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The Fork In The Martial Road

Photo on 30-08-2018 at 14.28 #2

The Fork In The Martial Road

We start training in the martial arts to improve ourselves. We get fitter, healthier, better at technique and go up in our own and other’s estimation, often taking responsibility to teach and having others look up to us. This brings us to an important fork in the road of our martial arts training.

We may have been weak, greedy for money, lust driven to manipulate others, bullied or a bully and/or a narcissist. Martial arts training SHOULD then reduce those weaknesses and make us a more disciplined, empathic, compassionate, tolerant and helpful person, but at this ‘fork in the road’ we may take that route or with our new found power become more greedy, lustful, bullying and narcissistic.

Good quality martial arts should be our priority and helping others to get there is our role as mentor to others. If money, sex, vanity, or the control of others becomes our priority, then we took the wrong road at that fork.

When it’s all about the teacher and not the teachings, it’s wrong. When it’s all about the ‘business’ and not the standard of the art, then it’s wrong. We need to know about the teacher, we need to pay the bills, but the art, the standard and the transmission should come first, if it doesn’t, you’re on the wrong road.

Any mentor of martial arts teachers and coaches should teach this first. Our primary function is as martial artists and then we take care of business and encourage and help others to become better people without harming or damaging them.

The irony is that if we work this way, others recognise what we are and that we don’t see them as ‘punters’ or targets for our narcissism. Students will have confidence in us, we will retain them and have a successful club.

As the business guru’s would say….. win/win…..


Disguised Buddhism

3:4 Buddha

Disguised Buddhism

“I went to a business guru meeting over the weekend, it was really motivating!”  Dan was telling the other black belts as they sat on the floor stretching, waiting for the Instructors class to start….

“How to win friends and influence people eh?”  It appears that Geoff was not so impressed.

“And get rich quick!” Francis decided to join in the fun.

“No, no, no,” said Dan, “that’s all very 1960’s!”

“Not if you read the martial arts magazines and my spam emails it ain’t” said Geoff.

“Seriously,” said Dan, “these people have grown since the early days, it’s all about living a balanced life nowadays, how to find success not just in business, but in health, family and life in general, how to be happy.”

“Talking about Buddhism?”  Sensei had entered the Dojo, they all laughed.

“No, said Geoff, Dan’s been to one of those motivational speakers that the martial arts business people are always recommending….

“Ah…. ‘Disguised Buddhism’ you mean” answered Sensei.

“There’s no religion in it” laughed Dan.

“Or in Buddhism”, said Sensei.

“That’s daft,” said Dan, “Buddhism is classed as a religion everywhere.

“It’s sometimes called the religion of the atheist, other cultures have included it into their indigenous religions and cultures, but actually its simple logic.  If the Buddha were alive today, he might be a ‘motivational speaker’ the cultivated speakers today are preaching what the Buddha taught in a reconstituted fashion.  I prefer the original thing.”

“But you are an atheist Sensei!”  Dan looked surprised.

“Exactly,” replied Sensei.  “The Buddha provided the perfect toolbox for us to work with our mind, emotions and body and find a sustainable route through our martial arts without any unnecessary suffering.”

Dan laughed – “The Buddha wasn’t a martial artist!”

“Actually…..  he was one of the most prominent martial artists of his time and excelled at them, winning many tournaments when he was a Prince, he was quite a large man for his culture and trained by the best masters of his time” replied Sensei.

“So how would the Buddha be able to help us?” asked Geoff now beginning to get interested.

“He gave an excellent set of principles for us to live by that ‘ennobles’ us and means that we will be able to sustain the road of progression that we’re on.  He was wise enough to realise that we needed to discover truth for ourselves through self examination and contemplation and not to ‘believe’ the doctrine of others, but to examine and challenge until we actually ‘know’ for real.”  Sensei looked intensely at the three listeners.

“That sounds like a martial artist – give us an example” asked Dan.

“He gave us the 4 Noble Truths, explaining that we have to understand what suffering actually is, what causes it, to realise that it can cease – and the route to making that happen,” ventured Sensei.

“Don’t understand,” said Dan.

“All modern medical diagnosis is based on the same logic” replied Sensei.  “When you go to the doctor he will first see what’s wrong with you, find the cause, see whether it can be cured and if it can, give you the route to the cure….  If you’re not progressing with your training, we’ll examine what the cause is, find the cure and then map out the route to make it happen….  If your business is suffering…”

“I get the idea,” said Dan, “what was the route that the Buddha offered 2500 years ago?”

“The fourth noble truth is the eightfold path and is as relevant today as it’s ever been,” answered Sensei.  “The Buddha broke the path down into 3 sections, the first section is about wisdom, he advised us to have a correct understanding of everything around us and to have the right aspirations for the future.  The second section was about ethical conduct, he advised us to have right speech, right action and right livelihood, you can’t be enlightened of suffering if you hurt others.  The third section was about mental development and advised right effort – too much effort and you fail, too little and you’ll never get there – and to keep an aware and focused mind.

As you can see there’s nothing religious in it – it’s pure logic.”

“You’re right,” mused Dan, “that is essentially the message that the speaker was giving, re-inventing the wheel eh?”

“And you’re paying heavily for it eh?” said Sensei mimicking Dan…

“Tell us more…” pleaded Geoff.

“Without turning it into a lecture of my own, I’ll mention two trilogies’ that are of interest to you, the first is the three characteristics of existence, all existence is always changing, trying to grasp at it is unsatisfactory and its qualities are illusory.”

“That’s true,” said Dan, “I can relate to that, all my suffering in life has been around wanting to keep things the same.  I’ve had a terrible time coming to terms with sickness and the death of people in my family and recovery from my own injuries.”

