Aggressive sales, email lists ….

I have been qualified as a personal trainer for over a year now and have dutifully joined professional governing bodies that regularly send out magazines, links to web articles etc. in order to help you keep up-to-date with the latest developments and fashions.  In particular they provide a lot of information on how to run a successful business.  I have to say that the marketing techniques material that they send me makes me cringe.  Some of the ideas they suggest are against my philosophy of how I wish to train people and are at times completely opposite to how I believe a successful business should be run.

I have formed my beliefs and perspective as a result of having spent 15 years teaching groups of students in martial arts and having taught at seminars around the world.  During this time I have gone through a variety of different approaches whilst running clubs in different cities and countries and one thing that has always become apparent to me is that the best thing is to just be yourself and do the best that you can.  In this way people are more likely to recognise you and your efforts.

Here are a few examples of the types of suggestions that I do not agree with:

  • SalesTo make it to the next level you need aggressive sales. No I don’t.  What I need is to provide quality training and great customer service, which will make clients to come back to me.  I don’t believe that my clients will be happy if they are forced to buy stuff.  Personally, if someone tries to aggressively sell something to me I immediately decline and will avoid this provider in the future.
  • Sell only in packages – “Selling individual sessions is a waste of time. Yes, but only if your aim is to extract as much money from your client as possible. I prefer the approach of aiming to impress my clients at every session so that they want to come back to me and book more sessions.  If they specifically inquire about or request a package, then sure we can look at developing one.  Again, for me personally, if someone said to me that I could only train with them if I bought a whole package I would walk away.  For example I like to train with specialists in particular areas, but I would only train with them say once a month.  In this way I can train with a variety of instructors who can each provide input on different areas of my progression.
  • Email list – “Your goal is to add new names to your email list. We are told that our target as personal trainers is to have a massive email list that we can send countless emails to with offers and advice. I personally don’t do that.  My clients receive one email from me after a consultation with their tailored training programme, corrective exercises or treatment schedule.  As a part of their consultation we will agree a means of contact so that they are happy with how and how frequently I will get in touch with them.  I don’t understand this obsession with the number of email addresses.  My email is constantly flooded with offers and information from different fitness sources and most of it goes straight in the bin.  In my view it is a waste of my client’s time going through a lot of spam messages.  I would rather my client be out on a relaxing walk then be sat in front of a computer reading my emails on random fitness fads.
  • Workout plan – “Never give your plans and training secrets away. I am not sure how that would actually work, as every time you train someone (or a group) you have to show then your plan for the session and so they know it.  If we do not share our methods then there would not be any progress as everyone would have to rely on their own development rather than being able to gain from sharing best practice.  We need to be transparent so that others can learn new methods and we can in turn learn from others.  In any case it is not the workout itself that is the most important aspect of personal training but the quality of instruction.  You could have the best workout but if you cannot teach it effectively then no one will want to do it.
  • Success – “Getting a fitness business over the £…k per month will make you more successful. Only if this is your vision of success.  I believe that if you are a better trainer that you are likely to have more money as you will build a stronger client base, but I do not believe the converse is true.  As you help people they are happy to pay you a fair price for your services.  For me personally, being successful is about being able to bring smiles and confidence to people, enjoying their achievements and being a part of their story on their road to success.  So long as I have enough money to pay the bills I’m happy, but maybe that is just me – I don’t need much to have a contented life.

These are only a few points that make me doubt the intentions of the fitness industry.  It seems to be more about making more sales then help people.  An example of this is a survey that one of my tutors did on my course.  His question was Why are you here on this course, what is your deepest motivation to become personal trainer?” 29 out of 30 people responded with “to make money”.  You are probably wondering what the response was from the other person, well I said that I wanted “to help people”.

I’ll leave it on that.  Please take time to think about what your motivation is…

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What is Taiso

A group of not so young people starts to gather at the hall, buzzing from the excitement, happily chatting about new moves that they are going to do today and which moves from last week they remember.

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The hall is quickly filled with a group, with ages varying from 40 to over 80, dropping their shoes in the corner.  Some need chairs to have a rest in between exercises but that is not stopping them!

They talk about Taiso, you know, the art of gentle exercising!

What on earth is Taiso?  At LB Posture Training we are running classes for the not so young.  I call it “Taiso – the art of gentle exercise”.  To create this I have taken and modified kata from our style of Karate and added meditation music.  By doing this I have a set of exercises that can be performed slowly and relaxed in the manner of Tai Chi.  I do not know Tai Chi well enough to use this name but I do know Karate and have experience with kata as meditation,  which is why I have researched and used the name Taiso.  “Taiso = tai (body) + so (hardening) and is a generic Japanese term for conditioning.  It can range from simply stretching to very serious conditioning.” (http://www.jqhome.net)

I associate Taiso with exercises so my students can come along and experience training in a safe manner, learn Karate forms and enjoy them in the right state of the mind.  These classes are structured with a gentle warm up, followed by learning a form and perfecting the movement. The third part of the class is dedicated to meditation, where participants perform a learnt form in a relaxed state trying to lose themselves in fluent motion.  This group is not only about the exercise it is a great social platform where people can meet and share quality time.  After the workout we gather and have a cup of tea and chat.

