Article by Samuel Browning.
Local Winter Haven Man Leads Way In Selling Mail Order Black Belt Certificates
Chad Sloman had heard the rumors before. For years in the martial arts community there have been whispers. "Want to impress some guilible potential students with your martial arts skills, but don't have the actual background? Pay a fee to join a martial arts hall of fame or buy a black belt ranking which you can hang on your wall to impress little Johnny and his soccer mom." In March a friend told Chad about The Dojo, and Dojo Press, a site [http//dojopress.com/catalogms2.htm offering to rank to all those who passed certain qualifications], operating out of P.O. Box 209, Lake Alfred, Florida.
Certification, suitable for framing, in your chosen system of fighting arts can be awarded upon presentation of previous credentials at Yudansha/Black Belt Level or above. Prior certification or documentation eliminates the video testing requirement. Qualified Military Hand-to-Hand Combat or Self-Defense Experts are eligible for this Certificate. No additional training required. Get credit for what you already know.
But wait! One also receives:
DOJO ID Card and 8 1/2 x 11 Certificate of Rank and Membership in The DOJO-Academy of Martial Arts, a subsidiary of BLACK BELT INTERNATIONAL the parent company and Representative Commission for dozens of styles and martial arts clubs worldwide. Video Testing is available as part of the Fee, and will be evaluated by recognized instructors and sanctioned in whatever school or freestyle method is designated by the applicant.
A investigation by members of Bullshido.net, a website devoted to discussing and investigating questionable behavior in the martial arts has uncovered the following. By a minimum of clear and convincing evidence we have discovered that the man running this site, is named Radford W. Davis, and he has been using the pseudonyms of both Ashida Kim and Chris Hunter since at least 1980. Starting in 1980 Davis has published approximately a dozen Ninja related books1 achieved greater circulation then the publications of legitimate Ninjutsu masters like Masaaki Hatsumi and Stephen Hayes who traveled to Japan to study with Hatsumi. Davis, whose "ninja" alias incorrectly mixes a Japanese first name with a Korean last name, has been operating his enterprise out of its current Lake Alfred Florida post office box for well over a decade.2
Background of the Investigation
Though Ninjutsu was first widely seen in America in the 1967 James Bond move 'You Only Live Twice' it really emerged in the American public consciousness starting in 1980 when ninjas and Ninjutsu were shown to the American public in the Miniseries 'Shogun', and the Chuck Norris vehicle 'The Octagon'. By the time the 1981 Cannon Group's movie 'Enter the Ninja', was in release, the martial arts community had descended into the Ninja craze.3
This trend fueled the rise a number of uncredentialed teachers of which Davis has been perhaps the most successful. Davis is also known in martial arts circles for using without permission the name of the Black Dragon Society which was originally founded by the late John Keegan of Chicago, Illinois. Needless to say, when Davis republished Keegan's book which was written under the name of Count Dante, he did so without permission.
"These certificates are dangerous because their graphics appear professionally done and so they look official," says Neal Fletcher who runs Bullshido.net, a martial arts website which devotes itself to discussing martial arts fraud and misbehavior. "If I stuck one of these up on the wall of a martial arts school, ("Dojo" in Japanese) I could easily convince most people I was certified to train them and take their money for doing so because I possessed legitimate rank in the art specified on the certificate. In actuality I would be a complete fraud, putting them at risk if they ever did need to use their self defense skills in a dangerous situation. It's easy for an average person to get taken in when they see a man in a martial arts uniform with a decorated black belt. It's the 'karate kid' effect: people want to assume martial arts teachers are inherently reputable and trustworthy because that's how they're generally represented in popular culture. But in reality there aren't any genuine standards or regulation of the industry, leaving it open to all sorts of fraud."
So the question became, would Davis/Hunter/Kim sell a black belt certificate to anyone, or did he actually screen applicants and require a video tape or proof of rank as he claimed to do. Sloman, a member of Bullshido decided to find out.
Getting Your Black Belt In One Easy Step
On March 21, 2005 Chad Sloman sent Ashida Kim (aka Hunter aka Davis) the following e-mail at http://dojopress.com/catalogms2.html:
Please send me a black belt certificate in "Vale Tudo". My experience: 7th kyu Yoshukai Karate (World Yoshukai Karate Kobudo Organization); 1.5 years (untested) Atarashii Naginata (Scouthern California Naginata Federation); 5th kyu Aikido (Aikido Schools of Ueshiba); 7th kyu Judo (United States Judo Association)
Now for anyone who knows the first thing about Japanese Martial Arts, which a supposed Ninja master would, 7th and 5th kyu are extremely low, pre-black belt ranks. In many systems there are 10th kyu before one reaches Black Belt, with 10 kyu signifying the white belt and 1st kyu indicating the person is a Brown belt and close to testing for their Black Belt. So no matter how one sliced it, Chad was no more the half the way to a legitimate black belt and had less then half the time needed to be awarded a black belt in most legitimate martial arts. (typically 4 years on a part time training schedule.)
