On McDojos and Mob Justice

Sean Treanor’s article on the Bullshido phenomenon raises some important questions…

Martial arts practice in America is entirely unregulated. There is no central body that issues standards, no set of accepted practices, no communication between different styles. State and local governments have nothing to say about who is and isn’t a martial artist. After all, consumers are free to make their own decisions.

Unfortunately, it can be very hard to tell the difference between fantasy and reality when studying an ancient, esoteric and exotic discipline. Not many people have any idea what martial arts training should consist of. There is almost no agreement within the martial arts establishment over what is effective training and what is not.

Investigation is expensive and the market is too small to attract much media attention, aside from cinematic mythmaking. The mainstream martial arts magazines have never made investigative journalism part of their repertoire. George Dillman, the mental KO king was Black Belt Magazine’s instructor of the year in 1997. There is simply no money in exposing these martial arts entrepreneurs. Some people, however, are willing to do it for free.

Bullshido.com…was set up in 2002 for just that purpose. Bullshido tries to use crowd-sourcing and citizen journalism to investigate and expose the worst of the martial arts phonies. Its founding goal was to be “a virtual meeting place and sounding board for a grass roots movement to restore ethics and realism to systems shrouded in misinformation and irrational mysticism.”

Ten moderators who review its 500 to 1,000 daily posts police this faceless mob. They seem to believe that those moderators are best who moderate least. “We don’t pre-screen our comments,” says Samuel Browning, one of the site’s attorneys. “We don’t have an intelligence test for our comments.”

I have previously described the world of commercial martial arts instruction as a market for lemons. Now, I would like to examine the limits of that analogy.

If the potential buyers of a used car are unable to immediately assess its condition, they nevertheless agree on its ideal characteristics: functioning brakes, smooth shifting, no leaking fluids, and so on. No such agreement exists across the broad spectrum of the world’s martial arts.

This conflict is not a result of fraudulent and under-qualified teachers; quite the contrary, it is driven from the demand side. The majority of martial arts consumers in the United States are irrefutably content with an art that just “doesn’t work,” by Wikipedia standards.

Instead of addressing the underlying issues—legitimate differences in training goals and values—the Bullshido mindset specializes in penny-ante skepticism of lineage credentials and historical claims. At this task, they are a success: they can tell you whether Sensei Bobby Joe really worked as a soldier of fortune in the Central American jungle, or if he truly received a teaching certificate from an unnamed Shaolin monk. (The answer is no.)

With respect to concrete martial skills, and the ability to teach them, their suspects are deemed guilty until proven innocent by YouTube—the kind of populist “reasoning” that would make any legitimate researcher blush.

The beneficiary of these investigations is less clear. Surely it is not the student who voluntarily signed up for Oriental fantasy role-play. Yes, a few of those will be shamed into departing their chosen McDojo, but their embarrassment leaves them no better equipped to search for superior alternatives. Here there is a thin line between exposing victims in the name of justice, and creating them for sport (and profit).

Through its zeal to punish wrongdoers, the Bullshido mindset holds its supposed audience—the inexperienced student—in thinly veiled contempt. Its average product reads more like taunts scribbled on a UFC bathroom stall than an issue of Consumer Reports, with a level of violent fanaticism rivaling the worst martial arts cults.

If all McDojos were somehow wiped off the face of the Earth today: Hollywood would recharter them, charlatans would restaff them, immature students would patronize them, and the equally childish Bullshido mob would ecstatically debunk them. In other words, everyone would find their satisfaction. Personally, I see no problem to be solved.


  1. The fear of litigation prevents meaningful challenges from taking place. If it wasn’t for the lawyers, the martial arts community would be self correcting.

  2. Hey Chris. At the end of the day each student should take full responsibility for their own training, which means they should research it sufficiently to know what is good practice and what is bad practice. A student must question everything so there is no room to be duped into believing something that isn’t true. If I’m being trained wrong or being trained in something that doesn’t work or isn’t effective then it is my responsibility to recognize that and go somewhere were I will be trained correctly in something that is effective. Martial arts training is a personal journey and you can’t rely on other people to get you were you want to go, you have to do that yourself by firstly knowing where it is you want to go exactly and then finding out how you are going to get there in the right way. Ditch the sheep mentality that many people have, in other wards, and take full responsibility for your own learning.

  3. Very interesting topic/post.
    I also hate to see people taken for a ride.
    As consumers we all have to do our own
    due diligence.
    More laws and regulation, I don’t know,
    but I do understand the concerns.
    Keep up the great writing.

  4. I have posted sporadically on Bullshido for a few years now. While some sections of the forums are wildly aggressive and disrespectful, as martial artists should harsh words on the internet really be that threatening to us? It is this kind of skepticism and interdisciplinary review that will keep martial arts from becoming stagnant and full of low quality schools.

    The investigations that are done are very much for the benefit of the people that do not know how to investigate these things on their own or cannot tell the difference between a charlatan mcdojo and a truly impressive school. While surely many people wish to find a martial art for many different goals, Bullshido has consistently been able to help people asses schools they wish to attend by showing them how to find a school that is right for them.

