Info for Martial Arts School Owners and Instructors

The Martial Arts Teachers’ Association (MATA) is a professional organization that helps martial arts school owners and instructors improve their teaching skills and grow their schools with proven marketing, management, and curriculum design.

Click JOIN MATA to learn more.

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A Parent’s Letter for Help with Taekwondo Test


white belt child kicks with instructor watching

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MATA Martial Arts Instructor Certification Course

Module 21-The Proper Use of Student Instructors

by Scot Conway, Esquire

The $25,000 Volunteers

Excerpt from the Martial Arts Instructor Certification Course:

Using upper ranks to teach classes has been a long-standing martial arts tradition. But, is it legal?

A California instructor had his black belts teaching under-rank classes at his studio. In exchange, he no longer charged them tuition.

This continued until one fateful day when the owner and a black belt student had a disagreement.

The vindictive student contacted the California Labor Board and reported that his instructor had been employing assistants by requiring that they teach classes each week.

This can constitute an Employer – Worker relationship. The only thing missing was payment for the workers and the taxes the government would collect if they were being paid.

The State of California investigators concluded that the owner, over the years, had a total of 25 black belts teach classes.

They defined them as uncompensated employees, which is illegal under the laws of California, and fined the instructor $1,000 per incident.

The final bill: $25,000 for the volunteers.

Lesson: Know your state laws regarding utilizing assistant instructors.

Click the image to enroll into a FREE 10-Lesson Preview of the MATA Certification Program.

Okay, here we go….

Especially during this COVID reboot, one thing is absolutely clear for martial arts school owners. The more complex you make the process of learning at your school the more difficulty you’ll have retaining your students. You have to decide what is really important.

This is an actual email delivered to a MATA Certification Graduate.

I want you to read the short note first, right now.

[“We are very new to any form of martial arts in our family so this is a fun new experience for us, that being said we don’t know how to help Sally prepare/practice her forms for testing. 

She’s invited to test for her yellow belt in a few weeks and we want her to do well with testing. She recorded a video of an older student doing the form and tries to practice using it but she seems to get confused because the motions would be mirrored. 

Last Saturday’s class seemed to help a lot, is she allowed to continue going to Saturday classes? In the beginning, we were told white belts aren’t advanced enough for Saturdays. 

Also can you please explain what she needs to know as far as Korean words? We have the sheet of paper. She’s been practicing numbers. 

Does she need to know all the meanings of the words etc?”]

She is just a white belt and already confused about kata.

She wants to attend on Saturday, but she’s not “advanced enough.” Why do you need advanced classes?

She is spending time learning how to count in Korean and no doubt various historic Korean emperors and kingdoms.

I used to require the same material because my instructor required it. I then realized that the value of learning who the 16 King a Korean Dynasty is more like a trivia question for Jeopardy than helpful knowledge. So, I dropped them all.

Guess what? No one missed them. 

Can you see how this enthusiastic family is already running into unnecessary roadblocks on material that has nothing to do with skill? These are roadblocks by design.

Why in 2021 would anyone require students to pretend they are Korean?

Let’s do a hybrid cost/benefit analysis. 

  1. If a student remembers the kata, but not the Korean translation, does that constitute a failed best exam?
  2. If a child still learning to count in English, fails to remember the Koran numbers in order,  does that constitute a failed best exam?
  3. If a student has to defend herself on the playground against a kid who tries to punch her in the face, does tae kwon do prepare her for that?

Remember, in sport TKD there is no punching the face.

Yet, what do attackers typically attack with? A right haymaker to the left side of the face. There is no TKD block for that.

Are you really preparing students for self-defense?

This is a classic style-centered school vs a student-centered school. Here is a two-minute video to help you see the difference. 

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  1. Boon Brown

    In college, getting my education degree, we were taught that you aren’t teaching the subject, you are teaching the student. I can teach TKD all day long to an empty room, but it isn’t going to do anyone any good. Every student has different needs, methods they learn and desires for their practice in the art. Teach the martial art and you’ll fail on all counts. Teach the student and you’ll have a student for life.

  2. F. Mac McNeil

    As a young student, I was taught basic Japanese for use in the dojo, which I still use – its a motivator for me, but now the traditional methods are being adapted..