Instructors blog - May 30, 2015
We are face competition, or do we?
During my days at the Oyama dojo in New York, something began to happen. Actually it happened after I moved back to Israel. After 8 years of not being in the USA I returned for a visit. Naturally I visited my teacher and of course I attended classes. There is no expiration date on loyalty to your teacher (a teacher is not a disposable item).
When I returned to the dojo I noticed differences. I also noticed a drop in attendance. Most disturbing of all I noticed a change in attitude. When I commented on the more relaxed attitude towards the students the head instructor joked, "American students cannot handle that kind of discipline".
No more knuckle push ups on wood, no more being hit in the butt with the shinai stick, no more full contact fights, no more sets of push ups until you dropped, all the fun was gone.
I spoke to one of the American instructors and found out the source of the problem. The so called kickboxing craze had taken off. Of course it was not true kickboxing it was aerobic kickboxing which violated most of the principles of martial arts. Moves were timed to fit the music even if it compromised the integrity of the technique. Real self-defense was not being taught.
As a result many students who in the past would sign up for karate lessons were now signing up for the discounted classes at the local gym. Perhaps it was even part of the gym membership. The traditional dojos were suffering. The traditional 6 am class was practically empty.
I believe they made a mistake in trying to compete with the new trend, (as with all trends it is now passe, thankfully forgotten along with disco, leisure suits and bell bottom jeans).
Sticking to traditional karate and affirming those values I believe would have been better. Be who you are, not an imitation of someone else.
When we face competition we tend to get nervous. We look to change affiliations, find a more business oriented martial arts group. Again I see this as a mistake.
I recall some of the principles I learned while in business school.
Stick to the knitting - i.e. you are good at Krav Maga stick with Krav Maga. Do not try to incorporate something else. We had a member who took a weekend course and became "certified" in MMA. He even had his photo taken with the "master" who sold him his certification. (excuse me, who "awarded him his rank"). It did not help. He is currently out of business. He lost it all.
Stick to what you are good at.
Stay pure and focused - Do not go adding "cool things" you picked up here and there. It will only confuse your students.
Never stop learning - This includes on-going training but also taking business courses or attending martial arts training seminars for professionals. I do not mean attending seminars to learn more techniques, if you are teaching Karate do not attempt to incorporate kung fu techniques, all you will do is create confusion. I am referring to martial arts professional seminars where the instructors wear suits and ties, not gis or T shirts.
I knew a guy in Canada, he was so poor he was living out of his car. When the market declined and more schools opened, he raised his prices! He was telling the world, I am the best and I know it. He did something else, He invested in his training. He brought his own instructor for more seminars, and he attended martial arts professional training conferences. Today he is the most successful school owner in his area.
Avoid multiple certifications - As my teacher told me, it makes you look bad to list 10 different certifications. What does it show? Why do you feel a need to get collecting more certificates?
Why do you jump from one instructor to another? this is called the "channel changing syndrome"; no one wants to watch TV with someone who keeps changing channels.
Work harder - There are no gimmicks to success. I face competition all the time. IKI faces competition all the time. Success breeds jealousy and competition. IKI came into existence to answer a need, to fill a void. Many of our competitors come into existence to jump on the bandwagon and seek fame and fortune. How do I respond? By working harder. By offering better service. By improving our techniques daily. By greater devotion to our students.
I am a product of two cultures, USA and Israel. I pay taxes in two countries (Just sent my check in to the IRS). Each culture has its strong and weak points. Many American and European students and school owners complain about how difficult it is to deal with Israeli Krav Maga instructors. They do not answer e mails, they are slow to make commitments. They find it difficult to plan in advance. I totally understand this. As I point out in my book, Israel: A Nation of Warriors, this is part of our culture. Send an Israeli general, or soldier into combat and he will think on his feet, improvise at the last minute and win the battle. This culture permeates into everyday life. The attitude of "it will be OK" turns into, "I will show up in America, make some phone calls and have a few fun seminars. Americans and Canadians do not work this way.
So I combine the Israeli creative attitude with the American service and planning attitude. IKI is different. I was raised by a father who answered every letter within 24 hours. I try to do the same.
Never imitate others - Yes, there is great competition. Organizations with money and power actively go after our instructors and they admit it. I was advised to teach "more popular" techniques, stick with "crowed pleasers" such as knife disarms. I was advised to change my image, become more of a tough guy, use bad language and put on an Israeli accent. I was advised to "sex up the website" and make it more appealing to the martial arts and fitness type.
I have done none of that.
I have remained who I am, I have remained unique. IKI remains unique, we are not just another Krav Maga association in the increasing large pool of new Krav Maga associations with every name imaginable...
The way we face competition is by not facing it. We deal with it by becoming better at who we are, not by coping or imitating others.
We are IKI. And I firmly believe we are the best.