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Bernard Kerik Interview by John Graden months after the 9/11 attacks on America.

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.

I interviewed Bernard Kerik, the NYC Police Commissioner in 2002 when the 9/11 attack on America was still an open wound.

In addition to describing he and Mayor Giuliani scrambling for their lives, he discusses the role martial arts schools can play in the fight against terrorism.

Transcript Questions
Here are the questions he answers.

Graden: At our convention, one of our instructors talked about how one of the terrorists actually trained to her school and his goal was to learn knife fighting, but he only wanted on the offensive techniques not the defense of techniques. They basically ran him off. How can a school owner prevent what they teach from being abused like that?

Graden: There’s a tremendous amount of responsibility with information. A couple more things, because we wrap up. You were involved in anti-terrorism in the Middle East. Was there anything that gave you a hint that an attack of such magnitude could be pulled off as we saw on 911?

Graden: You and the mayor were scrambling to find a safe haven to set up a headquarters.

What was going through your head?

Graden: What was the most difficult part of that day for you?

Graden: In your time in Rikers and as an undercover cop, you must have thought, prior to 911, that you had seen the most “depraved, violent people on this earth.

Was there anything in your career that would have prepared you for what you saw that day?

Graden: What is the last year taught you about the American people?

Graden: With your background leading up to that day, in what ways has 911 changed you?

Graden: Were there times during that day, you felt in fear for your own life?

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1 Comment

  1. CrinosKarate

    Hi John,
    Former Commissioner Kerik is a 100% correct, Martial Arts School have a Duty and Responsibility to question something that doesn’t seem right.

    5 to 6 years ago two Middle Eastern gentleman approx: ages 20 to 30, signed up for classes. One was laid back (lets call him One) and the other (lets call him Two) had these crazy eyes and anxious to start and also paid for a month of lessons. First class was basics: Punches / Kicks / Blocks.

    One – had a pretty good handle on the basics, which showed he’d trained before.

    Two – was totally clues – we worked on punches the entire class. When he was punching his eyes were popping and he had this physco look on his face.

    They both came back for the next class and we continued what was covered in the 1st. Two was a little calmer that day.

    The following week.

    One – Dropped out

    Two continued – we moved up to kicks and the week after blocks. At the end of the last class that week. Two’s gi top opened and he had a large Red Circle tattooed covering his stomach and chest.

    I inquired about it and he denied he had one. Bing Bing Bing the bell’s are going off.. So that night I called a parent of a student whose is NYPD and had some Terrorist exposure. I explained to him what I saw and he said he’d call me back the next day. The next day he pointed me to a site and I found the same tat or similar.

    I then texted another parent, whose in the FBI and I filled him in. He put me in contact with another FBI agent, who came with a second agent to the dojo to talk to me. I described the tat and provided them with names, addresses and contact info and they left.

    About a month or two later I found out I was right, they were investigated and picked up. I never heard anything about it again.

    Sil Crino
    Crino’s Martial Arts a Family Run School