Be a great Shopper

 in Bradenton - Ancient Ways Martial Arts Academy

People need to be better shoppers

We recently had a family try our program and then enroll in a different school. The impression we got was that the dad was looking for an “old style school” that would be tougher on his son. My thoughts on that; good for you, at least you did your due diligence and shopped both schools.

We’ve found that the typical parent doesn’t really do a lot of shopping before deciding on the right martial arts school. Frighteningly, most don’t shop at all.

Many years ago, we had 4 families pull their kids from a different school and brought them to us. As a general practice, we don’t take students from other schools, it’s disrespectful. Those schools may do it, but we won’t. We tell people they are welcome to come here after they have sat down with their instructor and ended their relationship respectfully and said goodbye. In this case, they had already ended their relationship with the other school so we accepted them. Why did they switch? That’s an interesting story, but I’ll just say, some pretty terrifying mistakes were made, and I got 8 new students that day.  

All of those students spent the next few years with us. Repeatedly the parents told us how much they liked our school better. Some of the parents even enrolled as students. I asked all of them why they had enrolled at the other place to begin with. The answers were varied. “Everyone there was so nice,” was something we heard a lot. They are by the way, super nice people. Most martial arts instructors are you know. “They were close to where we live,” was another answer we heard a lot. Location is crucial in business and no one wants to drive very far. The one answer we heard a lot though, and the scariest one was “We didn’t know any better and just went to the first one we went to.” I’ve had one lady tell me recently, “My son wouldn’t stop talking about Karate so I just found the cheapest school.”

Let me just say this. There is no license required to do this. You can buy your own Black Belt online and open your school tomorrow. There are two guys teaching in our area that I suspect have done that very thing. But, even if you did earn a real Black Belt, several Black Belts in multiple styles and earned multiple degrees of Black Belts, is that really enough to do this job the best possible way? A doctor with a prestigious degree, but who has never treated a patient, or performed a surgery might not be the best doctor at any price.

AS instructors, our students hang on our every word. They ask our advice on life issues, careers, relationships and school. They follow our example for clean living and having outstanding ethics. Parents are always asking us for advice and sometimes we even are inclined to give it without being asked. What are our qualifications to be that role model, that example, that advisor and mentor? I would venture to say that earning a Black Belt just isn’t enough.

We are teaching self-defense skills. Most of us teach the way we were taught, which may not be the best way to teach anymore. We know more about education and how people learn than ever before in history. So how do we learn to teach better? There are tons of instructor boot camps and workshops, online archives of cool drills and instructor training programs online and live. But that still doesn’t compare to getting a degree in education. There are details and intricacies about how people learn and the different methods for teaching that can really give a good teacher an edge.

I know high level martial arts instructors, some of the world’s top performers who will admit they have never had a real fight. Most martial arts instructors, including myself, have had tons of competitive contact fighting matches. We wore safety equipment, had referees, a single consensual opponent, a safe environment and our lives were far from in any real peril. However, as a Recreational Therapist working in a psychiatric hospital, I had hundreds of real, life or death encounters. Which do you think is best suited to help you prepare for the psychological effects of someone ruthlessly attacking you, as well as to prepare you for the reality of how techniques will work?

You love your child. You shop for the right shoes for your child, the right school, the best doctors and dentists. You make sure they are exposed to the right things in media and supervise their meals to make sure they are eating right. So, here’s this martial arts instructor you picked because he is cheap or nearby. This is someone who has the potential to make your child truly safe and successful, or they have the potential to make your kid hate all martial artists and distrust them, and to build a false sense of security, or teach them techniques that just won’t work. Don’t you think you should shop a bit? We all offer trials for a reason. Do all of them and make the educated choice.

Years ago, I wrote an article for a parenting magazine on how to pick the right martial arts school. The deciding factors boiled down to this; Shop all the area schools. Look at the school and determine the personality of the instructor by how clean he or she keeps the place. Watch the instructor and ask yourself what would they be doing if they weren’t doing this? If the answer is anything other than “teaching something,” then move on. Great fighters can’t necessarily teach and that’s what you are shopping for. Look at the class. Is it structured and organized or chaotic and undisciplined? If the instructor can’t maintain control, they can’t maintain safety. Look at how many high-ranking students they have actively attending. This can help you to see how many students quit and how quickly. Attrition happens in even the best of schools, but if they have few actively training Black Belts, adult students or high-ranking students, then it’s a good indicator that you should probably keep looking. Why do I say adult students? It’s easy to fool kids and laymen, but it’s hard to fool the actively training adult student. They aren’t going to tolerate an unqualified teacher or a teacher who is abusive, condescending or ill tempered.

To be a great parent, or teacher you need two things: 1. Desire to do it right and 2. the tools to do it right. We, as instructors are all going to do the best we can possibly do. We all have that desire. We all are determined and disciplined individuals who are going to give you our all. The question you should seek the answer to when you shop for martial arts schools is, who has the most tools to use? A Black Belt isn’t enough. Being close to your house isn’t enough. Being cheap isn’t enough.

You shop around for far less important things and nothing is more important than your child.

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