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Integrity in Martial Arts

If you go into any martial arts school in America you will more than likely hear the word integrity. So what does integrity actually mean. It is often defined as the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles. Having integrity means doing the right thing when nobody is looking, being trustworthy in the eyes of others, and keeping your promises. In the martial arts world integrity means being a person of honor. This is one of the keys to leading others. So what's the problem? Often we see a huge lack of integrity in martial arts. Weekly you can read about martial arts instructors abusing their authority in one way or another. Websites are blasted weekly with people claiming a rank that they have never earned. I once heard a high level black belt from Brazil say that you would be amazed to see how many people leave Brazil as blue belts and land in America as black belts.

One modern epidemic we are facing is that of an instructor saying he teaches a style that he has actually never studied. A local Tae Kwon Do school constantly post on social media about how they teach Jiu-Jitsu, wrestling and MMA. A few students from our gym and theirs got in a heated social media argument. One of their students was a high level chef at a really good restaurant. I asked him to consider this scenario: Let say you go to culinary school for years. After that you work in a multitude of restaurants working your way up to a full time head chef. Then one day I put a food truck right next to your restaurant. I cook at home a little but I never went to school, worked my way up, or came anywhere close to putting in the time that you have. You overhear me telling someone that we know all the same things. You as a chef would be upset with me. He agreed and asked the Tae Kwon Do owner to take the words Jiu-Jitsu off of their website. The same analogy could be used for any profession. When you have a medical need you wouldn't trust a guy who called himself doctor while he was still in high school.

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I once asked a Karate black belt the difference between Karate and Tae Kwon Do. He took the time and pulled up a few articles showing that the two are completely different. Karate is more of a short hand fighting system with a few kicks. Tae Kwon Do is more of a kicking style with limited hand strikes. The stances, punches, kicks and philosophies are completely different because they came from different cultures. He then said something I will never forget. He said, "Never trust a Tae Kwon Do teacher that says he teaches Karate."

I am very partial to Jiu-Jitsu but I am a 4th Degree Tae Kwon Do Black Belt, I have wrestled, I have fought in the MMA cage, and I have boxing experience. In 1993 Royce Gracie introduced the world to Brazilian jiu-jitsu. The original UFC was designed to be style vs style to see which one was the best. Jiu-Jitsu proved to be superior by far. This is just one of the reasons that Jiu-Jitsu fighters have trouble with people claiming to know Jiu-Jitsu having never trained. Your average Jiu-Jitsu professor would have put anywhere between 10-15 years to earn the rank of black belt. They will train 3-6 days a week and often twice in one day training which is 10-15 hours per week. To put that into perspective the Marines have a Self-Defense program that requires 23 hours of hand to hand combat training during a 13 week bootcamp. A BJJ practitioner will train more than than in 2 to 3 weeks for years. I had a student that enlisted in the Marines several years ago. He told me that after the hand to hand training all of the Marines received tan belts. He told them, "Don't be proud of those belts guys. You would get killed in a Jiu-Jitsu gym." The point is that a real Jiu-Jitsu Black Belt will put more time in on the mat than a medical doctor will training to save your life.

It is my hope that one the consumer will become educated and demand integrity from gym owners. If you are a black belt in karate then teach karate. That's ok. There is a market for karate. If you are a black belt in Jiu-Jitsu then teach Jiu-Jitsu. Just because you train Jiu-Jitsu doesn't make you an MMA fighter. If you want to coach MMA then go train for years, earn your spot and then go back and coach. Anything else lacks integrity and will never benefit the student.

"Honor and respect can never be demanded, only earned."

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