Yes, the economy has affected my karate teaching, but not in a conventional way.
First... As you know, I've always taught nonprofit. And I've chosen to teach at gyms where there are plenty of anaerobic and aerobic training facilities so that I can develop my students in a holistic fashion. I don't generally add to the expenses of a gym in any substantive way (save an occasional mat fee and test fee which we use to buy goodies) so that's not a rate-limiting step.
What has affected me in a big way - for better or for worse - is living in two cities now because my job and financial situation require it. I am very, very happy to have the job I have in Louisville at a Fortune 500 headquarters, but the family is in the west end of Richmond, Virginia. So I alternate between the cities, and do the best I can.
The Richmond school is still going, largely because I created an opportunity for Victoria to be the head instructor there. She is blossoming as a karateka, and it complements her alternative health business. I come about once a month for a few classes and get to round off the rough edges and teach fun advanced stuff. It's a very small group, but they are there (at Raintree Swim and Racquet club).
Meanwhile... when in Louisville I am by myself and work 7 days a week. I have a gym I go to where I do weight training and stretching. Because I understand the fundamentals of my martial arts and know how to train my body, in some ways my karate is better. But I am now in the process of arranging to start a school. I've already got 2 young men at work who want to join as soon as I start, and a couple of people in town who've mentioned it as well. I just need to get this fitness coordinator to get me on her friggin schedule. Times are there and I have a great facility to do it, so...
So the net result is this for me, Mike.
- Yes, a lot of people are freaked out about their lives and have quit.
- A few people like me who lived on nothing through a decade of grad school are thriving just fine, thankyouverymuch... Nonprofit clubs amongst a small, loyal following are the way to go.
- I NEED the outlet. The only reason I don't need meds at my age is because my physical activities help destress me. And as I told many a student at UVa who said one day I will do it when... You never have enough time and there's always something more important to do. You just have to take the Nike approach and do it. In the long run, you'll be a better all-around person for it.
- When Rad Smith left UVa decades ago to get his MBA at Harvard, it meant I had to teach or quit Uechi Ryu altogether. The rest is history on that score. Fast forward to today... My new job situation means Victoria is a head instructor and I'm about to start a new group in an area with very little martial arts. (The one Korean McDojo in town notwithstanding)
My entire family recently has had a run of very bad luck, and my oldest son in particular had some bad things happen to him. I sat him down and told him what another fellow told me when my dad almost went bankrupt in the Nixon years and I had to go off to college with no guarantee I would be able to eat beyond a month. As Dave Dressler told me, the good times aren't what define you. How you respond to adversity is what defines your character, and what turns you from a boy to a man. My son is learning that as I have learned the lesson many times in my life.
There is ALWAYS opportunity; you just need to look for it. Every lemon is lemonade waiting to be made.
P.S. Keep me posted on how that massively gaudy Mr. Cho's place does. Something tells me he just might make it. There are a lot of double-income families who want to dump their kids in a place like that after school, and he's performing a service. Maybe it's not martial arts like we think of it, but... It's a niche.