by Alexander D. Thompson, FMA
This article is to inform fans of AMAM-MAGAZINE.COM around the world about the current principles and conditions of the martial arts community, specifically in the United Kingdom, England. Furthermore, I am attempting to write this perspective from an insiders point of view based on
personal experience in being an American martial arts instructor in the UK.
I hope none of you mind me going on a little bit with this as it seems I may have pissed off a lot of people over here for my beliefs and principles, as it is. This is just me teeing off on some of what happens to disgust me, personally.
Now, before I rant on any further I must clarify, I am speaking from personal experience. Not a general blanket of every martial artist here in the UK, but it's pretty damn close.
After all, I am an American (a bit of a redneck perhaps) and within the last decade that I have been over here I've spent the last five of those years in London getting a chance to see what the majority of martial artists are really like here, along with others from other neighboring countries, and it's been an eye opening experience for me. It's kinda sad.
"A Personal Declaration."
You see, I started training in the martial arts in North Carolina, back in 1972 (Billy Jack was my first hero) and I have seen many things in our chosen fields of being modern day warriors and spreading the Bushido Code of the Warrior Brotherhood.
During my travels, I have met many fellow martial artists from all over the world with training in some of the most popular and most obscure arts known to man. This includes everything from the eldest forerunner of American tastes in the Japanese Arts (Judo and Karate practice, pre-dating Kung Fu in American popularity) all the way up to today's Reality-Based Combat. To each, his own. No problem.
In the beginning of my early years, humility was indeed the taste of the day. Now, it has grown into a money making franchise with arrogance replacing much of that humbleness. Along the way, one phrase has tried to remain constant in most minds: "Brotherhood". I have seen it go from having a substantial meaning to meaning absolute garbage, especially within the last five years or so.
These days, I teach a freestyle martial art that is heavily Filipino Martial Arts (FMA) based. I've trained for four years with one of the top guys in the UK for FMA and managed to open up a club in his name, made it quite successful for just over the last few years. The last time he actually had a club in London was several years prior and it was shut within six months of him relocating and leaving it to his top instructors.
However, I seem to have succeeded where they had failed.
While I was with this group, I watched them establish a British FMA Council of Instructors. I attended all the festivals, seminars, workshops, the whole nine yards. What I started noticing was how much back-biting and turncoat action that was going on in this very "brotherhood" they were supposed to be working towards. They claimed it was to promote the FMA and to provide legal assistance and coverage for everyone if needed.
In short, there is no true unity of any type and it's not even a proper council. It's nothing more than an FMA data base of instructors, merely a "Good Old Boys Fishin' Club" as it were. And, if you don't appease the right persons, they tell everyone you can't fish there, hence the reason your name is not recognized on their roster.
The man who originated it has since broken every code that they were supposed to abide by, and pretty much, so has everyone else. It seems that his reasons for starting it in the first place had no honorable intentions at all. He will not allow ANY independent parties on "his" council either.
I have now left his group because of all the lies, humiliation and, most of all...I finally got sick of his anti-American political bullshit! It was time for me to revolt.
"With a Rebel Yell!"
After getting to see how some of the other British martial arts organizations operated, even ones outside of FMA, I noticed, especially here in London, it's not about working together...it's about how much money they can get for themselves and how much they can squeeze out of the next guy.
With me, if you come to me to try my class and you don't like it, I will sit down with you and try to help you find what you want. If I can't provide enough to fill your needs, I will damn well try find the closest person I can get to help on your way.
I never saw that once with any of my peers in London. If you go to a class and don't like it, they don't care to hear your excuses and they will promptly send you on your way. Even in this so-called "council", they will only recommend someone in their own affiliated FMA group. Outside of that, they will never refer you to who ever else is in your region.
That's it, no help at all, really.
I have heard the stories of "being there for one another" but, I have seen guys end up on the streets literally trying to keep a club open to stay loyal to their students. Myself, being one of those.
Over here, you may find yourself pretty much on your own with little to no assistance available. Here, you can either sink or swim all on your own without anyone offering to throw you a lifesaver, much less having certain unsavory individuals offering to push you overboard without hestitation!
In fact, the top FMA guy in all of Europe ended up sleeping on the floor of his own gym because he lost his house...after 20 years. He had to shut down and find a hall to rent for two nights a week. No one stepped up to offer him a single thing in his time of need. And this was Guro Dan Inosanto's top guy over here!
The only suppossed sympathy you may get here is, "Sorry about your luck. Tell your students they can come to me and I will take care of them (...and keep all the proceeds) for you."
"The Redcoats are cunning, the Redcoats are cunning!"
In fact, I had one guy whom I trained for three years play the "immigration card" just to get me kicked out of my own club so that he could possibly inherit it by a legal technicality! Eventually, it was going to be his anyway, but, he didn't want to wait out the last year to become a legitimately certified instructor.
Many people here are vindictive and greedy. If you have a falling out, they will often do their best to steal your dreams. People here talk a good game, but that's it. There's no loyalty, no true bonding of reliable friendships. Like the cliche, "Everyone is your friend...as long as your buying" is so true in this country. It's given a bad reputation about the rest of us remaining fair-minded martial artists.
Now, I must clarify something about myself, if I may...when I say I've pissed off a lot of people, it's only because I stand my ground and I don't back down until I am proven wrong. One guy said to me, "You sure like to poke the sleeping bear, don't you?" I replied "Yup! I'm an American. If the bear turns around when I poke him, I smack him right in the damn nose!"
I must be like the original American Colonists, eh? No wonder there was a Revolution back then!
"Time for retribution, here comes the revolution!"
Tell ya what, I'm going to stop this here for now, but I could go on and on with a lot more on this topic and provide you with many more eye-witnessed examples. But, I will leave you with this...the martial arts in England is not great. It's only about money and selfish personal success.
Very few of the so-called instructors here will stand by you if you fall down, they tend to be more likely to trample you underfoot, but I say...don't tread on me!
This sad situation among Britain's martial artists has been going on for many decades now.
In order for this to finally change, it would take a revolution of sorts.