My Book: Make a Living with Backyard Dojo

I’ve written a small book, which my editor calls a “mini-book” because it’s only 22 pages long. I wrote it for the Masters of small, independant martial arts schools who would like to feed their families with their schools. These are not men who want hundreds of students and million-dollar high-tech dojos. They are true to tradition, in both skill and business practice, and the most they want is to open a humble commercial location that pays the bills and puts food on the table and their kids through college.

I have invested thousands of dollars trying to learn the business side of the martial arts. I’ve been talked into offering a belt system, utilizing contracts, teaching in day care centers (seriously), teaching seminars on tour, even opening satellite classes across the country. I have taught in the middle east, in central america, as well as in sober living homes. All this, in pursuit of wanting nothing more than to afford teaching the real art to my most dedicated students while these other ventures paid my bills. My ultimate goal back then was to offer my training for free. I learned a lot about business, and learned a lot about how I can market and run my business without doing what everyone else does.

Anyway, the one thing I noticed was that I could not find business information that was directed at a guy like me–who teaches full contact; who uses profanity in my classes; who yells at students; who has ex-cons and gang bangers in my classes; a man whose students (including children) leave the school bruised, banged up, bloodied, and sometimes in need of stitches. Yes, I have insurance. Yes, I pay taxes. And yes, there is a market for my type of martial arts. I have a website, I’m in the Yellow Pages, occasionally I am on the radio and on cable TV, and I don’t promise good grades.

I have seen many good friends and good martial artists who have closed shop because they did not have the business tools to stay in business. One of the painful reminders of this, was last year, when I had refused several students of a friend’s dojo who attempted to join when they saw the writing on the wall. 6 months later, they were there after his school closed, and then he stopped teaching out of his garage. I’ll say this here, and some of those students read this blog, but I thought as traditional Karate teachers in Sacramento go, he was absolutely the best… even better than me.

So I wrote this book for you guys. The guy who surfs the net looking for ways to keep his school going while his wife urges him to “get a real job”. The guy (who, like I once was) working for minimum wage on a graveyard shift job in order to keep a school. The guy (like I was) who used money from tournament winnings to pay bills because his enrollment was too low to pay rent and eat.

I was asked to make it at least 40 pages, but I had a message to give, and it came out to 22 pages. Sorry Mike! I didn’t want to fluff it up or pad with filler just to make it seem “worth the money”… I know people who teach their martial arts that way. You’ll find that the other books I write will be the same way:  short, to the point, but full of good, useful information. And I am not some young, wet-behind-the-ears MBA who knows nothing about what the real business world is like.  Just like I am not some 50-something millionaire Karate clown trying to convince you that you’re not legit unless you’re selling belt exams and birthday parties. If you want to really put bread on the table with good, quality martial arts, this book is for you.

Look at our “Offerings” page off the main page, and you’ll see ordering information there. Please, leave comments or at least email me to give me feedback after you’ve read it!

Thanks for reading my blog!

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Planning to Have that Baby, pt II

Right now, I am in Long Beach, California, on my way to take my 12 year old nephew, Yahya, who has just spent 4 weeks with me, back to Washington, DC. I wanted to put him on a plane alone, but 3 hours before his plane took off, he decided that he did not want to fly alone, and my ticket cost me almost 3 times what it would normally cost me to fly to DC. This is a trip I take once a month because I have started a school in Northern Virginia, and I have students there. But this month, 3 cannot make the class because two are on vacation and one is TDY (temporary duty) with the military. I have the flexibility to change my plans as I seem fit, because I work for myself and I am the boss. Isn’t that lovely? Well, as it turns out, I will be there this weekend to teach the students who still want to train, then returning in three weeks to train the others, along with whoever else would like to join us. So, in one hour I will be on a plane to DC, then tomorrow I teach my class, and a few hours after that, I will either go and visit friends or get back on a plane back to California.

