In the 60s and 70s the Martial Arts in the UK was codified. It was Judo, Karate, Kung Fu, Jujutsu and Taekwondo. What was then the Sports Council formed structured Governing Bodies and by the 80s put them together in the Martial Arts Commission.
Needless to say the MAC floundered quite quickly and all the other bodies have gone through many incarnations but we still have this archaic structure with what is now Sport England with miniscule numbers in each Governing Body and many, many more ‘out than in’.
English ‘white suit’ Karate suffered the worst, with politics and huge missing amounts of money, going from 45,000 members at one time and a good working structure, to no Governing Body (as I write) as the same old power hungry and money soaking dinosaurs pick on the remains of the Martial Art they completely destroyed.
This has left a huge, popular Martial Arts industry with no governance to speak of. The Government has completely turned their backs on it and has no wish to fund any structure or competition now or in the future. The old structure doesn’t work because most clubs practice more than one Martial Art and very few could or want to fit into the ‘Sport England’ structure, governance and funding streams.
This was the opportunity for the American business model to arrive, it took hold rapidly treating the students as ‘customers’ and monetising them as efficiently as possible, the ‘briefcase instructors’ selling 3 year contracts on HP agreements so they could ‘cash out’ in one lump and leave the student with the debt. They sold equipment in a ‘pro shop’ telling the students they had to buy it to continue training and then offered ‘upgrades’ to “leadership’ programmes that were up to TEN TIMES the price of the original sign up fee.
Did you want your child to be a leader or a follower? Better equipment, weapons, faster grading and badges of rank. It was an easy sell where children were concerned.
The Instructors were taught how to market and sell and were out there every day dressed as Ninja Turtles or Kung Fu Panda and the like, with ‘scripts’ to persuade the unsuspecting public with high pressure sales techniques. Then we had the ‘door knockers’ going to people’s houses with the same scripts and signing them up to clubs mostly run and taught by people with only weeks or months training experience and they spread like wildfire all over the UK with regional managers and a very rich man at the top.
The race was on with very young inexperienced ‘Masters’ all encouraged to break away from their Associations and Governing Bodies and to be judged by how many students they had and what car they drove. Without fail their standard was bad even if they had a six pack and shiny teeth, the Martial Arts wheel of change was slowly turning as the traditional clubs suffered.
The Martial Arts media didn’t help. Karate and Oriental Arts was the first to go, Fighting Arts was a higher class magazine, but no-one was really interested. Combat had longevity and spawned Traditional Karate for a while and a short lived Taekwondo version but spiralled into debt with mismanagement and disappeared without trace.
There are so many tournaments but no real path to excellence or authentic European and World Champions. Tournament organisers are still unable to get together to produce one set of National and International Champions, so European and World Champions abound with many only being a tournament between a club from England and one from Ireland or they just made up the title anyway! The new World Martial arts Organisation (WMO) headed by the most talented competitor we’ve ever had, Alfie Lewis, looks promising and the Guardians were there for the first event to support it. We desperately need people to work together to make it happen.
Where does that leave us now? We have a huge unstructured Martial Arts community that are generations down the line from the above structures consisting of amateur and professional clubs all doing their own thing. Social media has played a large part in bringing many of them together mostly in a positive way. We have the few ‘trolls’ and ignorant drunken rants and childish arguments and threats but on the whole, media like Facebook has helped many isolated clubs and Instructors to come together in a way that no-one could have envisioned. The beauty is that anyone can talk to anyone, Youtube and social media video means that anyone can also see a variety of martial arts performed. The Martial Arts Guardian has arisen from this need to bring people together with ‘no strings attached’.
We are determined to help instructors and students keep it real. We want you to be able to run your clubs and train to a good standard without the past ‘vampires’ draining the money and standards. With the benefit of social media we can communicate for free.
We can spread and share good training and ethical business, we can attend each others events and be friends without anything getting in the way. We can bring to your attention anything we feel is worth sharing and you can help and share what you like.
The revolution is here. Power to the people!