    As martial artists it is our responsibility to regulate our own industry. If we can’t keep our communities in order, no one else is going to do it for us.

  5. Neal, I agree completely. I think many of the people who claim to have been cheated, have simply changed their minds about what they want…and don’t want to be mocked for their past choices.

    Zachary, isn’t it ironic that targets are expected to defend themselves “as martial artists,” when their accusers are protected by anonymity AND a lawyer?

  6. Chris, great articles. I have nothing against shining lights on fraud, but this whole cluster f*** with these online forums is just ridiculous. While in theory the claimed “cause” is interesting, a quick look at these forums reveals that some of these anon martial arts world police are total LARPERs and drama queens just like their accused offenders. Regulate our own industry? Please, at least pass the green belt test first and wait till you can drive. No one is asking anyone to save them from funny Asian pajamas. The last I checked this is a free country, people can believe anything their church/cult/weathermen have to say without teenagers getting their panties in a bunch. And who are these online MA cops all so eager to fight with anyway with their effective deadly style of the month? Are they fighting against evil? Against communism? Against their own insecurity? Or to win back the lunch money? Can they prevent gang driveby’s and save the economy with them super effective multi mixed paramilitary style art? If they really want to be “deadly fighters” and “fight effectively” so badly, buy/borrow/beg for firearms/tanks, move out of the burb (to, oh, maybe something like east LA, Beirut, the west bank..) or join the military. Kids these days need to get over themselves, step away from the keyboard, go train and win a few competitions before picking up that intraweb megaphone and start the virtual crusade to save the world from bad martial arts. It really isn’t rocket science to figure out what art is for fitness and what’s for fighting. Get over the drama people, just because you aren’t cut out for the discipline of one art, doesn’t mean you need to save rest of the free world from the “evil” of “xyz family martial arts center”.

  7. Actually Bullshido is home to people of all styles of martial arts. They are open to hearing from everyone. Traditional Martial Arts are no exception. They are home to professional and amateur mixed martial artists, competition fighters of many styles, performers of wushu and other more “performance” based martial arts, people of many different ages from teenagers to people in their last years of life, and people from around the world for that matter.

    These are not just spoiled kids that think their art is better. The people you are talking about are legion across the globe, united to share their experiences in martial arts and navigate their way through all the bullshit that is epidemic in martial arts.

    Who are the victims here, the frauds or the people who pay for frauds?
    Who do you think really needs protection from Bullshido?
    Frank Dux? http://www.bullshido.org/Frank_dux

  8. I do not understand this article well.

    What is martial arts? The article lacks some anchor for the term, so the term is not defined that I can tell. Clearly it presupposes good and bad in relation to martial art, but without even knowing what a martial art is supposed to be in this context; good and bad become meaningless.

    There is a dichotomy between terms in a martial art sense, between the western term and the equivalent eastern term. Mars is the God of War, so in a western sense a martial art a war art. The sense of the term in Mandarin is closer to the idea of being prepared to stop violence using it if needs be. So it should be obvious that good and bad clearly differ between an art used to prevent and oppose violence and an art made for war. To apply the term martial art in an overarching sense is misleading and presents the illusion that all martial art traditions can be thought of as a whole, this is foolish.

    Bullshido is just a crowd, a mob mentality with all that comes with that, no no less. The idea and mandate behind it however strike me as arrogant and ridiculously naive. It is more likely to contribute to the problems it identifies in martial art than to do anything to solve them. Online forums, blogs and articles, even of the type bullshido exemplifies are not reducing the number of delusions, misconceptions and unrealistic martial arts practitioners.

    Sadly even decades of martial arts training, teaching and even fighting experience do not make people necessarily qualified or even educated enough to think their own opinion is anything more than just an opinion. They are on a crusade to force their ideals on others, not to just share their view.

    And that is my view.

  9. It does resemble a crusade. My comments were in fact inspired by The True Believer, which says:

    – Movements such as this are grounded in the desire to escape an unwanted self;
    – As such, the movements are necessarily competitive and interchangeable, with all their idealistic goals merely window dressing;
    – The proselytizing fanatic strengthens his own faith by converting others.

    Add it all up, and you see that the McDojos are not just “full of losers”…they are the best source for new Bullshido recruits! 😀

  10. I’ve actually started posting on Bullshido myself a bit lately.

    The mandate of the site, as mentioned, is to expose frauds, not kick them out of business. Many of those exposed still openly operate their schools, and not every student is even aware of the investigations.

    The key point in the mandate is to verify claims. McDojo teachers and Bullshidokas (not to be confused with Bullshido forum members) often sell themselves with fradulent claims, and these are what is targeted by “citizen journalism.” I don’t find it particularly arrogant to investigate whether someone is lying or not, I think it’s part of being a good citizen.

