John Graden:  Today, we’re talking martial arts insurance. I want you to imagine this.  Business is booming, the School’s doing great, Classes are packed and in fact, you’ve got a Class going right now.  Then this little twelve-year-old girl, she’s excited, she turns, she bolts off to go to the Water Fountain.  Just as she hits full stride, your sixteen or seventeen-year-old, hot-shot, Leadership Team Member’s, demonstrating a full speed, full power, Spinning Hook Kick.  Just as she hits full speed – Bang! – right in the Face, full power, full velocity, she drops, everything changes in many lives, at that particular moment. That’s a scary thought, that’s exactly what happened to a prominent School in the North East of the United States, over ten years ago. I’m not going to name the Guy and the nice thing is, he is still in Business and doing well.  Why?  Because he was protected, he was prepared, he was – insured.  Could you have handled a situation like that?  What would you be able to do, what could you have done?  She required complete facial reconstruction and I don’t know for sure, but I imagine in today’s world, the Parents would continue the Law Suits, for some time, for Mental Anguish and all kinds of Actions in today’s Legal Menu.  Here to help us wade through this mess of a situation is Jennifer Urmston, from Sports and Fitness Insurance and Jennifer’s a Veteran of the Sports and Martial Arts Fitness and Insurance Arena. So, Jennifer, what is this Guy facing in this situation.

Jennifer Urmston:  Well, even in a best-case scenario, anytime there’s an injury on your Premises, whether it’s minor or severe, the Owner of that facility is facing the Medical Payments, that is going to come about because of the direct injuries to the Party.  So, this little Girl, that was hit in the Face, is going to have significant amounts of Medical Bills, that are going to need to be paid, for Plastic Surgery, reconstruction, it sounds like.  On top of that, there could be a claim like you indicated. from the Family, for pain and suffering, or there could be a Law Suit filed, claiming that there wasn’t proper supervision in the Classroom and they want some kind of punitive damages.  So, a significant claim to a Child can easily result in a Law Suit, by the Family. There could be up to, one hundred thousand dollars of medical bills, for reconstructive work, numerous MRI’s, in and out of the Hospital.  There could also be a Law Suit for, you know, half a million dollars, a million dollars because it was a Child, that went through pain and suffering.

John Graden:  How often do you hear of stories, like this, or give us some instances of what are, the range of stories that you typically encounter and that you Guy’s deal with?

Jennifer Urmston:  The two most common ones that I can tell you about, are what you’re talking about – which is the inadvertent injury due to an exhibition of an actual Martial Arts move.  The second would be falling, in particular, falling backward and what other items are in that space that, that the person could fall onto.  We’ve had numerous claims over the years, in Martial Arts facilities, where someone falls backward and hits their head on some kind of metal object – be it furniture, a hook on the wall, equipment.  So being aware of the flooring in the area and how much space the participants have when they’re sparring and when they’re learning. Because trip and fall, is, it can be common and it can be dangerous if the person hits their head on something hard.

John Graden:  You know, it’s really interesting, that when I was a Student in the seventies, it was the blood and guts, era.  I really would line the Class up, a bunch of kids, and say – “Okay, my goal today is to make you all cry.”  And I would get every one of them, move on to cry.  I mean the Parents, rather than sue me, they would just get up and go for long walks, because they knew I was helping their Kids become stronger.  But in today’s world, it’s, it’s really different and it’s interesting that you say, that falling is a major issue, because Martial Arts Schools, spend lots of time on falling, but it’s not the controlled front roll, or break fall that we teach, it is the accidental slip and they hit their head on a Chair, and stuff of that nature.  So, that’s certainly something to look for.  What about sparring?  A lot of School’s are moving away from sparring.  I don’t think, so much about liability as much as – I think Students are getting softer today – that’s just my theory.  So, what about sparring, equipment, size – relative to I’ve got a large Guy against a small Guy – skill levels, things are that nature that would weigh into a potential law-suit.

Jennifer Urmston:  Well you want to make sure that every facility, regardless of the age and size of your sparring partners, you want specific sparring rules, in writing, that the members are signing off on.   You want to make sure those sparring rules are adhered to, so that everyone knows the rules before they start participating.  You want to designate what the safety equipment is that you’re using, everyone signs off on what safety equipment is appropriate.  So, if the two parties, coming into this activity together, have both agreed to the rules and the use of appropriate equipment and the Owner or Instructor in the facility are making sure that everyone’s participating and that it’s not a haphazard application of the rules, then you have documentation.  If someone gets hurt, they knew what the rule’s where, they knew what the safety equipment was, they knew there was some risk of injury and you’re signing those waivers.  So, when we’re underwriting, that’s what we look for.

