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Satan was an angel in Heaven, but he grew discontented with serving God and sought to overthrow God, so God banded Satan to Hell. In John Milton's classic work Paradise Lost, Satan says "Better to reign in Hell than to serve in Heaven." This appears to be the mantra of many “masters” in the martial arts.

What is a soke?

A soke is commonly considered the founder of a martial art. Many "new" martial arts have been founded because a student in a martial art became discontented serving under the master of the art and wanted to be his or her own master. Because of this, the master banned the student from the art and the student created a new martial art and made himself or herself the soke of the art. It appears that it is "Better to reign in your own martial art than to serve in an existing martial art."

When correctly used, the Japanese term soke refers, not to the founder of a specific martial arts system, but to a student who has inherited the leadership of the system or is named by the predecessor as the successor. However, nowadays, the term is often used to refer to the founders of martial art systems themselves as well as to the "founders" of a martial art style within a system.

Creating sokes

Theoretically, every martial arts system, even the very first one, whatever that may have been, had a founder, or a soke. From that one soke, now there are thousands. Why have the martial arts generated so many "Sok√©mons?”

One way to found a new martial art is to come up with a new way to fight, but how many different ways may a human being with two arms and two legs fight? Basically, to fight another person or animal with empty hands, a human may:
  • Strike (using hands, feet, elbows, etc.) or 
  • Grapple (using throws, pins, hold owns, locks, chokes, pressure points, etc.). 

This means you really need only two martial art systems: a striking system (System A) and grappling system (System B). Which means you only need two sokes. However, how do you accommodate the super egos of so many martial art masters that also desire to be sokes?

You do it by creating variations of one of the original two martial arts, such as by only using kicks from the striking system and creating (Style A1), or only using throws from (System B) and creating (Style B1). Do you still need more styles? Then use parts of (System A) and (System B) to create (Style A1B1), (Style A1B2), etc. and then create versions of each of these styles (Style A1B2a), (Style A1aB2b), etc.). In this manner, you may create an infinite number of styles, each with its own soke.

Why so many variations of martial arts?

There are few other sports with so many variations and even fewer with a supreme master for each variation. As an example, let us examine the lowly ball.

A ball may be small, such as a table tennis ball or large, such as a basketball. It may be soft, such as a volleyball, or hard, such as a baseball. It may be round, such as a soccer ball, or oblong, such as a football. When these differences are combined with the different types of materials with which balls may be made, you come up with hundreds, perhaps thousands of ways a ball may be constructed. Now consider all the sports that use a ball for play. There are many of them, but still relatively few considering the number of types of balls that are available. Why is this?

Take the basketball for instance; it has been in use for over 100 years, why have not numerous styles of basketball play been founded. Is it because the original basketball game is so perfect that it does not need improvement? Granted there have been minor rule changes to the game through the years but it is still basically the same game as invented in 1891. Some variations of the game have been founded through the years, but they have been viewed as eclectic and useless, and have quickly passed into oblivion.

Rather than change the game, basketball players have been content to play the game and try to be the best at the game that they may be. Rather than just striving to be the best an existing martial art, which will take a lot of hard work and may never occur, many martial artists simply found a martial art that conforms to their abilities and then declare themselves the grand master of the art.

Some may say basketball is a sport and not related to combat, so it is not fair to compare it to the martial arts. Well, let us examine the handgun.

Its use is certainly a combat weapon and it was created as such. There are currently only a few effective ways to fire a handgun in self-defense, so why has not some master founded a new way to fire it? Maybe holding the weapon upside down, firing from a one-legged stance, or maybe firing it while skipping. There is no reason to invent a new way to use something that works just fine the way it is.

However, in the martial arts, people feel compelled to found a new way, not necessarily a more effective or efficient way, just a new way, of doing a simple thing, such as a punch or kick. Why is this? Ego is the answer. When you are nothing special in a group of special people and you want to be special, you create the illusion of being someone special, even if it is only within a small group of people. Being the founder of a new martial art makes egocentric people feel special.

Some people think different is better. The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. It does not matter that something is ineffective or inefficient; all that matters is that it is different than that everyone else is doing. Moreover, better than doing something different is being the founder of something different.

Progression to soke

Martial arts students start out studying a martial art of their choice. Sometimes they may change arts until they find one that best suits them, but at some point, most settle on one art.

Many drop out of training after a while, but a few will train for years until they make black belt. After earning a black belt, most keep training for a year or two but then many drop out of the martial arts due to loss of interest.

Some keep training and making personal progress for the rest of their lives. Some enjoy teaching others, so they begin teaching. Most of those who stay with an art are content with growing the art and making it better.

However, some have a desire for more power and prestige than they may attain within the art, so they make some minor change to the art, add some impressive-sounding but totally useless terminology and wild unproven theories, give their creation a new impressive sounding name, and then make themselves the supreme grandmaster or soke of the new art.

