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  • Writer's pictureJackie Bradbury

The Martial Arts Instructor's Bill of Rights

Updated: May 4, 2021

Today, let's look at it from the Instructor's side.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Yes, martial arts instructors also have a right to certain expectations in training, from their students and from people who work with them in the process of training students.  The student/teacher relationship is a two-way street.

Here's some reasonable expectations a martial arts instructor should be have:


No martial arts instructor should be expected to teach the martial arts for free.

Keep in mind that many martial arts teachers DO teach for free on occasion.  They'll have "scholarship" students, or they'll volunteer to teach in certain charity situations, or they'll offer free classes in self defense or an intro to their style.  Some even train folks for free all the time, just because they want to.

But they are NOT obligated to offer any free content whatsoever.

There is no reason to expect that people who have put many years and thousands of hours into becoming experts in what they do to share that information free of charge.  If you wouldn't expect free services from other professions - doctors, dentists, accountants, lawyers, plumbers, etc. - don't expect it from martial arts instructors.

Additionally, financial obligations to a martial arts schools are just as much of a "real' debt as it is to anyone else.  If you promise to pay for a specific period of time, guess what, buddy, that's a contract, and you have abide by the terms of the contract.

Just to be clear: this does not necessarily apply to people acting as assistant instructors or junior instructors UNDER a main teacher.  These folks are sometimes getting free/reduced training fees (but sometimes not) in exchange for teaching, and it's not uncommon for this to be a requirement for a rank level.


Martial arts instructors have the right to set the rules for training.

This includes:

✔ Content

✔ Class structure, frequency, and location

✔ Safety rules

✔ Etiquette rules

✔ Equipment to be used, and where students can acquire it (including requiring students to purchase from the school/instructor)

✔ Rank requirements and promotion process

✔ Uniform requirements

Martial arts instructors are usually open to suggestions but the final decision rests with them.  If a student does not like what the instructor decides, the student should seek instruction elsewhere.


Martial arts instructors do not have to accept every person who shows up to learn as a student.

Martial arts instruction requires a lot of trust between teacher and student. As a consequence, it's not reasonable to believe that a martial arts instructor can or should develop that trust relationship with any given person off the street.

Given the content of what we teach - it's violence, folks - if a martial arts instructor does not want to share that information with an individual they aren't sure will use the information wisely, that's okay.


Students should:

✔ Let the instructor know when they won't be attending classes.

✔ Arrive on time and do not leave early (unless arranged and agreed to with the instructor)

✔ Follow the rules established by the instructor for the school while training and around the training area

✔ Practice the content they are being shown outside of class

✔ Respect and follow the rules for safety

✔ Respect and follow the cultural/etiquette rules for the school

✔ If there is a challenge or doubt about what's being taught, discuss with the teacher privately, versus challenging it in the middle of training

✔ Remain engaged in class; do not fiddle with or answer cell phones (there are exceptions to this but make sure to get instructor approval first - and if they don't allow it, respect that decision), don't play or joke around. In short, don't waste the instructor and fellow students' time.

So there you go, that's what I think martial arts instructors have a right to expect in their schools.  Did I miss anything, martial arts instructors?  Let me know in the comments!

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