Why I did not go commercial with my karate.
First let me state teaching for free does not mean my program is more superior to commercial programs. I know of many commercial programs which teach superior martial arts. Then again I know of many individuals who teach for free who teach superior martial arts. There are entire ranges of potential possibilities, and with the right effort, all of them can produce superior martial arts.
It is pretense to suggest there is only one way.
But in my case it was the result of a very personal decision.
I began in Tom Lewis’ Isshinryu program. There was a modest club fee, and I paid for most of my classes by cleaning the dojo every Sunday. Of course that also meant I could train there first before I cleaned, and I did.
And shortly after I started I began traveling to associated dojo of students of Lewis Sensei. There I wa always welcomed and allowed to work out with those schools. I did that because I wanted more that the two classes a week Sensei taught.
When I relocated to Scranton for work, there was no Isshinryu nearby, Nor was I from Scranton, no family of friends. I joined a commercial Tang Soo Do Moo Duk Kwan program. It was commercial and it was a good program. I also observed that the instructor would wait all day long for the evening students to show up for class.
When Charles Murray moved to the Scranton area, almost immediately I began training privately with him. I still had a year on my TSDMDK contract so I trained in both styles.
When my contract was completed I did not renew, focusing on training with Charles.
And train we did, almost anytime. I remember going to train in blizzards, at midnight and other times.
Then I became a black belt, Charles very shortly was gone and I was on my own.
I started a youth program at the Scranton Boys Club, primarily to have anyone to do Isshinryu with.
Shortly thereafter, having the time, I began visiting many people I met at tournaments, to train at their programs. Just to be working with adults. Not to learn anything new. But I also kept working on anything I learned, out of respect for those friends.
I began a separate study of Yang Tai Chi Chaun, and eventually a study of varied systems of Chinese forms. Ernest Rothrock was the instructor, of a very successful kung fu school. And while I was paying for my instruction (abet not a total student of the Chinese Arts) I also learned a great deal how he ran his program.
Some of the instructors I trained with ran clubs. Some had very commercial programs.
I also trained intensively with Tristan Sutrisno, and he was adamant about money being the wrong thing to be associated with karate. He did charge a modest club fee to cover expenses for his school, but not as a living. His own approach was what had been drilled into him by his father on Indonesia.
Almost everyone I met at tournaments worked very hard to convince me to 1) not train youth and 2) teach for money. Neither were interesting to me to consider.
Life does take money. I worked for a living after all. At times I spent a great deal, for instruction. More than most of you would understand. But that was a personal choice as I wanted value for what I was spending. At the same time I was also receiving other very valuable information, for no money, no strings attached. Overall it balanced out.
I realized how much work was involved to make a commercial program successful. And none of that work involved karate. If that work was not done, the dojo in the long run would become another dojo failure. There of course is not one answer how to run a commercially viable program, there are many ways.
That did not be where I wanted to focus my mind.
Nor did staying in the school waiting for students to arrive interest me as a way to spend my days.
I was satisfied to run a very small program through the Boys and Girls Club and an even smaller adult program. Then my focus could be on the individual student and my own studies into the arts I practiced. I was able through my work to take care of my family, afford my interests and that did not require income from my students.
I began to understand even more the goal was not to just teach karate. Most young people stayed 2 of 3 years. They were all involved in many actitivies. Eventually they would make a personal choice as to where they would focus their time. Only a few would choose to remain in karate. And even then, after graduation, 100% of them would move on as adults into other activities and life choices.
And that is how it should be. What I could do was teach authentic karate as a tool to give them something more important. The same thing adults who spent time with youth did when I was young. Through their karate studies they would learn that through their own effort they would learn. As theit time passed, they received promotions to more challenging studies. They also realized that they had accomplished things the new students were facing, and that was done because they had learned how to learn.
I realized that I was a success every time. Not if they remained in karate, but they had learned how to learn and make personal choices. That would remain with them for life.
And the adult students were not so different, they just tended to stay decades longer, acquiring more skills and working on them as time passed. Then even they would make a choice to continue or to move on. Whatever they chose I contributed a bit to their ability to choose.
The ones who chose to remain, who found a personal reason to continue, that was the bonus to my efforts.
The way I accomplished that did not require income. Of course money is involved with everything in life some way or another. I just choose to accomplish this without financial requirements from my students.