    I also think there are some misconceptions of the site itself. It’s not a single mob mentality, to begin with. Like any community, online or otherwise, there are several niches and factions within the group itself, some who believe in the site’s goals and some who do not. Not everyone thinks MMA or Military Combatives are the only styles people should learn, but most are willing to say that you shouldn’t learn Aikido or Wushu if you’re looking to win a fight. There is no crusade to convert people, simply one to expose liars and charlatans. Whether they do Ninjutsu or MMA, a fraud is a fraud, and should be called out as such.

    Secondly, as far as I’ve seen, it’s not exactly a “guilty until proven innocent” mindset in regards to styles like Aikido or Wing Chun. It’s “guilty because of evidence A, B, C, and so on, and lack of evidence to the contrary.”

    It seems like you’re also suggesting Bullshido has some ulterior profit motive. I find this hard to believe, considering all the ads the site has to run to keep itself going. Membership is voluntary and free, and I’ve yet to experience pressure to sign up as a supporting (paying) member.

    In any case, I’ve only been on the site for a couple months, where I’ve been following yours for quite a bit longer. If you’re alright with it, could I link this article to the Bullshido site? One of the moderators or forum leaders might be in a better position to clarify some issues than I could. Interestingly, this same article was discussed not long ago, and we even managed to get the author (he was a student when he wrote the piece, not a professional) to discuss some points as well.

  11. The kind of people who care about the factual basis of the claims, are not the kind who sign up at these schools in the first place. I guess that is why, even after the fraud is exposed, these schools tend to remain in business.

    Here in Seattle, every teriyaki joint claims it is “the best in town.” They can’t all be telling the truth, can they? And yet nobody bothers to investigate–to expose this wholesale fraud perpetuated upon innocent diners! Thomas, does that bother you? 😉

    The Bullshido administrators are entitled to their opinions, and to profit from them. Nevertheless, I will observe that they are trading upon the worst names in the industry, and in that respect they are no different than the “captive publications” criticized by Sean’s article.

    You can link from Bullshido if you want. It wouldn’t be the first time that forum complained about my writing (but it would the first time I received a proper attribution in the bargain).

  12. That’s hardly an apt analogy. Taste is a matter of opinion, credentials are not. If you were hiring someone for a job, wouldn’t you want to them to be honest about their background?

    And even if you wouldn’t, I think you would be surprised at how much people do care about facts. I attribute the schools’ business to the students’ lack of initiative for research than anything else. When they find out a resource like Bullshido exists, many do, in fact, jump ship and find something closer to what they are looking for. I don’t think it’s too much to ask for teachers to have legitimate backgrounds in their subject matter, whether it’s martial arts or cooking.

    Could you elaborate on how Bullshido administrators are profiting from their opinions? As far as I know, none of them are full-time, but like I said, I don’t have very much information on the subject and wouldn’t be willing to make assumptions.

    I also don’t see how the site is in any way similar to magazines mentioned in the article. Could you please explain? The “captive publications” rely on much more advertising revenue than a website (due to higher publication costs, etc.), so they are willing to be more liberal with their advertisers. Bullshido, according to the staff, has a screening process for advertisers, not only to avoid scam and fraudulent businesses, but even to remove annoying advertising practices (ie, pop-ups, auto-playing movies and sounds, etc.). If you have more information on Bullshido’s operations than I do, please share it.

  13. As Josh said, without a definition of martial arts, the entire exercise is a waste of time. We’ve already discussed why the Wikipedia definition is junk–an assertion pretending to be an observation–or in other words, a lie.

    I am not presently interested in discussing whether people ought to lie, or why they do it. The question is rather, who is being served by these investigations.

    You tell me. Do you want to follow the money trail, that leads from the “captive publications”, to the search engines, through the Bullshido investigations, to online advertising and sponsorships? Or do you want to ignore that and look somewhere else?

    Do you want to look at the ideological beneficiaries? That would be the same group who filled Wikipedia with lies.

    No, I presume you want to look at the liberated students, finally free of their McDojo oppressors. Students who were deemed incompetent to select their own school, until they adopted the Bullshido mindset. Now they are sensible, trustworthy and wise. Hell of a coincidence, that. Nothing like a religious crusade, no sir.

    Meanwhile, cooking schools, dance schools, and music schools are allowed to continue their operations, unchallenged by Bullshido fraud allegations–even though their students never learn how to fight! Why? Because they are “not claiming to teach martial arts,” meaning they are not challenging the Bullshido definition of martial arts.

    P.S. Consumer Reports does not accept any advertising, I am told, nor have they ever called an inferior product manufacturer a douchebag.

    P.P.S. Sun Tzu said that warfare is the Tao of deceit. Martial artists should consider that before embarking on a mission to expose one set of liars, and inevitably promote another set in their place.

  14. I think I’ve pointed this out on another article, but you imply that there’s some massive conspiracy behind Wikipedia’s definition, the people of Bullshido, and a whole anti-traditionalist mindset of martial arts. I’m really not sure where this comes from, as I have yet to see any evidence linking any of the three together.

