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PostPosted: Wed Sep 28, 2011 1:07 am 
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Recently I was catching up with some old karate buddies and the conversation dropped over to whose schools were surviving, which have closed, were close to closing or have moved into the local rec center. We talked some about how the changes in schools hit us and what we were trying for a given situation. Most of us had tried the same things without good results (new schools, cheaper schools, solo practice), but now there's talk of forming a casual group of BBs which may work, we will see.

One other thing besides changes in schools that hit some was less time to practice. Seems that making ends meet trumps attendance and willingness to dish out cash for one class a week.

So, has your practice or school been hit by the economy?
What kind of changes are you facing?

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PostPosted: Wed Sep 28, 2011 9:40 pm 
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Hello, Mike!

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.

- Bill

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.


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PostPosted: Wed Sep 28, 2011 11:46 pm 
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Hi Bill, hope you're doing well!
It seems that the two types of groups/schools that are surviving are the long timers like Dong (been in a location forever) and the long timers who have moved more times than most can count (they just seem used to change and carry on).
I agree that nonprofit clubs with a small, loyal following are a great option. Heck I've been doing that for about 10 years anyway, but I'm now seeing others finding or starting these types of groups to train the way they like. And all you need is a backyard, garage or park.

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PostPosted: Thu Sep 29, 2011 5:52 pm 
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Hey Gents,

The economy has certainly affected my life and training in profound ways, but mainly it has helped focus my attentions.

Some quick background and observations:

1) I need to work more hours to make the same amount of money I've been making for years so there is less available time. The result has been more careful decisions about where I spend my time.

2) Costs have gone up, but my income has not so there is less available money. The result: more careful decisions about where I spend my money.

3) People/students want to see a clear path to their ROI -- consequently the schools which provide an obvious product or service or a clear path to "martial arts success" seem to be doing alright. I'm willing to speculate this is why the BB factories out there are continueing to thrive.

4) The best way to share the good stuff with a consistent group around here appears to be to offer it to only a select group and to offer it for free -- otherwise it's more a revolving door of ever changing faces rather than a growing community.

Consequently, I've chosen to teach twice per week - Thursday evenings I get together one on one with a student who has been training with me for a few years now, and Sundays I teach a four hour class in Uechi and self defense at the local Shorin-ryu dojo I train at. I don't charge for any of this and teach at the shorin dojo in exchange for a small break in my membership costs and for the simple pleasure of sharing Uechi with people who wouldn't otherwise have exposure to it. This group seems to be growing (the thursday evenings won't because it's MY time to train Uechi at a consistently higher level).

5) Mondays and odd Saturdays I train Taiwonese Golden Eagle with a small group in the teacher's basement -- which informs my Uechi practice.

6) Even Saturdays I train BJJ with a group with a similar set up at the Shorin dojo -- which also informs my Uechi. And, of course, there's time spent in Shorin classes as well -- which really rounds things out. And the Shorin dojo gets some really interesting supplementary stuff happening without having to pay extra for instructors.

In these tough times it has largely become about creating and maintaining community.

Having less time and money has made it necessary to define which activities are essential because there's simply no extra resources to waste -- I ran the numbers awhile ago and decided I was not willing to make the sacrifices necessary to open my own school; and, while this current set up is somewhat akin to being in a committed garage band, it is a relatively sustainable model so long as the community remains generous, supportive and involved.

Sadly, the one thing which has had to drop considerably is time spent contributing to the forums. Family first, then work, training, community/professional volunteering and forums -- in that order.

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PostPosted: Sun Oct 02, 2011 5:44 pm 
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Location: Derry, NH, USA
Bill,

While teaching for free through the Boys and Girls Club make's it easy to pay the rent, the economy has had a real change to the program.

Years ago parents were more involved in their kid's lives, then when both parents had to work the Club helped fill the slack in child protection, but then the economy went sour and with one parent staying home they stopped spending the money on gas to take the kids to the club. In the end that hurt the club's ability to find grants which were based on attendance.

Our youth program remains unaffected but more of the families move away and that means less retention, which makes a difference too.

For my adults, they're still working but in much harder conditions. One of the engineers pulls 120 hour weeks to keep his job, and that leaves far less free time for regular class attendance.

As I only teach a very small group, each is missed, but family and survival are always first, more important than karate.

I'm in no different shape, my job may not last past Jan. but I remain teaching for free.

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PostPosted: Sun Oct 02, 2011 7:49 pm 
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Hope it all works out for you Victor.

Quote:
3) People/students want to see a clear path to their ROI -- consequently the schools which provide an obvious product or service or a clear path to "martial arts success" seem to be doing alright. I'm willing to speculate this is why the BB factories out there are continueing to thrive.


That's an interesting observation and one that I find myself in-line with regarding that I want to know what the ROI is before I lay my money down. Now that the down turn seems fairly permanent I'll be interested in seeing how the long term approach that many traditional martial arts use, fairs against the more modern approaches used by MMA, Krav, etc.

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PostPosted: Mon Oct 03, 2011 1:04 am 
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MikeK wrote:

Now that the down turn seems fairly permanent I'll be interested in seeing how the long term approach that many traditional martial arts use, fairs against the more modern approaches used by MMA, Krav, etc.


The term "traditional" vs. "modern" bugs me, Mike.

It reminds me of a friend of mine who used to work for me (Tara Lane) who has been in a series of bands in the Richmond area. She started with the "alternative" scene, playing both covers and originals. As In Clover, her group produced one album. These days The Rag Dolls do more Boomer-era cover music. I always remember a statement of Tara's back when she was doing "alternative" music. As she would say, 'What happens when alternative becomes mainstream?'

When I was a kid, Mike, Jeet Kune Do was "modern" and "non-traditional." Now it's just another "traditional" martial art - whatever the heck that is.

