SHENANIGANS: Banning the Martial Arts
Updated: Mar 23
I have a post called "Enough with Sensei Scumbag's Shenangians!"
People who use martial arts training as a way to find people they can sexually, emotionally or physically abuse I call "Sensei Scumbag".
And I hate them, and I say so without reservation. They are slimeballs of the lowest order and there's no excuse for them.
I used to update the original version of that post with a list of news reports of Sensei Scumbags so I could make my point about it being a BIG problem in the martial arts.
It was a LOOONNNG list after a while.
At one point, I decided to break that post into two: "Enough with Sensei Scumbag's Shenanigans" and the "Big List of Sensei Scumbags".
In my research for that second post with the list, though, I ran across a web site that had a much more comprehensive list than I had assembled. By my own independent research, this list I stumbled upon is pretty correct, even if it's missing some, notably Ralph Hall.
It's a really good list. Very accurate, contains just about every news report I found myself. I don't have to do all the work to build the list.
At first, I was really excited. I think a list like this is needed, obviously. People searching for martial arts instruction online can make informed choices about who they - or their child - will train with, and they should know if an instructor has a past like this. This list helps with that.
I think we can all agree that being informed is one way to help combat the problem of sexual abuse in our community, right? So, I thought to myself, awesome, I can just link to that list and I won't have to reinvent the wheel.
Then I started reading more of the site.
I won't be linking to that list or that site (not anywhere, including in this post).
The author contends that we need licensing and universal background checks to address abuse in the martial arts, to start, and he compiled the list to bolster his case for that. As you read through other pages on the site, as well as peruse his YouTube and Twitter channels, you can see his real agenda really quickly.
He wants the martial arts banned. As in, made illegal.
But it's not for the reasons of abuse. That's secondary.
The author is one of those folks in certain Christian circles that believes that training in the martial arts (particularly Asian martial arts) is sinful. They say you can't train if you're a Christian, because they interpret things like dojo etiquette as non-Christian religious behavior.
If you Google it, you'll see lots of debate out there on whether or not good Christians can train in the martial arts. There's plenty of Christians out there who would agree with the author of the site that I'm avoiding linking to.
I would point out that this does not appear to be the majority view. We have LOTS of organizations in our martial arts world that are Christian in nature. Karate for Christ, the International Fellowship of Christian Martial Artists, The Christian Martial Arts Council and The Christian Martial Arts Association are just a few.
If you think that the martial arts are an irreligious thing for you to participate in, I can respect your decision. I think this is an erroneous interpretation of what is happening, I think you don't understand that the martial arts is not a monolith (my style comes from a Christian part of the Philippines, after all), and I think you are misinterpreting giving respect to a teacher or a founder of a system as "worship".
If you feel like you shouldn't do martial arts because of your interpretation of your religious faith, by all means, don't train.
BAN for the rest of us it because it's against your religion? Not in my country, pal. We don't do stuff that way.
What really burns my cookies here is that the author of the site I will not link to is actually doing something I think all of us will agree with, but I can't and I won't use his resource because literally every other thing he believes I completely and utterly disagree with.
He uses the problems we have in our community with Sensei Scumbag as a tool to push forth his personal religious and political agenda.
I can't support that.
Here's the thing - there IS a grain of truth to the criticism he's offering. He thinks that the very nature of martial arts training makes us ripe for cult-like behavior, authoritarian command-and-control leadership structures, and puts us in a position for the abuse of our trust.
Yes, I think that our training culture makes it very easy for Scumbags to prey on us, and I discuss that in the "Sensei Scumbag" post. So he has a point there.
BUT it does not automatically follow that therefore, the martial arts community as a whole is inherently dangerous and must be regulated or banned from existence.
It'd be like arguing that because a pastor uses his charisma, sales tactics, and authority over his church for personal gain, ALL churches are like that. Or arguing because of the nature of Christian church organization, it's too easy for predators to use the church as a way to easily access - and silence - sexual assault victims so we should therefore ban churches (and it's not just the Catholics, guys, read here).
I am NOT engaging in whataboutism here. I think that any group that has any kind of leadership structure and/or money and power over people will struggle with these problems. This includes The Boy Scouts. USA Gymnastics, and team sports of just about every sport you can name (here's ONE example).
If there's a group of people that includes potential victims, there are predators using that group for access to those victims.
Sensei Scumbag, Coach Scumbag, Professor Scumbag, Pastor Scumbag, President Scumbag, Mentor Scumbag, Principal Scumbag, Father Scumbag, Boss Scumbag, Doctor Scumbag... they all exist.
Banning the martial arts, sports, churches, schools, workplaces, etc. won't stop it.
If you're a Christian, do you struggle with a conflict between faith and martial arts training? If you're of another faith, is it a problem for you as well, and if so, how do you cope with it? Did I give way too much attention to a crackpot in the internet? Let us know in the comments!