Many of us like to help other people. We are in a teaching art. My instructor told me years ago that the best way to learn our martial art is to teach it. I’ve been lucky enough to have been given the opportunity to share what I’ve learned in the studio with the ranks coming up behind me.
I’ve also noticed that many of us who share our martial art with others often help people. We know the value of martial arts to change and empower people. One of the studio owners I’ve spoken to recently is exactly that kind of person.
He had the opportunity to bring a child into the school that was struggling with social skills. The child was struggling with home-life and academic problems, and bullying by other kids. Those types of problems usually occur together for kids.
The studio owner had a lot of heart for this child. So, the child was brought in on a scholarship and was enthusiastic about class. He made sure his mom got him to class regularly. He worked hard on being a good student. He was the kind of student that made up for talent with effort.
In this same studio was an instructor that had come up in old-school martial arts. She believed that discipline was the single most important factor in building a martial artist. She also believed that all students could do more, physically, than they thought they could do.
Whether you agree or disagree with her point of view, the truth is, we live in America in 2019. No matter where you turn — billboards, TV, social media, talking to your neighbor — you see and hear about lawyers suing businesses and getting money for their clients.
The old-school approach doesn’t work in our studio, if we’re in it to make a living.
For this studio, the instructor had the boy hold a stance for five minutes. The boy was shaking and crying. Mom was outraged. The instructor couldn’t believe mom was questioning her teaching style.
Mom took the boy out of the studio. When the owner shared with mom his belief that the boy would benefit from martial arts, even if that meant going to another studio, mom was angry. She said there was no way she was going to let grown-ups bully her son. Now she had a very lopsided view of martial arts.
No surprise when, a few months later, the school owner was served with a lawsuit. The papers stated the boy had been harmed physically and emotionally. Those are very typical accusations in these situations.
In the legal battle and mediation, mom could not prove any physical harm had been done to the boy. The real point of argument was the question of emotional harm. Since that isn’t something that’s clear cut, like a broken arm, the defendant is at a real disadvantage. The studio is the defendant.
I have two suggestions to help you should you face a similar situation.
First, make sure you train your team on proper teaching methods. We all have our martial arts heritage. We have been influenced by our instructors and mentors. It is natural to think that the way we were taught is the best way. Sometimes, it isn’t the best way for 2019 America. So, our instructors need to know what methods they can and cannot use.
Once you’ve decided on acceptable methods and trained the team, you also need to closely observe your instructors in action. You need to make sure they are sticking to your guidelines. It’s your financial security on the line.
Second, make sure your insurance policy provides protection if you’re sued over an “emotional harm.” Many policies only cover the emotional harm if it comes from a physical harm. Make sure you know what you have.
Beth Block can be reached at (800) 225-0863 or [email protected]
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