I've operated a martial arts school full time for 45 years. I may have made every mistake that can be made in this business. The reason I'm still in business, I believe, is I asked for help. I learned quickly that others before me had already found solutions. In this column, I'll point out key mistakes I made in my career, which are common errors among school owners, both large and small, throughout our industry. And I'll share the solutions I used to overcome them.


It's so easy to get caught up in the everyday life of running a martial arts school that we often forget the key components of our success in the arts. When operating a business, certain issues rise to the top and get our attention. It's easy to assume that these are the important issues. In reality, the things we let sink to the bottom are often the ones that make or break us.

In the early days of owning my first dojo, my instructor used to say, "You can never make money when you need it the most, and you will always make money when you don't." That was his way of telling us that when we're struggling, we tend to focus on the suffering, but that only makes things worse. He implored us to "Never quit," and "Always continue learning." His advice was incredibly practical and turned out to be completely correct.

In hindsight, I can say that the most important step for martial arts school owners to take is to work hard on continuing our education. When we're working to improve ourselves, we're always moving in a positive direction. When we stop learning and cruise through our days, teaching classes and repeating the cycle, our students can see the lack of passion.

Remember the last time you learned something and brought it back to the dojo to teach to your students? The excitement you felt at being able to pass along the new knowledge was likely communicated to your students and spread throughout your school. When you're a school owner or instructor, it can be hard to remember to schedule time in your day to learn new things. However, it's so much easier now than it used to be.

One of the best ways to rekindle passion and spread excitement in the dojo is to attend continuing-education events. The Martial Arts SuperShow hosts a wealth of seminars and networking opportunities. All the gold nuggets of knowledge we pick up there can provide enthusiasm for months to come.

The SuperShow is by far the biggest and best option for continuing education, but it's not the only one. There are many resources for learning right at our fingertips. I recently took an online course to help me understand better marketing procedures. I've also spent time on YouTube watching videos of fun drills that can be used in my classes. In my early years, I found it incredibly important to devote an hour a week to a pre-arranged workout with a friend.

So if you feel stuck on the road to success — like you just can't get beyond a certain point no matter how hard you try — it may be time to look where you haven't been looking. Stop focusing all your effort on resolving the issues of today and start creating a long-term path for your future by expanding your knowledge base.

When you teach something new in class, it will inspire your students. When you inspire your students, they will talk to their parents and friends. When they talk about your school, your business will grow. Everything you do to improve yourself professionally will affect your business directly or indirectly. In contrast, if you make every day a repetition of the day before and effect no positive changes, no one will talk about your school. It's as simple as that.

This week, I want you to take time to learn something new. Read a book. Watch a video. Take a seminar. Enroll in an online course. Schedule a workout with a friend. Practice that form you've been meaning to improve. Create change for yourself — and for your business.

To contact Kathy Olevsky, send an email to kathy.olevsky@raleighkarate.com.

SUBSCRIBE TO BLACKBELT MAGAZINE TODAY!
Don't miss a single issue of the world largest magazine of martial arts.

Talks About Being a Smaller Fighter in a Combat Sport Ruled by Giants

At first glance, most people — most martial artists, even — will zero in on the smaller person in any fight and deem him or her to be at a distinct disadvantage. It's a natural tendency to draw this conclusion based on obvious attributes such as height, weight and reach. However, that tendency does not always lead to accurate conclusions.

Keep Reading Show less

The martial art of "hwalssogi" or traditional Korean archery, has been designated as an intangible cultural heritage by the Cultural Heritage Administration in South Korea. Citing it's frequent appearance in historical literature and culture, the administration said hwalssogi has played a significant role in Korean traditional martial arts.

Though archery became a formal sport known as "gungdo" under the Japanese occupation during the early 20th century, unlike taekwondo which is primarily based on Japanese karate, hwalssogi does appear to have legitimate roots in a traditional Korean art of archery. The bow used is much shorter than the Japanese bow and closer to that used by Mongolian archers.

ONE Championship made its triumphant return in Bangkok with ONE: No Surrender on Friday, July 31. The six-bout event featured some of the biggest names in Muay Thai and kickboxing and helped put the spotlight back on the organization after several months without a marquee event.

While the COVID-19 pandemic halted the event schedule, ONE: No Surrender was a step in the right direction with sensational talents and matches to kick start the back-half of the year for Asia's largest sports media property.

Keep Reading Show less

Belgium officers conducting a police canine training demonstration.

The prospect of being attacked by a dog is frightening, especially one that's bred to be aggressive. The first thing all students of self-defense should keep in mind, even if you're comfortable around canines, is that no matter how domesticated a dog might be, it's still an animal. As such, it can turn on you at any time without warning.

Keep Reading Show less
Free Bruce Lee Guide
Have you ever wondered how Bruce Lee’s boxing influenced his jeet kune do techniques? Read all about it in this free guide.
Don’t miss a thing Subscribe to Our Newsletter