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Old 04-16-2012, 06:55 AM   #1
OwlMatt
 
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Grr! We're the Problem


Who's the more foolish, the fool or the fool who follows him?
- Alec Guinness as Obi-Wan Kenobi, Star Wars

Apparently this happened a couple years ago, but I was only alerted to it recently by this thread on Martial Arts Planet. Famous (or infamous) "ninjutsu masters" Ashida Kim and Frank Dux are now inductees into the United States Martial Arts Hall of Fame. I don't know how legitimate or prestigious the United States Martial Arts Hall of Fame is, so I don't know if this is a great honor or just an excuse to throw a party. I do know, however, that any "hall of fame" that includes Kim and Dux is inviting some pretty big questions about its selection process.

I am, as I keep saying, only a beginner myself, so I can't make any criticism of these two men solely on my own meager authority. But the good folks at bullshido.org have taken Kim and Dux apart quite handily: here and here, respectively. At the very least, these two have extremely questionable credentials and are propagating a movies-and-comic-books perception of the martial arts. Worse, the information presented by Bullshido makes a strong case for outright lies and fraud.

And yet, both these men are receiving honors like induction into the United States Martial Arts Hall of Fame. Both are successful instructors. Kim has made a living for decades writing ninjutsu books. Dux has even been the subject of a major motion picture starring Jean-Claude Van Damme.

If the evidence against these two is so strong and so available, how have they become so successful? Why have people been so willing to give their money and their respect to two men who can be easily discredited with a simple internet search? Back in the Eighties when they were first cashing in on the ninja craze, perhaps a lack of information might have been blamed, but we've had Google for more than a decade now. And even without it, shouldn't reasonable adults be skeptical of claims to have trained under secret masters or won secret tournaments that no one else has ever heard of?

Before I go too far, let me make clear that the purpose of this piece is not to discredit Ashida Kim or Frank Dux. If a few people, after reading this piece, are inspired to learn the truth about these two for themselves, so much the better. But Kim, Dux, and many others like them are just symptoms, not the disease. Here, they only serve as a starting point for a discussion of something much bigger than them. I hate the players far, far less than I hate the game.

Snake oil salesmen, as some savvy readers are likely already thinking to themselves, are hardly unique to the martial arts. Every field has its share of charlatans and underqualified hacks looking for an easy dollar. But in the martial arts, the easy dollars seem especially easy to come by. What makes the martial arts exceptional is not an abundance of snake oil salesmen, but an abundance of eager snake oil consumers.

There are plenty of examples right here in the Milwaukee area (my little blog can't do much harm to Kim and Dux, but I won't be naming these names). I could direct you to a popular taekwondo club in a southern suburb of Milwaukee run by a "master" whose fifth dan in taekwondo comes from an organization that doesn't exist. It took me ten seconds on Google to find this out; dozens, perhaps hundreds, of students are willing to pay this man up to $160 a month for training but couldn't be bothered to take those ten seconds.

I could direct you to a kenpo instructor on the south side of Milwaukee who was kicked out of the organization that oversees his tradition and stripped of his rank by its board of masters. This information is supplied helpfully in the Yahoo! Local reviews of his club. He continues to make a living as a teacher of said tradition, however, and his club was even recently featured on the local news.

I could direct you to a martial arts club in the northwest part of Milwaukee that is part of a successful nationwide chain. The "grandmaster" who founded that chain has been fined for consumer fraud, has spent five years in prison for conspiracy to commit tax fraud, and claims to have won a championship tournament that does not exist. His clubs have also been widely accused of cult-like behavior by the media. All this information is readily available on Wikipedia.

Note the commonalities here: (1) they're all being kept in business by many paying customers, and (2) very damning information about all of them is only a click away on some of the most popular search sites on the internet. This is not a case of secretive businessmen protecting their livelihoods by keeping their shady practices under wraps; their secrets are out for anyone who bothers to look. But people, even people smart enough to accumulate a lot of money for themselves, aren't looking. Why not?

I think the answer lies in the popular perception of the martial arts as something esoteric and inscrutable. People assume that they can't understand the mysteries of the martial arts on their own, and so put their trust in anything they see in movies or hear from someone in a fancy costume. The sport of mixed martial arts is slowly chipping away at this perception, but not quickly enough for my tastes.

