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kung fu weapon training
man in kung fu pose
Adults training at Kung Fu

There are many excellent instructors who run good schools and teach solid martial arts. There are however, many people who are capitalizing on the martial arts by running their school's solely as a profit-making enterprise with little or no regard for their student body or their arts. Let it be stated that there is nothing wrong with making a profit  from spreading your knowledge. The problem arises when standards are greatly compromised  for financial gain. Many commercial schools sell special belt courses and promote their students quickly in order to extract more dollars from them, and keep them happy with unmerited promotions. Be leery of schools that charge exorbitant testing fees. This is tantamount to a college or university charging you to take your finals after you have paid your tuition.

Maturity is a very important ingredient in becoming a black belt. Yet, commercialism has recently created a plethora of 8 year old black belts. Most 8 year olds can't cross the street unassisted, let alone possess the skills and maturity to justify the rank of black belt. How can a teacher substantiate regularly promoting anyone under the age of 18 to the rank of black belt? 

Buyer Beware!

There are many bogus martial arts masters and pseudo black belts running martial arts schools and milking the unsuspecting public. It takes a lifetime to master a system.

  • Beware of people claiming to be black belts in several styles.

  • Beware of people claiming to be Shaolin priests or having trained at the Shaolin Temple.

  • Beware of people claiming to have learned from Bruce Lee or other famous celebrities.

  • Beware of people who invent their own system.

  • Beware of masters making claims to having invented certain techniques such as the side kick.

  • Beware of masters making unproven claims to being undefeated world champions in their country.

  • Beware of teachers who regularly promote students (of any age) with less than 5 years experience to the rank of black belt.

The martial arts are deeply rooted in Asia, which is where most masters were born and cultivated their arts. However, this does not mean that every martial artist born in Asia is a master. Check the Yellow Pages. There are thousands of masters listed throughout the United States and Canada. How could this be feasible?

It is much better to judge people on the credibility of their schools and how they perform as martial artists,  than to evaluate them solely on the credence of their rank, certificates or testimonials.

Sifu Norman Mandarino

This article appeared in the April 2005 issue of Inside Kung Fu Magazine


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