Martial Arts Universities: A Review

Discussion in 'Articles' started by SifuPhil, Aug 14, 2012.

  1. SifuPhil

    SifuPhil Lucky Cat Is Lucky


    Most martial artists are focused upon their particular art - indeed, it takes years to gain proficiency in any art so that focus is understandable. They seek only to learn how to defend themselves or how to win tournaments using their particular style's techniques.

    But there's a small segment of martial artists who want it all - they want not only their "base" style but knowledge of many other styles. They want to cross-train; they want the best of everything. They also want to know the history of martial arts, the physiological and psychological basis of the arts as well as how to run a martial arts business.

    Now all of this can be learned by long and hard individual study, but sometimes it helps to have a more structured environment in which to pursue your studies. This is where the concept of the martial arts university comes in - it is formal education, often with certification or the receipt of a diploma, even undergraduate and graduate degrees - in the arts and sciences of the martial arts.

    Only a relative handful of such institutions exist at this point in the United States and far fewer in Europe, and this is one field in which China holds a long lead. China has several very old and very trusted universities and schools devoted solely to instructing the students in the practice and management of martial arts - some even accept foreign students, so if you don't find what you like in YOUR area and you have the time and financial resources you might consider a Chinese school for your education. Be advised that many do not issue degrees, and any degrees you DO receive might not be accepted elsewhere.

    The following is my attempt to gather and evaluate a few these schools, from the point of view of not only a practitioner but also as an experienced business owner. Note that your requirements will almost certainly be different; as always it is totally upon YOU to do the necessary research. This article is only intended to whet your whistle and show you the possibilities, and is not intended to be all-inclusive.

    I also do not guarantee the quality or cost of any of these programs - I have not attended nor graduated from any of them so cannot provide first-person perspectives. Buyer beware.

    B.A. Degree in Martial Arts Studies - University of Bridgeport

    Located in Bridgeport, CT on the grounds of the former P.T. Barnum estate (!), UB offers a B.A. degree in Martial Arts Studies which includes
    • Historical background and philosophical roots of the martial arts
    • Languages and cultures of the societies in which the martial arts originated and developed
    • In-depth study of at least one of the martial arts
    • Psychosocial dimensions of the martial arts and their impact upon personality and society
    The base curriculum includes the following required courses:
    • MARTS 212 The History of Martial Arts
    • MARTS 213 Martial Arts and East Asian Thought
    • MARTS 261 Psychosocial Aspects of Martial Arts
    • MARTS 245 Martial Arts School Development
    • MARTS 299 The Dao of Business
    • MARTS 300 Martial Arts and Research Methods
    • WREL 205 Buddhism
    • WREL 229 Confucianism & Taoism
    • MARTS 278 Survey of the Martial Arts
    • MARTS 311 Communication and the Martial Arts
    • MARTS 312 Image and Reality in the Martial Arts
    • MARTS 330 Internship
    • MARTS 340 Senior Thesis/Presentation
    As the "practical" part of the course you are required to choose from among only three styles - Taekwondo, Karate-do or Taijiquan. This I believe is a shortcoming of this course - students will certainly have far more differing tastes than just these three. But the core curricula seems rounded enough at first glance.

    Undergrad degrees cost approx. $13,000 per semester, along with all the associated fees. Graduate programs charge $620 per credit hour.

    The nice thing is that you earn your belts while you're simultaneously learning the theoretical, historical and business-related aspects of the arts, a style of learning which I wholeheartedly endorse.

    University of Bridgeport - Home

    MBA Degree in Martial Arts Management - Horizons University (Online/Intensives)

    Horizons offers a two-year MBA degree in Martial Arts Management with a concurrent study of WKF-sanctioned Karate leading to a Black Belt rank (French WKF-issued) through a combination of home study via video testing and in-person Black Belt training and testing.

    Year One:
    • Leadership of Contemporary Business Organizations
    • Financial Resource Management
    • Global Integration Processes
    • Business Research Application
    • Thesis and Internship
    Year Two:
    • Martial Arts Management
    • Martial Arts Communication Skills
    • Comparative Martial Arts
    • Martial Arts in Competition
    • Thesis and Internship
    I'm not really happy with the online-learning aspect of a physical martial art; even with the optional in-person workshops and mandated in-person testing for Black Belt I feel there are just too many hurdles that can be encountered in such a set-up. The core curricula seems acceptable, if a bit thin (no history or philosophy). Granted it's an MBA degree, but that's no reason not to have a well-rounded education in the arts.

