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In The Big Dream

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.

In the Big Dream, an employment agency, ran a series of commercials that I thought were great. These spots portrayed children describing their future. Most kids dream of jobs like doctor, fireman, or astronaut when they grow up. They dream big dreams. In the ads however, these kids would say things like, “I want to lay tar, all day long!” the next child would say, “ I want to be mired in middle management forever.” another would say, “I want to be a brown nose.”

The effect was both amusing and chilling. While the shock value of seeing a 10-year claim to aspire to be a brown nose was funny, it was also sad to consider that a young person would make their dream so, well, pedestrian. The power of the word potential is in direct proportion to the age of the person you are describing. A ten-year old seems to have endless potential. An 80-year old would, by most accounts, have less potential.

In seeing this spot over the months, I began to wonder what happens between the time a child dreams of being a rocket scientist and when he ends up nailing shingles on a roof all day long.

My dream as a kid was always to be either an athlete or a teacher. As a sports crazed kid, I read all the sports heroes biographies from Jim Thorpe to Babe Ruth. There was something very appealing about becoming famous for playing a kid’s game. I think the interest in teaching had to do with power and a feeling of significance. Either way, martial arts certainly helped me fulfill those two aspects of my childhood fantasies. I’m sure the same applies to you.

One of the most common questions I received over the course of the NAPMA 2000 World Conference was, “Did you ever imagine it would get this big?”  The first time the question was asked, I had to take a moment to pause and think about it. It was actually a flattering question that threw me off for a second. While not trying to sound cocky or brash, my answer was honestly, “Yes.” This was a lesson I learned from Brian Tracy years ago. Dream big dreams.

Brian taught me to focus on prosperity, not poverty. Rather than focus on what I don’t have, focus on what I wanted to achieve and then to throw myself into that work with abandon. I did and it worked.

Dreaming big dreams only makes sense to me. What’s the alternative? Dreaming of being a brown nose? Dreaming of being a roofer? As Brian also says, “Anything less than a commitment to excellence is an acceptance of mediocrity.” I never forgot that.

Prosperity thinking means you don’t say to yourself, “I can’t afford that.” Instead, you teach yourself to say, “How can I afford that?” The difference is huge. To use a tired phrase, one question empowers you while the other disempowers you.

One of the techniques I used to help keep me motivated was to visit luxury homes for sale. Typically, on a Sunday afternoon you could visit these homes under the pretense of being a potential buyer. I would walk in the house, and just visualize that I was coming home at night after classes. I could see myself throwing my black belt on the hook and heading for the hot tub.  This exercise worked as sort of a time machine for me. If I worked hard, stayed the course, did what needed to be done when it needed to be done whether I liked it or not, this was my future. It also showed me that, if I fall back into old habits and comfort zones, this is what I would be missing.

You have to understand that this was shortly after being so broke that I couldn’t afford to pay for my car insurance. I would run two miles to the school each day for six months because I didn’t dare drive. I’d tell the students it was my warmup.

In order to break out of this place, I had to “fake it ‘til I make it.” Part of dreaming big dreams is to expose yourself to the lifestyle you want to achieve. That’s why I always visit a five-star hotel each year to do my goal setting. Even if I couldn’t afford to spend a night there, I still wanted to put myself in an atmosphere of success and opulence as I reviewed the previous year and planned for the next.

I’m a very future oriented person. While I certainly “stop and smell the roses,” I’m confident the best is yet to come. That’s the beauty of a dream, especially the big ones. The martial arts can be a great career choice and it’s getting better all the time. Like many things today, your career in the arts is what you make it. Let us know how we can help your big dreams come true.

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