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.

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