Martial Arts knowledge and information has changed, which has developed rapidly over the last ten years or so. This new information has related to us that certain past exercise routines are dangerous and counter productive. We have progressed from an ancient art designed for healthy young men to one that now has children and women making up the large majority of classes. Sports injuries, How to treat and prevent them is a subject itself. Instead of just teaching techniques, kata and kumite, we now have tons of information on How to educate, motivate and facilitate our students.

            There are some excellent professional martial arts magazines on the market permitting the modern day instructor to keep up with the latest trends. Courses are offered, books are printed by the hundreds, seminars are given, large trade shows are attended by thousands of martial artists, halls of fame are throughout the world, thus giving the not-so-famous a chance to be recognized: beautiful, well-equipped studios are springing up everywhere, action films blanket the movie theaters and television and well- known people from all walks of life are taking lessons. Everything is exploding all at once. The trend is now to put martial arts teachers on an equal footing with doctors, lawyers and CEO’s and, to be paid accordingly. Sounds nice doesn’t it? However, there are some major flaws here that the zealous career minded martial arts school owner is missing, and why our industry is many light years away from being knighted as “Professionalists.”   Human nature, greed, and wanting to succeed without really working for it stands in the way. Listen to the truth.

1.      An article appeared in a Business Martial Arts magazine; where an instructor was bragging about a five year old who got her black belt, and “that she did everything that the adults do.” Maybe we should start producing five-year-old doctors and lawyers so the martial arts can be on an equal footing. Since we seem not to be able to rise to their professional level, maybe we can bring them down to ours. Simply stated, a black belt should be earned with years of work and sweat. This person must develop awesome technique and, is stronger and quicker than the average student. There must be a burning fire within, and a desire to succeed at all costs. He/she must learn to temper this fire by creating a calm, peaceful attitude toward life and his fellow man. He walks a fine line between being a deadly weapon and a peacemaker. He reads the industry trade magazines, learned the healing arts, is a class leader, and knows how to deal with an angry parent or upset student, is a good public speaker, can handle trouble when it walks in the front door, can treats a sick student during class time, is a fair judge at tournaments, respects others views and martial arts styles, is willing to learn from others and is totally involved in his/her community.

The responsibility is awesome. He/she is a teacher, a protector, a healer, a leader, an organizer, skilled, confidant, a man or woman of peace. Can a child of any age handle this? Let’s face the facts; it takes a special adult to meet these standards, as it takes a special person to become a doctor or lawyer. In contrast, it should take a special person to earn the coveted Black Belt. Until we raise the bar and get rid of the egos, we shall never be professionals Let’s stop fooling the public and get back to old-fashioned values.

2.      Another article that appeared in a trade magazine stated that a certain martial arts school tested and passed 1500 people at one time. On the flip side, a recent survey showed that many schools do not conduct rank tests. So, where is the middle ground here?

At MPKA we believe that all students should be tested, and done so in small groups, in front of a live audience, and judged by a board of instructors. Before given a test date, each student should be totally prepared, reviewed time and time again, mistakes corrected and form improved upon. When test day rolls around, it is Showtime.

Not only does the student display his/her skills for each belt rank, but by doing so in front of an audience and judges, they soon learn to handle pressure. Also, by doing so in small groups the student cannot hide among the masses. This type of test does create pressure and great athletes learn to thrive and excel with pressure. Students can now say “nobody gave me my belt, I truly earned it myself, and proved it to everyone watching and judging.” 

3.      A certain school owner was boasting that he has created over 1000 black belts. This seems to me to demonstrate the shallowness of certain martial art schools. Does this mean that almost everyone that walks through his doors is guaranteed a Black Belt? There is so much information available, and so many excellent martial arts schools and styles filled with knowledge, that one can put a course together that will literally take many years of hard practice and devoted study before anyone is eligible to be tested for Black Belt. There are no shallow doctor or lawyer courses, they are demanding, time consuming and energy draining. So why should we, who work with people, who teach physical movement, emotional control, spiritual devotion, deadly techniques, healing arts and leadership roles, be any different? Why should we just teach the tip of the iceberg, when under the water is where the bulk of the knowledge is. 

4.      The Black Belt club. Let’s get right to the point and see what the real purpose is here. Parent “A” brings Billy into your studio to enroll his son. Money is no object to this parent, as he can afford the better things in life. You offer him your basic contract, which he accepts. Now you tell him for x amount of extra dollars Billy can join the Black Belt Club. He can attend more classes, receive better training, wear a special patch and uniform, and is guaranteed his Black Belt in a specific time period. Billy’s dad becomes excited, signs the contracts and shells out the big bucks. Parent “B” brings Susie in to sign her up and also accepts your basic contract. However, her income is limited and she cannot afford your Black Belt Club. So, now Susie is allowed to come to only half the classes, is only taught your basic course (whatever that is), wears the standard uniform, and has no special patch on her gi. In my opinion, the Black Belt Club is an unjustified moneymaker and it shouts of discrimination and bias. Isn’t the purpose of teaching martial arts is to treat everyone fairly and equally, regardless of race, creed, religion or financial status? What really disturbs me is how gullible parents can be. This should send up a red flag that justice is not being served here, and it may be time to shop around. 

5.      Master and Grandmasters.

This is what really separates us from the real professionals in the business world. Most of these titles are earned by seniority, self-appointment or simply by hanging around with the right people. No college courses are taken, no books are written, competition was seldom, if ever, entered into, no community involvement, and nothing special was ever done to earn this title. Again, as an industry, we are not doctors and lawyers, just title hungry, glory seekers. We have a saying at MPKA, “Don’t tell me what you did, show me what you can do.” In other words, can you walk the talk?

6.      Conclusions.

If we, as an industry, and as individuals really desire to be known as true professionals, then we must change our attitudes and our methods. We need to slow down the Black Belt production, shut down the belt factories, educate the public on what excellent martial arts is, set professional guidelines for higher Dan Black Belts, and to make all this standard practice. There are many types of doctors and lawyers who specialize in various fields, but they all still have to pass Medical Association exams, or The Bar Association exams. There are also many types of martial arts being offered on the market, some very excellent, with hard working, educated instructors. They are what really keep the arts afloat. On the other hand, there are too many charlatans and money seekers who have never been tested by fire, who are responsible for keeping the word “Professional” from taking root in our industry. At MPKA, we still have a lot to learn and much to do, even after a lifetime of devotion to the Martial Arts, but you can rest assured that everything that we do will be done in a Professional manner. Everyone that we promote will earn his/her belt rank, and that everyone that teaches for us will have many long years of experience, and they will be educated folks, devoted to fairness and equality for all people, that what they teach contains valuable content, that their training and education will be on-going, that they will respect other honest martial arts styles and learn from them, and that they truly want to earn the title of “Professional.”




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