December 29, 2022, Israel
Sometimes we learn more than we think we are learning. Sometimes we learn different things than we think we are learning. When I was attending Karate College in Virginia, I attended every possible lesson. I wanted to be exposed to every style of martial art, I wanted to see the approach of different instructors. I trained in everything from Point Karate to full contact Mixed Martial Arts and Wrestling. I also took a class in stunt work and even a class in martial arts journalism.
During the martial arts journalism class, the instructor made a point that stuck with me; the martial arts magazines repeat their themes on the average every six months. That means if they did an article about Chinese Kung Fu as practiced by the monks of Shaolin, they could and would do a similar article in six months. If they featured an Israeli martial art, they could do the same again, in about six months. The reason? the rapid rate of turnover. People lose interest in martial arts rather quickly and the enthusiastic reader of today will most likely be gone in half a year. He will be replaced by another enthusiastic beginner.
On a side note, another disturbing eye-opener was that the heroes featured on the covers of the magazines were nearly always related to those investing a lot of money in advertising. In another words the way to get on the cover is to purchase some full-page adds in the magazine. Unless you are Bruce Lee, or a movie star like Jean Claude Van Damme, that is pretty much the only way you get on the cover.
So much for delusions. I pretty much lost interest in those magazines after this course. But there is an important lesson here; not only is success unrelated to your actual martial arts abilities but most martial arts instructors need not worry about learning new material or improving their skills.
Turnover in most martial arts school is so rapid and predictable that the instructor can get by with the techniques and training he received many years ago when he earned his black belt. With very few students staying for a long term he need not worry or concern himself with teaching new material or being innovative. Therefore, he need not worry himself with improving his own skills or learning new material. As such he has very little need for a teacher.
If he has no need for a teacher than why bother paying membership dues to an association? Ranks can easily be purchased all over the world, and new skills are not required. When I turn down a student for a rank, I often find that within a few days, or at most weeks he has "earned" that rank elsewhere and left my association. He does not need me. He is not committed to actual self-defense, that is not the foremost thought on his mind, he is interested in saving money and making money. With the usual high-turnover rates he can focus on the new students and get away with teaching the basics. The handful or less of students or stay for the long-term he will figure it out as he goes along. Perhaps pick up some techniques for free from Youtube.
Thus, the high turnover rate is actually a blessing for most martial arts schools and a new student brings in more income than a veteran student. Each student pays a registration fee, must purchase a uniform and perhaps some other training supplies, a DVD etc. Looking at it as a business the new students are where you should focus your energies.
My approach is different. One of my role models, the late Prof. Arthur Cohen had many students who stayed with him for over 30 years. When he passed, he handed over his school to a student of 37 years. Can you imagine that? 37 years with the same instructor. I myself trained with him for close to 15 years during my visits to the USA.
Last night I taught a class, as one of the students was leaving, he remarked, "It is amazing, you always have something new to teach, I really enjoyed tonight's class."
Now of course we do not invent new techniques on a regular basis, nor do we seek to create techniques, but we do study real-life violence on a regular basis and apply the lessons to our training. As long as there is violence, we are never content. We are constantly seeking to improve.
Moshe Katz, 7th dan Black Belt, Israeli Krav Maga. Certified by Wingate Institute. Member Black Belt hall of fame, USA and Europe.
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