This group was born from the need for cheap and non-impact exercises in the middle of the day so it is easier for the not so young.

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Taiso has many health and mental benefits, not just working on muscles but on the brain too and helps to calm ones mental state.  Via form training we can improve strength, balance, flexibility and mobility.  Our brain is stimulated by learning new patterns, building new neuron connections and reinforcing them by repetition.  Natural, deep breathing oxygenates blood, relaxes tension and calms the spirit.  The more specific benefits of Taiso include:

  • Movements that strengthen the body which helps to keep strong bones and muscle tone. Gradually students will deepen the stances increasing their flexibility and joint mobility.
  • Regular exercising improves lower back strength helping to reduce any back pain.
  • A frequent change of positions in different directions on one foot improves balance and hand-to-eye coordination, improving spatial awareness and helping to reduce trips and falls.
  • Regular exercise improves memory and increases attention and concentration as well as brain blood flow in the region of memory.
  • Taiso helps to focus on performing one movement at a time. Limiting the intake of information is a key brain function associated with brain health.
  • Meditation reduces stress and improves concentration. Practice increases self-awareness.  It increases happiness and meditation increases acceptance.  Some studies suggest that it slows aging and the practice benefits cardiovascular and immune health.
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All of the above, in conjunction with a friendly atmosphere, creates an increasingly popular alternative to what is on offer for the not so young.

If you would like to know more about Taiso please get in touch with me at LB Posture Training

The enemy within

 

DSC_3699.jpgTurning up at the dojo, just before training starts I can sense the enemy around.  He is waiting to strike.  The class lines up and starts the initial ceremony, shutting our eyes in meditation, he is here creeping around us.

Training starts and as we go through the kihon the battle commences with my worst enemy.  The enemy within.  The voice in my head that whispers “you have done enough, you don’t need to do those punches, no one will notice”.  We move on to partner training – “take it easy, you know this stuff, you don’t need to try”.

Then on to sparring – “give up, you don’t need to fight, you did well in the first bout” and so on…  All students will face the same enemy, which is why Karate is a way, “do”, for self-development.  If you can win with yourself you become strong.  We need strong, self-confident people.

Being confident means that you are not afraid to stand up for yourself or for others, which enables us to take action and to help.  Strong and honourable people are needed in a healthy society and Karate is a tool for creating individuals with a strong spirit through hard training.

 

Firing up the club…..

In September 2015 I felt that I had had enough of martial arts. As a result I made the decision to shut down my club and to rethink in which direction I want to take my passion for martial arts. I had been downloadlost in mixing Karate, Wrestling and Boxing as the combination had led to confusion. Trying to fit all of the concepts together had resulted in a drop in teaching quality for my students. I have explained this issue in one of my previous articles so I will not dwell on it here.
When I moved to the U.K. I was reluctant to make money on teaching martial arts as I thought I might lose my passion for it. In reality, by fighting against this I have not been able to focus on martial arts enough, which ironically led to me losing passion for it. In the nine years that I have spent in the UK I have mistreated my Karate and had followed the fashion of focussing on MMA. I had pushed aside Karate and in the back of my mind considered it to be a lesser art. When teaching I was also subconsciously trying to please everybody – I worried what they will think about what and how I teach. Realising that my interest in martial arts was starting to wane I concluded it would be best to close the club and have a break

12592351_1678773465694202_6825074418275605908_nAfter five months of no martial arts I felt an emptiness and that something was missing in my life. Following a few coincidences (or perhaps fate) Karate is back in my life stronger than ever and I now have a sense of clarity of where I want to take it or perhaps I should say, where it wishes to lead me. I may have given up on Karate, but it did not give up on me.
Martial arts seminar opportunities are now unfolding before me; the more I go to the more offers I receive to teach at events. I am also surprised to see that the number of people contacting me about joining my club has increased substantially.

12669701_1678652079039674_8880286587380242706_nEven my work leads me to Karate. By chance I have been invited to run Karate classes as therapy sessions by the charity organisation, The Welcome Project. Another surprising event was chatting with a group that I volunteer with about creating Karate sessions for seniors. This meditative form of Karate is based on kata exercises. This is a very intriguing concept that I will embark on from the beginning of March. The classes will be called Taiso (the Japanese for exercises).Untitled

All of this makes me think that maybe it is my path in life to teach Karate. Given this I am restoring the club and have started to promote it, only this time I will just be teaching the Karate that I know and love.I wait nervously to see where this path is going to take me.

Judo Masterclass

We all admire Olympic champions for their success.  We think “I would like to be like them” and that their lives must be so glamorous and easy.

