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aikidoc 12-20-2004 10:45 AM

Aikido Frauds
I have noticed recently there seems to be a quite a few aikido frauds cropping up in various places and some are being exposed by various forums. This seems to be increasing. By frauds, I categorize them "aikido frauds" based on the following criteria:

1. Lofty ranks awarded by organizations that cannot be identified or located. Lots of 6th to 10th dans (usually the person is in their 40s).
2. Start their own "style" of aikido with weak credentials to do so. Usually no traceable lineage. Many have never held higher than 3rd dan in a legitimate organization.
3. Organization sites which have dubious, non-verifiable rank histories or questionable promotions.
4. Promotions and styles are often sanctioned by dubious Soke Organizations which frequently sell their ranks. They say they don't award ranks just document earned ranks.
5. Websites frequently have dubious claims about their skills or they have studied under masters that no one has heard of or can verify.

How do we stop this from happening? I don't have answers and don't know if we really can. My concern is we are going to end up with a public being duped and legitimate aikido ranks will be watered down. Many times the new student public does not have the experience or knowledge to see through the bovine feces. They see the 10th dan or 5th to 6th dan and don't have the knowledge to realize they are bogus degrees.

I am concerned this will end up causing some of the same things that have happened to some of the other martial arts where rank is so bogus in most groups that it has little meaning and has destroyed the credibility of the art. Such hucksters often prey on the popular arts with impunity. We now seem to be fair game.

aikidoc 12-20-2004 10:50 AM

Re: Aikido Frauds
Oh, I'd also add the following:

6. Aikido ranks being awarded by non-aikido organizations: karate for example.

akiy 12-20-2004 10:58 AM

Re: Aikido Frauds
Hi folks,

I just wanted to intervene here and ask that no specific names nor information that can be pointed towards any specific individual/organization/etc be discussed in this thread. Thank you.

-- Jun

aikidoc 12-20-2004 11:30 AM

Re: Aikido Frauds
No problem.

Jorge Garcia 12-20-2004 11:48 AM

Re: Aikido Frauds
I guess that the old adage, "may the buyer beware" needs to be in place here. New people need to do some research and ask questions but I would think that good research comes first. Unfortunately, in every field, that is the problem. Car dealers dupe millions of people every year by taking the customer into the finance office to buy the vehicle. In fact, the dealer will never try to give you the best deal on the financing. If you want that, you have to get the financing through an outside company that will work for you.. The dealer works for himself. The finance man gets his commission off of any additional products he can sell so they are highly motivated to add stuff on. Only research will reveal that. I was cheated for years because I was too lazy to do the research. The martial arts public feeds the problem by not doing their homework. As aikido becomes more popular, this may be a trend. I know one dojo where the instructor is now offering his own ranks. He did so after realizing that every one coming through the door didn't know who the Hombu Dojo was until he told them. At some point, he decided to keep the money he was sending to the Main Headquarters for himself which was all legal and proper. The ethical problem is that he is taking advantage of the public's ignorance because they don't realize that his certificates aren't as valuable as the ones from the Hombu. We can fight it at least by educating the people who come to check out our dojos on what they should look for in a martial arts school.
Best wishes,

David Humm 12-20-2004 12:03 PM

Re: Aikido Frauds
<gets can opener out>

There is unfortunatly nothing physical that can be done to "prevent" the fraudsters.

Exposure on the other hand is something that can be undertaken but, this must not be done without forethought for one's own reputation which I can assure all of you, if you decided to expose a person whom you have evidence of their fraudulent activities; you yourself will suffer a denting of your own reputation as the "defenders" of the supposed fraudster counter attack your and I quote...

"Campain" "Victimisation" "Un-aiki" "You do not know the meaning of Aiki" exposť.

Only comit yourself if you have the courage of your convictions to stand tall when many will critisise your actions.


David Humm 12-20-2004 12:08 PM

Re: Aikido Frauds
Oh and before I get slated AGAIN - I won't post further on this subject.

Anyone wishing to PM me however is very welcome to do so.

Witch-finder sorry I meant Dave

aikidoc 12-20-2004 12:18 PM

Re: Aikido Frauds
I suppose exposing them also has the risks of legal action.

