Saturday, February 10, 2007

Teachers Gone Bad


Do you find yourself in awe of your instructor? Or do you just show the customary respect that is normally given to authority figures such as a boss or a police officer? Do you regard your sensei as a mentor and a friend? Is (s)he approachable? If you're looking for an object of admiration or a role model in your martial arts instructor you may come up short. The truth is, instructors run the gamut from being highly qualified to woefully incompetent. Others exhibit grossly unethical behavior. I remember one distraught mother who came to me describing how her son's karate teacher was so hungover from the night before his eyes were rolling back into his head - this was happening while he was teaching a children's class! Spirits is a euphemism for alcohol, not to be confused with the spirit of martial arts. He must've got them mixed up.

In his book Martial Arts Madness, Glenn Morris likens some instructors to "violence fixated phys-ed teachers without teaching degrees." Personally, I've had to listen to my share of stories of instructors field testing their martial prowess in the street and cleverly disguising foul techniques in tournaments to win trophies. These guys actually give bullies a bad name. Realize that young students are impressionable and are easily influenced by these yarns. There are no bad students - only bad teachers, says Mr. Miyagi.

Lately there seems to be a horrific trend toward pedophilia in martial-art schools. Some of these vermin do get caught (one got busted courtesy of a hidden surveillance camera in the changing room), but keeping track of past offenders can be a tall order. In Britain, the governing body enforces a criminal records bureau check. If somebody is on that list, they can't get insurance or a license to open any club that involves children. In 1984, karate teacher Jeffrey Doucet was arrested by FBI agents for allegedly kidnapping and molesting an 11 year old student. While he was awaiting extradition at a Louisiana airport, he was shot in the head execution-style by the victim's father right in front of a TV news crew. He probably did the guy a favor, as hard-time prisoners have an established code of ethics that put child abusers on the lowest rung and mete out their own form of justice.

Finally on a somewhat lighter note, a martial arts club from my area was closed down recently when it was discovered that it was operating as a brothel during the day. Apparently the owner felt that teaching kung fu and offering "massage therapy" was providing a community service. He avoided jail time, but his probation officer is keeping close tabs on him. At least somebody is doing their job right.

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9 Comments:

Blogger [Mat] said...

Man!

"He probably did the guy a favor"
What a horrible story. yuck. all over. yuck.


As for instructors.
My first karate instructor actually stole money from the club which was a non-profit organization. Boosted prices to get a share in his pocket. All the while being paid to give classes.

I guess his copy of the bushido must have been in a cardbox somewhere...

I really wish for more enlighten times/people.

12:39 AM  
Anonymous patrick parker said...

Wow, another really well-written and interesting article.

I'd sure like to see some references for that case where the pedophile MA instructor got shot. I hadn't heard of that one.

For my part, I'd have to say all of the MA instructors that i've ever worked under were true professionals. I haven't read the Glenn Morris book and I don't know his credentials but his quote seems off to me.

I agree wholeheartedly that instructors need to act nobly and admirably - as do all other people of any class or group or occupation.

12:41 AM  
Blogger Silverstar said...

I consider myself fortunate to have ethical, well trained instructors.
But I think the biggest problem a lot of other instructors get into is developing an overinflated sense of importance and getting into petty arguments with other instructors. Sad.

8:42 AM  
Blogger Windsornot said...

I am very lucky, as I do consider my instructors as both mentors and friends. But you are right, there are many who are just in it for violent glory of some type, and are not really cut out or should be teachers. The example you used in your posting photo was exactly what came to mind. This is part of the reason that I even started at the do-jahng that I am at, because I didn't want my kid to go to someplace that truly wasn't family oriented and wasn't a franchise like a certain place with an animal name in front of it, and there would be no pressure to do anything but his own best.

Interestingly enough, I do have to say that as an instructor trainee and an adult, I actually had to sign a document upon my application that essentially was a background check and statement that said that I had no record nor would I ever harm a child, and would always act in a child's interest if such a thing were to happen to them. In most cases, of those I know in our organization, that's a no brainer because they really are good people that I implicitly trust my son to be in their care when I'm not around, especially the head instructors, and they know that. I know them well enough to know what they would or wouldn't do. But man, it's scary to think there is nowhere safe for kids anymore. Parents have to be SOOO careful. It's amazing how a few bad apples can spoil the whole lot. :-(

10:21 PM  
Blogger Eddie 哥哥 said...

That is some real shocking disturbing news

10:54 PM  
Blogger John Vesia said...

Mat:
Boosted prices to get a share in his pocket. I guess his copy of the bushido must have been in a cardbox somewhere...

Nice. What a thief - maybe he was reading the bullshido!
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Patrick:
I'd sure like to see some references for that case where the pedophile MA instructor got shot.

They're around the web, but in dribs and drabs. I really tried to find a single link that provided the complete story (excluding forums), but to no avail. In the meantime, I'll keep trying.

(Morris') quote seems off to me.

I think some of that has to do with the style. For example, most internal arts are presented with much different goals than karate - so it's going to draw a different type of person. I can relate to what Morris said, but that's me.
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Silverstar:
...getting into petty arguments with other instructors. Sad.

It happens all the time. I hate to admit it, but yours truly has been guilty of this in the past. These days I just walk away. I don't like burning bridges.
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Windsornot:
...as an instructor trainee and an adult, I actually had to sign a document upon my application that essentially was a background check and statement that said that I had no record nor would I ever harm a child, and would always act in a child's interest...

That's very interesting. As far as I know, most places don't do that. Maybe TKD organizations have their act together in that regard.

...it's scary to think there is nowhere safe for kids anymore.

Maybe it's my imagination or all the press it gets, but it sure seems that there has been an increase in child abuse and abductions over the past decade or so. Good to hear from you again, Windsornot.
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Eddie:
Check this out: Some teenager from the NY area was charged with beheading his allegedly abusive stepfather with a samurai sword. I hope you're keeping your weapons in a safe place, Eddie!

12:06 AM  
Anonymous blackbeltmama said...

Unfortunately there are all too many stories like those bad ones you relate. For young women, I think the incidence of problems is even more so. Unfortunately, the role of teacher is one that can be easily abused.

Some people were meant to teach; others are not.

11:17 AM  
Blogger Miss Chris said...

Yikes! Martial arts school by day and brothel by night? Very disturbing indeed.

1:23 PM  
Blogger John Vesia said...

Black Belt Mama:
For young women, I think the incidence of problems is even more so.

I'm sure. The tragedy is that children (unlike most young women) tend to keep these incidences to themselves. Who knows how many of these crimes go unreported?
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Miss Chris:
Martial arts school by day and brothel by night?

Yes. A McBrothel!

12:58 AM  

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