Cultivating the `Martial Mindset`

How do we cultivate a martial mindset? People are struggling right now and our industry has been one of the hardest hit. For instructors who’s sole ambition and aim was to run a full time martial arts facility – these are exceptionally testing times. We can of course, move our classes online, but nothing will ever replace the feeling of training at a gym or academy with people, and let’s face it – we teach martial arts, we require physical contact!

I’ve spoken to a lot of people over the past year or so, both personally, and through the blog and chats for the podcast and I have to say – things feel a little different at the moment. At the start of the pandemic there was some uncertainty, but there was also some optimism and ingenuity going on. Some instructors I spoke to were feeling slightly fatigued from running their academies, and used the closing down as a kind of reset. Others used the closing of their academies to focus on other projects such as building an online academy, or filming and publishing online courses they had been putting off for a while. No-one was glad we had to close, but there was opportunity and excitement to try something new.

This was nearly a year ago, and the optimism is slightly drying up with instructors I speak to now. I have to admit – I feel the same. I used the first period of lockdown to focus all my efforts into an online academy and film a few online courses which I then proceeded to do nothing with… idiot. Only recently have I started pushing these course such as my Breakfalling for Martial Artists course! (Shameless plug).

Teaching online was a new skill to learn and something new for my students. We revisited the basics, kept things fun and active and set challenges. This has been going on for a while now and everyone is beginning to feel that lockdown and zoom fatigue.

Every instructor I now speak to (and I speak to a lot between general chatting and the podcast), simply wants to be back at their classes, with people and doing what they love to do most – imparting their knowledge and training martial arts. This is where the martial mindset comes in…

But what exactly is the martial mindset? Instructors speak of it all the time in various forms – whether it is black belt attitude, or never back down ethos etc. It’s the thing we try to impart to our students – don’t give up, stay positive and keep moving forward no matter what.

This sounds great – but I think the events of the past year have shown just how hard this can be sometimes. The constant uncertainty, the moving of goalposts, the glimmers or hope, then that hope being extinguished. Do we still think having a martial mindset is always possible?

I know at least 3 academies that have been forced to close their doors permanently due to the financial constraints put on them during this time and my heart truly goes out to them. However, these 3 academies also offered nothing to their students during the pandemic other than a quick check in via Facebook live once in a while. No online classes, no online courses, no community – they just waited for a time that they could reopen. A time that kept getting pushed back.

We often speak about the martial arts showing determination, perseverance and development of character and past year has been the most testing time anyone in the industry has ever faced. This is where the martial mindset kicks in.

It’s important to stay positive, to focus on things to work on, to constantly try something new, even if it fails. But it’s also important to recognize that we are all human and that sometimes that martial mindset needs to slip or we come dangerously close to becoming a martial robot. It’s okay to have an off day where we feel unmotivated, or struggling with the current circumstances. Setting the example and leading from the front is crucial, but self care is also crucial. Take the time to vent, yell, cry and do whatever you need to do to unwind. This is all part of cultivating the martial mindset too – accepting you are human and being humble enough to admit you are struggling.

However, have your worry time – then bring yourself back to reality. This is the reality we find ourselves in. This won’t last forever and we have done nearly a year. The longer we go on like this, the harder is becomes, true – but if you are communicating with your students and providing them as much as you can – they will support you just as you have supported them and continue to support them at this time.

Chin up guys, we are hopefully nearing the end of this dreadful era of our industry. Recognize it’s okay not be okay sometimes, but remember you are a martial artist and focus on something that is in your control – your reaction to the current circumstances. Think about the advice you would give your students if they were struggling – then take it yourself! Easier said than done I know, but let’s focus on the future when all our classes will be packed with smiling, happy people who are loving the fact they can socialize and punch each other in the face again…

If you wish to control others, you must first control yourself

How are you cultivating your mindset during this testing time? What coping strategies would you share or how have you grown?

5 top tips for taking your martial arts business online.

