In This Hub:
Best MA for SD?
Commercialized MA
Cults in the MA
Evaluating a MA
Fighting Facts
Fighting vs. Self Defense
Four Focuses of MA Training
Know Your Tools
Krav Maga
Lethal Force and MA Training
MA and SD
MA Biz
MA Lies
MA Pirates
MA Short Cuts, et all
MA Subculture
Mental Preparation
Mixed Martial Arts
Real Fighting
Sanity in MA/SD
Sports Martial Arts
Strike Enhancers
Technique, Don't Dismiss It
Threat Displays
Traditional MA/Self-Defense
Tough Enough?
Walking the Talk
What Do You Want From MA?
What If Monkeys
Why We Do It
MA Training Hub

Self Defense Hub
Streetfighting Hub
NNSD Home Page

Search the Site

Marc MacYoung?
Dianna Gordon MacYoung?
Animal E-list
Crime Avoidance Lectures
Crime Blog
Colorado Classes
Contact Us
Hosting A Seminar
   Crime Prevention
   Expert Witness
   Knife Defense
   Law Enforcement
   Martial Arts
   Movie Consulting
   Women's Self-Defense
Our Linking Policy
On-line Store
Train with MacYoung
Terms of Use
Topics of Interest

"No, no, no! Don't attack that way that's too advanced.
You need to attack simpler, he's a beginner!"
"That's not realistic."
"He can't handle realism yet, he's just a 
 beginner. You can because you're a master"
                                               What a "pirate" told Dr. Kevin Menard
                                         about not attacking like Robo-man
                                  at a seminar thereby causing
                           the technique the pirate
                      was teaching to fail

Martial Arts Pirates

On this page:
The problem | Explaining pirates and how they operate | Spotting pirates | Danger signs | How not to be taken in by pirates | In the end, the responsibility is yours | Further Resources

The  term "Pirates"  -- describing an unfortunate phenomenon in commercial martial arts schools --  was a term we first heard from a man named Ventura Silva. In just a few sentences he very eloquently described a major trend in the Western martial arts world. And although he probably doesn't realize it, it is also a major tactic of martial arts cults.

Begin with the fact that in the Western world, most martial art schools/groups/organizations are businesses. In order to survive they must make money. Even the most committed sensei must pay the rent  and electricity for  the school and that is what student fees go for. However,  if you have a commercial school (as we define the term, someone who is making their living off teaching martial arts) then what you are dealing with is definitely NOT a philanthropic organization. Now the instructor must make not only the school expenses, but his own house payments. To stay in business in this manner you must constantly sell new products and services. That simple fact has a major effect on what is being taught in most westernized martial arts schools.

Of equal importance is the fact that in oriental cultures the relationship between a student and a teacher is radically different than it is here in the West. Although this relationship can span decades, very seldom is it fundamentally economic in nature. That has a serious effect on what is taught and how it is taught in those circumstance. Recognizing the natures of these different ways of teaching is critical to understanding the problems that are discussed on this page.

The Problem (short form)
The short version of this problem is that in the competitive world of martial arts business, unscrupulous instructors often steal concepts, moves, ideas, teaching systems, etc., etc. from other systems/instructors. Then they  present these ideas as their own to unsuspecting students. While that is ethically wrong, the real problem is this: They do this without fully understanding the significance of what it is that they are pillaging.

Much less, how it really works. What else is involved and how it can all blow up in your face without these other aspects. Therefore they are charging you full price for half information. This motivations for this behavior are many, and they are quite simply beyond the scope of this page. However, the results are pretty identifiable.

What is being taught is flawed. Parts are missing. These parts are critical for the "move" to work in real life (1).

With parts missing the technique doesn't work beyond the confines of the dojo/training hall/academy walls. When we say something doesn't work outside the dojo, what we mean is that often people in MA schools are taught to attack in stilted unrealistic ways that allow for pirated and/or incomplete techniques to still work (2) . We will discuss somewhere else the difference between isolating an element in order to teach it and teaching an unrealistic, unworkable technique as a complete move. Pirates specialize in the latter as they never take the parts and successfully bring them together. How can they? They don't have the whole process. Instead they present a fragmented, disjointed  and shallow version.. You cannot expect these flawed interpretations to work in a live-fire situation.

More specifically, even in the school,  a pirated move generally doesn't really work for anyone other the lead pirate (head instructor). Usually this is because the instructor has something that allows him to "patch" the move enough to make it *sort* of work for him. By this we mean he can make it work as long as he is very specific on whom he does it on. (Don't think that a savvy pirate isn't very selective on who he demonstrates on and how he will be attacked) Those few senior students who can make it work  also have some kind of compensating "patch" such as muscle, size or speed that allow them to "fake" the move.

