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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Moral spine of Karate

 

When I started my training in martial arts I did not think about all of the culture, rules and traditions – “I just wanted to kick some ass!”  As I was always one of the smallest on my estate I tried everything to make myself bigger and to be able to fight.  So I started going to the gym and I joined a Karate club.  I had a clear vision of being just like Bruce Lee.P6070005.JPG

Moving forwards 20 years and I now appreciate all of the rules, traditions and morality associated with The Art of Empty Hands, especially the aspect of “Do”.  Looking around I find that the emphasis on the moral aspect of martial arts appears to be decreasing.  Quite a few teachers seem to promote aggression and the disrespectful behaviours of macho men/women.  Good examples of this can be observed in the worlds of Boxing and MMA where fighters try to dominate their opponent before they even step into the ring, making as much hype as possible around their persona in order to generate more money.  Two fighters who highlight this particularly in my opinion are Connor McGregor and Ronda Rousey.  Both are exceptional fighters with excellent skills, but they are extremely rude to and about others.  Behaviours like this puts me off from watching MMA and makes me question whether these famous fighters are the best role models for young people?  I personally do not think they are and I have more respect for an average fighter who has respect for others.  He might not be at the top of his profession but he is a humble hero who promotes the best behaviour for the young people that take up martial arts classes.

From running my own classes I have noticed that people are drawn to moral martial arts where you can learn honour, diligence and respect and how this fits in with traditional systems such as Karate, Aikido, Ju Jitsu and others.

For me the philosophy of Karate works, giving people that train not only a physical workout, but in addition teaching them a structured, moral code.  This is the essence of the phrase “Karate ni sente nashi”, “Karate does not attack first”.  The name Karate “Empty Hands” is telling in itself in that it signifies that empty hands are about protection and that the hands being open is a welcoming gesture.   Karate should be used only for good reasons with respect to others and in case of danger to self or others.  Kaicho Nakamura has pointed out a few key principles in Karate that really resonate with me and that I try to impose in my training and life so that my existence is meaningful and helpful:

  • GI – Rectitude – To take the right decision in every situation and to do it without wavering. The right decision is the moral one, the just one, the honourable one.
  • YU – Heroism – Bravery means taking risks to our position, status or self-interest on a daily basis.
  • JIN – Compassion – We should always try to find ways to express our compassion for others.
  • REI – Courtesy – We should practice it constantly especially in modern times where we are lacking in courtesy.
  • MAKATO – Truthfulness – In all dealings with others, we should develop a sincere, honest straightforwardness.
  • CHUGO – Devotion – always be devoted to your family, friends and teachers.

The above are great tips for an honourable life.  I guess the question is how many of us follow them in our lives once we step out of the dojo?  We can hear in the media about martial arts instructors scrounging on benefits, molesting children and taking people’s money.  It is easy to preach about honour, diligence and respect on classes and then get involved in corrupt behaviours and doing harm to others.  Many instructors want to be perceived as holy, without a mark against their character.  We would all like to be like that, but reality if often different.  We all have faults, but we can strive for perfection through our choices and actions.  I do preach about honour and respect and I have to confess that I am not always perfect, but I try to follow the path of Karate do, self-education and excellence.  Since I started to employ these principles I have noticed that my life has changed for the better and I am now helping others through Karate.  I wish for all instructors to be an excellent example to their students, we certainly need more respectful people in this world.

 

Les Bubka

 

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.