    Who’s being served by these investigations and how?

    1.) The Money Trail
    This assumes that Bullshido is making money off of the ads they show on the site, and that, in order to protect their income, they promote these sites as “the real deal.” As stated, I really don’t think they are making a great deal of money this way, but if you have evidence to the contrary, I’d love to see it. Thus far, you’re making assumptions on their business practices. I suppose they’re not as good as Consumer Reports, which operates solely on subscription fees, but I don’t see how that taints the very real investigations they do. Even if BJJ or MMA schools (possibly the “sponsors” and “advertisers” of the site you’re referring to?) are practicing fraud, they are fair game for investigation.

    2.) Ideological Beneficiaries
    Again, you’re sticking to a link that I’m not sure even exists. The Wikipedia community and Bullshido community may have some overlap, but both are still communities. Like I mentioned before, it’s ridiculous to try and assume either is a single contiguous being, as both comprise thousands of members all over the world. Yet you keep pointing to some grand conspiracy. And what is the aim of this ideological conspiracy, exactly? I remember you were saying before it was about control? If you could please talk about this more, I’d be most appreciative, as I’m pretty dumb and miss a lot of subtlety.

    3.) The Students
    Contrary to what you may believe, not everyone on the site is a convert in some ideological war. There are many, like myself, who post on the site simply for discussion. I agree with the majority on some topics, and disagree with the majority on others. There are those who completely disagree with the ideological position you’ve assigned to the entire site, and yes, there are some who would do anything to defend it. Like any other community of human beings, there is a continuum of beliefs and passion in defending them.

    Maybe we should stop talking about teaching “martial arts.” From what I’ve seen, it’s about selling what you advertise. If a school is advertising self-defense lessons, I believe they should teach their students adequate self-defense. The same goes for cooking, dancing, etc. Perhaps you can argue the definition of “self-defense” next, but it removes itself from the main point.

    The main point is that fraudulent claims about credentials, abilities, or teaching material shouldn’t be tolerated in any industry. I think this is where you have a misconception about the purpose of the site. While there is a definitely popular disdain for certain styles, no one goes out of their way to investigate schools that don’t fit the idealogical model of “martial arts” you describe. Investigations are into factual backgrounds and credentials, which you even admit in your article. This is what people spend time, money, and energy into researching, not whether Aikido is better than MMA or if a Judoka can beat a Wing Chun stylist.

    “Consumer Reports does not accept any advertising, I am told, nor have they ever called an inferior product manufacturer a douchebag.”

    I already talked about how it would be nice if the site could be more like Consumer Reports, but I don’t think it detracts from their research. As to the second point, I don’t think it’s really relevant to the discussion. How people behave on the boards doesn’t really have any bearing on the investigative research that goes on. You may not like how some members of the site act, but remember that it is a community of people, not a single entity that must be held accountable for everything on the site.

    “Sun Tzu said that warfare is the Tao of deceit. Martial artists should consider that before embarking on a mission to expose one set of liars, and inevitably promote another set in their place.”

    What war are we talking about? Who is in this set of liars that is being promoted? Are they part of the same conspiracy you keep alluding to? Are they promoting themselves? I really don’t understand the specifics of what you’re talking about, please clarify for ignorant people like myself.

  15. I found the BS site a few years back in some of my searches and never felt compelled by it. It seemed average for a forum but the overall feeling of it just was not something I could relate to.

  16. I must be progressing in my studies–I become more inscrutable every day!

    Seriously though, there is a mountain of evidence behind my comments. The mountain is not coming to you however; so, if you want to see it, better start walking.

  17. Interesting discussion. Although martial arts have their roots in combat, the problems with focusing on “self defense” with fear based marketing can be considered false advertising for all styles. The fact is you can not guarantee personal safety with any activities/devices/tools. Effective dueling techniques may work well in a controlled challenge fights, but when it comes to self defense, perhaps the false sense of confidence and bravado sold with fighting techniques will actually decrease the likelihood for one to survive violent assaults. The infinite number of variables in personal safety makes it impossible to measure the effectiveness of any martial arts styles in violent crimes. Realistically, unarmed combat techniques will only keep you safe in a very small percentage of violent encounters. Awareness as well as lessons in humility and anger management will have much better personal safety results than any martial arts techniques. Untrained individuals who are able to avoid risky behaviors and walk away from personal duels and challenges usually lead much safer lives compared to trained fighters who are unable to stay away from conflicts.

    Because of this, perhaps the only ethical advertisement for martial arts program will be in the areas of personal fitness, athleticism, sportsmanship, self empowerment/enrichment and recreation. Ironically, most “traditional” martial arts have had the time to evolved (or as some may say, watered downed) into socially useful activities fulfilling these goals. TKD, Kung Fu, Judo, boxing, wrestling and fencing are all examples of this type of evolution. Fear base marketing heavily utilized in short term martial arts trends do not have lasting power. When you sell “effective self defense”, you attract insecure young men who are not athletically inclined and lack the confidence, dedication and will power to excel in physical activities. If history is any indication, the modern day MMA and RBSD trends will soon lose their charm to the next sexy answer for adolescent male insecurity much like 80’s Ninja craze.

