Martial Arts Instructors & Integrity – Episode 69
On today’s episode we tackle a tough topic – the media’s attention on the bad seeds in the martial arts. It seems that reporters love talking about those of us that can’t walk an ethical path, and it makes the rest of us look bad. What do we do? Listen in for some ideas.
Hey, there, everyone its episode 69 of whistlekick Martial Arts Radio, the only place to hear the best conversations about the martial arts, like today’s episode the responsibilities of martial arts instructors.
I’m the founder here at whistlekick, but I’m better known as your host, Jeremy Lesniak. whistlekick, in case you don’t know, makes the world’s best sparring gear and some excellent apparel and accessories for practitioners and fans of traditional martial arts. I’d like to welcome our new listeners and thank all of you that are listening again.
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One of the things we do here at whistlekick is post things on social media. That’s pretty standard for a modern business, and it’s fun for us to put out information that we think you’ll find useful or entertaining. It’s great to learn more about our customers and fans and see what you all respond to.
As we put together that information, however, we’re constantly bombarded by an unfortunate and very specific type of news article. If you read any news aggregator, like Google News, you’ll see a lot of stories about martial arts. Unfortunately, quite a few of them, and lately, it seems, the majority, are about the failings of martial arts instructors.
Martial artists are people. We all know that. We all know that there are good martial artists and bad, just as there are good people and bad. Sometimes, good martial artists are, or become, bad people. This is nothing new. Why, then does it continue as the subject of so many news stories.
I think the answer lies in the way people outside the martial arts community view those inside. We’re expected to be better than average, far better. We’re expected to be good, if not, great, people all of the time. So when one of us fails in the public’s eye, it’s a big deal. At least it is to part of the broader world community. Maybe it should be a bigger deal to us.
It seems that when someone within the martial arts community commits an act they should not, we’re often aware of it. If the transgression is martial arts related, someone will inevitable jump in. Rank is removed, expulsion from associations and so on. We take care of our own, but we also punish our own. We don’t tend to talk about it much, it just happens.
But when those same people break the law, and the criminal justice system steps in, where are we? Sure, there’s a process that is followed. When a martial arts instructor is convicted of some sort of sexual misconduct, they’re punished. That is enough for that individual, but we seem to forget that misconduct not only leaves a black mark on the individual, but it leaves a black mark on the martial arts.
Whether it’s right or wrong, we’re held in high regard by the general public. I think it’s great, and I think it’s part of why so many start training. Many of us, if not most, have seen real and significant positive change in the character of someone after starting martial arts training. The vast majority of martial arts schools improve the character of the people in attendance. Whether your school has an organized code of conduct or not, we’re making an impact. It’s part of our marketing strategy to the world, and it is a huge component in what convinces people to spend their time and money with those of us that offering instruction.
Which is why we need to stop being so quiet on this front. It’s time that we openly value the perception of us held by the general public. Because, if we don’t, it’s going away. We’ll lose our biggest draw for new students. Without the belief that martial arts training makes someone a better person, parents are then evaluating martial arts classes for their children side by side with soccer and other recreational activities.
But enough about that, because I think you get my point. The obvious question is “how?” How do we go about doing this in a way that upholds our collective, general values but also shows the rest of the world that these people are not the norm, we do not condone their behavior, and we do not welcome them into our ranks?
Like most of what we do in the martial arts, we start with awareness. Where is this information being spread? Most of it is over conventional media and then spread to social media. If you’re in a more populated area, it’s not going to be front page news. At least not each time. You’ll have to see it out, and it’s important that we do. Based on the research we do for our marketing, the three terms where it comes up 99% of the time are “martial arts,” “karate” and “taekwondo.” Martial arts is definitely the most common term, and the headlines follow a similar format: “Martial arts instructor found guilty of” or “martial arts instructor pleads guilty to” and so on. Of course, each story finishes up the headline by telling you what horrible things these people have done, or have been accused, of doing.
It doesn’t take much effort to find these articles. Two days ago, two of the top three Google News results for the term martial arts were horribly negative. Today, the top post is about a shooting at a martial arts school. We need to take action, and we need to do it often.
The first thing I will suggest we all do is engage with these articles. While the internet is certainly not known for polite, constructive comments, we have to wade in. We don’t have to engage the others and we don’t have to respond to their inevitable attacks. Simple posts alerting the general public that this is not what the martial arts is about and no one would ever permit someone to train in their school or hold rank in their system while knowing that the person was unethical or a criminal. Reach out to the person responsible for the piece and see if they’ll do a follow up on a martial arts school or a martial artist in the same area for balance. If you’re not from that area, help the reporter find a school that is. Remember, this is everyone’s problem to tackle.
Secondly, we need to toot our own horns more. We’re great talking about rank promotions and competition victories. We’re not so good about organizing ourselves for the outward and public benefit of our wider communities. Charitable endeavors, like kickathons, are great. Those need to happen more often and we, as an industry, need to do more to promote the positive efforts of others. Many schools offer free self-defense classes to women or children- let’s make sure the world knows that. Post it on social media, share it with your students. I know it’s awkward – most of us want to do what we do and help the ways we help, but do it privately. Many of us were taught that the marketing of the martial arts should be subtle. But the world has changed and so must our methods.
It’s time we prioritize the view the world has of the martial arts and of martial artists. If we continue to simply turn away from those in our midst that give martial artists a bad name, we’ll run out of martial artists.
So, that’s a pretty heavy topic and it’s one that might upset you. Maybe you agree, maybe you disagree. Hopefully you have some feedback with additional insights and ideas for tackling the issue. If you do, please leave us a comment somewhere, either on the website or on social media. You can find the show notes, and a place for comments, at whistlekickmartialartsradio.com and for social media, we’re on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest & Instagram – all with the username whistlekick.
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So, until next time, Train hard, smile and have a great day.