The Covid-19 panic has unfortunately meant that many martial arts instructors around the world have been left in the difficult position of having to close their academies and take our business online.

For some, this is an inconvenience – we’re all martial artists, we want to get to the dojo or academy and we want to train with people and pass on any knowledge we have.

For others however, this is a much more serious problem, as their income and survival depends on their academy and students. For the first time ever, well established and successful martial art schools, through no fault of their own, are facing the possibility of never opening again.

A pretty somber thought right?

We are martial artists however, and when times get tough, we tighten our black belts and solve problems. Determination and success through adversity is what we teach right? Time to walk the walk as well as talk the talk.

Let’s look at the positives. 10 or even 15 years ago, we would have been in a much more dire situation. Why? Because the technology wasn’t around for us to reach our students from wherever we were. Before the rise in technology which was a comparatively short time ago, if you wanted to train with someone, you had to physically drive, walk or even catch a plane there! Now however, we have this wonderful thing called the internet and wonderful technology that allows us to reach out to our students and provide them with tuition, even in the crazy times we are now facing.

Many martial artists are already doing this, moving their physical academies to online within a matter of days – and that truly is incredible. Some however are still a little reluctant, or even scared to learn this new skill, and yes it is a new skill! Teaching online is most definitely different to teaching in person where the buzz of the class and atmosphere can raise you up and give you that drive.

For those a little bit reluctant, here are 5 simple tips for taking your martial arts business online and making it a success. These tips are based on what I’m doing at my own academy where we are lucky to have a fantastic community. The vast majority of my students have stayed with me during this crisis and are engaging online with us. Yes because our community is strong, but also because we are providing the right content for both now and when we get back training.

Start off simply…

A big mistake I made when we first moved our academy and business online was doing too much, too soon. I wanted to provide everything for my students and was desperate to keep them when the academy closed. After all, this is my job, it’s my passion and it’s what I want to do for the rest of my life. No students = no academy = no income = no training = no happy Dan. See the progression?

Therefore, I immediately went into overdrive, planning everything from kids activities to last 30 days, to adult 30 day challenges, to social events, to live classes, to pre-recorded material, to Instructor training, to Junior Instructor training, to guest sessions and more. The result? I got a lot of half jobs done and very little full jobs completed.

I realized this, and realized I was burning myself out and couldn’t keep going at this pace for the sake of my health and mental well-being, as well as the quality of the lessons I was teaching. So I looked… What is the main thing I want to achieve here?

I want to keep my students happy, keep them progressing, and keep them training on a regular basis. Right, how do I go about that?

I looked at my timetable while we were at the physical academy – what nights were most popular for adults and kids? Tues and Thurs. Okay, so step 1, let’s put on sessions every week for kids and adults Tues and Thurs, keeping the same times as physical classes.

1 live class each on a Tues, and 1 pre-recorded class each week on a Thursday. This will get people training, get them engaged with us, get them used to moving online and also get me used to teaching online.

Start off simply. Don’t try to do everything. Once the Tues and Thurs were in the diary every week, our students were notified and the classes were planned. Only then did I move onto step 2 – offering more. 1 job at a time and keep it simple.

After our first online workout…

Keep it fun and know your worth

With the current climate as it is, we all need a little bit of light relief and fun in our lives. We wake up, read the news, regret reading the news and then spend the day trying to avoid social media posts about 5G turning us all into mutants because Bill Gates is a reptilian lizard man owned by the super rich 1% who want world domination… or something.

We need to lighten the mood, and your online business and classes can be a great way to do that. Keep things light, keep things fun and realize that you are providing a great service in this time. People are craving some semblance of normality right now. People want to be connected to others and your classes are a way of doing this.

Our kids all got invited to join our online superhero training academy when we closed the physical academy. The world needed them to battle the evil Dr Heisenberg (think I was watching Breaking Bad as I designed it…) but they had to go through the superhero online training first. This consisted of weekly workouts, challenges and jobs around the house. See the angle? Keep it fun and entertaining, the kids loved it.

