Martial Arts Nightmare: A modern cult experience
Posted by: birdiegt ()
Date: June 10, 2009 08:46PM


The information contained herewithin is to my best recollection of the truth. All examples and stories are real people but actual names and locations have been omitted. The story presented is for informational purposes only. My original document version does contain all sources cited as this site does not support CHS format.



At 13 years old I was heavily inspired by the actor Jean-Claude Van Damme in “Blood Sport”. I absolutely loved the movie! Van Damme was a splendid martial artist and not to mention, so were the three kids next door. Not only did my neighbors take lessons, but they invited me to their testing.

One day while playing soccer with the neighbors, the oldest boy argued with me as to whether the soccer ball made it into the goal. I was sure it bounced back from the fence, so the ball had to have scored the point. Even my younger brother who was also playing agreed. However, the boy retaliated and used a martial arts sweep which sent me tumbling to the ground. I had never been in fight. I got up after the fall and ran down the street crying…At that point, I decided without a doubt that I wanted to learn martial arts. So the search began for a school in December of 1995...

Little did I know that my life would change forever by the martial arts school…


When I began training, I attended classes twice a week. The physical techniques were easy to learn but the mental training was challenging. However, both physical and mental training were important and were emphasized equally. This was why we tied our belts evenly; it represented balance.

My brother started lessons as well, so for us to train together was a great benefit. If I forgot the memory work on certain techniques, he helped me. I remember when I was a white belt learning the moves my form and had trouble remembering what was next.1 At about the seventh move out of 18, I became so frustrated that my brother came to the rescue which stopped me from whimpering. By the time we were black belts, the number of moves in our form had increased to 81. Believe it or not, this was easier because we had grown accustomed to memorizing new techniques and understanding their patterns.

On the first class, I expected the instructor to be Korean, but he was American. I noticed his eyes for the first time up close while reciting the affirmation, “The Songahm Spirit of Taekwondo” which was the first mini-test for a stripe on my belt. His eyes were similar to cold blue crystals reading every thought and body action.

The style we were taught was Songahm Taekwondo, which was a system affiliated with the American Taekwondo Association (ATA) that had been around since the early fifties. My mom chose this school in particular because of the sign that hung in the studio which read, “All black belts are not created equal.”

My brother and I climbed through the ranks and about a year later, arrived at purple belt. We were selected for the honorable Leadership Team.2 It was required to attend an extra class on Saturday to learn leadership and assist in an additional class during the week. The nice part about the program was that it was free training.

Every Saturday morning, we listened intently on how to become leaders and teach martial arts among the best students in the school. We took copious notes on the philosophies. One philosophy I recall in particular was, “leaders are not born, they are made”. The instructor explained that we were going to be molded into fine martial artists one day.

At some point, being on the Leadership Team meant we had to learn to swim. I had been assisting for a few months in one of the evening classes, when the class the leader who was supposed to start the class ran late. I was told that I should lead the class through warm-ups. I was stunned at first but focused on accomplishing the task at hand. I did well for the first time except for a few items I needed to improve on.


No sooner than two years later, my brother and I earned our first degree black belts and were selected for the Junior Trainee Instructor Program (JTIP). I think we were grandfathered into the program and had to pay for the uniform and the manual. This program was the first step toward becoming a certified instructor. This meant we not only attended on Saturdays, but we also assisted in two classes minimal each week. It was all voluntary of course, but still required for the program.

A student once told the instructor that he could not “volunteer” to assist in classes because of other obligations. The child and his parents were counseled in the office that day. The instructor returned later and explained to us that assisting was not volunteering, but it was required. JTIP’s also had to fulfill other requirements from the training manual such as writing reports, attending clinics, participating in tournaments, and assisting with other relevant events in order to prepare for the next level up as Trainee.

At the same time, I believe this was when my mom decided to join. Eventually she earned her black belt and was selected for the Trainee Program (TI). Her program requirements were more difficult and she had to pay each month. I think our family still received a nice discount. Before we knew it, dad joined the school by the age of 59. He looked like an “angel” in his new white uniform as I recall mom saying.

Since each of us had to attend two classes each week in addition to our regular classes, the family schedule became hectic. None of us were ever home at the same time on any given day of the week. Sure we might see each other in classes, but it was not the same as being at home with the family. From here on out, I drove my brother to classes.