To those who know what the move is supposed to look like, these pirated versions are obviously flawed. The flow and nature of the movement is wrong. To them, it is like seeing an alphabet presented as ABD2HI56XYZ. There are not only 18 letters missing, but there are things there that do not belong. And yet the pirate is trying to present this as though it were the complete 26 letter alphabet.

But to the uninformed and/or new student however, this move looks great. It really does look like a grand demonstration of martial prowess. And gosh, golly gee, and to learn it all they have to do is sign a year long contract. Coming back to the alphabet analogy, as far as the student knows, it is the complete alphabet. How is an "illiterate" student to know that an alphabet has 26 letters and nothing but letters?

This is not at all pleasant. for the student. In fact, it can be downright dangerous if the student ever does find him/herself in a violent encounter. That's because when it comes to self-defense what you need is something that works, not something that looks good.

Now that is on the physical front. Where most pirating goes on however, is on the much more vague idea of self-defense, personal safety and tactical responses. Pirates get a hold of an  idea and then proceed to teach with without any further training or research. This is a double threat to the student. If  something were ever to happen and what the instructor is teaching doesn't get the student killed then the odds are it will put the student in serious legal jeopardy. This is where you get such asinine concepts as a neck break from behind or slicing someone's arm with a knife for trying to punch you being presented as self-defense. However, the simple fact that the pirated version is presented is often mistaken by students to constitute the whole of the subject.

Unfortunately a more common day to day problem exists as often pirated training encourages a wide variety of dysfunctional behavior. One of which is an ugly combination of unfounded arrogance, aggression and even cult-behavior. As I mention in the section below, one must seriously question the motives of someone who is willingly buying from pirates. Return to top of page

Explaining pirates and how they operate
The following post is one I sent to the Animal List in response to the question of "to whom does responsibility belong"

From: Marc MacYoung
Sent: Friday, March 19, 2004
TEACH: Teaching SD *not* MA

Alicia said
>Where teachers do not have the scruples Marc and Dianna
> have, the student's responsibility to look at what they are learning becomes
> more obvious. Unfortunately, human nature being what it is, many students
> rely unhealthily on their instructors, emotionally as well as for their
> instruction, and that reliance lays them open to abuse by cult-like clubs,
> and leads them to ignore their responsibility to question the quality of the
> "product".
I'm not babbling...really...seriously... :D  But it will take a minute to get where I am going.
Not too long ago I met a hellaciously competent martial artist by the name of Ventura Silva. This guy is old school, hard core Mexican martial artist. In short, we're talking one tough-assed banger of a fighter and a fella who has schools in San Diego and Tijuana. He was talking to a rather unscrupulous MA instructor who was promising him the world and Ventura just smiled. Later when someone else tried to warn Ventura, he laughed and said the following. "Don't worry man, I know what they are. They're pirates. They'll steal something and then try to sell it to you claiming it has been in their family for generations."