The other kicker was what Chad was asking for. Vale Tudo, "anything goes" in Portuguese, is a no-holds barred (mostly) grappling competition commonly found in Brazil. Black Belts are not awarded to people competing in this full contact competition any more then they are awarded in American boxing or wrestling. Anyone with a serious background in martial arts, or even a history of reading martial arts magazines would spot this problem. Ashida is not a soccer dad, or martial arts newbie, even as a faux Ninja master he would be aware of this information.4
Ashida's reaction? He didn't ask Chad for more details, even though Chad never presented Black Belt Level credentials from another art as required by Kim's sale page on his website. Davis/Kim/Hunter also didn't inquire about the obvious problems in Chad's story. Instead, several weeks after payment of $55 was made via PayPal, Chad received the following certificates by federal express, one of which memorialized that he was a Black Belt in "Vale Tudo". A copy of this certificate is attached to this press release. Notice the sharp graphics; one would have to know something about the martial arts to know it's actually not worth the paper it's printed on.
On May 26, 2005 days after Chad purchased this black belt certificate, another Bullshido member wrote Ashida :
Further to our previous chats. It is now public knowledge that we arranged for a less than qualified MAist to purchase a blackbelt grade off you to test your claim that you check applications.
The bullshido thread is: http://www.bullshido.net/forums/showthread.php?t=24467
Do you have anything you want to say to this?
Ashida's reply in full:
Sent : 26 May 2005 21:28:33
To : armchair_strategist@ hotmail.com
Subject : Re: You selling blackbelt grades without checks
You lot have been THREATENING me with an "expose" for years. Talk is cheap and that's all you want, attention in the form of a reply. Problem is, your facts are all wrong. No matter how many times I prove you to be liars and fools, you just come back for more. I don't care what you children waste your time on at Bullshido. Not one of you is worthy to kiss my foot.
Since Davis/Hunter/Kim was made aware of this sting, he has made multiple arguments or excuses that can be found on http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Talk:Ashida_Kim/archive1.
- Chad has no right to complain of fraud because he received his certificates as paid for.
- Chad Sloman falsely claimed that he had prior BJJ/MMA/Vale Tudo experience.
- The certificate only described Chad as an expert in Vale Tudo, not a black belt.
- These were only honorary certificates.
- Sloman was required to fill out a form in the material that was sent to him providing proof of his prior experience or a tape showing him perform his martial arts skills, after the sale, which he did not do.
- Since a no hold barred fighter has published a book through Dojo Press, Ashida has the ability to rank people in Vale Tudo.
Dealing with these arguments in order:
- Chad and Bullshido were under no illusions about Mr. Davis before we ordered his certificates. The deceived would not be the party ordering the certificates but the students of this buyer whom would be recruited with a false claim “documented” by this certificate. Therefore, Ashida’s response here is irrelevant.
- Chad did not deceive “Ashida Kim” into believing he was more skilled then he actually was. On one of the two certificates labeled “Black Belt Certificate” Chad’s prior non-black belt experience is explicitly mentioned and he is still granted the rank of “Expert”. So Davis has no claim that Sloman did not tell him what his martial arts experience was before both certificates were issued.
- There were two certificates issued. One was entitled “Black Belt Certificate” and awards Chad the rank of “Expert” The other is a “Certificate of Rank and Membership” inducting Mr. Sloman into the Dojo Martial Arts Academy at the rank of “Black Belt 1st Degree in the Martial Art, Style, or System of the Vale Tudo”. The second officially calls Chad a first degree black belt and the first an expert in Vale Tudo. While the second certificate would be more useful for fooling soccer moms, the term “expert” in the first certificate is synonymous with the term Black Belt.
- The term “honorary” did not appear on either certificate so these were not sold as honorary certificates and could be used to dupe the unwary.
