Most martial arts associations today offer very similar benefits: rank recognition, instructor certification, school charters, style recognition, etc. Our Association offers the same credentials to our members, and there's nothing wrong with that, but unfortunately that's where the benefits of most organizations end. Some will give you a patch, feature you on their website, give you the opportunity to host them for a seminar at your school, opportunities for rank advancement and all of this is great but where is the real benefit? Everything I've just listed is superficial. Don't get me wrong, having legitimate credentials is of the utmost importance but what else can an organization offer you besides that? Unfortunately, the biggest incentive of these organizations is to be able to name drop, to say you're affiliated with some well known people. It's a big ego stroke, but nothing more.
Multi-style organizations were founded with the original purpose of maintaining records of "who's who" for posterity and offering an avenue for continued training, even cross-training. That organization should function with the needs of the individual in mind. They should provide information, instruction, group gatherings, business support, marketing support, help with certificate design, and so much more. An organization should exemplify the definition of brotherhood, not just use it as a slogan. You should be able to call any of the members at any time and feel like part of a family. You should feel that no matter what, the members of that organization will support you and stand by you. That organization should hold its members to a higher standard, to truly be the elite of the martial arts community not only on the mat but off as well. They should recognize their members for what they do for their communities, not just how many rank exams they've taken. It wasn't until I joined a legitimate brotherhood that I understood the difference, and now that I run the US Association of Martial Arts, that's exactly what I strive to bring to our members. Along with our partner organizations (see above tabs), we plan to revolutionize the martial arts community and set a higher standard.
Whether you join the USAMA specifically or another organization is irrelevant. This article is not meant to be an advertisement for us. Just keep in mind that when you're looking around through what seems to be an endless sea of associations, make sure that the organization of your choice can back up their claims of prestige. As martial artists, we are bound by a code of ethics. Respect, Integrity and Honor are not just flash words to draw in new students, they need to be our way of life. Is the prestige merely having your certificate signed by a semi well-known practitioner who has never even met you, or is it truly an honor to be a part of that brotherhood? Remember this. Certificates are only as valuable as the respect you have for those who signed it. What else are you really getting out of it?