Posted On:3/05/2012 5:35pm
The Investigation of Sin The': Bullshido.org
My article discusses the historically inconsistant claims otherwise known as bullshido articulated by Sin The', the art's actual founder.
For more information Please see the attached deposition of The', his declaration, a copy of his complaint, and other documents that provided us with our information about The's claims, and what he would later admit to under oath. It Is Fake also contributed a valuable thread article about the business side of Shaolin Do based on his experence as a former instructor in this art. So read on, for a truthful expose of the art called Shaolin Do.
Sin Kwang The' v. Jacob Rydberg aka Jake Mace: An Introduction to a Law Suit
Before discussing the claims that emerged from Sin Kwang The's testimony about the historic, or less then historic, origins of Shaolin Do, a brief review of the grounds of this lawsuit are necessary. Its much easier for the reader to understand what is happening if they know that this suit, filed in the Central District of California on August 5, 2011 is a copyright infringement act, though there were six other claims. Trademark Infringement, Violation of the Lanham Act, Unfair Competion under the California Code, Right of Publicity, Violation of Privacy, and Breach of Contract.
In his original complaint, through his attorney, The' claimed that "Since at least October 2010, defendants have repeatedly used the Grandmaster The's name, image, trademarks, copyrighted teaching forms, and instructional materials, among other things, in their advertisements and commerical activities without his aithorization and consent." (Complaint, paragraph 3.)
After some historically questionable statements, The' asserted "Grandmaster The's Shaolin Do system includes a series of specific martial arts movements and exercises that are performed in a specific manner and order. The exact exercises and movements and the order in which they are to be performed were selected by Grandmaster The', and were eventually recorded on a visual medium in, or about 1980." (Complaint, paragraph 11)
Later in August of 1990, The' attempted to "register his system of ShaolinDo with the United States Copyright Office," which gave him a certificate of Copyright Registration No. PAu-1-493-404. (Complaint, paragraph 12) The' sent in a videotape of various Shaolin Do Kata, but whether this was specific enough to actually copyright a series of movements would become the central issue of this case. The caselaw treats chorography and athletic technque differently, so to win, The' would have to prove that his kata were more like Martha Graham, then say, a kickboxing combination by Joe Lewis.
The' also claimed that he owed service marks and trademarks that the defendant was misappropriating. Some of these included his patches which were still in use by Rydberg. According to The' in late 2008, the defendant asked to be released from his "tutelage of one of Grandmaster The's Elder Masters." (Complaint, paragraph 19) The complaint does not mention that this elder master was David Soard who was engaged in a pattern of behavior that later resulted in a conviction for sexual battery. For more information see this thread. http://www.bullshido.net/forums/showthread.php?t=90641
So The' agreed to transfer Rydberg to the supervision of other "elder masters" as long as he played by the rules and paid him "a test fee ranging from $50 to $100 per student, depending on the level of the student." (Complaint paragraph 14) Rydberg's contract with Soard was not re-executed by Rydberg and The', so their agreement was rather unspecific except for the requirement to provide an income stream from testing. [footnote 1]
In early October of 2010 according to The', Rydberg met with him and told him that he would no longer be complying with his guidelines. (i.e. sending the testing cash) but would be continuing to teach his "copyrighted" system without The's consent. (Complaint, paragraph 24)
So after the standard cease and desist letter in late October, 2010 a lawsuit was filed the next year in Federal District Court. This was not simply a lawsuit but also a motion for a preliminary injunction which had to establish: 1) That the plaintiff is likely to succeed on the merits, and 2) that he is likely to suffer irreparable harm in the absence of such preliminary relief. 3) That equity tips in his favor. and 4) the injunction is in the public interest. (paraphrasing from the defendant's Motion in opposition to the Motion for Preliminary Injunction, page 16) The defendant also made numerous arguments, some which will be reviewed through a discussion of the Court's ruling.
