Big schools, small standards

Xue Sheng

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Heck, John's been posting various versions of that saying for years. And he's old. And Chinese. And a martial artist ...so it is an old Chinese martial arts saying. So there! :D
Agreed, I'm not trying to give him a hard time, I'm genuinely curious..... and he may be older..... but I've been here longer...... so I can ask if I wanna :D
 

seasoned

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It's unfair to compare a striking art school with a grappling art school. When a striking art student is still punching into the thin air, the grappling art students already wrestle with their opponents on the mat.

In striking art, sometime you think you have but you truly don't have. In grappling art, 5 rounds of match can truly tell whether you have or not.

Old saying said, "銝撟湔喃憒敶撟渲楔 - 3 years of striking art training cannot match with 1 year of grappling art training".
Another old saying, when in a bar late at night don't take anyone to ground. :)
 

Kung Fu Wang

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Agreed, I'm not trying to give him a hard time, I'm genuinely curious..... and he may be older..... but I've been here longer...... so I can ask if I wanna :D
I have made up some old CMA saying such as "If you lay down on the ground, nobody can throw you", but that one is a true CMA old saying.
 

dvcochran

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Our school was previously run for 27 years as a "for profit business" but the owner worked a very well paid full time job besides running the school so 100% of the school's income went to paying bills to keep the doors open. For that time we never had more than 30 or so students max with about 8-10 on the floor at any given time (broken up by age). We had very high standards during this 27ish years to the point that many students would go a year or more without testing for the next rank because they just weren't putting in the effort to make changes. Our rule has always been that you don't have to be gifted or be an A+ student but you have to at least make noticeable measurable changes based on the feedback given by the instructor. If those changes weren't made then you didn't test so a lot of our 10 years and up age group don't last more than a year because they can go to the school 12 miles away and literally just pay $40 for a new belt every 2-3 months. I took over 3 years ago as the owner and head instructor and want to try to run the school as a successful business while maintaining our standards but for every one student that actually tries it seems like 4-5 quit because they can get the belt at the "Taekwondo" daycare on the other side of town. This is not an exageration, I had a mom of a 12 and 14 year old ask me why her 12 year old daughter was eligible to test in 2 days but her son wasn't. Her 14 year old son puts in no effort, clearly doesn't want to be there and is always disruptive to the point of having to send him off the floor frequently during class. When I (as tactfully and respectfully as possible) told her this and that we need to see changes made she actually said, and this quote will forever be burned into my memory "well the *name redacted* taekwondo school on the south side gives the students new belts every 3 months. If its just a matter of payment, I have the money." It really seams like this is how the "business" of MA is run.
I guess it can be tough to process and explain. Since no one here saw the exchange with the parent or have worked out with the kid, it is hard to give absolute advice.

I fully believe a person (instructor) has to be very, very sure their standards are real, attainable, and not overly subjective. A Lot of this can be accomplished through the tournament scene, as well as having experience in more than one style/school/system, or experience in other sports/life experiences, etc... In short, exposure. This, in no way says your current method is wrong. I have no way of knowing that for certain.

Like it or not, everything evolves. This includes martial arts training. This does Not mean sacrificing quality and standard. Honestly, much more the opposite.
The world has been exposed to the martial arts for some time now. More importantly, the martial arts have been exposed to the world. Because of this exposure, there has been cross pollination with other sports and other styles of training. This has led to refinement and improvement in the teaching model(s). There has also been great improvement in the training tools and training methods.
To be clear, this has nothing to do with tradition or traditional methods that have withstood the test of time (and to be sure, there are many). In this regard, what I heard in your last post sounded more like a /teacher/teaching issue, not a martial art issue (just being candidly honest). I do not know of any instructor who has/had trying students. It is just the nature of the beast in a service industry.
My GM often says something along the lines of "I give you the information" and will sometimes just leave it right there. But he is very educated and wise enough to know when a person (kids, struggling adults, etc...) will not understand a statement like that. I suspect your training method may be along this line, which I fully get, but as the instructor you have to be able to translate the statement into something tangible for people who just are not ready to hear it. Yes, that can be very, very tough.