“Also,” said Sensei, “to succeed on your journey it’s very helpful to be seeking to be ‘awake’ to wisdom, to be seeking the truth and to have people around you on the same path, this is the purpose of the Dojo – the place of ‘seeking the way’..”

“Maybe I should have been studying my own art and related wisdom instead of looking elsewhere,” mused Dan.

“Sometimes looking elsewhere helps you to validate your own journey,” said Sensei, “there just tends to be nothing new if you’re studying a tried and tested system, but you must always keep your eyes open and sometimes looking outside helps you to better understand what’s right under your nose.”


Ethical Is Successful Business In Martial Arts

caz mikey gloved copy

Martial Arts businesses suffer from some of the worst marketing on this planet.  All the ‘hype’, ‘management consultants’, ‘Leadership Programmes’, ‘upgrades’, door to door sales, mass leafleting and buzz words that have lost their meaning such as ‘self discipline’, ‘confidence’, ‘self defence’, the self made ‘Masters’, countless ‘World Champions’, clubs that throw every Martial Art into the hat with lists that they couldn’t possible supply has left potential and existing students sullied, confused and lost.

Schools wanting to develop relationships with outside sports clubs have had their fingers burned by the expansionist, badly run and heavily marketed clubs. Under the guidance of their marketing gurus these clubs used all the right buzz words to get into the school curriculum and subsequently taught poor quality and often downright dangerous Martial Arts.  They then rip off the children and their parents after persuading them to join their club with upgrades of up to ten times the original joining monthly subscription.

Business and life are not separate.  A Martial Arts Instructor has to decide exactly what his aims in life are and where he wants his dojo or kwoon to go.  As an Instructor and Martial Artist, he has to define exactly what success is for him.  Management companies and business advisors are rarely experienced Martial Artists and are therefore often prepared to sacrifice all that is holy in the Martial Arts to simply earn as much as they can from a client as quickly as possible.

To most Martial Artists that I know, success is primarily being good at what they do, so their own Martial Arts expertise and that of their students is a high priority.  For that to happen they need to ensure that the structure of their dojo or kwoon is professionally run and is financially sound.

Top business guru’s recommend that any successful business requires a top quality product, the ‘salesman’ then has the confidence that what he is selling is what the customer requires.  With a good service and reasonable pricing structure, the customer will remain loyal and return again and again for life.  Thus a good salesman only has to ‘go out on the road’ once and with little or no attrition from his customer base and growth from the best source possible – word of mouth, does the job for him.

Just common sense really eh?

First of all, an Instructor needs to be good at what he does and never stop improving his own personal development.  I know so many ’30 year’ Martial Artists that have just repeated 3 years development 10 times…  Black belts, that are just ‘fitter and faster’ with a white belt standard of technique…. An Instructor needs to continuously grow and lead the way for his progressing students, constantly researching and refining his own technique.  If he wants to run a successful school it’s important that he learns a sound, well acknowledged art and style under a reputable instructor and is fully qualified to grade those under his tutelage.

Being good at something is one thing, being able to teach it is another.  It’s important to have the right coaching qualifications and abilities.  Over the years I had coaching qualifications from a variety of Governing Bodies and as each one transformed into another, the qualifications became defunct so when the NVQ came out I jumped at the chance to get a permanent set of qualifications that would be recognised everywhere I went.  Add to that an enhanced CRB disclosure, Professional Indemnity insurance, Governing Body registration, MASA accreditation, First Aid, Safeguarding Children, Equity in Coaching and Club for All qualifications leading to the Sport England ‘Clubmark’ accreditation and you have a product that is ‘quality assured’ with coaches with qualifications that everyone can recognise.

Then you have to do a good job.  ‘Professional’ doesn’t just mean earning money at something – it means doing a ‘professional’ job.  Turn up at the right time with all the right equipment and lesson plans and provide a good, quality lesson.    Support that with structured feedback to students and parents, recognised gradings and access to continued development and competition and you’re providing the service that should be expected.

This is perfect public relations (PR) if you do this well you won’t need all the trashy gimmicks.  You won’t have to become the performing monkey at all events, forever giving out leaflets and begging people to join you.  You won’t find yourself cutting a child’s birthday cake with a sacred Samurai sword and acting as a babysitter, the only ‘salesman’ you’ll have to be is the consummate professional.

‘Snowball PR’ means that every time you do a good job, people will talk about you, eventually you become the Professional Martial Artist that is the ‘go to’ guy in your area for anything to do with Martial Arts.  People will come to you because you won’t be ripping them off, damaging them with bad training practice and trying to ‘upgrade’ them at ridiculous prices with sham products.  Respect will come when you help the children, help rehabilitate people from illness and surgery, adapt professionally for people with special needs, help people with posture, breathing, mental awareness, mental focus, emotional growth, health, fitness and conflict resolution.

When did your ‘management consultants’ and ‘business advisors’ help you with all that?  They won’t, because if they turn you into the consummate professional, you won’t need them.

The onus is on you to ‘up your game’ and do what you know is right, don’t let poor quality, heavily marketed clubs take over, use the quality that you’ve developed over the years, that Martial spirit of humility, resolve and determination to get out into the community and SHOW what premium Martial Arts can do to change it for the better.  Let them know what qualifications they should be looking for and match those of the other sports to be a positive part of your local community, take pride in what you do and beat the ‘snake oil’ salesman with a quality product that uses PR over marketing and utilises that Martial Arts spirit of determination and resolve to leave a Martial Arts legacy of which we can all be proud.