Martial Arts School Names, Death Cults and Bad Business.
(Palace Intrigue Report # 386 or “How I shot myself in the foot with a bad name.”)
For 30 years now, and 24 of those under my own namesake, I’ve been in the business of teaching martial material and once in a while official martial arts – as people like to know and do the arts I have studied, and they ask me about them. I have spent, I think, disproportionate time in Chinese, Japanese and Filipino systems. Through a microscope, looking glass, I’ve spied on the connection of “businesses” and “hobbies” and “arts” and school names.
I am a traveling circus. I have stumbled upon the business-school names around the world that are…well…not wise or good. They might well have been passable in 1960s or 70s or maybe the 80s. Some schools and systems have been named after the worst historical things. Lord knows in the modern times of today, the tiptoeing around everyone and everything can multiply bad names and bad ideas into even worse problems and failures.
It always surprises me to see certain school and system names, and logos modeled after the worst choices. Like crazy death cults or negative things that just a moment of research would uncover. Things like…
Juramentado, in Philippine history, refers to a male Moro swordsman who attacked and killed targeted occupying and invading police and soldiers, expecting to be killed himself, the martyrdom undertaken as a form of jihad, considered a form of suicide attack. For generations warlike Moro tribes had successfully prevented Spain from fully controlling the areas around Mindanao and the Sulu Archipelago, developing a well-earned reputation as notorious seafaring raiders, adept naval tacticians, and ferocious warriors who frequently demonstrated extraordinary personal bravery in combat. While Moro forces could never match opponents’ firepower or armor, such bands used intelligence, audacity and mobility to raid strongly defended targets and quickly defeat more vulnerable ones. One extreme asymmetric warfare tactic was the Moro juramentado. A Moro might be said to have “gone juramentado” or be “running juramentado.” This is not a good name for school or system. Or, like the next one – Amok
Amok or Running Amok, sometimes referred to as simply amok or having gone amok, also spelled amuck or amuk, is the act of behaving disruptively or uncontrollably. The word derives from Southeast Asian Austronesian languages (especially Malaysian and Indonesian), traditionally meaning “an episode of sudden mass assault against people or objects usually by a single individual following a period of brooding that has traditionally been regarded as occurring especially in Malay culture but is now increasingly viewed as psycho-pathological behavior”. The syndrome of “Amok” is found in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV TR). The phrase is often used in a less serious manner when describing something that is wildly out of control or causing a frenzy (e.g., a dog tearing up the living room furniture might be termed as “running amok”). This or something like it, is not a good name for school or system.
Beserkers. “In the Old Norse written corpus, berserkers were those who were said to have fought in a trance-like fury, a characteristic which later gave rise to the modern English word berserk (meaning “furiously violent or out of control”). Berserkers are attested to in numerous Old Norse sources. To “go berserk” was to “hamask”, which translates as “change form”, in this case, as with the sense “enter a state of wild fury.” For example, the band of men who go with Skallagrim in Egil’s Saga to see King Harald about his brother Thorolf’s murder are described as “the hardest of men, with a touch of the uncanny about a number of them … they [were] built and shaped more like trolls than human beings.”
I’ll ask of the berserks, you tasters of blood,
Those intrepid heroes, how are they treated,
Those who wade out into battle?
Wolf-skinned they are called. In battle
They bear bloody shields.
Red with blood are their spears when they come to fight.
They form a closed group.
The prince in his wisdom puts trust in such men
Who hack through enemy shields.
This name, or something like it, is not a good name for school or system.
Kamikaze. [kamiꜜkaze]; “divine wind” or “spirit wind”), officially Tokubetsu Kōgekitai “Special Attack Unit”). I add this here because it is like a death cult, and I have actually seen it used as a course name years ago. It’s gone now in its own self-fulfilling, prophecy . In WW II, they were a part of the Japanese Special Attack Units of military aviators who initiated suicide attacks for the Empire of Japan against Allied naval vessels in the closing stages of the Pacific campaign of World War II, designed to destroy warships more effectively than possible with conventional air attacks. About 3,800 kamikaze pilots died during the war, and more than 7,000 naval personnel were killed by kamikaze attacks. Kamikaze aircraft were essentially pilot-guided explosive missiles, purpose-built or converted from conventional aircraft. Pilots would attempt to crash their aircraft into enemy ships in what was called a “body attack” (tai-atari) in planes loaded with a combination of explosives, bombs, and torpedoes. Accuracy was much higher than that of conventional attacks, and the payload and explosion larger; about 19% of kamikaze attacks were successful. A kamikaze could sustain damage that would disable a conventional attacker and still achieve its objective. The goal of crippling or destroying large numbers of Allied ships, particularly aircraft carriers, was considered by the Empire of Japan to be a just reason for sacrificing pilots and aircraft. This name, or something like it, is not a good name for school or system.
Forgive me for cutting and pasting and for not listing references. These are just a few collections of sources. If you are really interested in any of these topics you can search the internet and easily find articles and books on the subjects. I just did a quick “catch and release” for a fast tour, fast reading here. Do look it all up.
As for system and course names, I always imagine a worst case scenario where you are on the stand in a criminal trial against you and the prosecutor asks you what martial art course you study, and then for the jury, you have to name and define it.
“Well, it’s about going crazy and killing everyone, even yourself…”
You might chose to remain silent of course, but rest assured, the police, the prosecutors and the grand jury have heard all about your hobbies and associates. It’ll get into the trial, one way or another.
This names, or some names like them, are not good names for schools or systems.
The business, name-game is tricky, tricky, tricky. I am well aware it might even be harder in the martial business. I notice that many store fronts these days just say “martial arts.” Decades ago, it might have said only, “Karate.” Safe. Boring, but safe. To get past boring, sometimes you think you are representing coolness, counter-cultures, fads and ultimate macho-ism, but your business, club, and hobby names may get you on a government watch list.
Don’t pick a bad name. Don’t join a bad group. If you have? Change it. (I myself am inching away from the word “combatives.”) Change it. If not? You are shooting yourself in the foot, as they say, or you might start a new gun group called “Foot Shooters Anonymous.” You can use “anonymous” in the title because no one will know who you are or what you do. And, you’ll also have a limp.
Hock’s email is HockHochheim@ForceNecessary.com