For example, Florida judge John Hurley recently declared from the bench that the hands and feet of anyone with a black belt in karate should be legally considered deadly weapons. That's right, moms, your 12-year-old who's put in three-and-a-half years at Master Bob's Karate in the strip mall is now a deadly weapon.

This kind of ignorance boggles the mind. John Hurley is no one's fool. Besides being a former attorney with a law degree, he's also a former Navy intelligence officer. He wasn't born yesterday. Why is he willing to accept such a fanciful, romanticized understanding of the martial arts without question, even when his understanding of the martial arts is about to be a focal point of a ruling? I think he, like so many others, has never considered the possibility that a deeper understanding is available to a layman like himself.

The legal implications of this kind of misconception are staggering, but that's not the worst of it. Meet Jim Green:
Video
Yes, that's a child Green is teaching to take falls from imaginary forces. It should go without saying that I find this despicable and dangerous.

Personally, I don't care whether or not Green honestly believes his karate gives him telekinetic powers. What really frightens me is that parents (no few of them, judging from the kids sitting along the edge of the mat) were happy to entrust their children to a man who wants to use them as props in his magic tricks. They were undeterred by their knowledge of basic physics and apparently unwilling to to seek out a second opinion before investing their money and their offspring.

I've never encountered anything quite this outlandish in my own aikido (though examples of such things in aikido can certainly be found--a quick look through YouTube turns up at least two telekinetic aikido masters), but I have had instructors try to teach me how to throw opponents with "spiritual energy" and try to demonstrate how they can increase the pressure their body weight puts on the mat through manipulation of ki. In cases like this, I nodded and smiled politely, but my common sense was unshaken (it is worth noting that I no longer train at the club where these instructors teach).

I don't think this shows exceptional willpower or wisdom on my part. What makes me different from the willing victims I've profiled in this piece is my confidence (the result of reading I did on the subject before I started training) that nothing in the martial arts is too mysterious or magical for my uninitiated mind to comprehend.

Such confidence is not hard to come by and does not require martial arts experience. We have the internet. We have libraries. We have televised mixed martial arts competitions with experienced commentators who get paid to explain how techniques work. In today's world, there are simply no excuses left for being duped into martial arts nonsense. We have every defense we need right at our fingertips.

Martial artists like myself love to complain about charlatans who stain the reputation of the martial arts. I think it's important, though, to remember that people like Kim, Dux, and Green aren't really the problem: we are. We're the ones begging, and even paying, for the opportunity to be fooled. Others may be telling the lies, but the lies need us to feed them.

(The original post from the Young Grasshopper can be found here.)

Last edited by OwlMatt : 04-16-2012 at 06:57 AM.

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Old 04-16-2012, 07:05 AM   #2
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Re: We're the Problem

Self licking ice cream cones. That thought come to mind in most groups like these in my experiences. Even in legitimate organizations this occurs.

I only know what I am and what I can do, and tend to hang out with people I respect and what to be around, this not much of this affects me. I also am a big fan of cavet emptor and believe in today's world there is enough info out there for folks to gravitate to what the what to do. So no issues for me, or a need to expose frauds...they do this on their own.

I still enjoy a good train wreck though. And also have considered taking up Ameri-do-te, which is know the worlds best martial art..all others are BS!

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Old 04-16-2012, 09:33 AM   #3
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Re: We're the Problem

Quote:
Kevin Leavitt wrote: View Post
I only know what I am and what I can do, and tend to hang out with people I respect and what to be around, this not much of this affects me. I also am a big fan of cavet emptor and believe in today's world there is enough info out there for folks to gravitate to what the what to do. So no issues for me, or a need to expose frauds...they do this on their own.
Frauds are only exposed if we take advantage of the information available to us, and many of us don't. That's my point. I'm not out to get the frauds; there have always been frauds and there always will be. What I'd like to see corrected is the ignorance and romanticism that make it so easy for frauds in this particular field.

Quote:
I still enjoy a good train wreck though. And also have considered taking up Ameri-do-te, which is know the worlds best martial art..all others are BS!
Absolutely. There is nothing like the thrill of groin sparring.