The leadership requirements started to interfere with my parent’s home at the beach and other family activities in the evenings. So we stopped visiting the beach and stopped goin out in the evenings.

It was not easy asking permission to attend a special event or miss a class from the instructor either because he wanted excellent attendance. I cannot explain the feeling I would get when I asked permission to miss a class. It was usually a stark stare combined with a reluctant “permission granted” which was also attached with a reminder of how important it was to attend classes. So, my family eventually sold the beach house at a huge loss. From that point forward, my family got together mostly on Sundays for church.

This was a huge red flag, but none of us took any action. We were convinced by the instructor that the family had time for each other. My family received the “Outstanding School Support” award at the banquet dinner. Later they received the, “Most Supportive Parents” award. I received the “Outstanding Student Award”. Only a few families received these awards. It seemed like the whole process of getting us to commit so heavily was something that the instructor manipulated us into doing. He explained that training as a family was healthy and that we would see each other regularly in the school. We gave him the benefit of the doubt.

Every day, the instructor repeated and interjected his beliefs and philosophies continuously while teaching topics. These were quotes and sayings that a person would never forget. These became so engrained into our minds that in turn we lived what we were taught. Here are a few:

-Repetition is the mother of all learning.
-Preparation is the key to victory.
-Change is the only constant.
-I feel healthy, I feel happy, I feel terrific3
-Leaders are not born, they are made.
-Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.
- Failure to prepare is preparing to fail.
-Train to the standard!
-Definition of insanity – doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
-the Chinese character for problem is “opportunity”.
-there is a price you have to pay for success
-Think high standards and improvement in everything that you say and do.
-You can be a black belt in martial arts, but a white belt in teaching.
-what is most important in martial arts is the relationship between the student and instructor….
-You become what you think about most of the time.
-Ask and you shall receive, seek and you will find, knock and it shall be opened unto you.
-Think high standards and improvement in everything that you say and do.
-Thomas Edison and the number of attempts he took before he invented the light bulb.4
-the story of Winston Churchill getting on the podium and saying the only words, “Never, Never, NEVER, give in.”
-ASSUME - it makes an ass out of you and me.
-A JOB is really Just Over Broke, martial arts is a career opportunity…
-a college degree is just part of the “Vaccination Theory of Education”…you are vaccinated with the “degree” and then move on to another degree and get another “vaccination”…
-“Success is the progressive realization of worthwhile predetermined personal goals” –Paul J. Meyer.


In ten years, the school grew from 50 students to a little over 200, so new changes were implemented with respect to policies, renovations, and schedules. One of the policies that changed was the length of time to earn a black belt. Instead of earning a black belt in two and a half years, it increased to four years (Which was supposedly the norm for most schools and the way it should have been. The only exception was that my brother and I had been with a special group of individuals who tested through each rank a little faster when the school was just getting started). Then additional classes opened up due to school expansion and renovations. As a result, classes started earlier in the evenings at 4:00 which meant that my family came to the school earlier. Later, a pre-class meeting would be established which TI’s and JTIP’s would be required to attend. Finally, the school testings for the next belt were held off-site at a local high school gym instead of in the studio. To me, it seemed reasonable and was expected because of the growth in student numbers. However, my time at home began to dwindle and important activities such as homework had to be done either on the bus, at lunch, or during another class at school. After school sports were out of the question because I had made a commitment to the JTIP program.

The way students were inducted into the trainee programs changed too. Instead of being inducted, students could enter the Trainee or Junior Trainee Program for $200 a month at any belt color as soon as they joined as white belts. This was apparently not as expensive as what other schools were charging according to the instructor. Luckily, my family never paid that much for each of us.

Eventually the instructor added marketing training to the mix of items on Saturdays. So, we had to be there from 8:00 in the morning to noon. Then there were afternoon clinics that occurred every so often that we attended. Those were $99 a person but most of the time I assisted and the cost was generally waived. Then the instructor recommended that my family sign up for Success Motivation Institute (SMI) to teach us about goal setting for an extra $59 a month per person. We could not turn down the offer. Soon thereafter, clinics and events became the norm for almost every Saturday. Those generally ended in the late afternoon and we stayed later cleaning up with other students.

