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  1. #1

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    Competitive Edge Martial Arts, Highlands Ranch, Colorado - FRAUD

    If you're living in the Highlands Ranch, CO area, I'd caution against training at a place called Competitive Edge Martial Arts. It is owned by Scott Aksamit, who previously owned Martial Arts Institute in Canton, CT.

    He has a verifiable and legitimate lineage in Kenpo, though I'm not sure if it's Parker or Tracy. When I first went to the school, he was a 20 year old 3rd degree black belt (at least that's what the belt he wore indicated). I was probably 6 months or so young than he was and had already trained EPAK for over two and a half years privately under an instructor who had traceable lineage under Ed Parker Sr. It was fair to say that I had "advanced" knowledge of Parker Kenpo. Mr. Aksamit and I spoke for roughly 30 minutes about the prospect of my enrolling at his school, as my instructor moved away and his school had since shut down. He had a rather arrogant demeanor about him and presented in such a way that he came off as though I should explain to him why I SHOULDN'T train here. Of course he was amenable to the idea of me joining his school, provided that I took a healthy demotion to orange belt, in spite of my willingness and ability to demonstrate a more advanced knowledge than the belt level he had suggested for me. The reason he cited for such a significant demotion is that what he taught was "different". Not different enough to not have pictures of Ed Parker hung all over the place, though. Not having another school to train Kenpo at as an option, I acquiesced. The first warning I missed is that he signed me to a year-long contract through a billing company that was owned by - lo and behold - his sensei.

    It didn't take long to figure out what was so "different" about Mr. Aksamit's Kenpo. It was flashier and had wider stances that more resembled Taekwondo. The movements were bigger and more exaggerated. We drilled jump spinning crescent kicks that I know had no place in Ed Parker's Kenpo. In between beginner and advanced classes, Mr. Aksamit could be seen working out "what ifs" with a few of his chosen upper belts. Literally trying to figure out new self defense techniques on the fly, likely to figure out what he wanted to teach in class that evening. Everything felt like the cartoon version of the hard-nosed Kenpo I had trained in previously. What really stood out to me were the forms. Instead of closing out forms with the traditional bow, Mr. Aksamit had us close forms with a salute to Martial Arts Institute. Frankly, the whole thing made me feel dirty.

    I had been training there for a couple of months by the time the first belt test rolled around. Naturally, everyone was encouraged to attend. On the day of the test, I showed up feeling confident and ready to test. I found one of the brown belts that I had gotten close with, (we'll call him "Ed") and started drilling before the test began. He went over my curriculum with me and I went over his with him. Mr. Aksamit apparently took notice of this. When it was time for the orange belts to test, I took my place on the floor. I executed the required sets, forms and techniques along with the rest of the orange belts, or "purple belt candidates" as Mr. Aksamit referred to us. When we were finished, we bowed off the mat and I was greeted by Ed, who let me know that everything I did looked good and by the book. We took our seats and watched as Mr. Aksamit went through the rest of the testers by belt rank. After the green belts tested for their brown, the testing was concluded. It was explained that the "black belt candidates" wouldn't be testing that day as their test was to be three days long and would include a three mile run, one hundred push-ups and a written essay in addition to a demonstration of forms, sets and techniques. He further informed us that the candidates would receive our belts at the following class. I thought that was odd. Normally, you show up, you test, you promote and you go home with your new belt. But whatever, it's Aksamit's school, I just trained there.

    When I showed up the next class, there was Mr. Aksamit, standing at the door next to a table covered with belts of varying colors. I was permitted into the school and wasn't handed a belt. I dressed out and trained just like I did every other class, though I was a little occupied with how anyone who took a belt test and performed well doesn't get promoted. Mr. Aksamit could sense that I was going to want a little parlay after class and he did not shy away from it. When the school had nearly emptied of students, I approached his office door and asked him straight away why I wasn't promoted. He told me that he saw me working with Ed on his material and that to do so wasn't my place; that I needed to be more humble. I don't remember what I said in response to his statement regarding working with Ed but I do remember telling Mr. Aksamit that I don't remember seeing "be humble" on the belt criteria. He told me that I could continue to test and until I adjusted my attitude, that I would continue not to promote. After Ed tested for his black belt, I never saw him again. He also was refused a promotion and didn't see the sense in returning.

