The following warning signs may help you detect pseudo-masters. They are merely warning signs, so the presence of one or more of the signs does not necessarily mean a claim is false. However, the presence of one of more of the signs should cause you to question a pseudo-master.
- Pitches the art directly to the media. The integrity a martial art rests on the willingness of the founder to expose new ideas and findings to the scrutiny of other experts in the field. Thus, experts expect their colleagues to reveal new findings to them initially. An attempt to bypass peer review by taking a new claim directly to the media, such as in infomercials, suggests that the claim is unlikely to stand up to close examination by other experts.
- Claims a powerful establishment is trying to suppress the work. The claim is that the martial arts establishment will stop at nothing to suppress new techniques that might shift the balance of wealth and power in traditional martial arts. The pseudo-master may claim that mainstream martial arts are a part of a larger conspiracy that even includes the government.
- Evidence provided is always thin. Pseudo-masters never provide any clear evidence of any special power to resist pain or how people are able to toughen the body to resist damage when lying on swords or broken glass. When evidence is lacking or is weak, the effect nothing special.
- Evidence is mostly anecdotal. Anecdotes have a very strong emotional impact, they serve to keep superstitious beliefs alive in an age of science. Just because students swear that a "Master's" techniques are supernatural, it does not mean they are.
- Pseudo-master says a belief is credible because it has endured for centuries. There is a persistent myth that hundreds or even thousands of years ago that our ancestors possessed miraculous remedies and powers that modern science cannot understand. Much of what is termed "alternative medicine" or "secret fighting techniques" is part of that myth.
- Pseudo-master has worked in isolation. The image of a master who struggles in secrecy in an obscure school and ends up making a revolutionary breakthrough in fighting techniques is a part of the fiction of Hollywood action films. Breakthroughs are almost always the result of the work of many people working on different aspects of a problem.
- Pseudo-master has to propose new laws of nature to explain an observation. A new law of nature, used to explain something extraordinary, must not conflict with what is already known. If a pseudo-master must change existing laws of nature or propose new laws to account for an observation, it is almost certainly wrong.