Code of the Copycat

What follows is a letter I wrote in response to the plagiarism of Coach Blauer's material that me and my students have been observing for some time. The letter was recently published in the August issue of Black Belt magazine just released.

Trevor Wilcox

PDR Team, Hong Kong

Code of the Copy Cat

Rectitude, courage, benevolence, respect, honesty, honor, loyalty. Interwoven, these tenets formed the basis for the Way of the Warrior – the Bushido. Under the Bushido ideal, if you do not have honor, you have nothing. The alternative to not upholding your honor was to regain it through ritual suicide, as was the social custom in medieval Japan. Upholding one's honor was therefore at the forefront of the samurai's mind.

Though we live in a modern society, and ritual suicide is not a social custom anywhere (to my knowledge) including Japan, the Bushido ideal is still propagated today among the traditional arts as a means of self-cultivation. Though a pragmatist to the core, Tony Blauer states he prefers to be called a traditionalist because originally the traditional arts were only about prevailing in real fights that could not otherwise be avoided. While making no explicit references to the Bushido ideal, Mr. Blauer has openly commented on integrity and honesty – brutal honesty with himself about what worked in combat and what didn't for him personally and the subsequent sharing of that information was what led to the development of the Panic Attack system, and now 20 odd years and development later, the S.P.E.A.R. System, Ballistic Micro-Fight, High Gear and Personal Defense Readiness (PDR) systems. The original Panic Attack system spawned a new era in martial arts training in the west that had remained 'stagnant' since the time of Bruce Lee. As Mr. Blauer began to share his findings with the public, a ripple effect had begun that would start to create a safer world. In my own search for the 'truth' in combat, I first had stumbled across Mr. Blauer's research by chance while living in Hong Kong in 2001/2. Who was to know at that point that five years later, I would travel to Montreal to train with Mr. Blauer and his team, be awarded a coaching certification by Mr. Blauer and publish a feature article on the S.P.E.A.R. System in Australia's premier martial arts magazine, Blitz Martial Arts (October 2006) as a result of the impact his research had on me, my personal life and martial art philosophy.

One ripple effect had begun, and so had another, more antagonistic one. Having lived in Hong Kong with frequent visits to mainland China for close to two years, I frequently see street-vendors selling off pirated copies of DVD's and other popular software products. In an industry with a warrior heritage steeped in ideals such as the Bushido, it saddens me to see the same thing happening in the self-defense and martial arts world – it is however much worse than the unauthorized copy and sale of an instructional DVD, as bad as that is already. Contemporary instructors have "created their own systems" and instructional DVD's based on Mr. Blauer's research, often without even so much as an honorable mention, and some to the point where the material presented on these instructional videos are Mr. Blauer's words verbatim, including quotes. If the martial arts industry was a university, these instructors would have been expelled for plagiarism. Such instructors are not only deceiving the public that the material, concepts AND proprietary drills presented, let alone the verbiage, is uniquely theirs and original, they are deceiving themselves to the point that they actually believe their own lies. The tenets of the Bushido seem lost upon these instructors who seem to follow the code of the Copy Cat: dishonesty, appropriation, plagiarism, manipulation and deception.

My concern, aside from these amoral and unethical practices, is that it is dangerous to the consumer. Any misinterpretation, misunderstanding or misconstruing of the research that is then sold to unsuspecting consumers becomes like a game of Chinese-whispers - the twisting of information in an attempt to make it appear unique and original dilutes the original concept, and in so doing, may encumber student's survivability. In the name of making a buck and boosting their ego, these instructors are not fulfilling their social responsibility as self-defense instructors, which is to provide information that will enhance their student's survivability, certainly not encumber it. Caveat Emptor – Buyer Beware.

Sophocles said that it's better to fail with honor than succeed by fraud. His words apply as much to business as they do to life.