  18. I think you put it well Rick.
    The approach should perhaps be that of development of ones life, not violent propensities.
    I feel as if all opinions are equally valid, and that a difference of opinion, even an alliance towards one over the other, cannot invalidate a genuine perspective based opinion, even if for our own purposes such an opinion is evidently and clearly untenable.

  19. Chris, that’s a bit of a cop out, don’t you think? I might as well say, there is a mountain of evidence proving that the world is flat, but rather than sharing it with you, I’ll condescendingly say that you aren’t worth it for me to bother. Make it a separate article or post some links in these comments, either way is fine with me. If the point of this blog is discussion, you are avoiding it in a most unpleasant manner.

    Rick, I completely agree with you. But whereas it’s much more difficult to prove whether self-defense lessons are effective or not (due to the infinite variables you discuss), it’s relatively easy to prove whether or not someone has been in the military, gotten teaching credentials from legitimate governing bodies, or other factual claims.

    It should be also noted, however, that fear-based marketing has persisted through the 80’s Ninja and Karate craze, and will likely continue throughout the ages. It worked during the Bubonic Plague, the War on Terror, and 2012.

  20. Thomas, I do my best to address complex subjects in a straightforward manner. Maybe this subject is too complicated, maybe I am not skilled enough, or both. No offense is intended.

    The background information you have implicitly requested here will not fit within a comment, or a post. It fills books, and I don’t know all their names. Any fragmentary background explanations would probably only add to the confusion. So I’ll try to keep it brief and focused…

    I think I’ve pointed this out on another article, but you imply that there’s some massive conspiracy behind Wikipedia’s definition, the people of Bullshido, and a whole anti-traditionalist mindset of martial arts.

    No conspiracy. Just the perception of mutual self-interest.

    The “traditionalist mindset” is a modern fabrication…and it always has been!

    This assumes that Bullshido is making money off of the ads they show on the site, and that, in order to protect their income, they promote these sites as “the real deal.” As stated, I really don’t think they are making a great deal of money this way, but if you have evidence to the contrary, I’d love to see it. Thus far, you’re making assumptions on their business practices.

    I have made no assumptions. I know the site is profitable, and I know where the money comes from. I know that when people search for information on martial arts charlatans, they often arrive at Bullshido. Specific numbers are not important and will not be provided. My point is that fraud is at the foundation of their business model. Attacking fraud, yes, but fraud nonetheless. They depend on those whom they appear to despise. Where would Bullshido be today without the likes of Frank Dux, Ashida Kim and George Dillman?

    I don’t see how that taints the very real investigations they do. Even if BJJ or MMA schools (possibly the “sponsors” and “advertisers” of the site you’re referring to?) are practicing fraud, they are fair game for investigation.

    I asked who is being served, not whether it is fair to investigate frauds. (Fun fact: “Fair Game” was the name of L. Ron Hubbard’s notorious program, to silence and intimidate all enemies of Scientology. Draw your own parallels.)

    The Wikipedia community and Bullshido community may have some overlap, but both are still communities. Like I mentioned before, it’s ridiculous to try and assume either is a single contiguous being, as both comprise thousands of members all over the world. Yet you keep pointing to some grand conspiracy. And what is the aim of this ideological conspiracy, exactly? I remember you were saying before it was about control?

    Term logic is used to program people, just as it is used to program computers. It is ridiculous to refer to these programmed entities as individuals, while they are operating unconsciously within the bounds of their instruction set. They are not individuals, they are “tools” in every sense of the word.

    Logic is the poor man’s search for truth–though null-A logic has something to offer.

    BTW, you should stop talking about conspiracies, it makes you sound a little crazy. Ha ha.

    Contrary to what you may believe, not everyone on the site is a convert in some ideological war.

    Only people who understand how ideological wars are fought, are free to opt-out. Everyone else is drafted without their knowledge or consent. Sad but true.

    Maybe we should stop talking about teaching “martial arts.”

    Why? Because doing so undermines the premise of their mission? OK then. I’m glad we’ve reached an agreement. 🙂

  21. Re: Mutual self-interest

    Could you explain what you mean about this? I’m not sure what mutual self-interest Wikipedia, Bullshido, and others could have. If we go to strictly funding and commercialism like you talk about Bullshido and the “End of MMA” article you wrote earlier (more on that in a bit), Wikipedia is wholly self-supported through donations. I suppose that would mean keeping its donors happy, but the site is open to edit to everyone, whether they donate or not. Even further, who are the donors and how do we determine their self-interest? Do we look at the pages that are the most popular? The most edited? The least edited? Perhaps I’m more idealistic than most, but I feel that Wikipedia’s only self-interest is in preserving its status as an open source of knowledge.

