A white belt karate teacher…

Sixteen years ago when I first started teaching I remember I was explaining to an adult class how to do a knife disarm – you probably know the one – when the attacker holds the knife against your body and then you raise your hands, strike on the back of their wrist with your palm and on the inside of their forearm with your other open hand?

Well as you might know, the IDEA is that the attacker’s wrist is supposed to bend and cause them to release the knife…

(Incidentally I wouldn’t teach this now as there are better and more effective ways to disarm this type of attack – I just didn’t know anything else back then – but that’s for another time.)

So anyhow, I asked for a volunteer. A new white belt named Jeremy raised his hand and I chose him.

Remember that saying about “Don’t work with children or animals”? Let’s add to that…. “Don’t work with children, animals or white belts”.

I’m not disrespecting white belts as we were all white belts once, it’s just that beginners sometimes have unpredictable actions, stiff limbs, and every now and again an attitude that will turn milk sour.

Fortunately Jeremy didn’t have a disrespectful demeanor. He was just as awkward as a new born foal, and as you might guess when I applied the disarm it didn’t work.


So I tried again.

It still didn’t work – his grip was so strong, and I couldn’t bend his wrist.

When it didn’t work on the 3rd attempt I felt the eyes of the other students burning right through me.

I felt like an idiot.

After all I was a supposed to be the “expert” but I sure looked like a beginner.

And when it came to teaching that’s exactly what I was – a white belt.

I remember I felt so stupid because I didn’t know how to handle it, had no idea why it wouldn’t work, and certainly didn’t even think about WHAT ELSE I could have done instead.

I remember mumbling something like, “Hmmm… I’m not sure why it’s not working. I’ll have to ask Sensei when I see him next and get back to you on that one.”

How much confidence do you think this instilled in my class?

To make matters worse, besides not having a good answer as to why it wouldn’t work, I certainly didn’t have a Plan B. I couldn’t even offer them an alternative solution. Man what a mess!

The important things to take away from my experience are these:

– When demonstrating don’t choose white belts… The law of unpredictability will win. =)

– Make sure you KNOW EXACTLY what you’re teaching before you teach it. Ensure you’ve practiced it enough so that if it fails you understand why and can immediately rectify it…

– Always have a Plan B when you teach.

Draw the parallel between teaching karate and any self defense situation – if you’re relying on just one thing and you’re unsuccessful, it could *really* put you in serious trouble.

Until next time…

– Jason

Are you a lazy karate instructor?

Since summer has been a little slower for the club I was excited last Thursday when I had 12 new karate students enrol in my intro program…


And the thing was I didn’t do anything recently to create this influx of students.

I didn’t do any kind of special promotion…

Nor actively look for these new students.

The phone rang and I answered.

Email arrived and I replied.

People walked in and I helped give them what they wanted.

Because of the way my martial arts business is set up, I get a steady flow of students over the year from a variety of sources, and then every now and again I get a wave of new students, and when this wave hits, I’m so glad I’m organized. I just punch in the data into my martial arts software, and avoid drowing in the paperwork.

It allows me to stay on top of things. It allows me to *remember* details about people that I speak to, or who try class. It allows me to get to know my prospects before they become students. This helps me to build a relationship with them – and when people become emotionally invovled the decision making process is easy.

This is a key point that many martial arts instructors missthey are lazy when it comes to returning phone calls, replying to email and taking the time to help prospective members discover why they should choose their school. They are lazy when it comes to building relationships.

Don’t be one of them.

Take time to help your prospects choose you and not your competition, and your karate school will thrive.

– Jason

Karate Summer Camp Success

So last week we finished up our 3 day summer camp.

18 students attended the camp that ran 4 hours per day from 9am – 1pm. The camp was a huge success, with all the junior attendees raving to other class mates about how much fun it was, and telling them about what they learned.

It was enormous fun teaching it too – it was a little more relaxed than regular class, and all students were pretty much equal when it came to the content. Basically I taught 9 hours of judo and grappling technique and 3 hours of escrima.

By the end of the 3 days, my students learned valuable techniques outside the scope of their usual curriculum, that complemented their karate striking skills. They now have a basic understanding of how to throw, pin, and lock up an opponent. Plus add in a few strikes and counter measures with a stick and they’re starting to develop some excellent martial art skills.

From a business point of view what was most interesting was the BOND my junior students formed with each other over those 12 hours. Higher grades interacted well with beginners in a different environment where they all were pretty much of the same skill level. New friendships formed and existing friendships were strengthened. I got to know my students better too and we all had a great time.

This is key to long term retention of students – i.e. The emotional bond they have with you as an instructor and the bond they have with fellow students.

Look for ways to always increase the comradery between your students and offer special programs every now and again to develop those relationships. Each year I do several special events with my students that gives them the feeling that they belong to something more than just a gym where they train.

Get to know your students and families, and you’ll develop a strong club with a great reputation.