Over the years I have had students who were physically gifted but lazy or distracted, and I’ve had challenged students who were fanatical about their training. Guess who I preferred to teach?
Not every student who walks through your door already fit and coordinated will make a good student. The ones who had the most difficulty learning often become your most dedicated students. And many times–in my experience–you will find that they become your best fighters as well. There is something to be said about fighters who overcome obstacles that make them excellent martial artists:
- they handle pain better
- they are not as self-conscious as those who learned easily
- they are humble
- they actually get in more work
- and because they struggled just to be “average”, they exceed their expectations because they are never satisfied with their performance
I have often said that a school cannot be built upon the backs of poor students. But this is referring to being built financially. As a teacher, you will have some students who will support the financial health of the school, and those who will build its reputation. A good teacher will make sure that everyone has the ability to build the school’s rep, but balance his business needs with the system’s needs. Not everyone who walks through your doors will be a killer, and not everyone will be able to keep up a $150/month payment. My closest martial arts brother, Master Raymond Wong (www.wongpeople.com), has without question the best Kung Fu fighters in the Washington, DC., area. But he is also located in a depressed area and recruits many students who are on the lower income bracket. I have seen with my own eyes Raymond teach perhaps 20 or more students who are “on scholarship”. That’s right, these guys don’t pay a dime for their lessons. And if you just look at the message boards, no one can breathe “Wong Chinese Boxing Association” without also saying that they are the top martial arts school in the area. For a reputation like this, Raymond should be charging an arm and a leg. But he knows the importance of a strong reputation for a school’s longevity and a style’s propagation.
The students I have enjoyed teaching the most have often been those who have had a problem paying dues on time. Does it cause me a headache to have my income fluctuate? Yes. But it has also been a pleasure having students who will give me their time all day on Saturday/Sunday… even on holidays! Some of our best training have been on Christmas Day and New Year’s Day, when most of the world is sleep or home with a hangover.
Recently, I had a student return back to California after losing her job a year ago. That’s right. This 40 year old woman actually returned from halfway across the map in order to get a job here in California so that she could spend more time learning from me. I have had students come from as far away as Canada, New Zealand, Japan and Australia to learn. And surprisingly, many of these students are not wealthy men.
I have had a student live in my school for a year.
I have had a student live in a trailer in the back of my school for the summer.
I had students who drove 3 hours once a month to train. He would convince friends to join, but only so that he could afford to make the trip.
I had a student who got off work at 6 a.m. and then sleep in his car for two hours until I arrived at 8:30 a.m. to train. He did this for nearly a year.
I had to give one student a “scholarship” because I had not realized that he was having a financial crisis, and was hurting his marriage in order to pay me tuition.
I had a student attend a university in town so that he could finish his martial arts education.
And the list goes on.
Recognize these students for who they are, and give them what they came for. I have long said that when we pass on a martial arts education, we are doing more than imparting fighting skills, we are giving them a vocational skill. I have a student right now in Fiji who was deported and lost all of his valuables when the U.S. government took him, and he is teaching martial arts right now. I have another student somewhere in Guatemala who has no education, but is feeding himself with the martial arts I taught him.
The martial arts, my brothers, is not an occupation or a hobby; it is a calling. And you help to fill a life-changing need, as well as they are helping you further your martial arts goals. It is so much more not about the money.
Thank you for visiting my blog.