When I was 15, a few select teenagers and I became employed for $10 an hour during the summer. It was better than what I was getting paid at a local restaurant for $5.15 an hour. The instructor said he did not want us to “be flipping burgers at McDonalds”. So the deal was for every class we taught and assisted in, we were paid. I could not complain about it. The offer was fantastic at the time.

Soon higher ranking students began to quit and leave the school for various reasons. This was normal for a school to loose students. However, one pattern that my parents noticed was that once students made it to black belt none of them stayed long. Sure some would drop off during the color belt levels, but the black belts in particular very rarely made it to 2nd Degree black belt. There was only one student besides the instructor’s wife who made it and then he quit. Then I eventually earned the rank in 2001.

As the black belts above me quit, I started taking over the various positions in the school. Before I knew it, I was the Administrative Assistant for the school, the Demo Team leader, the Extreme Martial Arts program leader, a class leader, the special needs student class leader, I eventually became a Specialty Trainer (the next level up after TI), an Ulimate Body Shaping Course (UBC) coach, the Birthday Party leader, the Testing Conductor (most times), the parent’s counselor, and a student. I had also become “like a daughter” to the owner and his wife and I was spending most of my time there. I had graduated high school and was ready to dive into a career in the martial arts.


I had given up everything for martial arts including my family, friends, a social life, sports, study time, and my college degree in Business Management that I was already two years into studying. I was convinced that I did not need the degree and I would be earning six figures by opening a school one day. If I had the choice on my own, I would have applied for the Naval Academy (which I had started to before my dad, the instructor and I sat down in an eight hour meeting trying to determine the pros and cons with all my options for a career) or the Airforce Academy, Embry Riddle, or Hampton University for an aeronautical degree or meteorology degree. I settled on a local university in the end. The choice I made was pretty sad.

Another reason I stopped going to college was because I needed more time to improve my results at the school and perform marketing activities in the day time before classes started in the evenings. Before I knew it, I was working technically 17-18 hour days. I was only getting paid for a few classes taught each day and it was unbelievably still $10 per hour by the year 2006. Myself and another coworker at the school received bonuses for signing up students for $100 each. He was a dedicated black belt and just a few years older than me. He had it tougher than me because he had a wife, drove an hour to reach the school, and had a full time job as a mechanic.

Soon the $100 commission price dropped to half because as he talked us into setting higher goals each month that came to a point where we could not reach them. The instructor said it was obvious that we did not care about the $100 and so he lowered it.


My family was torn apart by the school and I blame them for it. It started with my brother. When he became a teenager, he told mom and dad he wanted to quit. They kept him in there despite his request. After all, it was a contract that mom and dad had signed. Additionally, the instructor kept counseling my brother and parents on the benefits. My brother became very angry and performed poorly in school and got involved with some bad kids. He did some other things to try to gain attention from my folks and cried out to them so he did not have to teach anymore. My parents agreed he should quit for his own sake and theirs as well.

Then it happened to my mom. The instructor picked on her and told her she had scattered thoughts and students could not understand her. That was simple in my mind; my mom was not born to be a teacher and did not want to teach. She wanted to learn martial arts for self defense. She could not handle the constant heavy critiques. But there were more issues.

Then my dad was next. But he was tough and did not falter so easily. But the instructor got to him years later. He turned my dad against his own wife and son. The instructor had broken the trust with my dad by …

I was convinced that almost everyone on the outside of the school was against me including my whole family. The instructor always checked to see how I was doing and asked me how things were going at home. I told him honestly things at home were not so good between my brother and parents. My brother was still having lots of trouble, which was true, but I should not have left my family. The instructor offered me a place to stay with them, but I turned them down. So, I called my aunt and asked to live with her. I moved in the next day.

By March of 2006, my whole family had quit and was preparing to move out of the state. I was not moving though and focused on my martial arts training and teaching. Martial arts had become my life. I had the ultimate goal to own a school one day under the direction and guidance of my instructor.


When I was 21 years old, I earned the honor and privilege to hold a set of keys to the school. Now I could open the school up and show responsibility. Here was a typical day to demonstrate how he controlled my life and how I was wrapped up in the routines.