Jorge's points are good. How do you tell it is a good aikido dojo?

Here are some of my thoughts.
1. Verifiable rank: You can verify the rank with a legitimate (maybe mainstream is a better term) aikido organization with a direct lineage to O'Sensei. And that does not mean studying at a weekend seminar with a person with a link to O'Sensei). The sensei should not be offended by you checking them out. Why should they have anything to hide?
2. The instructor should be willing to post his rank certificates in the dojo and explain where they came from and who awarded them. Where's the lineage? The lineage should also be from legitimate instructors authorized to issue rank-not karate organizations or soke organizations who will do it for the money.
3. The instructor does not make outlandish claims-humility is the mark of a good aikido instructor not one with an ego a mile high bragging about all he/she can do-like cutting paper or moving people with ki.
4. Willingness of the instructor to allow students to attend seminars. This is a real red flag. Questionable instructors often don't want their students to go to seminars especially with quality shihans since the student might see reality.
5. Check around-watch some aikido tapes, read some forums and then watch a class. If it looks strange it probably is strange.

Can anyone add some more to this?

John Boswell 12-20-2004 12:42 PM

Re: Aikido Frauds
Two thoughts:

1) Aikido FAQ. This is an excellent source that new-comers to aikido need to be refered to. It is quite through and answers most questions, but takes a while to get through. I remember when I first looked into aikido 3 years ago, I spent a week just reading everything on this web-site and STILL never covered it all.

2) A "Caution" sign in dojos. Members of bone fide organizations could come up with a poster/sign that explains who/what they are, what affiliation they are with. Have a second paragraph that explains that many styles of aikido are out there and that there are also "schools" that are not legitimate... that the students should feel encouraged to ask question. AND, where the asking of questions is not welcomed, that this should be taken as a sign to keep looking.

Just my 2 cents. ;)

Michael Hackett 12-20-2004 12:54 PM

Re: Aikido Frauds
Educating the walk-in student is difficult at best. Many, if not most, walk in to a dojo after seeing a movie or a Discovery Channel program and have an interest in learning the art they just witnessed. They have no idea where the art came from, how it developed, what it represents, or how difficult it is to achieve any level of competence. Most also seem to have the belief that a "black belt" represents mastery of the art and that is the endpoint of study.

I think it's important to educate potential students when they arrive to a certain point. In our dojo, Sensei receives many telephone calls from potential "Never Trained Before" students. His standard litany is to invite them to the dojo to watch a few classes and talk with him. If they do so, they at least have some idea of what they are getting into.

A friend of mine was teaching karate several years ago and a guy came in and asked how long and how much it would cost to get a black belt. The school up the street told him that they would guarantee him his black belt in one year for $2000. My friend told him that he would award him a black belt that day for $100, and then went on to say that no one would recognize it, he wouldn't be able to teach, he'd get his butt kicked in tournaments, and he wouldn't know anything, but he would have a black belt. He told the student that it wouldn't be any worse off martially, and would save a year and $1900. After a few minutes of discussion, the prospective student decided to actually study with him and earn his rankings. From what I was told, the guy studied a year or so and then dropped out due to lack of interest.

I don't know that you will ever eliminate the frauds, but you can influence those you come in contact with by giving a few minutes of education and straight talk.

Bronson 12-20-2004 01:16 PM

Re: Aikido Frauds
When I receive enquiries I now also invite people to check us out through independant sources. I supply the url's for both AikiWeb and E-budo and encourage them to ask questions about me, my sensei, the dojo, and organization. I also encourage new students to check out the other teachers in town. I tend to agree that when someone doesn't want you to see other classes it smacks of shadiness.


