Cotton Candy and Birthday Parties in The Martial Arts Industry. Smart or as Dumb as Dirt?
I'd like to clarify, so here are some words of clarification that may --or may not --serve you:
First, there is NOTHING wrong with using cotton candy, birthday parties, camps, and all the other promotional shenanigans used in our industry to try and get new students and/or pay those damn bills and have enough resources to do what you must do --and want to do --in the life you have been given.
If you live in an expensive city (or in America as it is today), if you have little kids who'll some day soon be going to a school, private school, and/or college, if you hope to weather the world of modern medical calamities, if you might have aging parents who'll need your help, and if you have any hope of retiring to a life of leisure and new adventures before you lose your marbles --then you better damn well do anything you can to produce the revenue all of this requires. Nobody is going to do any of this for you --unless you are one lucky son of a gun.
I applaud the modern adult, any of us, who works like a dog to be an upstanding, tax-paying, contributing member of the world. I know it isn't easy.
When I complain about the things I often complain about --and/or look down my long Greek nose at, it is because I don't think any of these things are good for our profession IF and WHEN they become substitutes or replacements for the meat and potatoes of teaching the concepts of self-defense and martial arts to the general public.
Instructors who have given up on --or never even really tried to create self-defense programs that his or her public happily digests and that actually serve the community --and instead, takes a path of far less resistance and starts specializing in birthday parties, does the martial arts a disservice. Instead of being the person in a community that does his or her job of teaching people prevention as self-defense --and opts to become a gi-wearing version of a Chucky Cheese franchise, the job of being a wise warrior ready to help people stay healthy, safe, and armed with knowledge gets left to someone else, when that should be something we excel in. Or, in other words, we should OWN protection and self-defense...but in oh so many cases, we don't.
Why don't we? Well, a lot of that (if not ALL of that) is due to a lack of self-discipline, creativity, persistence, and EDUCATION. I know this from my own experiences as a school owner --and because for the last 30 or so years I've done almost nothing, professionally, that didn't involve communication with martial arts teachers in America and around the world.
If you look at the online and available PORTFOLIOS of 99.9% of schools on the internet, there is no sound evidence whatsoever that the teacher knows real self-defense --and/or has made any serious attempts at creating tools, classes, presentations, and or info to serve the community he or she lives in. What do I mean by serious? I mean less than 1000 attempts to do the work like a professional. Most martial arts school owners have, I would guess, less than 100 attempts under their belt --and even then, the efforts are often half-assed, at best.
So, the very things the martial arts are about, at some deep level, are the very things we are NOT putting our heart and souls into. Instead, we are often looking for a high fructose corn syrup rush of acceptance, participation, and involvement with our communities, so we can make more sales --and then we incorrectly call this "serving our communities."
I don't have any problem with school owners who do what they must do to survive and thrive --but I am not an advocate for the path of least resistance and/or the easiest, fastest, and/or cheapest way to make money.
I would prefer, as a veteran teacher and advisor to martial arts schools around the world, to suggest we get our game on with higher education, with better education, and with the work of expanding what we know, so we can actually teach others (as you cannot and will not teach what you don't know).
I'd like to see martial arts teachers who know how to help their communities with diabetes education, with environmental education, with anger management training, with problem solving education, with genuine bully prevention training (and no, that's not a day of study and off you go), and with non-violent conflict resolution. No, these might not at first seem as sexy as a piece of carrot cake and a plastic bottle of Coke, but they are all so very needed in our world today.
I'd like to see instructors who actually taught their kids legit goal setting, who knew what a pop-up business was and served as a business incubator for their young and ambitious students. I'd like to see more chess playing, garden building, art promoting school owners who put more time into substantive programs and education that in how to use some other "thing," like cotton candy for example, to ingratiate themselves with their community.
I want martial arts teachers to go back to school; to think bigger and better (or even just "better"), I want instructors who do things that bring us to tears, that give us chicken-skin, and that remind us of the power of the martial arts to inspire change, compassion, and hope in humanity. I want warriors for justice and equanimity.
So --when I see the supposed "leaders" in our industry selling out to the low lying fruit of cheap, easy, and anyone-can-do-this activities, when I see them being negligent in their awareness to the direction our ship must go to genuinely help us all to evolve into something of even more, smarter, greater, more inspiring VALUE, I sound off.
I'm like, "Come on people, is this the BEST you can do?" I wonder sometimes, how long it's going to take for us to leave the Dan Kennedy, Arthur Murray, franchise nonsense behind, how long it's going to take until we become genuinely sophisticated leaders in our communities...as I've been watching the industry for decades --and my friends, we are moving really, really SLOW.
Don't abandon your most valuable and world-important work, for stupid, MINDLESS, pandering crap, if you don't absolutely have to. Be a better martial arts student. Get in tip-top shape. Eat like a champion and learn about nutrition. Learn how to give better presentations. Work harder at learning and the teaching things that really matter and that reflect well upon our industry. Show us the money of your knowledge and wisdom --and don't succumb to accepting less, just because you haven't done the work you could do.
There's nothing wrong with child care, parties, sweets, and driving kids around in vans --and in fact, some people were meant to do these things, and have the perfect mindset for it. God bless them! But as far as THE POTENTIAL we have as martial arts teachers, these things don't represent the work that could be --and should be --done.
That's what I've been trying to get across.