    I continued to attend class but my attitude got worse. As Mr. Aksamit promised, the next belt test came around and sure enough I didn't get promoted. I didn't bother to ask why. After about nine months of being Mr. Aksamit's student, I left Martial Arts Institute. The biling company for MAI tried to continue to bill me. I took care of that by closing out my account and opening a new one elsewhere.

    Years later, I learned by chance that he took his show on the road. Martial Arts Institute had closed down about two years after my departure and I had heard (not surprisingly based on what I had seen while I was there) that there had been some turmoil surrounding a particular female student of his who was 14 years old when I attended the school. Now he claims to run an MMA school in Highlands Ranch, CO. I left a review on Yelp but he managed to get taken down because it wasn't flattering and told the same thing I have posted here. I sincerely hope he has other people teaching his classes because this man has NO verifiable MMA background - not a grainy video shot with a camera phone, nothing. He just up and decided that he was going to teach MMA, to include a "train at home" video series in which his technique is easily criticized. Hi school claims to teach MMA, Krav Maga, Jiu Jitsu and Kickboxing. Like I said, I REALLY hope he farmed out and got some talent to teach these classes because he doesn't know the first thing about any of these disciplines. Dollars to donuts he's still signing people up into that ridiculous billing company. He fancies himself a life coach of some kind. He's adept at making you feel like you need him to help unlock your full potential. He'll unlock something, alright - your bank account. If you do happen to choose to train at Scott Aksamit's Competitive Edge Martial arts, just make sure "the man himself" isn't teaching the classes. If he does, don't look at his material as anything other than exercise. Enough of his techniques are irresponsibly taught and will get you hurt in a self defense situation.

    Seriously - **** that guy.
    Last edited by oldsoldier2006; 5/21/2018 11:56pm at . Reason: Typo

  2. #2
    submessenger's Avatar
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    I would caution that the word "fraud," has a very specific legal connotation; I don't see anything in your opening salvo which demonstrates fraud.

  3. #3

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    Quote Originally Posted by Raycetpfl View Post
    Not all belts. Only the ones that get LOL tags here.
    Belts are like anything. The value is based on the exclusivity and it's difficulty to obtain. I can get a black belt by walking down to my local sports shop. I could get a black belt with a signed certificate just by turning up at a McDojo for a few years. Thus in my eyes they're worthless. I've got a yellow belt in TKD that took me a few weeks to obtain and an half hour examination where in I hit some playing boards designed to break upon impact and demonstrated my ability to remember some sweet arse dance moves. Thus took no effort to obtain and is worthless to me and likely anyone else.

    I've just received my yellow belt in K1 Kickboxing (That's the name of the style here, though for all intents and purposes it's Dutch Kickboxing) it was a 4 hour examination of technique work (examining striking pads, combos and working the pads for and coaching your partner), sparring and physical fitness. Some people failed too at the examination. Thus because there was a great amount of effort put in to obtaining it, it has worth to me.

    I mean, in BJJ they are (or at least were) so difficult to obtain that being a legitimate blue belt is impressive.
    Last edited by Sovvolf; 5/22/2018 4:35am at .

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    I appreciate the concern but I chose that word very carefully and deliberately. By definition, fraud is deception of others for personal financial gain; a swindler; a con. That man is all of those things and a lot more. He has built an empire on selling the promise of success through martial arts. What's he going to do? Sue me? I wish him luck. There are no legal implications in calling him a fraud; only if I had sued him for fraud. Nonetheless, I appreciate your concern.

