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Electronic Journals of Martial Arts and Sciences

Guelph School of Japanese Sword Arts, July, 2001

Flakes and frauds in the martial arts and the dangers they pose

presented by Don Cunningham

Look at any popular martial arts publication or various Internet sites and one easily finds many martial arts grandmasters proclaiming outlandish martial arts ranking credentials and dubious training expertise. Most serious practitioners of traditional Japanese martial arts simply dismiss these individuals as rather harmless aberrations or eccentrics. Their whimsical claims are often viewed as comical or scorned for the poor image they create within the mainstream martial arts community. Yet, these individuals pose serious risks both to themselves and others.

Because of the lack of internal regulation or standards, self-proclaimed martial arts masters are often difficult to identify. A suggested working definition is one who establishes independent criteria to declare respective status within the martial arts community, usually at some sort of highly ranked level or teaching position. In some cases, they may have created a completely fictional background about themselves or even a fictitious martial art style. Often they claim some difficult if not impossible to authenticate training background. Some of the popular themes adopted by the typical self-proclaimed martial arts master presently include:

The primary psychological motivation basically appears to be a coping mechanism. Individuals who exhibit such behavior are often facing deep-seated feelings of powerlessness and inadequacy. Fear and low self-esteem may be the main reason such individuals are attracted to the martial arts in general. The martial arts expert presents an image of someone who can effectively handle any situation without fear. This powerful image is very appealing to those who harbor inner fears of failure or personal defeat. Common attitudes regarding the intended purpose of martial arts practice often reflect their inner fear and the need to seek external support:

Many others with the martial arts community ignore or ridicule such behavior. For the most part, though, it is often viewed as essentially harmless, if maybe a bit eccentric. Actual experience has demonstrated these self-proclaimed martial arts masters do often pose very serious risks, both to themselves and to others. Such dangers include:

Don Cunningham attended Texas A&M University-Commerce where he earned a BS degree in 1978 and a MS degree in 1984. A former judo competitor, he has advanced ranks in judo, jujutsu, and kendo, including a second dan license from the Kodokan Judo Institute in Tokyo. Mr. Cunningham has practiced judo and competed in many different countries, including Japan and Europe. His tournament records include many state and regional awards. In addition, he has studied various koryu bujutsu styles with several teachers during his frequent business trips to Japan.

A frequent contributor to martial arts publications, Mr. Cunningham has studied and written about Japanese modern and traditional martial arts for more than thirty years. He is the author of Secret Weapons of Jujutsu, a book which offers a detailed introduction to exotic feudal Japanese defensive weapons like the tessen and jutte as well as other hibuki, or “concealed weapons.”

Contact information
Don Cunningham
695 Avondale Lane
Aurora, IL 60504-7217

Telephone: (630) 851-8684
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