I have thought for a long time about writing a “how to” on becoming a fake martial arts master. Just the idea of putting in plain sight all of the asinine lies used by those who wish to avoid the traditional road of work and sweat and pain, strung out in the open to show how absurd these guys are seemed like it would be fun. In the end, it wasn’t all that fun. I got kind of depressed part way through the list, because this goes on all the time, every single day. And the guys that do it attract a following, and make a lot of money in many cases. I am not really suggesting anyone should do this, especially the drill or the sun thing. I am writing this as a parody of what some of these people do on a daily basis. If you are dumb enough to do the drill or sun thing…I must legally disclaim any responsibility for the results. Neither one is good for your health.
Anyway, here it is – “How to become a Fake Martial Arts Master”.
The first thing you will need to do is read. A lot. You need to devour any book you can find on Eastern thought, philosophy and religion, as well as martial arts. Don’t just read the books once, read them over and over. Memorize certain sections, and be able to regurgitate odd sounding lines that are intentionally vague (this allows you to apply them in many different social contexts, thus adding to your image as a master of all areas of life).
While you are going about acquiring this extended knowledge of all things eastern, develop the habit of talking very little. Even when you want to expound on your knowledge, refrain. When asked a question, never answer immediately or directly. Pause, close your eyes, and when you open your eyes, give a slight smile, as if the questioner has just come closerthanthis to enlightenment. Then turn the question inside out and ask it back to the questioner.
You will, of course, need to develop a story of how and from whom you got your super special martial art. Avoid telling people about the award you received for showing up for your first taekwondo class. People love stories about planes crashing in the mountains of Tibet, or lost wanderings in a wooded hill in China, and so on. The more outlandish it is, the more likely it will be believed by the neophyte. If it sounds like something that came out of a movie, it will be believed because that is what people want to believe. This story will need to have some drama, some freak accident or amazing twist of fate which brought you to the secret location of one of the last masters of Shambala (or some such). The master accepts you only grudgingly, and is often openly attempting to make you quit. But oh no, not you! You would never quit.
The master must have super powers. The ability to read your mind, break unbreakable objects, and so on. Here too, the stranger the better. In the Chinese martial arts there are tales of masters who could do such amazing things as stroke your armpit and cause an electric shock or make you start bouncing! You would be unable to stop bouncing until the master reversed whatever it was he did to you. (I am not joking, unfortunately…). Go wild! Claim that he was able to produce a steady flow of blood from your nose by stroking your left buttock, and make it stop by gently squeezing the right. Tales of masters in China who could tiger claw at the sky and cause birds to fall are common and well worn, so take it a step further – your master could tiger claw the sky and make planes fall (maybe you were in one of them, and that is how you met him…)! Invariably a student will end up asking if you were taught these amazing tricks. Here you have a choice, you could play it humble and tell the student, “He taught me the how, but my skill is not so great as his…yet.” Or you could claim the bird killing ability. “I could kill birds in the sky if I wished…but I cannot wish to kill them…” For added drama, make the tiger claw with your hand and look to the sky, then look sad and shake your head “no”.
You will need stories about your training. Avoid humor and make it seem as if your master was harsh, bordering on abusive. Very few people will question why your master was a humble, quiet, nice, violent, abusive, anonymous magician. The purpose of the abuse in your stories is to bring the students to a state of mind where they do not question your methods. They know you went through much worse, and will therefore be ashamed to speak out against your strange training methodology.
Your training stories should be eccentric, but almost doable. Do not claim that you had to walk on water, but there is nothing wrong with claiming to have had to run on the surface of a lake for a few yards. It has to be just beyond the realm of possibility. Claim imperviousness to fire. Walking on coals is a parlor trick that has been used for centuries, so feel free to include it. If you are really going to do it, just be sure your feet are wet, and that you don’t stop and stand anywhere on the coals. Holding a horse stance for four or five hours is not possible, but martial artists around the world believe it is. Claim that you were forced to develop the ability.
People love to think that their master knows some forms or kata that are lost or secret. Use this to your advantage. Claim knowledge of a secret style that no one knew existed. “Tiger striped Polar Bear kung fu”. Keep the secret stuff secret though. You must remember the line, “You are almost ready to learn it.” Never teach it, but mention it from time to time. Whenever a student is going to quit, look sad, and say, “I had thought you were the one I could pass on the secrets to…” They may leave initially, but they will be back.
Of course since you made up your instructor, you will need to give a reason why he is never seen. The dead instructor bit is over done, but does open the possibility of making the claim that you still train with him, only now you train in the spirit world. Another possibility would be to claim that the instructor lives in a far away country. Tibet would be a good call. This also opens the door for the next thing you would need to do.
