10 ways to help your dojo stay open for business

If you’re like me, you see the dojo as your second home. You love being in the Hall of Training, working on your material to perfect the art. In this tough economy, it is difficult to keep a Kempo school operational. I know because I had to close one myself. What students should do is take emotional ownership of the school. Invest your time to help the owner and instructors out. You should do your part to help the school survive and thrive.

Black Belt in meditation

Black Belt in meditation

Here are ten actionable ideas that you and your fellow students can do to keep the dojo doors open.

  1. Clean what’s dirty, whether it is windows, mirrors, the mat or chairs. A dirty dojo is not a welcoming to new students or guests.
  2. Bring in friends as new students. A school with paying students lasts longer. Also training with your friends if very enjoyable.
  3. Pay on time. The owner needs to pay the bills and having the funds on time helps.
  4. Pass out flyers. It costs money to advertise and market. If you take some time out of your day to pass out flyers to potential new students, you’re helping the dojo save money.
  5. Write good things about the dojo on social networks, forums and on note cards in laundry rooms. People like to hear about good places to train from real people they can trust. Hopefully they’re turn around and join as new students.
  6. Donate used equipment to new students who can’t afford equipment. It is easier to continue training when you have all the supplies you need but not everyone can afford the expense. Used equipment is better than no equipment.
  7. Arrange for the dojo to do an exhibition at local schools or community clubs. Most people don’t know that there are schools around, or what martial arts are. Informing others about the benefits of training is a great way to attract new students.
  8. Contribute articles or pictures to the dojo’s website, newsletter or blog. Again, this is a great way to let others know about all the fun you have while training. Engaging and informative articles really explain benefits in simple terms most can understand.
  9. Show up for classes. It may seem simple but students who skip class eventually skip more classes and then drop out. Don’t be one of them. Don’t let your friends skip classes either. Call them up if they miss a class and offer to practice with them so they don’t get behind. There are two critical figures for all schools: the number of new students and the number of students who quit. The first number should be high and the other really low.
  10. Thank your instructors for their help and time. Teaching weekly classes is very hard to do, often leading to burnout. Staying enthusiastic about teaching everyday is a trick every instructor struggles with constantly. What helped me during my full time career is the gratitude of my students. A simple “Thank you” really pumped me up and stemmed the tide toward burnout. Help your instructor stay motivated with a few words of encouragement.

Hopefully by following this advice you can help keep your school from going under financially. We all need to pitch in and help each other out in times of need. Got some other good ideas, please share them in the comment section.

My Neighbor the Grandmaster

Martial arts come in many, many styles. In turn, there are millions of practitioners of the warrior arts. This means there are all sorts of people who study. It lends itself well to this quote:

“Don’t judge a book by its cover.”

With the variety of people who practice and the fact that will and perseverance are the key ingredients to be successful, anyone can be a good fighter. Therefore anyone can be a grandmaster of a particular art. You’d never know based on height, weight, clothing or name.

We should all show respect to everyone because that little old woman in the store could be a grandmaster. Never assume you are better than someone else is. Treat others like you wish to be treated. It is better to be kind, humble and hospitable than self-absorbed and elitist. True martial artists don’t pick fights with random strangers. We use our hard-earned skills for defense of life, liberty, family and country.

Besides would you like to attack someone who is highly skilled in a martial art? The fight could go badly for you. I’ve met some amazing instructors that didn’t look like skilled masters at first glance. Have you ever met someone who didn’t look like a master but actually was? Tell us in the comment section.

Personal space and overcoming fear

Kempo or any martial arts practiced for the purpose of self-defense requires the violation of personal space and boundaries. This means someone will be very close to you during your training. Not just at arm’s length but pressed up against your body and pushing against you. For some people in today’s society, that is very uncomfortable. We have in America unspoken rules about personal space and how not to abridge them.

