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Do Waivers Still Work?

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.

It’s been made clear across the country the liability waivers that members and students are required to sign for studios and  your martial arts school are really not holding up in court like we all think they should and hope they should. It’s just an unfortunate truth that in today’s society people can sue for anything and they can claim that the school was negligent which nullifies a waiver. You’d then have to prove that you were not negligent and that costs money, so it’s more important than ever to carry martial arts school insurance, and not rely on waivers.

In one scenario, if a family can convince an attorney to take the case, he will file the suit. Then you have to hire an attorney to defend that, which could cost you potentially hundreds of thousands just for the judge to say ‘Oh this is covered by the waiver, there’s no liability here.’ In the end is it really worth all that stress and all that money?

Nothing can stop someone from filing a lawsuit. Costs really start around twenty thousand dollars and go up from there and can be significantly higher, so it is very, very important to have your martial arts insurance.

Typically, there’s some kind of mediation or motion that essentially goes to the court and says the claims are invalid, and that it’s covered by the waiver. If you’re lucky, it will get thrown out and you will only be out five or ten grand, but in many cases, the judge is going to want to hear the entire case and that means you’ll be entering trials and pre-trails.

You’re also paying your attorney by the hour to take depositions and paying an independent investigator to take photographs, interview and even document that you did everything right. That’s why claims get expensive, because there’s so much more to it.

In the event of a child injury, it’s absolutely important you always show that you did everything you could to take care of that child and contact the parents accordingly if they weren’t there on site.  The next thing you do after that critical moment is to document everything that happened and that means your eye witnesses including the instructor, any other adult that was present, their eye witness account, and the names of the other children that were present. You would want to go ahead and pull up the liability waivers that the parents signed and have them at hand. If a piece of equipment wasn’t involved, or it didn’t involve a slip and fall on a mat, there might not be anything to take pictures of. Obviously, the child’s injuries will be photographed at the emergency room, so those eye witness accounts are going to be important. Make sure they know what they’re supposed to be doing every day when they’re in class. Those would be included with the copies of the waivers that the kid’s signed as you put together the information to pass along to the insurance claims adjustor who’s going to be assigned to the case. Much of the time claimants are looking for reimbursement of medical bills, unless there is some kind of more permanent damage, such as a permanent scare or disfigurement. That’s the kind of thing that can get an attorney involved and asking for more significant amounts of money and all of your documentation will come into play.

Believe it or not, martial artists and fitness devotees are the least likely to file a claim if they do bust up their ankle or blow out a shoulder when they’re in the studio. Because they do this every day, they understand that accidents happen and that they have some responsibility for their own actions. You don’t see claims from the folks that are there all the time that are into it. They will suck it up and take this on as their own responsibility.

Something to note is our society has become more litigious and people’s medical insurance is not “as good”. They have higher out-of-pocket maximums and higher deductibles. If they don’t have the money in the bank, they’ll come looking for it.

It’s no doubt deductibles are high and that health insurance really is becoming almost ‘catastrophic insurance’ because you have to pay so much just to the get to the point where it kicks in.

The cost of an MRI versus the cost of an X-Ray are thousands of dollars versus hundreds of dollars, so these are the reasons insurance rates have gone up and these are the reasons we are seeing more lawsuits filed. It is less affordable to pay for big injuries theirselves, so they come looking for you when they might not have in the past.

Use your MATA credits for Sports and Fitness Insurance Corporation

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