Roundtable Discussion 014: Myths & Misconceptions
We asked our author panel consisting of five professional martial art teachers this question:
“What are some of the Myths & Misconceptions that you’ve come across in marketing your classes?”
1. Being from Israel automatically makes something badass.
Fact of the matter is, Krav Maga’s creator was born in Hungry (grew up in Bratislava), and based Krav Maga on his boxing and wrestling experience mixed with street fighting and his father’s police arrest and controls. So at the root of it, Krav Maga (although developed in Israel) was born with its founder in (modern day) Slovakia. And belonging to any culture is irrelevant – it doesn’t make anything more or less effective.
2. Being from Russia automatically makes something badass. See above in relation to Israel.
3. You can’t be a good marketer AND a quality combatives instructor.
I call BULLSHIT! Too many people think that if you are successful then your content must be watered down for the masses. Maybe it’s that your marketing skills are lacking or that your personality sucks. There is no reason someone can’t be a quality combatives instructor AND a first rate marketer. And for heaven’s sake….make sure you spell check your ads.
4. Being an ex-military or law enforcement officer or bouncer automatically means that their program works.
I have met several of the above (military, police, and bouncers) that wouldn’t know their ass from a hole in the ground when it comes to self-defense and combatives. Many don’t even know how to throw a basic punch. This is not true of all of them of course, but if someone markets themselves as some super-experienced ninja killer of death because they were a cop for 20 years, it doesn’t necessarily translate to “combatively skilled”. Nor does it meant their system is going to fit you.
1. Traditional martial arts like Karate and Tae Kwon Do are just for kids (a.k.a I’m too to old to train.)
I admit that nowadays a lot of traditional schools market themselves more towards children than adults. We are constantly selling people on the benefits of our classes siting their ability to increase a child’s discipline, fitness level, self confidence, etc. and that of course is why kids will always be a large part of our market. What adults need to realize is that the martial arts, regardless of style, have plenty of benefits for them as well. It helps relieve stress, improve fitness, introduces them to other adults with common interest, which can be hard to do as busy as people are, and the obvious benefit of being able to defend oneself. Adults also need to understand that the days of training on concrete floors with no safety gear are long gone. Just because you take martial arts doesn’t mean you’re guaranteed to get injured.
2. In order to be a Master rank in martial arts you have to be really old and have trained for decades.
This is the double edge sword of the depiction of martial arts in movies. Movies have done a lot to spread martial arts to the masses but it has also given us the stereotypical martial instructor. There are literally thousands of schools teaching thousands of styles and every single one of them has their own time as well as age requirements that their students must reach in order to test for higher levels of black belt. Just because black belt A got his Master rank in 7 years when it took black belt B 15 years doesn’t mean black belt A’s training was substandard or any less difficult.
3. My uncle’s, cousin’s, brother-in-law took martial arts and he had to have his hands registered as deadly weapons.
I can’t believe this martial arts urban legend is still floating around. It doesn’t happen often, but every now and then I’ll actually have someone walk in off the street and tell me about someone they know that “had” to do this. I usually just smile and nod and wait for them to leave.
1. “Marketing is evil”
Marketing is not evil. It is just a reality of modern life. A lot of martial arts teachers I have encountered refuse to promote themselves and then complain about not having students. There are a ton of distractions in modern society competing with your art for potential students. If no one knows you exist, it doesn’t matter one bit how good a teacher you are or how awesome your art is. You have to play the marketing game at some level so that potential students can find you.
2. “Running a class as a business degrades the art.”
Offering only free classes is a bad idea. It’s ok to start with free classes to get a few students or to get your foot in the door somewhere. But ultimately keeping a martial arts class going requires paying students, which means taking care of the money side of things. This is not just because you need money to cover rent and insurance for the class, but also because money is the primary unit by which things are valued today. Attaching a monetary value (even if its a nominal sum) gives your class a perceived worth; keeping a class free means you’ll lose a lot of students simply from the misperception that your class or your teaching doesn’t have any worth. Plus, you can weed out the taste testers from the serious students with a class fee. Students who are truly interested are willing to pay a reasonable fee.
3. “That looks easy. I can do that!”
Learning an art is not easy. Just because somethings looks easy or is conceptually simple does not mean that anyone can do it. Since I teach an art based on “tai chi” principles, I get a lot of people expecting an easy class with nothing but gentle movements, transcendental feelings of qi, a panacea for all ailments, and instant super human self-defense skills. Not only can I not offer the quick fix to any of the above, but teaching a martial “art” precludes it. Like any serious endeavor, achieving the skill requires delving into the study. It involves some physical exertion and sweat. It also requires mental effort to understand what you’re training. If you want to achieve any level of skill, you can’t bypass putting in the effort to learn the art.
