The Psychology of Bullshido
Hi All... I thought I might start a discussion on the psychology of Bullshido.
I'm going to tie two particular mental phenomena together to try and partially explain why people persist doing martial arts that an independent observer might consider to not teach useful fighting skills, even though this happens to be the primary reason why the person is doing that art.
A fallacy is an incorrect piece of logical reasoning used to justify a position. The sunk-cost fallacy is logic along the lines of :- I can't give up now or everything I've done, all the effort I've put up until this point, will be for nothing. This is often used when the real cost of something is far more than what was initially invisioned.
This also interacts with another psychological phenomena. The value we place on things emotionally is closely linked to the cost we paid to acquire that thing. For instance, if two people buy the same make and model of car. One pays twice as much as the other. Studies have shown that this guy will value his car far more than the one who bought it at a cheaper rate. This effect is more pronounced in cases where the quality of something is not easily quantifiable. For instance, cars might be easily comparable, but if you sell a piece of art, it is a well known marketing phenomena that if you ask for a low price people will emotionally value it less than something that costs more.
For many styles of MA, the quality of the martial art is hard to realistically assess. Many MAers dont do any real full contact fighting. This might be due to the manner in which it is taught (sometimes referred to as 'light recreational MA'), or the subject matter and how it is presented (e.g. specialising in eye strikes but also believing that any protective gear for sparring would ruin the techniques taught). Also, arts that allow for full contact fighting might have restrictions that prevent the useful comparison of the MAers' fighting skills with members of the general public. For instance, full-contact rules that prohibits wrestling movements or punches to the head) Lastly, most don't fight people from other arts or people who don't train in Mas (e.g. grid-iron players).
To explore this idea lets define a benchmark, the 'simple martial arts benchmark' (SMAB), as the number of training hours required for an individual to have a 95% of defeating a person in a fight if that person is your own size and has no martial arts experience. Using this benchmark we can compare different MAs. If 2 MAs espouse the ability to defeat people in fights (I think all MAs would make this statement) and one art has the average practitioner reach the SMAB at 6 months, while the other has an average SMAB of 10 years, then we can reach the conclusion that the former art is more efficient than the latter art.
Let us presume that we are a MAer that has adopted a new style. The instructors in this style say that it is the most effective style of fighting in the world. As a result we train hard. After 2 years we fight a friend who is about the same size who is a couch potato and only knows schoolyard fighting tactics. We lose. As such we have not yet passed the SMAB yet. Based on this we might then conclude that the quality of the MA is poor.
So to some up, it is easy for a MAer to be bullshido and still have a successful business due to the interacting effects of several things:
a) most people have difficulty in assessing the quality of martial arts
b) the sunk-cost fallacy,
c) the sunk-cost fallacy being exacerbated by instructors overcharging so that potential students feel that the quality of the MA is more than it is.
d) no real benchmarking by students.
Think that's a large part of why they defend their respective style as if it were their religion (they being fanatics) But I also think many people subconsciously kid themselves about their own "badness" so to speak. They want to FEEL (or maybe in a higher degree they want OTHER people to see tham as badassed) badassed so badly that they are willing to take shortcuts. It's a kind of "doublethink" if you know what I mean, people (probably subconsciously) ignoring unpleasant truths for the sake of a comfortable illusion. Any more structured thougts on that?
Well thought out article. Very well put.
It's like telling a christian Jesus wasnt real.
Any insights into why instructors teach Bullshido? Is it only for the money?
No, not always, it is there, but not necessarily a priority.
Teaching bullshido is easy if you really believe and avoid things that will break the fallacy.
I am a dojo owner and would like to take a stab at this.
Originally Posted by meng_mao
In 1996 I opend my first Dojo. I has been teaching for about 8 years under a true Mcsensei. I had however been doing kickboxing, boxing, and yes, point fighting. Durring this time I also trained at another school that was not bullshido and had a real teacher in the arts of war.
At any rate I said to myself, "I am not going to water this down and am going to teach the way it should be done." So I did just that. Bare knuckle, full contact, hard hitting, lots of fighting, whats a kata? dojo. And I had 12 tough guys. 6 of whom actually paid when they were supposed to. Unforutunaly, I had $1000.00 a month rent, Insurance, utilites, phone, common-area maintanence, a strip mall where the land lord kept changing the signage requierments, (about $1400.00 every time they wanted a new style of sign.) and all the other crap like toilet paper and other **** you need to run a bussines.
So after 3 years of me paying out of pocket to teach those 12 tough guys I shut it down.
Last year I opend again. My philosophy about teaching has changed. Herecledese, a greek military trainer said this Circa 300 b.c.e. “ Give me one hundred men, ninety will be targets for arrows, nine will be soldiers for they the battle make. One will be a warrior for he the battle wins, for he will bring the other nine home. I must find this man for he is the reason I train…” The truth is most people don't want real martial arts.