A weekday usually consisted of getting up at 7:00 and opening the school by 7:45. By 8:00 I would start either a morning class (depending on the day of the week) or begin my administrative duties. A class would run for an hour, and then I would get back to administrative items and work until noon. Sometimes, if both the owner and his wife were there in the mornings, we would end up talking about issues and stay until 3:00. But most days, I would run home for lunch. After lunch, I would get on the phone to call 10-15 students’ parents a day checking on their progress so I could report their status to the instructor as he had required. My cell phone minutes were generally maxed out but I paid for them anyways without complaining. Since most people worked during the day, I could not reach many of the parents. But he still wanted to know how students were doing. When the instructor finally realized that this was the main reason we could not achieve a good status report, he had us get on the phone in between classes or during a class that we did not teach.

After I spent a few hours on the phone in the afternoon, I would go to shopping centers to recruit students. I had a script memorized and I knew how to overcome many objections. I was second best in the school of 200 students at recruiting new members besides the instructor’s wife. I generally walked on pavement for about an hour every day. Then I would sit in my car and eat a snack and prepare to report the days results for the 3:00 meeting.

When I was ready, I drove to the school by 2:45 and opened it for the evening’s business. There was a checklist that I followed to make sure all items were covered and it had to be up-to-date. If a single item had been neglected or if I forgot to fill out the checklist one day, I was reprimanded if he happened to check over the list. At first he was gentle, and then I was yelled at and told I could loose my job if I messed up again.

By 3:00 my coworker and I were ready for the pre-class meeting. It was supposed to end at 3:30 but it always ended up going to until 4:00 which was when the first class would start. 5

The 3:00 meetings became the focal point of our training. Nothing else mattered except for the results we produced; if we did not report clearly, concisely, or correctly, we were reprimanded right there on the spot.
One of the first items we discussed was a summary of our class plans. At first, we were harshly critiqued, but even after the repetitious critiquing, I could never report properly or smoothly for some time until I practiced at home over and over.

Speaking of these class planners, they took a few hours to devise. The instructor said that we should spend twice the amount of time planning for a class than actually teaching it. I normally stayed up until 1:00AM on those nights preparing my planners for the following day. We were not allowed to work on them at the school.

At first the instructor was gentle, and then it became a yelling session half of the time. After he yelled at us, we had to apologize and state how we would improve the problem. He had a specific method that was listed on the easel pad about, “How to mend a broken relationship”. So we followed the five steps for a while. Then he did not like the way we apologized and said we did not really mean it. This just became a vicious cycle.

After the meeting, I taught and assisted in classes from 4:00 until 9:30 most evenings. Then I participated in my black belt class as a student every other day. After all was said and done, we pitched in for the evening cleanup until 10:00. That did not always happen, there were many nights when additional issues would come up and we would go in the office for a 10:00 meeting and stay until midnight. That was always hard on my coworker since he had a long drive home and then had get up at 5:00 the next morning. He had less sleep than me most nights.

It is now clear why this was done to us. It is much easier to manipulate someone when they are physically and mentally fatigued. Insufficient sleep can result in decreased concentration and reaction time and also increase the risk of accident or injury.6

The instructor never looked well rested; he told us he had three to four hours of sleep a night except during the week of 4th of July and Christmas when we were closed. He claimed he had always had little sleep especially being in the military. But as I have read in many books, a good night sleep is critical. This gives the body a chance to rejuvenate, release growth hormones, repair damaged cells and keeps a person alive longer.7

Christmas and Independence Day were the only vacations I ever took for a whole week. I was never out sick, and even if I had a fever, I still went to classes and taught. If I can recall, I think I only missed a few classes when I was younger for some school events and when I had a fever of 103°F during the Christmas season of 1997. I basically had perfect attendance for ten years.

I remember one night when my coworker and I were sitting in the instructor’s “training sessions”. Suddenly, I could not see the instructor through my own eyes. Everything started to blur and shake violently back and forth. He asked me a question, but I could not answer it because all I was seeing was constant shaking motion no matter where I looked from my seat. I told him what happened but he did not believe me.

Saturdays and Sundays were a different story. Saturdays we had our regular training from 8:00 until noon. Of course clinics and events in the afternoons that usually lasted until 4:00. On maintenance or testing days and we would stay until 10:00 at night.8 If a Saturday ended in the afternoon, then I would begin my evening marketing plan. Most of the time, I had a booth setup locally at a sports store or a movie theater. Those booths were successful most of the time. Sometimes we had a demonstration by the Demo Team at a local event.

