It happens at least two to three times a year. I go to my mailbox and inside there is some official looking packet, from some martial arts association, informing me that I have been “nominated” for induction into their Hall Of Fame.
You can just imagine my surprise. Me nominated for such a prestigious award. Why, I’m so flattered. I never ever expected this to happen. It makes all those hard years of work all worth it. When and where do I have to go to pick up my award!
Wait, what’s that small print? It’s going to cost me $189.00 for this honor!? In addition I have to pay my own airfare to the event, and the hotel, and other travel expenses.
Excuse me, I thought this was award! I thought I was the 2006 Master Instructor of the year.
Okay, if you couldn’t tell I was being sarcastic. The truth is most of these so called Hall of Fames are meaningless. They are nothing more than a way to inflate egos, generate business, or line the pockets of those organizing these events.
Now I’m not saying it’s wrong to honor martial artists within ones organization, but the term, “Hall of Fame,” implies something more meaningful. Especially to the general public, who are used to such hall of fames dedicated to baseball, football, and basketball.
In other words claiming that such an event is a “Hall of Fame” is misleading: an overstatement of the actual merit of the event.
First of all, there is no physical “hall,” such as those that exist for the sports of football, basketball, and baseball.
Secondly, there is no national, fully accepted, governing body, which oversees the martial arts. Put ten martial artist who have never met before, and I bet they will have ten different opinions of who is worthy of such an honor, and who isn’t. Sure, given time they could find many worthy candidates, but no matter who they picked, there would be others who would question their choices.
Further more, I doubt they would select someone like me who runs a very tiny school, is basically unknown, and so far hasn’t contributed anything so amazing or outstanding to the martial arts world. (I’m not debasing myself; I’m just being realistic.)
Lastly, in order to validate a “Hall of Fame” those inducted have to have certain credentials. They must have done something above and beyond the abilities/norms of most of us who practice/teach the martial arts. They must be the best of the best.
For example: pioneers like Gichin Funakoshi, Jigoro Kano, and Morihei Ueshiba, instructors such as Wally Jay, Gogen Yamaguchi (The Cat), and Judo Gene LaBell, fighters like Joe Lewis, Benny the Jet Urquidez, and Super Foot Bill Wallace, and actors like Bruce Lee, Stephen Segal, and Jet Li.
All of these men set a certain standard, which many of us look up to, and try to emulate today. Many paved the way as well as aided in the popularity and propagation of the martial arts. These are contributions that are worthy of being honored.
Of course when one reads the letters that come with the nomination forms for most of these Hall of Fames, those with the above credentials are not their target audience.
A recent letter I received states:
“Most of you know of “Black Belt” magazines “Hall of Fame”; giving top honors to our famous types we all read about and see on the Big Screen. Many/most of us will never achieve this Honor! If you do…”hats off & congratulations”! However, the average Instructor(s) are our focus… and always have been & will continue to be our reason behind this project.
“Average” instructor! Since when do we honor people for being average? Since when does any organization place ordinary individuals in a “Hall of Fame?” Doesn’t the word ”fame” alone imply more than average.
Of course the above quoted letter goes own to justify these types of induction by stating the following:
“Many Instructors work multiple jobs, many Instructors work more hours in their schools than regular jobs, and many Instructors behind the scenes put countless hours at home and weekends planning projects for their schools. They have sacrificed normal lifestyles in exchange for their love of the people and new people coming into their schools. They have gone through major financial distress to keep their schools going; 2nd mortgages, some it cost marriages/relationships, because their love of the arts! Most people don’t understand what it takes to be an instructor, a father image, big brother, counselor, teacher, mentor, best friend, & more! People count on us (Instructors) to make their worlds easier not even realizing what it takes out of us! But WE LOVE IT!!
Some instructors have enjoyed a great living from their schools & some do it for the love and volunteer teaching time! None the less, we’ve given an continue to give.
So…why not have a Most Elegant Day for those who are well deserving of this day! Lights! Cameras! “HONOR”!!”
Based on these justifications, many of which I have definitely faced, almost every martial art instructor on the planet should be inducted. Then again the same could be said for a lot of other occupations, which also meet these qualification, yet clearly have no Hall of Fame.
What is worst is that these Hall of Fames don’t stop with instructors. Looking over the list of possible categories for induction I counted at least 60 categories, ranging from master instructor of the year, to most improved student. There was also one for most martial arts spirit, competitor of the year (female and male), humanitarian of the year, and student contributor, what ever that means.
As for me I my latest nomination was for “Black Belt Excellence.” I’m not even sure what that means, or what the qualifications for such a title would entail.
Since I don’t wear a black belt, and my school does not have a belt system, it really makes me wonder who nominated me. A question I always ask myself, since none of the forms I’ve read stat who that individual was. I wish they did, because I would love to ask them what they were thinking.
My biggest problems with these “Hall Of Fames” are the awards they hand out. My recent packet promised the following:
1. One huge plaque (three times the size of the previous ones)
2. 11×17 Diploma/scroll suitable for framing
3. Hall of Fame induction patch
4. Hall of Fame inducted members lapel pin
5. An official press release that can be sent to one’s local media (This group actually offers to “bombard” one’s local media with stories about one’s accomplishments and induction into their Hall of Fame.)
Sounds quite impressive, and if the media thing were true, that alone would be worth the $189.00 fee. After all, advertising the school is very expensive. However, where I’m located, San Francisco, CA, I doubt the local media would take an interest. We already have our share of martial art celebrities.
Of course, the certificates and awards that accompany these inductions make great wall decorations, and impress most students/potential students who aren’t savvy enough to question their value. After all, who wouldn’t want to be taught by someone who is a member of the Hall of Fame–especially someone who has been inducted on numerous occasions for a myriad of reasons.
One instructor I read about on the Internet has over thirty of these awards, all of which are posted on his website. I don’t know the guy, so I won’t comment about his qualifications, but if I were a novice looking for a school, and saw all his awards, I would most probably be impressed enough to sign up for classes, compared to a school where the instructor had none.
Like I said before, I have no problem honoring the “average” martial artist like myself. Just call it something else. Don’t make the award sound more prestigious than it is.
If the award is limited to people in a specific organization that’s fine, but label the award properly. Instead of stating that the person is “The 2006 Hall of Fame Master Instructor of the Year,” title the award in some manner such as, “The 2006 Galactic Martial Arts Federation Master Instructor of the Year.”
Who knows, depending on the organization, and the services rendered by the individual to them the award could actually be legit. Maybe! After all, an award like that is at least based on the organizations requirements and nothing else.
By the way if an organization such as the Galactic Martial Arts Federation exists I apologize for using you as an example. I wasn’t aware of your existence. But if you do exist, I’ve taught enough Power Ranger, Klingon and Jedi wannabes to qualify for the Galactic Martial Arts Instructor of the Year award. Thanks in advance.
(Note: Before people start sending me e-mails reminding me of the fact that I was inducted into the USMA Hall of Fame several years ago, let me state once again for the record that I always thought the “honor” was silly. It was an excuse to travel, and meet others who have spent a lifetime practicing and propagating the martial arts.
Yes, the certificate once hung on the wall, but I’ve always been the first to tell others what it was really worth, especially those that have asked what I did to win such an award. (Basically, I was honest and said I didn’t know.)
And before you think my opinion of these types of the awards has changed recently, you would be wrong. I have always felt this way.
However sometimes its just fun to involve yourself with some silliness. After all who doesn’t like dressing up and being the center of attention: if only for a few moments.)