Sidney Sofocleus: This is a name that strikes fear into the hearts of the bravest fighters.
Fear of catching whatever gibbering mental and/or physical illness warped this initially (presumably) human man into a grotesque parody of life and reason, that is!
Mr Sofocleus calls himself “Sid Sofos”. This is inoffensive enough. He calls himself “Grand Master”. This is ludicrous. He calls himself “Sijo”, which is a Chinese term meaning “founder of a style”. This is flatly false, as Sofocleus has no style.
Quite honestly, Sid Sofos is the epitome of all that is wrong within the martial arts. He is in fact the epitome of everything that is wrong within society, and all that is venal and warped within the darkest recesses of the human spirit. He is wrongness distilled and pressure-packaged into the near-breaking form of an overweight, bullying egotist.
Imagine an international banking conglomerate made human. Imagine a hedge-fund or a major oil company made flesh… Imagine the act of clubbing a seal anthropomorphised; you would have something akin to Sofos.
A little background on Sofos is warranted, though the truth may be forever obscured: During the early ’80s, Sid Sofos was allegedly a student of Wing Chun Gung Fu under Simon Lau, a legitimate Wing Chun instructor, for a very brief period of time. (And possibly trained with Nino Bernardo at the well known Wing Chun club “The Basement” as well.) At some point, possibly in 1989, Sofos decided to start his own martial arts school in Tottenham, London, and named it the “Fatshan Academy”, after the province in China associated with some of the major historical figures in the history of Wing Chun.
Very quickly it became apparent that all was not un-rotten in the state of Sofos. He started making bizarre and unbelievable claims regarding his own abilities, and the capabilities of his martial art (which apparently was no longer restricted to Wing Chun, despite this being the only art Sofos was trained in). At least one former student has alleged that sharp business practices by Sofos included extorting money from his students with a threatening tone, money which was not merely spent on keeping the ludicrous excuse for a school afloat, but was also spent on producing a self-authored video and book glorifying Sofos to an utterly unbelievable degree. Certain of Sofos’ students formed a cultish gaggle of yes-men that bolstered Sofos’ already turgid ego. There were (and still are) extremely strong rumours about a cocaine habit, and indecent exposure. But Sofos continued to peddle his illegitimate wares as if nothing was wrong.
And then the clips leaked onto the internet.
Grandmaster Sid Sofos – An Introduction
More words of wisdom from Sijo
And Sofos’ own: Wing Chun: Fatshan Academy of Martial Arts
From the above videos, it is clear to any dispassionate observer that Sidney ‘s physical skill doesn’t reach the level of bad comedy. It is likewise clear that he has the charisma of a squashed rodent, and the rhetorical skill of a youthful Victorian chimney-sweep.
All the very worst things to be found in the martial arts are found in these clips: outright lies; self-aggrandizing bulls**t; no-touch knockouts; overweight and pathetic instructors; pseudo-mystical claptrap; creepy little brown-nosing cultish followers and insultingly potted philosophy.
So why did people follow this man, despite all this being in the public domain? What is it about the mentally ill that sometimes makes them magnets for a special kind of follower?
Is obvious fantasy really so palatable?
Of course the real kicker comes when one actually tries to define what is wrong with Sofos and his martial arts. Well what is wrong? Let’s list some things:
– He’s insane (and possibly drug-addled).
– He’s an egotist and a narcissist.
– He’s sold (at exorbitant prices) impractical nonsense and labelled it martial arts
So in other words, he’s an insane, egotistical faker who has given people useless made-up crap and taken their money for it.
But subtract the actual insanity, and you have a description of the majority of martial arts instructors working in both Europe and the US today. Oh sure, not all instructors will have QUITE the ego that Sofos does… but it is egotistical to practice nothing but drivel and believe yourself worthy to instruct others. This is why it’s so impossible to convince them of the deficiencies in their styles: their egos and identities are deeply invested in the methods they promote. Sadly, even competent fighters are guilty of this kind of ridiculous, pompous idiocy. The high-falluting claims of Rickson Gracie spring to mind…
The second glaring issue is: How does one stop such an individual from running a school? There is no regulation for martial arts schools. Any nutter can set one up (and clearly, at least one nutter has). There is no clear definition in law as to what skills a martial arts instructor needs to possess in order to call themselves a martial arts instructor.
Even worse, there is no clear hallmark that confirms the authenticity of an art; On his website Sid Sofos claims to teach Wing Chun. Whatever one feels about the effectiveness of Wing Chun as an art, it’s clear that Sofos does not teach anything approaching what is understood by its practitioners to be “Wing Chun”.
But just because Wong Shun Leung’s/Victor Kan’s/Etc. students know that Sofos’ ramblings have nothing to do with their art, doesn’t mean they could have stopped him from using the name of Wing Chun to describe what he does. And the uninformed public is- of course- blind as to the difference.
What’s the alternative? Well, government regulation is one alternative. But even with heavy government involvement, there’s no guarantee of effective martial arts being the norm. Take Korea for example… heavy government influences (ideologically driven) resulted in the homogenisation of Korean Martial arts into the deeply ineffective style known as Tae Kwon Do. Similar circumstances in Japan resulted in the decimation of the older Kempo styles and the formation of Karate as a national standard. So no-go there then, one can’t trust a government farther than one can osoto-gari it.
In my opinion, the only viable alternative is education and publicity. Shine the lights of open discussion, logical debate and documentary evidence on horrendous ne’er-do-wells like Sofos, and they will scurry under the nearest rotten log, like any self-respecting vermin. And of course, that’s what this blog post has been about.
Ahhh, if only all vermin were as obvious as Sid Sofos. But there’s a bit of Sid Sofos in all frauds. It’s up to you to root it out and show it to others, and yourself.