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ninjanurse
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Joined: 13 Feb 2003
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Location: Upstate NY
Styles: TKD;Shotokan;JuJitsu;Tai Ji

PostPosted: Tue Oct 18, 2016 12:10 pm    Post subject: Integrity in Martial Arts School Marketing Reply with quote

In too many businesses, the idea that "the end justifies the means" is often the battle cry of marketing execs, who only care about getting ahead and making a profit, not about taking care of their customers or the fall out and the damage left in their path. Canned websites, high pressure sales and bait-and-switch tactics often leave the consumer confused and duped into handing over their cash for promises that will never materialize. Greed often overpowers even the most sincere business owner and eventually this desire to win at all costs permeates every aspect of their business, relationships and, eventually, their lives. The damage to their sphere of influence creates a negative image for the product and, ultimately, reflects on other businesses in the same industry. Regardless of their individual business ethics, some of these businesses are susceptible to caving in to the pressure and adapt the same tactics in order to compete.

The martial arts industry is no stranger to this ethical business dilemma and, in fact, there are entire companies out there that specialize in teaching martial arts school owners how to use these questionable tactics to capitalize on consumer ignorance and increase their profits. The martial concepts of "the way" - frugality, loyalty, sincerity, respect, courage, benevolence and righteousness - and the more common "tenets of taekwondo" (often adopted by many Korean and non-Korean arts) - which include modesty, integrity, courtesy and self control - are used as a hook for parents looking to help their children learn these virtues via martial arts training. But they are often only given lip service as is evidenced by the sharp contrast between the marketing materials and the realities of the student experience and the management of a dojo.

It saddens me that in an age where information is at your fingertips, people still fall for these sales pitch tactics and think that if you pay more per month for martial arts classes, you are getting better quality instruction than the school that charges less or that they have some "ancient secrets" that make you invincible if you train with them. These cult-like associations dupe honest, hardworking people into thinking they are paying for something special, when in reality all they are paying for is the owner's new house and lavish vacations. In return, they get a watered down curriculum and a false sense of security when it comes to actually defending themselves, being competitive or achieving a high level of competence in the art. Websites full of stock photos and canned "testimonies" from people who are not even students at the school, promises of a black belt in 2-3 years, accelerated instructor courses (for a higher fee, of course), frequent and outrageous testing fees, and nickel-and-dime retention tactics are sucking the innocent consumer in and creating poor quality students who are often more dangerous than safe. People then discover they have been lied to and manipulated into signing expensive 3 year contracts and are getting a less than adequate martial arts education to boot. The bad taste these schools leave in the consumer's mouth creates a bad name for the industry - McDojo comes to mind here - and ultimately affects the market as a whole because styles are stereotyped based on these negative and deceitful situations.

Another recent trend these rip-off artists are using is hijacking competitors' school names to drive internet traffic to these fallacious internet sites and striking a double blow by mere association with their questionable claims. Small dojos, who have worked hard for years to build good reputations in their communities, are having their names used and associated with bad business and the loss of potential income can make the difference in keeping the doors open. Obviously, this new marketing tactic in itself points to a lack of integrity and respect for the business community as a whole and ventures even farther from any semblance of the martial virtues that they claim to teach!

In my many years of experience in the martial arts, as a student, staff member and school owner, I have seen the damage that these kinds of tactics cause in our industry. I choose to stand by the principles I was taught - integrity and respect to name two of them. These virtues ("the way" or -do) are the hallmark of many martial arts programs and character development. Mushotoku is a state of mind where the spirit does not seek to obtain anything, does not get attached to objects that seeks no personal profit. Simply stated, it is to "give without remembering, receive without forgetting." This is a concept of living that my teachers strove to practice and instill in me, and my classmates, by their actions both in and out of the dojo. Simply valuing relationships for what we can give to them, not take from them, holds many important lessons that, if kept at the forefront of our practice, will make us effective teachers and business owners.