On Sundays, it was supposed to be a day of rest. But toward the end of my training, that day became another marketing day….

Being told you are failing day in and day out is really hard. I kept messing up almost every day for the last two years with one thing or another. It was not on purpose and frankly, some things I did not think of it because I had too many other responsibilities. I accepted the “failure”, improved myself, and then moved on. He was only pointing out the problems so I could improve. I was, “like a daughter to him” and he cared “very deeply” for me.

But the training got more twisted than this.

One of the methods to lay his twisted foundation was to spend an abundance of time with the leaders in the school. Whether it was at the school, an event, or a special outing, this was one way to make feel comfortable. We stayed later after classes because we had to wait for the head instructor to leave first. Another reason for waiting was for the women’s sake; he did not want us walking outside alone in the dark parking lot. He also invited the leaders to spontaneous special training meetings and special dinners. We were even invited to his lake house a few times on the holiday weekends. We never turned down an invitation unless there was an emergency. These are just a few examples, but the point is that all the person ever begins to think about is the school.

I would “never give in” to all of the extra time spent or additional requirements and responsibilities that I had. I would never say “no” because I was trained to respect the invitations. He said that he and his wife “loved each and every one of his students” and “loved me”. His wife reinforced how we should appreciate all that he did, and that we were so fortunate to be receiving training from him. We even received nice gifts from him from time to time. On my birthday, I received a diamond antique gold ring once and another time I received a beautiful jewelry black onyx set.

He also convinced us that the outside world was very negative and the school was positive. He did not tolerate negative people. He also told us how he handled students who quit. Once a student quit, the “steel door” was put in place. That eventually happened to everyone I knew who left the school.

I noticed when a parent was so frustrated with the school; they went straight for his office and began a loud yelling match. The instructor asked him or her to leave immediately. He taught us how to do the same and said we were his “police officers” and had to prevent situations like this from occurring. We all took this on this mentality and believed it.

His goals were now my goals. I had no personal goals anymore and he was strangling me slowly. I could not reach my goals with so much control over my life. If I were able to get a chance and clear my mind, maybe I would have thought of a better way to recruit 15 students in a month.

I want to clarify what would happen when I got “caught” doing something wrong for a better understanding of the instructor’s power and influence. I am sure you have had the feeling like you were being watched a time or two before. Well, this was the same feeling for 24 hours a day and seven days a week and still to this day I sometimes feel that way. It was like Big Brother was watching me. He would pull me into his office if he sensed I was not “myself” (“Myself” soon became paranoid every day). He asked me how I felt about the school. I told him truthfully that I loved it there, that I appreciated all of the training, and that I was excited about the future. But he was still suspicious… of course he was! He was seeing how we reacted to his manipulation.

Another time I was driving home after class, and he followed me home. Normally he followed me for a block or two and turned onto his street, but one night he and his wife followed me all the way to the court where I lived. WHY? I will never know.

Another time my phone rang and it was him. I answered but there was no answer back, just a bunch of mumbling. All I caught was the word “classes” and “tonight” then I quickly hung up after I realized who it was. When arrived at the school that evening, I told him about the call. Hs face indicated “worry” and immediately asked me what I heard and I truthfully replied, “Nothing, just something about “classes” and “tonight”, and then I hung up.” Apparently, that was not what he wanted to hear. I told him that was what I heard. He said my name loudly and then said, “You had better not be lying to me.” He never believed me no matter how much I denied it. There were many instances like this where I was accused of lying. But I never lied to him.

Once there was a serious issue when I was accused of lying. The scenario happened right before testing after I finished teaching a class. I had to lineup a bunch of students who had not registered for testing and had them wait at the front desk with their parents to pay. The tiny front desk area was always packed at 7:00 with people and requests. Simultaneously, among the chaos, a young black belt about my age came up to the counter and said that she was ready to test and had broken her boards in class in front of the instructor. As a black belt, and as was tradition, she was supposed to immediately request permission after class to test from him and then come to the front desk to tell one of us that she had permission. I told her I would talk with the instructor that night to see if she could test (among a few other black belts I had to ask him about), but I accidentally forgot to jot her down in my notebook.

