Self-Defense for a Dojo/Instructor
I am fortunate enough to have a lawyer as a student (and a most diligent one at that!) and other than the benefits he brings to the dojo through his dedication and effort and many other contributions, he has also lent his services to the dojo for various legal concerns regarding operating a business. We have recently been discussing liability aspects of owning a karate school and he has made a few recommendations to me that I thought I would pass on -
First of all, my disclaimer: This is NOT to be taken as an official recomendation, and I hold with the adage that anyone in business should have three professionals available to them before ever opening the door - regardless of type of business: that is a lawyer, a CPA, and a banker. Laws differ from state to state and to be safe it is best to cough up a few bucks and see a lawyer to discuss your potential liabilities if you teach anyone - whether in a recreation center, your backyard, or your own school.
That being said - we have developed two documents in our dojo that all new students must sign and notarize. Everyone is familiar with the standard release from liabiity form, and depending on where you live, you should be familiar as to how much weight it may hold up in court. It's value varies more than you might think. The second piece of paper is an "acknowledgment of training requirements" in which the student must acknowledge that they enter this training with the understanding that it is considered to be intense and physically demanding, involving contact with other students for the purpose of furthering training and practicing self defense techniques, and, in the course of this training, even though reasonable precautions will be taken, injuries, strains, bumps and bruises WILL occur as a matter of course. They also acknowlege that they know that protective gear is available to them, but it is their responsability to choose to use it or not. They have to sign that they acknowledge the potential of injury etc.
Now we are developing a third form that will become a part of our registration package. This form will basically be a "promise" from the student that they understand that they are learning serious self-defense techniques that can cause serious injury and even death. As such and recipients of this knowlege, they agree to NEVER use or practice these techniques outside of the dojo, unless they feel that they or their family/dependents are in mortal danger.
My lawyer informs me that absolutely nothing is iron-clad - and anything can be picked apart and fought and appealed, but by having these three documents on file, it shows forethought on the part of the instructor in that they acknowledge their teachings to be potentially dangerous, and have taken numerous steps to inform their students of the risks to themselves and others, and that the student chooses to continue even after being informed of these risks.
Certainly your own lawyer can help you draw up documents such as these - if you don't have a lawyer, and you teach, you may want to consider finding one - an ounce of prevention and all that.
Happy and safe teaching!