Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Profile of a Martial Arts Cult Leader

Here's a story about a guy from my neck of the woods that exemplifies what a martial arts cult leader is all about. For years he's adorned lampposts and telephone poles with his hand-written signs that beckons all to "Fight Back" that includes his phone number and lists aiki-jiu-jitsu, aikido, and kung-fu as part of the package, along with a drawing of a singular sai (tri-pronged truncheon).

I've never met "Sensei Jerry" but I know of two people who briefly trained with him, one of them a former instructor. The stories that have come back include students having to defend against (or threatened with) a myriad of weapons, such as bats, live blades, 2x4s, and spears.

Another account:

Hell, there was even an annual outing called, “The Hunt”, where the students would be let loose to survive and scavenge in an open area while Sensei Jerry, and assigned “hunters”, would hunt the hiding students. And the hunt didn’t start in the woods, no, it started that week and you could be attacked at any time, even while at work, at home, or even in your bed. The website’s last noted hunt was from 2012 where Jerry described a team leader who was kidnapped in his sleep the night before the hunt was to begin…

An anonymous source from the same site corroborates with his experience at the school:

Enter Sensei Jerry. “Class” began with a recap of the most recent “hunt” that took place in Connecticut. Those who had somehow performed in an unsatisfactory manner were punished…with swirlies. I kid you not. Four other members of the group picked them up, carried them to the bathroom, and did the deed. The Sensei then congratulated everyone on a job well done, and began espousing the benefits that come with training – being able to disguise oneself in any situation, stretching out one’s “meridian system” (according to Sensei Jerry, computers and TV were a government plot to lower life expectancy and the only way to combat this was with the “good fear”). Then, it was time for class to begin. What followed can only be described as: absolutely f*#!ing insane.

Martial arts cults are nothing new, of course. A while back a reader recommended a book called Herding The Moo that describes the experience of training at a cultish school, from white to black belt. I never got around to reading it, but I've read other accounts about how cults actually develop from the psychological perspective of an adept in Eastern philosophy who has researched phony spiritual leaders or gurus.* "Characteristics of Pathological Spiritual Groups" could be readily applied to sociopathic martial arts instructors and their credulous students, to wit:

  • The leader assumes total power to validate or negate the self-worth of the devotees, and uses this power extensively.
  • The leader keeps his followers in line by manipulating emotions of hope and fear.
  • There is a strict, rigid boundary drawn between the group and the world outside.

In addition, many of these "sensei" either claim some high rank in a made-up style (or styles), or have a rather tenuous one in a legit system they no longer are really affiliated with. For example, certain exponents of Ryu-te kempo such as George Dillman and Jack Hogan claim to be able to KO anyone without having to touch them! But Ryu-te founder Seiyu Oyata (d. 2012) has never advocated, much less demonstrated, a "no-touch knockout.". Needless to say the no-touch KO has since been debunked. Only duped students have been brainwashed into complying with the herd mentality. More people need to say the emperor has no clothes.

*John Welwood 2000. Toward a Psychology of Awakening. Shambhala Publications, Inc.

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