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Business Ethics in Martial Arts

Like just about any other kid, I began martial arts for fun, to protect myself, and to get into shape. I didn’t start training in order to meet girls, but I did meet my wife, Melissa through the sport. :) She came in at the age of 12 for a trial Taekwondo class that I was assisting and caught my attention. I noticed her immediately.

Only through attending classes and getting better did I start to gain a love for the martial arts. Later on, I began to assist others and had the desire to run my own martial arts school. Actually since I was a high schooler, I thought that Melissa and I would take this path, and it has been a rewarding one growing our TaeKwonDo family together.

Most instructors today hold their own dear story close to the heart, and while I am SUPER passionate, I don’t claim to have more passion than another instructor. Most good, honest instructors have passion for what they do, but perhaps different methods, beliefs and guiding principles.

Ben Franklin is not what it’s all about. You must have business ethics in the martial arts.

People do not generally get involved with martial arts as a source of revenue. Although with the rise of the martial arts franchise, some do try to scam the consumer giving employees a crash course in teaching only to award fake black belts to people who have little to no experience in martial arts. I am not saying that this has proven successful for others in their schools. It just proves that as with any business, there are people who have lost their way, and that there are places to avoid.

Besides those that attempt to outright cheat the public, the most common distinction, is that some instructors will begin to think first and foremost as a business person than as a teacher. As with any “business,” the owner and any employees are required to pay their mortgages and feed their kids, right? Of course.


“Don’t aim for success. If you want it;

Just do what you love and believe in,

and it will come naturally.”

~ David Frost


However, I put business in quotes because too often, we try to conform to society when we should be helping to shape it. The world needs character education, and I believe the martial arts to be the ideal medium with which to teach it. The traditional values, the discipline, and self respect that one learns through martial arts can be applied to improving every aspect of the practitioner's life.

There comes a time when people must step up to preserve the traditions of times past while resisting the pull of society to “dumb things down” and the time is now.

It is a BIG mistake when one begins to think of their school as merely a business.

When instructors stop practicing their art. When they don’t eat right, when they practice a “Do as I say, not as I do” philosophy, they become more concerned with the bottom line than with the relationship with you, the student or parent.

There is no easy button in karate or in the martial arts business.

They have lost their connection with the art in martial arts. They then advance your child through the belts, not awarding based on merit, but under the pretense that they are demonstrating real technique. This gives the student a false sense of confidence in which they test for black belt not really knowing how to defend themselves.

Because of their student’s poor technique, the school will disguise this from the public. Instead of having belt testings, they begin having “belt graduation ceremonies” and students are passed 'en masse'.

Nickel and diming their customers, and likely self-promoting 24/7 due to high turnover rates in their schools will mean that the instructor’s efforts are always spent acquiring new students rather than keeping you happy.

And the irony is that success as a martial arts teacher - much like it is in any other profession - is to have higher standards than anyone else. When you perform at your highest level, you can be successful. There are no shortcuts.

Personally, I have always found that when our standards are the highest, when our instructors are in the best shape, and when we continue to remember the real reason that we all started martial arts, our schools maintain not only the best reputation, but experience financial success as well.

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