When we checked in, the customer service rep told me that for $599, I can buy a ticket which will let me fly anywhere JetBlue goes (no, I am not getting paid to tell you this), any time I want, for as often as I want, for a month. So, my wife wants to go to Puerto Rico on her next day off. While I am down there I am going to visit some martial arts schools and look for opportunities to teach. No guarantee, but I think we are going to do it (I can still use the ticket to teach my class on the third weekend of Sept too).

I hope you didn’t think I am trying to rub it in anybody’s nose, but I wanted to make the point that when you work for yourself, you can globe-hop when you feel like it. Can’t do that with a job. You have to get permission first.

Back to the article.

So, many people would like to take the plunge and open a school, but they are afraid to let go of the comfort of their jobs. Yes, you can teach and work at the same time–like most people do–but you seem to get stuck there because the job pays the bills, the school enrollment does not get high enough to let you quit the job, and you can’t increase your enrollment because you can only work at your school part time. This is what is meant by “planning to have a baby” (which Yahya asked me what the title means)… that the same way young couples can never get the “time right” to plan their baby–money, time, purchase of the new home, etc.–the best thing is to just do it.

But in business, you have to plan a little better. Not just a savings account. You will need to educate yourself on business models for your school. Will you have students sign agreements? What is the difference between a “contract” and an “agreement”, anyway? How much will your tuition be? What will be your target market? What will be your specialty? Or will you cater to several segments of the martial arts market? To McDojo or not to McDojo? Will there be children? Contact sparring? What hours will you be open? What will be the name of your school?

These are important questions you should answer before you open a school. When I opened my school, I did not have a name because I was in the base gym at Bolling Air Force base. When I opened my first commercial location less than a year later, I needed a name. We had four names before I settled on the name Typhoon Philippine School of Martial Arts. That fact, the four names, was a bad thing, as each time I renamed my school, I looked like I closed and reopened, or I was trying to avoid creditors, etc.

If you have a school, you will need a plan of attack to leaving your job. It will be a combination of having a strong marketing plan that is already in the works, as well as a target enrollment (to pay the bills), and a back-up plan in case of road blocks. And as I keep saying, you will need to educate yourself. Make the time to read books on marketing, sales and operations. There are good motivational books that will help, too, because you will have a lot of people who will tell you (like Linda Lee Cadwell’s mom told Bruce Lee):  Mr. Lee, the world needs doctors, not Judo (whatever!)  and you will have to be self-sufficient with the belief that you can do it. Just like you don’t go into the ring not knowing if you will be the winner, you don’t go into business if you aren’t sure that you will be successful.

Let me recommend a book for all of you, if you are serious about being successful with your school. It is called “Good to Great”, by Jim Collins. This is the first step for your path to success. Please, get a copy, google it, begin reading it, and then check back with me. In my next article, I am going to break this down as wells as I can (with my limited education and intelligence) and guide you towards a strong business plan. Believe me, if someone like me can do it, I know you can.

Again, in order for you to be successful, you will have to be prepared. I strongly recommend that you take the path I took, and do all the steps I took, and do it as if I’ve offered you a money-back guarantee only if you followed every step (I sound like a businessman, don’t I?)  I will arrive in DC at 5 a.m. tomorrow, and teaching by 12, so I have to get to sleep. After everything is done, I will tell you all about Good to Great.

It’s Never the Right Time To Have a Baby

I think out of all my friends who have part time martial arts schools AND a full time job, 95% of them would like to quit their jobs and teach full time. About 5% of them lie to themselves, pretending to love the work schedule they are living.

So, at what point do you leave the job to pursue your life’s mission?

I have to admit, it was a little unfair… me opening my school at 22 and no kids or wife to prevent me from living my childhood dream. I don’t know about you, but when money is hard, your spouse is probably going to tell you to leave the school (if she hasn’t already) or your sense of responsibility will kick in and you will consider closing the school since it takes away time and energy and money from the household. For most of you, there are mouths to feed, mortgage to pay, the dark cloud called “risk” over your head threatening homelessness if you fail in your mission. So, you end up doing what every part time teacher is doing: working two jobs hoping that one day you will have enough enrollment to teach full time and give the school the attention it needs.

