I think that the following concept stands at the beginning of what is a radical, healthy, intelligent change (evolution) in why we teach, how we teach, and what we talk about when we talk about our work; our work being the core work of lifelong teachers / practitioners of the martial arts.

The concept is about moving from a PROMISED BASED INDUSTRY to an EVIDENCE BASED INDUSTRY. And note: If you don’t care for the word “industry,” swap it with “activity” or “purpose” or “marketing” or “curriculum” or any word that helps you envision a different path for the work of a martial arts teacher.

The Concept Explained:

Promises in the martial arts business worldIn the international martial arts community, most (if not all) schools typically sell their lessons based on promises. Our advertising promises that the training will cultivate traits / benefits like fitness, respect, courage, and self-discipline. We throw out words and suggestions that what we do has the power to transform people. We “bully proof” our young students, we directly or indirectly suggest that students “learn self-defense” in our programs. We “teach” or develop “leadership skills,” and instill our students with “self-confidence.”
The problem with our marketing statements and inferences is that we’re only saying what we CAN do, we’re making promises –and the same promises are made by nearly EVERY martial arts teacher, regardless of his or her experience or actual skill as a teacher. However, it’s a very rare thing to see ANY martial arts school or teacher back up her promises with EVIDENCE.

The biggest problem and reason for this is that many school owners are having their marketing, be it on their website or otherwise, produced by MARKETING or website companies that treat the work of getting students as a formulaic process. Their point of view is that if you say this and promise that and present it on-line with this call to action and that photo, you will get leads –and “leads” are what makes a school money, as leads turn into new students –and new students PAY for lessons, equipment, and are interested in buying access to the promises made.

Promises, promises in the martial arts world

One of the big problems with promise based marketing is that anyone and everyone can –and will –make exactly the same promises to prospective members. A 19-year-old 1st degree black belt with 4 years of experience will make the same promises a 60 year old black belt with 45 years of experience will make. The teacher with a degree in psychology will have a website and marketing that is perfectly duplicated by the high school dropout who decided he was going to open a school.

What we, as a community, need to embrace to address this issue is EVIDENCE, evidence that’s kept in a school’s PROJECT PORTFOLIO or “proof of promises fulfilled.”

If you claim to develop confidence in children, show us how that confidence has manifested itself in your students lives –in a way that makes sense and has value. Show and tell us the stories, the specific student-involved examples, of how the self-confidence you claim to teach –has manifested itself in real-life benefits to one or more students in your care.

If all you do is make promises but have little or no connection to the fulfillment of those promises, then you might be in trouble. BUT, if you make promises and then see those promises manifest in actual proof –then you become an “artist” who has gone from saying he or she can make great art –to one that has a portfolio of actual work.

The process of looking for, cultivating, and creating evidence of your work requires a fairly radical but genuinely important SHIFT in how we go about our work. It also provides the intelligent and capable instructor a concrete way to distinguish his or her work from competitors.

The art of recording and documenting evidence, the stories of evidence, in words, images, and video –is easier today than in any point in human history. We’re carrying phones that have all the tools we need –so there’s no technological obstacle to becoming an evidence-based school. The only real obstacle is when the instructor of a martial arts school doesn’t know how to turn our potential, our promise of benefits derived from the practice, into real-life stories of respect, humility, courage, self-confidence, honor, compassion, and/or any of the many other promised short and longterm benefits of studying and practicing the martial arts.

I believe that the work required to go from promises to evidence does nothing but empower the teacher and his or her school. It offers opportunities for curriculum, for marketing, and for keeping the fire of enthusiasm and challenge lit for the instructor who’s looking for challenge and adventure.

Want help figuring out this process? Call me. Tom Callos 530-903-0286. Here’s a pass to my work-group, The Community, come hang out with me for a complimentary week –or better yet, JOIN: https://the-100.mightybell.com/share/ksIcTdQKqkmR906x

Questions to ask:


How to I begin this process?