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Old 04-16-2012, 09:45 AM   #4
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Re: We're the Problem

But why? what difference does it make? i find no problem training with competent people. and if they are not they tend to atay in thetr own little world. folks that care about good training usually are smart enough to find it. those that whant to train with these giuys do so for tjeir own reasons. i think blogging and educating on the things you think are important provide the right forum. i think yrying to ezpose drauds really doea no good.

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Old 04-16-2012, 09:51 AM   #5
Kevin Leavitt
 
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Re: We're the Problem

It becomes a no win situation. as they position themselves and set the conditions for their successs. u can expose them all u want. the problem is the followers see value orhave selected filters too. the only way to win is to draw them into your paradigm and aet the conditions....that never happens. u can argue all day long about debunking their theoriea and methods...however as long as they control tje ice cream cone...they dictate the success and hence it is useless to fight them. they are experienced and charismatic.

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Old 04-16-2012, 09:55 AM   #6
Kevin Leavitt
 
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Re: We're the Problem

Its like.elvis....some simply want to.believe. u can tell em all day long he is dead....they want to believe. also sort of like obamas birth certidicate iaaue

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Old 04-16-2012, 11:11 AM   #7
OwlMatt
 
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Re: We're the Problem

Are you saying that this is less a case of lack of education and more a case of willful ignorance?

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Old 04-16-2012, 11:26 AM   #8
phitruong
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Re: We're the Problem

Quote:
Kevin Leavitt wrote: View Post
Its like.elvis....some simply want to.believe. u can tell em all day long he is dead....
nooooooo tell me that it isn't so! i saw him the other day, fat and balding with the graying side burn.

"budo is putting on cold, wet, sweat stained gi with a smile and a snarl" - your truly
http://charlotteaikikai.org
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Old 04-16-2012, 11:29 AM   #9
phitruong
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Re: We're the Problem

Quote:
Matthew Story wrote: View Post
Are you saying that this is less a case of lack of education and more a case of willful ignorance?
same go for folks who said their aikido is effective. *run for cover and putting on asbestos underwear*

"budo is putting on cold, wet, sweat stained gi with a smile and a snarl" - your truly
http://charlotteaikikai.org
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Old 04-16-2012, 12:05 PM   #10
Aikibu
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Re: We're the Problem

Quote:
Matthew Story wrote: View Post
Are you saying that this is less a case of lack of education and more a case of willful ignorance?
A few points...

There is ignorance... and then there is cognitive dissonance... and it affects all parts of society...Public Officials lie all the time...Senior Executives fudge on their resumes..."Martial Arts Masters" create fictional titles...Birthers...etc etc...

Cognitive Dissonance (aka "willful" ignorance) has exploded in our culture over the last decade...There are still people who insist the Moon Landing was staged...This is not a new phenomena... but with all the new media technologies and 24 hour news cycle the amount of BS that saturates our daily lives is sometimes overwhelming...Add this to the tribal nature of most folks and you have millions of folks believing their own BS and having it reinforced by an echo chamber of yes men...

So while we may be the "problem" we are also the solution...to whit

"Of all the offspring of Time, Error is the most ancient, and is so old and familiar an acquaintance, that Truth, when discovered, comes upon most of us like an intruder, and meets the intruder's welcome."-Charles Mackay

Another apropos quote-"Men, it has been well said, think in herds; it will be seen that they go mad in herds, while they only recover their senses slowly, and one by one." Charles MacKay

MacKay's Book was written almost two hundred years ago and yet his prescient observations still ring true (On Steroids no less)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Extraor...ness_of_Crowds

The good news is that because of the same Media Communication Revolution these barkers can not just pack up their wagons and move to the next State to sell their snake oils to the next group of unsuspecting rubes...

Sadly though some folks will insist upon believing that what they wish to be true despite any acknowledgement of facts to the contrary...Hence... Cognitive Dissonance.

My advice is slow and steady will win the day... After many years of exposing frauds in the Special Operations world... I seldom let my blood pressure rise anymore...I just firmly and persistently provide the facts and let people come to their own conclusions. You can't make crazy people sane or sane people crazy...they do that all by themselves.

