Martial Arts Instructor News and Articles

John Graden

John Graden

Executive Director

John Graden led the martial arts into the modern era by creating the first professional association, trade journal & instructors certification program.

How an Inadvertent Lack of Integrity is
Sabotaging Your Student Retention

Martial Arts Student Retention is important because it’s much less expensive to keep the students you have rather than spending time and money recruiting new students to replace the dropouts.

There are a number of reasons students drop out. We’ll ignore the obvious like moving away and focus on areas of retention that a martial arts school owner can help to control.

Integrity

Before we dive into the 3 Best Retention Strategies for Martial Arts Schools in part 2, let’s address some common tactics that school owners may be using right now to keep their students.

What makes these tactics work or fail is the integrity of the delivery, process, and communications. These are common retention systems in place in many schools and they can work, but you have to be careful how you interpret, execute, and communicate when using them.

1. Martial Arts Student Survey Integrity

Student Surveys can be helpful, but they only work to the level of participation. 

Typically, your most enthused students will be happy to complete a survey. However, the borderline dropouts may not take the time to complete the survey. Odds are these are the students you really need to hear from.

With each drop in participation from 100%, the integrity of the survey drops as well. That doesn’t mean anyone is doing anything bad, it just means the information is not a real survey. It’s biased.

Your most enthused students love what you do and they are happy to tell you that in the survey.

Your less-enthused students are not as excited to take the time to complete the survey.

2. New Martial Arts Student 2-4-6 Call Integrity

Calling students 2-4 and 6-weeks after they join is a great idea. 

What is NOT a great idea is telling the parents that their child is doing GREAT in class when the parent knows full well the child is not. There is NO WAY that every student in your school is doing “awesome” in class. 

You are not leading from integrity when you gush. 

Instead, ask smart, sincere questions. Your mission is to get the parent or student to tell you the truth and for you to listen, not sugarcoat the situation. That is unprofessional.

Compare these two phrases. Which will give you more actionable information?

#1  “Hi, Mrs. Jones. Just wanted to check in and let you know that Joey is doing great in class and we’re proud to have him.”

#2 “I remember when you first brought Joey in. You said you wanted him to gain some confidence. What are you seeing on your end?”

If you were Mrs. Jones, which shows more concern? Which shows more interest? Which shows that you really care about her son Joey?

3. Praise Integrity

I was a guest at a belt exam. The senior instructor is a world-caliber black belt. One of the requirements for brown belt was to skip sidekick through two boards. Each child got three attempts.

The third child in line bounced off the boards once, twice, and then three times. He never broke a board, but the instructor said, “Awesome! High Five!” My jaw hit the floor.

False praise makes it a lot harder for you to get excellence out of a student because what is better than awesome? Why would they need to work any harder?

Next week, we’ll include a video of an instructor holding pads and fluffing up the kids with each technique.

In the meantime, learn how to teach like a professional with the MATA Certification Program.

 

When Combining Features and Benefits Gets Confusing

  1. “Hold the lunge punch out with your chin up.  This way you honor the art with good form.” (Is form more important than defense?)
  2. “Before you block, cross your arms and step forward. This way you can create power.” (Why does a block need power?)
  3. “When defending against multiple attackers, you want to stay on the outside and line them up so you’re only fighting one at a time. In kata though, you’re in the middle of an attack from six guys. And, if you get it wrong, you might not pass your belt exam.” This way you honor the art with good form. 

Your Assignment as an Intellectually Curious School Owner

Take another look at this list of benefits. Remove your sensei/master perspective and look at this with one goal in mind.

How can you provide these benefits in a more DIRECT, BAGGAGE-FREE, and EFFECTIVE process?

BENEFITS of most martial arts schools.

  • Fitness
  • Flexibility
  • Life Skills
  • Self-Defense
  • Sport
  • Friendship and Social

Notice Tyson’s hand is by his face, not his hip.

His chin is down instead of up.

His shoulder is up instead of pulled back.

His body is sideways to his opponent instead of squared off.

His legs are under his body not spread apart like he was riding a horse.

With this kind of form, he would fail his orange belt exam in most schools. 

How does that make any sense?

Sensei Tyson?

If Mike Tyson or a world champion kickboxer came to your school to teach your black belts. What do you think he would work on? Double punches, square blocks, and keeping your chin up?

I’m pretty sure he would emphasize head movement, how to snap your punches and a defense that does NOT include pulling your punch back to your hip.

I’m sure the students would learn advanced applications to adjust for different fighters. Notice I said advanced applications, not advanced strikes.

When you focus on application, you can apply that to almost any technique.

For instance, if the drill is about how to fight a taller fighter, the answer is more about footwork to stay on the outside until you can secure quick access. My brothers are 6′ 3″ and 6′ 4″ so I know something about fighting a taller opponent.

Drills that teach that application do not require complexity. They require simplicity.

The more complex a skill becomes, the less chance it can be used. Have you ever seen a double punch? Only in kata and here:

If you eliminated all kata and traditional skills, you could devote that time to drills and conditioning that would give your students a true advantage in sparring or self-defense.

Imagine teaching fewer skills that are easy to teach and learn than traditional skills and kata.

You could spend more time on the application of those skills rather than stepping up and down the classroom and holding blocks and punches out in the air, which leaves you wide open for a counterattack.

Rather than spending student’s time with the complexity and frustration of spending years perfecting the bad habits of pulling their hand back to their hip, keeping their chin up, aiming and holding a punch in the air, and blocking with power while stepping forward, your retention will improve. Your student quality will improve. Your curriculum consistency will improve.

This is the core of our white to black belt curriculum Empower Kickboxing.

It’s an old saying, but true. “Less is best.”

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