- The only form shipped to Sloman after the fact to be filled out was an Black Dragon Fighting Society Dojo Application. Since Chad was not attempting to start his own BDFS affiliate he did not have to provide any post sale information as Kim/Davis alleges. More importantly the language of the page under which Mr. Sloman bought the certificate indicates such proof was supposed to be provided before the rank was issued. See http://dojopress.com/catalogms2.html
- Finally, regardless of Mr. Davis’s assertion that he was competent to hand out rank in Vale Tudo because of a fighter who had written a book for him, this NHB figher never signed Chad’s certificates or reviewed any video tape of him because none was ever provided. Mr. Sloman would be willing to sign a sworn affidavit attesting to the facts outlined here and in his post on the wikipedia thread under the heading “The Facts Regarding the Vale Tudo Black Belt”. When Samuel Browning challenged “Ashida Kim” to sign his own affidavit under his real name, supporting his own version of the facts, Kim/Davis did not even address Mr. Browning’s challenge.
Contrary to Ashida Kim's assertions, our facts are reliable and we have a Black Belt certificate that was bought from him simply for money and displays his signature. It is unknown how many of these certificates Kim/Hunter has sold, how many have been used to open schools, and how many have been used to acquire slightly less 'shady' rank.5 But this is a defective product widely available through the internet and it may be decades before we fully know how many of these certificates are out there being used to con people. Neal Fletcher observes: "Ultimately this is only one belt factory, there are other places we've heard of second hand where one can also get a black belt, in this industry it's really buyer beware."
The Previous Punking of Ashida Kim
Before Bullshido.net had ever brought a Black Belt from Ashida Kim, two of our members, Anthony and Osiris, had previously punked him. One of Ashida Kim's more astonishing public actions was to put up a $10,000 challenge on his website to anyone who wanted to fight him. That's not an offer to pay $10,000 to anyone who can beat him, as one might initially believe upon reading of the challenge. The terms are much less generous than that, and are designed to confer every benefit upon Ashida Kim and none to the would-be challengers:
First, since most of the challenges are frivolous, being generated by those who have some grudge with their own masters but who are afraid to face them and so select a surrogate upon whom to vent their anger and frustration; and, in light of my own professional status, Challengers must post an Appearance Bond of $25,000 to guarantee that they will actually show up for the fight, limiting the number of unnecessary trips to meet these loudmouths who then don't show up despite all their braggadocio. Only serious contestants need apply. If the Challenger fails to appear in the Ring within five minutes of being called for his Match, the Bond is forfeit to the Challenged, the Challenger is disqualified, and the Match awarded to the Challenged.
Second, as a professional fighter, my fee is $10,000. Which will be paid by the Challenger 30 days before the match. Also, Challenger will pay travel expenses for myself and a party of three to the site of the match and provide food and lodging for the Party for the duration of the event.
Third, Challenger will provide documentation and certification from local sports authorities governing such events attesting to their physical fitness and credentials sufficient to demonstrate their ring worthiness, and sign an irrevocable release absolving Ashida Kim, his agents and assignees from any financial, criminal, or moral liability in the event the Challenger is killed, crippled, or maimed.
Fourth, the Match will be held in a public venue to which admission is paid, of which, the Challenged will receive one-half of all gate and concession receipts. A member of the Party will supervise ticket and concession sales and all amounts due will be paid before the match. No dough, no show. The reason for this stipulation is that I have fought many times in alleys to defend my honor, only to have the tale told by the loser of how he kicked my ass. Therefore, credible and numerous witnesses are required to prevent any disinformation.
Fifth, Ashida Kim will be declared the winner in the event of a 5-second pinfall, submission by the opponent using matte or pat-out, if the opponent is unable to answer the bell, if the opponent is knocked out or rendered unconscious by a choke or stranglehold for a standard referee's 10-count, if the Ringside Physician determines he is unable to continue, if he fails to appear for the match, or is disqualified for unsportsmanlike conduct. No judges, no holds barred, last man standing is the Champ.
Note the lack of provisions for any award to a victor, and even worse, the lack of specified conditions under which Ashida Kim could lose - only the conditions under which his opponent loses are unspecified. Also, it is difficult to see how "unsportsmanlike conduct" could be characterized in the absence of judges.
Nevertheless, Bullshido member Pandinha decided to take Ashida up on his offer. The resulting article details Kim's failure to live up to the conditions of the challenge. Even when his challengers presented plausible evidence of being able to meet his financial conditions, Kim refused to fight.
Ashida Kim: Banned From Wikipedia
The Ashida Kim Wikipedia article is a beaten zone of cross-edits, deletia, and flamewars. Its edit history is full of reversions, counter-reversions, and flaming, in which Kim obviously participated. Eventually, Wikipedia banned Kim from the site altogether.
