Wednesday, July 20, 2016

The Tides of Change

We've had our martial arts school going for a full year now.

We've learned a lot and now we are starting to re-think our initial plans and how we would like to move forward with what we are teaching.  It's wise to do this every so often, to make sure that you are balancing teaching what you want to teach with the feedback you've gotten from students and others.

Maybe it's time for change.

Or not.  Maybe.

I like the basic syllabus of our current program. While it needs some tweaks, I still feel the basic structure is correct for teaching Presas Arnis.

But, we are finding that we have several different audiences where we are, and our limited time and space does not give us the ability to serve all of them well.  This is probably the biggest constraint on a Rec Center program - the inability to diversity enough to attract everyone you'd like to serve to with what you can offer.

I'm not talking about "watering down" my art.  I am talking about offering what we do and understand with a different emphasis for different groups.

This is no different than a stand-alone school teaching their art in a traditional way, but also offering classes that emphasize fitness and a good workout. Or offering a kids version of the art vs. an adult version.

For example, when you teach Filipino Martial Arts - the weapons-heavy version I study - you limit yourself only to people who aren't too afraid of weapons or will actually enjoy them.  I can tell you based on what I've been told and my own personal experience that this audience is extremely small compared to the audience interested in empty hand martial arts.

Weapons scare people.  They are afraid of getting hurt, they are afraid of hurting others, and most people don't see themselves, generally, as people who would use a weapon on another person in an up-close and personal way. 

It's not how I am or feel, but that's just the truth of it.  Most folks aren't like me.

We have lots of empty hand material though, and we could design a program that is much heavier in that aspect vs. the traditional way we've done it.  It's something to consider.

Another thing is that there are two basic adult audiences.

One group is interested in and wants the old fashioned martial arts experience, including rank belts, uniforms and tests. I am in this group for the most part myself, and I suspect many of you reading this are, too.

There is another group that wants to study violence but isn't interested in the trappings of a martial art and doesn't care about ranks or any of that stuff.  Krav Maga is one of those martial arts that appeals to this group, as well as all the "combatives" type martial arts programs out there.

We've been trying to appeal to the former, but maybe we should redesign our adults program to appeal to the latter, as they seem like the bigger group of adult students coming through our door.  I'm not talking about a new martial art, by the way - it's actually something that exists within what we already know, given our teacher's relationship - and now Mr. Chick's relationship - with +W. Hock Hochheim Combatives.

Plus we have some ideas for our women's self defense program, and I have an idea for a new program that's like a self defense course but for a very different audience and with different goals (and I'm not ready to talk about that one yet).

Those are some of the things we're thinking about on our one-year anniversary as a program.  Nothing is set in stone yet, but I'm pretty sure we're going to change some stuff as we approach our Fall "session".

How do things change in your martial arts school?  If you have your own school, do you reconsider what you do or teach?  Do you experiment?  As a student, how do you handle changes like this?  Let me know in the comments!