The straw that broke the camel’s back…

We have a rule at our dojo that if you’re late to class then the penalty for class interruption is 50/50/50.

That means…

  • 50 pushups
  • 50 situps
  • 50 jumping jacks / star jumps

before you can join the class… and it’s not negotiable.

(For the kids classes it’s 30/30/30)

So I was a little annoyed last week when I had a junior student show up to class 10 minutes late, expecting to be admitted to class without penalty. He didn’t look like he wanted to do class and his dad said, “You know he doesn’t feel well so I don’t think the pushups are going to help.”

“I’m sorry he doesn’t feel well.”, I said, “but rules are rules. If Brett wants to go on the training floor then he has to do the 30/30/30.”

I turned to my student and said, “Your choice pal. You’re either well enough to do class in which case you have to do the pushups, situps and jumping jacks, or you’re not well enough to do karate today. I don’t mind which one you choose, but the rules are the rules…. what’s it going to be?”

He stood there in his gi looking sheepish and replied, “I don’t think I can do it today.”

“Ok, that’s fine. Rest today and get better. I’ve go to get back on the floor. Have a nice weekend and I’ll see you next week,” I said.

3 hours later….

Ring, ring.

My phone rang…

“Hello, Jason speaking.”

“Jason, it’s Mark,” said the voice.

“Hi Mark. How’s Brett doing?”, I answered.

“Well, he’s decided that his heart isn’t in karate anymore. And I don’t want to push him if he’s not into it. We initially got him involved because he was getting bullied at school, but that’s cleared up now, so we’re pulling him out of class”, said Mark.

The conversation finished soon after and I knew full well that the straw that broke the camel’s back was the fact that he didn’t want to do the hard work. Clearly this student gets what he wants at home without much resistance, and when it didn’t fly with me he quit.

It’s a shame because he was quite good technically. He was athletic and showed great potential. But at the end of the day, all the talent in the world isn’t worth anything if they quit when it the going gets tough.

Some may think that I should have made an exception and permitted him to join the class because he was a good student?

Noooo! What’s the point of having rules if they’re allowed to be broken? If you allow yourself to be pushed around by puppy-dog-eyed students and parents, you’ll lose credibility and respect in a heartbeat.

I lost a student on Friday because I stuck to my guns… and I’ll do the same again to preserve the reputation of the school, and mine as a credible karate instructor.

Do you stick to your guns too?

3 thoughts on “The straw that broke the camel’s back…”

  1. Well, I only make them do ten pushups, but I get complaints about that, too! I'll be sure to let them know that things could be "worse".
    I did have a parent tell me once that she didn't think her son should have to do fifty situps…it was too hard. I replied, that if he didn't attempt MORE than he could do, he would never improve.
    Jason, good for you for showing them that standards only have value when they are kept.
    One more story…
    A student is dropped off by his mom and then, instead of getting changed, is just hanging out in the lobby. He tells me that he doesn't feel like taking the class. "Get changed, and get in the dojo. If you don't want to be in karate, take it up with your mother when you get home." I didn't expect him to come back, but he did.
    No one wants to be taught by, or have their child taught by a sensei who has no back bone…no matter what they might say.
    Jim Doan Western Karate Academy

  2. I totally agree with sticking to your guns. If you don't then who's really running the class? Karate is not meant to be easy and the same goes for life. Too many of the kids today get things handed to them and when they don't like it they just give up. I hate to think what this next generation will look like. I hold the same view, if they don't like it they know where the door is.

    David Skelton
    House of Courage Karate

  3. I agree Jason, I once lost two students (sisters) who had missed a lot of classes and then turned up on grading night expecting to be allowed to grade.
    They were very talented and I'm pretty sure they'd have passed the grading despite the absences but rules are rules and I told them they would not be allowed to grade that night.
    They never came back.

    Do I regret it?

    No one is given any grading by me; they all earn their belts.
    All my students can be proud of their achievements because that's what they are.
    I don't run a black belt factory.
    It takes as long as it takes.


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