In the end, I was blamed because she was not called up during the testing. First of all, she overlooked the protocol and solely relied on me. Secondly, I do not recall her ever registering to test. In any case, her mother came forward to me after the testing and asked what happened. I did not realize she did not test and asked her if she asked the instructor permission and she said no. I told her maybe her daughter could test next time. It was not my responsibility to ask the instructor for her to test. My responsibility was to run the list of black belts by the instructor for a confirmation….well…actually, even this duty was changed so many times, I cannot recall the last protocol.

The head testing conductor got wind of the situation and counseled me. He said I had lied and I should have told someone. I told him that I had no idea this had happened until I spoke with the mother and suggested that maybe the daughter could wait until the next testing. Almost immediately, it went straight to the owner’s wife. All leaders were called in for a meeting and I was yelled at pretty brutally. Then the instructor came in to find out what the commotion was and confronted me directly. Later he told me it was both the black belts fault and my fault that I had lied. I was almost fired that night.

But again looking back at the situation, I was a bubble about to burst. Testing protocol was protocol and I was not in charge of which black belts test or not. The counter was so crowded and I HAD to get students registered that night for a few reasons. There were only about five leaders who were directly responsible with registration which was strictly open the week before testing. But that never happened. The instructor was solid on the ending date of registration, but the wife always gave in to the students who came in last minute.

This became a major task to adjust the testing grade book and script. I absolutely hated it with a passion. Every time this happened it would take time to redo the lineup (by height and rank), adjust the script, and find a partner for the oddball for sparring and one-steps. I had done my part, but the instructor accommodated the stragglers which messed up the process. So I normally edited the book in between classes for five minutes and into the next day, and up until the night before testing.


It was a psychological mind game in my opinion as I reflect on the past. We were always wrong and the instructor was always right. There may have been only a few meetings that I can recall that the instructor was actually pleased. Even recruiting a new student was not as much of big deal compared to the pats on the back and praise we had received in the past. Now we were basically expected to recruit at least one student every other day to be even close to successful. Ideally, it should have been one student every day. But that was almost impossible since the signup process always took at least one hour at the minimum plus all of the follow up paperwork and documents.

We even had set signup times in the evenings. But they were always at the tail-end of class times such as 9:00 or earlier like 4:00. This was all part of the game. Then the instructor eventually changed it where we could come in basically anytime we had a student ready to signup. I was the one with the extra keys and could open the school up for these special cases. But that was rare when it happened, even though it seemed like it was a reasonable opportunity..

I ask myself the question why the hell did I put up with this? Where was my courage? What happened to my common sense and logical self? How come I did not quit? I think there are few reasons that may answer these questions.

One of the first reasons I believe was that I was too stubborn and focused on becoming a Certified Instructor. Nothing else mattered, I would do whatever it took regardless of what people said. I was determined to achieve the goals I had set after all the time I had spent.

I think there was another reason for me continuing for so long. I think I was brainwashed. The term “brainwashed” is a “systematic effort to persuade nonbelievers to accept a certain allegiance, command, or doctrine…a technique designed to manipulate human thought or action against desire, will, or knowledge of the individual.”9 Some of the techniques of brainwashing include, isolation from former friends and sources of information, a regimen requiring absolute obedience and humility, strong social pressures and rewards for cooperation, physical and psychological punishments for non-cooperation that can range from criticism, deprivation of food and sleep, continual reinforcement, bondage, and keeping one away from the outside world.10 I think most of the instructor’s tactics came from his 27 years in the military and it was very difficult to recognize that brainwashing was happening.

Finally, the ultimate reason might be that I was directly involved with a martial arts cult. However, this was a legal cult because “we” as employees had the choice to leave “at will”. In this case, if I was “awake” during my 10 years there and understood what was really happening, then I would have never stayed.


On March 30, 2006, my coworker and I were dismissed from the school. That afternoon prior to the 3:00 meeting, I apparently lied about where instructor’s easel pad was placed. I told the instructor that he must have moved it the night before. Whoops, I stepped over the boundary for the first time. How dare I make him look like he forgot something? He did not believe what I stated and turned a fiery red and yelled, “Don’t lie to me!” Then he proceeded to ask where it was again. I had no idea. I left it exactly where he told me.