We are all guilty of heralding our past. Looking back has a way of making things 'shine' a little more.
To this point, can you honestly say everyone in your 30-person school size were all equally talented? Did all exceeded or did they leave on their own or just be kicked out? I sincerely hope not.

Some have talked about comparing different styles (striking vs. grappling, etc...). This is just a very hard thing to do across the entire canvas. And frankly, unfair. We teach and hold the standards for our respective school/style and do not throw stones. Period. Easier said than done sometimes.

When you say, "Our rule has always been that you don't have to be gifted or be an A+ student but you have to at least make noticeable measurable changes based on the feedback given by the instructor." this makes sense to me and I would call this the most common standard out there. But it goes against some of your other comments (I fully understand I am writing based on what you said, not what I have seen).

If I understand correctly, you have recently taken the helm at your longtime school. A wonderful opportunity. Does this include full ownership and business/financial responsibility/liability? If so, (again, not knowing your background) I suggest you look into sport business training. This can come from your system, local college, business associates, making business connections (CoC, etc...), or just digging in and doing the research and learning on your own. The latter is a hard path.
One of my favorite sayings: "" That is the way we always done it!" is a recipe for disaster.""

To be certain, I am not a fan of play time or after school classes for kids. However, depending on your demographics and the desire to be a truly for-profit school, it can be done right and make a ton of money. Plus, it can build the kind of future clientele you want. Or it can drive kids away and they (and others) will never come back.
I am also not a fan of automatic testing or very, very long testing windows (unless that is just a style's historical model). Automatic testing speaks for itself I believe but very, very long testing windows speaks more to an instructor/school owner issue more often to me. The 'standard' must be felt more than stated in every class. Expectation has to be felt. Not with a presence of fear, but more of anticipation. On top of that, reaching/meeting the standard (or best in a person) has to be drawn out of some people, from areas they may not have even know they had. Man, oh man is that fun and exciting as an instructor/coach! Hell, I am getting excited just talking about it!
To my comment about business classes, this is a good applicable area. Measuring success by the negatives is historically more accurate and informative. You already have some measurable negatives to use as information. So, what are they telling you? How to use this information to help improve your business model? This is also where the "that's how we always" did it" moniker should indicate a need for possible change.

I wish you the best with your school. I hope you stay in touch and let us know how it goes. I am here to help in any way I can.
 

dvcochran

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That is a very valid statement. I never even considered the possibility of an accusation. I shall add it to my list of excuses and exemptions. I dont say that I would make exceptions in the case of youth with unusual personality or ability, but its possible if the stars aligned. Or if the parent trains alongside. I do not allow spectators.
My first AAU gold medalist was Mikey Hickerson. He came to the school classified as "severely autistic". Fully withdrawn, not speaking nor looking at anyone. Just a mess. His parents were desperate, very engaged, and willing to try anything. I had taken on several challenging kids, and we already had a program with displaced kids and kids in the system. After several very long discussions with his parents and building a loose plan and expectations I agreed to take him on. Part of the plan was Mikey came to class, no matter what. By far one of the most challenging but rewarding things I have ever done.
Mikey was never disruptive in class but was very, very, very hard to work with and to engage. I got some hard looks because of Mikey, and even lost some students because of him.
Very, very slowly Mikey began to come out of his shell. Very long story short, three years later, he was just a normal kid, attending regular school and flourishing. He was very, very good at TKD and very competitive. Great family, great kid. He has a family now and is doing great, living a regular life.

I say all this to say it is more to do with the instructor's bigger picture model or experience.
 

