by Christopher Rappold
Think for a moment about your martial arts school and its current positioning. For better or worse, COVID-19 exposed a weakness in most martial arts programs across the country: We struggle to know what to do when we can’t teach lessons in person. I don’t pretend to have all the answers, but together, we need to learn as much as possible from this experience.
To spark the learning, I would pose a question: How do you compete against the thousands of free martial arts videos on YouTube? How do you take on the popular mainstream fitness videos and the free live training offered by their brands? How do you compete against Peloton Bike and dozens of other trendy home-workout items? Answer: You don’t!
Now, before anyone concludes that I’m saying you should just throw in the towel, I ask you to think a bit more strategically. Instead of, “How can I compete?” ask yourself, “What can I offer that others...
by Melissa Torres, MAIA Division Manager
The past few months have been a wild ride. In these unprecedented times, we all have had to adjust to changes, pivot to a virtual world and learn to be flexible. It’s been a challenge — and a huge learning experience.
As you slowly make your way toward a new normal, many of you still may be wondering how you’re going to get back to where you were. You’re unsure how you’ll regain students who left. You’re uncertain how you’ll recover lost revenue.
I hope that you were able to attend our Martial Arts SuperShow Virtual Summit earlier this summer and that you picked up some tips and tools for reopening, recovering and returning to normal. You should know, however, that your road to recovery doesn’t have to stop there.
You may have heard of MAIA Foundations group consulting and the changes we recently made to our offerings. We now have live biweekly sessions that are held on Zoom. They provide...
By Herb Borkland
Ninth-dan Tom Thompson holds the record for the fastest brown-belt promotion in Skipper Mullen’s system. In 1971, at age 21, Thompson partnered with Allen Steen to become the fourth importer of martial arts supplies in America. An active lecturer, researcher and author, Thompson is also the founder and former director of the Fellowship of Christian Martial Artists. On November 14, 2009, he became both the oldest football player in NCAA history and, at age 59, the oldest to score a point during a game. He and his wife own AFC Management, Inc., which operates the Alpha Fitness Centers in the Dallas–Fort Worth metroplex.
MASuccess: Where did you grow up, and what did your dad do?
Tom Thompson: I grew up in Dallas, Texas. By age 15, I lived alone with my father because of a dysfunctional family. He did a number of things before passing.
MAS: How did you first hear about martial arts?
Thompson: I was in 10th grade and knew of a...
by Dave Kovar
Hagakure is a book written in the 17th century by a samurai named Tsunetomo Yamamoto. It’s claimed to be one of the first books to document the samurai lifestyle. Mikio Nishiuchi, my iaido teacher, required us to read it before a belt test a few years back. It was interesting, and I enjoyed it thoroughly.
There was one thing Yamamoto wrote that really stuck with me. I didn’t fully understand it at first, but it felt profound. I’m now starting to grasp it, at least a little. I’m paraphrasing, but essentially Yamamoto says that a samurai is always aware, and in every situation, every encounter, there is a chance for growth and improvement if the person is paying attention.
I think about this often and try to find ways to apply the concept to my life. I travel frequently, and with travel comes inconvenience and unpredictability, so I try to think of my trips as chances to practice growth and improvement. Here are some of the ways I do...
by Nguyen “Tom” Griggs
By the time you read this, we all will have been through pandemic-related frustrations, as well as protests and possibly even riots. Although it is important to be aware of what’s going on so we can react to it, it’s crucial that we remain focused on our schools. That focus is the topic of this column. I’d like to start with a parable my dad shared with me:
Once there was a worm who decided to make the trek to a lush and densely vegetated area. Now, this worm was quite smart. It knew that perils and threats lurked everywhere. The worm knew it was slow, so it mapped out the various paths and different areas that would provide the most safety.