  5. #5
    Michael Tzadok's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by oldsoldier2006 View Post
    I appreciate the concern but I chose that word very carefully and deliberately. By definition, fraud is deception of others for personal financial gain; a swindler; a con. That man is all of those things and a lot more. He has built an empire on selling the promise of success through martial arts. What's he going to do? Sue me? I wish him luck. There are no legal implications in calling him a fraud; only if I had sued him for fraud. Nonetheless, I appreciate your concern.
    I seriously suggest that you look into your local and federal(if applicable) libel laws. If you are applying labels that do not apply, yes you can in fact be sued. You wouldn't be the first member of this website to be on the receiving end of a lawsuit. My recommendation is that you stick to putting for provable and verifiable claims.

    So far you haven't put forward any claims other than that he didn't promote you as fast as you would like. That speaks more of a personal grudge than it does dishonest practices.
    Don't rely on theory if your life is at stake.

    "But now that you've anointed him as truthsayer, you'll be complicit with what happens when the next Jew comes here and is lambasted by an ultrasecular Rabbi" -W.Rabbit/Pship/Emily Dickinson/Earth Dragon/Self Proclaimed Editor Extraordinaire

  6. #6

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    Quote Originally Posted by Sovvolf View Post
    Belts are like anything. The value is based on the exclusivity and it's difficulty to obtain. I can get a black belt by walking down to my local sports shop. I could get a black belt with a signed certificate just by turning up at a McDojo for a few years. Thus in my eyes they're worthless. I've got a yellow belt in TKD that took me a few weeks to obtain and an half hour examination where in I hit some playing boards designed to break upon impact and demonstrated my ability to remember some sweet arse dance moves. Thus took no effort to obtain and is worthless to me and likely anyone else.

    I've just received my yellow belt in K1 Kickboxing (That's the name of the style here, though for all intents and purposes it's Dutch Kickboxing) it was a 4 hour examination of technique work (examining striking pads, combos and working the pads for and coaching your partner), sparring and physical fitness. Some people failed too at the examination. Thus because there was a great amount of effort put in to obtaining it, it has worth to me.

    I mean, in BJJ they are (or at least were) so difficult to obtain that being a legitimate blue belt is impressive.
    Thanks for the response. I know my OP was a long one and that probably makes it easy to have missed the point. Scott Aksamit is a snake oil salesman. He signed his students up for a financial commitment for which he was to teach martial arts and we, ostensibly would learn and occasionally promote. I get that belts don't have the importance that I seem to have assigned to them in my OP. They mean something when your instructor uses them to manipulate his students.

  7. #7

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    They're carrots on a stick. Some use them as encouragement and reward for mastery of the system. While some can use them as a way of getting people to stick around to keep the cash flow coming in. Then you have others who dangle them to suck people in to the martial cult like behaviour.

    In the end it's just a bit of coloured fabric, many arts do perfectly fine without them. Though I do understand the merits of a belt system and I think they look cool.
    Last edited by Sovvolf; 5/22/2018 9:31am at .

  8. #8

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    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Tzadok View Post
    I seriously suggest that you look into your local and federal(if applicable) libel laws. If you are applying labels that do not apply, yes you can in fact be sued. You wouldn't be the first member of this website to be on the receiving end of a lawsuit. My recommendation is that you stick to putting for provable and verifiable claims.

    So far you haven't put forward any claims other than that he didn't promote you as fast as you would like. That speaks more of a personal grudge than it does dishonest practices.
    I appreciate your concern as well.

    I watched first hand as he promoted a fourteen year old girl from purple belt to brown belt during my brief time at his place. Did she deserve the promotions? Not for me to say. However, I think most people can agree that unless you're a prodigy of some kind, four belts in nine months for only attending a couple of classes a week was fairly well beyond belief. I watched him deny promotions to every one of his brown belts, all of whom ended up leaving because he refused to promote them with the exception of one, who hadn't yet tested for his black belt but worked at the school in some capacity. That is, until that particular brown belt expressed concern to Mr. Aksamit about the deferential treatment of the fourteen year old girl I mentioned earlier. That brown belt quit after that, both as a student and as an employee.