I recently had the pleasure of attending a Judo Masterclass with Karina Bryant, an Olympic medallist from London 2012. 12541135_1673834262854789_7063568194133129491_n It was a great experience.  Detailed instructions from Karina were a real eye opener (I’m not a Judo player so a lot of it is new to me).  It was interesting to see how much the small things matter.

I thoroughly enjoyed the session and had a chance to train with Karina as her partner, with her correcting my clumsy movements and positioning.

12573778_1673834292854786_9083340743829225848_n She is such a nice and successful person, life must be easy for her right?  Not exactly.  We had a chance to ask Karina questions and one of them was “how did she get to the top?”  Her answer was through hard work, battling against everyone.

A lot of people advised her that after failing at previous Olympic events she should retire.  No one gave her support and they said that she was too old and should find a new job.  Karina mentioned how difficult this was for her, but she decided to prove everyone wrong.  She has certainly achieved this against the odds.

This was very motivating for me and has allowed me to appreciate more one’s stubbornness and the belief in one’s ability to achieve their goals.  I hope that I will be able to persevere through difficulties like an Olympic champion.

Overthinking and Mindfulness

This Thursday, after a couple of weeks break from training, we were back in the dojo.  I have to say that I had recently lost interest in martial arts and was struggling to find the motivation to create a training programme – it felt like my interest was falling apart.  By coincidence we were not able to train for a bit due to a trip to Poland to visit the family, illness of members and our training hall being used as a polling station.  I think it was fate giving me a rest from training tiredness.  Recently I found myself overthinking the state of the club such as the drop in members training, which led to thoughts of closing down the club and focussing on my work.

It’s funny how life leads us on to greater things.  As a part of my work I had the opportunity to attend a meeting with therapists like myself from all different backgrounds from meditation techniques to manual therapies.   I spent about three hours listening to the different concepts and how each can help us.  I came out of this meeting with a completely clear head, free from worrying about the club’s future.  As one of the ladies said “Overthinking the future is stressing and when life is stressing you who do you think will win, you or life?  I’d put my money on life, so stop worrying about the future.” What great advice.  Another thing that changed my approach was examining quotes that were selected at random at the meeting, prepared by a Mindfulness therapist.  The quote that I got was “The most important point is to be really yourself and not to try to become anything that you are not. (Jon Kabat-Zinn)”.          I don’t know why, but these two pieces of advice sit perfectly together in my mind, so after consulting with club members it was decided that we will carry on with training sessions.  However, there will be a few changes to make it more affordable such as reducing the class time to one hour per session.  With fewer people training we can increase the pace of each session, focus more on technique and stick to a more structured programme.

I have now found a new wave of motivation for martial arts and have developed programmes for the various classes.  In the last session there were only four of us, but everything went very smoothly and was logically interlinked with kihon and bunkai complementing a physical workout.  I have not enjoyed a session as much for some time.  By not overthinking and sticking to who I am and how I teach I am able to make the sessions so much more enjoyable for me and therefore for my friends that train with me.  In this way we are happy to be a small, quality group who just enjoy training.  Whatever the future will bring we will be there standing tall and ready for it!

Martial arts weekend in Poland

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Last weekend Martin and I visited Krakow.  The weather was wonderful, sunny and hot just like mid-summer.  The purpose of our visit was to join our friends at their Shorinji Kempo seminar.   The seminar was run by the Polish Shorinji Kempo organisation headed by Sensei Jacek Marchewka who we have known for many years. At the seminar, the main instructor was Sensei Seppo Ruusukivi, a 4th Dan from Finland.

To our surprise there were actually more British than Polish people at this event, which seemed a bit ironic…  The U.K. was represented by Shorinji Kempo clubs from Oxford and Bristol along with us from Shin Ai Do Karate Guildford.  There were also groups from Germany, Finland and of course, Poland.

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It was very interesting to see different concepts of combat, especially as their perspective was quite unfamiliar to us.  The new patterns of movement and techniques along with different body balance were a bit mind-boggling for us.  However, it was a great experience and definitely took us out of our comfort zone.  As always, training with nice people compensated for all of the struggles.

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We found their approach to ceremonies and rules for all dojo activities intriguing – they appeared to be almost religious.  This was not necessarily my cup of tea, but it was fascinating to take part and gain first-hand experience of these practices.

After two days of familiarisation with Shorinji Kempo it was time to spend a few hours with the head of Shin Ai Do, Sensei Artur Marchewka, which concluded with an examination for 2nd Kyu brown belt for Martin.

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The examination was held in a relaxed atmosphere outdoors in quite rough terrain with a 30 meter drop, which afforded us a beautiful view of Krakow.

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After the examination we went for some light refreshments

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Personally I was very happy to see Martin’s progression and am looking forward to his examination for black belt in a few years.

It was great to have the opportunity to catch up with our old friends and to make new ones from around the world.  It just goes to show that martial arts really can widen your horizons and connects people across the globe J