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I hang onto my prejudices, they are the testicles of my mind
                                  Eric Hoffer

Cults: Kool-Aid Drinker Behavior

There is a weird mindset shown in many Internet martial arts forums--especially those belonging to a particular system or organization. It's where the true believers of a self-defense guru/ultimate fighting system get together and divide their time in five basic ways.

One: Telling themselves--and everyone else--what badasses they are for studying the ultimate art of "bigdikdo." They show how advanced in the art they are by going into filibusters over the most inconsequential details and obscure advanced techniques.(1)

Two: Trying to convince themselves that bigdikdo never fails by coming up with fantasy scenarios where their uber-fighting system will kick ass--if it ever happened (which is very unlikely). (2)

Three: Ripping people apart who a) don't agree with them, b) are foolish enough to point out that something is wrong with the true believer's spiel or c) sometimes just ask an innocent question.  What is most revealing about this aspect is how often these attacks boil down to the attacker charging the victim with not having the right knowledge, mindset, warrior spirit or understanding--not problems with physical technique. In other words: To "get it," you must think a certain way. And that reveals  the most telling sign of a cult, group think. And as George S Patton said, "If everyone is thinking alike, then somebody isn’t thinking.” 

Four: Sneering at any style other than their "revealed" way or ultimate fighting system. And let's not forget displaying rude, contemptuous behavior toward practitioners of these "lesser" systems.(3)

Five: Deriding any other instructor who isn't their grand master/self-defense messiah. The head of their system is the all-knowing poo-bah ultimate warrior, and everyone else is full of shit, dontcha know? (4)

All levity aside, this too is an incredibly telling point. One of the major criteria experts use to determine cult status is "revealed" or "superior" teachings. And these teachings supersede conventional knowledge or even that of other experts in the field (e.g. , David Koresh, as the messiah, was considered by the Branch Davidians [and himself ] to be superior in understanding to all other religious experts/priests/ministers/institutions. That's a lot of knowledge and experience which to be superior). This  supposed superiority can come in many forms, (i.e., the right interpretation, the true version, the better mousetrap version or the modernized system). With this idea in mind, arguments over which camp has the 'true' version of a martial art style take on an entirely different--and more sinister--perspective.

These five types of behavior have nothing to do with effective self-defense and far more to do with being a cult member. Cults come in many flavors, a continuum of severities and many degrees of involvement. Although martial arts/self-defense cults have a few very specific spins and tweaks, when you compare overall behavior, you can see how they fall into the same general patterns as religious cults.

Below are links to various professional sites that give not only the warning signs of cults, but also members' behavioral patterns. We invite you to take a minute and follow them. Many of the warning signs mentioned there can be applied to much of the behavior you see on Internet forums. And if you are really unlucky, you will see it in your martial art school.

Links to "warning signs of a cult" Web pages Cultic Studies Journal  FactNet Religious Movement Resource Center Rick Ross Cult Information Centre (UK)

We again would like to stress that the line between a healthy organization and a cult is not clearly drawn. It is not black or white. It is quite often shades of gray. While either extreme can be easily recognized, the in-between stages can be hard to accurately assess. A group can have some of these attributes and not be a cult. It's when you start seeing too many of them that you should start being suspicious; no matter how their presence is explained away or justified.

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1) What is most appalling about these guys is that when I have met them face to face and observed them in action, almost categorically they have no business talking about "advanced" techniques and moves because their grasp of fundamentals is atrocious. Although they claim advanced status in their system, their understanding, application and ability to control issues such as range, positioning, (ma-ai), body mechanics and even moving out of the way is pathetic. What carries them is muscle an bad attitude, not skill. These fundamentals are like the engine that a car runs on. Without them in good running order, the advanced techniques these uber-studs are going on about are like those spinning flashing hubcaps. They look cool, but are useless because the car won't drive faster than 10 miles an hour. That doesn't work out on the highway. What you have here is a bunch of guys putting around the parking lot of their dojo and internet forums and admiring their flashy hubcaps -- not out there street racing . Return to text

2) I once saw a debate go on for six months about how to use a supposed Filipino bullwhip fighting system in a street fight. A bullwhip? Who carries a bullwhip on a daily basis as a self-defense weapon? And if you are in places where whips are just laying around for the grabbing, that's kinkier than I want to know about. All joking aside though, the people engaging in it thought it was a practical self-defense option. It's only when you step back and look at these techniques from a pragmatic day-to-day point of view that you see these ideas are very unrealistic. Return to text

(3) In truth, this kind of rude, obnoxious behavior would get their heads busted wide open in bars around the world. It is through the safety and distance of the internet and the anonymity of screen names that these people feel safe to verbally abuse others. Although they talk tough such people always make sure that they are never in arms reach or alone in private with someone that they have insulted. They rely on distance and the good manners of others to keep them safe when engaging in this rude, insulting behavior. Return to text

(4) It is interesting to note that on several occasions I have had run-ins with high ranking cult members over their misconduct towards me or my wife. Despite knowing the ultimate deadly fighting system, every one has -- thus far-- immediately backed down. Despite all their goings on about how good they are, not one of them had the fortitude or faith in what they knew to risk their lives defending their obnoxious and aggressive behavior by physically attacking me. Now compare that with all the violent streetfighters I had to go up against, who when confronted, did attack. This point is very telling, the brawlers -- that these guys are supposed to be training you to handle --  had the courage to attack, but they didn't. Return to text


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