Good "traditional" martial artists evolve in the understanding of their material, absorbing new principles of reality-based self-defense and often in the process re-discovering that which was already buried in the principles of their system. Good "traditional" martial artists also often re-discover the grappling that was in their system all along (e.g. Uechi, Goju) but not taught and/or understood in a "modern" era of sport fighting.

It's also worth mentioning that "MMA" in the most common use of the expression is a sport and neither combat nor self-defense. Krav Maga? Yes. MMA? Not so much. The ring is a great proving ground, but it isn't the place where our troops or LEOs go to learn their trade. If you want to talk about boxing or judo vs. MMA, well fine. But MMA and either combat or self-defense are apples and oranges. That which we often think of as "TMA" is generally combat/self-defense, although most taequondo is an exception to that rule.

It's also worth mentioning that Dojo Daycare is its own modern thing. It's really "none of the above." Great moneymaker, but... it is what it is. It falls into the realm of "karate aerobics", wu shu, health club tai chi, and all that jazz.

- Bill


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PostPosted: Mon Oct 03, 2011 1:18 am 
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Quote:
The term "traditional" vs. "modern" bugs me, Mike.


Bothers me too Bill, maybe long term versus contemporary methods that move a student along faster?

Quote:
but it isn't the place where our troops or LEOs go to learn their trade.


Well for better or worse it is one of the places that they go to, and also why one of the guys I train with came out to the country to learn a bit more of the other side while stationed back stateside.

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PostPosted: Mon Oct 03, 2011 1:21 am 
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MikeK wrote:

Well for better or worse it is one of the places that they go to, and also why one of the guys I train with came out to the country to learn a bit more of the other side while stationed back stateside.


More Krav Maga and less MMA.

FWIW, most of the founders of the MCMAP were traditional martial artists. Yes, they sometimes would bring in a sport fighter here and there. But you don't see MMA fighters playing outside on the hard ground, in the mud, in streams, in full gear, etc. And no MMA practitioner that I know of plays with weapons - particularly firearms.

Speaking of which... get a hold of that Rich Castanet fellow and have him bring you out to the range. I don't know if you know this, but he's an NRA-certified instructor in rifle, pistol, and shotgun. He also teaches (or did teach) the course required to get a concealed carry permit. (Thank you, Rich!)

- Bill


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PostPosted: Mon Oct 03, 2011 4:01 pm 
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And the founders of MACP were BJJ guys. Heck, you can even watch MACP guys fight in the ring on the Pentagon Channel.
But that's another topic than the one about the economy and karate. :lol:

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PostPosted: Mon Oct 03, 2011 6:44 pm 
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I've experienced a few "recessions" since beginning my Uechi-ryu teaching career. Interestingly, I always had more students during bad times than good!

Good times and everyone is busy spending their extra money - enjoying many and varying activities. Martial arts was not high on their "must do" list.

Bad time and people begin to worry about many things that studying and practicing their karate help. Sitting at home, stressing-out with a six pack while watching TV only makes bad times worse.

Working out eases the stress, keeps you sharp and guess what. . . solutions to problems happen a lot faster and a whole lot easier. . .

I've discussed this with many students during really bad times and many say: "When I'm really stressed out over problems, I find the need to get back to my Uechi." Although paying tuition isn't easy for these students, they recognize that Karate is far higher on their priority list than during "good" times!

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PostPosted: Tue Oct 04, 2011 12:23 pm 
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Part of what kept me faithful to a practice for so many years was... abject poverty. I lived on $400 a month for about a decade while I made my way through graduate school. While my friends were going off to the ski slopes on mommy and daddy's coin, I was in the gym (thankfully supplied as a benefit to being in school) doing karate and training with weights. I did manage to have a car from money I saved before going to grad school and a gift from my parents, but I mostly walked everywhere on the grounds (that's Jefferson-speak for campus).

And yes, George, I'm with you about the de-stressing. Working hard on those weights and getting my body pounded in kotekitae, ashikitae, and karadakitae drugged me into a happy state. It didn't make any of my poverty or life problems go away. But it gave me a less emotional perspective on life and the burdens I was dealing with.

Today represents a different set of responsibilities with my boys depending on me and having to live a life in two cities. Throw in a few traumatic events and a few deaths in my inner circle of people and you have a recipe for an emotional meltdown. And the worst of it for me? Someone asked me recently how I was doing. It was an odd question... until he mentioned that I had lost weight. And while he was right, that was really weight I didn't need. I'm now back down to the "fighting weight" of my early 20s. And I feel much better for it.

I have new wardrobe issues, but... Those are happy problems.

- Bill


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PostPosted: Sat Oct 08, 2011 4:58 am 
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I'm at a Health club/MMA gym, so it's fairly expensive. The money and economy causes me to binge on sessions; I want to quit, but whenever I actually consider that I realize it's just not an option in my life. So I train more to make the best of the money.

Another twist; the government sheerings have fired my wife, so we no longer have health insurance. I wonder if that is a twist for a lot of gym-goers, especially MMA or similar gyms where you do rough sparring. I have been avoiding the sparring classes as of late.


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PostPosted: Sat Oct 08, 2011 4:31 pm 
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Health insurance is one aspect I forgot about, but one that should be considered.

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PostPosted: Wed Oct 26, 2011 4:34 am 
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As for my training, I am fortunate. My teacher has been working with me at no charge. I train privately and have been doing so for free for too long. That comes at a cost to him, money that he loses by not charging me is probably money he needs. I may have to start bringing what I can, if he will take it.

As for my teaching, I have "paid it forward" so-to-speak and taken on a student for no charge. But the economy has affected him greatly and he often misses sessions due to an interview, etc. I'm pretty tough on him, telling that the demand that training places on you is unreasonable. But I respect his situation.

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