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Watered Down...my response to a discussion

by Steven Franz, Editor

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Everyone who has ever been in the martial arts, as a student or instructor, for any length of time has heard the term "watered down" or "just for show" use to degrade a school or particular individual. Recently I had a discussion on a website from Champion's Way about this very thing.

I had posted a blog about the "Death of Starbucks" and used it to sight many things that are causing the dwindling of real martial arts schools to the franchises and big businesses available today. One particular individual on the website took it very personal but the blog I had written was just a generalization of the state of martial arts as I see them.

This individual runs a chain of schools, writes commentary for NAPMA and is big on selling the martial arts. He is highly trained in several arts but one his main photos on his page is from the dash of his Ferrari which shows his aim as a business owners versus martial art instructor.

Now don't get me wrong. I agree that you have to charge adequately in order to make a living at being a martial arts instructor but to what avail? My point I was trying to make it was aimed at how most schools are shunning disciplining students, teaching proper technique or holding a student back for simple things that are required. Here is where the problem comes into play. There are no set standards accepted worldwide by the martial arts systems out there. Sure the World Karate Federation has standards, but they are a competitive organization not a licensing one. Yes the Japanese Karate Association has set standards that most traditional schools model their dojo after but even they have promoted a member or two beyond their technical grade level at one time or another.

The real issue at hand was how this individual was sick of people saying that if you make big bucks teaching martial arts then you are a sell out or have watered down your curriculum. He went on to sight the founders of the school franchise, who are highly respected martial artists, in order to establish credibility for his claims. In one sentence he even invited everyone to come to their big recruiting seminar to put on a gi and workout with them. I found all this the same arguments I have heard for many years from schools that do water down their discipline and curriculum, not to mention mass promote people to black belt quickly to make money.

My response is simple. When was the last time that you were so hard on a student they wanted to quit? If a parent came to you and said they were pulling junior out because you skipped him for a new belt would you smooth talk them or stand your ground? Why is it that everything you do is based on selling the arts? You teach MMA. You teach XMA. You have multiple upgrade programs that have little value to justify their added expense. You created a curriculum that only has to be memorized to get a new belt instead of mastered. These are just a few of the issues I have with these "watered down" schools.

In terms of visiting your recruitment event I am sure there are hundreds of people out there who teach, make a living at it and who could care less about sitting through some four hour sales pitch about how great you all are even if the workout would be beneficial. I am one of them. I have walked out of seminars with highly esteemed martial artists because it was focused on selling their product instead of teaching it...and this is my main point.

The martial arts are to be hard. Not everyone should get nor do they deserve a black belt. Kids need to get disciplined and the bumps / bruises build character that will help to achieve many great things in their lifetime. Anything else is watering down the martial arts to make it easier in order for you to drive your Ferrari...enough said.