• Jackie Bradbury

The Flake Factor

We have studied the martial arts (my husband, my daughters, and myself) under thirteen different direct martial arts teachers (not counting seminars) since 2008.


Hey, I've moved a lot, okay?


We have been blessed to have some amazing martial arts teachers.


In that time, and as I get to know more and more people in the martial arts, I noticed something about us, as an industry (and we are an industry - non profit or not).


I think that on the whole, the martial arts community is generally full of nice people with good intentions.  I think we run to the smarter end of the spectrum, with a huge nerdy streak that I find endearing.  Most of us put in an effort to do "good" by our students.


Then you have those people that are just flakes. As a community, we sure do tolerate a high level of flakiness in our martial arts instructors and leadership.


Live image from the Martial Arts Supershow. JUST KIDDING, CENTURY. Image by Stefano Ferrario from Pixabay

The martial arts community tolerates things that it's well understood in every other small business to be completely wrong.  I'm not going to discuss the times when our egos run rampant and we treat our students like they are our servants.  That's not flakiness. That's asshattery. And we tolerate that a bit too much too, but that's a post for another day.


Flakiness are the little gaps in basic courtesy typically due to a customer. Our students are our customers. We get flaky because our needs, our desires, and our vision is more important than serving our students.


Flakiness includes:


✔ Not returning phone calls

✔ Not using email

✔ Not responding to texts

✔ Habitually showing up late for classes

✔ Not having a lesson plan, so your classes are usually "on the fly"

✔ Asking students/parents to "cover" for you while you take care of non-urgent or non-important business during classes, frequently (like several times a month)

✔ Not doing what you promise to do - being where you've said you'll be, bringing what you've said you'll bring... any gap between what you say you will do versus what you actually do


Flakiness generally means being absent-minded, being inconsistent, being a poor communicator, being a poor planner, and generally giving off the impression that one can't live his or her daily life without having someone else do all the mundane work for them.


Of the thirteen teachers, I'd say we had five that were that way.  That is a HIGH proportion.


True story:  older daughter spent time in a martial arts school where the instructor was incredibly talented and knowledgeable and just a really highly skilled martial artist.


But he quickly (within weeks) expected my husband to open the school doors for him and to "cover" when he was late, which was frequent (not unusual to be at least a few times a month).  He rarely gave the impression that he had a lesson plan and knew what he'd teach from class to class.  Our last straw in that school was when he showed up late and then showed a movie in class for his "lesson" for the day.  That was the last day my daughter attended that school.


I submit that refusal to use the tools of the early 21st century - and that includes a cell phone (hell, even a non-smart cell phone is better than nothing) and a computer - in today's society is incredibly flaky.  That is like not having a phone number in 1990.  It's just unacceptable in the modern world.


Going days without returning a phone call, text, or email is unacceptable, period.


I'm not saying that we have to be perfect (although that should be a goal of ours even if it's not actually attainable).  We do sometimes have things occur outside our control that make us late, or we fail to return a call.  It happens.


I'm talking about the habitual, regular behavior I've described above. 


Respect is important in the martial arts world.  Most of us preach it on a daily basis.


Being flaky is being disrespectful. Why we tolerate it at all in our community is baffling.

My family has quit schools and teachers because of flakiness, because we don't tolerate it very well.  If you ask me, as a community, we shouldn't forgive it in favor of a person's talent or skill or lineage.


I don't care how talented or experienced the martial arts instructor is - a flaky instructor deserves no students (and yeah, the really flaky ones I've met struggled to keep students - imagine that!).


Have you had to cope with a flaky instructor?  Do you know any?  Are you one yourself? Tell me your stories!

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