Am I on the money with this one?

It is a catch-22. Can’t increase enrollment because you’re either not there every day all day and you don’t have the money to go balls to the wall with advertising and promotion. Then on the other hand, you can’t quit the job because it puts food on the table and enables you to have a school. So the day called “one day” seems like a distant time in the future that never comes, because year after year, your enrollment stays the same. Something has to give!

I could do what everyone does and just say “hang in there, you can do it!”  but it’s not fair to urge people to quit their jobs when they may not have the tools to ensure success. The truth is, there is no guarantee and there is no product, system, or marketing plan that is fool proof. It’s not an exact science like, say, fighting technique (yeah, right!). Well, I want to share some of my hard-earned knowledge and techniques to help you, because the FMA community has too many part-timers… we need full time, dedicated masters out here!

I am writing a book on how I marketed my school with the limited education I have, but I’d like to still post articles to help.

Keep in mind, that what many of us are doing isn’t working, it isn’t healthy, and everything suffers–our families, our health, our jobs, our school’s financial health, our martial skills! With careful planning and a lot of discipline, it can be done. I believe if you use me as a model and you stick to the method I use every day, that you will soon be in your school full time. Not exactly making a million dollars a year, but you will make pretty good money without having to add “After School Karate” to get it. The same way couples can never seem to get to the right time to have that baby they are planning, as a businessman, you may have to just take the plunge and do it. You’re all soliders and warriors, I’m sure you can handle the stresses of being out on a limb. But it will take a lot of preparation before you do it (come on, we don’t want to be stupid here!) and it isn’t as hard as it may seem!

Please check back with me, and later this week I’ll have that first article up.

 

Thank you for reading my blog, I hope you’ve benefited from whatever I’ve posted!

Making a Living with your FMA, pt III

Curriculum and Promotion

So, you want to be an FMA Guro?

I am writing this article for two reasons. First, because I don’t believe that today’s FMA teachers are taught how to teach their students—nor are they given good curriculum to teach by. The second is because I truly believe that despite a teacher’s knowledge and experience, a good teaching plan and well-developed curriculum can maximize the outcome of a student’s training. Too many believe that longevity in the art and simply learning technique prepares one for teaching. However, technique knowledge is only one of the tools needed to be a teacher… especially a teacher who is teaching professionally. Teaching plans will help you track and plan a student’s training, and the student will not be confused by constantly encountering unfamiliar material.

The need for a curriculum

I am one of the teachers who was not given a strong curriculum. None of my teachers kept one; nor did they keep a lesson plan or schedule of learning. The closest I had was a list of forms given to me by my Jow Ga Sifu, Master Din Chin. However, half of my learning was not on the list he kept, and I did not learn the forms in the order he prescribed on the list. It wasn’t until I met Jae Kim, a Tae Kwon Do Master, who explained to me the importance of teaching techniques in a predetermined order that I understood the usefulness of devising a curriculum. Seeing how his program worked, I decided to do the same with my arts.

You must know the strengths as weaknesses of both the system you teach and your method of teaching it. Your levels should define what skills will come first and what skills will be introduced to be developed later. Naturally, some skills take longer than others to have any usefulness. Some skills will require more practice, some will require more power or speed, and some are more destructive than others. Some skills will need physical attributes to be developed before they can be used tactically. Consider this: in order for bareknuckle punching to be practical, the fighter’s hands must be strong enough to inflict damage, yet durable to not be injured when he uses them. For this reason, some masters have chosen to utilize open-hand strikes for beginner self-defense, while developing the fist. Fist techniques, then, are viewed as intermediate-level techniques for a good reason. Organize your system into tiers of skill; determine what comes first, what comes next, etc.

