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2015 Instructor of the Year

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.

Glen Gross tells his story

In 2012 I had been teaching traditional Taekwon-Do (TKD) for 21 years. My training for my 6th degree test had just come to a stop as accumulated injuries, from years of patterns and sparring, had taken their toll.

My son Jeffrey was turning 7 and I had promised to teach him the martial arts. John Graden had just introduced his new curriculum “MATA-MA”, promoting it as “a blend of the best, most basic, easy to learn and effective techniques from many forms of martial arts.” I took an instant interest in the program as I looked at the legacy that I would be passing on to my boy.

For months now, I would slowly hobble down the stairs in pain, preparing for a new day. The repetitive motions of my complicated traditional 24 patterns and sparring style had produced torn hamstrings, strained knee ligaments and worn out hips.

I decided this would not be my son’s inheritance. My wife Katie and I were planning a trip to Disney with Jeffery and my daughter Genna, and I wondered how I would even be able to walk with my children.

During the day I sit at a computer as Brandon University’s Distance Learning Specialist with a Master’s in Education. In the evenings however, I am a part-time martial arts instructor, only teaching three nights a week for two hours.

I also have instructors who teach a children’s program (Ninja Tots) for ages 4 to 6 twice a week, but that is the extent of my program. I was enjoying my teaching less and less, due to the pain, and I knew I had to make a change.

Ultimately the decision to add MATA-MA to my program came from a very persuasive argument.  Mr. Graden pointed out, and I had to agree that I hadn’t started taking my style martial arts for the patterns or style of sparring.  I joined for the benefits I believed I would receive. 

He professed that the new curriculum would provide all of the same benefits without all of the complicated, hard to teach techniques. I realized this was the only thing I needed to hear.

In September of the same year I decided to offer two different belt rank programs for ages 7 and above. In the first hour, I offered the new MATA-MA class, and in the second, the traditional TKD style.

When I explained the difference to the new inquiring students, 19 out of 20 chose the MATA-MA class. The one student was Korean and his family was specifically looking for him to take a Korean martial art.

By December I had finished teaching the one month introductory Jiu Jitsu module to the MATA-MA class. It is a simple module and I openly tell anyone I haven’t earned a single stripe in traditional BJJ.

One night I decided to try an experiment in the TKD class.  As some students were taking both classes, I decided to add grappling to the standup sparring. Within 30 seconds I saw a White Belt in MATA-MA take down a Red Belt in TKD. The Red Belt had no clue what to do.

This happened again and again. Students with relatively little grappling closed the distance and took to the ground senior belts.  After that, I began to phase out the traditional style and focus on the new curriculum.

On May 30, 2013 I would teach my last class of traditional TKD. It was a bitter sweet class based on a decision I made with mixed emotion. My son would have his first martial arts class that June in the MATA-MA class. It was fast paced and kept his attention. Subsequently he has attained his Black Belt in what has become rebranded as Empower Kickboxing. He has suffered no injuries in his training.

On June 3rd I would begin teaching a new cardio class Empower Boxing. I pre-sold “spots” on Facebook and within two weeks had a full class of 20 students (I only had 20 heavy bags). MATA built me a website and I promoted it with Facebook Ads at $15 and $35 a set. 

Within two weeks I had pre-sold all of my spots and found out that women really like to hit a heavy bag to get into shape! My success has attracted the attention of four different imitators have come and gone since I’ve establish my program.

Next Week: How He Gets Hundreds of Leads Per Month!


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