1. Verifiable rank: You can verify the rank with a legitimate (maybe mainstream is a better term) aikido organization
Hmmm, I don't know if I'd say mainstream. I don't think Seidokan is mainstream but I'd consider it a legitimate org. independant from Aikikai Hombu, I'm sure there are others.


bkedelen 12-20-2004 01:20 PM

Re: Aikido Frauds
Each and every person who has a dubious heritage has to live with that fact every time they claim themselves as an authority. This is true whether the infringing party is falsely claiming to be a Navy Seal, Secret Government Agent, or Aikido Soke Level 20 Grand Master Of Flowers Ryu-ha Lord. It is not the responsibility of the rest of us to point out how ridiculous they look, as they are already painfully aware of it. Best to just not patronize their "studios" and proliferate educational material about the history of our art.

mj 12-20-2004 01:32 PM

Re: Aikido Frauds
You cannot get rid of fraud, or in this case 'questionable claims'.

Martial Arts are not a well covered subject, and minor branches such as Aikido and others remain totally unknown to most people except through chance or desire.

kironin 12-20-2004 02:00 PM

Re: Aikido Frauds

John Riggs wrote:
I suppose exposing them also has the risks of legal action.

Going around exposing them could be a tricky business in the US.
I post this only in the interest of helping someone who feels strongly enough about a local issue and has all the facts to back up their statements. There is an affordable way to make it expensive for someone to come after you with a lawsuit or to attempt to intimidate you with a lawsuit or other legal action. You can check out my website :
high quality legal service

This is my way of supporting my non-profit aikido and iaido programs.
Personally, I think everyone in the US every needs it as much as medical insurance.

That said, I really don't know what a good solution would be in the general case. It puts a lot of burden on legitimate teachers to police the local situation given the way thinks work in this country. I would hate to see the kind of regulations some other countries have imposed. That doesn't solve the problem either and brings up other problems.

When students walk in the door who are obviously shopping, I can't see telling them where not to go because they don't have any basis to value my opinion. I ask them in what part of the city they live and if they say they have been looking I ask where they have looked. If they are not joining up then, I encourage them to try a class and then I recommend to them other legitimate teachers in town nearest where they live. I try to keep it positive. If they have visited somewhere questionable, I try to get them to check out a legitimate school. As much as I would like it to be, I know we are not a fit for everyone.

I guess by John's criteria, I know of at least one fraud and some borderline fraudulent activity by some who should know better. Trying to deal with that would probably consume the time and energy I have for my own practice, teaching my students and supporting my organization.

The best it seems I can do is to help prospective students include a good sample of legitimate schools and encourage them to ask good questions and check out useful online sources. Arm them with a little information.

csinca 12-20-2004 02:07 PM

Re: Aikido Frauds
The "quality assurance" that some of you are looking for is going to be very difficult to achieve! This thread demonstrates some of the challenges...

1. We need to do something about these frauds ... but we can't actually name them or talk about them

2. A respectable sensei should prominantly display his rank and certification and be ready to talk about his lineage ... but be humble and not make claims

3. Of course everyone should visit multiple dojos and be on the lookout for "anything strange", but there is a rather lengthy thread at this very website debating the authenticity of "no touch throws". Now to a beginner, and apparently to a number of us that have experience; "no touch" techniques would fall into that "anything strange" category ...

Unfortunately, "martial arts" still carries an air of mystery to the general public and there will continue to be people to pray on that. If you really want to pursue some form of quality control, the "aikido establishment" whatever than may be, is going to have to be vocal about it. That includes naming names and getting specific. And then of course we are each going to in turn be thrown under the magnifying glass!


Jorge Garcia 12-20-2004 02:21 PM

Re: Aikido Frauds
John wrote ,
" 3. The instructor does not make outlandish claims-humility is the mark of a good aikido instructor not one with an ego a mile high bragging about all he/she can do-like cutting paper or moving people with ki.
4. Willingness of the instructor to allow students to attend seminars. This is a real red flag. Questionable instructors often don't want their students to go to seminars especially with quality shihans since the student might see reality."

I recently received an invitation from a group in a nearby city to give a three hour aikido seminar. They were an unaffiliated dojo with some instructors that had cross trained and created a composite martial art of sorts. They had looked at a book with aikido techniques in it and included about 10 aikido techniques into their repertoire but they had never seen Aikido done "live" or in person. Joel Molina, our instructor in Corpus Christi and I went. I started the seminar by asking the instructor to show me their techniques and he did them for me. I then went on to teach and to show them the way my teacher, Hiroshi Kato taught me to do those same techniques. After I got home, I received the following email from that instructor. I will give only the relevant portion.

