Ethics & The Martial Arts

I wonder if we have gone off course navigating between our ethical beliefs and our business and teaching conduct:

1.   A mother wants to sign up five-year-old Billy to take lessons from your school. You determine to have her sign a multiple year contract for several thousands dollars, even though statistics show that the drop out rate for this age group, on a national average, is very high. Knowing this, as a martial arts business owner/teacher, are you justified in talking Billy’s mom into signing a long-term contract?

 2.   You set standard rates and present them to your new customers. The customer naturally assumes that everyone pays the same standard rate. Then you make a second sales pitch. For X amount of dollars more, your child can join “The Black Belt Club” In return, you will see that this child receives special attention, can attend more classes, will be taught more techniques, earn various awards, and wear a different uniform, so everyone can see that this student belongs to an elite group. All the parent has to do is shell out a few more bucks. Those who cannot afford the extra money to join this unique club will receive your standard martial arts training. The question is, isn’t the purpose of joining a martial arts school that all students will receive equal and fair treatment?  

    3. Your school has a testing schedule that occurs at predetermined times. No test fees will be returned to the failing student. The question is, is it ethical for a student to pay the fees and take the test, even though, as their instructor, you know that they are not ready and will most likely fail, or should the test be given to only those students who have been properly reviewed and whom you know will pass the test? Or do you pass everyone, ready or not, because your studio is packed with parents, grandparents and many friends?

4.   You have a very loyal parent who pays for lessons early, who buys everything you have to offer, who is constantly working on your studio, and attends every tournament with you. However, their child is a klutz, does not pay attention in class, and really does not want to be there. The parent puts constant pressure on you to promote their child often. Do you promote this child and retain this valuable asset?

 5.   You conduct a tournament each year. One of your friends brings forty students or more to your tournament each time. He and his six black belts come early, stay late, and judge your event all day long. Sitting in the audience are a hundred or more of their parents and friends. Unfortunately, his students are not very good and usually end up in fourth or fifth place. Just one or two more points on the scorecards will move his students into the winner’s circle. The question is, what do you do to retain this instructor’s friendship and source of income? 

      Strategies motivated by greed and the desire to succeed at all costs are potentially profitable in the short-term, but in time this strategy triggers backlash and failure. The final question: don’t you think that we professionals should reevaluate our ethics in our martial arts business and in our personal relationships with others?


“Who you are speaks so loudly I can’t hear what you are saying.”

Prof. David L. Grosscup


Maryland Professional Karate Association, Inc. 

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