In Forma Pauperis: Ashida Kim's Legal Failures
Ashida Kim has tried to use the legal system to his advantage, but rarely, if ever, with success. For example, he filed suit against Paladin Press, his publisher, alleging unpaid and diverted royalties. The case was eventually dismissed for lack of prosecution. By suing Ethan Ellenberg, Peder Lund, and Paladin Press (who were also listed on his internet "shitlist" page which he has since taken down) under his real name, Radford Davis provided a crucial piece of evidence confirming he was "Ashida Kim." Thank you, Radford!
On another occasion, when Kim was sued by William V. Aguiar, Jr., he applied for a free lawyer to represent him. In the process, he filed documents indicating that he had no job and that his income was less than $300 a month, he owed $600 a month, and his only property of significant value was a half-share of a 1991 pickup truck. His request was denied.
1 - "Christopher Hunter" published "The Book of the Ninja" in 1980. There is some confusion about when Davis published "Secrets of the Ninja" under the name Ashida Kim because the text itself provides a date of 1980 though it was not copyrighted until 1981. "Secrets" is now available via PDF at Davis's/Hunter's/Kim's website. The majority of the techniques contained within involve meditation and sneaking around, with little or no specific hand to hand combat techniques that are actually used by Ninjutsu. This is not particularly surprising since to provide such information Davis/Hunter/Kim would have actually had to have studied this art.
A review of Library of Congress online holdings at http://catalog.loc.gov/ reveals that they have 15 separate titles on Ninjutsu published either by Chris Hunter or Ashida Kim between 1980 and 1999, though some appear to be the same books published under different titles and by different publishers. The pictures in these books indicate "Kim" and "Hunter" share the same general size, posture, and even items of clothing. Since Ashida has previously said he has posed unmasked in his books, as has Hunter, who follows him around like a Siamese twin, it appears they are one and the same.
On http://www.ashidakim.com/proof.html, Ashida Kim boasts of sneaking into a Stephen Hayes seminar at the Sarasota Motor Inn in Sarasota Florida on either February 11 or 12th 1984. Kim would later write Mr. Hayes that he had attended the seminar. On the above link he has a picture of the letter he sent to Hayes. The signature reads “Chris Hunter”.
2 - Radford W. Davis's real name was established in the following manner.
A search of book copyright information revealed that a Radford Davis held the copyright on a videotape published by Dojo Press. The names Ashida Kim and Christopher Hunter were both psuedonyms, and that the latter was the psuedonym of one Radford W. Davis who was born in 1948.
A search of copyrights in US (books) yielded the following:
- Registration Number: PAu-1-237-121
Title: Dojo Press--Ninjitsu collection/series.
Note: Cataloged from appl.
Claimant: Radford W. Davis
Author on © Application: Radford William Davis (author of pseudonymous contribution)
Miscellaneous: C.O. corres.
Special Codes: 4/X/D
- Registration Number: TXu-286-033
Title: Advanced survival skills.
Description: 193 p.
Claimant: Radford William Davis
Title on © Application: Green Swamp Survival School training manual.
Author on © Application: entire text: Radford W. Davis, pseud.: Chris Hunter.
Special Codes: 1/B///A
Cross Reference: acChris Hunter , pseud. SEE Radford William Davis , 1948-.
- Registration Number: TXu-325-302
Title: The Invisible fist / by Christopher Hunter [pseud. of] Radford W. Davis.
Description: 217 p.
Claimant: Radford W. Davis
Special Codes: 1/B/D//A Cross Reference: acChristopher Hunter , pseud. SEE Radford William Davis , 1948-.
- Registration Number: TXu-334-930
Title: So you want to be a stuntman / Christopher Hunter.
Description: 1 v.
Claimant: Radford William Davis
Author on © Application: Radford William Davis, pseud.
Special Codes: 1/B/D//A
- Registration Number: TXu-337-363
Title: 101 sucker punches.
Description: 83 p.
Claimant: Radford W. Davis
Author on © Application: Radford William Davis.
Special Codes: 1/B///A
On 6-9-2005, Samuel Browning talked to Sheila Conroy of Paladin Press. She is the wife of Peder Lund, who owns Paladin. She confirmed that Chris Hunter and Ashida Kim were the same person and that when they were carrying his books they sent his royalty checks to the P.O. Box in Lake Alfred used by Ashida's website. The checks were sent in the name of Radford Davis.
"Kick Catcher", a Bullshido member, used a search engine called ZABA http://www.zabasearch.com/ to verify names/addresses etc for free. There were three men named Radford Davis in Florida.
