Helping People Find the Right Martial Arts School – Episode 105
What is up everyone? It’s time for another episode of whistlekick Martial Arts Radio, and here we are with episode 105. And today we’ll talk about how you can help people find the right martial arts school.
I’m whistlekick’s founder but I’m better known as your host, Jeremy Lesniak. whistlekick, if you don’t know, makes the absolute best sparring gear, apparel and accessories for practitioners and fans of traditional martial arts. I’d like to welcome the new listeners and thank everyone that’s come back again.
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Lately, I’ve been noticing something that’s really starting to irritate me. Someone will mention their desire to explore martial arts, usually on social media. What comes back is a barrage of “my school is best” and “my art is best” posts.
Now, we’ve talked a lot about that but when we talk about it in the context of a potential martial artist, all we’re doing is turning them off from ever training. See, people don’t like to make bad decisions. And if multiple people that they respect offer contradictory opinions… they’re likely to make no choice.
And if you’ve been listening to the show for a while, you know that one of our goals here at whistlekick is to get more people to train. After all, martial artists make the world a better place.
So it really does all of us a disservice to answer that question – What martial art should I do – with such a direct answer. If you sold cars, houses or even cheese – would you even answer the question, what car, house or cheese should I get?
Of course not. You’d ask questions. In sales, they’re called qualifying questions. And guess what? If you’re even thinking of answering the question, you’re a sales person. And you have a duty to the person asking the question, the people you train with and the martial arts community as a whole to help them correctly.
Just as you shouldn’t teach at a martial arts school if you’re not willing to give your students the best instruction you can, you shouldn’t engage with someone on the question of what art to take.
Let’s now go through the questions you should be asking and how to handle this whole situation.
Recognize that most people will pose the question in some form of “what martial art should I do?” They assume that all instructors are the same, all schools are the same, within the same style. To most people, there’s karate, taekwondo, jujitsu, maybe Brazilian jiu-jitsu, aikido & tai chi. They haven’t even considered that there are sub-styles or differences in quality and content. The question they really mean to ask is “What martial arts school should I train at?”
At no point should you be answering the question of what art they should do, because your goal should be to help them find the best fit for a martial arts school available to them. What if the best style for them is something that isn’t offered in the area? That doesn’t help anyone. We all have to be realistic and that’s where so many of us go wrong. But how can we do it right?
First – before you do anything else, drop your ego. We’ve done episodes on this. Guess what, the martial art you study is not the only option for people to train in. If you convince someone to train at your school and they’re not a good fit, you’ve wasted their time, your time, your instructor’s time and they may never try martial arts again.
Second, ask them why they want to train? What interests them about martial arts? What are their goals? They may have preconceived notions about martial arts you want to gently shed light onto. I’ve had people come to me interested in training because they wanted to learn how to get in shape. That was their only interest – guess what, a martial arts class isn’t the best place for that. I’ve had others come to me wanting to get in better shape and learn some self-defense. A-ha – now we’re talking.
Third – Ask them what experience they have with the martial arts. If they’ve trained before, they stopped – you need to find out why. If they had a bad experience with an instructor who yelled, help them find a school where the instructor is a bit calmer. And this part might be tough for some to swallow – send them to that school even if you don’t think the quality of instruction is as high.
Because this person is not you. They are not working from the same level of experience. When you started martial arts, you didn’t know what you were doing or, most likely, how to compare the quality of instructors. But many of you out there are training with someone other than your original instructor, and that’s because you had an experience with your first instructor that didn’t turn you off to the martial arts.
Compassion, a friendly atmosphere and a supportive group matter far more to a new martial artist than rank, experience, competitive accolades, associations or even skill. If someone finds a school that makes them happy, they may outgrow it and then have the wisdom to seek out what they want.
But if you help them find a school where the instructor is a high rank, association head with immense skill and a long competition resume that doesn’t help them feel supportive, they probably won’t stick around. Have you ever wondered why the martial arts schools that promote quickly seem to have more students than those that pride themselves on promoting slowly? It’s not about the rank specifically – it’s because rank equates to respect, motivation and recognition. New Students need that.
Fourth – Ask them logistical questions like how far they’re willing to travel or how often they want to train. I’ve seen plenty of people derailed in all manner of pursuits because the drive time got to be too much. For most people, 30 minutes is the max they’ll drive. Just as a school you see as lesser might be better for someone because of the environment, it might also be better because of the distance. I’d rather see someone training 3 days a week at a school close to them, even if it’s not as good, than driving 45 minutes and only fitting it in once a week.
Fifth –Don’t be afraid to sell your school to them, but don’t be hurt if they don’t choose it. Your school is great – if it wasn’t, you wouldn’t be there. Tell the person about all of the great experiences you’ve had there, why you like the instructor, the other students and the way class is conducted. Telling people the positive aspects of your school is a far better tactic than saying negative things about others. Offer to them that you’ll go with them on their first class if they want to give your school a shot. And if they do, follow whatever etiquette is appropriate in your school beforehand, likely giving the instructor a heads up. Introduce them to any of your friends as well as higher ranks when they arrive. Unless you’re the one who teaches new students, let someone else teach them that first class. You want them to come away with an honest experience – not one you’ve fabricated for them.
Sixth, accept that while you may know a lot about the martial arts community in your area, you don’t know everyone. There are a lot of backyard, garage instructors that offer wonderful instruction, sometimes very inexpensively. Just because someone comes to you, encourage them to ask other people they know. The best way for someone to make a decision is to have all of the information. It’s really unlikely that any of us have all of the information. As you might imagine, I know the majority of the martial arts schools in Vermont, both because of whistlekick and because Vermont’s a small place. But each year I learn of a few more, most recently one that operated 15 minutes from my house.
And lastly, don’t overwhelm them. In any sales situation, you’re trying to leave them with the sense that they understand what’s going on and they’re interested. You have to read people to know where their lines are, since everyone draws them differently. This might not be single conversation – it may be several. Just as many people visit many dealerships and each one multiple times before buying a car, you’re going to need to invest some time to get them on board. But it’s worth it. Martial arts has made all of us better people and this person you’re talking to deserves that opportunity, even if you do have to sell it to them a bit.
So there you go, you’re now armed with a lot more knowledge about how you can help people find the right martial arts school
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That’s all for today, so, until next time, Train hard, smile and have a great day.