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The Potential Liability of a Guest Instructor

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.

It’s a common occurrence in martial arts schools for a buddy of yours to say ‘Hey! I’d like to teach a seminar for x amount of dollars’ and you promote the seminar and you bring the guy in. There have been schools that rent their space out in the mornings to yoga or tai chi or aerobics and on the weekends, sometimes even to churches on Sunday’s. This is a common occurrence, and there can be serious repercussions if you do not take the proper steps to structure this arrangement.

The question is does the person wanting to come and use your facility to teach their class, regardless of what kind of class it is, carry their own martial arts school insurance? Are they requiring their participants to sign a liability waiver? I recommend to every martial arts school to get proof of insurance before you rent space to anyone, teaching any kind of class, whether it’s yoga, tai chi or kickboxing or self-defense. It doesn’t matter, make sure they have their own insurance and make sure that they are having their members or their participants sign a waiver. It’s important that the school owner has proof of it before letting the people come in and it can be a buddy that they’ve known a long time or it can be someone that they just found driving by. No matter what, the instructor really has to carry their own insurance or if you want that instructor to work for you, you can hire that instructor and have their participants sign your own waiver and you can just pay that instructor whatever your wage is. But in the end, if they don’t have insurance, any injury with their students could be coming back on you and your business with you not having a signed waiver in your businesses name and you not getting the appropriate remuneration for those people participating in your school and being on your insurance.

You can get Individual Instructor Insurance Policies placed by SFIC for less than two hundred dollars a year, which would cover that Instructor, no matter where he goes to train or to work with people.

There is coverage out there for instructors who do not own their own facility and who either work on a rent basis or on a 1099 contract basis. They can have their own coverage and if they are teaching a class in the church rec centre or they are teaching it at the Boy Scout Hut or they’re teaching it at a women’s club, they would be covered everywhere they go. So, it is absolutely crazy for the instructors to be walking around without their own coverage, but an individual school owner needs to say ‘Hey! Buddy.  My Insurance isn’t going to let me, you know, let you be here without getting proof of your Insurance and I need to make sure that you’ve got your participants signing a waiver, otherwise, I want them to be signing my waiver.’  They need to sign a liability waiver, understanding they could be injured in a class.

Whether it makes sense to use your after hour times, or maybe it’s during the day or on a Sunday, or after your kids are done and you’ve got an adults class of some kind coming in there, it makes a lot of sense to get some revenue out of your down time, but you still want to be on site and enroll those people. It’s highly recommended an owner be on site or have an employee on site when an outside party is coming in to use their facility, just to make sure that the facility is properly treated and the classes are safe.

Here’s an interesting story in which a school owner did allow a buddy to come in and teach a self defense course and there was a significant life threatening injury to a person and the buddy of the school owner did not have his own martial arts insurance. It’s going to come back on the school’s Insurance and you the school will have a major claim which could impact their ability to buy insurance in the future and their ability to stay in business. A student got hurt with a guest instructor on duty, who used the space and didn’t have their own insurance, that wasn’t going through the school, it was going through this outside instructor that he just let come in and use the space. So, it’s important to make sure these outside instructors, have their own Insurance because the claim would go against the instructor and not against the school. It’s important to not risk your business by letting someone come in and use your space. Just take a quick minute and say ‘Hey! I need to make sure you have insurance and I may need to make sure your participants are signing waivers’ and feel free to blame it on your insurance company, you’re not trying to hurt your buddies feelings, it’s not that you don’t like him or want him using your space, it’s that you really have to and it’s smart to protect your business that way.

Realistically that poor decision could cost this guy his business and if the corporate shield is penetrated, which it usually is pretty easily, he could be facing some personal liability as well.

Everybody gets asked for a buddy to use a facility. It’s not a good decision to let anyone use the facility without insurance and then find out. Again, supervise what they’re doing.

When it comes to protecting your martial arts school, your best defense is insurance with Sports and Fitness Insurance Corporation at SFIC specializes in insuring Martial Arts and Fitness facilities. Go to today and tell them John Graden sent you.

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