Schools that do not teach their students this art of gratitude, either through complete omission or leadership behavior that is contrary, are at risk of developing a lack of concern for those who seek training but who are not capable of meeting the financial demand. These people can eventually be led down this path to insincerity and greed, falling into the trap and succumbing to the pressure to exclude anyone not willing or able to pay for the privilege they so arrogantly claim to offer. Taking care of your community on the other hand (through Mushotoku and "the way"), by making training an opportunity for everyone rather than a privilege for a few, is a practice far more rewarding, personally and professionally. When consumers see the evidence of what you practice in the actions you and your students take to help others achieve their goals, they will market for you. I have had the honor of seeing this practice in action in dojos with 10 students and dojos with over 600 students, equally as profitable and equal in their longevity. The old adage applies here: You really do get what you pay for and, in martial arts, less is often more.
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Patrick
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Joined: 01 May 2001
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Location: Kitty Hawk, North Carolina

PostPosted: Tue Oct 18, 2016 12:11 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thank you for the submission, Heidi. I appreciate your perspective.

Patrick
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bushido_man96
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Joined: 31 Mar 2006
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Styles: Taekwondo, Combat Hapkido, Aikido, GRACIE

PostPosted: Wed Nov 02, 2016 10:54 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Great article, Heidi! Your words ring true.
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sensei8
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Joined: 23 Feb 2008
Posts: 14370
Location: Houston, TX
Styles: Shindokan Saitou-ryu [Shuri-te/Okinawa-te based]

PostPosted: Wed Nov 02, 2016 11:46 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Excellent article, Heidi!! And as I'm always fond of saying...Proof is on the floor...for everyone. Whether it's the con artist or the innocent, the floor reveals everything in its own time, and the con artist can't avoid it.



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ninjanurse
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Joined: 13 Feb 2003
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Location: Upstate NY
Styles: TKD;Shotokan;JuJitsu;Tai Ji

PostPosted: Fri Nov 04, 2016 11:04 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks everyone! Just this week there was a news report that 2 of the schools that I was formerly associated with (I left due to their un-ethical business practices) were found liable and are being forced to pay a settlement to many former customers in a state class action lawsuit!


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bushido_man96
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Styles: Taekwondo, Combat Hapkido, Aikido, GRACIE

PostPosted: Fri Nov 04, 2016 10:05 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

ninjanurse wrote:
Thanks everyone! Just this week there was a news report that 2 of the schools that I was formerly associated with (I left due to their un-ethical business practices) were found liable and are being forced to pay a settlement to many former customers in a state class action lawsuit!

That's just crazy to see. We should be built on integrity.
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tallgeese
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Joined: 04 May 2008
Posts: 6851
Location: McHenry County, IL
Styles: Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Bujin Bugei Jutsu, Gokei Ryu Kempo Jutsu, MMA, Shootfighting, boxing, kickboxing, JKD, Pekiti Tersia Kali

PostPosted: Sun Nov 06, 2016 10:16 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Great post all around. You bring up great points that some people might not even know about.
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rajia45
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PostPosted: Sun Jan 15, 2017 3:22 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

nice post
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Nidan Melbourne
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Joined: 21 Aug 2013
Posts: 2202
Location: Melbourne, Australia
Styles: Goju-Ryu, BJJ, Balintawak Arnis

PostPosted: Sun Jan 15, 2017 9:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

ninjanurse wrote:
Thanks everyone! Just this week there was a news report that 2 of the schools that I was formerly associated with (I left due to their un-ethical business practices) were found liable and are being forced to pay a settlement to many former customers in a state class action lawsuit!



Well Hot Dog, thats a surprise. Did you see that eventually coming prior to leaving?

I dislike the idea of contracts, and locking people into that school as it makes me feel restricted in my training.

All my clubs memberships are flexible in allowing students to train as they please and when they get to train. The only requirements is that they train in their respective class, and if they have to train in a different class is to have the consent of our Chief Instructor (Also owner of the school).

My sensei has always taught us to learn from anyone and everyone, if that means we want to go train with a different sensei at the same time then we are allowed to do so. If we want to train at 2 clubs then we are allowed to, if we want to go attend seminars with other styles and instructors then we can.

This is why i love and respect my sensei, because he only wants us to be the best that we can be. If that means we have to go train with multiple schools then that is what he wants or would like us to do.
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ninjanurse
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Joined: 13 Feb 2003
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Location: Upstate NY
Styles: TKD;Shotokan;JuJitsu;Tai Ji

PostPosted: Wed Jan 25, 2017 10:15 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I never used long term contracts at my school...I was considered the
"black" sheep-LOL!


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