Ryan Hall's "Open letter to the martial arts community"

Discussion in 'General Martial Arts Discussion' started by benkei, Jan 22, 2013.

  1. benkei

    benkei Valued Member

    For those that haven't already read it:


    I was hoping to discuss this letter on its own merits without any of the Lloyd Irving case getting in the way since it already has its own thread.

    This letter is exactly the same as something I might have written a number of years ago. I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that I'm sure at least parts of it echo many people's experiences in the martial arts world. So my question is, have you had some kind of "off" experience during your time in the martial arts, and how long did it take you to have your lightbulb, I have to get the hell out of here moment?

    The other thing I want to get into is, is there something wrong with the martial arts in general? I mean, in almost no other physical endeavour do we see such narcissim, such hero worship, self promotion, cult of personality and just plain pointless philosophising. For instance, my dad has played golf since he was a teenager. He is now 60. He plays 2-3 times a week, just like many people that do martial arts. However I have never heard him pointlessly drivel on about enlightenment or zen concepts, people do not harbour "secrets" and such about how to achieve a good bunker shot, there is no resentment between the broomstick putter and regular putter camp, it is all just about enjoyment of the game. He tries a new way of driving to get better, it doesn't work. He says meh, moves on and tries something else. Compare this to a friend who won't change arts despite their teacher being dead and having no one to teach them. They refuse to learn anything but that style even when they can't.

    Contrast the golf examples with what I've seen on martial arts forums over the past decade. People go into some forums and ask questions, they are basically told "ask your instructor, you don't deserve answers just because you asked us a question". We get people saying TMA are superior to MMA because MMA doesn't teach philosophy. We have chunners arguing over who has the "real" wing chun. Those are just a few examples of hundreds of pointless squabbles that go on in our community. People in our community turn into the equivalent of religious zealots much of the time, eschewing rationality and clear thinking in favour of finding some nebulous "truth" or secret about combat.

    Last edited: Jan 22, 2013
  2. Count Duckula

    Count Duckula Valued Member

    One of the differences between e.g. golf and MA is that in golf, the player is in charge of himself, whereas in MA you are subject to the authority of your teacher. During class, you are expected to listen and obey, even if you don't always understand something. And the one in charge is at the same time head of the organization, teacher, and in charge of promotion and development. As such he has quite some direct influence on everyone. It is a position of significant social power.

    With that you get the same problems you have with everyone who occupies such a position. Firstly, it can attract people who enjoy that position too much or who, when placed there, can't resist the temptation or power. And second, just like a royal entourage, you get people who jockey for prestige (sycophants) or who simply depend on the man in charge for their own position.
  3. Moosey

    Moosey invariably, a moose Supporter

    Why have you specified that this is a TMA problem when the exact example that lead to this open letter is from the world of modern, competitive martial arts?

    Surely, if there is a problem, it's that people often try to validate why their first decision was right, even if it means ignoring contradictory evidence, rather than examining their decision making objectively. People don't like to believe that they made a bad choice so will ignore evidence that suggests they did. There are tons of studies that show this.
  4. benkei

    benkei Valued Member

    Haven't specified it was a TMA problem - I may have used TMA examples off the forums, but I never said it was limited to TMA. I just picked some of the more ridiculous examples I've seen.

    And Duck, ok fair enough call re the MA vs golf, but kinda missing the point I was trying to make - does the martial arts community perhaps take itself just a little too seriously? Instructors have power over us because in most cases we give them that power - thinking they are going to give us the meaning of life or ultimate truth of combat.
  5. holyheadjch

    holyheadjch Valued Member

    I think it's possible for people participating in any sport to succumb to hero worship, especially where the practice of that sport necessitates a player/(coach/manager) dynamic, which almost all MA, certainly at an amateur level, have in common.
  6. Late for dinner

    Late for dinner Valued Member

    I think that perhaps the OP is overly sensitized to what happens in the MA world being that they participate in that world.

    Last time I heard some stats on abuse involving high level athletes I believe that the number was something like 1 in 5 suffers from some form of abuse at the hands of their coaches. What we are seeing might not be so different than what is happening for a good proportion of the sporting community anyway.

    Just sayin'

    Last edited: Jan 22, 2013
  7. Giovanni

    Giovanni Well-Known Member Supporter

    i think it can happen in any of life's endeavors, not just sport. but you're spot with the sport aspect. there's so many examples of this sort of thing happening in the sport world.

    the thing is we're all fallible. and i'm not taking the christian "we're all sinners" perspective. we all make mistakes. some mistakes are bigger than others. but it's also what we do after the mistake is made that's important.

    one thing i don't get, and i read the whole letter not just the short version, where is this coming from? what caused ryan hall specifically to write the letter? anyone know?
  8. Giovanni

    Giovanni Well-Known Member Supporter

    have you ever been involved in amateur athletics, any sport? i feel like this sort of thing is prevalent almost everywhere in the sport world. you mentioned golf, there was a severe case of personality cult that evolved around tiger woods. sure, great golfer. but obviously a bad person. i'm not talking about his wanting to get laid as much as possible. that would be fine, except he was married and had children.

    do i even need to mention lance armstrong? or joe paterno?
    Last edited: Jan 22, 2013
  9. PointyShinyBurn

    PointyShinyBurn Valued Member

  10. Ropty

    Ropty New Member

    For a comparison, look at Yoga. There is the same sort of internecine conflicts, same sort of zealotry. I would guess that both Yoga and TMA are similar in that they tend toward total philosophies, each with its own truth and judgment of what is good.

    Maybe the lack of explicit contests with agreed upon rules of what demonstrates which philosophy wins is what allows this to flourish. (American) Football at least is similar in its devotion and passion, except that in the end one team looses.
  11. Late for dinner

    Late for dinner Valued Member

    Football players being irresponsible and committing fellonius acts?? This case has been in the news and is about as shameful as it goes... admit that someone did something wrong and risk not being in the championships? WHAT?


    Or other recently outed pedophiles in the sports world..


    And the even bigger case of Jerry Sandusky !!


    Sandusky was molesting kids for years with the knowledge of people at the university for years but no one wanted to risk hurting the dynasty that had been created with him as assistant coach.

    Sports allows people access to young people and power over them in ways that would be shocking to most in the non sporting world. BJJ has, a very young sport, just started to be one of the newest venues for bully's and perverts since it's rise in prominence.

    It's really a sad world in some ways.


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