    I watched him promote a special needs kid (he was "slow" for lack of a better term) over another clearly more talented student that Mr. Aksamit felt had an "attitude problem". The poor kid got a bit of a big head about it and boasted to other students quite a bit. Everyone knew the kid's deal so they didn't pay too much attention to his boasting. One night during a sparring session, that kid got seriously hurt by a more talented student of the same belt level. That was when I started looking for the exit. What kept me there for as long as I stayed was that I had a goal and I didn't want to train Taekwondo which was my only other option. It took that nine months to become clear that I would not reach my goal. Everything I saw in the mean time certainly aided in my decision to leave.

    This man is a danger to kids who honestly want to learn martial arts but he is an even bigger danger to the bank accounts of their parents. His sensei's billing company, United Professionals aren't professional at all. They're only united in looking to take your money. They called and called after I switched bank accounts, telling me that I signed a contract and called my integrity into question. He has since apparently passed on his high pressure intake process, up to and including asking prospective students to bring in their financial information to see where in their budget a membership at their school would fit. That's bold and invasive AF if you ask me. Check the Better Business Bureau and see what people have to say about Mr. Aksamit and his businesses.

    Whether I speak it or write it, these are my assessments of this man and his schools. Admittedly, I haven't been to his current school and I can't speak to the quality of his instructors there but others have and are offering very similar accounts of their experiences there in regards to the high pressure sales pitch and feeling like they didn't get what they paid for. I don't think that's an anomaly.

    In the age of Yelp reviews and the like, I'd say that being sued for libel is a stretch. I also thought that the premise of the Bullshido forum is to call out nonsense in Martial Arts, hence the name. If I am mistaken, I'll take the whole post down with apologies to the readers and shut up about it.

  9. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by oldsoldier2006 View Post
    In the age of Yelp reviews and the like, I'd say that being sued for libel is a stretch. I also thought that the premise of the Bullshido forum is to call out nonsense in Martial Arts, hence the name. If I am mistaken, I'll take the whole post down with apologies to the readers and shut up about it.
    You are indeed correct but as an investigation we still need to be careful of what is said and how it is put together. Investigations are taken extremely seriously so they require evidence before accusations are made.

    Taking a look at someone's techniques and saying it's **** is a matter of opinion and while it can be disputed it's not going to get you sued.

    Calling someone a fraud without much evidence to back it up... That's a tad different.

    I'm not saying I don't believe you or not. Nor is anyone else. We're just trying to protect you from a potential legal backlash that we have seen in the past.
    Last edited by Sovvolf; 5/22/2018 9:43am at .

  10. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by Sovvolf View Post
    They're carrots on a stick. Some use them as encouragement and reward for mastery of the system. While some can use them as a way of getting people to stick around to keep the cash flow coming in. Then you have others who dangle them to suck people in to the martial cult like behaviour.

    In the end it's just a bit of coloured fabric, many arts do perfectly fine without them. Though I do understand the merits of a belt system and I think they look cool.
    I agree wholeheartedly. It's a shame. Early on in my own journey I (maybe somewhat naively) believed in the spirit or essence of martial arts; the self-discipline and confidence that is supposed to come with the training. Admittedly, the latter part of my teens and into my early 20's, it became a lot about feeling my own ego and having bragging rights. As an adult, that all went away. I've moved on to other arts since the time of this experience where belts matter but they really don't. Training is therapeutic for me and something I do to stay active (my military service was not kind to my body). If I achieve a high rank, that's great but it is no longer the goal. I'd love to be able to teach for the sole reason of giving back what I have gotten from MA. I felt the same way about my military career. I loved helping other soldiers and Marines improve.

    One of the things I've never been able to reconcile in regards to the MA community is the existence of schools run by people who are motivated by money and will result in less than honorable means to make a buck, usually at the expense of their students. I wished there was something that could be done about it but unfortunately, I don't think there is.

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