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Who Deals with Violent Criminals Every Day?

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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Growing up in the 60s and 70s, karate, kung fu, and judo all seemed mysterious and mystical. The term “martial arts” wasn’t used much then.

In 1975, I was a green belt and the rumors of me as the “karate guy” started to circulate in middle school. I distinctly recall standing in the lunch line. The kid behind me, sincerely asked, “Is it true that to get your black belt you have to pull the heart out of a cow with your bare hands?” 

I wasn’t sure whether to say that’s not true or to let him keep thinking that maybe I was trained in instant organ removal.

I went to a rough school in a rougher neighborhood, but once I was the karate guy, no one messed with me. After all, maybe I could pull a guy’s heart out and show it to him before he dies.

I knew I couldn’t do that, but I was convinced that I could defend myself. It seems the other students were as well. Thank goodness. In hindsight, all a kid had to do was tackle me, and I was a fish out of water.

In our first white belt class, my instructor Walt Bone explained that we were learning tae kwon do, an art that emphasizes kicking which makes it the superior martial art. 

He said, “The leg is much longer and stronger than the arm plus an attacker would have to get past these deadly kicks in order to get close enough to punch or grab you. We always have the advantage.”

My 13-year old “empty cup” of a mind consumed every word and begged for more.

Once I started teaching, I advertised self-defense and presented myself as a self-defense expert. I look back and see a classic martial arts case of unintentional misrepresentation. Unintentional because, “Ya don’t know what ya don’t know.”

Like most of you, I repeated the party line and taught our “self-defense” techniques. To be truthful, they were not bad it’s just that they were narrow in scope. 

It was the defense against a headlock, a full nelson, a wrist grab and a few other grabs and attacks. The only non-contact strategy was in controlling distance and turning your body to the side, which is all fine advice. It’s just terribly insufficient.

To be clear, I’m not picking on TKD. Any system where the “attacker” stands still while holding his or her hand out while the “defender” slaps tiny pressure points or reigns thundering hammers down is in the same picture as our deadly TKD kicks.

I point this out for a few reasons best illustrated by recent events. In preparing some anti-abduction segments for TV shows, it was clear to me that 99% of what we were teaching had nothing to do with martial arts. 

Can martial arts help in escaping an abduction? Of course it can. Some studies show that fighting back or simply making it hard to hold on to the victim improves the odds of escaping. Is that enough? Not even close.

If you are a martial arts school asked to teach an anti-abduction seminar, odds are the class will be mostly knees, elbows, wrist escapes, etc… Essentially, the playbook from our tae kwon do school; narrow in scope and insufficient. 

Will your audience know this? Unless you have some law enforcement experienced parents watching, most will be happy with what they see. Ignorance is bliss.

We’re also doing Real Estate Safety Seminars. Again, 99% of the content has no basis in martial arts. If a school gets the call to teach a local Real Estate Safety Seminar, most instructors will be limited to deadly karate chops, etc…

Anti-Bully programs might be the best example of all. Most martial arts instructors will spend 90% of an anti-bully seminar teaching the well-worn menu I’ve described above. 

The reality is that every bully situation has a story line that typically follows a pattern of escalation starting with verbal abuse, unwanted touching, and eventually more serious physical attacks. Throw in social media abuse all along the way, and you have the storyline of most modern-day bully situations.

The mistake in focusing your anti-bully class around self-defense is that you are intervening WAY TOO late in the storyline. Control of the storyline needs to start long before the first bully encounter.

Again, the bulk of the self-defense has nothing to do with martial arts or physical engagement.

The excuse for unintentional misrepresentation no longer holds up. If you are still teaching one-steps and kata as self-defense, you may be in need of a fresh look at what you are teaching. 

When it comes to learning a style, one is as good as the other. Whatever style the school you join, when your “cup is empty,” offers will be the best in the world as far as you are concerned. 

I’m not talking about learning martial arts. I’m talking about expanding your understanding of self-defense and safety far beyond the narrow scope of simple escapes and distance control to include scenario training etc…

The people you teach deserve more and today, you have the resources to learn what a law enforcement officer (LEO) learns. LEOs spend every day on the front line engaging with the worst of the worst bad guys. It’s part of the their job description. 

Their world in is the middle of the bad crimes we see every day on the news. For every year you and I spent learning kata; they spent learning how to stop a home invasion, an abduction, or an ATM robbery. 

There is nothing wrong with learning kata, but no martial art can touch the day-in and day-out experience of 40 – 70 hours a week dealing with the bottom feeders of the world. 

Military training doesn’t deal with criminals. Martial arts hybrid self-defense doesn’t deal with criminals. The padded dummy training doesn’t deal with criminals. Law enforcement does. Every day.


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