by Christopher Rappold
I have often said that I could learn the most advanced form of math provided I had access to a teacher who possessed the ability to meet me where my clear understanding of math comes to an end and build my knowledge from that point. In fact, I’m quite sure that most people, given a strong desire and a great teacher, would experience similar success.
If you follow this line of thinking, you know that your success as a martial arts instructor lies in your ability to break down concepts into small incremental-learning modules that build on each other.
When I was introduced to martial arts, the start of the journey was a rite of passage to see if I was tough enough to stick out the training. I learned how to spar by sparring. I remember my instructor telling us to find some boxing gloves in the closet, then grab a partner and start sparring. Simple as that. While there’s no denying that this can work, the percentage of people who are able to...
by Beth A. Block
We all use waivers, although I have noticed that the degree of faith we have in them varies from person to person. Some of us see them as unbreakable shields against all lawsuits. Others think they are barely worth the paper they’re written on.
I’ve examined waivers in this column before, including the following points: the fact that our activity is inherently risky; whether we need to have both parents sign a child’s waiver; the value of having a waiver written by a local attorney; and whether a parent can sign away a child’s right to sue.
In this column, I’ll cover the issue of handling waivers when students inform you that they have a medical issue that could affect their ability to fully participate in classes and tests. What would you do in that situation? How would you make accommodations for the student — and would you be willing to?
Side Note No.1: I’m no stranger to dealing with this issue from the...
By Michelle Hodnett
Project Dojo is a nonprofit community outreach program in Pueblo, Colorado, that works with at-risk children. Through the power of martial arts, Project Dojo seeks to inspire and motivate kids within a safe environment, while continuing to teach the traditions of martial arts. This is the story of Project Dojo co-founder Michelle Hodnett’s experiences in her martial arts journey.
Blockers and targets from Century are great tools for building kid-friendly drills to develop blocking skills and timing. The most effective way to use this equipment with children is to make it a game. When a child is laughing and having fun, they are more responsive to learning.
One student from each team must sprint to the center of the mat, tag their target,...
by Chris Rappold
It is always exciting to enroll new students. In most cases, it’s a fresh start with no history, only the promise of a bright martial arts future. The students enter your school and take their first class, receive their first promotions and win their first trophies. Everything is new and exciting.
Through continued hard work — both yours and the students’ — they continue to advance. At first, you may have just one advanced student, but in what seems like no time, you have a class full of brown and black belts. It’s a dream come true.
Then, without warning, one of those advanced students, perhaps even one you had mentally tagged as an assistant instructor, discontinues training. You feel like you got punched in the stomach. Why would the person suddenly stop training? Isn’t this what he or she always wanted? Why would the student come so far, only to quit? These questions and others race through your mind.
By Christopher Rappold
Finding out that a student is going to be leaving your school is never fun. If you care about making an impact on someone’s life and sincerely enjoy teaching, news of a departure can create some sleepless nights. While there is no magic answer to ensure this never happens, your time will always be well-spent ensuring that the highest percentage of your students remain dedicated to their training at your facility.
As I look back over 25 years of teaching, I do so with pride in what our team has produced. But, like you, I’ve been stung with the unexpected news of a student discontinuing his or her training more than once. Since we preach, “You can either get bitter or get better,” I offer the following preventative measures designed to keep such surprises to a minimum.
1. Know Your Students Beyond the Mat
It’s easy to forget that our students have lives outside the few hours they spend training with us each week. They...
By Christopher Rappold
What is it that separates a good competitor from a great competitor? I have asked that question many times, and I have heard many answers. To be great, someone must be fast. Or must be strong. Or must have a long reach. Or must have superior strategy. The list of answers goes on.
While all these are valid, I believe that the biggest deciding factor between good and great is whether a person can control distance.
This answer is what I would call “the elusive obvious.” It is self-evident, but sometimes we are so close to it that we don’t appreciate its value. If distance is controlled, then offense, defense, blocks, punches and kicks all work. If distance is off, they all are rendered useless.
If distance is such a critical element of success in martial arts, why is it that most schools place a premium on punching and kicking and only teach distance as a necessary evil? As I reflected on the answer and spoke with others, two answers...
By Herb Borkland
Tenth-dan Texas “Blood-and-Guts” era phenomenon Phil Wilemon started training in 1964. He won Allen Steen’s United States Karate Championships as a blue belt. As a brown belt, he either won or was disqualified in every tournament he entered, causing his longtime instructor Larry Caster to say, “Two out of three aren’t bad.”
Wilemon won 13 consecutive tournaments as a middleweight black belt and fought on national championship teams. A founding officer for the Texas Amateur Contact Karate Association, he also served as a representative for the Professional Karate Association in the Southwest. Wilemon refereed or coordinated more than 100 full-contact karate matches and is still in demand as an instructor and seminar leader.
Herb Borkland: Where did you grow up, and what did your dad do?
Phil Wilemon: I was born in Fort Worth, Texas, and moved to Arlington in third grade. My father came from a long line of bankers but ended...
By Christopher Rappold
As martial arts instructors continue to get better and better at teaching large populations in efficient ways, the temptation is to move towards total classroom systemization. And while systems do enable us to do certain things more efficiently than we have in the past, there are some decisions you need to make about what to systemize and what should be personalized.
Let’s break this down and look at it in two separate pieces.
First, let’s explore systems. Think about a favorite restaurant you frequent. Behind the scenes, there are probably a myriad of systems that help to ensure the experience is first-class: a setup of warming lights to ensure food arrives at the table hot, a dishwasher that ensures the silverware, glasses and plates sparkle, and an extensive food-preparation effort that probably started late morning or early afternoon that ensures there’s enough of the right kinds of food. Desserts are all premade and ready to be...
By Christopher Rappold
An ability to be tough is needed to pursue any high-level training. And while different coaches, teachers and instructors may have different definitions for what it is, for the purpose of this discussion, I will break down being, “tough” into two different categories. They are mental toughness and physical toughness, both of which have great value in sport and in life.
Elements of Mental Toughness
As I think of mental toughness, three things come to mind:
Within the confines of a martial arts class, how can you teach these important skills? A simple solution may be to set up a scenario that requires a student to come up with what a solution to a problem in a limited amount of time.
At times, we as instructors are in a rush maintain a schedule, and do not allow students to explore different options. We forget that this process, though not...
By Christopher Rappold
The successful retention of students in a martial arts school is of paramount importance. It saves the school money by cutting down on monthly advertising budgets and replacing them with free referrals. It increases the cash flow by creating happier students who stay and train for longer. And it enables staff members and owners to earn a higher pay for the great services they provide.
All around, everyone wins when retention is high and the quit rate is low. But if this makes so much sense, then why, for some, does it seem to be so hard to do?
One answer to this that I would like to explore is the quality of the teacher. As you may well know, if you replace a bad teacher with a good one, all of a sudden, a school that was limping along will start to grow.
Conversely, I have seen a great teacher replaced by a teacher who was only “good” and the exact opposite happened. Perhaps you have seen the same. So, what is it that makes the difference...
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