Whether we like it or not, every time one of my staff members are in public they are representing not only Kovar's Martial Arts but also the martial arts industry. When we choose to become martial arts instructors, we also choose to become public figure. We stand in front of the class and lead our students in reciting the student creed. We challenge them not only to improve their martial arts skills but their mental attitude, focus, discipline and respect, too.
In essence, we become their success coaches, role models and more. To our students, we become a combination of teacher, parent, minister and motivational speaker, who also, in their eyes, has the awesome power of “death
and destruction.” This gives us a unique and powerful “presence” or sphere of influence.
After all, how many teachers, parents, ministers or motivational speakers can do a jump-spinning kick? Or can, in the blink of an eye, strike multiple times where it hurts the most? Hollywood has done a great job of furthering this mystique.
You see, to our students, especially the children, we are the equivalent of a local celebrity. To some of our students, we are close to being a superhero.
Have you ever run into a student at the grocery store, only to have them be shocked, awestruck or dumbfounded and embarrassed all at once? It happens almost every time, outside of the school, doesn’t it?
Part of the shock is that they are not used to seeing us in “real clothes.” The next thing they do is to look into our shopping cart and check out what kind of items their “superhero” buys.
It is at this precise moment that our credibility is tested and either proven or not. People have been disappointed by public figures so many times that they have become skeptical or suspicious. In fact, I feel that they are unconsciously looking for those subtle signals that represent either truth or some sense of factual congruency.
They look for these signals in our everyday language, body language, gestures, actions and habits and on the more obvious things like the way we dress and the items we are purchasing.
For example, what kind of credibility would be reflected upon your school if something like this occurred? If one of your instructors who works on the children’s floor ran into the mother of one of your 16-year-old female students, and his shopping cart were to contain cigarettes, alcohol and nude magazines?
Are we “dressed for success?” Do we look like the role models that we are? Does our language, actions or the items in our shopping cart support or betray our credibility? Does the student or the students’ parent walk away from this “real-clothes” encounter with a sense of pride and inspiration or disillusion and embarrassment?
To emphasize this point, one day in the early 90s, my brother, Tim, was escorting our grandma from Sacramento, California, to New York City. She was visiting one of her childhood friends. Tim was then going to go on to EFC’s (Educational Funding Company’s) headquarters in Washington D.C.
Their plane was the last one to land at the JFK Airport due to a bad winter storm and Tim’s outbound flight was grounded until the storm was over. Here he is, 3,000 miles away from home and our students.
He walked into one of the newsstands to purchase something to read, then went and found a place to get comfortable. Since it was in the middle of the night and the power was out, he settled down under one of the emergency lights at the end of a long and dark hall to read.
After some time, he heard a little voice say, “Hello, Mr. Kovar!” Tim looked over the top of his book to see one of our six-year-old students and his dad!
I don’t know how many men would feel tempted to let their standards slip when they’re 3,000 miles away, at the end of a dimly lit corridor in the middle of the night, thinking that they wouldn’t get caught! I do know that our industry and our school were served well by my brother since he was reading a book on management and drinking water.
We who are in the martial arts are public figures. That means we are always subject to public recognition. Our actions not only reflect upon our school and us, but on all other martial artists as well.
You can contact Master Dave Kovar at [email protected]
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