William Hazen

Last edited by Aikibu : 04-16-2012 at 12:09 PM.
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Old 04-16-2012, 12:54 PM   #11
OwlMatt
 
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Re: We're the Problem

But this blog isn't about exposing the "insane people". It's about showing the "sane people" that they have the power--and the responsibility--to make educated decisions for themselves. The frauds are just a symptom of people's belief that the martial arts are something foreign and weird that they can't understand.

I'm sure there are a few people so obsessed with the romantic Hollywood idea of the martial arts that they remain willfully ignorant, but I think there are others (like the aforementioned judge) who are perfectly reasonable and intelligent but simply have never considered the possibility that the truth about martial arts is within their reach.

Last edited by OwlMatt : 04-16-2012 at 01:02 PM.

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Old 04-16-2012, 12:54 PM   #12
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Re: We're the Problem

Quote:
Kevin Leavitt wrote: View Post
It becomes a no win situation. as they position themselves and set the conditions for their successs. u can expose them all u want. the problem is the followers see value orhave selected filters too. the only way to win is to draw them into your paradigm and aet the conditions....that never happens. u can argue all day long about debunking their theoriea and methods...however as long as they control tje ice cream cone...they dictate the success and hence it is useless to fight them. they are experienced and charismatic.
In other words, you can't win against them as long as you work within their reality, so the solution is...get THEM to buy into YOUR reality!

...or maybe the solution is to walk away from the whole stupid contest of who "wins". Otherwise, to be honest, it looks like a pack of four-year-olds yelling, "NO, let's play by MY rules!" Because even though you might be able to go through and find one with a better set of rules...the whole exercise is tiresome and pointless. Pick the rules that make sense for you, walk in the direction you want to walk, and if you find yourself faltering because you don't have a mob of people behind you validating your choice of direction...well, that's your problem, isn't it?
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Old 04-16-2012, 01:08 PM   #13
Aikibu
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Re: We're the Problem

Quote:
Matthew Story wrote: View Post
But this blog isn't about exposing frauds. It's about showing people that they have the power--and the responsibility--to make educated decisions for themselves. The frauds are just a symptom of people's belief that the martial arts are something foreign and weird that they can't understand.
Well perhaps my post was not articulate enough...I was trying to illustrate the fact that cognitive dissonance often gets in the way of seemingly intelligent people trying to make rational decisions...

IOW...You can "lead" a man to knowledge and even get him to understand it but you can never make him accept it...no matter how "wrong" he is and how "right" you are.

William Hazen
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Old 04-16-2012, 01:13 PM   #14
Michael Hackett
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Re: We're the Problem

Mr. Story, you single out Judge Hurley as being misguided (my words - not yours). His view isn't much different than most prosecutors or police agents. Anything can be considered a deadly weapon if it is used for that purpose. There is even some truth to the old myth that martial artists must have their hands registered as deadly weapons; an experienced martial artist or boxer would quite likely be charged with an assault with a deadly weapon if he beat another person significantly. I don't think Judge Hurley is drinking the Kool-Aid here, and certainly wasn't too far off the mark in the case before him. I don't know the guy and this was the first and only ruling of his I've ever read, but I doubt he's all wrapped up in some Hollywood delusion from the context of his comments.

Michael
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Old 04-16-2012, 01:49 PM   #15
OwlMatt
 
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Re: We're the Problem

Hurley at least has a very Hollywood idea of what a black belt is and what it signifies, and is smart and educated enough to know better. Had he confined his comments to the particular case he was ruling on, I'd still think he was wrong, but his position would be more understandable.

Remember, my point here is not to rip on Hurley. In fact, if Hurley were an ignorant, misguided fool, he'd be of no use to me.

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Old 04-16-2012, 02:54 PM   #16
Aikibu
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Re: We're the Problem

Quote:
Matthew Story wrote: View Post
Hurley at least has a very Hollywood idea of what a black belt is and what it signifies, and is smart and educated enough to know better. Had he confined his comments to the particular case he was ruling on, I'd still think he was wrong, but his position would be more understandable.

