I recently got into a verbal sparring match with an individual on YouTube who had a lot of negative comments for a video we posted. Our video, "Fighting With Aikido," was intended to demonstrate the difference between fighting and sparring and how we attempt to apply aikido techniques to a physical confrontation. We frequently wear MMA gloves during practice in order to provide training beyond traditional boundaries and explore the techniques in a different way. This video was taken during one of those sessions. It was impromptu, unplanned. We weren't actually trying to make a video, but we thought it would be a good example of what we do.
Of course, not everyone thought so.
This individual commented on our lack of fighting ability, compared us to MMA, etc., etc. I then questioned his martial arts background, which brought even more ranting. I used what I thought was sufficient reasoning for what we presented and I was very careful and respectful. I tried to "aiki" my way around this situation by redirecting his negative energy. It didn't work. There was no reasoning with this guy. What I should have done was to avoid the confrontation and allow him to have his opinion. That would have been the budo way to handle it. I guess I'm still learning.
In the days before the internet, if people were curious about your martial art, they would come to your dojo and try it out. Maybe they past by the store front or saw your add in the phone book. Those of us who have been in the game for a long time remember "open mat nights" when anybody could come in, pay their ten dollars and fight whoever they wanted. If some one didn't believe the jujutsu or karate our school offered was effective, they could jump into any class and try it out...the hard way. Some people may view this as egotistical and pugilistic but I always thought it was a great way to learn. After all, I was one of those young punks when I started and I had to be educated the same way.
On the other hand, posting videos on the internet opens a school up to all kinds of rants and ridicule from nameless individuals. Instead of having to muster the courage to walk into a dojo and actually see and feel what it teaches, these folks can throw verbal jabs from miles away from the safety of their homes, bars and coffee houses. Thus, the onus or burden of proof lies with the school or entity posting the video. Some schools and organizations spend lots of money and time putting up very well produced videos. And yet, even they get the same abuse. We simply do not have that kind of money or time. Even if we did, it wouldn't matter how good or authentic our videos looked...someone out there would put it down...because they can.
We will continue to put videos out there. Despite the drawbacks, we believe it's a great way to educate people on the value of we do and hopefully gain some local interest. We may have to deal with the occasional "internet sensei" but that's okay. What matters most is how we affect the people closest to us...our students, our families and the people we physically interact with every day.