“Old School” Is Cool | ITF Taekwon-Do

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Biggest Martial Arts Misconceptions (8 of 8)

ITF Taekwon-Do Instructor Business Success Training System - Old School Black Belt

We all have stories of “back in the day” when we really trained.  You know…  the good ol’ days when we didn’t use sparring gear and bragged about the bruises on our shins and forearms – when a broken nose was a badge of honor and that hole in the wall represented where “that guy” (and we’ve all known a “that guy”) got kicked into the wall.

Remember those days?

Those days when you could teach a Taekwon-Do class without having to worry about being sued because someone got kicked in the face too hard.  When parents supported you when you disciplined their child rather than getting upset with you about hurting their feelings. Remember?

There’s nothing wrong with those days and all the feelings of nostalgia they evoke in us.

However, times have changed and as ITF Taekwon-Do instructors committed to running professional and profitable Taekwon-Do schools, it is important that we keep up with the times.

[At this point in the conversation about half the instructors stop listening or paying attention because all they can think about is that they’ll have to change their ways and that any change would be watering down or sacrificing something that will lead to the detriment of what they teach.

And if you’re in that camp, I invite you to turn off that little voice in your head and consume the rest of this article with an open mind.]

There are many reasons that being “old school” is a detriment to your Taekwon-Do school, but I’m going to focus on the two biggest ones in this article.

1.  Being “Old School” will limit your student’s ability to perform

2.  Being “Old School” will cost you money and students


Let’s take a look at the first one:

1.  Being “Old School” Will Limit Your Student’s Ability To Perform

This is where Taekwon-Do instructors confuse WHAT they teach with HOW they teach.

WHAT you teach should never be compromised.

HOW you teach WHAT you are teaching is ever evolving.  Even an inexperienced assistant instructor knows that there is more than one way to teach something. How many different ways can you explain sine wave?  How many drills can you come up with to practice a side kick?  A turning kick?  If your answer is 1, you need some instructor training immediately!

The number of ways to explain a movement, an action or a technique is only limited by your own mind.  When it comes to HOW you teach, there are an infinite number of ways to get to the same end goal.

If you are teaching classes the same way your instructor did, it’s probably the way his instructor did and probably the way his instructor did.  Just because HOW you teach is the same as your instructor, it doesn’t mean that it’s right or even effective.

This will require you to expand your thinking beyond Taekwon-Do.

In every major professional sport around the world coaches and trainers are constantly coming up with new training philosophies, methods, styles, and tools.  Their effectiveness is constantly being tested, measured and tinkered with in order to create the highest performing athletes and that is the same mentality you should bring to the development of your students.

Year by year we learn more about the human body, how it works, what it is capable of and new ways to develop ourselves to attain great achievements.  Be on the forefront of training systems and methods that will make a difference for your students.  Your students will notice and appreciate your commitment to them and reward you by being loyal and committed students themselves.


2.  Being “Old School” Will Cost You Money And Students

This is where we address the professionalism of you and your Taekwon-Do school.

Before I get into any examples, you have to put yourself in the position of a new prospect walking into your school for the first time, or put on what I call your “white belt goggles”.  At this phase of a new the prospect’s relationship with you and your school, your opinion is irrelevant.

What you think is cool and what you love about Taekwon-Do isn’t necessarily what a new student is looking for in a program they are about to start.  You are out to have them enroll with you rather than the school down the street, or any of the other activities parents might choose to put their kids in which means your actions at this point must be market driven.

Let’s start with you.

You must be presentable with a clean, wrinkle-free uniform, a sharp untattered belt and well groomed.  That means groomed hair, facial hair, nails (including feet), fresh breath and yes deodorant!

There’s nothing worse than meeting a Taekwon-Do instructor for the first time who is a few classes into the day, who has worked up a few good sweats and smells like he’s never heard of deodorant.  This is an immediate turn off for new prospects.

Your uniform should be pressed and look like new, with a belt that doesn’t look like it survived the Korean War and has been through 50 years of training.  We might think that’s cool, but it doesn’t send the same message to a new prospect.

Finally, get a pedicure.

Or at least properly maintain your feet.  You don’t think about it much, but being barefoot all day can do a number on your feet. Calluses and nails can get pretty ugly pretty fast and even though people probably won’t say anything, people notice (especially mothers!).

My feet are ugly enough, I need all the help I can get!

Now lets deal with your school.

It’s got to look, feel and smell clean.  If there’s that familiar “gym smell” that closely resembles feet and sweat that once was a point of pride for many do jangs…  if the mats are dirty…  if the bathrooms aren’t clean, you are literally repelling new business.

Even if you don’t have new equipment or mats, you can create the look and feel of a neat, clean, organized and well kept Taekwon-Do school.

When people are looking for a place to workout, especially in their bare feet, you must do everything you can to make sure that your school makes them feel safe and at home.  You are building trust with them from the moment you meet.  Everything from the way you speak, smell and dress to the cleanliness, neatness and organization of your school will filter into their decision to train with you or not.

People Judge

Why does all this matter?  Why can’t you just do what you want, the way you want?

Because you are committed to running a professional and profitable Taekwon-Do school.  That means you must work to attract the kind of people you want to train.

Also because people judge.  Everyone does it.  Even you.  If you are denying it, it’s only because you are judging my comment and whether or not it’s valid.  You do it all day everyday without even thinking about it.

When someone walks into your school, they are judging you and trying to decide if what they see, smell, hear and experience is a match for what they are looking for.  It is your job to fulfill those needs of theirs and give them reason to trust you as their future instructor.


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About the Author:

taekwon-do phoenix, taekwon-do arizona, taekwondo phoenix, Phoenix taekwondo, itf taekwondo, taekwondo itf, tkd phoenix, taekwondo az, taekwondo Arizona, martial arts phoenix, martial arts Arizona, martial arts az, Phoenix Martial Arts, Arizona Martial Arts, Phoenix Karate, arizona taekwondo, karstadt, karstadt taekwondo, ITFJohn Karstadt

Senior Instructor – Karstadt Taekwon-Do

Mr. Karstadt is the founder of 1 TKD Consulting and owns the longest running ITF Taekwon-Do school in Arizona, Karstadt Taekwon-Do in Phoenix, AZ with his father Master David Karstadt.  He has been training since 1984, earned his Black Belt at the age of 8 and is currently an internationally renown intstructor teaching the culture, discipline,  leadership and business skills of Taekwon-Do in classes and seminars to Instructors around the world.  He has been a member of eight U.S. Taekwon-Do Teams and has traveled to 14 different countries competing in Taekwon-Do.  He has won numerous medals at the World Championships and in international competition, most notably winning the 2004 World Championships in South Korea with two gold medals and the Men’s Team All Around Trophy.  Mr. Karstadt currently resides in uptown Phoenix, Arizona with his wife and three children.  Mr. Karstadt can be contacted by e-mail at 1tkdinsider@gmail.com


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