Comparison- Martial Art Schools and Outlaw Gangs
I'm not looking to be controversial here, believe me. I'm in no way trying to say that Martial Arts schools are criminal organisations. These are merely observations I've made over a few years, brought to light when attending a recent local MMA event.
I'm no expert on gangs the world over, but I can comment regarding my particular experience with one "gang" that is considered by authorities to be a "criminal organisation", that refers to themselves as a "club with a common interest" that has one of the largest "memberships" in Australia. I feel I can also comment on certain processes within various martial arts that I believe hold similar traits to the "processes" in relation to this particular "gang". I've also been associated with various other non-outlaw motorbike clubs that use similar models.
Australia's combat sports are inextricably linked to the underworld. That's how it is and that's how it always has been. Until recently, it was extremely common to be at an event and there be a large presence of bikies, complete with their colours (patches/ "cuts"), usually just one club, but sometimes two different clubs that are not rival clubs, sometimes a few. The "until recently" refers to new laws that prohibit the wearing of colours and the congregation of members. You might still see them, it's just not as common as in years past.
So, while at the aforementioned local MMA event, I noticed that there were two main "patched" organisations that seemed to have replaced the previously common outlaw patches. They weren't worn on leather jackets, but on t-shirts and hoodies. Primarily on black material. They were BJJ/MMA school patches. One was my school. The other was the event organisers school.
Observation: Both (the particular) bikie club and Martial Art Schools have patches.
The outlaw club had an offshoot club within the club, kind of the nursery club for potential Prospects. If you don't know, a Prospect is basically someone who has been nominated for membership in a bikie club, but has not received their full patch. They will wear a bottom "rocker", and possibly a top one, that says Prospect, or just the branch of the club they are prospecting for, which is basically do what the full members tell you to do. The nursery club still had to pay "dues", but they weren't as much as a Prospect, or a Member. Basically you were invited to be in this nursery club if you showed promise in certain areas and willingness to be part of the "lifestyle". You were then "invited" to become a Prospect. There is more to it, but I won't go too far into this side as it is irrelevant.
The "Beginners" or "Fundamentals" class in a Martial Art school prepares, grooms, if you will, a potential martial artist to be ready for the next step, grading. In my school they recommend about three months of "fundamentals" before going into the "intermediate" class. Many people don't make it through the three months, maybe because the lifestyle isn't for them. Once someone is ready it is recommended that they do the intermediate class, where they are required to wear a gi, with a white belt.
Observation: Both have "preparation" or "grooming" stages that must be passed. Buying a gi is like buying a leather jacket, anyone can do it. However, once a person has graded, got their first stripe, it is akin to a Prospect getting his "rocker", he has begun doing the things required to be a Member. I must stress this is a loose comparison, based on clothing/ accessory aesthetics.
A bikie club might finally accept a Prospect as a full Member by various methods. I will focus on one, the "jumping in". Basically the Prospect will be surrounded and have the **** beaten out of him by full Members. He can and should fight back.
Now, I am not sure what it is like for other schools, but I recently witnessed someone going for their blue belt. It was a "jumping in".
Observation: Both organisations have "jumping in" as a method to show a person has achieved a particular level within the organisation.
Other quick observations:
1. Non-outlaw motorbike clubs have similar positions of rank to outlaw clubs (VP, Pres, Sergeant At Arms, etc), but have little power. TKD, HKD have similar ranking systems as BJJ/MMA, but aren't as rigidly enforced. Oh yes, I went there.
2. Non outlaw clubs in Australia will have the **** beaten out of them by outlaw clubs if they wear patches. This is an actual rule amongst outlaw clubs and one which is abided by non outlaw clubs most of the time, I do know of one Ulysees member who was beaten down for refusing to take his Ulysees patch off and there is email evidence somewhere of the Ulysees organisation decreeing that no member is allowed to wear a patch (if you want it I'll go looking for it, but I couldn't be fucked right now, I'm at work, call it hearsay if you want). The only non-Outlaw club allowed to wear patches by decree is God's Squad MC, a Christian ministry club that does a lot of charity work. Similarities with TKD, HKD? They'd be handled in the ring/cage.
3. Both have a "common interest", bikies have bikes, martial artists have martial arts. Members are not restricted to how they make money.
4. Cross- membership is discouraged unless beneficial to the organisation. Even then, the primary "membership" should remain the primary.