Many of the various martial arts schools have a huge dropout rate, why do so many people fall by the wayside? It used to be said in most martial arts circles that only one person in every thousand who started the art made it to black level. Are you the one in a thousand? and if not why not?
Perhaps to answer the question of people giving up we should look at why people start a martial arts in the first place.
1. Martial Arts Movies
Since the Seventies an avalanche of action packed Kung Fu films have been the best recruiting agents for Martial Arts clubs across the Western world. These films, exaggerated beyond belief, are made purely to spellbind and captivate an audience. Martial art films often sell an unrealistic fantasy to the public of what the Martial Arts are really all about. Some people originally inspired to start training by these films can make the transition from the fantasy to the reality and happily keep training. For many film goers who try a Martial Art, their over inflated expectations when not full filled cause them to give up.
2. I want to get really fit and be a fighter.
People like the idea of killing two birds with one stone and why not? Becoming really fit and learning to fight at the same time sounds like a very good deal and it is. Of course we all know that getting fit takes persistent determination and not everyone has got this. Even for the few who do have the motivation to become significantly fitter, how many of these people have even considered the ongoing effort required to stay fit? This would hold true even more for those who have the desire to be a competitive fighter. A couple of hits and perhaps some injuries and some losses will be enough for the majority of the population to give up and turn to less confidence shaving and less painful activities.
3. A winner never quits and a quitter never wins.
Most styles of fighting require above average fitness levels. Students returning after a lay off often fail to regain their previous fitness. Often a fail to stay fit comes out in sparring and once your edge has gone few will put in the work to get it back. If you are feeling fatigued and the other guy is as fresh as a daisy your probably about to get the fight kicked out of you! Even for the many self-protection, non-sport combative martial art students. They will find it difficult to regain their fitness or sharp reflexes after a lay off period or from a time where they lacked motivation to turn up to classes often. Simply put. People easily give up and make excuses, just like at a typical gym. They fall to the wayside and in come the fresh enthusiastic minds.
4. I want a teacher like the boy had in Karate Kid had.
This searching for a hidden knowledge under the guidance of a wise master is a natural inclination in many people. Apprenticeships under a highly experienced practitioner have been the way knowledge has been passed down through the generations.
Masters come in many forms. It could be the old fisherman who returns safely past the rocks through a stormy sea with a good catch. Maybe the master is the blacksmith who calms a maddened horse and gets it shoed when others wouldn’t try. What a master can demonstrate with apparent ease can seem to be almost magic and look well worth learning to some. Along with the particular skill will be a common sense view of life which can appear to be a special wisdom.
5. Common sense is a very uncommon thing.
In order to master the skill the student must face their fears before mastering the craft for themselves. It could be the fear of drowning, being kicked in the head by a horse, or facing and fighting bullies as in The Karate Kid film, but overcoming yourself is going to be part of the deal.
Unfortunately, in the money based society that we live in many commercial schools do not have the passing on of knowledge as their primary aim! Some instructors are only in it for the money and when this reveals itself disillusioned students are likely to leave.
When a particular style of fighting was kept within a clan it was often an uncle or at least a neighbour who taught the student. There was a bond, often of blood, that went deeper than a financial transaction.
6. Blood is thicker than water.
The martial arts teacher was a known and respected part of a closely knit community at the very least. Some long established clubs are like this today despite the economic pressures that we all face but some groups sadly are not. I’ve tried a lot of things but Martial Arts will be the one for me!
In today’s consumer society and with a stream of constant clever advertising, people’s heads are turned this way and that. People find it harder than ever to really stick at anything to the point of making it a part of themselves.
7. Ninety percent of ability is stick ability.
With so much choice on offer and people’s attention span effected by the internet the dedication and focus that is needed to excel in any martial art which was always unusual is now exceptional.
I went to a class to learn how to fight but left when I got hurt.
To get a lot of continuous unnecessary injuries in a leisure activity is pointless. When everyone has to get up and go to work the next day. With modern safety equipment a lot of annoying bruises are now eliminated anyway. Despite all of this, to think that you can learn real martial arts and never get a bump or bruise is like thinking that you can learn to swim and never get wet.
8. Pain teaches more than brain.
Ticky Donavan, a highly respected karate coach, said in a television interview that when sparring was introduced to a crowded keen class, the next week it would be almost empty. Everyone would love to be good at fighting but not everyone has what it takes. The things that we learn and never forget are often the painful lessons. The instant feedback of pain if you make a mistake is far better than an intellectual understanding.
Are you a true individual or do you prefer to be one of the crowd?
When I first took a grade in a martial art I was one of over 16+ grading that particular evening. When I was a green sash there was 4 of us in the club That night and as a black sash first degree only I made it to black sash from amongst the people who started at about the same time as me. With all the distractions that young people face in these modern times it’s a wonder that anyone gets to black sash. Today it’s become all too easy, indeed quite normal to be fickle. To get really good at anything you can’t follow the crowd, you have to do your own thing. If five of you start a martial arts class the other four will give up sooner rather than later, will you walk with them or carry on alone?
9. Quality of the environment and motivation by the instructors.
Although above I have stated some of the obvious reasons in the martial arts that students quit. My strongest belief is that the academy itself has to take most responsibility. We all know there will be ones who are weak minded or too lazy to keep up with the training. We all know that the kids aren’t always going to be disciplined and that the parents will let them quit at the drop of a dime, but what about those who just crave a more exciting, inspirational environment. Martial Arts schools are like mechanics. ( notice I’m not stating styles ). There is one good one for every 9 dodgy ones. You must make sure that the expectations of the students are known when they come on board. As they grow and improve they are going to seek and crave more knowledge, motivation and reasons to stay. All relationships fail due to one person’s expectations not being met. The Ontario Self Defence Centre has great retention due to a dynamic environment, motivation and we treat the individuals development as an important life education. We are family and we don’t break up easily. All that come here realise from the beginning that this is a lifestyle. We are only looking in the mirror for our competition and constantly continue to better ourselves. I too am still on my own journey and love it. This rubs off on all who are close to me and passes down through the attitudes of my future instructors. We are legitimate self-protection professionals and treat every person as an individual. What works for one may not be the best strategy for another. We do not engage in sports competition martial arts and do not do free sparring. That is a sport. There are no unnecessary injuries due to this and we cultivate courage and confidence. When the student is ready we will test the emotional and mental capability to deal with real life conflict. Throwing kids and adults into a sparring, tournament setting is a far cry from reality and too soon to test their self-esteem. I love my academy, and care about all that come through the door. I believe this is why I know students in Australia that started their training as a pre-teen and are now still loving their Yi Quan and teaching in their early to mid 20’s. I look at every person like a future black sash instructor, I will help you become a better person and a great martial artist. Will you stay the course and go through the adversity to make it there?
PATIENCE – PERSEVERANCE – KINDESS – UNDERSTANDING – HUMILITY