A Martial Arts Murder
This absolutely breaks my heart. I can't imagine being this boy's parents and loved ones. I can't imagine being the students in the class with this kid on that day.
Or rather, I can, and I don't want to for more than a few seconds because it's one of the worst things I can imagine, as a parent myself.
I hope for healing, in time, for the Huang family, even though there will be no replacement for the son they have needlessly lost.
It is yet another reminder of the massive amount of responsibility all of us who teach in the martial arts world have over our students.
Especially students who are kids.
Students come to us for a lot of reasons.
A need to belong.
They do not come to us to be our toys, our minions, our sycophants, and especially, not our victims. Parents pay us to teach their children with care, not literally beat them to death in order to "toughen them up" or whatever.
The truth is, the martial arts world has long had these dark little corners, where predators lurk, where liars risk the safety of themselves and others to feed their fragile egos, and where the rest of us are afraid to speak up because our culture - our martial arts culture - tends to frown on speaking up.
I've documented these cases off and on through the years on this blog. I stopped doing it so much when the pure magnitude of it all hit me, and I realized my writing about it and calling it out didn't change a damn thing.
It doesn't matter to a lot of you whether or not someone is a fraud, teaching nonsense about self defense and about how to use weapons in a way that's unsafe. If it mattered, we wouldn't have so many of them continue to be tolerated as a part of our community.
After all, some big-time frauds are relatively famous, and too many of us will ignore the lies in order to try to rub up against someone famous.
When it comes to Sensei Scumbag, there's too many predators for me to keep up with (and that's all this blog would be about). Plus, far too many have been discovered and ALLOWED BACK into our community after they're found out, as if their contribution is so incredibly valuable and irreplaceable, it makes what their victims suffered meaningless and fine to risk additional future victims.
We wouldn't condone a person convicted of embezzlement being put in charge of our bank accounts, but too many of us will allow a predator who preyed on students back into positions of authority over students again.
I will never understand that. Never.
But today, I'm talking about a martial arts murder. A seven year old boy killed on the mat, in front of his fellow students and his family and whoever else was there, and nobody did anything to stop it. A boy his family entrusted to an instructor, to learn a sport and a skill that's supposed to him him healthy and safe.
That poor boy was sacrificed on the altar of his instructor's ego and incompetence. The culture of his community, and the martial arts community in general, contributed to that sacrifice.
In the wake of this child's death, some have called for additional governmental regulation and licensing (or the institution of it in places where it doesn't exist).
I don't know that such a scheme would achieve the effect we're looking for. After all, there's plenty of certified and licensed teachers of other subjects and coaches in other sports who have done as much as anything we've seen in the martial arts world, including murder, all under government watch and sanction.
I think we have to change our martial arts culture, ourselves.
We can't excuse people who lie about their training and background and expertise, no matter how good a fighter or however famous they are or how harmless they might seem.
We can't excuse predators, no matter how much they claim to have been reformed.
We cannot know about abuse - and in this Judo instructor's case, it was abuse - and do nothing for fear of... upsetting the abuser, I guess? Or *gasp* questioning someone's authority?!? We have to speak up, we have to say something, we have to make abuse of the people in our care by ANYONE absolutely taboo and forbidden in our culture.
None of us want people second-guessing how we teach and train, but the risk is too great, and the liars too many, to deny it's needed in some way.
I wrote a long time ago about why I think we're susceptible as a community to being manipulated by liars and predators (here), and those things are still a problem.
I don't think there's a single fix to the problem. I think it lies in each one of us committing to ending the tolerance of abuse, of predation, and of fraud in our ranks, and then acting on it. Don't excuse it because they're "good martial artists" or "they made a mistake" or "they've paid their debt to society" or "they're a respected teacher and it's rude to question it."
These people need to leave. There are plenty of other hobbies they can engage in that won't risk the health and well being of vulnerable people.
It'll take time, but that's the way to REALLY make a difference, one that will stick.
Change the culture that at best looks away and at worst condones this sort of behavior.
What we do is too important - and too dangerous - to do anything less.