Bless his little heart, the man just put it in a nutshell. Now like the general One Hung Low commenting on Sun Tzu let me add a couple of points to flesh out this quick, but accurate sketch. "Pirates" abound in the MA world. And when we think about it, I'm sure we all will realize that we've seen them. But saying "Hey! He's a pirate!" is not the same as recognizing HOW pirates operate. Because until you can do this, the only pirates you will recognize are the ham handed ones...the really slick ones will slip past you.
One thing to recognize about pirates is that they will only learn enough about a subject to make themselves look good. More specifically, look good to the uninformed. And then they will spend a lot of time steering clear of people who really do know the subject (kind of like pirates will avoid the towns with large military fortresses and not attack warships). But they will present themselves as knowledgeable about the subject.
What is important to realize is that pirates do not get fundamental details, concepts, etc. etc. What they often get is the form, but not the substance. Or putting it another way, what they have is the external, but not the internal or balancing components of what they are presenting. Often they patch it with their own stuff before peddling it. (Imagine stealing a race car with no engine, dropping in a Toyota engine and selling it.). Now the young and gullible kid who buys such a car, might think he is a real stud putting around the city streets or having it parked in the driveway, but if he ever takes it out to the race track, he's gonna get creamed. The reason the MA pirate can get away with this is that "well, obviously he's the grandpoo bah master" and he knows all about how to move.
This is why you so often see supposedly cross trained "experts" who claim to be able to teach you six different styles doing one type of body motion and six different hand styles. What he is NOT doing is six different martial arts. I've seen a guy who is acknowledged as good kempo player, who teaches silat flavored kempo, wing chun flavored kempo, kali flavored kempo, etc. etc. And this guy is a major name in the market right now. Thing is, people from these arts take one look at what he is claiming is that art and say Whiskey Tango Foxtrot? That isn't ______"  And you know what? They're right. The problem is is, because of all the pissing contests going in those different styles over who has the "True" art these legitimate assessments of what the guy is doing is being dismissed as "the boy who cried wolf"  -- especially by him. Gotta love the guy, he sails under the pirate flag right under their noses because the various camps are so busy fighting each other over who is doing it right.
Now all kinds of things that make you go "hmmmmm" should be percolating through everybody's heads right now about "technique pirates."  But...what about idea pirates? People who take a concept, gut it and present it for their benefit?  In this particular case, let's just focus on how it can work when it comes to the student/teacher relationship.
In the Western world we have a totally different concept of student/teacher relationship (Sting's song aside mind you) than the Eastern world. Keep that in mind, we'll get back to it, because it is something Pirates have really, really used and abused.
Now, I have met people who claim that chaos is the natural state of the universe. I tend to  disagree. I do agree with  the observation of a whole lot of people (who are smarter than me)  that patterns of order tend to occur more than random chaos. Interestingly enough, from what I can tell a lot of these "orders" are defined by a very significant influence, that of checks and balances. This form of "order" only goes until it runs into another form that limits it, influences it and occasionally defines it. Sometimes these "other" forms are external, sometimes they are internal. For example a gang is only so big, there comes a point where other gangs serve as a check to the first's expansion (external) as well as the limitations created by the nature of the gang and its participants (internal).
Now interestingly enough, when I sit back and think about it, it seems to me that the people who were peddling chaos the most were the ones that I would neither loan money to, trust with my daughter or in general, turn my back on. Because quite simply, they struck me as people who were only out for themselves and trying to do/get whatever crossed their little pea brains. They don't want checks and balances telling them what they can and can't do. And chaos, gives them the carte blanche they want to have. The reason I bring this up is remember the difference between Eastern and Western teaching protocols? Let's take another look at it from this perspective.
To the Western view, in the East, the instructor has god-like powers. But upon closer examination and understanding (i.e. getting the full picture) you realize that the instructor has incredible responsibility, obligations and restrictions put upon him. The instructor is NOT god, he is in fact, more contained and defined than the student. Yes, he has awesome power and control over other people, but there is one hell of a cost and restrictions up the wazhoo. These checks and balances are often societal induced.
The West too has checks, balances, requirements and standards for teaching. And although different, they are just as strict and demanding. Usually, the standards in the West rely on not only organizational training and certification, but operating within an organization as well. Think of a school teacher.
Now, sailing along comes our friendly neighborhood pirate. Where normal people would see two bastions of order, he looks at the middle ground and sees an opportunity. An opportunity where posing as a Western representative of the Eastern, he can demand the blind obedience of students (without the societal checks, balances and most of all requirements) without having the requirements of the Western (legitimate certification and answerability to a governing body). Man that a sweet deal or WHAT? And now, our friendly neighborhood pirate can pillage and plunder both and sell the booty to the unsuspecting. And oh, lookee here, he can sell certifications and membership to HIS organization. And oh how the Western mind loves certification and rank. It's just like those legitimate bastions.
But, when it comes down to it, we have to ask ourselves something. Would there be hookers if there weren't Johns? Would there be professional theft, if there weren't buyers? The person who buys a stereo out of the back of a van has larceny in his heart too. A different level yes. But he knows it is stolen property, but "ohhh, it is such a good deal to give him what he wants. And after all, the crime has been committed already and there is no real way to return it to the rightful owner, so why shouldn't he buy it?" What's funny is that such a person would never dream of breaking into someone's home to steal, but somehow he will find a rationalization to benefit from someone who did.
The funny thing about it is, while most people will pass through the pirate bazaar and not really come out the worse for wear,  pirates tend to breed baby pirates. Who in time grow up to be pirates themselves. It is interesting to watch because after a while the head pirate doesn't have to go out pirating anymore, his little pirates go out and do the work for him. They go out and collect booty and bring it back to Tortuga. (It's funny because I can almost stand in a seminar and tell who is working on their parrot-and-eye-patch dan ranking. The only thing they are missing is the Pirate's Alphabet from Michael Nesmitt's Elephant Parts). What's really kind of interesting is how these younger pirates, who have never known the full/real/ complete version of the issue anyway, further bastardize and pirate other things to sell. What is both sad and important to realize is that what these Mini-Me's are bringing back are literally Xeroxed copies...which are then copied again by the head pirate. Anybody seen a multi-generational copy? A copy of a copy of a copy?  That's what is eventually taught.

