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What You Must Do to Make Next Year Your Best Year

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.

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In the mid-1980s, Allstate Insurance hired me for $500 to teach a 20-minute motivational seminar at their sales team’s year-end meeting. So, I put together a show of segments that, for instance, would have a student attack me and I’d sweep his legs out and then turn to the audience and say how important life balance is. It was pretty cheesy, but they loved it. Allstate doubled my pay to $1,000 and booked six more gigs around the state. 

I was shocked. $1,000 for 20-minutes? Wow!

The first seminar was at the Hilton hotel in downtown St. Petersburg. It was one of the nicest hotels I’d been in. Even though I lived ten-minutes away, I stayed overnight in the suite they provided me. I was so excited and inspired that I sat down and started writing a list of goals for the coming year.

Here is the amazing part. Had I sat down in my house or school to make that list 24-hours earlier, I’m confident it would not have been as ambitious as the list I created in the opulent atmosphere of that 5-star suite. 

Because I was in the “high” of nailing my first high paying speaking gig (high paying for me at least), my confidence soared. 

I focused my goal list on:

  1. Income goals
  2. Physical goals
  3. Mental goals


This was the goal of increasing my income by 20% each year. That is considered to be a growth company and I wanted that for me.


These goals included how many times a week I’d run, lift weights and spar. It also included how much I weighed at the end of the year. That seems more like play than work, but 40+ years later, it’s paying high dividends as I still run and lift almost every day. That said, I really miss sparring. But I don’t miss kata. I bet you don’t either. :0)


My mental or psychological goals were centered on maintaining a positive attitude and to eliminate the battles brewing in my mind over a person I’d clashed with or a situation that was stressful. Today, that would be more biblical in nature, but at the time, I was deep into the hedonistic lifestyle celebrated by media and culture. (Quick hint, get out of that world asap.)

All of this paid off in high dividends when the largest martial arts equipment company in the world targeted me for destruction with lawsuits that drove my company (NAPMA) into bankruptcy. 

Frankly, I would not change a thing because I love the life I have with the woman of my dreams. I would do it all over to get to where I’m at now. That mental attitude saved my sanity but it didn’t come by accident. It was the conscious decision to study and learn “how to think” that made all the difference in my life since that first cheesy seminar.

Because of the palatable effects of doing this goal setting exercise in the atmosphere of a five-star hotel, I resolved to make it an annual event. So each year, I’d fly somewhere nice to review and renew my goals. I’ve done this in Aspen (many times), London, Dubai, the Caymans, Los Angelas (my fav) and many other exotic and exciting destinations.

Now that we’re nearing the end of 2021, I encourage you to spend some time preparing for the New Year. 

Maybe it would be a good idea to get away for a few days for a combination of recharging and setting new goals for the New Year. It doesn’t have to be the Ritz. 

It could be a local library, Barnes and Noble, or Books a Million. I love bookstores and libraries because I’m surrounded by the knowledge of the ages on any subject. I find that far more stimulating than a shallow Starbucks.

Here are three frameworks to help you get started. Next, I’ll help jumpstart the process with three rock solid goals specific to martial arts school owners. 

Reflect: What were your targets? Did you hit them? What can you learn from what happened? Insanity, as they always say, is doing the same thing again and again and expecting a different outcome. Many of the school owners that I coach are in that loop and come to me to help them break the cycle.

Let’s figure out those things that didn’t work and resolve not to do that anymore. I’m here to help.

Successful school owners fight to find what works and then double down with a razor focus. That’s why you’re seeing an exodus from traditional curriculum to a more modern curriculum for the modern student like Empower Kickboxing.

If you don’t take the time and have the personal integrity to be honest with yourself about what you’re teaching, you’ll never get to that level. Step back and look at what you’re doing objectively rather than through the eyes of a veteran black belt.

Recharge: What did you learn in the past year, whacky as it was? What did you accomplish against crazy odds that you can use to help fuel your motivation and resolve to make the coming year your break out year? 

Reset: If you’re unclear on where you’re going to get to by the end of the next year, you’re still going to wind up somewhere. Odds are, it won’t be where you could be or where you want to be. It’s time to break out of your low results comfort zone. It’s time for clarity. 

Reset your goals and attack! It’s a New Year, regardless of what’s happened in the past, good or bad, it’s time to reset goals

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