Taekwondo itself is a mixed martial art. Its founders were black belts in karate, primarily shotokan, who combined shotokan techniques with traditional Korean taekkyeon techniques to create taekwondo.

Since its beginning in 1955, taekwondo has also been a victim of masters who were not content to be merely masters of an art; they wanted to be grandmasters of their own art. Some formed new organizations but kept the name taekwondo while others changed the name. Some made slight modifications to the art, while others made major changes. The way it stands now, if you meet a person who also studies taekwondo, you may find his or her version of taekwondo is entirely different from your own.

As stated before, every martial art had a soke at its creation, even the traditional martial art systems that have been around for decades or even centuries. Some of these were probably started for the same reasons as stated above. Just because a martial art style is old does not mean it wasn’t created to serve the ego of its creator. Can you imagine a modern, or even ancient, soldier falling to the ground and fighting in the "drunken monkey" kung-fu style when facing the enemy?

How to make yourself a soke

  • Obtain some training in a current martial art. No need to become proficient in it, just learn its terminology, basic movements, and theories so you may convincingly act as if you know what you are doing. Even better is to train in a number of arts for a few months each so you may claim some knowledge in all of them.
  • Learn how to market a martial art. Watch how the McDojo organizations market their product. With good marketing, you may convince the uneducated public to believe almost anything is true. Look at the success chiropractors have had. You don’t hear hour-long infomercials from medical doctors claiming they can cure anything that ails you by manipulating your spine.
  • Learn how to manipulate people. Some people are naturals at manipulating others, but with practice, anyone may do it. All you need is some charisma, real or fake, and no morals. Watch psychics, new age healers, television evangelists, etc., they are experts at manipulating gullible people.
  • Learn the standard put-downs of all the long-established martial arts. Just as politicians do when they do not have anything real to offer, try to discredit the opposition with false claims.
  • Instead of inventing a new way to deal with an old problem, come up with some new technique and then make up a reason to use it. For example, instead of simply slipping or deflecting punches, invent a way to wave your arms around in "sticky hands" movements. Now make up a reason to use the technique, such as against another person who attacks you with little, slow pawing attacks. Then be sure to only demonstrate or use your new techniques against a fellow practitioner. Do not make the mistake of using sticky hands against a real opponent who is firing straight punches at your face; it will be a painful learning experience.
  • When your techniques do not work, make excuses. Claim it is due to "individual differences," the person was not trying hard enough, or claim it is due to some mystical reason, such as there was a diversion of ki or the moon was in the seventh house.
  • Wear some outrageous looking uniform. Design one that makes you look like a tribal chieftain or the king of a country.
  • Have your students wear some special uniform. Make sure it is totally different from those traditionally worn by martial artists.
  • Learn to make your most insignificant achievements seem extraordinary. Look at Senator John Kerry. He used his four months spent in Vietnam many decades ago and purple heart for a minor cut as reasons why he should have been elected President.
  • Claim to have served in the military. In addition, give yourself a high rank and claim to have been in the Special Forces during wartime.
  • When speaking, touch people a lot. Use techniques that require a lot of touching. People feel reassured and trusting when they are touched. Many "healing" arts use this technique.
  • Remember some principles of the con (politicians use these all the time):
  • It does not have to be true, you only have to make people believe it is true. For example, the rich don’t pay their share of the taxes, a copper bracket will heal, or ki will give you incredible powers.
  • Ignorance is bliss. For example, an unknowing wife of a cheating husband may be happy with her marriage, or a student who thinks his or her instructor is a great martial arts master while not knowing all the master's credentials are fake.
  • If you repeat a lie enough, it will be accepted as the truth. For example, repeatly say that your martial art has been clinically approved or that bobbing up and down like a pigeon when moving will add power to your punches. The more you tell a lie, the more you begin to believe it yourself. This makes you an even more convincing liar.
  • When asked an incriminating question, avoid it. Change the subject, attack the questioner’s reason for asking the question, blame others for attacking your credibility, or ramble with meaningless statements until the original question is forgotten.
  • Accuse others of trying to suppress your innovations. For example, claim that drug companies buy patents for natural cures and keep them from the public, or that traditional masters are trying to suppress your martial art because they want to keep students training in their schools.
  • Stress that new is better than old. For example, claim that moving in a sine wave motion is better than the walking motion that humans have used for eons.
  • Stress that old is better than new. For example, claim that holistic medicine is better than modern medicine or that moving around like a four-legged animal is a better way of fighting than fighting like homo sapien. 
  • Create lots of easy to remember slogans and phrases that people may use when trying to explain your art. Have stickers for students to place on pareents' cars, school books, etc.
  • Give impressive titles to simple, routine things. For example, call a punch "Wary snake strikes fierce dragon."
  • Always demonstrate your techniques on one of your submissive students. Do not try to use your quick knockout slap against an ordinary person; always use a person who believes you have the power.
  • Always demonstrate your techniques on a stationary, passive person. Do not try to use your pressure point attacks on a person who is moving around and resisting.
