For the three of you that read this blog (considering I generally update it about monthly), you may remember my posts in the distant past about founding your own martial arts style here and here. Well, that second post still gets a new comment every once in a while, and the most recent comment is this:
# Master Van Says:
November 28th, 2008 at 6:59 pm e
i have a new style of martial art that im working on am i supposed to register it somewhere to be accepted or can i start teaching people?
First of all, this question seemed like it might be a dupe or something. It seems overly simplistic, and if it is legitimate, why would he be asking me of all people? So as a small experiment, I tried a google search for How to Start Your Own Martial Arts Style. Lo and behold, the very same blog post that this comment was posted on was the very first hit. Well, I never thought anything on Moroha would ever be the first hit on google on anything. I suppose the question could be legitimate.
The wordpress software that runs this thing also records the IP address that the connection came from. A quick search revealed that it was from Costa Mesa, CA, part of the greater LA area. That doesn’t instill me with a whole lot of confidence that it’s legit, but it isn’t inflammatory or trollish, so I figured I would go ahead and answer it. Here’s what I said (the link is to the actual comment I posted, I copied and pasted it below for your viewing pleasure and to pad my blog entry):
Well, assuming this is a legitimate question and not a dupe or some such, here goes:
First of all, I would be careful calling your style a new art right off. If you’re to the point where you feel you can open a dojo and teach people professionally, you should have at least 20 years or so experience in regular and intense martial arts training. That would probably mean you are 4th dan or higher if you’ve been practicing the same art the whole time, or maybe 3rd dan or less in more than style.
I’m going to assume that what you are teaching is a mixture of what martial arts you’ve studied over the past decades, with your personal interpretation on application and usage of what you’ve learned. That’s pretty much what every martial artist does, so that’s fine.
However if you start right off calling your art some new name that no one has heard of, you are going to have a big problem with credibility. My suggestion would be to keep your affiliation with at least one of your parent styles and first build up your dojo. For example, if my art were Aikido but I had also studied a fair amount of Kung Fu and Tae Kwon Do, I would advertise my dojo as an Aikido Dojo and maintain my affiliation with the Aikido Association. I would then point out in class that I had also had a lot of training in other styles and that I incorporate a lot of that into my Aikido technique. Perhaps on the side I might also teach Tae Kwon Do or Kung Fu classes, but I wouldn’t necessarily maintian a formal affiliation with them (this is because a ‘formal’ relationship to a martial arts style inevitably requires a financial obligation, and I wouldn’t want to be paying dues to multiple organizations).
After my dojo is well established and I have a regular and loyal crop of students, then I might start thinking about ‘going it alone’. This is generally done for financial reasons, as it allows me to keep more of my monthly profit without having to send a cut back to headquarters.
Even then though, I don’t know if I would ever really start calling my style something unique and original. Probably the best thing to do would be to advertise yourself as a sub-style; i.e. Gracie Ju-jutsu, Seidokan Aikido, Shotokan Karate, etc. I think the last person that got away with naming their art a completely new style was Ueshiba with Aikido (You might include Bruce Lee with Jeet Kun Do, but I feel he died too early to really establish his martial arts well).
I also wouldn’t start calling myself Master, Grand Master, or some such because I feel that these are titles that are bestowed upon teachers by either their students or by the martial arts community in general in recognition of their skill and mastery. You might hold a rank of ‘master’ in a reputable style, but that would be about it I think. Otherwise stick with Sensei, Sifu, or just ’sir’.