Disappear for days or weeks at a time. You don’t really have to go anywhere special, just make yourself scarce. Go out of town for a weekend or a week. Interesting things to do are come back with a training injury of some kind. Even if you are not into maiming yourself, you can fake sprains and dislocations fairly easily. If you want to go extreme, you could use a power drill to put a hole in yourself and claim to have been shot. By who? Who cares! Say it was the government, foreign soldiers or spies, aliens or ninjas. Whatever it is, make yourself out to be the good guy, but stay light on the details of the story. Details will trip you up – stay vague.
You will need to make friends with a little idea called subjective validation. Be on the lookout for little coincidences, such as sun shining through a hole in the clouds on a tiny patch of flowers. Stop and pause, smile knowingly, and nod approval for such things. Make no direct claims, but give just enough leading information so that the student is left with the idea that you somehow made it happen. Let the student connect the dots. But if the student asks directly if you made it happen, again, stay vague. Use lines from the old kung fu TV series, “I do not do it. It is not done. There is just a…happening.”
Do not follow any recognized or coherent teaching methodology. You will need to frequently use lines like “I teach in accordance with your readiness to learn.” If it looks like there is a method, you will lose some of your credibility as an eccentric.
Whenever you show some character flaw, be sure to keep aware as to the reaction of the students. If you have a violent outburst of temper, pay close attention. If the students are taken aback by it, regain your composure and explain to the students that you must intentionally exhibit such flaws by choice, not by weakness. Tell them it is how you keep the evil spirits away, as otherwise your aura would shine so bright that the evil would come to take you apart, and tell them that such outbursts allow you to “dim the light”.
Above all, you will need to keep an air of aloofness about you. Space out regularly. Stare at the sun for disturbingly long periods of time. When the students ask how you didn’t go blind, pretend that you can still see and say, “The sun and I are one. Light cannot blind light.” Remain unaffected by heat or cold. Wear short sleeves in the winter and long in the summer. Anytime that it is raining, and a student is there to see it, walk slowly in the rain. Claim that the weather is beautiful, and ask why you should run to the car instead of walking when you will be wet in either case.
As students begin to come regularly, you will have a small but loyal following of mental slaves. You can convince them to do odd things without being paid. Start small. Ask them to clean the dojo. Once they are doing this regularly without being asked, take it a step further; ask them to clean your house. There was a master in New York that actually had his house remodeled by his students, free of charge, and he even got them to buy the material! No joke, this means the sky is the limit! Never feel guilty about this; you are, after all, the master. They owe you more for your fake martial arts knowledge than they could ever hope to be able to pay in cash.
Of course, you will need to teach them something. This can be stalled if you have no martial arts experience. Make them work on stances while you try to memorize some stuff off of video. Youtube is a very valuable resource in this. This also opens the door for you to claim to teach many different styles. Claim you found a way to blend Muay Thai and Tai Chi! That should get some really gullible people in the door. You want the gullible people. Beware of any student who comes in and appears to be in great physical condition. They may have come from an MMA school, or a tough training traditional martial arts school, and they just might beat you up. If a student has prior experience in the martial arts, discourage them from signing on unless they agree to forget everything they learned before. Do not allow them to discuss their previous experiences.
If you are ever beaten up, don’t worry. Just claim that you were absorbing his bad karma, or that you were intentionally taking the hardest method to fill his body with bad Qi, and that he will be dead in a week. When he doesn’t die, if they find out just say you felt guilty and took the bad Qi back.
In creating your way of doing things, you need to just be free. Do not follow the standard ranking systems. Instead of black belt at the top of the chart, reverse it and make white belt the highest. Or a nice royal purple. Make your rank system structured in such a way that no one will reach royal purple belt for several years. And make as many ranks as possible between where they start and where they end. And for extra income, each rank should have a different colored uniform. Make the uniform color go well with the belt color. If the uniform/belt ensemble is pleasing to the eye, they may be less embarrassed about being a pink belt. Think about it.
If you do not speak any foreign languages, learn to speak gibberish. On occasion, burst into this other language in mid sentence. Explain it away with an off hand comment, “sorry, spending too much time with the Dalai Lama.” Then go right back on topic. If any of the students try to ask about the Dalai Lama admonish them to focus on the lesson now, and then don’t bring it up again for a while.
Anytime that you are asked a question for which you do not have an answer, there is a catch all term – Qi. When they ask how a technique works, Qi. Why do bad things happen to good people, Qi. How do you get perspiration stains out of a garment, Qi. If a student asks you what is Qi, look around and make a subtle gesture and say, “Qi is…everything.”
Well, there you have it. All in all, being a fake martial arts master seems like it would be pretty easy. It would have to be a lot easier than training and actually learning a real martial art. I have met many martial artists who were the real thing, and some who were total frauds. Except for the power drill part, everything I listed here comes from people who actually did or said the things I have put into one easy resource.