Remember, my point here is not to rip on Hurley. In fact, if Hurley were an ignorant, misguided fool, he'd be of no use to me.
Hurley is just expressing the culture we live in through his ruling.Social Critics like Neal Gabler and Christopher Lasch have been talking about this for decades

It can be argued that Hollywood memes have co-opted older social norms/memes...So why should the Martial Arts as practiced/experienced here be any different?

Here's an example of Gabler's premise in politics in an interview with Bill Moyers:

http://billmoyers.com/segment/neil-g...tical-culture/

And his Thesis: http://www.amazon.com/Life-Movie-Ent.../dp/0375706534

William Hazen
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Old 04-17-2012, 06:54 AM   #17
phitruong
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Re: We're the Problem

Quote:
Matthew Story wrote: View Post
But this blog isn't about exposing the "insane people". It's about showing the "sane people" that they have the power--and the responsibility--to make educated decisions for themselves.
the "insane people" don't have the monopoly on strange decisions. take for instant, the recent multi-states lottery that got folks all worked up and bought so many tickets which made folks went crazy and bought some more. U.S. folks paid into social security system which is the largest sanctioned pyramid scheme ever created. Not to mention various insurance schemes. btw, my lottery tickets didn't hit anything at all. damn! i was going to be financial secure, but now i have to work for it.

"budo is putting on cold, wet, sweat stained gi with a smile and a snarl" - your truly
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Old 04-20-2012, 06:50 AM   #18
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Re: We're the Problem

Just a note: I also posted this piece on Martial Arts Planet, and it got a very long, angry response from a man claiming to be Frank Dux himself! It has sparked a pretty entertaining exchange between him and other MAP members and should be interesting to follow.

http://www.martialartsplanet.com/for...post1074618084

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Old 04-20-2012, 09:22 AM   #19
Aikibu
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Re: We're the Problem

Thanks for the link It just goes to show you that you cannot win an argument with a crazy person especially posers...Is that my fault? I don't think so.

William Hazen
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Old 04-20-2012, 10:39 AM   #20
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Re: We're the Problem

Heh. What's the take on the "Martial Arts Hall of Fame"? My initial assumption is that it's one of those organizations that takes your money so that you can then claim to be on some Very Important List of Very Important People. Any legitimacy there?
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Old 04-21-2012, 02:00 AM   #21
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Re: We're the Problem

Quote:
Phi Truong wrote: View Post
nooooooo tell me that it isn't so! i saw him the other day, fat and balding with the graying side burn.
Teaching karate at a studio above a Dunken Donuts no doubt.

Anyone for a jelly donut.
dps
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Old 04-21-2012, 07:12 AM   #22
Mary Eastland
 
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Re: We're the Problem

Spitting into the wind. Just as useless. Anytime I spend speculating the wrongs of others is time I could spend bettering myself.

Last edited by Mary Eastland : 04-21-2012 at 07:12 AM. Reason: add an e to usless

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Old 04-21-2012, 02:04 PM   #23
sakumeikan
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Re: We're the Problem

Quote:
Phi Truong wrote: View Post
nooooooo tell me that it isn't so! i saw him the other day, fat and balding with the graying side burn.
Hello,
Sorry you have made a huge error.It was not Elvis you saw -it was me.Hope thismessage does not leave you Crying in the Chapel or All shook up,UH Huh.Signed the Fat Old guy with the grey locks.
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Old 04-21-2012, 02:07 PM   #24
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Smile Re: We're the Problem

Quote:
David Skaggs wrote: View Post
Teaching karate at a studio above a Dunken Donuts no doubt.

Anyone for a jelly donut.
dps
Hi David,
Send me a dozen .When do you require my postal address?A few chocolate chip cookies would also go down well if you do not mind the extra postage and packing. Cheers, Joe.
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Old 04-22-2012, 10:03 AM   #25
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Re: We're the Problem

Quote:
Joe Curran wrote: View Post
Hi David,
Send me a dozen .When do you require my postal address?A few chocolate chip cookies would also go down well if you do not mind the extra postage and packing. Cheers, Joe.
Here Joe.

Is this place nearby and do they serve coffee too.

Starbeck Home Bakery
7 Starbeck Avenue
Newcastle upon Tyne
NE2 1RH
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