>It's why I said "caveat emptor". Who is responsible for the student's
>choice of instructor?

Well my dear, now that you know when you go sailing the seas between East and West there be pirates, the answer is "you."

Because the MA really do straddle two different worlds if you decide to go sailing these waters you need to recognize:
A) the checks and balances that both worlds have (and why these safety checks are in place)
B) how pirates operate
C) how to recognize and avoid pirates (if that is your wish)
D) If you decide to deal with pirates what you
     1) are getting out of
     2) are paying
     3) what it might cost you

Argity, argity, arrrgh, Lass. Here be pirates!


This post was largely an off  the cuff explanation to someone who was trying to figure out on one hand, the degree of responsibility a student has and on the other the ethics and standards  that instructors must have. If either element is lacking there is the potential for problems.

However, this response was to show that such questions don't exist in a vacuum, there are many other factors involved that shade both sides of the issue. Before attempting to answer such a large, vague question one should at least be familiar with the factors that not only affect the question, but will frame the answer, such as the differences between Eastern and Western teaching practices and how each can be abused. Return to top of page

Spotting pirates
Many years ago my cousin signed on as a crew member aboard a yacht that sailed around the world. When he came on board in Hawaii he noticed something odd about the fo'c's'le. When he asked about it, he was told "don't ask."  The incident was forgotten until a few weeks later. By that time they were sailing in the South China  Sea, an area then renowned for pirate activity,  a smaller faster boat began to act strangely, keeping pace with them and repeatedly changing course to do so. My cousin was shocked to see the first mate go to the fo'c's'le and reveal a .50 caliber machine gun. The first mate then very pointedly aimed it in the direction of the smaller boat.

The pirate vessel quickly changed course and disappeared over the horizon.

It's rather interesting to note that MA pirates act  in many ways  like real pirates. They spend a lot of time cruising the "sea lanes" seeking booty. But they are very selective about who and what they pirate. And like real pirates when  their actions are contested  they tend to backpedal quickly. Or at least feign great innocence until they can withdraw to ply their trade elsewhere.

As an instructor, you can easily see the pirates skulking around the edges of a seminar  picking  information to go back and start teaching it. There's just something about them, hungry  and conniving air about how they take in the information that tells you they aren't learning, but instead are pillaging. While this might seem mystical sounding there are certain non-verbal cues that people give off when they are learning something. How people unconsciously act when processing new information is recognizable to experienced teachers. As is when someone is just going through the motions while their minds are elsewhere. Pirates have a certain look to them as even when  hearing the information for the first time they are planning how they are going to present this information as their own. It is exactly that look that Mr. Silva recognized when he made the original  comment

 As a student there are certain tell-tale signs when you are dealing with a pirate as opposed to someone who really knows what they are talking about. Perhaps the best way to describe the difference is in the allegorical comparison of chrome to quality steel. Although this might sound a little lyrical. The analogy stands up very well. Namely because quality steel is quality steel, the value of it comes from what is contained within. It is a value that runs through out the entire object.

Whereas chrome has a shallowness to it, despite it's bright shiny appearance. In fact, the difference between chrome and good steel is one is a mirror. Chrome reflects back your image, and that is most often the appeal. It's bright, shiny and you can see yourself in it. Unfortunately, in reflecting what is around it, chrome masks the flaws of  what is underneath it.

Having said that, let's take a gander at some of the danger signs to look for:

Multiple "Master" ranking
While a 27 year old grand master is phonier than a 3 dollar bill, a 40 year old master of countless styles puts both of them to shame. This is serious pirate territory. Any one who claims to have achieved high ranking, much less master status(3) in more than one system should be looked at with skepticism. There is a big difference between being trained in multiple systems and holding high ranking in multiple systems. Return to top of page

Lots of certification
Closely related to multiple master ranking. You can walk into some schools and there are more certifications hanging on the wall than at a doctor's office. The problem with massive amounts of certification is found in one simple word: Accreditation.

A PhD from an unaccredited university is just a piece of paper with letters on it. A PhD from an organization is a joke. The reason one needs to be concerned about excessive certification is that accredited certification takes time! As well as lots of money. When you are standing there looking at a wall of certifications, figure a minimum of six months and $5000 for each certification. About this time you should begin to wonder where this person found all this time and money to get accredited certification in all these areas. This is especially true when you think about all the time it takes to run a business too.