Crazy bulling waving his fist

Crazy bulling waving his fist

Personal space for this article is defined as the distance from the body trunk out to the full reach of the arm. Generally in normal daily life, strangers don’t intrude beyond this invisible boundary. However someone whose sole purpose is to rob or attack will step into this area for intimidation.

Get use to violating personal space through frequent practice with partners. Being stick shy or cringing when practicing with weapons can result in defeat in a real confrontation. Allow yourself time to acclimate to the sounds of sticks hitting or weapons brandished near you. Allow your partner to come in quickly into that personal space, but move quickly into some technique.

In this exercise, don’t let the violation of space go unanswered. You must move and defend against anything that comes in. For Americans, even close friends don’t habitually encroach upon that space. You can assume that anyone who does has nefarious intentions.

For example, if you are a woman in an office setting and someone touches your shoulders from behind you, react like it is an attack. Should you later learn that it is a coworker (usually by seeing their face after a throw), apologize. Tell them that you don’t like that sort of contact and it felt like an attack. Everyone will understand and respect that space. This will also help you distinguish friend from foe.

The comfort zone and personal space is where the enemy wants to be because you’ll stall or submit. If you react quickly and confidently, their advantage will evaporate and you will get the advantage. Don’t let someone intimidate you just by standing close and looking into your eyes. You should stare back and steady your stance. Look calm and speak with stern, calm tones.

Don’t let your personal space be your Kryptonite or Achilles’ Heel. Make it a non-issue and your defense ability will improve.

Grow a Little Bonsai

The bonsai tree was made famous in martial arts circles by the movie “The Karate Kid”. Mr. Miyagi had a room full of these tiny, beautiful trees. A bonsai tree is tiny tree cared for by the gardener. You must prune the tree everyday to maintain its size and shape. Part of the gardener’s job is to give the tree shape or an artist quality. This makes each bonsai tree a perfect tree.

“The purposes of bonsai are primarily contemplation (for the viewer) and the pleasant exercise of effort and ingenuity (for the grower).” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bonsai)

Do this same pruning and shaping with your Kempo techniques. Be your own coach by getting rid of your unneeded motions and habits. Also like the bonsai, train with effort and ingenuity. Find different ways to practicing your material. The bon or tray of bonsai contains the tree. This can be extended to training by practicing in different environments like sand, a building, forest and riverbed.

The steady and thoughtful practice of your martial arts material is essential to mastery. This mindset will transform you into a superior artist.

Half Knowing is Not Knowing

Just knowing a bit of a technique or recognize it doesn’t mean you “know” it at a competent level. This is a key frustration for most instructors, the student who knows it all yet can’t perform the technique. Here are some of the complaints I hear from these students.

  • “Oh, I know that technique. Can’t we learn a new one? That one is too simple.”
  • “I know that one already. I just forgot how it starts.”
  • “Why do we have to go over this again. I already tested out of it.”

The common characteristic of this student is the inability to perform the technique upon request. This student also seems to rush the technique by not applying proper stances, positioning and intent. They rush through the technique like spaghetti monsters or robots in fast-forward mode. The student doesn’t know the technique they only recognize it.

Setting up for an arm lock

Setting up for an arm lock

Learn all your material, not most of it. The entire sequence of moves must be memorized AND recalled upon command. This is a sign of muscle memory. At later skill levels or belt ranks, you will be required to perform the technique on the left side, blind folded, or with a non-compliant uke. Other complications will be introduced forcing you to adapt the technique. If you only remember “bits” of the sequence, you won’t be able to accomplish these tasks.

Practice until you can demonstrate or teach it to someone else whom doesn’t know it. This doesn’t mean you are authorized to teach others, but the exercise of explaining it to someone else is valuable. It means it is clear in your mind, or it will reveal little details you forgot. Also, questions others bring up can be revealing. When I was in our dojo’s Leadership Team (of instructors-in-training) I was stuck several times when beginners asked me questions I didn’t know the answer.