Wing Woo Gar

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Wushu is the proper terminology for Traditional Chinese martial arts, Kung Fu came from a misunderstanding in translation. Modern Wushu is the stuff you see in Chinese Martial Arts forms competitions today. A lot of acrobatics, not so much practicality, athletically impressive though
Thats why I said loaded word. So, in the traditional sense, yes I teach wushu gung fu. Martial arts hard work. I do teach some forms which I listed in an earlier post somewhere. I do not teach modern competition Wushu That you see in the olympics. Yes, i agree that while it is athletically impressive and based on traditonal forms, it is not martial arts per se. If I tell people that I teach Wushu gung fu what will they think of? Acrobatics? Or martial arts? Or will they confuse one for the other? I have said before that as people train the forms they start by learning the choreography, then they dance through the forms, then they play through the forms, then they work the forms. The last one can take years. Most of what we see in the Wushu Olympic forms are light work meaning that the practitioners try to fly as high as possible. They eschew power and force in favor or speed and lightness. If you hit them, they fly like a kite. It goes opposite to the way I teach which is low stance and deep rooted.
 

Wing Woo Gar

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My first AAU gold medalist was Mikey Hickerson. He came to the school classified as "severely autistic". Fully withdrawn, not speaking nor looking at anyone. Just a mess. His parents were desperate, very engaged, and willing to try anything. I had taken on several challenging kids, and we already had a program with displaced kids and kids in the system. After several very long discussions with his parents and building a loose plan and expectations I agreed to take him on. Part of the plan was Mikey came to class, no matter what. By far one of the most challenging but rewarding things I have ever done.
Mikey was never disruptive in class but was very, very, very hard to work with and to engage. I got some hard looks because of Mikey, and even lost some students because of him.
Very, very slowly Mikey began to come out of his shell. Very long story short, three years later, he was just a normal kid, attending regular school and flourishing. He was very, very good at TKD and very competitive. Great family, great kid. He has a family now and is doing great, living a regular life.

I say all this to say it is more to do with the instructor's bigger picture model or experience.
That speaks to your character, good on you!
 

Wing Woo Gar

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Modern Wushu was developed by the Chinese government In The 1950s based on older fighting methods. It is meant to be a performance and competition art based on forms that are more akin to a gymnastics floor routine with martial arts flavor. It is not meant to be a viable combat method, and is meant to be a Chinese cultural art form.
I know what it is, but I am never sure what people mean because it means two very different things that look similar to an untrained eye.
 

Wing Woo Gar

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Yeah, if they simply say Wushu then I tend to assume it is Modern Wushu. If they designated Modern vs. Traditional, it makes it more clear.
Yes my Sifu had a sign out front that said wushu gung fu and Tai Chi Chuan. Paul Gales Chinese Martial Arts Association. Wing Woo Gar. That could mean a lot of things to a lot of different people looking for a lot of different thinags.
 

Wing Woo Gar

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That speaks to your character, good on you!
My Sifu worked with special olympics for quite a while in the Los Angeles area in the 80s. He often would reference his experiences there when instructing us able bodied sorts. I remember those very humbling experiences with gratitude. They have a valuable teaching of their very own.
 

Wing Woo Gar

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Yeah, if they simply say Wushu then I tend to assume it is Modern Wushu. If they designated Modern vs. Traditional, it makes it more clear.
We are all on the same page now. This is why I initially responded as I did. We can discuss on a deeper level the more we understand that we are using similar terms, and that we have similar experience. Thats the juice! Thanks guys!
 