Truth is when you start reading the sources of all these certifications, you begin to notice they are from strange sounding organizations, often in far off distant places. Or our personal favorite, diplomas from places like Comon I Wannalaya" University in Hawaii. These mythical universities all unfortunately seem to have disbanded sometime in the past. Think about that for a second. Have you ever heard of an accredited university closing? UCLA? Cornell? Regis? Harvard?  CU Boulder? Have any of them gone out of business lately? Even privately owned universities like USC, Loyola Marymount, Notre Dame, Westwood and DeVry have a tendency to stay in business. A defunct "university" is really questionable. As are degrees from them.

What is also questionable are certifications from organizations with names like "The World Budokan Federation" based out of Illinois. Basically, take a quick trip to these groups 'Websites and see if  they are selling certification. It's amazing how many organizations will give you ranking, certification and yes, even diplomas for the right amount of money. Sure they'll sell you instructional tapes and books, but the prize in the crackerjack box is that piece of vellum that says "You are now certified/dan ranked/qualified to teach." 

Pirates, knowing how impressed naive people are with certifications, love the kind of organizations that hand vellum out like candy. This is to a MA pirate what a letter of marque was to a privateer. It is literally a license to raid and pillage. From there on any scrap of related information that comes near them will be swept into the plunderer's bag and presented as though it had always been part of their original training. Never mind the fact that what they are claiming was  taught to them years ago all came from a video course curriculum or a few seminars that they attended. That is something else to watch for, read the "certifications" carefully...many of them come from weekend seminars instead of ongoing training that spans years. Return to top of page

Missing "Crouching Tiger/Hidden Dragon" masters
This is also a key component for many martial arts / reality based self-defense cults. What it means is that the guru who bequeathed all this great and esoteric knowledge is either dead or far, far away (like in another country halfway around the world). But oh can the instructor regal you with tales of the deeds of the grandmaster who taught him. Often pearls of wisdom rained from this master's lips 24/7.   Basically what it boils down to is a missing master is like a defunct university. That is to say you cannot check attendance records, GPAs or graduation documentation.

The reason pirates use missing masters is that they are convenient means to "laundry" pirated information. Any pirated information can be attributed to the sage and missing master. Which if you think about it, saves the pirate the problems of fake certification, research and all kinds of embarrassment if the information he is presenting is found elsewhere. That way the pirate can proceed to explain how wise and sage his master was to know all this information.

On a very closely related topic have you ever wondered about the other purpose of the international dateline? Apparently it doubles as an international black belt line. That is the line that service men, whose tour of duty only lasts a year overseas, suddenly gain a black belt on their return trip. While many do honestly study martial arts while they are there,  one must wonder how much they really learned in their limited tour of duty. And yet, it is from their short time there that they attribute their deep understanding of the martial arts. And yet, somewhere way over the ocean is a grand master who bestowed this exalted rank upon this person in such a short time. A grandmaster who you can't call up and ask about the pirate's true qualification
Return to top of page

See my lineage? You can't question my lineage
This is very closely related to Missing Masters, but is in many ways more of a psuedo-credibility. After all the so-called "source" is someone you might know of. When pressed into a corner about their plundering, pirates will often resort to lineage. "I studied under (fill in the blank of big name martial artist) he taught me"  Ohhhh, isn't that special? Especially since the unvoiced part of the statement reads "and who are you to question him you little flea?"

The grand poo bah's name and reputation serves as a shield against questioning the pirate. Because, after all if you question the pirate, by extension you question the grand high mucky mucky maha-ha kahuna.

Well as someone who has more than my fair share of live fire experience with not only violence, but the aftermath, I only have one question. "So how does having intense knowledge in one aspect of the subject (the martial arts) qualify someone in criminology, psychology, street fighting, violence statistics and most important of all, legal issues arising from violence?

For example, last time I checked Danny Inasanto is not a defense lawyer or a prosecuting attorney. Therefore, one must ask how does what he teaches address the legal problems and restrictions of its use? The answer is it doesn't. And quite frankly nor should it. What he teaches is what he teaches. (For the record, I have the highest respect for Mr. Inasanto and his understanding of the martial arts) Having said that, on numerous occasions I have encountered pirates who present pillaged information under his name. Information, that by invoking his name, you were not allowed to question.


If someone is asking you to risk your life based on the validity of this information, you damn well have every right to question. And that goes triple if they are presenting it as either self-defense or a "fighting system." How the hell do you know this "ultimate fighting system" really works? It's battle tested? By who? I want to talk to that person and find out how and why it worked. And more importantly, how often have they used it? Does it work on a regular basis or was it just a one time shot? 

