Thursday, April 28, 2011

Teaching Large or Crowded Martial Arts Classes

 Ok, so lets say you have a class to teach by yourself or with very little help and now your class is getting pretty big! Crowded classes do mean profit, but there needs to be a balance. If your class sizes get too big you will lose students because they feel they aren't getting enough attention, or their needs are not being met. I consider myself very skilled at teaching a class solo with up to 30-40 students, but that is because I have mastered the techniques of motivating, keeping attention, streamlining, and making things run efficient in my classes; and you can too!

Tip #1
Make it a rule to never have a student sitting down, or standing still. Split lines of students into more lines if necessary and ensure that they are not waiting their turn for more than a few seconds. I try to have 3 people in a line, depending on what we are doing. A great drill to keep everyone busy and work conditioning is to have the first student in the line performing the drill or technique, then he/she runs to the back of the line and performs X number of pushups/situps/etc.. Here is a video example of a similar drill done for Form/Kata practice. By the time he/she stands up again, the others in the line are already finished with the technique and its his/her turn again. This reduces the amount of time students spend standing around waiting for the person ahead of him to finish.

Tip #2
Plan your class for little supervision, and choose appropriate drills. If you need to watch a few students, make sure the others that are not being watched are well informed as to what they are supposed to be doing. If you are doing an activity that students will have to wait their turn for, have them doing pushups, situps, squats, etc.. For instance if I am watching a group of students perform a form I will have another group practice something in the back of the class, or if space is really tight, the rest of the students hold squat position against the wall. I then rotate the groups.

 Tip #3
Make up for a lack of individual attention - The odds are you will only get to interact with each student for a few minutes total in a large class so make sure you use their name, make some kind of physical contact with them such as high five, pat on the back. Make it your mission to give everyone something to improve on, and tell them something they are doing well.

Tip #4
It is recommended that when you play any games, drills, or activity that involves a crowded class moving around a lot that students leave their head gear, mouthpiece, and elbow pads on. I have found that this cuts the amount of head collisions and accidental elbow bumps down dramatically, which is better for retention. Most injuries in kids classes occur from them running into each other, so modify the game or play games that have them crawl on the ground instead or running, or have them stay in place. It doesn't take too many times for a kid to leave class crying before mom takes him out of your program. It doesn't take too many days of missed work for an adult to quit either. Here is a video of a warmup you can do with a crowded class easily.

Tip #5
Floor Drills/Line drills work excellent in large groups because it allows you to walk around and interact with everyone without them running into each other. If you are really short on space, instead of having them step forwards or backwards with each technique have them step their feet together backwards and then step the other foot forward, effectively switching sides of the body in place. You can also have them step out at 45 degrees instead of moving forward if they are in danger of kicking others.

Crowded classes can be good or bad for your business. It depends on how you handle it, but ideally you should schedule as many assistant instructors to help as possible!

Jeremy Molley is the owner of For more free drills, videos, and tips become a facebook fan.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The Martial Arts Instructor One Man Show Pt. 2

In my first post we discussed the disadvantages of operating as a One-Man-Show on a long term basis. In this post we will discuss tips to transition your role of running a business into owning a business.


It is very scary to release control of business tasks, especially when times are tough economically. I remember the first time I had a new instructor teach a class for me. I stood behind the front counter white knuckled, cringing, and analyzing everything that went on inside as if everything I had worked so hard to accomplish would be wrecked in 45 minutes. That was the most stressful class I never taught. :) After the class I thought sure I would lose students, they would not enjoy themselves, or somehow be upset that I didn't teach. This was not the case at all, in fact they actually enjoyed the class because it was different! Now was it as good as I could have taught it? Probably not, but this instructor now had an opportunity to improve and share his unique teaching style with the students. You cannot let fear get in the way of progress. Successful people often do what others are too scared or lazy to do.

I was terribly afraid to have employees answer the phone, because I knew that my phone closing rate was 90%+. Every time that phone rang and I was able to answer it was money in the bank for me. That was my reasoning for always answering the phone and not allowing others to have the opportunity. This went on for years, until finally I realized I couldn't just train my staff on what to say, and expect mock rehearsals to prepare them. I actually had to let them get on the phone. Yes, I lost money in the short term.  Appointment rates went down to 70% or 75% for a while, but by allowing them to make mistakes (and coaching them along) I was able to free up enough time to focus on another aspect of my business which more than made up for the cost of a few missed appointments. A few months later they are at a closing rate of 80-85% and I don't have to answer the phone anymore because ITS OK. The time I used to spend on the phone is now spent on social marketing, spending time with my family, traveling to a martial arts seminar, or something that gives me a higher return financially or even personally than the extra 5-10%. Who knows, in a year they could have a 95% closing rate and do a better job than I ever could!

Tips for overcoming fear

1. Stop making excuses.

2. Get out a pen and paper right now and write down every single job/task that you do in your school. Everything. Here is an example of my own school's task list to help you get started.

3. In your free time, take out your camera phone or use free screen capture software and film each and every task being performed with yourself explaining how it should be done, common mistakes, and your expectations. Don't make a huge project out of it, just start with a few 5 minute videos next time you actually go and do the task and build from there. You are doing it anyway, so you might as well video it!

4. Save this on your office computer so your staff can always get to it.

5. Start small and give one task at a time to your staff member, volunteer, etc.. (this will be discussed in a moment)

6. Review the video with them, or email it to them. You can even have them make their own video of themselves doing the task and have them send it back to you verifying that they know how to do the task and that they watched your video. Rate them on it. Make them repeat it over and over until they rate a perfect score.

7. Inspect what you expect. Don't assume they are doing everything you ask of them. Periodically check and hold them accountable for their results.

8.  You have to train them how to do something many times, and continue to remind them several times. They will forget, they will mess up, and this happens with even the best staff members. Nobody is perfect.

Low or No Cost

Most school owners in this position cannot afford to hire a staff member because they are stuck in the transitional phase. There are many FREE options to accomplish this even if you cannot afford to hire someone. Many of these are temporary solutions, but will get the ball rolling. Remember, your students are loyal, appreciate everything you do, and will gladly help in any way they can. With that in mind, do not abuse your students. They are the reason you continue to have a business.

1. Volunteer Hours - You can require students to perform 1 or 2 volunteer hours per testing cycle or month which could range from answering the phone and taking a message when you are in class, cleaning, distributing flyers, holding pads in class, etc..

2. Cleaning  - At the end of the last class, usually adults, you can make it the responsibility of everyone to clean the mats (usually takes everyone 5 minutes). Ask if anyone has an old vacuum or mop bucket, etc.. and they will usually donate one for free. The most cleaning equipment, the less time it takes everyone to finish. This is an age old tradition in martial arts.

3. Volunteer Coaches - Have select parents or higher ranks hold pads in class, etc.

4. Setup a once a month training session with these volunteers/leadership team and practice the skills they will be doing. Don't just assume they know automatically know how to help or that you can train them as the classes are going! Email them the videos you took or put them on youtube.

5. Allow a student to train free in exchange for cleaning, or working the front desk, etc.. When a student loses his job or has to quit for financial reasons offer them an option like this. Its a win win solution.

6. "Hire" a student to market for you and pay him/her a commission based on a each student they can bring in to enroll. You must provide marketing materials such as flyers, doorhangers, business cards, etc.. The good thing is that they get paid on their results, so if they do not perform you do not have to pay them.

Remember, you should control your business- not the other way around.

-Jeremy Molley

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