    Re: Bullshido’s Business

    Even if the site is profitable, I don’t believe it’s a for-profit site. The way it operates is much more like a volunteer organization than a business, but feel free to challenge this if you have evidence to the contrary. They’re “business,” as you put it, does rely on frauds, but I’m sure that if the day comes when there are no more martial arts frauds to investigate, they would gladly close their doors. Again, you are free to disagree with me on this, but I believe that if Bullshido was truly profitable as a business, we would see more evidence of this, either by sponsoring/promoting frauds or advertisers. I have yet to see any forum topics aimed at selling products for a particular advertiser.

    Re: Fair Game

    Who is being served by the investigations? I would think any students that do a background check on their potential teachers. I believe you are asserting that Bullshido is served by their own investigations? As for your “Fair Game” insinuation, I suppose I could have said “No Sacred Cow” or “Open Season” or something else more descriptive. Would that change anything? Not really, names and titles are imperfect for communicating in this manner, and for that I apologize for my lack of clarity. I’m really not as great a writer as more seasoned members of the blogosphere, but I’m practicing. I don’t believe Bullshido has any “enemies,” per se, which is why I used the term “fair game.” If there is suspicion of fraud, then it is perfectly acceptable to begin investigating, regardless of style, status, or popularity.

    Re: Logic and Ideology

    I’m afraid I’m very poor, then, as logic is my only tool. I’m not a philosopher, so I don’t know what the differences are between null-A logic or term logic. I only know using evidence to substantiate claims, and reasoning based on that. A quick overview of both tells me it’s a little beyond my understanding at this point, but I’ve always felt that an argument is still an argument, and should be able to stand on its own merit, based on the information available.

    Who is operating unconsciously in this ideological war? What is their instruction set? Who is operating consciously in this war? What is their purpose? What is the evidence that this war is happening at all?

    These are the questions I still have unanswered, the information I do not have available. You continuously assert that your own premise is correct, and I’m stuck here still wondering if it exists.

    As for the comment about “martial arts,” it was another way of attempting to use clearer labels and phrasing for my point. As I followed up with, the point is to sell what you advertise. If we remove the term “martial arts,” which you say is difficult to define, we can talk about schools offering to teach self-defense or fighting skills. Even then, what a school teaches isn’t really able to be investigated, because of the subjectivity and difficulty defining the terms. As I already stated, the only things that go under investigation are factual claims of rank, background, and experience. This is easily seen from even just a quick look at any of the formal investigations listed on the website. Please don’t quote me out of context.

  22. Scientology doesn’t consider itself a business either. It is an organization that just so happens to collect money. And some of the money is used for educational purposes. When someone criticizes their educational agenda, they don’t declare that individual an “enemy” per se, but a “Suppressive Person”. SPs pose a danger to the world community, and therefore must be stopped. The first step in dealing with SPs is often an investigation.

    And why not? That approach is perfectly rational and fair, as you might say.

    You don’t know the history of Scientology, yet you believe it is not relevant to the discussion. You are apparently unfamiliar with nontraditional forms of logic, yet you believe yours is sound. And you believe that an organization like Bullshido would dissolve itself after completing its mission, when countless examples from world history demonstrate otherwise.

    If you really want background, may I suggest you start by reading The True Believer?

  23. “Seriously though, there is a mountain of evidence behind my comments. The mountain is not coming to you however; so, if you want to see it, better start walking.”

    Classic- You can’t back up your ideas- you claim there is a
    “mountain of evidence” to support them, but then skip ahead without actually demonstrating the evidence’s existence. You skip from topic to topic, ignore commentators posts in order to counter straw-man points they never made, and after failing to make your case you arrogantly blame your readers for failing to see your wisdom. Then you drive your point home by attempting to impress us with your supposed choice of magazines- regardless of its connection to the point you were supposed to make. And please, for our continued amusement, please explain your theories about “nontraditional forms of logic”. Are these the forms you use that make you feel as though your arguments make sense? Even though people keep easily disassembling them, and you eventually just give up, contradict your original point, or claim you never meant what you said?
    Bullshido gets most of its hate not from schools or people it has targeted, but by arts it frequently mocks for their inability to match their ad-copy with actual fighting ability. There are wushu artists who post happily on BS- because their school is making no claims that wushu will help them fight- unlike arts like wing chun and ninjitsu that make claims of being deadly but have nothing to back it up. We see the thread of insecurity that runs through, and seems to drive, all your articles. Instead of running a blog- why not face the source of this insecurity? That, rather than blogging unsupportable conspiracy theories, might well turn out to be a great use of your time.

  24. Don’t confuse this blog with your dissertation, jon–you can’t just smear every page with your feces and call it done.

    If you are having trouble, start with Simple Wikipedia and work your way up, or why not ask your parents for help?

    I don’t blame Thomas for lacking the necessary background; I do hold him responsible for it, and pointed him in the right direction(s). It is a courtesy.