Pirates want you to engage in "one stop shopping." They don't want you to go looking elsewhere for "real" information, they want you to keep on buying their knock-off version. This is why you must always consider carefully the width and scope that they claim to be able to sell you. You must ask yourself "how can they know all of this?" Pay special attention to this questionable "wide breadth of information" if they aren't referring you experts in these areas that they claim to know. Return to top of page

Lots of information, no resources, cites or sources
Unfortunately, while a great deal of pirating goes on regarding physical techniques, where the majority of pirating goes on is in related issues. Issues that are very important in regard to the realities of violence;  such as how criminals operate, how violence occurs, legal complications regarding, adrenal stress reactions and countless other issues that affect the reality of how violence occurs.

If someone is well read, where are the books?  Why isn't there at least at least a book case in the office to have on hand for  reference? How can someone be well informed on a wide variety of subjects and not be able to easily list a large bibliography? Or at least able to list sources for ideas and explanations? In that vein, why isn't there an extensive list of favorite resources in the pirate's Web browser? Neither information or sources is vague. Volumes of it should be able to be pulled up and confirmed at the drop of a hat.

If someone is widely read on a subject why do they constantly use only one or two main references? Is it possible that other references are not mentioned because information has been pirated and a student upon reading these references would realize that what is being presented is flawed?

In the same vein, someone is well versed in a subject then that person should not only be able to discuss an issue in depth, but be able to do so with an expert in the field. To the average person, these kinds of discussions can seem like sitting under the flight path of an airport, things just go flying overhead. But there is a level of comfort among those conversing. They know what they are talking about. With this in mind, there is an interesting behavioral point about pirates, they will often extensively discuss a topic when experts aren't around, but will smoothly avoid it (or very carefully speak) when an expert is present. They do this to avoid their flawed interpretation being revealed. Return to top of page

More tradition than Fiddler on the Roof
Why does the fiddler on the roof not fall off? Tradition! Why do we do flying side kicks! Tradition!

Never mind that tradition was freshly minted last week. Unfortunately, that is only a slight exaggeration. Over a five year period I personally watched a form undergo several radical changes. My wife who had been affiliated with the school for fifteen years had seen even more changes. And yet, despite countless radical revisions and tweaks to the form it was called a "traditional" Tae Kwon Do form. (which is in and of itself rather amusing since Tae Kwon Do was created in the 1950s by the forced unification of several kwans by General Choy)

Pirates tell tall tales
A few thousand years ago, a Greek by the name of Aesop collected a group of stories (fables) that were not only entertaining, but taught a very important moral/ethical lesson. These stories were very specific, as were the lesson that they taught. For thousands, perhaps millions of years, wisdom has been imparted through stories and tales. Story telling is very much a part of teaching.

There is a marked difference, however, between the stories meant to teach/inform and the sea-stories told by pirates. The difference is that with teaching stories you learn something. Pirate's tales serve only one purpose, glorification, of both the pirate and the system. And that is how you tell the difference between a teaching story and a lurid tale of adventure designed to impress you so you buy pirated goods. A story designed to teach you an important concept has a purpose other than telling you how great/deadly/effective this system is or what a ultimate badass the instructor is for using what he is now imparting to you for this small paltry fee.

Listen for the "Glory Factor" in these tales. People who have actually been there unconsciously include certain elements that pirates avoid. That's because these elements make them look bad. Things like mistakes. Try going through a day without making a mistake. Don't drop a pen. Don't push the wrong button on the computer. Don't put something in the wrong place. It's nearly impossible. As humans we make countless goofs, mistakes, get confused and miscalculate every day. And that's when people are operating under normal conditions. In battle/conflict you not only have the natural tendency to make mistakes, but someone is actively to not only jam those attempts, but to do unto you before you do unto him. In those charged conditions MISTAKES HAPPEN! In football terms, fumbles happen, plays are blocked and passes are not completed. There is no "veteran" whether from the military, police, bouncing, security or streetfighting that doesn't have stories about how they "stepped on their dicks" in action.

Oddly enough, pirates never tell these kinds of stories. Nor do they tell stories where their invincible fighting system was "vinced."

The reason is that pirates stories are not designed to teach, they are designed to sell. They are designed to convince the buyer that what they are buying is indeed worth the price the pirate is asking. Upon hearing this many people respond but "Why do it if I have already bought?" One of the answers is advertising. A student who is awed about glorious tales of how effective this system is will go out and tell others. Think of how many stories you have read on the internet about how street effective some system is and how it has been battle tested and FDA approved. Then ask yourself, how many of those stories are being told by the instructor himself on the internet; vs. how many times it is the students who are promoting the stories as proof that they have bought a quality product?  That's free advertising for the pirate.

But one must ask, where did these stories that the students are passing on come from? The student didn't make them up.
Return to top of page

How not to be taken by pirates
The short answer is: Research.

