Remembering Our Defining Elements
Years ago a martial arts school in a city neighborhood, or in a small
town, was something unique. At the same time Bruce Lee movies and TV's
Kung Fu series excited a whole generation of viewers, and eager students
flocked to get any training they could get.
Today, things have changed. Many traditional martial arts schools are
now floundering. Schools are found on every street corner. There are also
lavish health clubs and spas competing for student's attention. And if
this were not enough, there is a whole new generation of westernized pseudo-martial
arts like Tae Bo and Kick boxing.
So what is a traditional martial arts school to do? First of all, they
must realize that traditional martial arts has something unique to offer.
Health clubs have corporate funding, lavish facilities, even a broad range
of programs, but they focus on the body (muscle building and conditioning)
and all too often the participants are left on their own to exercise -
a solo and often boring experience.
In comparison, the traditional martial arts give students a more rounded
program, including strengthening, stretching and aerobic exercise in a
single session and this is done while the student learns a martial art
Martial arts also offers a community, almost family environment, where
students practice together in classes, get to know each other and their
teachers and later help each learn technique. Compared to another set
on a weight lifting machine, martial arts offer challenging material to
know and techniques to master. This results in a real pride of accomplishment.
People will recount years later how they achieved this or that belt in
a martial art.
Perhaps most importantly, students learn important life skills -- discipline,
self-confidence, a non-quitting spirit and a philosophy of life. That
is why children's programs are so popular. Parents realize the positive
effect karate, tae kwon do, kung fu, judo, or aikido can have on their
children. The failure of most schools, however, is their seeming inability
to communicate and promote these same benefits to potential adult students.
Of course, this does not mean that improving the locker room, having showers,
and sets of weight available isn't important. If your business is to succeed
andattract wider strata of students than just young enthusiasts you have
to cater to needs they deem important. This also includes minimizing injuries.
And it can mean adding yoga, tai chi or other programs. But, don't forget
the unique philosophical, spiritual and mental benefits of your core martial
arts business. You would be neglecting the defining element. These are
what keeps students returning. These are what attract students of all
ages and what can genuinely help them in their lives. These are what sets
martial arts apart from the health clubs and the pseudo-martial arts exercise