When George King, the U.S. District Judge ruled on the motion for a preliminary injunction he first observed that since the Supreme Court's decision in Winter v. NRDC, 555 U.S. 7 (2008) 'irreparable harm can no longer be presumed in copyright or trademark infringement cases." Just because a Plaintiff could show a fair chance of success did not satisfy this separate prong for the purposes of obtaining injunctive relief.
King wrote that "Plaintiff's moving papers are unclear about the copyright he purports to own". (Civil Minutes General, January 18, 2012 p. 3) "We have serious doubts about the validity and/or scope of Plaintiff's copyright. As Plaintiff acknowledges individual martial arts movements are not copyrightable, each sequence must have at least minimal originality to be protectable. However, we are unable to determine precisely what sequences are claimed to be copyrighted.
Plaintiff lodged a copy of the DVD that was deposited with the Copyright Office. Plaintiff's counsel clarified at oral argument that Plaintiff purports to have copyrighted individual sequences contained within the DVD, as opposed to the entire contents of the DVD as one long, single sequence. However, even after viewing the DVD multiple times, we cannot determine precisely where one sequence ends and another begins, and Plaintiff provided no clarification on this issue at oral argument.
Because we cannot tell precisely where each sequence begins and ends, we are also unable to judge the originality of the selection and ordering of those movements, which is the only element of Plaintiff's work that is arguably protectable. Moreover because Plaintiff's work consists of a combination of unprotectable elements, this reflecting minimal originality, any protection that Plaintiff enjoys is thin and protects against only virtually identical copying. . . . Because we are unable to determine precisely which sequences are puportedly copyrighted, we are also unable to determine whether these sequences were copied by the Defendants." (Id, p. 5)
With these words King dismissed The's likelyhood of success on the merits of his copyright injunction and then proceeded to polish off the rest of his claims. Trademark infringement? The Plaintiff had not established that the defendants were using his trademarks after the crucial October 29, 2010 date, and the patches that his former students wore had been awarded WHILE they still trained with The'. The Plaintiff's case was hampered by a lack of documentation provided by his lawyer, mostly centering around issues of time and identity. Finally since The' did not show that he had any schools in the Phoenix area, or that any of Rydberg's students would have gone to study with him in California. The Magistrate rejected his claim for irreparable harm. [footnote 2]
This is only a light treatment of the legal issues in The's case, however following the rejection of the preliminary injunction, Rydberg's Attorney deposed Sin Kwang The on February 8, 2012. During his deposition The' did yet more damage to his case, leading to a confidential settlement which was submitted to the court on February 15, 2012. We do not know what this settlement entailed, but the fact that it so closely followed The's deposition and the rejection of the preliminary injunction seems to indicate a favorable disposition for the defendant. Similarly, since both parties agreed to pay their own costs and attorney's fees [footnote 3] it did not appear that the Plaintiff was even able to recover the expense he incurred when he filed this suit.
 Deposition of Sin Kwang The, in Sin Kwang The, v. Jacob Rydberg et al, Case No. CV 11-6471 GHK, United States District Court, Central District of California, page 99. The' admitted he never had a written contract with Rydberg.
 The' would later claim in his Deposition, see page 126 that Rydberg was competing with a student of his in Phoenix Arizona. However the Plaintiff had not asserted this fact as a basis for their " irreputable harm" at the time they filed for the preliminary injunction, or apparently at the hearing itself.
 Stipulation for Dismissal, page 2, dated February 13, 2012. in Sin Kwang The, v. Jacob Rydberg et al, Case No. CV 11-6471 GHK, United States District Court, Central District of California. The precise language was as follows: "The parties further stipulate and agree that each party shall bear its own costs and attorney's fees in this action." On pages 13 through 15 of the original complaint, the Plaintiff had previously demanded costs and attorney's fees as part of his claim for relief.
Last edited by Sam Browning; 3/23/2012 10:19pm at .
Posted On:3/05/2012 7:17pm
Posted On:3/05/2012 7:24pm
The PI report from visiting Jacob Rydberg's school
Posted On:3/05/2012 7:26pm
The order from Tennessee. The' loses against Barry Vanover in the 1990s.
