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In The Big Dream


white belt child kicks with instructor watching

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MATA Martial Arts Instructor Certification Course

Module 21-The Proper Use of Student Instructors

by Scot Conway, Esquire

The $25,000 Volunteers

Excerpt from the Martial Arts Instructor Certification Course:

Using upper ranks to teach classes has been a long-standing martial arts tradition. But, is it legal?

A California instructor had his black belts teaching under-rank classes at his studio. In exchange, he no longer charged them tuition.

This continued until one fateful day when the owner and a black belt student had a disagreement.

The vindictive student contacted the California Labor Board and reported that his instructor had been employing assistants by requiring that they teach classes each week.

This can constitute an Employer – Worker relationship. The only thing missing was payment for the workers and the taxes the government would collect if they were being paid.

The State of California investigators concluded that the owner, over the years, had a total of 25 black belts teach classes.

They defined them as uncompensated employees, which is illegal under the laws of California, and fined the instructor $1,000 per incident.

The final bill: $25,000 for the volunteers.

Lesson: Know your state laws regarding utilizing assistant instructors.

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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