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Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Free Martial Arts...Part II

I had some great feedback on the first Free Martial Arts...post.  Thank you to all that took the time to comment and provide insight.  Recently, Kai added to the conversation/discussion.  By the time I finished thinking about all the points that had been raised and responded, I realized I had enough for a follow up post.

I've copied over Kai's comments and my response/follow up, um, follows...

This topic has had me doing quite a bit of introspection.





Kai's comments:

"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"

My Response:

Kai,

Thanks for taking the time to leave such a thoughtful and insightful response. I’m glad you enjoyed the post.  

I do feel like my system/program/vision is, as you said “my baby”.  At the same time, I don’t want to be too full of myself or selfish.  Your suggestion to get to know him better before coming to any arrangement is spot on.  I’m going to check out your suggestions for choosing a business partner.  Thanks.

You said:

“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).”

I’ve struggled with this for a long time.  The ‘logical’ side of my brain says it’s ok to charge money, but it’s in conflict with the more emotional side and I’ve often wondered why. 

I’ve come to realize that my beginnings in the world of martial arts were heavily influenced by some great teachers, one of whom is still my Sensei, and their attitudes towards money and the martial arts.  A common quote I heard was “You’ll never make any money in the martial arts”.  That statement was multi-layered and what it really meant was that the “belt factories” as you so aptly named them, had washed down technique and were interested ONLY in the money.  As long as you paid, you progressed.  

These dojos often had the newest, shiniest equipment, in stark contrast to the small storefront, leaking roof, duct taped mats that I was accustomed to.  The chain style schools didn’t seem to care about your individual progression, or your actual ability to defend yourself.  So I always shied away from such establishments.  It has served me well over years.  I still train with, and am friends with, several people from those early days.  And that says something about the quality of the people and the training.

To be clear, I always paid some money, there were always club dues, but looking back, I realize just how little I was paying for what I was getting.  And everyone who ever taught me had a full-time job outside the training hall.  It was a labour of love for them.

If I am to be honest with myself, one of the reasons I may be reticent to generate reasonable income from the arts is that I wouldn’t attract me.  What I mean is that the ‘me’ from back then, who had little to no money, might never walk into my program/school/facility due to the financial factor.  



I wouldn’t be the ’me’ that I am today, in the arts at least, had it not been for the experiences I had back then.  I remember being completely broke and occasionally not having the monthly dues.  The Sensei(s) never turned me away.  Bad business model, but I am still loyal to them today, nearly 25 years later, so maybe it had some merits…and I was the first one to help with water damage, moving a dojo location etc.  So, it’s complicated.

On the flip side, generating income can greatly assist in improving the quality of training delivered, if the development of the student remains the main focus/priority.  And it helps to offset the time and energy expended on such a pursuit.  It also allows the teacher (me in this scenario) to continue to upgrade their own skills and knowledge, and have safe and effective training equipment etc.

And you’re absolutely correct, 

“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?”
And thank you for bringing my attention to the Buddhist concept of “Right Livelihood”.  I’ve been thinking on this quite a bit since I read your comments.  
“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.”

I had not thought of it quite like that before.  I’m going to meditate on that. Thanks.

The ‘Parable of the Talents’ is also interesting, “…a moral responsibility to make the most of what we have been given…”  More food for thought.

Thank you again for your comments and I’m happy that you enjoy the blog. You’ve given me lots to think about.  Thank you for that.    


JM.

3 comments:

  1. Dear Journeyman,

    I never saw this until now! Wow, you have really taken my "starter for ten" ideas and run with them - and made them absolutely your own. I'm so glad! And you in turn have given me much to think about, especially your comment about wanting to make your work accessible and attractive to your own younger self. Yes, it's a chilling thought that you could deter a vulnerable youngster if you charge for your services. But I still think you can do this - but because you know right from the start that making your work accessible to a modern-day young "you" is an important value, you would just need to find ways to build that in somehow . . . Good luck and I look forward to the next installment ;-)

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