  25. Again- your “Mountain” of evidence? The problem with people who believe in things like “chi” is that the faith-based logic-system that they compartmentalize for a time in just the “magical” parts of their life they eventually let bleed into all the areas of their thinking. And then we get insecure bloviating about conspiracy theories on the internet with no logical framework to hold them together, as they are constructed on faith or emotional need, rather than logic or supported arguments. I realize that you are not a writer and do not have an academic writing background. But if you post these theories of yours, you need to be able to make your ideas clear and supportable. If they are not, people will contest them. If people can dis-assemble them easily, or you are unable to make yourself understood, or are unable or unwilling to provide evidence to back up your claims- then don’t write these sorts of articles. And again, it should be considered; why does this sort of pseudo-intellectual verbiage and emotional insecurity always seem to come from practitioners of a few, very specific martial arts?

  26. Maybe you’d like to write an article and teach us all a lesson, jon? You can compare and contrast the Bullshido community with other mass movements of the past and present. I look forward to examining your evidence–evidence which you will be required to recite inline and at length, without any external references, because some internet crank demands it! Oh, and if you don’t write it to my harebrained specifications, that proves you are insecure!! Ha ha ha.

    Any further off-topic replies will be moderated.

  27. Perhaps I’m missing a trick of philosophy, but to me logic is still logic. Arguments should be able to stand on their own merit, based on evidence available, regardless of how we reach those conclusions. Then again, this is coming from a background closer to rhetoric than philosophy, so perhaps I really am missing a piece of the puzzle.

    I’m familiar with the history of Scientology, and I feel that it is completely different from Bullshido. Whereas one was created with the intention of collecting money, the other began as a consumer advocacy group. Also, what other groups are you referring to? I’m sure none of them are identical to the case of Bullshido, which is in neither a position of particular public prominence nor political power.

    I will look into the book you recommended, but I have yet to be convinced by any of the arguments you have put forth. I don’t believe I (or, to some extent, jon) have asked for any “harebrained specifications” on the subject. Surely, if there was a mountain of evidence as you suggest, it would be easy to provide one or two sources of support for the claims you’ve made.

    I looked around Simple Wikipedia, but they do not have a very extensive section on logic, null-A, term, or otherwise.

  28. I’m sure that, with every further explanation, someone will accuse me of changing the subject…

    By definition, logical arguments cannot stand on their own merit. Aristotle’s Prior Analytics defines syllogism as “a discourse in which, certain things having been supposed, something different from the things’ supposed results of necessity because these things are so.”

    Careful examination reveals that most people have incorrect premises on every subject, which is quite enough to invalidate their conclusions under standard logic. But wait, it gets worse. Even if their premises were sound, the analyses quite often lead to what other logics might label a null proposition, or a game rule, or some other non-truth value–conclusions that can easily masquerade as truth under the traditional framework. Thus, term logic is a favored tool of narcissists and propaganda artists (and the targets of their artistry).

    The Scientology analogy is instructive for a variety of reasons. First, because they use investigations as weapons, with the intention of discrediting their targets. Yes, sweethearts, telling the truth can be an act of violence. It is also possible to mislead by telling the truth in a selective fashion. (These are all tactics of information warfare, and although it does not literally produce scorched earth for evidence, I assure you it is quite real.)

    Second, because they enrich their own organization (or just its top echelons) under the guise of public service.

    Third, because their membership is not so much driven to them, but away from something else. This is Hoffer’s thesis (but not exclusively his) and so I’ll let him explain it.

    There are other relevant similarities between these two groups. Do I really need to spell them all out here? No, I don’t think so.

    Well-informed dissent is welcome, but I am easily bored by logical objections grounded in worthless common sense (otherwise known as unexamined premises).

  29. These damn Bullshido kids are a disgrace to the martial arts community. There’s a lot of insecurity here alright, and it ain’t coming from the blogger’s home turf. Socially useful martial arts training in today’s world is to produce athletes and better human beings with focused minds and healthy body, overcoming personal limits. I don’t see any men qualified as atheletes nor marital artists in that forum, just a bunch of loud mouth fanboys who should train more, learn some manners and talk less.

    I have decades of experience in one of their “approved” arts, but I am ashamed to be associated with these foul mouth kids. And there’s that style vs style “my master can beat up your master” BS again. Who’s the insecure one here? I don’t train in Wing Chun nor Ninjitsu, but I don’t go around disrespecting people to prove my virtual dick is bigger than theirs. If you really think your fighting style is hot shit, I tell you what, our Commander in Chief needs 30,000 troops in Afghanistan, go sign up and put your bad ass skills to use. Take a look at Rick’s post, your silly style & self defense / dueling effectiveness is a none issue, surely your Critical Thinking 101 class taught you that didn’t it? The last I checked, street fighting is illegal, and these forum wars you kids start are simply stupid. And what does “chi’ have to do with anything? Do you really know the origin and meaning of that term heavily butchered up in translation by us Americans? Why don’t you also declare war on “mojo”, the Holy Spirit, air, natural gas, HMO approved acupuncture treatment and “soul”? A word of advice for you Bullshido kids, people don’t hate you because they are not from your approved list of styles. People can’t take you seriously because none of you have the skills, knowledge nor the EQ to be taken seriously. Take a look at the book “How to win friends and influence people”, it’ll help y’all grow up.

