Martial Arts Instruction - The Real Reason People Teach Martial Arts

by Marshall Buchholz - Date: 2007-01-04 - Word Count: 1011 Share This!

The sales rep was well meaning, but obviously knew nothing about the martial arts business.

I was placing and order for my first ad in the yellow pages when he asked me what I'm sure he thought was a casual conversation booster. "So what are you plans?" he asked. "Open up a school, hire a couple of teachers, then expand and open up a couple more schools?"

Yeah, right. It's all just that easy.

Ever wonder what motivates a martial arts instructor to open a school? Money? Recognition? A chance to show off your skills in front of a captive audience four nights a week? Hardly. Every good martial arts instructor-and I mean the good ones-is motivated by something much less tangible and far more valuable than money or fame. I call it the moment of "Surprise Achievement." It's that special experience when something you've been teaching clicks in a student. It's when they "get it."

And you can't put a price on that.

But, like it or not, the difficulties of trying to build a prosperous martial arts school threaten every school owner's success. Most instructors know there really isn't much money to be gained in teaching the arts. Given the costs of maintaining a facility, a web site, creating and printing flyers and brochures, promoting or entering tournaments (including travel expenses), and buying books, DVDs, and magazines to stay up on the latest trends (not to mention sorting the genuine ones from the hoaxes), a good instructor stands to make only nominal financial profit from a martial arts school.

And then there's the time investment. All of the above eat away at valuable time spent with family, friends, or just about any other hobby you might have thought you were going to stay active with. Or for that matter, the hobbies your own kids might have. Try balancing your teaching schedule with cheering your kids on from the bleachers at their baseball games, hosting birthday parties, taking family vacations, and attending parent-teacher conferences.

Of course, we can't forget the expectations of your students, either. If you're claiming to be an "expert" in some area of martial arts, you better plan to spend as much time as possible doing your own grueling workouts. After all, no one would respect a martial arts instructor who can't demonstrate at least basic techniques with black belt proficiency!

Which can also take a toll on your body. Balanced correctly, a martial arts instructor's own practices-including the workouts you get while teaching-should leave you in perfect physical and mental harmony with the rest of the universe. Right?

Should, but…

The fact is, instructors face two big realities with regard to their own practice: 1) We age, and 2) Accidents happen. Believe it or not, we're not perfect!

Those are the downsides in terms of money, time, and health. I'll just briefly mention one more thing that every martial arts instructor experiences, few know how to really talk about among their peers, and is probably the number one reason people quit the business: Frustration.

Imagine spending hours at your computer creating and printing promotional brochures, doing good, hard workouts to stay in great condition. Now your in the dojo, the lights are on, the doors unlocked, you've carefully prepared tonight's lessons-and no one shows up. For a martial arts instructor, it's an experience that can quickly drain all your commitment-and fast.

Most students have no idea how many hours the teacher has spent just preparing for classes. Along with teaching, there's encouraging commitment, motivating hard work, cultivating students' beliefs in themselves, and nurturing a belief in their own success, often just to see them hop down the road to newest McDojo to learn the latest technique for dropping your opponent with the tap of a finger.

So what are we, crazy? Sometimes I think so! Yet something keeps us leaping out of bed each morning and trying again. It's that peculiar experience called, "Surprise Achievement."

It's that moment when you struggled to help a confused and frustrated student to understand how a technique works. He tries it once, and gets a painful bruise on his arm; he tries it again and again, but it doesn't seem to have any valid effect on his opponent. Then, just when you thought there were no more ways to explain it, demonstrate it, or get him to commit to the repetition drills, he gets it. You didn't expect it to happen at that moment. Neither did he. And his face turns to you, the expression of disgust and frustration replaced by the surprise of an unexpected achievement. It's spontaneous; it can't be planned, and it's never easy to get there. But it's worth it.

In fact, it's so worth it that I often remind my students that our greatest rewards arise from our greatest difficulties. When you know that they grasp that concept, and they invest their valuable time and energy into what you are teaching, the moments of Surprise-Achievement become more frequent, and your own reward as a teacher, immeasurable.

Every dedicated martial arts instructor knows there is a lot more to teaching than giving a couple of quick demonstrations, explanations, then just sitting back and watching students work their way to a black belt while you count the money.

Every martial artist who decides to go into teaching has had a taste of some kind of success. Maybe it was experienced in tournament competition, and you want to share that feeling with others. Or maybe it was just the atmosphere of the dojo, or the fascination with the techniques and strategies you've learned. But none of those experiences will sustain a good teacher for very long. Believe me, for every moment of success, there are ten moments of frustration that threaten to overwhelm you.

So forget the sales reps. They mean well, but what do they know? And forget the critics who think you're just in it to feed your ego. Forget all the frustration. In the end, all that matters is what you and your students think. And that light in his eyes, that sudden beaming smile, that certain, "Aha!"

...more than makes it all worth while.

Related Tags: martial arts, martial arts instruction, martial arts instructors, learn martial arts

Marshall Buchholz is a Martial Arts instructor and school owner. He teaches the Wu Ying Tao style of Martial Arts. Visit his school's web site at:

You can also find a large variety Self-Defense Techniques, Video Clips, Articles, and other resources at his other web site:

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