Monday, September 21, 2015

Free Martial Arts...

Greed or Quality Control?

That was going to be the title of this post at first.  Or Altrusism vs. Pettiness

I have a martial conundrum.  

I was recently approached by a very well meaning martial arts instructor who wanted help in developing/designing a self-defense class for his martial arts school (where he is a lead instructor, not an owner).

I agreed to meet with him and see what ideas he had.  I firmly believe that the 'end-game' in martial arts should be to help others, and in many ways, that should be reward enough.

I met with him and we sat down to chat about martial arts, specifically self-defense.  

This instructor is very skilled in his chosen martial art.  I had to give him credit, he knows his stuff.  Just as importantly, he also knows what he does not know. He had very little idea where to start with a self-defense specific class.  He wanted to draw on my experience and skill set to help.   

After chatting for the better part of an hour, a couple of things became quite clear.

1. He really did have no idea where to start.
2. He wanted me to provide all the material.  

So, when I say he wanted me to provide all the material, I mean just that.  He wanted to do design, develop, and maybe even deliver the product once.  Or show him how to deliver it.

So what's the problem?

I find myself struggling with how to handle this. 

On one hand, I want to help people learn how to defend themselves from real violence.

On the other, I don't want to just give away all my material to someone and walk away.  I've spent a long time working on researching violence, selecting and tweaking effective techniques and developing teaching methodologies to put together what I believe to be a realistic and effective program.

This is still a work in progress but the major 'guts' of it already exist.  

To this instructor's credit, again, he was interesting in having me deliver the program the first time, and not for free.  He wanted to watch and then take over teaching it from that point on.

I'm uncomfortable with this.  I don't know him that well and I have concerns he wouldn't deliver it in the way that I would.  A good self-defense program is reliant not only on techniques and concepts, but in the instructor's ability to deliver it and have the lessons 'stick'.  If you can't retain what you've learned past the lesson, it's of no value.

Am I being petty?  Greedy?  Have I lost sight of the true meaning of the martial arts?  

Or am I just concerned about people not receiving training that they could actually use to save their lives or protect them or their loved ones from injury?

I don't want a watered down version of my material being delivered.  

Long term readers of this blog will know that I've often pondered whether or not it's ok to make money from the martial arts.  In the spirit of openness, I would like one day to be able to supplement my income somewhat through teaching self-defense.  

So, in some ways, this could be an opportunity to show my stuff, as it were, in an established club. But...

Luckily, I have a bit of time to decide what to do.  The instructor in question didn't really even know who the target audience was, how long the program would be, if it would be an ongoing thing every week or a program with a start and end date, for example 6 weeks, once a week etc.

The target audience changes the way in which a program is delivered.  I would take a different approach teaching seasoned martial artist than I would people who have done little or no training at all.  

I've left it that he needs to put together a shell of what he wants to deliver, and to who, before I could really weigh in on it.

This much I know.  I want to help, in some capacity.  But should I turn over the keys to the kingdom? (wow, I'm being dramatic...).


Should I just say no?
Should I consult on his material only?
Should I give him my whole program and hope for the best?
Should I deliver it once but not turn over the supporting material and hope for the best?
Should I give a one day seminar and see if they want to hire me for the rest?

Or are there other options?

Should I copy-write my material?  Register a business?  Develop a train-the-trainer program?

Am I losing sight of the big picture?  Am I over thinking all this?



  1. Whatever this instructor does with the material you've provided; whatever happens to his students after he teaches them your material, it will reflect on you.

  2. Hi Rick,

    I think you're right. I'm not so vain as to think other people couldn't do a good job with my material, but without oversight and quality control, the training could become anything. And that "anything" would always be associated to me.

    Thanks for the feedback.

  3. If you are helping with the design of a program that he will charge money for, you should be compensated. If he is teaching your curriculum, you should have oversight or be involved as a teacher in every self-defense class where he is using your curriculum. If he gets to the point where he can teach the class himself, and you are comfortable with the achieved results, then you will be comfortable with stepping away from the project. Get any agreement in writing. Its unfortunate that we have to worry about legal BS, but it is a fact of life. If he hurts someone and says he says that he was just doing what you told him to do, that could be a problem.

  4. Unknown,

    You've just summed it all up in a logical and well thought out manner. Thank you for the feedback. I believe you're absolutely correct. And getting things in writing is very important and up until now, I hadn't given it as much thought as I should have.

    Thanks again.

  5. Dear Journeyman,
    I love this post, it is so vulnerable and open. Here are my thoughts for what it is worth . . .
    - No you are not “overthinking”, or being over dramatic by presenting this as a case of handing over “the keys to the kingdom”. I actually think that’s a very good metaphor in this case, given how much you have to offer this man, and the world in general. Your system is like your own baby and you need to be absolutely certain and comfortable before you entrust it to anyone else’s care.
    - So I don’t think any of us can advise you whether to go for it with him at present. You just don’t know him that well, as you say, so how can you trust him with your precious material? So in my view your options are not so much about whether to hand over all or part of your material (etc). It’s more about deciding whether he has any potential, and if he does, then deciding to invest some more in getting to know him. BEFORE you commit to this relationship, or give anything to him. And if you decide that he is not going to be the right person, ether now or after you get to know him, it’s fine for you to just walk away.
    - I don’t know much about this kind of scenario myself, but just Googled “How to choose a business partner” and found LOADS of good articles – here are some: 10 questions to ask before committing to a business partner; Is Your Co-Founder 'the One'? 7 Ways to Tell; Evaluating and Selecting a Strategic Partner. (Sorry the links haven't copied over into this reply).
    - But I think the deepest, strongest question in your article is the one you don’t actually include in your list at the end which is: is it ok for you to charge money for something as pure, noble and beautiful as the martial arts? It feels like you are drawn to transforming your hard work into income, but are unsure whether this is actually ok in the first place, and you are asking us either to validate this action, or tell you if we disapprove (because money would somehow taint and soil our art).
    - Again this is just my opinion, but I would say that you absolutely have the right to be paid for your hard work. People draw salaries for their day-to-day jobs all the time and no one thinks anything of it. So why should your work be any less valuable just because you’re doing it independently and not for an employer – and out of love? Your blog is beautiful, and clearly the result of so much work and knowledge, and you have every right to capitalise on this; you would really not be doing anything wrong.
    - Of course some people make money from the martial arts in a wrong way, such as opening up a poor quality “belt factory” and teaching crap - or abusing their students etc - but from what you have said, that kind of activity is absolutely nothing to do with where you want to go.
    - Your post also made me think of the Buddhist concept of “Right Livelihood”. People have to make a living, and it’s proper that you should do this in an ethical way, and make the world a better place in the process. And helping people to find personal power and stay safe is an awesome way to serve humanity.
    - On a stronger note, I also thought of the Parable of the Talents (bible) when I read your post. The first two servants use the money they are given well, and double it. The third servant in the story does nothing with the talent he is given – he just buries it in the ground to keep it safe. And the first two servants are rewarded - but the third man is severely punished. This sounds like a harsh story, but I believe its message is that we have a moral responsibility to make the most of what we have been given in life?

    Sorry this reply is so long! and hope it doesn’t sound too “prescriptive” :-) it's really only my own thoughts and feelings on your story. Wishing you all the very best with this – are you going to keep us updated via your blog . . . ?

    Best wishes Kai

  6. OT: Pacquiao will be getting back in the ring this 2016 with Timothy Bradley. Fortunately we can still see his training and fights at Manny Pacquiao Video Channel . Go check it out!