Some teachers give all basic attacks, blocks and combinations in the first few levels and spend the remainder of a student’s training career perfecting them. Others will introduce some skills at each level and then save the advanced levels for power mechanics and proficiency. Others may give defense at the beginner level and then attacks at the intermediate or advanced level. Whichever you choose, there must be a logic behind your method. I have seen many teachers teach without a curriculum at all and simply throw in random combinations, drills and skills in no particular order. On the other hand, I have also seen teachers overdo it by creating an abundance of forms and prearranged techniques and drills, packing each level with tons of material with no regard to why they are doing it. Think about how long a student will need to develop proficiency at each technique and skill. You may even want to define levels of proficiency (Got it, Doing it with power, Able to land at will, Doing it well) and when each level should be reached. The point is to have milestones for learning as well as skill. Regardless of how simple your curriculum may be, this system will produce the best results possible in your students, in record time.

Schools today are too concerned with formality and quick progression through the ranks. It does not give their students ample time to develop skill and understand their knowledge fully. This practice has reduced our ancient tradition of practical simplicity into an inferior system of arbitrary requirements to progress from beginner to advanced ranks without a strong defining factor to differentiate them. Therefore, a well-conditioned, 6-month beginner can be outranked by an unfit 3-year student who is unable to defeat his junior classmate in a real fight. The beginner who is already fit may not be pushed to further his physical ability, stifling his potential. The unfortunate result is too often the promotion of unqualified “Black Belters” and a confusion of which students are “better” than others. Such a system of teaching eludes the true purpose of instruction and promotion:

  • to develop knowledge and proficiency in techniques, and
  • to test the ability to prove one’s skill in combat

Purpose of promotion

There are two ways to treat promotion: formal graduation from one rank to the next, or an informal progression from learned curriculum material to the next set of material. Besides what the experts say about retention and good business practice, I don’t have an opinion about which is better. Whether or not you choose to formalize the learning process is your prerogative. However, you must have clear physical goals for students to strive towards. Such goals are kindle for igniting the fire of drive for students to push themselves. Without it, your fighters will not grow stronger or become better fighters. Your job as a Guro is to make sure the students learn and understand the material, and to ensure that they train enough to meet those goals. Their job is to push themselves and spend time developing their skills to higher and higher levels. When you set goals for your students, they will work harder and harder, or give up and quit. When you fail to demand more from them, most likely, they will fail to deliver.

I don’t recommend having too much on your students’ plate between levels. Their training should be focused and direct. With too many techniques, the average working adult student will not be able to budget enough time and attention to see results. It is far better for your fighters to have 8 – 10 techniques they master every 6 months, than to learn 25 or more in 6 months that they cannot execute well in sparring. Because of the smaller numbers of techniques, your students will be well-above average in skill in a shorter period of time. Overall, they will perform at a higher level and your reputation as a teacher will sell itself through the skill of your students.

** The idea of promotion, then, is to determine when students have excelled at the knowledge they have acquired. It is NOT a time to reward them for simply learning it. Make sure you keep this in mind. Anyone can learn, but only the most committed students will excel at it. **

You may also consider setting physical fitness goals for your students as well. Doing so will increase your students’ stamina, power, and overall skill in technique. Set challenging, but realistic goals—high enough that they will have to work hard and enjoy major improvements, but not so high that your students burn out before accomplishing those goals. A good tool to use is the repetition. For example, the first strength goal my beginners have is to be able to complete a 10-repetition set of push ups. Throughout the beginners’ training, we will alternate between sets of strikes and kicks and sets of 10 push-ups. At the advanced-beginner level, we have them performing two push-ups per count each time I have them perform push-ups. At the intermediate level, 3 push-ups per count. Advanced students will perform sets of 15-20 reps of 3 push-ups per count. Of course, a lot of time will lapse between stages so that the fighters don’t burn out; it is a slow, patient process. You can do this with punches, kicks, strikes with the stick, etc. Those of you who hold promotion exams may consider adding a number of reps when demonstrating technique. For example, White Belts must perform 50 repetitions of each technique for their level, Yellow Belts will perform 75… and so on. You will see their skill increase drastically with each promotion they achieve, and there will be a clear difference to distinguish the ranks and levels of proficiency.