    Tuition is $4,600 / semester, which includes all fees and materials and membership in the KOTA on-line karate training program.

    Horizons Online

    Certificate, A.A. and B.A. Degrees in Martial Arts Studies - The American Martial Arts College

    This is a brand-new institution located in San Antonio, TX that is not yet operational nor accredited. It plans to offer both on-line and residency programs; their plan is to offer only on-line training (with two 1-week residencies) for the first two years until accreditation, then switch to the combined program.

    I have to say that in looking at their curriculum I am impressed - it's pretty much what I had in mind for my own school: comprehensive enough to give a thorough grounding in the arts yet pragmatic enough to provide for business success.

    The "dean" of this college, Jason McLendon, seems to have an interesting background - an MBA in Organizational Security Management, a Yondan (4th degree Black Belt) in Karate, over ten years in the military teaching anti-terrorist and security courses and owns two currently-operating dojos. If nothing else, I give the man credit for his breadth of experience - at least on paper it appears he can walk the walk.

    Fees: As a consequence of not being accredited AMAC cannot accept any financial-aid applications or participate in any government-aid programs, so their current prices are relatively low - $65 / credit hour. Once they receive their accreditation they will increase their fees to around $350 / credit hour.

    My overall impression? Impressive on paper - not sure how it will all pan-out, and the lack of accreditation is a troubling aspect. Without it your degree is virtually useless except in the most self-directed educational sense.

    The American Martial Arts College

    M.S. Degree in Martial Arts - Amerstate University

    Located in Racine, WI, Amerstate offers a full-residency Master of Science degree in Martial Arts. Their requirements for entrance are somewhat rigorous:
    • Proof of Bachelors degree
    • 4th degree or higher Black Belt
    • 12 years proven teaching experience
    • Certification of qualification as "Master Instructor" in martial arts
    It seems to me that these requirements will severely limit the available student pool, as well as being somewhat questionable in terms of the "Master Instructor" requirement. Perhaps I'm missing something here, but if you've already been teaching for 12 years you've either succeeded or failed - you probably won't need what this degree program teaches you.

    But if you DO have the requisite qualifications, the time and the resources this might be an interesting program. Everything takes place in one large building - separate male and female dormitories on the top two floors, a large martial training area and such niceties as a cafeteria, lounge, computer lab - even a golf range and bowling alley.

    Their accreditation is questionable; they are a non-profit organization with the "approval" of the Wisconsin State Educational Board, but there is no mention of a national, recognized accreditation.

    Tuition is $13,600 / year (2009-2010 prices); with living expenses, mandatory insurance and fees and materials you're looking at over $27,000 per year.

    The curriculum fits the M.S. designation in that it offers little in the way of business knowledge, history or philosophy and never touches on allied modalities such as TCM; instead it focuses solely on development of the physical aspects of martial arts,competition and judging. It almost appears to be "finishing school" for the advanced practitioner, but if this is what you're looking for then give them a call.

    Overall Impression: Not sure of this place. If they're still operating they should have recently graduated their fourth class this past spring - not a very long track record. In 2009 they had 10 instructors and 26 graduates, so at least you'll be assured of individual attention. The President, Grandmaster Jason Cho, is the nephew of Hee Il Cho, Taekwondo Grandmaster and founder of Action International Martial Arts Association (AIMAA).

    At least he has some good roots.

    Amerstate University

    Schools / Universities in China

    Here's a short list of schools and universities in China that offer both degree and non-degree programs - investigate at your own risk!
    Once again, some of these schools offer English-language training; the others you'll have to know the Chinese language. Some are more accepting of foreign students, some have a more "closed-door" policy.

    Good luck, and good learning!
  3. WonderingFist

    WonderingFist Disciple of Mind

    Gods...I want in!!!! That would be like a dream come true...

    Issues? I can't speak any chinese dialect...and I don't have 13k p/semester....and I may not even have a job afterwards :S
    SifuPhil likes this.
  4. SifuPhil

    SifuPhil Lucky Cat Is Lucky

    I know, right? Talk about wanting to be a full-time student ...

