Politics is present everywhere to some degree or another. In many senses politics is necessary, but when it becomes more of a focus than the real task at hand and starts to take over, it becomes a problem.
I have found martial arts to have more politics and drama than just about anything else I have come across – on a club level and an organizational level. There seems to be an incessant need to vie for power and screw other people over. For an activity that preaches so much about morality, honor and loyalty it seems there is much to be desired.
The politics in a martial arts organization should be left to the handful that needs to deal with such things. I have never met a student who started training in martial arts to get involved in the politics of it. There are many reasons why a student may start training. Self-defense, fitness, meeting new people with a common interest, getting into shape, fun, etc. Every student has his own reason for starting a martial arts journey, but I’m sure none seek out clubs in order to add drama to their lives. A student should be focusing on training, honing his skills and enjoying what he is doing, not worrying about what some guy said about some other guy that he doesn’t even know.
Instructors may have a difficult task at times. They may need to act as a representative of their club on organizational level, and as boss and mediator within their own club.
On organizational level it is up to the instructor to take care of their student’s best interests within the martial art, and so, to some degree, may have to become involved in the politics and give a certain amount of input. The key here is to look out for the student’s best interests without directly involving them in the mess of things. The student should take comfort in the knowledge that their instructor will act in their best interest within the organization. Students should not even know about the politics at this level. They should be happy to be at training because that is what they are there to do.
On club level it is up to the instructor to make sure that there is no politics among the students, and if there is, nip it in the bud before it can blossom. The instructor needs to keep a firm grip on the reigns make it known that there is no room for drama and spreading of rumors within the club. Nothing can kill a club quicker than a drama seeking student. Instructors need to keep an ear to the ground and keep check of any rumors spreading – and they will spread – martial artists seem to gossip more than women in a sewing circle. The instructor needs to have his eyes peeled to spot any manipulation and be strong enough to bring any wayward student back in line.
Spreading rumors, creating drama and vying for power takes away from the martial art, the training and the students. When a martial arts club becomes too political the students no longer enjoy the training! It is up to the instructors to minimize the political backlash and up to the students to be conscious enough not to get involved in political disputes.
A person who is interested in politics should rather pursue a career as a politician. Train in martial arts because you love it and don’t let other goings on influence and effect what you have set out to accomplish.