Martial arts instructors know everything, even when they don’t.

I’m a big fan of the Freakonomics book and discovered the website with its podcasts a while ago. There was an episode recently that touched upon a fundamental problem in the martial arts and self-defense community:

The instructors know everything, even when they don’t.

In a way, this is only human. You’re in a position of authority and are expected to be able to answer questions. Because, you know, your students pay you to teach them so if you can’t answer every question with absolute authority then you’re not a good teacher, right?

I don’t think so.

I may be wrong but I never saw it written anywhere that a martial arts or self-defense teacher is supposed to know everything. That’s just not possible; and like Logen Ninefingers aka The Bloody Nine always says: “You have to be realistic about these things.”

I believe you do your students a disservice by giving them an answer that is either wrong or incomplete when you go out on a limb like that. What’s worse, when they eventually find out you were full of it, they might end up questioning the knowledge and information you offer that is accurate. So even in the long run, you’re better off telling the truth and admitting you don’t know. No matter how difficult it is for your ego to do so.

When I was younger, I fell prey to this very mistake but after repeatedly being wrong, I learned my lesson. Now I just say “I don’t know.” or “I’ll ask my teacher.” or “I’ll look it up.” If a student presses for an answer, at best, I’m willing to give them my opinion and then label it as such. That way they at least have a qualifier to put the information I give into proper context instead of taking it as gospel.

By the way, this applies to everything I write on this blog too: I’m an island of one, just one guy sharing a little knowledge and personal experience. I make no claims other than “This is what I think is right at this point in time.” So don’t take my word for anything other than that. I’ve been wrong about lots of things and fully expect that to happen again in the future. (Though this doesn’t seem to stop me from having an opinion, some people might say…)

The corollary to that is that I may (and probably will) change my mind somewhere down the line. Which is another aspect the authors mention in the podcast: [Read more…]

How to get rich fast teaching martial arts

I often get asked the question of how to get rich fast teaching martial arts and this is as good a time as any to answer it. But first, some background information on what triggered this post:

Jason asked me a question on something I posted on my Facebook Page the other day. It was in response to something Bobbe Edmonds posted on his own page. So first of, here’s what Bobbe said:

There’s a little meme going around about the supposed “big bucks” in teaching martial arts for money. That selling aspects on DVD, or in seminars is somehow “selling out”, and betraying your teachers. There’s a rumor that somewhere, someone is raking in boatloads of cash from students, and living the high life.

Let me bring the room to order and state for the record: People who teach martial arts solely as a means of income are usually the POOREST people on Earth. There are a few exceptions, of course, but the common example is a pauper in pajamas. The ones who make it with a commercial school are predominately day care centers that offer Aerobic-Kickboxing and half a dozen other “peripheral” services just to keep the doors open and the lights on. (nothing wrong with that, by the way.) Most of us, myself included, must hold down actual full-time jobs and juggle out free time with commitments to our students. We have learned that precarious tightrope walk between family, work, and training. We have discovered how misguided our priorities were, and often learned how to correct them the hard way. We have done a hell of a lot more, laid a hell of a lot of groundwork and suffered a hell of a lot of grief for no other reason than to cross hands with another human being who is seeking the same knowledge we once sought.

So, a little free advice for all of you who are the next generation of teachers, the up-and-coming with your eyes on being an instructor of the arts: There is no money to be made in martial arts. None. The top-paid MMA fighter in the world today makes HALF of what I do per year as a computer geek…on his best day, and my worst. The best most of us can do is make some gas money or spare change for this art that we’ve dedicated our lives to learning.

We do this because we love it, period. Any teacher of any subject worth their salt will tell you the same.

Also – there’s nothing wrong with charging for your time and effort. Teaching for free doesn’t make you “noble” in any sense of the word. That’s nothing more than an illusion used to cloud your mind from the sacrifices you must make when you assume the role of a leader. Leadership means accepting responsibility.

If you feel led to teach in the bottom of your heart and the very limits of your soul,
If you love leading people to knowledge, and being a part of their growth,
If you can suffer the backstabs and betrayals of students who lied to your face while plotting your downfall, (and it WILL happen, sooner or later) and retain your dignity and integrity through it all, and STILL want to get up each day and give everything you have to your class,
If you have your student’s best interest at heart, and strive to be the best instructor you can every day,
If you survive your first ten years as an instructor, and you still love your art as much as you did your first year as a beginner…

Congratulations. You’re a teacher, no matter what anyone says.

Here’s what Jason asked me: [Read more…]

Training versus applying, Part two

In part one of Training versus applying, I mentioned the lead hook as an example of how training for techniques and applying them in real life isn’t always the same. Let’s take a look at another example, this time one from muay Thai and MMA: the leg kick. Take a look at 1min40 when Rob Mccullough explains where to place the right arm.

He specifies that the right arm has to be straightened out forward, towards your opponent, when you throw the rear leg kick.  OK… Take a look at this video now and watch what happens when Rob Kaman (who was called “Hammerkick” for a reason…) throws his rear leg kick.

How many times did you see him straighten out his arm towards his opponent when he does a rear leg kick? Not once…

Here’s Ernesto Hoost, another fighter who you can hardly call an amateur… [Read more…]

Training versus applying

I just started training an 18 year-old girl in boxing and this one came up: training versus applying.

In training, you sometimes do things that you don’t (or hardly ever) use when you apply the technique in real life. It doesn’t matter if you train for sports or self defense, this applies across the board. I’ll give you some examples first and then tell you how I see it. First up, boxing’s lead hook.

Check out this instructional video:

I want you to notice two things:

  • The weight shifts form the lead to the back leg.
  • The lead heel is all the way up.

In this video, Freddie Roach teaches the lead hook: [Read more…]