The Truth About Martial Arts: Part 1

The Truth About Martial Arts: Part 1

Answers to the most commonly asked questions about the martial arts industry.

Question: I heard That Sport Karate is a good form of Self Defense. Is that true?

Answer: Most people don’t know that there is a big difference between Sport Karate, Sport WTF Style Taekwondo and Traditional Martial arts schools. Sport Karate and sport Taekwondo schools train to fight under a certain set of rules. The fact is that there are no rules in place when a car-jacker confronts you asking for your wallet and keys.

Training in a Sport Karate or sport Taekwondo school like that leaves you unprepared for the realities of self defense in a violent attack. Some Sport Karate and sport Taekwondo Schools claim to teach both Karate and self defense but the fact is their ego forces them to focus on getting trophies and medals to display at their school. Their philosophy is that: “You prove you are superior by physically beating down another human being”. A traditional school focuses on self defense, self development and self improvement.

I often get asked about these types of schools and why there are so many “Founders” and “World Champions” out there, so I will try to answer the most common questions.

Question: Both sports schools and traditional martial arts schools spar so how do you tell the difference?

Answer: Simple. A sports martial arts school teaches sparring for competition. A traditional school uses sparring as a drill to build confidence and practice defending against various attacks in a controlled environment. The techniques practiced by a traditional school in controlled sparring have lethal potential because they are training to defend their life, not to win a medal. Afterwards students shake hands a bow to show mutual respect. At tournaments I have seen sport Karate and WTF style Taekwondo competitors scream at the judges and spit at their opponents.

Question: But my teacher is a “World Champion”, he must be good, right?

Answer: Well the truth is that most “World Champions” are not really world champions. To be a recognized world champion you would have to compete in a ladder tournament system.

Question: How does a ladder tournament system work to become a recognized world champion?


1.First, you would need to be selected by your teacher to represent your school at a local city or county level tournament. If you win there you will advance to a district level tournament.
2.Those winners advance to the state championships. The winners at the state level are appointed to the state team to represent their home state at the national championships.
3.Those who win at the national competition are then invited to national team tryouts. IF they are selected by the national team coaches then they are appointed to the national team that will represent their country at a world championship for that year.
4.If they win, they are considered a recognized world champion.

Question: So how do these other guys become “World Champions”?

Answer: Simple, there are organizations that sanction tournaments for a fee. If you pay a high enough fee, you can host a “World” Ranked tournament, and the winners of your event are called “World Champions”. The largest of these “Pay To Play” World Championship Events holds about thirty world ranked tournaments a year with over 200 divisions. That means that they crown over 6,000 so-called “World Champions” each year.

Question: I heard about guys who invented their own martial arts and are called Founders, Sokedais or Dojunims. How does that work?

Answer: There are three recognized ways to become a founder of a recognized martial art.

1.One is to be a Grand Master of an Already Recognized System. Then go to the governing body of that style with an idea for a modernization of the skills or an advancement in the techniques. If you can show that your new style is different enough in a positive way than the style you originally trained in then they will grant you a style recognition certificate. In the Korean Martial Arts that normally comes from the Korean Martial Arts Instructors Association or one of their branch member associations.
2.For non-Korean styles the only internationally recognized organization for recognizing a New Martial Art is the World Head of Family Sokeship Council.
3.The third way is to be the most senior ranked student of the head of a style when the head of that style dies and you inheret the system.

Question: If that is true then how in the world do all these other people claim to be founders of their own martial arts styles?

Answer: In many countries, including the USA, the martial arts industry is unregulated. That means that anyone can claim to be a master, grand master, or founder and open their own school because there is no government control or laws regulating it. There are many bogus  organizations that will grant you a certificate as a founder or master for about $100.

Question: I heard about an instructor who is a “Hall of Fame” inductee. That is pretty prestigious isn’t it?

Answer: Maybe. It depends on which “Hall of Fame” they were inducted into. There are only three ways to be a legitimate Hall of Fame.

1.First, to be a governing body for martial arts styles like the World Head of Family Sokeship Council or the Korean Martial Arts Instructors Association.
2.Second is to be an educational institution like a college or university.
3.Third, to be an industry publication.

Question: So every martial arts magazine has a recognized “Hall of Fame”?

Answer: No. Some magazines like World Martial Arts Magazine and Action Martial Arts Magazine have true recognized Hall of Fames with an approval process and screening of awardees and nominations.

However, many magazines have a “Hall of Fame” that is really just awards for their paid advertisers. That type of Hall of Fame is not recognized by the professionals in the martial arts industry.

THEN, there are private for-profit Hall of Fame Events. These for-profit only Hall Of Fame “promoters” mail out letters of invitation to every martial artist that they can get a mailing address for and “nominate” them for an award. Then the “NOMINEE” pays to be inducted.

Question: So if you pay to be inducted, your award is not recognized?

Answer: Yes and No. Even recognized Hall of Fames are supported by donations from the inductees. The difference is in the selection and approval process. That is why hall of fames like the World Martial Arts Magazine Hall of Fame, The World Head of Family Sokeship Council Hall of Fame, and the Action Martial Arts Magazine Hall of Honors are so highly respected. They have a very strict nomination and approval process. By being supported by member donations, they can avoid the political pressure of sponsors to induct someone who is undeserving.

Question: My nine year nephew just got his black belt. Can someone that young become a black belt?

Answer: Of course not. The international minimum age standard to receive a recognized black belt is 15 years old. Black belts younger than that are considered Junior Black Belts and can automatically test for an Adult Black Belt after their 15th birthday.

About The Author: Richard Hackworth is a Grand Master in several Korean Martial Arts; including 8th Dan Korean Hapkido Federation 2002;
8th Dan Korea Chungdokwan Taekwondo Association 2000; 8th Dan Korea Yusool Association 2007; 8th Dan World Sword Arts Federation 2005. He is President & CEO of American Dragon Martial Arts Academies Inc. in Orlando, Florida.


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