The 99 want the LARPING karate. they want the gi, the belt, the fantasy of all that is mysterious.
The 10, they want the real thing. The ten can't pay for the dojo to stay open. So, the masses pay for the 12 tough guys now.
Does this make the school a Mcdojo? some that look no further than the lack of bald tattoted pit fighters may say so, but they don't like anything that is not thier gym.
I do have some Mcdojo traits. But a little closer examination would negate the nay sayer. for instance, I do teach kids. I have a jr. black belt. However, I never sell to anyone that I am teaching them real fighting techniques. Even on my website I say that the children will not be learning "fighting" techniques. They learn the basics, they point fight, what they really learn is to pay attention, follow directions, and stay off the streets. They do not learn to fight until they grow up. and no, a Jr. Black belt is not the same as an adults.
You can learn Grappling at my school. but un-Mcdojo like (Like most) I do not teach the class. I pay one of the founders of Integrated fighting (Chris lights out lytle's camp) http://www.sherdog.com/fightfinder/f...?fighterID=267 Aaron Sullivan http://fcfighter.brinkster.net/fight...FighterID=9459 a well known coach and fighter teaches the class. In fact he had a cage fight last night and won by tap out due to strikes 2min 30 seconds. I only add that because I help train Aaron in stand up and Iron palm.
Some schools that get labled bullshido seem to get that because they charge money. I find it somewhat irritating that many on here seem to think for what ever reason, that they are entitled to train for free. That thought "They charge money! bullshido!" is great if your credit is not on the line for a 5 year lease.
So there seems to be 2 ways of dealing with the end bullshido problem. One the 12 tough guys can pay way to much, or the school or gym can provide what the masses want. (to a point) I can not claim to have created "over 1000" black belts. In fact, since 1996, I have had over 200 adult students. 8 have made it to black belt. Even though I mcdojo a bit, I still will not hand out a black belt to some one that can not fight. Those people quit because it getts to hard.
So in response to your question, Mcdojoing is about the money (unless you just suck and don't know any better) But, the good stuff can still be taught in that enviornment as long as the focus of the school stays true.
Last edited by wagamichi; 2/25/2006 9:06am at .
I think the sunk-cost issue is a factor. More than that, though, I think what leads to bullshido is the desire to avoid fighting. If you look at all the bullshido, what they have in common is that they claim to teach people to fight without fighting. There are some people that like to fight, like the competition, enjoy sparring, and these people naturally gravitate toward martial arts that focus on fighting or sparring, like BJJ or boxing or muay thai and so on. Because they want to spar/compete, and that is their focus, the chances of bullshido creeping in is slim. On the other hand, you have many people who don't want to fight or compete, they are typically afraid of either being embarrassed by losing or afraid of the violence (injury, exertion, etc.) but feel the need to be able to "protect" themselves. So in their ignornace -- because as we all know, you can only become a better fighter whatever your style by sparring -- they seek out ways of learning to fight without fighting. This leads to bullshido.
What's interesting is that some intelligent, well-meaning people fall for this learning to fight without fighting nonsense. Some years ago a poll was taken at NASA asking scientists if they had to choose a martial art which one would it be. Overwhelming concensus? Aikido! And I think it is clear why -- these people don't want to fight, they want to avoid it at all costs, don't like violence, and aikido offers them a way to fight without fighting, using the opponent's attack against him, etc. Of course, this is all nonsense, as anyone with fighting experience will tell you. But it sounds great to the person that wants to learn to fight or defend himself without fighting.
This is why I think tai ji and wc are so popular too. They have push hands and chi sao. This replaces fighting for people who don't want to fight. They even have tournaments for these things.
Anyway, that's what I think is the underlying psychology of bullshido -- wanting to learn to fight without fighting.
I've never understood this mentality, basically those people want a reward for just turning up. It's like attending university, slouching about doing nothing and then saying "hey where the **** is my degree?" at the end of three years.
Originally Posted by wagamichi
Originally Posted by Lu Tze
Basicly, people like the idea of being a fighter, but they don't want to fight. In the past 20 years, I have had my nose broke 4 times, blown an acl, been hit so hard I lost vison for about 3 hours in my right eye, limped, blead, peed red, and just been plain sore more than I am feeling good. I love it.
Most people are not willing to walk that path. Having said that, I do not expext a 40 year old mother of 3 and sales person to fight in the cage as proof of skill. Many here want to equate that with the end all of proof.
Well taken to the end that means if you can't beat Liddel, you are not a fighter. Fighting depends on how much heart and effort a person putts in it. As i said at my school, i have only a few black belts. most wont put the heart into it to make it that far.
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