The important idea to remember is that fighting skill and physical ability that do not develop and gradually increase throughout a student’s training is a waste of time and money. Give your students strong and clear goals to strive for, and I promise you, they will motivate themselves and make themselves and you, the Guro, successful. When your students have excelled in knowledge and skill, you—the teacher—have fulfilled your mission.

Making a Living with Your FMA, pt II

For years, the Filipino Martial Arts had been marketed as the “ultimate add-on art”. This is not the words of men who thought highly of Filipino arts as stand alone systems. Sure, I have heard that it was a way to “convert” new students who already have backgrounds. But for the vast majority of new arnisador and eskrimador, Philippine arts were just that—add-on styles—incomplete, easy to learn and become certified to teach, and unworthy of 100% of a man’s martial focus.

This hurt growth for the Filipino arts, not because of the overwhelming number of unqualified teachers that came from it but because of the way the teachers treated the arts. Those who were certificate-carrying, directory-listed Guro did not feel the art could draw enough interest to support a commercial location unless they provided the art in bite-sized pieces and made certification easily within anyone’s grasp. The three major ways FMAs are passed on in this country (USA) are through seminars, video tape, and seminar and videotape-trained instructors. I admire the few full-time masters who taught the art full time, in a school:

  • Gaudiosa Ruby (The “Queen” of FMAs)
  • Dong Cuesta
  • Amante Marinas
  • Leo Giron
  • Angel Cabales (the first to do so on these shores, btw)
  • Bo Sayoc

They resisted the path of easy income to teach full-time, limiting their arts’ exposure to the masses. I dealt with this issue myself when I made the decision to become a full-time teacher. While I also was a qualified Jow Ga Kung Fu sifu, I did not have enough background in any easy-to-learn style to be able to teach the masses. Everyone tried to dissuade me from attempting a full-time traditional school. No one believed that my dream would work. On the contrary, today I own two schools (at this time, I am working on a third location on the East Coast). We do not accept children younger than 10. We separate the genders, and we separate the age groups. There is no “After School Karate” program. We do not bind our students to contracts. We do not charge promotion fees. My students do not receive their first promotion for almost a year after joining. In our FMA program, we do not teach forms or drills. In our Kung Fu program, students learn to fight first, and do not study forms until 9 – 12 months after they join. I’m not rich, but I am far from broke. We have been in business since 1992, and my location in Sacramento, CA has been a pillar in the local community since 1999.

I would like to share with you how I did it.

First, I began planning my school when I was 16 years old. I was teaching kung fu as a part time job for my Si Hing (older brother), Jow Ga master Raymond Wong. Jow Ga, under my late Master Chin Yuk Din, was a very personalized, informal process and the best information was taught behind closed doors—away from even other students. I decided then, that I wanted a more public school, and being close to my grandfather, wanted to teach his art. So, at the young age of 16, I wrote in the back of my spiral notebook, for French class (the best class for me to goof off in… hey, new languages come easy for me!), what turned out to be my mission statement:

I will make sure the whole community knows that the Filipino arts are the best fighting arts, and my school will be the place known to build the best fighters.

I kept this notebook all my life, as it contained almost all the ideas I formed at that age, notes from conversations with my Grandfather about his philosophy of how the arts should be taught how the Guro should conduct himself, and my own (rudimentary) marketing and operation business plan. It accompanied me through 5 States and 3 countries, and nearly every word I wrote in it is memorized (including the French). Your mission statement is going to be the commitment that drives you and the light at the end of the tunnel that guides and colors everything you do from your marketing, your curriculum, your image, your students, your teaching style, to your relationship with your community (local and martial arts community, that is). 1 to 3 sentences that can be specific or idealistic, but they will be the goal of your role as martial arts teacher as well as businessman. Without a mission statement, you will have no direction and no area of specialization.