A quick discussion with the chief instructor and I had the answers. Both the beginner and I were informed about the intricate nature of the martial arts. What this should demonstrate is you’re never advanced enough I the art to learn something basic. There is always something to learn.

To bring this digression back to the point, you must practice your moves a lot to understand them, perform them and know them. At each stage of “learning” the technique, you acquire more insight. Sometimes the insight is advanced concepts. Other times it is fundamental basics in a new light. Often a basic concept reiterated leads you to a core theory of Kempo in application — the links and threads of its effectiveness.

Here are three signs that you know your material:

  1. You can perform it correctly when the instructor calls for it
  2. You can talk or think about something else while performing it correctly
  3. You understand where to make changes to the technique to adjust for different ukes and reactions

So practice your new techniques a few more times and throw in a few “old” techniques. There is no such thing as doing a technique too many times. Knowing the technique is the journey not a destination.

Have you ever forgotten a technique you thought you knew? Or remembered a technique you thought you forgot? Tell us please.

3 Things to think about before you get mugged

There you are, at night, on a dark street with two thugs pointing a gun at you. They want your money and jewelry. Is that the time to think about the value of your items and your loved ones? Is this the ideal time to pause for a few moments so you can think about it?

Decide what is valuable before a mugger asks you. This can save you valuable time and potentially end the attack. Here are some questions to ask yourself.

  1. Are the contents of your wallet worth your life?
  2. Is giving the cash away better than getting shot?
  3. Is it worth giving up jewelry and watches to save my children or spouse?

If the muggers just want the cash and you believe they will run away once they have it, why not give it to them? This may not be the case in all situations. However, delaying the hand over while you consider whether to be indignant or compliant can lead to anger on the mugger’s part.

It would be a great time to talk calmly and create a sense of familiarity. Make them like you and tell them you understand their situation. This should diffuse their anger and de-escalate their aggressiveness.

You’ll also need to evaluate whether or not you can defeat the opponent with your skills. When the opportunity presents itself, are you willing to act? You’ll only have seconds to decide.

You “win” the confrontation if you survive unharmed. That’s all that matters in true self-defense.

Kempo in Action 4

Here is a real life example of how one of my students actually used a technique in an actual mugging attempt. “David” a man waiting for his car, approached by two assailants. The names are changed but the story is true.

David was waiting at a dealership for his car to be repaired. He paced the block on the main street of the area. This apparently attracted the attention of two thugs. They approached David quickly. He noticed one fellow taking off his headband and wrapping around his fist. So David took his hands out of his pockets.

They came up to him and started yelling. “Stop seeing my girlfriend. She’s mine. I’ll beat you up if you don’t stop.”

David replied in a calm voice, “I don’t know your girlfriend.”

The main ruffian stepped closer to get in David’s face while the other tried to get behind him. “Yes you do. I saw you with her the other day.”

David stepped in and to the side to keep the second thug away from his back. He stayed close to the primary thug, even inching a bit closer. This showed that he wasn’t intimidated. David also kept his cool and began to slow his speech down in a calming manner. “You are mistaken. I don’t know who she is or where she lives.”

The primary thug, feeling a bit to close to David backed up slightly. “She lives right over there on that street.” He pointed over at the other block.

David looked over at the second ruffian calmly then back to the first. “Look, I’m here to get my car fixed. I don’t know who your girlfriend is. I don’t know where she lives. I’m sure she is very pretty and you are a lucky guy. I have my own girlfriend and I don’t want someone else’s.”

The primary thug got flustered and stepped back a few steps. His friend stopped checking his bandana-covered fist. “Alright, just don’t come around here anymore or I’ll kick your butt. Stay away from my girlfriend. You understand?”

David replied, “Yes, I will stay away from her. However, I may need to fix my car again so I will come back here.”

The two thugs walked back the way they came. David continued to scan the area for more trouble until his car was fixed. What David did was diffuse a potentially dangerous situation. He assessed the men were out to start a fight, perhaps mug him. They began the confrontation with trumped up story to “justify” the fight they wanted to start.