    Yeah, join the club. :(

    But on the bright side, if you DID lose your job you'd be that much closer to being a TRUE martial arts master! ;)
    WonderingFist likes this.
  5. MadoreGojuRyu

    MadoreGojuRyu Master

    Had me cracking up...funny stuff, but oh so true
  6. Judah

    Judah fights in tights

    I remember something similar in Yorkshire, 13 years ago now it was but I went up there to see what was up, basically there was one li'l old man who had a building which needed refurbishment (outside looked ok) and he wanted to start a martial arts university. A very nice idea but a bit impractical. I mean with the fees needed only people like Richard Branson or Robert Kiyosaki could actually afford to study there full time.

    I personally think martial arts should be taught in schools. With martial arts instructors recognised as full teachers with a company car, free accommodation and as much rice as they can eat.. Ok from company car onwards I'm kidding. Being serious again I noticed after I'd been training a year or so I had less violent thoughts when pissed off and there was something about being hit (and hitting others) on a regular basis that gave me a new respect for violence and less enthusiasm for it. I really think this is what today's youth need.

    As for online training of physical skills. I'm against it, some people may be able to learn from merely watching but more often than not they need physical correction. Besides online martial arts training is nothing new, there's a plethora of instructional vids on YouTube including out friend diemond Dave's ninjy school and this chic who just cracks me up, dunno whether it's her accent or that she takes herself so seriously.

    She can train joo to be a super hero meng!
  7. Judah

    Judah fights in tights

    Like Caine in Kung Fu or this dude....

    dmach likes this.
  8. Enkidu

    Enkidu Destroyer of your martial arts fantasies

    Hmmmm... or you could take a variety of martial arts that you are interested in from various skilled teachers (or find academies that have instruction in more than one like many MMA academies) while pursuing a business degree/MBA.
    Judah likes this.
  9. dmach

    dmach Martial Archivest

    Well the US is ahead of Australia in this game. There is no such thing as a University course in Martial Arts in Australia, period. Enough to make you want to immgrate!!

    The best that we can do here is pretty much as Enkidu suggested above... But to have it all wrapped up in a neat little package (one stop shopping as it were) would sure make it easier to get started!!
    SifuPhil likes this.
  10. Master of Nothing

    Master of Nothing Psychotic Pacifist

    As far as an institution ran by multiple stylists with a cooperative operating syllibus. I'm all for it!!

    As far as these "Martial Art College Courses" attached to some university. Utter bullshit overall. I'm not saying someone wouldn't get some knowledge out of one of these things. I'm pointing out that if someone that isn't worth 2 shits as a martial artist can get a degree from a recognized university. Most people like this will think they are qualified to open a school and teach. Further watering down the quality of training in the states. I was asked to be the chief instructor of a friend of a friend's school. He had transferred from a different master (who was a Know-Nothing-Know-It-All) under our master (onkly to claim our lineage-he never trained with us to fix his bad habits he learn).
    At the time he was taking one of these things at a college in Maryland. The course was set up by some korean "master". I ended up helping him with homework and giving him most of the answers. Without picking up one of the assigned books. Many times the "answer" required for questions or essay was just plain wrong. When these differences happened the first thing this guy would do is challenge my knowledge with, "See, you are wrong with this one and you don't know everything". Which only lead to me giving him on average , 8 or more resourses never consideredby the "master" and at least 3 numbers of different grandmaster's from different styles, all backing me up. Later on several occassions, hecomes back to me saying,"I talkedto the "master" about this (him taking credit, of course) and he thanked me for helping improve the class.". I would just nod and say, That's pretty cool."