This is a must-have, and is a must-be-first.

Once you have your mission statement, it must be plastered everywhere around you. On scribbles of paper, captioned in notebooks, on yellow stickies on your computer, mirror and the dashboard of your car. The goal is to keep you focused in only one direction, and to never forget.

Next, you will have to determine what you are best at, what you truly have a passion for, and who will be the best candidate that would be interested in that specialty AS LONG AS THEY FIT IN WITH YOUR MISSION STATEMENT. What you are good at must be included in your mission statement. Don’t arbitrarily stick something in there that you wish you were good at. Pick what you can really do—or make a commitment to develop what you would like to do into a specialty. And it must also be something you really like to do. Then, your target market must fit in with your mission statement. In my case, I wanted to produce good fighters, and for my school to have that reputation of the gym for fighters. Obviously, my target market won’t be the 7 year-old market, or stay-at-home moms. It is important to have three circles: All the things you are good at; your mission statement; and those things you love to do—and the people who will fit into the area where these things intersect. It’s no use recruiting Military types if your mission is to help the weak protect themselves. One thing you don’t want to do is to fall into the stereotype of an FMA guy and become an FMA cliché: tough-talking, weapon-hiding, drill master who aligns himself with ex-special forces and ex-con hand-to-hand experts. Trust me, these things are so dime-a-dozen these days, you will never stand out, unless you really were a Navy SEAL. Plus there aren’t too many people, other than 35 year old comic book readers living with their mothers that would really sign up for something like that. Remember, the title of this article is “How to Make a Living with Your FMA”, not “How to Follow the Crowd Pimpin’ Your FMA”. Trust me, it isn’t an easy-to-follow recipe for success… But it works.

In case you are having a Brain fart, here are a few ideas you can kick around:

  • Street fighting for professionals
  • Gentleman’s fight club
  • A TRUE women’s empowerment/anti-mugging/anti-rape specialist
  • Pure, unadulterated traditional FMA for enthusiasts
  • Tournament stickfighting technician
  • Martial arts and fitness alternative for adults with knee/back/joint problems
  • Blade experts for street survival
  • Urban self defense

Can you combine several elements? Of course you can. The idea here is to identify what you are good at, what you like doing, and what you are going to do. My FMA brothers and sisters, there is no way around this step. If you like hustling videos and seminars and don’t care about molding and cultivating martial arts students, then skip over this article. But if you love the Filipino arts, and want to find a way to teach at the level of a Mas Oyama or Wong Fei Hung, you need to do it full-time. Not one day a week in your garage. Not bouncing from location to location because you can’t pay bills. Not part time after your job with the county. But full-time, with an unlimited portion of your day dedicated to perfecting the arts, and the peace and calm of knowing you can feed your family by doing something you love.

In Making a Living with Your FMA, part III, we will discuss developing your image and devising a teaching plan.

Making a living with your FMA, part 1

As a child, I never had a chance. I was destined to become a martial arts teacher. There were a few interests: politics, football, boxing, magic, even journalism. However, the one thing I have always said was that I would be a martial arts teacher.

When I got older, all the masters I knew were poor and I started to doubt that a real martial artist could feed himself off of traditional martial arts. Sure, there were some making tons of money, but those guys had lousy students, short classes, easy promotion exams… and I would never do that!

Then I discovered the tournament prize.