It said," Dear Garcia Sensei and Molina Sensei, First of all, I and the rest of the crew in ________ would like to thank you both for your attendance at our Dojo this past Saturday.
I was humbled and in awe of the skill level Molina Sensei and you demonstrated for us. I have to tell you both that I feel that in good conscience I will not be able to transmit any Aikido techniques to my students in the future, as I feel I will be doing them, myself and the art a great disservice. I thought about this going home on Saturday and at great length at my home. I feel that if it is not taught correctly then it should not be taught. My competence in Jujitsu, Judo and Kyusho jitsu are well developed, but my Aikido leaves much to be desired. I take my task and calling as Sensei very seriously and in good conscience cannot teach something I have learned incorrectly.
Our arts are similar but so very different. There is such a great distance from learning Aikido third hand or from a book, as there is from learning it from an extremely qualified instructor who can transmit information correctly. I have done my students a great disservice and am deeply saddened by this to the point of tears, even as I write this. Watching you both at work was like observing graceful poetry in motion. Aikido lives in both of you very strongly and for that, as a brother in the arts I am truly grateful. The students in Corpus and Houston should count themselves privileged and blessed to have you both as their Sensei. I hope and pray that I may continue this journey and learn this beautiful art...May God bless you both as well as your families and students...."

I have to say that I was impressed with this instructor. I witnessed their exam for two black belt students in jujitsu and they were outstanding. Each candidate had a two hour exam and demonstrated the best martial arts has to offer. Here was at least one example of an independent unaffiliated dojo looking for truth and willing to face it when they found it. There was no pride or fear of letting their students see someone else.
Best wishes,

frivolouspig 12-20-2004 02:25 PM

Re: Aikido Frauds
Perhaps there should be a martial arts equivalent of

bkedelen 12-20-2004 02:43 PM

Re: Aikido Frauds
I couldn't disagree with you more, Ryan. Rating teachers online is not only appallingly disrespectful, but reduces the entire community to an infantile popularity contest. What there should be are sites like Aikiweb where we can communicate in a civilized manner, and dojos where we can do battle with the flaws in our own character. There is no need for a venue to expose the flaws of others.

csinca 12-20-2004 03:23 PM

Re: Aikido Frauds
Jorge, thanks for sharing that letter. That is a great example of a sensei! Congratulations to you as well as you guys must be pretty good!


aikidoc 12-20-2004 03:48 PM

Re: Aikido Frauds
Personally, I don't have a problem with indepent dojos-I started my aikido in one but switched to the aikikai for the reason I wanted to be affiliated with the founding organization-that's just me. There are many independent dojos and organizations that split off the aikikai at some point. Although I think it is the aikikai's position that they are doing something other than aikido (not going to get into that debate on this thread) there are many that are very legitimate organizations. Why? Well, most of these break off senseis went to high ranks and trained many years before they split off to do their own thing-some with O'Sensei's blessings.

I also don't have a problem with people teaching mixed martial arts as long as they identify it as such and don't make outlandish claims and claims of rank that was self awarded or awarded by some bogus soke organization with no claim to any knowledge of aikido other than reading about it or seen a demonstration one time. Mixed martial arts are a popular thing and a lot of people like to pull in different things. I've done some other arts and when I show my students something that is not directly aikido I tell them where it comes from. I generally put an aikido flavor to whatever I show them but if it did not directly come from my aikido training I let them know.

I think overall this whole thing gives me the ethical heebie jeebies. I know a lot of it is ego and the feeling these guys have that they are better than they are ranked. However, the ethics end of it sucks. To me, it perpetuates a fraud and dishonors the art and the teachers and students who have dedicated years to its study. The unsuspecting public may go through years of training and thousands of dollars seeking training that is sub par or will not allow them to advance or be recognized other than by their own instructor. The publich will look at a "10th dan" and say wow he or she has to be better than the 4th dan or 5th dan because they are higher ranked. They have no way of knowing it is bogus. I know when I first started aikido right around the time of the split with Tohei and the formation of the Ki Society I had no clue there was other aikido out there.