For those already teaching, how many parents or adult students have messaged you thanking you for doing what you’re doing? Whether this is keeping the kids occupied while they do your classes, to providing some stress relief and fun in your adult sessions.

Know your value and realize you’re doing a great job even moving your business online! Many people and businesses still haven’t and are just waiting for this to blow over…

Plan, plan and…. plan

Plan your classes! Especially as you start out! Even if you have been teaching for 30 years physically, teaching someone online who is on their own is a completely different ballgame. Your energy needs to be THROUGH THE ROOF and you need to over plan! Why? Because you need to account for the fact they won’t necessarily be changing partners!

Some people are lucky enough to live with people they train with, awesome, they can pad feed each other, or work through the drill. What about those that live on their own however, or with people who aren’t interested in training? We need to account for these people too and so we need to over plan. The first few classes, you will think the 45 mins or hour has gone by only to look at the clock and find its 20 minutes into the lesson…. shit! Time to get inventive!

Option 1… Huge magnets….
Option 2…. Online classes!

Plan your classes or workouts and over plan if anything, especially as you get used to the online format.

Also, as a side note – test your live classes before you run them! Our first session I got carried away, forgot to look at my clock and we cut out of a zoom meeting after 40 mins right in the middle of a workout. Oooops. Since then I’ve paid to upgrade so I don’t have to clock watch but it was a lesson learnt.

Mix it up!

Mix it up and keep it fun! Add some new concepts or skills you haven’t looked at in class before. Take the time to investigate areas you don’t usually have time for. Go back to the basics for everyone. This is exactly what we did when we first started our online sessions, we went back to the basics.

This meant not only did I as an instructor get to ease myself into the online format, but the students got to revisit some fundamentals on stance, striking, covering etc that perhaps we hadn’t looked at physically for a while.

For the kids, add games, props and activities both during class and after that they can do. Think of a 30 day challenge they have to complete every day. Use props in classes such as a sword they have to virtually jump, duck and bob and weave out the way of as you slash towards the camera. Keep it engaging and it’s not only fun for you, but fun for the students.

Keep the students guessing and interested and engaged. Have a technical session, then next session have a fitness session, then have a grueling pad work/shadow boxing session, followed by a theory session. Mix it up and engage with your students….

Engage with your students!

See how well that followed on!

We need to engage with our students at this time and make sure they are getting what they need from the classes and the sessions. Do they want more fitness? Do they want more technique? Do they want to see less of your face on camera (It’s was a legitimate request)?

Ask them what works for them and what doesn’t. Some of my students wanted more fitness. So we added 3 half hour workouts into our timetable a week. No we have family members who previously had sat and watched classes, actively involved in the workouts with us and helping the kids with their punches. Therefore, guess what, we’re keeping the online workouts when we get back to physically training in the academy!

We now have a full weekly timetable including intro slots for new members to come in for a private 1-1 session. We run live classes for kids, adults and families as well as 3 workouts a week and a stretching class every Sunday taken by my very talented girlfriend all the way from India! Think outside the box and use your imagination.

To sum up…

These can be really difficult times for a number of reasons, but don’t let your online business and academy be one of them. Keep it simple and built up. Don’t overthink it, just get your students moving and having fun. You are all amazing at that I’m sure, so just translate it to online. Once you’ve got that sorted, think outside the box as to what else you could do at this time. How about social events for the adults who are no longer at work, but are at home with their kids all day? Maybe they need some adult time so suggest a virtual night at the pub for your members! Quizzes, or video challenges work great and really engages people. Think what you would find fun, and do it! Chances are your students will find it fun too.

So go, enjoy and let’s hope it’s not too long before we’re back training at our physical academies but keeping some element of online business maybe! The man to talk to on moving your business online is Matt Chapman and you can see our interview with him on online training here