Throughout my martial arts journey, I have been lucky enough to meet some extraordinary people, excellent teachers and great friends. Most of them have one thing in common – they are what I call “outsiders”. I will skip mentioning their names as I am sure most of the people who know me will know who I am writing about.
An outsider is a person in martial arts who does not belong to a big organisation, usually by choice. The reason for this is simple; the outsider does not want to have to deal with the politics inherent in a large organisation. In some cases the outsider is driven away from an organisation as he stands up for what he thinks, which sometimes results in a conflict with the leader(s) of an organisation. This non-compliant behaviour can lead to them being side lined.
I have had the honour to meet many outsiders over the years and I can say that these are the people who have influenced my martial arts the most.
Although outsiders are by definition on the fringes of martial arts that does not stop people in a large organisation from exploiting their knowledge, but in my experience it is often the case that the outsider does not get any credit. For example a few years ago a group in Poland were accepted into one of the biggest Karate organisations in the world. This group were advertising themselves as experts in kata bunkai (applications). However, what was not mentioned was that their top instructors had asked an outsider to teach them about kata and their applications as they were worried about being able to pass their grading in front of a highly ranked Japanese teacher. After these instructors passed their gradings their ties with the outsider were immediately cut without so much as a thank you or recognition that he had prepared them for their gradings. This example of where an outsider is essentially used when convenient is not an isolated case and I believe this is because outsiders tend to be devoted to their art and are therefore happy to help wherever they can, without looking for fortune or fame. I also believe that this situation is not unique to martial arts, but occurs in other sports as well.
For years I have been observing these behaviours and have tried to avoid them with reasonable success. I have sometimes found myself being dragged into political games, but fortunately for me it did not take too long to notice the situation and act. Having left these games I have become an outsider myself and I have to say that I am very happy to be in this position as it gives me the flexibility to cooperate with whoever I want, regardless of their affiliations. I no longer have to comply with nonsensical rules or pay for membership and other fees to make the businessmen happy. Although it would not be fair to say that being an outsider means that I am completely free from problems. As larger organisations tend to turn into money making machines they become very introverted and do not want to cooperate with anyone else. Hopefully this will change in time. To try and encourage better interaction between organisations our small group of outsiders get together regularly at seminars and deliberately make them open to all that are interested. At these events we can meet and train with other teachers and hopefully meet likeminded people.
In a bizarre way most outsiders are naturally attracted to other outsiders, in this way I have made friends around the globe and across the sports and arts, gaining opportunities to train with great people. Those outsider teachers that I know and cooperate with often do not have to force people to respect them as by their actions they earn respect. I have seen this pattern repeating in multiple systems such as Karate, Ju jitsu, Kung Fu, Kempo, Aikido and Wrestling.
I have decided to write these few words as for nearly 20 years in martial arts I have seen these situations occurring over and over again causing stress to students and teachers, but not many people seem to express their opinions on this topic. So, there you go, here is my small opinion. I should add that my opinion about organisations is based on my personal experience and does not apply to all of the associations and groups out there.
This might be controversial to some people who I know but all of us know what we carry inside, maybe some people who will read this will find their inner outsider J
I hope that I will have a chance to meet more outsiders on seminars!
Thanks for reading!