The Arnis/Eskrima teacher must find a place for himself in this industry that does not compromise his ethics as a fighter and teacher. It is difficult, because the average student is so weak and easily led in other directions. FMAs are not all that pretty to look at–if you are in fact into the effective side of Arnis–and not everyone wants to latch on to the exotic, paramilitary, Bruce-Lee connection, knifer-not-a-knife-fighter, or whatever trend is going on in the art. Some of us simply want to teach good, effective self-defense–and we are not interested in putting on dresses, certificate-chasing or any of that other commercial stuff.
At the same time, pure unadulterated FMAs are not for everyone. We may not always be in a position to make a good living off the real stuff; especially those of us who are not seen in the media, or lucky enough to attach ourselves to successful TKD, JKD, or MMA schools. There is a delicate balance between those of us who try to maintain the integrity of the art while struggling with a fluctuating enrollment, and those who keep the ranks full yet have to give into the pressures to keep classes easy or entertaining.
But there is another direction we can go.
Keeping in mind the idea that not all students are suitable for a full martial arts program, there is still a good portion of the community who want good, solid self-defense. As teachers, we can tap into this market by coming up with a shortened curriculum for “the masses”: the average guy who is not going to spend his life trying to master an art, yet wants to learn to defend himself and is also somewhat fitness-conscious. I’m talking out-of-shape guys in their 50s. Non-athletic type men who are concerned about their safety. Husbands. Fathers. The pizza guy. Security guards (unarmed). Real estate agents. Professionals. Outside salesmen…
Pretty much anyone who will never open a martial arts school, and frankly, don’t care if they never strap on the title “Guro”.
We get to advertise a simple set of skills anyone can learn in 6 months or less, that will give them solid fighting skills, without requiring them to bash their brains in through practice, or sign away 36 months of their lives. They won’t have to risk broken bones. They get to keep all their teeth. They won’t have to train alongside beer-drinking MMA wannabe idiots who have been watching too much PPV and daydreaming about being the next Chuck Liddell. This is a course in fighting for the average Joe, and not only can you learn to defend yourself–you can lose a few pounds and build some muscle.
But wait… Don’t we all promise that stuff?
Not quite. See, as teachers–we tend to talk to potential students about what’s important to us, not them. So in our pre-enrollment interviews, we end up talking about our background, and why our styles are so superior, and who our masters were, and how long it will take to “certify” the students, blah, blah, blah. What we don’t notice is that the guy in front of us doesn’t care about all that stuff. What I am suggesting here is to have a separate training group for those with similar goals in mind. And one group FMA people tend to ignore is actually a group who want exactly what we have to offer; we just don’t offer it. We offer them lineages, certificates, and lots of hot air, but the thing we can deliver is often just what they want. The only problem is that we are trying to sell them on something they know–and care–little about.
Now, here’s my suggestion: Take one day a week, and about 1 – 2 hours. This will be dedicated, not to learning the deadly art of “Pagkalikalikan Kali” (lol)–but simply street self-defense and general physical fitness. You will take what is required for 6 months worth of lessons (or whatever the length of time it takes in your school to learn to fight) and streamline it to only the most direct, effective things. So drop the forms. Drop the Sinawali. Drop the fancy shmancy terms that usually don’t make sense in Tagalog anyway. Forget the lineage and martial ass-kissing. Teach nothing but pure, effective, strong martial arts technique. And make sure you reserve at least 10 – 15 minutes to strength conditioning. Then advertise the hell out of it. And when you do place the ad, don’t tell em what rank you are or what titles you hold. Make no mention of how old your system is, or “as seen on MTV” or whatever irrelevant garbage you want them to know. Just keep your ad simple: For those of you who want to build muscle, burn fat, and learn how to never be a victim… We have the course for you. And you won’t have to wear pajamas, learn to tie a karate belt or bring me your report card before class. I will teach you to defend yourself against the average street punk in less than 6 months. Get this message out, and perhaps some of the participants will want to pursue a Datu degree with you, or maybe not. But you have reached out to new students who may not have considered taking some “Filipino Karate” classes, and you are adding to your bottom line. This way, your art can avoid being diluted, and your students accomplished a very simple goal.
Remember, as a businessman you must be able to teach everyone. Not everyone wants to complete the curriculum–and some don’t want to do “martial arts” at all! For those who just want some self-defense skills, you can do it without watering down what you do or having to sell garbage martial arts lessons. Just find a way to reword/repackage what you do, and mold it to fit the goals of your students.
Hopefully, you will find some value in this little idea. Thanks for visiting my blog!
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