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Martial arts: Super salespeople

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Modern pseudo-masters are super salespeople. They play on fear, cater to hope,and, once they have you, they will keep you coming back for more. Seldom do their victims realize how often or how skillfully they have been cheated.

Most people think that a pseudo-master would be easy to spot, but sometimes it difficult to separate fact from hype. Many pseudo-masters use scientific terms and quote (or misquote) scientific references. Many think of a pseudo-master as a weird, loud person with outlandish ideas, so they are fooled by the smooth talking, well dressed, seemly educated pseudo-masters. How many people do you know who believe in acupuncture, parapsychology, death touch, walking on hot coals, crystal power, pyramid power, the plants can communicate, astrology, etc.

Pseudo-masters are not promoting the quality of their arts, but their ability to influence people. To those who feel victimized by bullies, they promise relief. To those who feel victimized by crime, they promise to make you a killing machine. To the health-conscious, they promise good health. Pseudo-masters reach people by appealing to their emotions. The following are some of the ways they do it:

  • Appeal to vanity. Pseudo-masters appeal to your curiosity and persuade you give their art a try and see if it works. When you notice some results, then they appeal to your vanity to convince you to disregard scientific fact in favor of your personal experience. Anytime a person tries something new, he or she will notice some changes and results; that how fad diets work. Usually people notice results because they are desperate for some results. Pseudo-masters will tell you that traditional styles are outdated. They convince you that although their techniques have been proven not to work for other people, they still might work for you—because you are special
  • Turn students into salespeople. Most people, who think they have been helped by an unorthodox art, enjoy sharing their success stories with their friends. People who give such testimonials are usually motivated by a sincere wish to help their friends. Rarely do they realize how difficult it is to evaluate any martial art on the basis of personal experience. Many people experience the placebo effect (see the next item for information on the placebo effect), where a person feels better merely because he or she has taken a positive step in his or her life. Since we tend to believe what others tell us of their personal experiences, testimonials may be powerful persuaders. Despite their unreliability, they are the cornerstone of a pseudo-master's success. Some pseudo-masters systematically turn their students into salespeople.
  • Use involuntary actions. Pseudo-masters use the involuntary thoughts and motions that occur in people to fool the public into thinking that the pseudo-masters have special powers. Sometimes, pseudo-masters fool themselves to the point that they actually believe they have special powers. People who claim to find water using "divining rods" are in this last category. They hold rods or sticks loosely in their hands and claim that the rods come together when the person is standing over water. They believe that divining works and are unaware that they are actually involuntarily moving the rods.
  • Use of fear. A slick way for pseudo-masters to attract students is to invent a problem. For example, by exploiting news reports of crime, a pseudo-master may convince you that crime is rampant in your city or neighborhood when in reality it is statistically lower than average
  • Pseudo-mystics. Some pseudo-masters claim they can detect "deficiencies" or "imbalances" in your body before any symptoms appear or before they can be detected by conventional means. Then they show you how their methods can prevent the problems. And, when the terrible consequences they warn about do not develop, they claim success.
  • Try not to think about a yellow Volkswagen Beetle. Once the thought is in your mind, the more you try not to think about it, the more you will think about it. As a child, I used to fool children, and adults, into believing that occult forces were at work by using a string to detect whether or not they were telling the truth. To make a string truth detector, tie a small weight, such as a ring or a small pyramid shaped fishing weight, to the end of a string. Have the victim sit at a table, place an elbow on the table, and hold the other end of the weighted string above a spot on the table using just the thumb and forefinger to hold the string. Have the victim hold the weight still, just above the spot on the table. Tell the person try to keep the weight still and the spirits will make the weight will swing clockwise (to the right) for "yes" and counterclockwise (to the left) for "no" in response to questions you will ask them. Then ask the person simple questions to which you both know the answers. The weight will move according to the correct answer. Then try some personal questions and really get the person frustrated. The harder the person tries to keep the weight still, the more it will move.