The worm knew that there were all manner of birds, lizards and other predators, plus random stray dogs and cats that could easily hurt it. The heat of the sun also posed a danger. But the worm was clever enough to know that moving carefully and quickly was the key to success.
by Frank Silverman
It’s hard to believe that as I write this column, we’re still talking about COVID-19. Although to be honest, it’s not so much that it’s hard to believe; it’s more that I don’t want to believe it. When I received an e-mail saying it was time to send in my essay, I — probably like everyone reading this — was at a unique spot: I had some extra time on my hands because the world has not yet returned to the pre-pandemic “norm.” At the same time, I’m crazy busy trying to adjust to the new norm and figure out how to operate a business under these conditions.
I also wasn’t sure if I should continue writing about how to reopen martial arts schools or if most already will have done so by the time this goes to print. Maybe I should I address how to handle a second wave of COVID-19? Will there even be a second wave?
Then it occurred to me that we’re in back-to-school season. What will...
by Kathy Olevsky
Over time, I’ve found that change is uncomfortable for me. I’m sure that many of you have experienced the same. When you become good at something and therefore successful, it’s hard to watch it all slip backward to the point where you have to start over.
Case in point: As a result of the stay-at-home orders, most martial arts instructors transitioned to online learning and teaching. I was in shock when I first realized that our once-thriving business would not be operating at a capacity even close to what it was pre-pandemic.
After the shock came the fear. How was my business of nearly 45 years going to survive this?
Finally came the research, the brainstorming and the planning. We vowed to do what it took to survive. We always had, and we always will. We are martial artists, and we know how to rise above. Everything is hard, but that doesn’t mean we quit. It means we work harder.
Now, months later, we still offer online...
by Karen Eden
I never thought that anything good could come out of being irritated — until I read up on one of my favorite gems: the pearl. I didn’t know that pearls usually aren’t perfectly round, and I didn’t know that it takes so long to create one. But what was most surprising was how something so beautiful could come out of something so irritating.
Take, for instance, the pearl of the rare and fragile Tahitian Black-Lipped Oyster. Each pearl takes up to two years to cultivate, and then only three in 100 are deemed to be of high quality. If you are fortunate enough to get a string of “high-quality” pearls, it will cost you the price of a luxury car.
Perhaps my favorite part of the pearl success story is knowing that every single pearl starts with a tiny grain of sand. The piece of sand is placed inside the mollusk. Because it’s irritating to the mollusk’s delicate insides, the animal secretes a natural liquid that...
by Philip E. Goss Jr., Esq.
There is no question that the pandemic has created great challenges to martial arts schools. On the business side, many students or parents have been reluctant to pay tuition or wish to cancel their enrollment agreement even though factors outside your control have prevented you from providing regular classes. Additionally, if you do not outright own your business premises, there are probably lenders or landlords knocking at your door for rental or mortgage payments. The trickledown is clear: If you do not receive payments for tuition, likely you will be hard-pressed to fulfill your monthly rental/mortgage obligations.
Find a copy of the latest iteration of your student-enrollment agreement and read the fine print. If the term force majeure or act of God is present, you can be sure that the initial drafting of the document was the work of a lawyer. Force majeure is an obscure Latin phrase, now seen in the news as the (generally mistaken)...
by Herb Borkland
Loren W. Christensen, 10th-degree black belt and founder of American Freestyle, served 27 years in law enforcement, first as an Army MP and then as an LEO in Portland, Oregon. For a quarter of a century, he has been a defensive-tactics instructor. He’s had a parallel career as a martial arts journalist and “book doctor,” which started when he wrote a 1968 piece for Reader’s Digest. Among his works are Policing Saigon, Knife Fighter, Self-Defense for Women, Fighting the Pain-Resistant Attacker and Meditation for Warriors.
MASuccess: Where did you grow up, and what did your dad do?
Loren Christensen: I was born in Vancouver, Washington. Dad was a truck driver.
MAS: How did you first get involved with martial arts?
Christensen: I was a teenage body builder. I broke my back in a weight-lifting contest, so after that, no more lifting. I had heard about karate in 1965, and I found a school in Portland, Oregon, run by Wu Ying...
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