Posted On:3/05/2012 7:28pm
Decision re the preliminary injunction in this case.
Posted On:3/20/2012 5:18pm
""If your primary interest is tournament skills, I advise you to seek your training elsewhere! Most of what you will learn here is too lethal for tournament use. I teach the ancient system of Shaolin-Do, 'Art of survival, not of sport.' As did the immortals, we should learn to destroy so that we may preserve! It is a way of truth. The knowledge that I offer you is not an athletic training; it is a sacred trust."
Shaolin Grandmaster Sin Kwang Thé
From its inception, in the mid-sixties, Shaolin-Do has always claimed to have direct Shaolin lineage to the Fukien Temple. Allegedly, Su Kong Tai Djin was the last Shaolin Monk to learn every style of martial arts taught at the Fukien temple. Su Kong then passed his knowledge on to Grandmaster Ie Chang Ming, who was succeeded by Grand Master Sin Kwan The.
This is an innocuous blurb that can be found on many Shaolin-Do and Chinese Shaolin Centers school websites. The problem started when you add this quote and Sin The's claimed knowledge of over 900 individual kung fu Taolu/kata/forms.
With the new accessibility to the internet, the Shaolin-Do message gained a bigger audience and more extensive critiques. Many people called outright fraud based on the fact The' claimed knowledge of more than 900 forms. As students started defending the art on various online forums, The's stories of training with a master that melted a baby, chi projection and claims he stole forms from other arts began to become common place.
But just for you, the actual story, told to me a long time ago and then in print was that when he was young, he studied a form of MA called "sand burn". They would strike their hands in to large pots filled with heated sand to toughen the skin and condition the hands. They would then soak their hands in some solution (similar to dit jow I am sure) that would gradually deaden the pain and feeling. The story goes that , and please pay attention to this part onyomi, HIS TEACHER, not him, had been training and without thinking , picked up his crying grandchild. Because his hands were still hot, he burned or scalded (not melted as the bullshido version goes) the child. The teacher was so upset that he stopped teaching and training and M. Sin then found and started training with M. Ie. That that is the CORRECT version of the story. Did it or could it happen that way? Who knows. While personally find it hard to believe that the hands and skin could be conditioned to hold that much heat, that doesn't mean it couldn't be done. Look at iron shin and bone training. Without it, you slam shin to shin, you cry. With it, you don't even notice.
Sin The copyrighted his art, while originally calling it “Sin The Karate,” and that is where the controversy began. A large amount of the various critiques focused on his use of both Japanese and Chinese terms, while he claimed he was maintaining Chinese authenticity.
I'll say it again...
Kata is for karate - FORM is the name the chinese use(Yes, the meanings are the same)
Also, why use karate uniforms, if you are practising kung fu?? historically it can be excused, but formally it is frowned upon.
3rd, no one, and I mean NO ONE can master ALL the forms in Kung Fu. Besides, it would be pointless, you learn the form, to develop your own form afterwards, your own unique movement.
4th, Baguazhang is not shaolin, Taichi is not shaolin, Hsing I is not shaolin.... Shaolin is Buddhist - Taichi, bagua and xing yi are taoist arts....
If you can in fact use the material you have learned, I congratulate you in your training, but know that its a mix of styles and not original material directly descendant of the Shaolin Temple, you can do research on your own to verify this.
Robert, you think having 900 forms is a good thing???
I studied SD many years ago before I came to my senses and started studying from someone else. I can tell you that the self defenses that SD teaches are iffy at best. I would not use half of them that they teach in a real life situation. SD claims to teach kung fu but the movements of thier "kata" look like kempo or some type of karate. The "kata" are to rigid and do not "flow" like a chinese form. Besides that they use Japanese terms such as dojo and kata and sensei. And yes I know their reasons for all of this but I just don't buy into it. By the way, I studied directly under Grandmaster Sin The' at The Sin The' Sports Center in Lexington, Kentucky.