John Graden:  I’m thinking about instances, that would easily, arguably be, outside of that.  For instance, it’s very common, even our Self Defence Classes, to do two on one sparring – where you’re actually sparring two people, three people – for sometimes a test, we’ll just throw four and five people at the Student.  Obviously, you can be sued for anything, but I’m thinking, I have been sued.  It’s a nightmare.  It goes on forever, it’s something you wake up with every morning and you go to bed with every night and every waking moment, lying in that Bed, that’s what on your mind.  And it goes on, for years and years and years, as it slowly sucks the life out of your financial world.  So, I’m trying to help these Guys understand, that they may have a waiver, they may have safety gear, but there are some things in the peripheral of what we do, in sparring, in self-defense, that could be attacked, if someone’s hurt.  So, let’s talk about something like, multiple sparring.  A requirement, hypothetically, for Green Belt is you have to spar, if you want to get your Blue Belt, your Brown Belt – definitely your Black Belt – you have to spar and to a degree, defeat, two, three, four or more opponents.  Would that be covered in most cases, just under the injury waiver for sparring?

Jennifer Urmston:  What you want, all of your participants, each person in that Group of four or however many people are out there on the mat together sparring.  You want them all to have signed a waiver, that they understand, that are involved in the activities that they are participating in – it could be one on three, it would be one on two, it could be one on four – and that they’re aware of that and that they can ask for additional information if they need it and they need to sign that they’re aware of it.  That is the best  [Inaudible between 00:07:27.24 and 00:07:28.21 – best guess – and thing you can ] do for yourself as the Instructor or for any of those participants to protect themselves, from any other participant, is that if everyone is a consenting Adult in those situations, as they’ve signed off on it, or if you have minors, that the minor and the Parents have signed off on it.  And I encourage, you know, in any of these riskier activities, to get both Parents signatures, instead of just one, whenever possible, that’s the best thing that you can do to protect yourself, is education and getting signed releases.  So, you know, disclose as much as possible and get them to sign it.

John Graden:  In today’s world, with splintered families, that gets all the more difficult, so it’s really is something that requires focus.  What about the unseen, left hook, that many people get knocked out from, in the ring?  That takes that into the world of liability. What is a major surprise, that can really knock a School on its rear?

Jennifer Urmston:  Well I think the biggest surprise is that we had a School just in the past eighteen months, is a Child getting in a Class that had a significant medical condition, had been released from the hospital, the Doctor had said -“This Child should be at home, at rest.” and the Mother went ahead and brought the Child to the School for his lesson.  And the Child actually died on the Premises.  Of course, the Martial Arts Instructors, of course, they felt horrible – their hearts were broken – there was nothing they could have done.  They didn’t know.  And again, these are the reasons why it is so important to get the Parents to sign off on these waivers.  That the Parents are responsible for making sure the Children are in condition to come.  You could have had a Doctor’s release at the beginning of your Class six months ago, and they had a concussion from playing Football at School, came to your lesson without telling you they had a concussion. But I would encourage your medical releases for Minor’s who are participating.  You know, you’re making sure you’re getting a Parental Approval for participation, or at least that the Parent’s acknowledge that this Child has approval for participation on all of those.

John Graden:  So, in a sense then, the waiver has to say something to the degree that – it’s the Parents responsibility to bring any changes in the physical…

Jennifer Urmston:  Yes, I would say health or readiness.

John Graden:  Health or readiness.  Because in a scenario likes this, the Kid falls out of a Tree, hypothetically, goes to the Hospital, the Doc, says, you know, stay off your feet for six months and that the Parent maybe things that Martial Arts is the best thing possible for the Kid

Jennifer Urmston:  And brings him in

John Graden:  Yeah, that’s just awful, okay.

Jennifer Urmston:  There’s also a big, there’s a lot of, there’s a lot of cautionary activity going on right now around concussions.  That. you know, if your Child has a concussion from any activity, whether Sports related or not, please advise our Staff immediately.

John Graden:  Fantastic, alright, well Jennifer, please tell us about Sport’s Fitness Insurance Corporation, and how our members can get in touch with you and find out more.

Jennifer Urmston:  Well Sports and Fitness Insurance Corporation is celebrating our 30th year, serving the Sports and Fitness Industry, we’ve been working with Martial Arts Studios for almost all of those thirty years.  We are dedicated to Sports and Fitness. We are dedicated to helping you, run a more efficient Business and staying in Business, fighting claims for you, so that you’re out there, helping people and helping Kids, all be better and stronger Citizens.  So please reach out to Sports and Fitness Insurance, we’re www.sportsfitnesss.com the direct line for my Office is – 8882768392 and Anthony Hicks, works with me as our Underwriter.  My name jenniferurmston@sportsfitness.com you are welcome to reach out to me directly with any questions, at any time, we’re a resource for you as a partner with MATA.


John Graden
John Graden

John Graden is widely credited with leading the martial arts school business into the modern age. He is the founder of the first successful professional association and trade journal. MA Success editor John Corcoran first called him a “visionary” in 1995. Martial Arts World magazine dubbed him, The Teacher of Teachers. Mr. Graden’s leadership was recognized in many mainstream media outlets including a cover story on the Wall Street Journal, documentaries on A&E Network, and as a guest on the Dr. Oz Show and many others.