, you may ask? They are to be found in education, and the very structure of our society. The ‘cure’ for fake martial arts is to be conjured via helping people grow with good values, and providing them with a healthy spiritual experience and outlet, be it religious or not. When this is put into place, then people would not feel the urge to find false priests or shamans, or make themselves into such dubious characters. Thus, the solution is unsurprisingly more so in ourselves, rather than in others. Especially for the sincere and genuine martial arts teachers – our own good work, is what keeps people away from the charlatans.

Shifu Jonathan Bluestein is a foremost teacher and author of the traditional Chinese martial arts. He published a number of best-selling books on the martial arts, including:  Research of Martial Arts and The Martial Arts Teacher. He is also the head of Blue Jade Martial Arts International. Learn and read many more free articles at:

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