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How 2 Martial Arts Schools Got Sued For Over $1-million

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.

Could This Be The Accidental Death of Your School?

Imagine teaching an everyday, normal class with no crazy cardio demands or dangerous drills. Suddenly a seemingly healthy teenager collapses and passes out cold. You call 911. They arrive 11-minutes later (national average response time). The student dies on the way to the hospital.

What did you do during that 11-minute wait? Comfort mom? Take his pulse. CPR? Call your insurance company?

Maybe a better question is, “What could you do?” While you don’t have to be trained to perform CPR, training would certainly help. What if you weren’t even present? What could your assistant instructor do?

Even though you did nothing to cause the collapse, your liability will be in your response to the collapse. I don’t have to tell you that an aggressive personal injury attorney is going to come after you or that no family with an attorney believes in “accidental death.” Without good insurance to pay for the defense of your school, this could be your accidental death.

In a case like this where you did nothing to create the damage, the lawsuit will claim you did nothing to mitigate or reduce it. This is where CPR training and MATA Certification can help a great deal. Any training that will improve safety for your students will most likely work in your favor in litigation. You can be sure the opposing attorney will research the options that an owner has for safety training and use any failure to take advantage of them again him or her.

That said, here are two cases where neither CPR training nor MATA Certification could help the situation. Like the story above, this is a rare instance. The difference is these stories are true.

If you are like most martial arts instructors, you may not even know what an automated external defibrillators (AED) is. An automated external defibrillator (AED) is a portable device that checks the heart rhythm and can send an electric shock to the heart to try to restore a normal rhythm. AEDs are used to treat sudden cardiac arrest. This is when the heart unexpectedly stops beating.  The cost for an AED device is between $1,200 and $3,000. reports that a school teaching a Krav Maga like class had a teenage student collapse and die. The school was sued for not having an AED and had to settle for $1-million. Regardless of what they did on scene, the school didn’t have an AED.

In Texas, Kickstart was teaching in a public middle school when a 12-year student collapsed. The Kickstart instructor called the school nurse. Though they had an AED, she did not use it. The boy died of cardiac arrest.  Under the law, a school nurse is protected from lawsuits.  So the family sued Kickstart and won.

Are you required to have AED in your state? In addition to having an AED, there is the issue of getting your staff properly trained to use it.

After some research, we think this website might have the best information on whether or not you are required to have an AED in your facility. We make no guarantee of the accuracy of this, but it seems like a good starting point.  

Our suggestion is:

  1. Get insurance for your school.
  2. Get CPR training.
  3. Get MATA Certified a no cost thanks to Sports Fitness Insurance Corp (SFIC).
  4. Find out if you’re required to have an AED on these two sites.

AED State Law Information 1

AED State Law Information 2

News Stories:


Krav Maga:


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