Author's Note--November 2012 The following piece was written in its entirety in April and May of 2012. I decided not to submit it then because I didn't want to continue what was rapidly becoming a troll war between MAP user "Frank Dux" and the rest of MAP. I think, though, that the piece makes for a good example of the point I was trying to make in "We're the Problem", the blog entry that started the whole mess. So now that the whole thing seems to have blown over, I'm dusting it off for MAP readers. Apologies for any outdated information: all the information herein is accurate as of the time the piece was written in the Spring of 2012. When I wrote “We're the Problem” for my blog and submitted it as an article to Martial Arts Planet, I certainly expected it to generate some discussion. What I didn't expect was to come under attack from a MAP user claiming to be the infamous Frank Dux (!), whom I referenced in the piece. We'll probably never know whether or not “Dux” was genuine. He was either unwilling or unable to authenticate himself, which makes me think it’s unlikely. But his extensive knowledge of Frank Dux controversies is certainly convincing, and his angry indignation is in line with what I've seen from Dux in other places on the internet. Whatever the case, “Dux” challenged me to “Put Up or Shut Up!”, so here I am, though probably not in the way that he was hoping. The point of “We're the Problem” was not to bring evidence against Frank Dux--or anyone else, for that matter--but to explain that everyone, even without martial arts knowledge or experience, has the tools needed to make informed decisions about the martial arts. So many of us are taken for a ride by frauds and hacks, not because we’re stupid, but because we’re willing to suspend our disbelief for martial arts instructors in a way that we’re not for car salesmen. It doesn't have to be that way. We don't need to have spent years at some secret temple in Asia to see through dishonesty or delusion. All we need is common sense. And, at the risk of feeding a very good troll, I think we can make Frank Dux into an interesting case study for this. If what I said in “We’re the Problem” is true (that is, that martial arts knowledge is not necessary to form sensible opinions about martial arts instructors), we should be able to make a reasonable assessment of Dux's credibility without any knowledge of Dux or the martial arts. So I propose to do just that. What follows, therefore, will not reference any information about Dux that he does not supply on his own websites, or any of my own meager martial arts knowledge. Note that, since I’m going to do this without resort to any knowledge of Dux or the martial arts, nothing that follows constitutes an accusation of any specific crime on the part of Dux or anyone else. To make that kind of accusation requires evidence, and evidence requires the kind of knowledge which I propose we don’t need for our purposes here. Unlike the formulation of a sensible opinion, an accusation against Dux does require specific knowledge of him and the martial arts, which means it is outside the scope of this article. Let’s take a look at an official Frank Dux website, frankwdux.com, which MAP user "Frank Dux" called the place where we can “become acquainted with the verified facts”. It is the first result that shows up on Google if you search for “official frank dux website”, so it seems as good a place to start as any. The first thing that jumps out at me as I read over this website is a lot of very grandiose claims. Dux claims to be “A Pop Culture Icon”, a “martial art legend”, and “one of the great innovators of modern strategy and tactics”. Because Dux makes such claims of fame and success, the reasonable reader expects a lot more from Dux than he would from the average instructor at a local martial arts club. But since we are assuming no knowledge of the martial arts on the part of the reader, we cannot expect the reader can make any judgment of Dux's martial arts validity. Instead, he goes looking for something more mundane, like a professional website. Surely a “legend”, an “icon”, and a “great innovator” has a nice website, right? Nope. The front page of frankwdux.com is dominated by 12 red links organized into three rows. The first link, “Background”, leads to a plain white page with no title (my browser calls it “Untitled Page”) full of nothing but plain black text. Two more of the links are broken. Another of the links leads to a MySpace page that hasn't been updated in more than a year at the time of this writing. What’s more, the site is full of grammar and punctuation mistakes. Punctuation is often inserted where it need not be (“Hanshi, Frank W. Dux”) or left out where it is needed (“Frank Dux A Pop Culture Icon”), and some sentences are so badly constructed as to be incomprehensible (“Perhaps, attributable to Mr. Dux similarly extraordinary experiences as uncovered with his autobiography, The Secret Man, HarperCollins, 1996.”). All this adds up to the reasonable conclusion that frankwdux.com is not a professionally edited or maintained website. Perhaps I'm being unfair and this one website is not an accurate representation of Dux's total online presence. Just to be sure, let’s check the other “real” or “official” Frank Dux websites. At frank-dux.com, we find just an e-mail address, a MySpace photo gallery (from the same account linked to by frankwdux.com) captioned with more grandiose claims (“lifetime achievement award”, “taught a world champion”), and a few pictures. We also see more English mistakes (“hiding in plain site”) and bad capitalization (“Sun Tsu, the ART of WAR states that all warFARE is BASED on Deception”). At another site, frankdux.net, we see a promise that the site will be fully up and running in Fall 2011(the time of this writing is Spring 2012). We see two messages incorrectly referring to the site as “FrankDux.com”. The most recent update showing on the front page is from 2009. When we click on the first