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Building the most reputable Taekwon-Do school
In building the most reputable school, the head instructor should first look to building themselves into a reputable and capable martial artist. When a martial art instructor identifies themselves as such, they must embody the following characteristics:
Untarnished moral character.
Honest business practice.
When interacting within the community, the instructor should be on-notice that their actions are being judged by many that may not ever step foot inside the school, and they are always wearing the hat of martial art instructor.
You are no longer just the neighbor: You are now the martial instructor next door.
You are no longer the rude person who cut to the front of the grocery line: You are the martial art instructor, who bullied his or her way to the front of the line.
You are no longer the anonymous consumer in the grocery store with a cartload of junk food: You are now the martial art instructor who presents an unhealthy image to the public and students.
There are no shortages of martial art schools and programs in most communities. In fact, in the area I am currently building my school, without looking at any type of directory, I can list no fewer than six Karate, Kung Fu, Judo, Taekwondo, and hybrid martial art schools within five miles of my school's location. I'm sure there are others I'm not aware of.
The concept of fitness is very important to me, in that I run a fitness business primarily, and my Taekwon-Do school shares space with this business. Presenting an image of fitness and overall health is important to me on both fronts.
For many, the chief benefit of the study of martial art is an increased level of physical fitness, and many turn to a strenuous martial art such as Taekwon-Do as a primary form of exercise. That being the case, the instructors in any school must present themselves as not only ambassadors of martial art, but physical fitness as well.
Since I represent Kim's Taekwon-Do and my fitness business at all times, my level of physical condition is, really, one of the most important parts of both entities. No one would (or should) take fitness advice from an out-of-shape fitness expert, and an out-of-shape martial art instructor does not possess the command presence to inspire confidence in their students.
Instructors should ensure that all students in the school are exercising hard. Martial art schools are a fascination to passers-by. Anyone who has spent time in a martial art school will note that the public's attention is immediately drawn to the activity inside. For me, it is important that any student in uniform be moving.
A standing rule at my dojang is that any student in uniform must be practicing when on the exercise floor. Idly chatting or passively stretching is not allowed. Students arriving early are told to practice hyungs. Of course, with limited practice time, every extra repetition counts. As a professional strength and conditioning coach, I can confidently say that practicing basic technique or beginning hyung is one of the best warmups that can be done to prepare the student for more strenuous exercise, and that holding static stretches prior to exercise (such as is done at the end of kicking practice) is counterproductive to strength and power development.
From a psychological perspective, the idea of jumping confidently into activity sets the “tone” of the training session to come, rather than procrastinating the hard exercise by passively stretching in place or standing around.
This extends past the dojang. A martial art instructor who presents a sloppy, unhealthy appearance in public will surely degrade a school's reputation within a community.
Untarnished Moral Character:
The instructor's reputation must be beyond reproach within the community and within the school. The students' trust in the instructor is inextricably tied to the instructor's actions and personal decisions. An instructor that behaves in a dishonest, immoral or illegal manner in their personal life will surely fail as an instructor, no matter how knowledgeable or talented.
Trust is the key here.
In order for students to succeed, the instructor must ask the students to dig deep and exercise harder than they know they can in the beginning. Building the students' confidence in themselves, in order to withstand hard Taekwon-Do exercise, begins with trust in their instructor's judgment and the knowing that the instructor is truthful in asking more from the students.
Any shred of doubt in the instructor's motivations will degrade this teacher-student relationship.
The students should be aware that their conduct is also subject to additional scrutiny, and any serious moral digression will result in expulsion from the school.
Taekwon-Do is a martial art, first and foremost. The defensive capabilities of the instructors (and any black belt student) should be unquestioned.
While specific defensive tactics and applications are beyond the scope of this paper, and the topic of tactical mindset could fill hundreds of pages, it must be briefly touched on in the context of a school's reputation.
The instructor and black belts must be able to fight. Period.
From my personal experience in working in a jail and as a police officer in the streets, I can confidently say – from firsthand experience - that hard Taekwon-Do training over several years will enable a capable student to confidently stand and fight an aggressive attacker, or successfully head off a potentially dangerous situation by projecting a confident, fearless image.
This can only take place if the student has trained hard for several years, focusing on basic technique, with full power. Hardened criminals and bullies are predators, can sense any hint of weakness, and will exploit any amount of self-doubt or fear. It is only through hard training that a student of martial art can develop this deep sense of self-confidence.
Instructors should instill in the students the mindset that they are actually practicing self-defense techniques, and this should be obvious to even the casual observer. Realistic defensive scenarios and applications should be presented to students on a regular basis to help build this level of awareness.
A martial art school without a combat emphasis is nothing more than a dance school, and this will be apparent to any would-be student or community member. Instructors should ensure that all students are practicing techniques hard, with the idea that they may have to use them to defend themselves against an actual attacker.
Along these same lines, Taekwon-Do instructors should make sure they are not tempted to seek out elaborate defensive techniques (such as complicated joint manipulation and throwing techniques) as supplemental defensive tactics unless they are actually going to be practiced daily as part of the standard training session.
Basic Taekwon-Do technique is sufficient. There is no need for additional techniques, just harder practice on those already trained daily. Filling valuable training time with more technique is counterproductive. Taekwon-Do basic strikes, kicks and blocks take a lifetime to truly master, and in a stressful self-defense situation, complicated movements fail.
The same is true for supplemental weapons training. If offered, it should be separate from Taekwon-Do training (although advanced students of that weapon should learn to integrate it seamlessly with empty-hand fighting if choosing that route), and then only if the instructor is a qualified instructor in the use of that particular weapon.
The practicality of the weapons system must also be addressed. Is it the best, legally-defensible option? Or, just an archaic martial arts weapon that was not even in use in the 1950s when Taekwon-Do was developed, used simply as a novelty.
Honest Business Practice:
Martial art schools are more than businesses. While any mixture of religion, or mysticism with martial art should be avoided, for many martial art practice fills a particular moral and personal development void that can be likened to that filled by religious views. Martial art students' loyalty can be exploited by unscrupulous instructors, much like the religious cult leader or shyster church leader who uses a religious platform to hide financial misdeeds.
Unfortunately, these types of instructors give the entire martial art community a bad name.
The reputable instructor cannot prevent this, and can only do what he or she can to ensure there is absolutely no appearance of impropriety whatsoever, and slowly and surely build their reputation in the community as an honest, trusted entity.
Martial art instruction is not about earning profit, but without some means of income or stable location to train it will cease to exist in short order. Additionally, it is not unreasonable for a dedicated instructor to expect some form of financial compensation for his or her professional instruction.
However, it must always be understood that student progress is the most important aspect of running the school, and commercialism is not a primary motivation.
Honest business practice, according to the Tenets of Taekwon-Do is absolutely necessary.