“They drank the koolaid” is our shorthand for martial artists who have displayed even low levels of cult-like behavior. It is a reference to Jim Jones who took his little cult to Guyana and convinced them (forced them? Some? All? Who was there who lived and can tell the whole story?) to drink poisoned grape koolaid. It offered them a chance to go to the next world as a unit, I suppose.
There are a few words I have to explain here that I may not use in the common way- bias, prejudice and bigotry.
Bias is just a statement of preference. I like steak better than cauliflower, as do all right-thinking people. Jamieson’s Irish whisky better than Bushmill’s and Ardbeg scotch better than either. I don’t have a lot of trouble with biases.
I don’t have a lot of problem with prejudice, either. We all pick up clues based on appearances about what is likely to trigger our biases. I expect a green glass soda bottle to have something citrus in it, not a cola or root beer. I prefer to not eat at a restaurant that smells bad from the outside.
In human terms, I don’t like stupid, lazy or rude people. I just don’t. Those are some of my biases. My prejudices, however (and I try not to show it, that would be rude) are that I expect slow people to be stupid, obese people to be lazy, and loud people to be rude.
It’s not always true. It is true often enough that it is reinforced.
However I know and cherish people who have triggered all of my prejudices without proving them out.
Here’s the thing- prejudice only becomes bigotry when you cling to your belief in the face of facts. When you treat someone as if they are lazy or stupid when they have proven that they aren’t, that’s bigotry. These are my personal definitions.
It is related to the talismanic thinking in the martial arts.
We all have our preferences, biases. I’m an infighter. I know people who like grappling; who like striking; knife guys; gun guys; people who work out in pristine white pajamas and people who work out in their work clothes. It’s all good. Just preferences.
Then there are prejudices-e.g. “sports martial arts are better for streetfighting”; “grappling is the most practical”; “winning at (insert your contest of choice here) is the best way to find out if something works”; “the guys in white pajamas don’t play hard”; “the guys who wear camo are bad asses”; “older styles are more real”… These are just beliefs that people have about what constitutes a valid clue. If you have been paying attention, have both an open and a critical mind, you can use your prejudices to quickly narrow down the field and choose something you are likely to be happy with. Generally, that’s cool.
It becomes a problem when facts cease to matter. Actually, only a problem for me.
For most people, martial arts is about fear management, not danger management. It is a way to feel that they have “a pretty good chance” or that they can “take care of themselves”. It’s about the feeling, not the ability. So becoming blindly dogmatic, absolutely certain that your Purple Lotus of Screaming Death Style is the end-all and be-all vastly increases your fear management. It makes good sense, from that point of view, to ignore those annoying little things called ‘facts’ and even to shut out experience- in extreme cases, even your own experience. So it generally really isn’t a problem for the koolaid drinker himself (and no one seems to be able to call it koolaid while they are drinking it). It’s only a perceived problem, and only for me, because I look at it through that dastardly danger-management lens.
There are levels of koolaid drinking. People who believe that their master has a scroll that is older than the native country’s written language or that their unarmed style was designed to fight mounted warriors. Those are pretty extreme.
It’s a group thing, too. Martial arts (and other specialized societies) create tight little self-reinforcing communities. Sometimes it is formal- the hierarchy specifically discourages dissent. Sometimes it is informal with the students banding together to protect the integrity of their fantasy.