Then we sat down for the 3:00 meeting to report. When my coworker did not furnish the report, the instructor asked us to stand up and leave. There was no reason given. We were dismissed from the school forever. I handed his wife the keys and we walked out. Unfortunately, I accidentally left $100 worth of sparring gear, my belt rack hanging on the display, and my $50 leather punching gloves. I could not think of asking for those items back I was so scared. When I spoke to a student outside the school to get the belt rack for me, she claimed the school said the rack was theirs. I was so mad!

That was not the first time I was fired that month. He fired me two other times but I came back begging for another chance because I was so brainwashed. He gave me my “job” back and said I was rehired only on the condition that I improved. I should have left the first time. I would have saved myself the hassle of dealing with him for another two weeks.


Even though I was happy to be free and have no responsibilities, I was upset. Not only had I had let the instructor down, but I was not going to be able to teach my classes that night, and I would not get to finish my goals.

But at the same time, I will never forget that feeling of not having to worry about the school anymore. It was almost a divine feeling that someone else had taken over my body…funny thing was I think it was “me” for the first time in years. That evening, I drove straight to my parent’s house that night to tell them the news. My parents were ecstatic!


There are still a lot of open wounds from my training that has left me. I feel that it was mostly psychological damage and some physical damage. Yet it was a huge lesson and learning experience for me at the same time. I would not be the same person that I am today without the training. But I also think it would have been nice to have left the place when I had a chance earlier on. My husband and I both agree that “the past is the past and there is nothing you can do about it besides learn from it”. So, that is what I have chosen to do. But it is hard sometimes because someone or something I see always reminds me of my training. I have dreams at least twice a week about the school including some nightmares.

I see and talk to many student in town and have not, until recently told, them my true experiences. Now I have the courage to explain my story. In return, I have received feedback that truly touched me. One student, told me that she and her daughter actually cried when they found out I was gone. I realized how much an impression I had left on the students.

The training I had at the school changed me forever. I will never forget it. I will warn you if you see any of the signs of the above examples starting to happen to you, leave as soon as you can. Trust your instincts if you notice your time disappearing or ask someone else whom you know well and find out what they think. I have learned that I will NEVER let someone take advantage of me again or control my life to extent that I had witnessed.

It is now June 17, 2008, I am 24 years old, married, a senior in college, and working full time at a reputable company. Life has never been better. Now I am sailing free and in control of my life on an open ocean. The future is mine! My husband and I are working hard to become millionaires someday….and that will be another story.

Update 12/23/08
I recently had an MRI to determine the cause of the pain I have suffered in my back for the past three years. The doctors are convinced it was due to my training for so long. We will see later in the week what type of back issue I have. They think it might be arthritis.

I have also heard through the grape vine that the instructor has sold his business and has has retired. His wife became ill. I wonder about this...? I understand he is getting old now but I also wonder if it is because half of his students left after he fired me and the other black belt and the recession...

Update 6/10/09
Doctor explained I have a herniated disk. I must take medication and exercise daily to keep the pain to a minimum. Lately, hiking in the mountains with my husband, friends and new dog has been quite a healer.

I am eagerly awaiting my graduation in spring of 2010. Still having dreams about the martial arts school 3-4 times a week though...maybe I need to talk to a professional someday.

Any other students have a similar experience? I really would like to hear people's insights and thoughts.

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Re: Martial Arts Nightmare: A modern cult experience
Posted by: Sparky ()
Date: June 11, 2009 08:33AM

Wow...are you sure you weren't in business sales? That sure would have summed it up!

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Re: Martial Arts Nightmare: A modern cult experience
Posted by: Keir ()
Date: July 07, 2009 07:32AM

You should also go to
They deal alot with martial art frauds, quackery and touch abit on martial art related cults.

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Re: Martial Arts Nightmare: A modern cult experience
Posted by: Jupiter ()
Date: July 14, 2009 01:33AM

Yeah, is a brilliant site. I absolutely love martial arts but my experience in a different (non-martial art, but in some respects similar) cult makes me extremely wary of dedicating myself to anything. I've never studied TKD but I spent about a month in a different Korean dojang and when they told me I would make black belt within a year I looked them up on bullshido and found some really dodgy stuff, so I simply walked away before I got involved. I can fully empathise with the aspect of constant nightmares and worry and having your life ripped apart.

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