  • Do not let your techniques be tested. Do not go to competitions, instead, put down tournaments as a waste of time. Say that your techniques are too deadly to use in competition.
  • Never agree to perform your techniques under scientific conditions. If you never submit to tests using impartial subjects, double blinds, or realistic conditions, then it is easier to make false claims.
  • Cover your walls with testimonials and memorabilia of your successes, no matter how minor. Get your photo taken with some local or national politician, a well-known film star or musician, or other celebrity, and hang it on your wall. All you need is the photo; you can make up a story to go with it.
  • Cover the walls of your office with your life. All instructors hang their rank or instructor certification on the wall of their offices, but you should also hang impressively framed certificates of every conference, course, seminar, or workshop that you have ever attended in your entire life. Also, obtain high-rank certificates from every martial art organization you can find on the Internet. Fellow sokes will be glad to exchange rank certificates with you since it also helps them increase their own resumes.
  • Found your own international organization to govern your art. Never mind that your only students are in your home city or state. Such as with the Karate “International” organization which has schools only in central North Carolina.
  • Place official-looking initials behind your name. No need to earn genuine higher-level degrees, simply create your own impressive-looking initials. Use these qualifications and claims to make your business cards as impressive as possible. You can also add titles such as grandmaster, professor, doctor, etc. You can easily make your own certifying documents on a computer or you can order them online from some other bogus organization.
  • Produce a professional website that contains every claim and testimonial that you can invent. Make frequent use of highly sensational, emotive language to sell what you have as "the greatest," "the deadliest," etc. Don't give out any useful information, make people pay for this. Don't use verifiable information, although most people will just accept your claims as the truth without ever verifying them.
  • Publish books that claim to reveal the secret techniques of the martial arts. Rather than publish one book with useful information, publish books on each aspect of your art, such as just kicks or just throws, so you may claim to have written many books. Publishing a book is easy to do, just fill the book with photos of yourself dressed in all your regalia doing simple techniques, and with photos of someone else who is in good physical condition doing the more difficult techniques that you cannot do, and probably never could do.
  • Make claims about past achievements that are difficult to verify. For example. Claim to be the grand champion of numerous obscure tournaments. The more distant past, the better.
  • Claim to be able to fight multiple attackers because of special technique you have developed. Claim you can sense the presence of danger and react to it. Of course, only use your own specially trained students to attack you.
  • Invent an art that has the "best" of every other art. This way you may attract students interested in any one of the other arts. Stress that your art is the best because it combines all the other arts.
  • Apply pseudoscientific or approximately scientific tests and impressive jargon to convince your students that you really know something. Remember that anything that sounds Oriental, mystic, or similar to something shown in movies, on television, in video games, etc. will convince the ignorant that you are a true master.
  • Use "power words" and eye contact along with powerful emotional speaking to make yourself more authoritative. If you sound like you know what you are doing, there are people who will think you know what you are doing. 
  • Be a close speaker. Get close to people and stare into their eyes when you speak. This helps you control the person and seem powerful.
  • Make your school look like a set from a Hong Kong martial arts movie. If your school looks like a Chinese temple, idiots will think you are a kung fu expert.
  • Make your facilities look as impressive as possible. Paint all kinds of oriental symbols on the walls and hang all kinds of martial arts weapons. Photos of other old, fatherly, grandmasters hanging on the wall will help.
  • Have at least one well-stocked bookshelf filled with books on relevant and impressive topics. You do not have to understand what is in the books or even have read them.
  • Casually drop into conversations the names of well-known public figures or martial artists with whom you have met or trained under. Even the most trivial meetings may be elaborated upon as being something special. Of course, you can still lie and make everything up.
  • Once students are in your program, tell them that you only teach the secret techniques to you most trusted senior students. This helps encourage students to stay with you until that point in hopes of learning these ancient secrets. When that time comes for them to learn the secrets, you will have indoctrinated the students into your program and there will be no need to come up with any secret techniques.
  • Avoid students or people who know enough about the martial arts to question your methods. If you never expose yourself to questions, you will never need to answer them.
  • Only hang around with other sokes so you may support each other. Do not deal with legitimate professionals that have inquisitive, skeptical minds.
  • Avoid students that have the potential of becoming better than you. Stay with people with little self-confidence and self-respect, then you may mold them into your subjects.
  • Ability is not of concern to pseudo-masters, it is just the art of the con. Believe it or not, a big belly and being a physical wreck is a common trait of many sokes.
  • Never put down another soke. If ever asked your opinion of another soke, simply say, "She has some interesting methods," or "Yes, I have read some of his articles on the subject." In this way, you may defuse any encounters and you are not compromising your partnership with other fake sokes.
  • Always include comments about "Eastern" or "Oriental" secrets in your discussions. Westerners seem to accept non-Western folklore as fact.

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