My first attempt at a Vlog! Here’s 5 tips to keep your zoom classes fresh!

Here are 5 tips to keep your zoom classes fresh.

Hopefully the end is in sight guys! It’s been a long old road this past year or so, from the first initial months of moving our academies online, to those wonderful few weeks where we could re-open in some capacity, to then having to close again!

Zoom has been a godsend for many and thanks to technology many of us have kept our academy doors open – through the virtual world! I know I will never take for granted the atmosphere in my academy again and cannot wait to get back open and see everyone.

Although the end is hopefully in sight – we are not quite there yet and zoom will still be needed for the time being, and hey, maybe we should keep some level of online training available for people – it may not be a bad idea and we’ll be ready for the next global pandemic… yay! 😛

So here are 5 top tips to keep your zoom classes fresh, fun and interesting in a time when many are really suffering from lock-down fatigue.

1 – Bring in guests

Guest instructors have been awesome for my academy! We had 18 of them over a 24 hour period during our 24 hour challenge last summer, but I have always kept bringing guest instructors into our regular adult classes on Zoom.

I’ve done this for a few reasons…

Firstly it gives me a break as teaching online can be a little stressful at times! It’s hard to translate some things online or into solo work and hard to keep the motivation going for people, especially if you’re like me and quite a hands on coach! Every cloud has a silver lining however and it’s certainly improved my teaching ability and taught me some new skills!

Bringing in a guest instructor means you can chill and enjoy learning for the hour rather than having to host the class. I’ve made sure I’ve kept learning this lock-down, signing up with the Minnesota Kali Group for some JKD and Kali I will introduce into my academy at some point. Bringing in a guest instructor takes the pressure off for one lesson and you can just enjoy the process of learning something new or having a workout again.

Secondly – it keeps it fresh for the students. I’ve already said they’re suffering from lock-down fatigue, the last thing you want is for them to get your-face-fatigue too! I think some of my guys have had this for months, but their troopers can keep on training. Bringing in a new instructor, especially from a different style to your own, adds value to your academy, shows you are willing to look outside your own ego and also gives the students a new perspective on something. It’s also great publicity for the guest instructor as to what they do, so a win-win for everyone involved!

I’m always willing to do a guest spot/workout for someone if they’d like so just get in touch!

2 – Use props!

This is must, especially for the kids classes. A 40 minute class with kids where you simply go through drills or patterns is going to get tiring pretty quickly. You can be the most passionate and enthusiastic instructor in the world, but sometimes we all need a little help in the form of a prop or two!

For my junior students (and some adults…) a pirate sword has worked great. We can do virtual evasions where they jump, duck, slip and roll out of the way of the sword cuts, and it can be a good way of learning basic footwork too!

For my adults – along with the pirate sword – we also do virtual pad feeding drills occasionally. This is a great workout for the students and means you can simply pad feed towards the camera, doing a certain number of rounds for a certain length of time e.g. 10 x 2 minute rounds.

Invest in some props and use them to keep your zoom classes fresh! Think outside the box a little and get your students to make their own props too!

3 – Think about more than just classes

A lot of the time people come to your classes for a sense of community as well as the physical aspect of martial arts. This should translate to online as well. Are you simply doing your classes, then logging off, never to be seen or heard from again until the next class? If so, you’re missing an awesome opportunity to build your community stronger through a global pandemic. Be the academy that helped people through this and give as much as you can of your time, energy and brain power!

Use Facebook community groups for your students to post things that are only for current members. It could be drills done from class, or special event e.g. a guest instructor! But it could also be more fun things like links to a zoom quiz night or funny videos/bloopers from your online filming if you are doing any for a course or project!

Build the community up now and you’ll have students who are also friends and big fans of your academy who in turn, speak to their friends, hence building the word of mouth we all love. Plus it’s just a nice thing to do at the moment – be sincere and give to your students, without them you’re just someone with some martial arts skill but no-one to teach!

4 – Set challenges

Challenges have worked great for us in the past, so I think it’s probably time to set another one! Unlucky any of my students reading this! During the first lock-down we completed a 5000 rep challenge – 10 exercises, 50 reps each for 10 days. We then completed our 10,000 rep challenge – 10 exercises, 100 reps each for 10 days. We then set ourselves the 24 hour challenge and not only did we raise £2000 for charity, but 8 of my students all completed the full 24 hours. Trust me, there is nothing that brings an academy closer together than knife drills with a butter knife at 5am after too much coffee slashing away at our zoom screens!

Set challenges for short term, medium term and long term and keep the motivation high in your students.

5 – Communicate

Communicate with your students on a regular basis and I cannot emphasize this enough. Talk to them! What do they like? What don’t they like? What would they like to see or change? They’re the students, you’re there to provide a service – listen to them!

On top of this – communication is key for people’s mental health at the moment, so check in on your students. Some of them may be living alone or struggling with the current circumstances, so if you haven’t seen them in class online for a bit, check in and see how they are and if you can do anything. It takes a minute, but means the world to people – trust me!

Let’s hope we’re out of this pandemic soon and can get back to doing what we all love ASAP. Until then, think about your business and try your best to keep it afloat so there is something to come back to. Also be kind, be human and be there for your students though who have supported you financially and perhaps emotionally this past year too. I hope these tips help you to keep your zoom classes fresh and see out online training until we can open again!

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