of the links listed down the left side of the page (“What is Dux Ryu Ninjitsu?”) we find more bad grammar and punctuation. When we click the link “Who is Frank Dux”, we also find more grandiose claims. In one particularly atrocious sentence, we read that “Hanshi Dux's experiences are unparalleled and have inevitably transformed him into becoming, without question, one of the most celebrated, recognized, respected, and acclaimed leading combat strategists and tactics authorities in the world today”. In all three cases, we see a stark contrast: a man who claims to be a world-famous celebrity and yet does not have professionals editing or maintaining his websites. Observation One: Dux's claimed fame and success are not reflected in the quality of his websites. In the process of looking through these websites, I've started to notice a theme. I first found it on the “Background” page of frankwdux.com, where we see Dux defending against the US government and the CIA his claims of having participated in secret military operations. There’s more. On the MySpace page linked to by both frankwdux.com and frank-dux.com, we see Dux saying, “At last some one [sic] did their own research in place of repeating the alleged research and fantasy by the LA Times, etc. who benefited from doing a hatchet job on me.” We also see a link from frankwdux.com called “Killing the Bull”, which leads to a page devoted entirely to defending Dux agains claims of lies and fraud made by bullshido.org. Finally, if we click on the “Facts” link on the left side of frankdux.net, we see a description of a link to “The controversial trophy receipt that was supposed to have proven that Dux bought his Kumite trophy at a southern California shop and a picture of Dux from Black Belt Magazine holding the trophy”. It seems that much of Dux’s online presence is defense against accusations of dishonesty. Bullshido is just an online message board community, but these accusations are apparently also coming from the United States government and major newspapers. Since we are assuming that the reader has no information of his own to prove or disprove these accusations, we can conclude simply that these accusations abound, no more but no less. Observation Two: There are enough accusations of dishonesty against Frank Dux circulating that he feels a need to devote a significant portion of his internet presence to defending himself against them. Let’s take a look at one specific element of Dux's online persona. On both frankwdux.com and frankdux.net, we find Dux being repeatedly referred to with the title hanshi, which frankwdux.com says “is used by many different arts for the top few instructors of that style, and is sometimes translated ‘Grand Master’”. According to frankwdux.com, Dux took the title in 1987, but according to that same site only a paragraph earlier, “in 1975, Frank Dux partitioned from his Ninjitsu family lineage to found the very first truly ‘American system’ of Ninjitsu: Dux Ninjitsu”. If in 1987 Dux was the head of his own style, the reasonable reader might ask the question, who gave him the title of hanshi? None of the websites we’ve looked at so far have an answer for that. It could be, of course, that Dux simply left this information out, but that would be inconsistent with our above observation that Dux devotes a great deal of his internet presence to defending his credibility. What’s more, frankwdux.com says that he “took” the title, not that he was given it. Observation Three: There is reason to suspect that the title hanshi, which is afforded to Dux on his websites, is self-awarded, and Dux provides no information that suggests otherwise. Let’s compile a list of our observations so far: 1. Dux’s claimed fame and success are not reflected in the quality of his websites. 2. There are enough accusations of dishonesty against Dux circulating that he feels a need to devote a significant portion of his internet presence to defending himself against them. 3. There is reason to suspect that the title hanshi, which is afforded to Dux on his websites, is self-awarded, and Dux provides no information that suggests otherwise. Remember that these observations all come from information Dux supplies himself and do not rely in any way on outside information about Dux or the martial arts in general. Does this prove that Dux is a liar or a fraud? Of course not. But the average Joe making decisions about martial arts instructors doesn't need proof. He just needs to look at what is available and observe with a critical eye. That’s what we've done here, and what we've found is that (1) Dux claims to be a world-famous celebrity and yet doesn't have a celebrity-caliber website, (2) Dux is assailed constantly by accusations of dishonesty, some from the government and major newspapers, and (3) Dux seems to be in the business of granting himself titles. Now, none of these things are crimes, so I’m not proposing we take Dux to court. That was never what “We're the Problem” was about, anyway. “We're the Problem” was about people making reasonable decisions about who should get their respect, their time, and their money. And without any information of our own whatsoever, I think we can come to the very reasonable conclusion, based on the above observations, that our respect, time, and money are best reserved for people other than Frank Dux. What I hope I have proven here is that everyone, no matter how uneducated, has the power to make decisions about the martial arts for themselves. We only have to look at what is there. And the sooner more people realize this, the sooner the martial arts can get on with being the fun, healthy, productive activity that a few of us already know they are. Author’s Note--May 2012 Since I began writing this article, I have gotten an e-mail from Frank Dux which neither confirms nor denies that he is the MAP member "Frank Dux" and uses some very threatening language. You can see it for yourself, unedited, in the MAP thread linked to in the first paragraph.