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12. How to Teach Self-Defense Like a Professional

by | Offline Marketing & Sales

Setting Expectations for Martial Arts Students Upfront

Authority is highly influenced by emotion.

While your staff and students may intellectually understand that you are the boss and master instructor, they have to feel it, not think it.

It’s the emotional connection that anchors your authority on a deep level.

If there is one powerful moment in your role as a professional martial arts instructor, it’s in the enrollment conference.

While the parents may see you as the master black belt, they usually don’t have an authoritative reverence at this early stage.

The enrollment conference is a seminal moment for you to establish your authority and gain the respect and gratitude of the family you’re dealing with.

Presenting the programs and their cost to parents can be tense at times. Some parents want to negotiate. Others might object to the agreement. Some want a safety net in case their child wants to quit.

While it’s important that you are prepared to overcome any objections, it’s when the bottom line is signed and the initial investment is completed that you have a critical window to demonstrate your authority.

Many owners complete the transaction and gush with statements like, “Awesome. It’s great to have you on board. Johnny, you did an awesome job tonight. High five! Thanks Mrs. Jones it’s great to have Johnny as part of our family. Let me know if I can help with anything.”


Who has the role of authority here? Mrs. Jones and her credit card. That was a missed opportunity.

Let’s try again. You would adjust this script to the age and circumstance, but here is an authority template for the enrollment conference.

Mom has just enrolled Johnny into the program.

You, “Johnny. You want to learn Empower Kickboxing, right?”

“Yes sir.”

“Good. I want you to understand that your mom just enrolled you into a six month program. You are going to learn a lot of great skills and lessons. It’s going to be fun and sometimes it’s going to be hard. That’s the good part because that means you’re learning. So you have to pay attention and practice at home 20-minutes a day when you don’t have class.

Are you going to work hard and practice?”

“Yes sir.”

“I’m glad. Your classes are Monday and Wednesday at 5pm. When are your classes?”

“Monday and Wednesday at 5pm.”

“Good. You’re a smart guy. That means that you have to be ready to come to class by 4:30 on Monday and Wednesdays so that you’re not late. Will you do that?”

“Yes sir.”

“No matter what you are doing, you will be ready by 4:30, right?”

“Yes sir.”

“Good. The first lesson is integrity. Integrity means that you do what you say you are going to do. You keep your promises. You promise to work hard and be ready for class, right?”

“Yes sir.”

“No matter what you’re doing. Right?”

“Yes sir.”

“Great. We’re going to be so proud of you. Your mom just enrolled you, so please turn to her and say, ‘Thank you mom.”

“Thank you mom.”

“Alright. When someone does something good for you, you always say thank you. That’s called gratitude. What’s it called?”


“Correct. So you’ve learned two important lessons today. Integrity and gratitude. What does integrity mean?

“Keeping your promises.”

“Yes. What does gratitude mean?”

“Saying thank you.”

“You got it! You are going to do great, I can tell already.”

“Remember, your class is…”

“Monday and Wednesday at 5pm.”

“When will you be ready to come to class?”


“You have a good head on your shoulders Johnny. You’re going to be good at this.”

“Because you’ve showed your mom gratitude and you’re going to keep your promises, here is a school t-shirt for you to wear. Every time you put it on, I want you to think of integrity and gratitude. Will you do that?”

“Yes sir.”

“I just gave you a shirt. How do you show gratitude?”

“Thank you sir.”

As taught in the MATA Certification program, it’s also a good idea to let mom know that it’s important that she control what Johnny is doing around 4:30 which is the agreed upon to be ready for class.

If Johnny is playing with his friends or deep in a video game, it’s going to be harder to get him to get ready than if he is cleaning his bedroom or something he’d like to leave to go to class.

Keep in mind that mom is watching this happen before her eyes. What have you done to establish your authority?

  1. You’ve provided her with a language pattern that both her and Johnny understand. This is huge.
  2. You’ve given mom the “integrity” framework to deal with any reluctance to go to class.
  3. You’ve provided her with a strategy to engage Johnny in less fun activities so that going to class is an easy decision.
  4. You’ve laid out when Johnny should get ready for class without complaint.
  5. Before her eyes, you taught her son important lessons with real world examples. No doubt, your authority sky-rocketed in her eyes and in her heart.

Look for places where you can make these kinds of strong emotional connections.

Demonstrate true authority and leadership. That will last much longer than a trite, shallow compliments like “Awesome! Good job.”

This will help your students to understand how and why they are training with the best school.

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12. How to Teach Self-Defense like a Professional

This week the truth about the martial arts business is that if you advertise and teach self-defense, you better know what you’re talking about. 

One steps, basics, and kata are NOT self-defense. They are stylized, formal representations, they applicable to fighting as the fight scenes in West Side Story. 

If you are trying to pass off traditional martial arts as self-defense, you are deceiving the public and yourself.

People are NOT seeking  “secret techniques” buried in the bunkai of kata. Bunkai is bunk.

People need real self-defense from a credible source, not some traditional style that was created in a hut on a mountainside decades ago has never changed. In fact, to change the style is martial arts blasphemy. 

According to Google Trends, because of the pandemic and violent riots, searches for self-defense and self-defense training have skyrocketed just like gun sales have soared. That means people are scared and seeking self-defense training.

The single most important skillsets you teach are the self-defense skills that may save a student’s life. That’s why it is so important for you to be able to verify the source and efficacy of the self-defense training that you advertise and teach.

The best source is law enforcement based. Not martial arts. Not military. Law enforcement engage in street fights and confront violent criminals every day. Most military members never engage in a physical fight.

Most martial arts teach outdated skills that were created decades ago without the advantage of video or networking. They had to hide their training, which severely limited any opportunity to collaborate, review, and update the skills. 

In fact, most traditional martial arts take pride in NEVER CHANGING. That is brainwashing pure and simple. To resist upgrading your self-defense skills to honor a style or style creator is a self-imposed ceiling to growth and improvement. You just get better at useless skills.

Self-defense can save students’ lives. To teach anything but the most current law enforcement skills is professional neglect that could cost your students’ life. 

In this special episode, you’re going to listen in on COBRA-Defense founder Chris Sutton teaching adult students in the COBRA ten-week academy, and then you’ll hear him teaching COBRA licensees how to teach Cobra to their students.

I’ll pop in on occasion to set the scene. These clips come from a variety of sources, so the audio can be a bit spotty at times, but the content is pure gold.

The audience for the first 15-minutes is a class of adults who paid $399 for a Cobra-Defense academy that meets twice a week for 10 weeks.

Show Notes and Links

:00 Preview. Shooting the baby.

:55 Intro and show overview

4:43 Defining self-defense for a group of adults in their first class of a ten-week academy.

6:22 The secret formula that gives all bad guys the advantage over their victims.

9:10 “What do you think the bad guy has thought past?

12:08 Why waste a battery charge? How police determine the role of bad guy vs victim.

15:00 Awareness in your vehicle

18:10 Instructor Training: What it takes to survive.

19:45 Instructor Training: Why you have to teach like a drivers’ education teacher.

21:00 Instructor Training: How to explain self-defense.

26:20 Instructor Training: Chris shares real-life use of force encounters he’s had as a law enforcement officer.

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