- RADFORD DAVIS, 2021 11TH AVE FORT LAUDERDALE FL
- RADFORD W DAVIS, born Sep 1925, 1010 AVENUE W NW WINTER HAVEN FL (863) 293-6975
- RADFORD W DAVIS, born Jul 1948, 1010 AVENUE W NW WINTER HAVEN FL (863) 293-6975
Both 2 and 3 are good matches, but 3 was approximately the same age as the man listed in the copyright information provided above.
Lake Alfred is less the 10 miles from Winter Haven, Florida.
There was no trace in the entire United States for the name "Ashida Kim". Assuming that the this search engine has a high level of content integrity, at least for real people, then this suggests that "Ashida Kim" is an alias.
There are 78 people named "Christopher Hunter" in Florida.
Three were born in September 1948:
- CHRISTOPHER K HUNTER, Sep 1948, 5071 DUNDEE AVE DE LEON SPRINGS FL (386) 985-6696
- CHRISTOPHER K HUNTER, Sep 1948
- CHRISTOPHER K HUNTER, Sep 1948, 4799 HARMONY WOODS TRL DE LEON SPRINGS FL
These are probably the same person who moved from address to address. There are a few other Christopher K. Hunters, but they are either too young or do not have their birth dates recorded. One Christopher Hunter lives near Radford W. Davis:
- CHRISTOPHER HUNTER, 4900 CYPRESS GARDENS RD WINTER HAVEN FL
We checked the name "Chris Hunter" also. There are 55 in Florida but none born in 1948 with the same address or phone number as the third hit for Radford Davis.
Ashida Kim's website is hosted by Powerweb out of California and is listed to Mark Miller, 1010 Ave W NW, Winter Haven, FL, with a phone number of 863-409-4910. It's the same address as Radford Davis's but with a different name (probably an alias) and a different phone number. Another computer search reveals (863) 293-6975 (Radford W Davis' above) comes back registered to George W Davis - (863) 293-6975 - 1010 Avenue W NW, Winter Haven, FL 33881. If we are wrong and Mr. Radford W. Davis is just another pseudonym, then the most likely alternates are Mark Miller, or George W. Davis, which trace back to 1010 Avenue W NW, Winter Haven, FL 33881. We believe however that George W. Davis is Radford Davis’s father and that they share the same residence.
Two of Bullshido’s members have reviewed a video of a man outside 1010 Ave W NW, Winter Haven Florida during daylight. The man appeared to be the older man in the following pictures:
These pictures have been identified as being that Ashida Kim in Florida by one of his German followers, Andreas Leffler. See Leffler's photo gallery.
If our visual identification is accurate as we believe it to be, then Radford Davis and Kim/Hunter are one and the same person. After we wrote the initial version of this article and published it, someone on Wikipedia turned up Radford Davis's former small claims suit against three members of "Ashida Kim's" shitlist. Lund owns Paladin Press, which formerly published Ashida Kim's books. Ethan Ellenberg is the man who, according to Ashida Kim, allegedly stole the rights to his written works. Samuel Browning believes that Radford Davis would not have sued these three people unless he actually was Ashida Kim.
3 - I am indebted to John Corcoran and Emil Farkas, whose book "The Original Martial Arts Encylopedia: Tradition-History-Pioneers" (Pro-Action Publishing, Los Angeles, revised 1993). pp. 288-290 which provides a short history of martial arts films. Their discussion of Ninjutsu on pages 105-110, and Hatsumi and Hayes on pages 328 and 329 is also quite valuable.
4 - Given that Kim/Hunter admits he never met Hatsumi on his website, he never studied in Japan with a legitimate master of Ninjutsu before starting to write ninja books in 1980. At this time there were VERY few legitimate teachers in the United States other then Stephen Hayes. The suspicion in the MA community has been that Kim either totally made up his material or that he cribbed what little he knows of the art from the writings of Mr. Hayes or the late Donald Draeger. Alternately Kim could have simply borrowed from the Black Belt Magazine articles on this subject published starting in Jan 1978. Needless to say, even as someone who gained his Ninja knowledge from books, Hunter, who has been reading M.A. publications for years, would be able to spot this problem immediately.
5 - One phenomenon in the Martial Arts community is that some instructors will trade rank between themselves so that they can claim the authority to teach additional arts. usually such trades are done without demonstrating any proficiency in the other art. With this certificate Chad could easily trade 'up' to a more 'legitimate' martial art lineage.
I would also like to thank Anthony, Kickcatcher, Asia, Chad, and Lawdog among others for helping out with this article. Thanks also to Cy Q. Faunce for reformatting this article to go onto our wiki page