Whenever there's a group of people, bullies will find a way to infiltrate even the most noble of circles. They seek out a target and sink their venomous jaws into them, for reasons such as jealousy, inferiority, self consciousness, etc. More often than not, these snakes have little experience with their victims and are speaking from a place of ignorance and hate. The truth is that they're intimidated, and feel that should their victim gain any success it undermines them. Now, my first martial arts instructor when I was a little kid made it a point to tell me that we're all on our own journey and nothing anyone else does affects us in anyway. Apparently, these cowards didn't get the memo. Here's just one story in the sea of martial arts bullies (in the interest of anonymity, their names will be kept out of this article).
In today's world, it's highly frowned upon to go around breaking people's thumbs so instead, we write negative reviews of their school and try to run them out of business. Mr. Smith even went so far as to have his students write negative reviews so the internet would be flooded with verbal assaults against Mr. Doe. If that's not grade school bullying, I don't know what is. Now fortunately for Mr. Doe, I was in a very similar situation when I first broke away and did my own thing. Both my instructor and I have agreed to mentor Mr. Doe through this process, where education will be his best tool.
But Mr. Doe's story is all too common. From the time we enroll in martial arts, we are spoon fed the idea that we are not allowed to break from tradition, because the founders of "traditional" systems never broke away from what they were taught. Oh wait, yes they did or those "traditional" systems wouldn't exist. We're not allowed to be independent, because our fascist government requires us to pay outrageous membership fees to an oversees organization. Nope, not true either. And God forbid, we are not allowed to open up a school anywhere near our previous affiliates. Now, I don't know about your area, but in my town there are over 13,000 kids enrolled in public school alone. Factor in all of the charter schools and home school groups, plus potential adult students, and you probably have 20,000 potential students. Even if my school has 200 students, that's only 1% of the population. Surely, there's enough to go around.
That being said, if you are branching out from your instructor and are continually seeking their guidance and instruction, opening up right across the street may not be the best plan. Even if you sever ties with them and leave on horrible terms, it's still technically disrespectful to open up in the same area. However, that's between you and your former instructor. It's no excuse for them to commit slander and libel to run you out of business. That's where dojo busting came in years ago, and I certainly got my fair share of it. No, I am not condoning dojo busting but it's certainly better than cowardly hiding behind a keyboard trying to smear someone's reputation out of jealousy and intimidation. I feel like we're all kindergartners, and forgot to hear the teacher tell us "If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all."
So, if you're the victim of martial arts bullying, what do you do? It's not like you're in the school yard and you're being shaken down for your lunch money. If so, I'd recommend dropping the bully with a swift punch to the throat. But bullies in the martial arts are not as simple. They fight from the safety of their armchair, typing away. Because if something's on the internet, it's automatically true.
But just as I'm helping Mr. Doe understand, the best thing you can do is be informed. Hold yourself to a higher standard, don't get sucked into their game. Pursue your studies and gain as much information (both physical and historical) as you can. Ignore the chatter, and when you have to respond keep it respectful. Sooner or later, people will notice. They'll notice your growth, they'll notice the way you carry yourself. And most importantly, they'll notice the immaturity of your trolls until finally they crawl back under the bridge. It took me nearly 8 years and an exorcism to finally shake all of my demons, so I'm not saying this is an immediate fix. But remember, you're on your own journey. As long as you're growing and learning, sharing the right information for your students, it doesn't matter what they say.