The problem with this answer is that upon hearing it most people think of school papers and homework. Au contraire! Research into a hobby that you love is exciting and fun. Pirates however, rely on people's misconception of research and, to a large degree, their laziness about doing it.

The more widely read, experienced and informed you are about subjects that the pirate is trying to present as his own, the more apparent it will be that you are dealing with a Jolly Roger.. Read books, surf the web, watch videos; the more you know the more easily recognizable pirates are. (BTW, ebay, and Amazon used books are a wonderful way to collect an extensive library and video collection at rock bottom prices) Subscribe to magazines that are a cut above the MA rags that you find in the supermarket. Look beyond the martial arts or reality based self-defense perspective on these topics. How much more does a cop or criminologist know about how crime and violence "really" happens than a martial arts instructor? How much more does an anthropologist, sociologist, language or history teacher know about different cultures and how things work there? The wider your knowledge about a subject the more obvious the pirate's cheap version will be.

This research also extends beyond books and videos and into attending seminars. While there are big name martial artists who are constantly touring, what about attending seminars by people who are not as well known, but are often far superior martial artists? There are practitioners in the arts who come to their student's schools or affiliate/organization schools who are indeed masters. Their abilities in their fields are awe inspiring. Don't learn a style's concepts from someone who is cross trained. If you are into cross training, go to the source. Attend seminars in arts that are presented by people that is ALL they do. You will be stunned to see the difference in skill between a pirate and someone who -- despite being less well known -- really has mastered one art.

The more you know, the more you have researched, the more you have experienced the more easily you will recognize the shallow, pillaged, gilt coated  knowledge that the pirate is attempting to present as real gold. Return to top of page

In the end, the responsibility is yours
There is an old saying "Fool me once shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me."  That saying applies in spades to being taken by pirates. Unfortunately, there is no guaranteed proof against pirates. But you can seriously reduce the chance of them making you a fool. That's right, aside from the danger to yourself (if, in a self-defense situation,  you were ever to try to apply any of the flawed techniques that a pirate has sold you) a much more realistic danger is to your credibility.

That's to say that you will be the one appearing foolish if you repeat the pirate's tales and techniques to those who are knowledgeable about the subject.. There are not only a lot of people out there who do know what they are talking about on a certain subject, but there are a lot more who know where the pirates have plundered from. When you attempt to "strut your stuff" for these people you will end up looking foolish. For example when you demonstrate Brazilian Jujitsu techniques (that the pirate learned from a video tape) and tell a BJJ player that they are from an ancient Korean style of Yudo, the BJJ player is going to laugh in your face. And be right in doing so.

Unfortunately, if you try to step on the mat using your pirated techniques against someone who is from the system that it was plundered from, odds are you are going to get spanked. We have a saying about many of the martial artists that we encounter "He's very well trained in a bad system." Usually these "bad" systems are flawed; and flawed not because of what they do, but rather what they don't do and/or what is missing from them. Going up against someone whose training has those missing parts is a humbling and embarrassing experience.

In the final analysis the best way to protect yourself against pirates is to be an educated consumer. That means do your own research. And do it from outside sources, sources that are specific to that topic. As an example, don't just go to the dojo or martial art/SD forums for legal advice about what is and isn't self-defense, look it up yourself, consult with attorneys and even take a class. Another example is do not learn grappling from a mixed martial art school, go to the source. Same thing with any particular style. Want to learn Wing Chun go to a Wing Chun school. Want to learn silat? Go to a school that only teaches silat. Don't learn muay Thai from a school that teaches six other styles. Go to a muay Thai academy.

I am a big fan of cross training. However, in a very specific way. Go to the source. Sure you can be introduced to a system in a mixed martial art school, but take the training in that system AT a school that specializes in that art. Otherwise you get the "flavored" versions that I spoke of earlier.

Start a martial arts library. Start a large video and DVD collection of instructional videos. Attend seminars and workshops. Watch what other teachers present, talk about and most importantly do. Watch closely how they move. Listen to how they explain things. By doing this you often discover wonderful and exciting explanations for problems that you struggling with. Often all it takes is someone phrasing the information in just a certain way that will cause light bulbs of understanding to go off in your head.

And as you gain all these benefits, just remember to cite your sources.

Return to top

#1 See "Becoming a Complete Martial Artist: Error Detection in the Martial Arts" by Tristan Sutrisno, Marc MacYoung and Dianna Gordon MacYoung. Return to text .

#2 If you have high speed internet or DSL see if you can find Jim Carey's Karate sketch from the old show "In Living Color." This sketch is home to the infamous quote "Like all beginners you attacked me wrong!" (as he is standing there bleeding from a knife wound) It is a hysterically funny sketch about an incompetent, lying bully instructor teaching "self-defense." It is also, unfortunately, horribly accurate about what is taught in many strip mall dojos. It shows the kinds of  unrealistic and flawed attacks that you must do in order for pirated techniques to work. Return to text.