I learned that if I trained really hard, I could make between $100 – 500 per tournament for a first place or grand-champion placement. Following the footsteps of Sifu-Guro Billy Bryant (and many other great martial artists), I passed up the opportunity to get a “real job” and made the martial arts my full-time job. And it was a hustle. In order to make this work, you have to compete at every tournament that comes your way. Sometimes, you don’t make enough to pay rent, buy groceries, or even have gas money to get to the tournaments. We even paired up to attend tournaments with friends–with the agreement that if either of us won, we would split the prize. We had to endure the displeasure of our family and friends, who saw us as “karate bums”. We did it, and reaped the benefits of pursuing a passion with a level of skill many of our peers wished they had. Some people simultaneously achieved skill in the arts and finished college degrees. The rest of us just stuck with the martial arts.

The great thing about the tournament was that it was great for networking. I met Apolo Ladra, who introduced me to Jae Kim (owner of Kim’s Karate), who introduced me to Han Kim (owner of US Tae Kwon Do College). All these men taught me that one could make a living from teaching good, pure martial arts. Apolo taught me that teaching kids was not tantamount to pulling your own teeth. Jae Kim taught me how to handle large classes, quality control management, and development of a good teaching plan. Han Kim taught me how to sell, market and operate a martial arts school.

Around the same time I learned from these gentlemen, Billy Bryant introduced me to the seminar. A product of the FMA seminar, he learned how to “hype” oneself and taught me just how lucrative the seminar was. I did a few on my own, made a few thousand dollars, but learned that I hated teaching this way. There is no skill development, quality control, and dedication demanded from the students. Yes, you can reach large audiences, but mass consumerism never resulted in good martial arts. Sadly, Billy, as talented as he was, never made enough to feed himself off his full-time school, and had to sell certificates through seminars to make his living. I walked away from this experience committed to prove that traditional Filipino Martial Arts is marketable in its pure form, and that it could support a full-time school.

Let me add this note: In order for this to work, you must have a high degree of skill and accomplishment. By “accomplishment”, I am referring to a reputation built in combat with other martial artists. Combat is through tournaments, or friendly or unfriendly sparring. You must be known for good skill and your students must be known to possess above-average skill. In this, my first rule of marketing your martial arts:

#1. good marketing spreads the word. good skill signs them up

Without good skill, all you’re doing is talking a good game, and you will have to constantly keep new students coming through the door because there is nothing motivating people to stay. And remember what I mean by “skill”… I am talking about fighting ability and all its attributes–power, speed, sparring ability, knowledge. Part of your work week will need to be, at a minimum, enough training sessions to keep your skills functional. High reps of strikes, strength training, shadow boxing to keep techniques ingrained into your hands’ muscle memory. Without decent skill–good skill–your school doesn’t have a chance.

Where you find martial artists with poor or mediocre skill, you will see things that barely matter being emphasized:

  • lineage
  • rank
  • easy, frequent promotions
  • entertaining drills (that distract you from the fact that this guy hits like a woman)
  • tough talk and posturing
  • addition of “bulletproof” arts that they hide behind–BJJ, Krav Maga, blade arts, etc.
  • Kiddie Classes, afterschool karate, Tae Bo
  • memberships and organizational affiliations–i.e., strength in numbers
  • de-emphasizing the importance of fighting skill

The bottom line is that in order for your school to grow without the use of fluff and bells and whistles, you will need to make sure that your own physical martial arts skills are above average. Now, I told you about my pre-teaching experience because I believe that the best martial artists are full-time martial artists.

Some of you may be saying, “Not everyone can do this full-time.” True that, but teaching and mastery of the art is not for everyone. So you will have to make up your mind–are you put on this earth to be a great accountant/government worker/whatever, or a career martial artist? Just because you wish you were master material doesn’t mean you can just do it part time and think that you’re equal with those who have made this their life. I do believe, however, that anyone who wants it and is willing to do what he has to do to pursue it can achieve it. But you will have to decide whether you will truly make the martial arts your life, or will you just make it an exaggerated hobby?

In closing, the first key to making a living with your FMA is to be good at it, and dedicate your life full-time to teaching and practice of the arts.

In Part II, we will discuss your mission statement and building your organization.