Instead of being a victim, David showed courage without feeding into the hysteria of bravado talk. He calmly addressed their issue (whether fake or real) and stood his ground. He neither egged them on nor submitted to their intimidation. David didn’t feed their anger, which they were using to get the courage to attack him. So instead, they gave him a warning (to save face) and walked away.

Good self-defense doesn’t make it to a fistfight. Use the strategies and techniques to avoid fighting or to diffuse tense situations. This doesn’t always work but it does usually. You’ll know the difference because it’ll go from contact to actually physical contact right away. When fights start with verbal intimidation, you have a chance to use these tactics.

Do you have a self-defense story to share? Put it in the comments.

Kempo in Action 3

Here is a real life example of how one of my students actually used a technique in an actual robbery attempt. The names are changed but the story is true.

Natasha, a restaurant manager on the graveyard shift, used verbal and mental self-defense moves I taught at workshops and in class. She used her Mom-justu to keep the vagrants and vagabonds in check. Often in the late night hours, a drifter would come into the restaurant and demand money or food yelling and screaming with fists in the air.

Using a calm demeanor, Natasha told them sternly to get out of the restaurant. “That behavior is not welcomed or tolerated here.” she said. Natasha never backed up or gave up ground. Her confidence and tone broke the will of the opponent and they left.

Only on two occasions did they resort to striking her. Each time she blocked with a strong left arm and wagged her finger at them. “That behavior is definitely not allowed. I’m now calling the police.” Again, her calm yet forceful demeanor never faltered. Again the vagrants left humbled by her defense.

Remember that self-defense happens well before the first strike is thrown. Keep yourself out of dangerous situations. Be prepared and calm. Use your mind and mouth to de-escalate the situation so there is no physical attack.

Have you ever taken a potentially violent situation to a none-event just by using your mind and mouth? Tell us your self-defense story.

Kempo in Action 2

Here is a real life example of how one of my students actually used a technique in a schoolyard bully situation. “Rebecca” in Third Grade. The names are changed but the story is true.

Rebecca started at a new school filled with students she didn’t know. It wasn’t long for the other students to single her out as different. The boys started to bully her and push her around, perhaps as a way to demonstrate their machismo and bravado to the other boys. Each time a boy grabbed her arm, Rebecca performed the windmill escape.

They tried again and she escaped quickly. They couldn’t keep their hands on her arm. Finally, they resorted to verbal abuse instead since physical violence was stopped. After a while, they just left her alone.

In situations where fighting can get you in trouble such as the schoolyard, there are still options. You can defend yourself with blocks and escapes without counter strikes. You are not fighting only defending. Rebecca remembered a simple technique we practiced in class…a lot. She used the technique and disengaged the opponent. Luckily, that solved her situation.

Real Kempo in a real situation, share one of your Kempo in Action stories.

BTW, I’ll be out of touch for the next four days so no posts until Monday. Train hard! Train smart!

Kempo in Action 1

Here is a real life example of how one of my students actually used a technique in an actual mugging attempt. The names are changed but the story is true.

Mary, a mother on vacation with her family, was attacked in a casino. A strange man approached and distracted her while his accomplice sucker punched Mary. The accomplice lady pulled on Mary’s shoulder and turned her around. Then struck with a right cross. The surprise punch landed square between the eyes.

Mary quickly performed one of Kempo punch techniques that had a leg hock and a three-punch follow up. This busted up the assailant’s face. The strange man stood there in shock. While this happened, a casino security guard watched and approached just as the action occurred. The security guard took Mary away from the scene and calmed her down. The guard saw the whole thing and said she was in the right.

An innocent conversation with someone in a business can turn ugly fast. Nice people usually don’t know a fight is happening until they get hit. Make sure you can take a punch and dish out a counter quick like Mary.