angelariz

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Our school was previously run for 27 years as a "for profit business" but the owner worked a very well paid full time job besides running the school so 100% of the school's income went to paying bills to keep the doors open. For that time we never had more than 30 or so students max with about 8-10 on the floor at any given time (broken up by age). We had very high standards during this 27ish years to the point that many students would go a year or more without testing for the next rank because they just weren't putting in the effort to make changes. Our rule has always been that you don't have to be gifted or be an A+ student but you have to at least make noticeable measurable changes based on the feedback given by the instructor. If those changes weren't made then you didn't test so a lot of our 10 years and up age group don't last more than a year because they can go to the school 12 miles away and literally just pay $40 for a new belt every 2-3 months. I took over 3 years ago as the owner and head instructor and want to try to run the school as a successful business while maintaining our standards but for every one student that actually tries it seems like 4-5 quit because they can get the belt at the "Taekwondo" daycare on the other side of town. This is not an exageration, I had a mom of a 12 and 14 year old ask me why her 12 year old daughter was eligible to test in 2 days but her son wasn't. Her 14 year old son puts in no effort, clearly doesn't want to be there and is always disruptive to the point of having to send him off the floor frequently during class. When I (as tactfully and respectfully as possible) told her this and that we need to see changes made she actually said, and this quote will forever be burned into my memory "well the *name redacted* taekwondo school on the south side gives the students new belts every 3 months. If its just a matter of payment I have the money." It really seams like this is how the "business" of MA is
Our school was previously run for 27 years as a "for profit business" but the owner worked a very well paid full time job besides running the school so 100% of the school's income went to paying bills to keep the doors open. For that time we never had more than 30 or so students max with about 8-10 on the floor at any given time (broken up by age). We had very high standards during this 27ish years to the point that many students would go a year or more without testing for the next rank because they just weren't putting in the effort to make changes. Our rule has always been that you don't have to be gifted or be an A+ student but you have to at least make noticeable measurable changes based on the feedback given by the instructor. If those changes weren't made then you didn't test so a lot of our 10 years and up age group don't last more than a year because they can go to the school 12 miles away and literally just pay $40 for a new belt every 2-3 months. I took over 3 years ago as the owner and head instructor and want to try to run the school as a successful business while maintaining our standards but for every one student that actually tries it seems like 4-5 quit because they can get the belt at the "Taekwondo" daycare on the other side of town. This is not an exageration, I had a mom of a 12 and 14 year old ask me why her 12 year old daughter was eligible to test in 2 days but her son wasn't. Her 14 year old son puts in no effort, clearly doesn't want to be there and is always disruptive to the point of having to send him off the floor frequently during class. When I (as tactfully and respectfully as possible) told her this and that we need to see changes made she actually said, and this quote will forever be burned into my memory "well the *name redacted* taekwondo school on the south side gives the students new belts every 3 months. If its just a matter of payment I have the money." It really seams like this is how the "business" of MA is run.
I dont teach children so I do not have to deal with that kind of thing.
When students talk about rank i ask them what belt rank is Mike Tyson, Zab Judah, or Sugar Ray Leonard?
But as I said, I dont make money from teaching. Mostly I teach to have training partners.
If after 3 or 4 years someone stays with me and learns the material I give them an assistant instructor certificate.
 

Ji Yuu

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So lately (past month or two) I have been communicating with and traveling to other martial arts schools that also run as a full time business trying to get some insight into ways to run a business without sacrificing standards and I noticed an unsettling trend. Every school bragged about how they had high standards and every school had between 250-450 students. All but maybe a dozen students per school, to put it bluntly, sucked. They had their floors full but nobody on the floor, not even some of the instructors, had any semblance of good technique. The schools had 6 year old black belts, some with 2 stripes on their belt, they had 3rd dan and 4th dan black belts that couldn't throw a basic round kick without loosing balance, none of them had any focus or semblance of discipline, no effort or power in their forms, their sparring was sloppy and low effort, and many of them didn't have an understanding or ability beyond what I expect from my yellow belts. Conversely there is a Shorin Ryu school in my town that has maybe 80 students at most for all programs (kids, adults, and fitness classes) and they are GOOD! They have white belts that after a month are more skilled than many black belts at these bigger schools. They have way more discipline and focus after a week than the black belts of the larger schools.
So, Million dollar question: Is it possible to run a school with 300+ students at any given time without actually sacrificing high standards? Can I have a school with 300+ students and still have the same or higher standards as the small schools tend to? These big school owners keep telling me it's possible but it is clear that their idea of "high standards" are less than mediocre.
My opinion is this: The smaller the class/school, the better learning experience and higher standard. I have a 6th grade student (on a 10 grade scale with 10 being white belt) who can best many black belts from other schools in the area. I teach no more than a 5 students at a time. Obviously, I do not make a living doing this. But I prefer quality of teaching/coaching over quantity of students.
 
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