One two-fold myth about taijiquan is that it’s (a) all about its slow movements and (b) it therefore is an “old person’s art form.” A recent quote I fall back on goes, “Move as fast as proper technique will allow” (Rener Gracie talking about moving in practice), which if you think about it, can only be done in a slow motion (especially if you expect the body to pick up on the subtleties). Moving slowly, the body “understands” more, but the advanced practitioner can eventually move like lightening – the obvious and practical application of any martial art technique. It’s my opinion that the “old masters” (being masters of their art) move slowly (a) because they understand that it’s more beneficial to do so (b) more pleasant and elongates their training period and (c) old people move only when they want to (don’t they?).
Something that really gets my blood pressure rising is the statement that “classical” fencing is antique and out-dated. Some fencers simply decide or are pressured into disregarding “classical” training for what’s termed “Olympic, Modern or Sport” fencing. While it is true that “classical” may never be as popular as “modern”, it’s the fencing method, training and these “classical” teachings (developed over the last 500 years, NOT just since the last 40-50) that develops the swordsman. All activities are based on RESULTS and this is part of the problem. (I know this is a generalization, but) Modern fencing focuses (I’ve come to see) more on making the touch (at whatever cost, as long as it pertains to FIE rules), whereby (“most”) classical fencers find more importance on the technical result and his/her improvement through proper form, timing and sportsmanship.
This is just “my take” and one of my pet peeves if-you-will. I know there are a lot of modern fencers that love the classical and vice versa (I’m one of them)… however (although generalizing) the point can easily be made as described above. Aldo Nadi said, “There is only one fencing.” What is meant by this is the connection we make is/should be between our head and the sword, NOT our sword and our opponent.
A popular misconception is that many of today’s popular martial arts can prepare you for the violence one can encounter on the streets. This used to be hard for a traditional martial artist (like me) to admit, but the physical side – all the punching, kicking and yells of ‘kiyah’ matter very little in violent encounters. Yes, knowing how to do all of this can be beneficial but one should dive deeper into exploring ones own fears and limitations and learn (or be taught) how to detect and diffuse a situation before it gets physical. As a Lao Tzu once said, “He who can not be drawn into a fight is invincible.”
Misconception #1: “Kung Fu is a Martial Art style.” Kung Fu is not a Martial Art style. Kung Fu is the discipline you have to better yourself in any craft; it does not have to do anything with combat. The term derives from Confucius, Confucius was a great scholar, he did not practice combat techniques, but he had great Kung Fu. Osho, Lao-tzu, Socrates, J.Krishnamurti, & many great sages & mystics have great Kung Fu; but yet they do not practice any type of physical combat.
Misconception #2: “Wushu is a Martial Art style.” Wushu is not a Martial Art style. It is simply the Chinese term for “Martial Art.” It is simply a different language pointing towards the same thing, which is the artful expression of combat, which we know as Martial Arts.
Misconception #3: “MMA is the ultimate Martial Art style.” MMA is just another combative sport that has been created with another set of rules. No different than Boxing, Kickboxing, Wrestling, Thai Boxing rules etc. MMA is simply another sport. You may like this sport more than that sport but it does not mean that a certain sport is the best out of all; it is all subjective to your preferences. Just b/c you like football more than tennis does not mean that football is better. All athletes who train in any sort of combat sport focus on different types of specialized training, one is not better than the next, it simply boils down to which you wish to specialize in. Runners practice running, some like to concentrate on sprints, others like to concentrate on long distance, neither is better than another, it boils down to what you like to specialize in.
Misconception #4: “Belts mean nothing.” Belts or any sort of ranking do set a certain purpose. We should not be limited by them but we should also not completely disregard their intended purpose. You need to develop the ego before you learn to eliminate it. If you start with no ego & you do not train to develop the ego, then you will have no understanding of it. There is clearly a difference between a person who is trained & untrained. Ranks simply signify that a person has been trained to a certain level, once trained then he can drop the rank. A person who has obtained rank & then consciously drops the rank is much different than the person who has not obtained the rank at all, he has nothing to drop, his understanding is therefore limited. A person like a Buddha who started off as a Prince & then consciously decides to renounce everything is very different than the average homeless man. If you have power, can you refrain from abusing your power? If you have no power of course you won’t abuse your powers over others, you have no power to abuse, but how will you act if you did have the power? A high level Martial Artist is a person who has the power but he does not abuse it.
The top misconceptions that I have encountered: It is ok to put your self out there. How else can others find you and your classes.