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Getting Sued Decades Later

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.

John Graden: Recently we spoke about the seminar I was at, where one of the Instructors said that over fifteen years after an incident he was sued by a student and it cost him fifteen thousand dollars to make the lawsuit go away.

In 2015, Bill Cosby was criminally accused and charged with a sexual assault from 2012, so I want to reiterate to our listeners out there, the distinction between a martial arts school Coverage Policy that is specific to a time frame and this policy that is specific to incidents. Please expand on that Jennifer.

Jenifer Urmston: The types of coverage that are out there are Claims Made Coverage versus Occurrence Based Coverage.   Occurrence Based Coverage, covers you for the time period of the policy that an incident occurred during that time and it will continue to cover you for the legal Statute on that claim and would cover you years later if the incident occurred during the occurrence period of the Policy.

A Claims Made Policy only covers you for claims that are made during that Policies coverage period, which could be this year only, if you didn’t buy the tail coverage at the end of the Policy to keep the coverage in effect, for a number of years, going forward.

John Graden: So, in the situation where I described with the Instructor, because I think Cosby’s in a whole different league, but it’s just reminiscent of the situation if he had purchased and I don’t know if he did or not, a Claims Policy.

Jenifer Urmston: A Claims Made Policy and then did not buy extended tail coverage on it, he would have no coverage for that claim being submitted years later.

An Occurrence based Policy would have covered him for the claim that occurred while it was an active policy, even if it was years later.  And then important, you know, two important things there, you know, that are Statutes of Limitations vary in different States for how many years later a claim can be filed, the Statute of Limitations for claims, for a claim filed by a Child, doesn’t even start until they become an Adult, so that’s why minors can have claims be filed many years later.

So, it is important to carry Occurrence Based Coverage, for the period of time that your operating your facility or if you already have a Claims Made Policy, it is important to purchase tail coverage on that Policy that is sufficient for the Statute of Limitations in your State, which could be, you know, twenty years later.  So, it is very important to consult someone that knows about the laws in your State as well as to consult an experienced Insurance person in the Fitness Industry who knows about the coverage on these Studio Policies.

John Graden: That is sage advice and very clear, no doubt about it guys you have to get Occurrence Based Policies and talk to Jennifer Urmston at Sports Fitness Insurance Corporation.

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