Posted by: B Gourley | March 23, 2012

The Bad Habit of Badmouthing

One of the worst habits of martial artists, myself included, is the badmouthing of other practitioners, styles, and lineages. Like many bad habits, it results from a combination of virtue and vice. On the one hand, martial artists tend to be passionate about what they do, and they find it disconcerting when schlubs engage in activities that seem to bring disrepute on martial arts in general, such as by having  the following training career.

Day 1: Read a book / watch a video about martial arts

Day 2: Open a dōjō

Day 3: Take an online “Masters” Course in Martial Arts

Day 4: Appear in a viral YouTube video doing something completely idiotic that, because of its comedic value, gets roughly four orders of magnitude more hits than the videos by the legitimate martial artist who wrote the book you read on Day One – and who would have told you not to do what you were doing in the video on Day Two if you’d gone to his or her class.

Day 5: Switch to a new style because the one you “started” Monday is old hat. 

While badmouthing may provide some level of temporary emotional satisfaction, it doesn’t really fix the problem. Instead of having a few dweebs in the martial arts, there will instead be a few dweebs plus a bunch of pissers and moaners. I don’t think anyone should feel the need to make up for the shortcomings of another or feel that the actions of another bring disrepute to their art. However, if one feels that way, the effective counter is to be supremely diligent in one’s training and work to eliminate pettiness from one’s life so as to be a shining counter-example of what a martial artist can be. 

There is another origin of badmouthing that is pure pettiness, and that is a desire to feel better about oneself by diminishing others. One reason this cause is worse is that it is less focused, and is, therefore, more delusional. Instead of pointing to an individual who is engaged in nefarious practices, one may target for derision entire schools, lineages, or arts. One is much more likely to be wrong when one starts generalizing like this, and that is why I say it is delusional. I’m defining “delusional” as either thinking a thing is true that is not or thinking one knows something for certain that one does not. Delusion is anathema to strategic pursuits and, thus, martial artists should seek to eliminate it from their worldview.

It should be noted that this pettiness comes from the same place as a whole lot of “isms” such as racism, nationalism, and Islamism. It is a means people use to avoid turning the harsh light of self-evaluation upon themselves and taking up the difficult struggle of becoming a better person. Martial arts are about nothing if not sticking a mirror in one’s face and saying, “this is what you are –  good and bad – and if you want to live you’d better humbly recognize the unvarnished limitations of the good and accept the burden of struggling to make the bad better.” Given that, one should not waste time with the crutch of thinking, “I’m a member of X group and at least we’re better than Y group.”  This isn’t easy. I’ve seen erudite people,who pride themselves on being open-minded about issues like race and gender, go on ad hominem rants about people who live in trailers or belong to certain political parties all the while not realizing that they hadn’t become enlightened, they’d just found  a PC group to diminish so they could feel better about themselves. Building such dichotomies not only deludes one, it also creates frictions that just make the world a more violent place.

I encourage everyone to have high standards for themselves, but also to remember what Plato said, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”



  1. Reblogged this on kyuba no michi – the way of the warrior.

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