  30. I’m with Ol’ wrestler on this one…

    My teacher operates a small taiji/wing chun school. His school has been opened for 15 years now and his most senior students were fresh out of high school when they started their training, some 10-13 years ago. Now that they’re all grown up, 3 of them have PhD’s, 1 is in the process of earning it and 1 of them is a college teacher. Yeah… go tell one of these guys, “Guh, your martial art is useless…”

    Here’s something else about my teacher. Whenever he sees a new martial school in the phone book, he calls up the owner and has a little chat with them asking about what they teach, who their teacher was etc… by doing that he’s made a lot of friends and contacts in the community. He also has a friend in law enforcement who teaches self-defense to police officers who often comes to my teacher (of useless traditional martial arts) for technical advices.

    He also runs a non-profit organisation that offers free kungfu classes to kids in difficulty.

    So yeah, uh, obviously, my teacher is polluting the world with his useless, traditional martial art. That’s the only sane and logical conclusion to reach…


    Want to “keep your community in order”? Well here’s a way to do it: stop acting like a jackass, teach kids the type of values they need to survive and compete in the modern world and develop some sort of link with the real martial art community (the one that’s, like, outside of your computer).

    Either that or: Shutup, learn, then share.

  31. Dropping the “common sense” then, here is my premise. It is not unexamined, but if you find a flaw with it, please share your dissent with me.

    1. Frauds should not be teaching people.
    2. If someone is discovered to be a fraud, the evidence should be made public.

    I have yet to see any evidence of Bullshido enriching itself or its top echelons through the investigations. I believe specific numbers are very important here, as you can’t really call a site profitable unless it actually turns a profit. Furthermore, if the site is wholly staffed by volunteers, who’s making the profit anyway?

    Also, it seems like most of the people here are criticizing the site based on their own unexamined premises. While I’ll admit some parts of the site are pretty rude and uncouth, the part that we’re discussing, the investigations, are quite orderly.


    Take your pick of any of these, and you’ll find a very different picture of the site. Like any community, the impression one gets is heavily influenced by which facet one chooses to look at.

  32. This entire article reeks of the kind of sour grapes at us, collectively, having the nerve to point out who’s full of crap. How dare we expose people who aren’t who they say they are, can’t teach what they say they can teach, or can’t do what they say they can do?

    Not to mention, the idea that the existence of McDojos is somehow validated because there are people who’ll always be suckered by them is a lot like arguing that rape is just a-OK because women wear revealing clothing or walk through bad neighborhoods unescorted.

    After all, they’re just “asking for it”, right? Classy. Real classy.

    Keep drinking your own kool-aid, idiot.

  33. OK Neal, I admit it! I didn’t like Bullshido’s methods, and I was jealous of its success. And instead of dealing with the real issues behind this phenomenon, I cravenly decided to gather up some tangential facts from the field of social psychology, and publish the investigation above.

    Now, finally, I begin to understand. Everyone who “voluntarily” attends a McDojo is actually a victim, and it is your mission to rescue them from persecution.

    Although these victims are quite literally asking for it–McDojo membership, that is–your rape analogy is still (tastefully!) appropriate. Because, as victims, they are not capable of granting consent. By adopting the tenets of Bullshido, they demonstrate the maturity and judgment needed to select a proper school. Once they accept Bullshido into their hearts, they are no longer victims.

  34. Wow, your smugness is so thick that I had to take a wet-wipe to my monitor just so I could type a response.

    Good attempt at misrepresenting what we’re about by dramatically overstating it. I’ve used that tactic myself a few times with a great deal of success; of course, it involved how a kid I didn’t like should marry his mother because he admitted to loving her. Still, it was the height of biting sarcasm for my second-grade self.

    By the way, did you genuinely consider this blog post an “investigation”? How cute. We have lawyers, subject matter experts, senior instructors, journalists, and credentialed fighters who participate in our investigations.

    You, have… a blog and access to Wikipedia. A blog most of us have never heard about, but seems to reek with the stink of middle-aged men who make excuses as to why they’ve spent years “training” in the Martial Arts without ever actually fighting anyone, and Sino/Japanophilia. Which is par for the course in the MA world.

    If you’re going to drink your own kool-aid, at least change up the flavor from time to time. I’m sure you’ll eventually get tired of the “vinegar” flavor.

    (That’s me calling you a douchebag, by the way, in case you’re a bit slow.)

  35. I confess that my skills in Petty and Punitive Investigation™ are lacking. From now on, sir, I’ll leave that to the experts!

    — FIN —

    …or is it?

  36. I was one of those geeky kids who ordered john latourette ‘s speed hitting and how to be a ninja type books from Black Belt. Their magazine is nothing but ad space and I’m sure Dillman had to make some kind of deal for that instructor of the year garbage. BB magazine subscriptions about as credible as Bullshido.

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