    I guess my point is that although a martial arts university run by Martial Artists of different styles can work. They can always compare and contrast techniques and philosophies. Making each other and the students, richer.
    A "Martial Arts Degree" is in a sense "Snake-Oil". These courses are usually set up by a "master" trying to get in tight with a government recognized body. Their concern (First & Foremost!) is their own recognition. Everything else is Secondary (students, quality of knowledge, etc.).
    A "master" in a certain style is Not qualified to establish a course in Martial Arts. They can only give their indocturinated view of the arts. Reflectant only on their opinion of what they are. They can establish a course on their respective art. But, not all. Also, many times when the master is of eastern descent. Then the translation barrier between eastern philosophy and western thought gets in the way. This happens when a westerner tries to teach these same principles that he/she themself doesn't fully understand. But will teach anyway because "that's how it is". Instead of just admitting "I don't know".
    On the flipside. Most "cross-trainers" aren't qualified either. Many don't take the time to analyze what they learn. They pick up techniques as fast as possible and move on. Thinking that the more arts under their belt. The higher the skill and knowledge levels. But, it doesn't work that way. These guys usually make up for their lack of understanding by only focusing on the sciences involved with martial arts. Which they can get from any number of publications on martial arts over the years. Using this method only gives the illusion of knowledge.

    If one truly wants to "understand" martial arts. It is a journey that only they can complete. It may be in one style for a lifetime. Or several styles. But, this can only be acheived when the student "Let's Go" of their ego and allowing the knowledge to enter their life. The paradox is. Once a martial artist understands this. They will see that a "course" at a university is pointless.
    SifuPhil likes this.
  11. SifuPhil

    SifuPhil Lucky Cat Is Lucky

    Integration ... you need integration. You'd be running around town all the time from class to class, then going home, dealing with the wife/girlfriend/parents, working three jobs to pay for it all ...

    No, I like the idea of a one-stop shopping experience, 24/7 training, no distractions. Spartan, yes - effective, probably. Possible for many students? Not likely ... but that makes it all that much more special.
    Aaron and WonderingFist like this.
  12. SifuPhil

    SifuPhil Lucky Cat Is Lucky

    True enough, but that also applies to ANY university degree. You get out of it what you put in, and (especially in today's economic climate) there's never a guarantee that you'll be qualified to hold a job in your field just because you have that degree.

    Again, I don't have first-hand knowledge of these institutions nor of their founders, so I can't comment on their motivations.

    I DO know that in MY case when I was considering doing something along these lines (albeit it in a far more rural setting) my first reason for doing so was to create a race of Supermen (and women - gotta have that balance!) that would go forth upon graduation and change the very face of the martial arts world.

    ... my second reason was to make a heap of money.

    True enough - they're Masters of their art, not all the associated arts involved in a degree program. But then, that's why you hire experts in those fields to teach them.

    I think that's a problem that will always be with us in the arts, degree program or Joe's Dojo down the street.


    Personal opinion - colleges these days have become largely job-prep tech schools. They have lost the old-school quest of knowledge for the sake of knowledge - they have become specialized to a fare-thee-well. People come down on liberal arts schools, but at least they are closer to the original model of a university.

    I feel a martial artist could experience the same dichotomy in attending university: they could either look at it as the necessary training for getting a job, or they could use it as a springboard, a starting point for their journey.
  13. Enkidu

    Enkidu Destroyer of your martial arts fantasies

    I dunno... I seem to remember mostly what I did in college and grad school was chase girls, get drunk, and get into an occasionally fight. Kids these days with their whole, "I want to learn stuff" nonsense!
    dmach and SifuPhil like this.
  14. SifuPhil

    SifuPhil Lucky Cat Is Lucky

    You and me both, Brother! :D
    Aaron and Enkidu like this.
  15. Judah

    Judah fights in tights

    I KNEW I'd missed out in something not goin to uni...
  16. Aaron

    Aaron Shadow Warrior

    SifuPhil likes this.
  17. Kevin

    Kevin Admin Staff Member

    That's how I want to live my life. Travelling and martial arts. What more do you want :)
    SifuPhil likes this.
  18. Judah

    Judah fights in tights

    Money and girls. :D
    SifuPhil and Kevin like this.
  19. Kevin

    Kevin Admin Staff Member

    You got me there. Money isn't that important if you have the other three :)
  20. Judah

    Judah fights in tights

    It's a truly wise and blessed man who can have the other three without it :)
  21. Master of Nothing

    Master of Nothing Psychotic Pacifist

    Its always been my dream to kidnap orphans and train them into assasins. Contracting their services to the highest bidder (a government contract would be awesome too).

    Agreed on colleges. They have, like most things in the states. Have become "Less".

    If the University is established by a group of different "lifer" artists. Yes, Absolutely.
    SifuPhil likes this.

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