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The philosophy behind much advertising
is based on the old observation that
every man is really two men -- the man
he is and the man he wants to be.
                          William Feather

Marketing The Martial Art

The purpose of advertising is to get you to buy something.

It is a well known standard in the advertising industry that you don't sell what people need, you sell what they think they need. It's called "perceived need " And is something people will pull out their wallets for.

More specifically, people will pay for what they "think" is the solution to a problem -- whether it is a real answer or not. If people believe, they will sign up for it. And changing this perception is like pulling teeth from a badger because it requires people to do research and then really sit down and think about what they have learned.

A significant number of ads actually rely on the ignorance of the consumer about what is involved in self-defense or the martial arts. If you look in the Yellow Pages you will see countless ads for masters, grandmasters, 10th dans, professors, etc., many of whom hold these same impressive rankings in multiple systems. If you are to believe such ads, this individual has "mastered" 16 different fighting styles in just a few years of study. That's like saying you have mastered brain surgery, stock investment, auto mechanics, computer programming, plumbing and music after studying each for two years. It just doesn't happen.

In order to entice the widest number of students, such claims of extended mastery are routinely made. In the Orient, it usually takes between 30 and 40 years of practice in a system before you are considered a master by other practitioners. With this in mind, you can begin to see why a master of multiple styles is questionable. Much less a 27-year -old "grandmaster."

Simply stated, different systems are based on and require radically different body mechanics. It is not uncommon for someone who is trained in one system to "assume" that the same body mechanics apply in others. And this is why they think they can "master" a system after a year or two of dabbling. They apply the body mechanics from their previous art to the forms of the new. This results -- not in their understanding both A and B as they claim -- but instead giving you "A" and "B flavored "A. Even though it is being sold as B, it doesn't even come close to the original.

Many people assume that because someone is trained in one art, it would be easy to make the transition to another. No. That assumption would be like saying because someone is an orthopedic surgeon, he would be qualified to do brain surgery. Even though they are both surgeons, these are radically different specialties. This is one of the reasons why it is important to cast a skeptical eye on advertising claims.

As this site is primarily oriented to personal safety and self-defense, let's return to claims about being able to teach you those. Unless you have a more informed idea about what is involved in self-defense, how are you going to be able to tell if someone is telling you the truth? 

Of course he's going to tell you that what he teaches is good for self-defense; he wants your money. But there's something you should know: Most martial artists haven't ever had to defend themselves. In fact, most haven't ever been in a fight. And of those who have been in fights, most of those altercations were back in public school. (Usually before they started in the marital arts.) So they don't really know if what they teach would work in a genuine confrontation. But they have invested so much time and energy into both the martial arts and their business that they have convinced themselves that it would work. Your knowing this is important because someone who has convinced himself of something doesn't believe he is lying. And they can tell you that the martial arts are great for self-defense with a total sincerity because in their minds, they are telling you the truth.

This is why having objective knowledge about the issues involved in self-defense is so important. To one degree or another, the instructor who is telling you his classes are good for self-defense training honestly believes that what he wants to sell you will work for your needs. And he is willing to take your money to prove it.

We'd also like to point out that this belief is strongly enforced by people who have bought the marketing pitch. These are people who themselves have invested in the myth that martial arts are the same as self-defense. Although most are not financially profiting from the commercial school or organization, they have invested considerable time and effort into convincing themselves it fulfills their needs. If you go to any martial art forum on the Internet, you will hear the subject discussed continuously. Yet, if you were to ask those who's job it is to confront violent and dangerous people on a daily basis, you will get a different story.

Quite frankly, so much of what is being taught as the martial arts these days has been modified for sport, safety and insurance purposes(3) that it is ineffective for self-defense, much less streetfighting. But if you've never looked into what is involved in these subjects from sources other than martial arts instructors, how are you going to know if it is or isn't?

The truth is the subject of self-defense is extremely complex. A thorough understanding covers several fields outside the martial arts. The larger, umbrella subject of personal safety is even wider in scope. These are fields where the average martial arts instructor has no real understanding. How could he? In the traditional martial arts page, we discuss the time it takes to to master even an aspect of a martial art style. Where is the extra time to master these other aspects going to come from? What is more common is that an individual is competent in one aspect and then will try to sell it as an all-encompassing whole.

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