#3Generally the title of "master" is bequeathed after 5th or 6th dan. Back in the days before "rank inflation" and the cross training craze, neither the rank nor the title was given before someone was nearing sixty. And only then after a lifetime's dedication to one "art." Using this "traditional" standard, someone claiming to be a master in three different arts would have to be around 150 years old. Pirates must be very well preserved for their age. Some internet instructors, who claim to be masters of eight or more styles, must be Methuselah in hiding. Return to text.

Meditations on Violence
Learn More >
Order Now!

Street Fighting Essentials
Learn More >
Order Now!

Indonesian Fighting Fundamentals
Learn More>
Order Now!

A Bouncer's Guide to Barroom Brawling
Learn More >
Order Now!

Cheap Shots, Ambushes and Other Lessons
Learn More >
Order Now!

Fighter's Guide to Heavy Bag Training (DVD)
Learn More >
Order Now!

Down But Not Out
Learn More >
Order Now!

Beyond Brazilian Jujitsu
Learn More >
Order Now!

Surviving a Street Knife Attack
Learn More >
Order Now!

Fighting Footwork of Kuntao/Silat Volume 1
Learn More >
Order Now!

Experience- & Reality-Based Self-Defense
Learn More >
Order Now!

Indonesian Fighting Fundamentals
Learn More>
Order Now!

Far Beyond Defensive Tactics
Learn More >

Order Now!

Fighting Footwork of Kuntao/Silat Volume 2
Learn More >
Order Now!

Knives, Knife Fighting and Related Hassles
Learn More >
Order Now!

Fighting Footwork of Kuntao/Silat Volume 3
Learn More >
Order Now!

The Bulletproof Mind
Learn More >
Order Now!

Taking It to the Streets
Learn More >
Order Now!

Fighting Footwork of Kuntao/Silat Volume 4
Learn More >
Order Now!

Emotional Survival for Law Enforcement
Learn More >
Order Now!

Combat Sanshou: Kicking
Learn More >
Order Now!

Fists, Wits And A Wicked Right
Learn More >
Order Now!

Real Fighting
Learn More >
Order Now!

Fighter's Guide to Heavy Bag Training (DVD)
Learn More >
Order Now!

Fighter's Guide to Heavy Bag Training (Book)
Learn More >
Order Now!

Street E&E
Learn More >
Order Now!

Freedom From Fear
Learn More >
Order Now!

Ground Combatives for Police
Learn More >
Order Now!

High Risk Entry
Learn More >
Order Now!

Ending Violence Quickly
Learn More >
Order Now!

Street Safe: How to Recognize and Avoid Violent Crime
Learn More >
Order Now!

Learn More >
Order Now!

Street Safe: How to Recognize and Avoid Violent Crime
Learn More >
Order Now!

Filipino Kuntao
Learn More >
Order Now!

Secrets of Effective Offense
Learn More >
Order Now!

Violence, Blunders And Fractured Jaws: Advanced Awareness, Avoidance and Street Etiquette
Learn More >
Order Now!

Warriors: On Living with Courage, Discipline and Honor
Learn More >

Order Now!

In the Gravest Extreme
Learn More >

Order Now!

Judicious Use of Deadly Force
Learn More >

Order Now!

Pool Cues, Beer Bottles and Baseball Bats
Learn More >
Order Now!

Learn More >

Order Now!

Fighting Dirty
Learn More >

Order Now!

Exploits of a MA Cult


About navigating this site | Animal List | Bibliography | Bullies | Burglary while on vacation | Classes in Colorado | Car Jacking | Children and Martial Arts | Child Safety | Criminal Mindset | Cults in MA/SD | De-Escalation | E-mail Dianna | E-mail Marc| FAQs | Have MacYoung speak about crime avoidance | Home Page | Home Defense | Hosting a Seminar | Fear | Five Stages of Crime | Knife Fighting | Legal Issues | LEO/Correctional Officer/EMS | Linking policy | Links | Martial Arts | Photo Gallery | Property Crime | Psychology | Rape | Robbery | Safe Dating | Self-Defense Training | Selling your books/DVDs on NNSD | Seminar Schedule | Stalking/Domestic Violence | Street Fighting | Terms of Use | Testimonials | Train with Marc MacYoung | Who is Dianna Gordon MacYoung? | Who is Marc "Animal" MacYoung? | Victimhood | Workplace Problems | Zero Tolerance