Charles Hill 12-20-2004 04:14 PM

Re: Aikido Frauds
There is a guy in Tokyo who has a ki power/ ki breathing group and sells books and does seminars. In his promotional video and at his seminars he throws up to ten people by waving his hand at them. A friend of mine attended the seminar and was told that he only throws his top students because regular people cannot take such strong ki power.

This guy has seventh dan from the Aikikai Honbu dojo where he trained for a period of less than 10 years. I'm not so sure that "legitimate" ranks are all they are cracked up to be.

Charles Hill

aikidoc 12-20-2004 04:46 PM

Re: Aikido Frauds
The infamous no touch throw eh? Mass hypnosis is more like it. Of course, it is convenient to only throw your senior students using the ruse that no one can take the power. There's a "master" out in California that claims he can cut paper and move people with his ki. Of course, now he can't do it any more since he was injured in an auto accident. What are these people smoking? Heck. If I could figure out how to do that, I'd call up James Randi and make some money proving I could demonstrate telekinesis.

Although his rank may be legitimate it sounds like his ego got away from him or he's lost his mind and his students are enabling him.

JayRhone 12-20-2004 05:32 PM

Re: Aikido Frauds
I think the better part of the Aikido community can do it's part to de fraud the frauds is simply by teaching it's students the spirit of the art and being open and honest with the public. You know, explain the organization in aikido and answer questions. The general public can get informed by asking questions. The way to stop fraud is by both parties doing what they need to do. Aikido schools by being informative to the public and the public asking the questions they don't have the answers to. Wow, I just read that over and realized, I repeat myself alot. Oh, well it's late and I'm going to bed.


MaryKaye 12-20-2004 05:52 PM

Re: Aikido Frauds
The difficulty with invoking lineage is that anyone can lie about lineage, and it's going to be *really* hard to educate the public to tell the difference between a legit organization and a fictional one. (I subscribe to a charity rating report, and one of the recurring patterns is bogus charities with names very similar to legit ones.)

One pleasing thing I learned when I started subscribing to this report is that I'd never given money to any of the organizations they downrated. I was looking for warning signs in the solicitations, and apparently always managed to spot them. Perhaps we would do better to focus public education efforts on things that people can observe for themselves when they visit a school:

--Is the teacher generally respectful of other styles and organizations, and open to his students studying elsewhere, or is he dismissive and disparaging? Will he let students attend seminars elsewhere? I know that there are legit schools which prefer their students not to cross-train, but even they should be willing to suggest comparison-shopping to complete newcomers.

--Do the claims sound too good to be true? I recently looked at a dojo website which said "We guarantee that you will not be injured." Common sense should suggest that where there's one unreasonable claim, there will be others.

--Does the sensei come across as trying to sell you something? Does he use high-pressure tactics, extravagent promises, etc? Does he ask for unreasonably long initial contracts or high initial expenses? In my experience, reputable schools start off with fairly modest dues (dollar amounts vary by area) and may increase the financial committment for senior students, but fly-by-night schools often want the money up front--for obvious reasons.

--Are the students relatively happy, confident, and open? Or do they seem afraid of their teacher or each other, demoralized, sullen, or secretive?

--Are you allowed to watch classes before signing up?

This is stuff that if people knew it, would help them with more than aikido; and I suspect it will weed out most of the questionable aikido schools pretty well. And it doesn't get into issues with legitimate and excellent independent dojo (I've visited several of these) the way that pure tests of lineage and/or organizational membership do.

It's a sad truth, though, that if someone is ripe to be scammed, someone will come along to scam him. (I lost $125 to a scammer who managed to catch me half an hour after I had all four wisdom teeth pulled. They have an amazing nose for vulnerability.) In some ways the best we can do is to run our own dojo with the utmost responsibility and honesty, and try to shine by contrast. We can't really protect the public from itself.

Mary Kaye

aikidoc 12-20-2004 07:18 PM

Re: Aikido Frauds
Legit vs. fake organizations are difficult to identify for the public. One "master" I encountered actually used the name of one of his students because it was Japanese to set up his organization so it sound more official.

Good comments Mary.

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