The reason that so many people call it shaolin DO is because when grandmaster Sin The' came to the US he brought the teachings and TRADITIONS of his teacher, Ie Chang Ming, with him. Ie Chang Ming taught shaolin kung fu in indonesia where chinese martial arts were illegal. In order to continue teaching he adopted the japanese uniform, belt ranking system, and added DO to the end. This was the chinese art could still be practiced and anyone looking wouldn't catch on. Sin The', out of respect for his teacher, merely carried on this tradition within his school.
I thought that the training was very non-gung fu...it looked more like shotokan karate with a few gung fu movements thrown in. They even had japanese names for some of the drills!!! The only good thing that came out of it was that it wasnt "shaolin do" but rather a break away and thus, I had some real exposure to more actual gung fu through "seminars" by friends of the teachers, which were of real gung fu lineages such as tang lang and Pow chuan.
As a former teacher I felt the Shaolin-Do branch the Chinese Shaolin Center was a large money making scheme that benefited the west coast heads of the system David & Sharon Soard. It made them an inordinate amount of extra money. There were six viable Western schools out of 16 under the Soard's when I was in the art. They were Phoenix, Boise, Albuquerque and three in California. The other schools did decently, but the Instructors had to have part or full time non-martial art jobs. You were required to have One Master David and Sharon visit immediately upon opening. When you had enough students you invited Sin The in for a visit. The typical visit entailed dinner, movies, a park visit, plane tickets, 80% of the festival fees, room and board, and transportation for the Soard's and any instructors that attended.
David and Sharon Soard came in Friday and left some time Monday afternoon or evening. Sin The' usually charged students $100 per person for the festival in Denver. The Soard's festivals ran between $60 to $75 per person though sometimes discounts were available after you attended the first one at full price. At the seminars, only $10 of the testing fees went to the instructor, and everything else went to the Soards. The patches, certificates and ancillary costs came to roughly $5. So, for your time and effort instructing your personal students you only made five dollars per person at the test.
In his deposition The' says that every school under David Soard had to host him once a year for testing (transcript p. 15), that the Soards would pay him the black belt testing fees and the seminar fees, and that they were able to pay The' three to six times what other schools paid him. (transcript, p. 18, 25) The' claimed that when the Soard's tested students without him, they would be paid $10 to $15 for each testing student with the school instructor/owner receiving the rest of the testing fee. (transcript, p. 19-20) In my experience, as a former instructor, I was only allowed to keep $10 of which $5 went to pay expenses during these testing visits.
As a former instructor and practitioner I have heard all of the stories. When I began my own research, I felt that he had legit training and made up all but a few aspects of the art. During the research I realized, in my opinion, a large portion of Shaolin Do was a sham and I eventually quit teaching. This transcript confirms that my suspicions and research were correct. One of the interesting aspects is the rank comment and The's admission that his Rank is in an art which is not Shaolin Do. Also, that he is a level five, but he changed it to ten when he came to America. In the deposition, The' admits knowing maybe 300 forms, admits to many of the stories being for advertising purposes only, and that he doesn't know 900 forms. The interesting part is the details and explanations that he gives which are not consistent.
Posted On:3/21/2012 6:16pm
Guy Who Pays the Bills and Gets the Death Threats Style: MMA (Retired)
Amazing work, as always Sam, IIF. I know we've had hundreds of people come through here who've wasted time and money at Shaolin Do schools.
Posted On:3/22/2012 10:27am
Style: Traditional Mix
Truly a revelation! The very best part of this is the copies of court documents, that I had not previously seen. Unfortunately, I have to admit that I gave way too many years to SD, while I was also training with Louisville Judo Club. Thanks for the investigative work, guys!
Posted On:3/24/2012 7:14pm
What was with the line of questions having to do with emotional distress and anguish. Was there an IIED claim in the original complaint that I missed or...?
Posted On:3/24/2012 10:00pm
No, that wasn't a separate count in the complaint. Perhaps defense counsel was simply trying to discover the basis of any such claim in case the plaintiff's attempted to amend their complaint later.
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