Stop Flattering Me Already

Someone once said, “Imitation is the most sincere form of flattery.”  I suppose this is true but it can really get annoying after a while. Actually it can be considered stealing if you look at it in a certain light.

I think everyone who gets involved in something, no matter what it may be, wants to succeed. Many people who have no vision of their own or no creative power to make their vision reality often look to others and copy what has already been done.

What’s wrong with that?

Well, nothing if it is done with some sense of honor. There’s nothing wrong with studying something to learn how it works in order to make what you’re doing better. Let’s look at a couple of martial arts for an example.

Shito-Ryu and a few of the other forms of traditional Japanese karate have many similarities. These styles were based for the most part on the ancient Te styles that originated in Okinawa. Those Okinawan styles, in turn, evolved from the various forms of Kung Fu and Chinese boxing styles that were born in China. Now, take a look at Tang Soo Do, a Korean style. Tang Soo Do and Shito-Ryu are very similar in many aspects. They share many of the Itosu katas which are soft and flowing forms.  The Koreans took those form and implemented high kicks and jumping techniques thus making them uniquely their own. There is nothing wrong with this. It is the natural evolution of a style.

Soooo, what the heck are you talking about?

Fair question. Let’s say you live in a small town like I do. You have several local businesses which serve your community. These are people you know and people who know you. They get up, go to work, and pretty much bust their butts to make a living. Times are tough. They have been for a while now and honestly, I personally think they will continue to be for quite a while. These folks, your friends and neighbors, are out there doing what they can to make an honest living and serving their community by providing a service to it.

One of these businesses, John’s Hardware we’ll call it, has been a staple in the community for a very long time. It is a family ran business that does everything it can to make things better for its customers and the community. Now…we have Big Box Store Inc., we’ll call it BBS for short, who’s executives or owner just thinks Home Town USA would be a hunky dory place to open up.  There’s just one little problem: our friend and neighbor, John’s Hardware. Hometown people are for the most part a very faithful group. BBS knows that it’s a gamble to move into Hometown. But we have to remember something, BBS is a huge company. BBS has the funds to weather out a lot of things that other businesses don’t. BBS has something else too…a bunch of people who get paid to come up with ideas to make money. So what does BBS do?

The Pod People come to Hometown USA

I love horror movies. I’ve probably watched most of them that have ever been made. My daughter gave me a DVD set of “100 of the Greatest Horror Movies” for Christmas last year. Most of them a VERY B-rated and most of them are in black and white with terrible story lines and even more terrible acting. One of my favorites is Invasion Of The Body Snatchers which is a re-make of an older movie. In it, aliens from outer space invade the Earth. They don’t come down shooting everyone and blowing everything up. They quietly and slowly make themselves carbon copies of humans by using plant-like pods to connect to the victim and copy his or her looks.

This is what BBS does. It moves in to Hometown and begins to copy John’s. At every corner it sells merchandise that is sub-standard to John’s. It uses its monies to promote huge deals and sales. Yet at the same time, BBS copies John’s every chance they can get. They start claiming that they are your “hometown BBS store.” Subtle things of that nature.  They promote themselves to be something that they are not, never have been, and never will be. People are always infatuated with something new. It’s simply human nature. Before long BBS is booming and our friend John is scrapping to keep his doors open. More often times than  not the Johns of the world cannot afford to keep up with the big companies and sadly, do end up shutting down. It’s about that time that the true nature of BBS surfaces. Gone are the great deals. What’s sadder is gone is the vain attempt that BBS made to care for its customers in the first place. Just like the Borg on Star Trek: Resistance is futile. You will be assimilated.

OK, Sensei, but what does this have to do with karate?

What I have just described to you, my friends, is one of the tactics that a McDojo will use to move into an area and sufficiently shut down the competition. The big box martial arts company, or the shrewd “business-man Sensei” will open up quietly at first. He will watch what is going on around him. He will analyze the area and research to see just what kind of marketing strategies will be most effective. He will begin to lay the groundwork by establishing himself in the community. He will begin copying the successful studios in the area. At times he will attempt to get closer to the school owners by feigning a kindredship with them.  He will take things someone id doing, copy them, then twist them in a certain way. If the economy starts to turn or another school appears to be a threat, he will fall back on his establishment in the community and pull resources and connections from that.  In the end, all it is to him is a waiting game.

Keep your flattery.

I’ve actually saw this very scenario happen and it’s not pretty for anyone who falls victim to it. Sadly during the process most people will see the imitations happening. They will simply smile and even wish Sensei Businessman the best of luck. They are flattered that he has taken an idea of theirs and made it his own. The public will see it as well and never for one second realize what is going on. “Wow, Master Businessman is doing this awesome (fill in the blank with any program, offer, seminar, ect)! That is SO cool!” That’s when the guy who’s been around forever says, “But wait a second, we’ve been doing that for years.” Of course it’s almost always too late. The foundation, hype, and groundwork have already been done. Just like John, the little guy is struggling to survive.

What can you do to protect yourself?

Amazingly enough, you already know the answer to this. No matter what style you practice, no matter what title you carry, there are certain basic things you have learned in your martial arts training that apply and will serve you well in protecting yourself from a “hostile takeover”.

  • Be aware of your surroundings.  Keep your eye on your “competition”. If you notice that now he has a kids’ program that is a lot like yours, red flags should start flying.
  • Be honorable. Maintain your dignity. Don’t stoop to his level in order to “compete”.
  • Strong basics. We’ve heard it since we were white belts. To have strong karate, you must have strong basics. Have strong basics and roots in your community. Establish those from the first day that you open your doors. Remember: if it was not for the community, you would not have students in the first place. You need to get out there and set an example of what true martial arts are about.
  • Be honest. Honesty will carry you a long way. If you join that honesty with honor and dignity you will be able to withstand almost anything. Do not be afraid to open your mouth if you see something that is just blatantly wrong. A lot of us may see something and shrug it off making an excuse for someone. DO NOT do that! I have a personal experience with this that I regret to this day.

There are a ton of other things you have been taught and that you live by and teach in your school that can help you. Look back and remember those things. The Japanese people have taken the writings from The Art of War and A Book Of Five Rings and used those martial philosophies in business and their every- day lives with a great amount of success. Take the lessons you have learned in the dojo and apply them to the way you actually run your dojo.

As a traditional instructor you don’t need the flattery of another. Don’t allow your ego being stroked to blind you to what is going on around you.


  1. October 19, 2012 at 1:47 am

    WalMart killing another hometown business. There are so many places where Walmart killed an entire area of Downtown, USA., making it literally like ghost town… no parked cars, all stores boarded up etc. I saw it on TV.

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