Students and instructors are training in a special environment, one that involves tradition, words, and rituals that are not part of everyday life outside of the Dojo. Tradition marks the Dojo as a special place. Self defense and fitness are not necessarily the core reason for training. I know people who have trained for twenty or so years and never had to use their skills in self defense. Yet, they keep training. Fitness can be reached with a good workout plan without involving years of Kata, Technique, Sparring, etc. Yet they keep training.


            When training in the martial arts, students can separate themselves from the rest of their lives, and work on trying to make themselves more the person they want to be. The dojo gives them the opportunity by making itself a unique place. Besides being interesting, challenging and fun, it is full of meaning only available to insiders - special words, ceremonies, rites of passage, etc. The tradition of the dojo keeps the ideal that martial arts are for some type of improvement - more accessible, exactly because they make the environment a special one.


Traditions help the student feel like he or she is part of a community, that he is learning more than just technical knowledge, that he or she is a special person. People value traditions, they feel that they are important and expect them. Each head instructor is creating tradition in his/her own school. What you do will be remembered and cherished by others long after you are gone.


These conditions follow the instructor’s social role outside the dojo, whether you want it to be or not. What is often missing here is common sense. The role of the instructor is a nurturing one, and he or she is expected to keep the best interests of the student above his or her own. The teacher has more responsibility to the student than the student does to the teacher.


If you are going to be the Sensei of your dojo, than you must take complete and total charge of your own personal life.


  1. If you have a large stomach you are telling your students that correct eating and exercise is not important. Yet, we know that to win in a street fight or tournaments, we must be in physical shape.


  1. If all we do is teach and never work out, then we are making a mockery of our Black Belt, because in reality we have lost the fighting edge, and many black belts might be surprised how they may come out on the short end of the stick. That it may be them ending up in the hospital, and not the attacker.


  1. If we smoke or drink around the students, then we are teaching them that destroying our physical body and mental reflexes is ok, and somehow training in the martial arts will over ride our bad habits and save us.


  1. Finally, if you are taking the title of Sensei, then live it. Don’t rub this vaulted title in the mud of uncontrolled selfishness.


            In many ways the martial arts have been overexposed in the media, which has resulted in the loss of our allure or mystique of the arts. How many spinning hook kicks can a kid see before they and their parents are not interested anymore? The other half of the problem lies in how we operate our schools. Way too many of you continue to hold on to baggage from the past. The result is that millions of people have joined martial arts classes in the last decade, and millions have been bored, turned off and then dropped out as a result of unprofessional instruction and poorly designed classes. We must stay proactive in staying ahead of the market trends. Business is dynamic and dynamic means change.


            Faced with this market, we must sit down and objectively evaluate our school’s operation. What is the purpose of your school?


  1. Is your school’s purpose to perpetuate an art?
  2. Is it to pay homage to you?
  3. Is it a shrine to you?
  4. Is it to make money?



            Believe it or not this is the main reason why many old timers hold onto their schools, or why the younger instructors want to open a studio. How about these reasons instead for operating a school and keeping tradition alive and well.


  1. Helping as many people as possible to enhance their lives through the martial arts.


  1. Having a positive impact on the community by teaching more people about values, respect, courtesy and the self-confidence that comes from knowing how to protect your self.


  1. Maybe saving someone’s life by teaching as many people as possible how to protect themselves.


  1. Giving people a sense of power in their lives by helping them develop their physical and mental potential through the martial arts. Notice that there is a big difference between the first and second set of reasons. The first set of reasons is non-student oriented. In that case you are not serving the student, you are serving the past. The second set of reasons is student oriented. It’s providing for the needs of the student.


            Today, the general public is martial arts educated and has a very selfish attitude about training. They don’t care about your rank or titles or championships. They only care about what they or their children are getting out of your classes and the level of service provided. You can have the most exciting history of style roots imaginable, but the fact is that the mom of that eight year old doesn’t care. She simply wants to know, “What have you done for me lately?” So what is the reason for your school?


  1. To enhance our community and its citizens through the positive, personal development skills of your training.


  1. To provide a safe haven of positive energy and support for your student’s mental, spiritual and physical growth.


  1. To provide inspiration of personal excellence through your example as a black belt in and out of the karate school.


  1. To ensure the long term growth of the school and its staff by providing legendary student service. The purpose is to serve the student with discipline and a strong program, and to keep them in class may entail some changes on your part.


  1. We call ourselves martial artists. We call what we do martial arts. While many of us practice arts that were created by someone decades ago, the question must be asked - are we playing the role of craftsman, or artist? Often when someone attempts to bring innovation to an art, they are criticized as though they do not have the right to do so. Certainly, there has to be a learning period where the student is exposed to the ways and means of any system - much like an art student learns about color, or a musician learns notes, or a writer learns about words. However, at what point does the student become an artist? When does a student with 10, 15, or 20 years of incredible ideas and skills take over the ownership of the ideas and skills? Remember, you are not a robot. You are creating the traditions and setting agendas that students may cherish and obey 10 or 20 years from now.


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