by Karen Eden
This is a true story about too much of a good thing. When Hurricane Katrina hit with such devastation, the entire nation would have to come to New Orleans’ rescue. I was just coming out of a TV contract and teaching martial arts through The Salvation Army. I was asked if I could help TSA by acting as the division’s Public Information Officer. No problem, since I knew most of the media members on a first-name basis anyway.
When the now-homeless victims of the hurricane were bused into Denver, they literally had no possessions to bring with them. They needed everything — from basics such as shampoo and toothpaste to food and especially clothes. I made the executive decision, along with the Corps Officer of the thrift-stores division, to put out a public plea for donated clothing items.
The city of Denver generously responded, like it so often does. Seventy-two hours later, I got a call from the officer: “Karen, you got to stop with the...
by Herb Borkland
Although he’s acknowledged by his peers to be a ninth-degree grandmaster, Kelly Cox prefers not to use the title. Even more rare among notable American martial artists is that online searches for either Cox or his Rendokan Dojo return nothing. This lifelong student of karate and sword fighting inherited one of the first martial arts schools in the United States and has formed his life around its tradition of severe humility and a ceaseless work ethic. He is currently writing a book that explores the boundless wisdom of original scrolls from the 1800s that he inherited from Christine and Ken Carson, who founded Rendokan in 1946.
MASuccess: Where did you grow up, and what did your dad do?
Kelly Cox: I grew up on a farm in East Texas. Dad was a farmer. We toiled in the dirt. I grew up picking vegetables, riding horses and herding cattle.
MAS: How did you first hear about karate?
Cox: I was 9 years old, and I heard about it on Steve...
by Nguyen “Tom” Griggs
Hello, my friends. I hope you all are doing well and finding ways to successfully navigate these difficult times. In this column, I want to talk about three crucial decisions that leaders need to make to survive our current chaos.
I ask that you bear with me. The stories I will use involve airline crashes, and the details are not pleasant. However, all are relevant to the situation that now faces the martial arts community.
In 2015, Maria Murillo, 18, and her 1-year-old survived the crash of a small Cessna airplane in the Colombian jungles. They spent five days on the banks of a river, surviving on coconuts and collected rainwater. When they were found, rescuers were astounded to learn that despite having sustained burns and broken bones, the woman had been able to run from the burning plane while carrying her child.
Bahia Bakari, 14, was the sole survivor of a 2009 crash of an airliner that claimed the lives of 151 people. She spent...
by Kathy Olevsky
I’ve operated a martial arts school full time for 45 years. I may have made every mistake that can be made in this business. The reason I’m still in business, I believe, is I asked for help. I learned quickly that others before me had already found solutions. In this column, I’ll point out key mistakes I made in my career, which are common errors among school owners, both large and small, throughout our industry. And I’ll share the solutions I used to overcome them.
First, the good news: Many of us are back to teaching in our schools.
Now, the bad news: Some of us are dealing with a resurgence of COVID-19 cases, and our states are taking action to address it. I know a few martial arts school owners who could not sustain their businesses. As a result, they had to close their doors.
Basically, we all are operating on the same premise: We will open our schools if we can, and if not, we will operate virtually until in-person training is...
By Terry L. Wilson
According to the dictionary, the definition of racism includes the belief that certain ethnic groups are inferior to others, which supposedly justifies discriminatory behavior. In 1985 Tommy Gilbert, an African-American police officer in Oakland, California, and a part-time kajukenbo instructor, ran up against just such an attitude as he searched for a location for a new school. He found the perfect building in an ideal spot — which is when the trouble began.
Tommy Gilbert inquired about renting the facility and came face to face with a woman whose photo could have accompanied any dictionary’s definition of the word “racism.”
“Back in 1985 and ’86, my dad was teaching in the backyard of our home,” said Damon Gilbert, Tommy Gilbert’s son. “As the classes grew, Dad started looking for a storefront to open a school. The area he was looking in was San Leandro, California. It was a very nice, diverse area.
by Adam Parman
As American states begin allowing businesses to reopen, many martial arts school owners are finding themselves in a strange new world filled with challenges, financial pressures, fears and, in many cases, far fewer students than they once had. This has made their lives anything but easy. Their minds are filled with self-doubt and apprehension.
As a martial artist, you know what it’s like to be pummeled in a fight — and what it takes to come back and win. But do you have the fortitude and the know-how to do the same with your business? No doubt you’ve heard about martial art schools across the country closing their doors for the last time, and you’ve vowed that even though it’s apparent that not every business will survive, you won’t be one of the victims. But that may not be enough. Chances are you also can benefit from a few pointers.
I’m based in Atlanta, Georgia, which means I live in one of the first states to...
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 Beth A. Block
Tournaments can be an important part of martial arts training. They allow us to experience the drive of competition, to learn to accept defeat gracefully and to feel the thrill of victory. Some studios require participation; some make it optional. Others do not train their students to compete at all. No matter where you stand, there is one certainty when it comes to tournaments: They always carry a risk of injury.
In this column, I will focus on a specific tournament story not because COVID-19 is over — the disease is still an important risk to manage — but because I want to remind everyone that we face other risks in the martial arts.
A few years ago, I attended a tournament that involved several hundred people and dozens of studios. The insurance companies I represent always advise the organizers of such events to have EMTs on-site. That’s recommended because, as we all know, participants can get injured no matter how careful the organizer...
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...
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