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Can a martial arts instructor demand unquestioning respect from their students, and their students' parents, if they don't behave in a respectful way? For example, cheating in a competition and trying to cover it up?

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    Anyone can demand anything. I can demand to be Prince of Mars. If any of my instructors tried to demand respect from my 60+ year old parents, I will be amused, and probably post the video to youtube. I'm not sure that would be willing to give respect to anyone who had to demand it. Respect (should be) earned, not demanded. – Mark C. Wallace Mar 26 '17 at 21:51
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    I think Matt Damon already has the "Prince of Mars" title with "The Maritan"... – mutt Mar 26 '17 at 22:39
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    The more I read of this question, the more I'm reminded that the first three things to judge in any dojo are "Teacher, Teacher and Teacher." There are plenty of teachers out there - what does this individual provide to make up for this attitude? Go find a teacher who respects you. – Mark C. Wallace Mar 26 '17 at 23:43
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No! No way in Hell or Heaven!

Anyone who demands respect, does not deserve any whatsoever.1 Respect is earned, respect is given, but respect is never demanded.

As an aside, unquestionable respect is a sure sign of a cult mentality. This is a dangerous mental state that can lead to much pain and suffering.

Anyone who advocates cheating in competition is a worthless failure of a human and a martial artist. To pre-empt: competition and fighting are not the same thing… This only applies to competition.

Anyone who advocates either bending the rules or their sprit in competition is highly suspicious and should be taken with a pinch of salt. Winning at all costs does have a price. Some think it worth paying, others take the moral high road.

In addition to the question and the many comments made, this teacher behaves like a idiot. I would strongly recommend you seek training elsewhere.

Needless to say (right⸮), politeness is your prerogative. You should be polite in your dealing with anyone, even in dealing with a worthless and contemptible person or group of people.


1: There are a few exception to this rule, although they are so minor that the generality stands.

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    I strongly agree with you that respect should be earnt. I think this teacher believes he has to be respected because he is a 3rd degree black belt. He has said that he will not listen to anyone but his superiors. He won't even listen to another 3rd degree in the club. I wasn't sure on the martial arts culture of respect, and it's similarities with the military stile of hierarchy. This person is ex army, so not sure how much of the demanding respect comes from there, and how much comes from martial arts culture. – reggie Mar 27 '17 at 7:26
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    @reggie Third dan means "I understands the basics", nothing more. And he demands respect for that? That teacher behaves like a idiot. I would strongly recommend you seek training elsewhere. – Sardathrion - against SE abuse Mar 27 '17 at 8:37
  • @Sardathrion: what third dan means varies enormously. As one counter-example, Shin-Kyokushin's Tsukamoto Norichika is a third dan, and it's absurd to describe him as anything less than a master. – Tony D Mar 29 '17 at 2:10
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    @TonyD Ranks are a mere guideline… – Sardathrion - against SE abuse Mar 29 '17 at 6:46
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    I've arranged to join another class today. Very sad to leave all my good friends, but the instructor is an utter disgrace! – reggie Mar 31 '17 at 20:03
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Can a martial arts instructor demand unquestioning respect from their students, and their students' parents, if they don't behave in a respectful way? For example, cheating in a competition and trying to cover it up?

It's obvious what answer you want to hear, and you're framing your question to divert attention from the important bit which is that someone's cheated and tried to cover it up. Sadly, your question is unclear though: is the teacher demanding respect after an incident where...

1) the student cheated, or

2) despite the teacher having cheated?

If the student cheated, it's reasonable for the instructor to give the student an ultimatum - own up, apologise, possibly accept some punishment / demotion, agree not to do it again - or get (stripped of rank? and) expelled. He or she's can reasonably expect certain standards of behaviour from the people (s)he chooses to teach, and will hopefully have made those expectations clear to them from the start, but sometimes it's common sense.

If the instructor cheated, and is trying to bully people out of calling him out on it, then that's sad and pathetic and you really should leave the dojo yourself and find a better instructor elsewhere.

You also commented on a deleted answer: When in the hall, what if the instructor doesn't instruct most of the students and focuses on his and his girlfriend's kids? - again, if your instructor has such an attitude then you're better off training elsewhere.

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  • The instructor cheating is but one of many examples of poor integrity from this instructor. The central question was about unquestional respect within a Martian arts environment. The students have to recite the taekwon-do oath" ... I shall respect our instructors and seniors..." Maybe it should say "... if they behave in a respectfully way!..." I'm not trying to skew the question by adding the information on cheating, this instructor demands unquestionable respect , even though he lacks integrity. I know the answer to this question outside a martial arts envirmont, but not within. – reggie Mar 29 '17 at 10:42
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    @reggie The taekwondo oath is stupid, reflecting Confuscian values. General Choi wanted to make more of TKD than was warranted, and bolted overly simplistic ethics on the side. Such values have often used to reinforce hierarchical power structures, where it's quite deliberate there's no "if they behave in a respectful way" - it's encouraged to have faith rather than question or judge authority. Anyway, the answer within a martial arts environment is the same as without, you shouldn't respect people who clearly don't deserve it, and you should find another instructor. – Tony D Mar 29 '17 at 17:15

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