An open letter to the martial arts community from Ryan Hall

Ryan Hall writes a long-form letter to the martial arts community covering some of the perils of cultish behavior and other issues. This letter is of increased importance with recent tragic developments in the martial arts world over the last month.

This is a slightly different post for Bloody Elbow as Ryan Hall reached out to us, asking if we would be interested in helping to spread the word on his recent open letter to the martial arts community. This is important in light of recent, horrible situations in the martial arts world and, as such, we decided to run the following from Ryan.


"The things that will destroy America are prosperity at any price, peace at any price, safety first instead of duty first, the love of soft living, and the get rich quick theory of life." -- Theodore Roosevelt

Hello everyone.

Over the past week, certain revelations have come to light about awful, subhuman behavior on the part of a number of members of our community, some of whom I know personally.

The worst of this is certainly the work of some truly reprehensible individuals who seem to think that they have the right to destroy the dignity and innocence of others in the pathetic service of their own desires. Some of them will hopefully bear the full brunt of the justice system’s penalty for the atrocities they have committed. Others may not be liable to judgment at the hands of the courts, but should in no way be excused for their own disgusting acts both past and recent.

Somewhat less grievous, but still staggering in its absurd level of insensitivity, cultish wagon circling, and revolting lack of perspective has been the response of certain individuals who feel the need to blindly defend the actions of those with whom they are associated. I cannot say for certain if this is born out of some sort of woefully misguided sense of loyalty or if it is simply the basest act of self-preservation, aimed at protecting a reputation built on the connection to someone discovered to be wholly disreputable. Regardless, I would think that the vast majority of people should agree that their behavior is beyond repulsive not only its dismissiveness of the suffering of the victims involved in this debacle, but also in their staunch refusal to exercise the analytical portion of their brains and reason for themselves in anything other than a completely self-serving manner.

Making matters worse, some who would consider themselves "good" people are remaining silent, either unable or unwilling to put integrity over solidarity and financial interest. They have looked on passively as their associates have scrambled to cover their tracks, to duck and dodge inquiry into matters so grave that they demand a response. Disappointing. Many will hide behind the "I wasn’t there, it’s not my place to say anything" defense. This is a completely unacceptable stance given the information in evidence. Their reluctance to act speaks volumes about either their weak character or their already being under some level of mental control.

It has been correctly noted over the course of history that all that is necessary for evil to thrive is the indifference or inaction of otherwise decent people. Are we really willing to accept this truth and still remain seated?

As someone who has occupied a number of roles and stations in the martial arts community since I first became involved with it, I believe that I may be able to shed some light on why things are progressing as they are, as well as provide a cautionary tale for others who I hope will be able to avoid the pitfalls that I often plunged face-first into due to my naïvely trusting in the good (or at the very least neutral) intentions of the people over top of me.

Respectfully Submitted,

Ryan Hall

Fifty/50 Jiu-Jitsu

For my full story and take on where our community is heading, please visit and download the PDF file

Topics Include:

- My Story

- Hero Worship and the Martial Arts

- You May Think You Know Your Coach, But You Probably Don’t

- Innocence and Trust Capitalized on for Manipulation

- Martial Arts as a Means of Generating a Cult Following


" The phrase, "martial arts," evokes an interesting mix of images in the mind’s eye of the uninitiated: warriors training, students listening intently to the secrets dispensed by a wizened sensei who holds the secret to inner and outer strength.

Certain words come to mind as well; words like respect, honor, humility, strength. What the uninitiated do not see through the too-often artificial veneer of piety and positivity is that underneath can lurk a world of manipulation, opportunism, and ego gratification. They do not know that these words and the feelings that they engender in us are, frequently, simple fodder for empty platitudes that are used to gain influence over us and generate blind trust. Is this so different from the rest of the world? Perhaps not at its face, but the reality is far more insidious. "

" The reality of cult-type situations is that they are seductive. As human beings, we all like to feel included, feel like part of the group. Better still is being part of something special that "they" (read: anyone outside the group) don’t understand and may, in the mind of the cultist, be jealous of. Once you have that feeling, you are likely to want it again, so badly and unconsciously that you may already be under its influence. You have been taken in by clever marketing, specifically designed to capitalize on your desire to feel strong, in the right, not part of just any group, but THE group. You are not a bad person; you are simply a person—emotional, sometimes erratic, often tribal.

The chief tool of the manipulator and the base of the pillar of a cult is dependency—financial, social, professional, emotional—without it, control is difficult to attain and more difficult to sustain. It is critical that we train ourselves to sense any attempts at manipulation and unwanted control made by others. If we do not, we open ourselves up to a terrifying scenario: given a long enough period of exposure to negative influence and great enough need for validation from the group, an individual may begin to forget what they were like, who they were, before they relied so heavily on others for their sense of self. "

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