IntroThere is an old saying, if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it must be a duck! However, this is not always true; it could be a crow masquerading as a duck.
Some martial arts masters are merely con men and women, pretending to be masters. There are indicators to look for that could help you in determining if a martial arts master is legitimate or just a charlatan trying to con you out of your money.
Indicators of pseudo-mastersThe following are indicators that a master may be a pseudo-master along with indicators that the master may be legitimate. The indicators are not foolproof, but if you do a little research into the background of a claimed master you may find that many, if not all, of the indicators are present, which should cause you to reconsider your opinion of the "master."
- Indicators of pseudo-masters are in black color text.
- Indicators of legitimate masters are in rust color text.
- Pseudo-masters make boisterous claims to be the descendant or successor of some supreme grand master or style founder. If a legitimate master is a descendant or a successor, you will have to search to discover it; the master will be humble and not publicize it or probably not even mention it.
- Pseudo-masters wear uniforms that would make the robes of a king or queen look cheap. Their uniforms are usually covered with patches, wild colors, piping, silk, symbols, patches etc. They wear colorful headbands, wristbands, etc. Pseudo-masters have large egos, but usually do not have the intellect, education, skills, etc. that would allow them the success needed to justify the large egos. To make up for the deficient, they wear clothing they think makes them appear special. Legitimate masters usually wear simple uniforms traditionally worn in their martial arts.
- Pseudo-masters wear belts that are extra wide and/or extra long. The belts are usually brightly colored and covered with symbols. The ranks stripes are wide, bright, and numerous. The belts are usually as preposterous as their uniforms. Legitimate masters wear simple belts with simple stripes.
- Pseudo-masters' ranks correspond to their belt size. The larger the belt size a pseudo-master needs, the higher the rank. Legitimate masters stay fit for their age.
- Pseudo-masters speak mumbo jumbo. They use terminology they invented or learned from another pseudo-master. They give complicated names to simple things or techniques to make them sound special. Legitimate masters speak clearly and use standard phraseology.
- Pseudo-masters are usually founders of a new martial. Since there are only a few ways to kick, punch, and grapple, all variations of each are already used in traditional martial arts. Therefore, any new art is usually a combination of existing martial arts, or it is some existing martial art with new packaging. Legitimate masters are usually masters of well-established traditional martial arts.
- Pseudo-masters claim their methods and techniques are secret, banned, or mystical. They claim their arts cannot be measured scientifically, rely on some special herb or tonic, rely on some internal power that only comes from years of training with said masters, are too deadly to be used by other martial arts, or use some death, or delayed death, touch. Legitimate masters use time-tested techniques that have been proved scientifically or in centuries of actual use.
- Pseudo-masters claim to be a professor or a Ph.D. in the martial arts or some other obscure subject. A check of a pseudo-master’s vita will usually result in the degree being a mail order or online degree from an unaccredited university, an "alternative" learning university, some martial art degree program set up by another pseudo-master, or some degree from a foreign unrecognized university. The degrees may be honorary, bestowed by some supreme grand pseudo-master. Diplomas, just like rank certificates, are easily generated on computers and are easily obtained from Internet sources. Legitimate masters have standard degrees from accredited universities and have certified transcripts to prove it.
- Pseudo-masters have rank, usually high rank, in numerous martial arts. Like roaches, pseudo-masters seem to attract each other. They give each other rank in each of their "organizations" so they all seem superhuman. Legitimate masters have rank in one, two, or maybe three unique arts that complement each other and do not conflict with each other.
Just as you cannot be a true Baptist and also be a true Catholic, you cannot be a true believer in the concepts of and a black belt in taekwondo, and also be a true believer in the concepts of and a black belt in shito-ryu karate. If you truly accept one as your "way" in life and you believe in all its concepts, then you cannot truly accept in the other as your "way" and believe in all its concepts, especially when the two arts have conflicting methods and concepts about how to move, punch, kicks, etc.
One could have multiple black belts if the other ranks were in other arts that used totally different ways of fighting. For example, one could have black belts in karate and judo because the arts have totally different ways of fighting. Karate’s way of fighting is stand-up punching and kicking while judo’s way of fighting is throws, chokes, bars, and pins.
- Pseudo-masters are usually members of some "recognizing" or "unifying" organization; some even operate one of these organizations. If you have rank from a legitimate organization, you do not need to be "recognized" by any other organizations. Recognizing organizations tend to "recognize" each other and the members of each other, for a fee of course. These organizations claim not criticize other organizations, styles, or people; however, this claim is usually used to indict others who dare criticize them. Legitimate masters belong to their style's regional, national, or international organizations and that is all, unless membership in another organization is needed for competition, such as belonging to the AAU to compete in AAU tournaments.
- Pseudo-masters are members of one or more "halls of fame" of organizations whose only purpose is to recognize "masters.” Legitimate masters are recognized by their peers in their own organizations.
- Pseudo-masters are usually fat and out of condition, and claim to have some reason for being that way, like a hormone imbalance. Legitimate masters are usually in excellent physical condition, in spite of their age or medical situation.
- Pseudo-masters will risk their reputations in the pursuit of another dollar. Both legitimate masters and pseudo-masters have concern for their reputations, and the reputations of their schools, arts, and organizations. However, legitimate masters strive to maintain good reputations, sometimes at the risk of other things, such as income, while pseudo-masters would sell their soul to Satan for notoriety. The most successful charlatans are actors who are friendly, likable, good looking, seem to care, and seem to know what they are doing. When masters are too good to be true—beware.
- Pseudo-masters, although they are now slow and use poor technique, have tales of yesteryear when they were the greatest fighters on the planet. You do not have to know anything about snow skiing to recognize a world-class skier on the slopes; even old ones still have world-class techniques. If you could perform a perfect kick to an opponent's head as a 20-year-old, you should at least be able to perform a perfect kick to an opponent’s abdomen as a 60-year-old, or to the opponent's knee as a 70 or 80-year-old. If you could ever ride a bicycle, you will never forget how to ride a bicycle no matter how old you are or how long it has been since you last rode. Legitimate masters always use near perfect techniques or, if unable to perform perfect techniques due to health reasons, will at least know how to teach perfect technique.
- Pseudo-masters usually demand some type of respect other than common courtesy. They demand to be called eternal grandmaster, overlord, your highness, or some other ego-boosting title that makes them feel important since they have no real authority or power in their real lives. Legitimate masters only have your call them sir or ma'am or some other simple traditional title.
- Pseudo-masters have photographs hung on walls that show them with other pseudo-masters. The photographs were usually made at one of the aforementioned halls of fame banquets held by recognizing organizations. To be photographed with a master, all you have to do is be at an event where the master is participating in having photographs taken with fans; it does not necessarily mean the master knows who you are. Legitimate masters will also have photographs, but they are usually of them with community leaders at some community event in which they are participating. Of course, anyone may go to a major tournament or martial arts convention and get a photo taken with some master or well-known athlete: all you have to do is ask.
- Many pseudo-masters are in their 20s, 30s, or 40s. Not only are they a master in one martial art, they are a master of many different martial arts. Legitimate masters are usually in their 50s or older. High rank does come from so much from ability as it does from a lifetime of hard work devoted to not just to one's school and students but also to the art, the organization, and the community in which one lives.
- Pseudo-masters love flash and cash. Pseudo-masters love attention and the limelight. Legitimate masters are humble and love to teach and help others achieve their best.