A fre­quent con­trib­u­tor to Black Belt, Floyd Burk in­sists that in­struc­tors can achieve greater suc­cess by fol­low­ing these nine tips for stay­ing mo­ti­vated and en­er­gized on the mat. Guess what? Most of them in­volve re­tool­ing your own be­hav­ior.

ex­cept Sun­day, I put on my

gi and drive to the dojo, then teach for sev­eral hours. I started do­ing this in 1980, and 38 years later, I find my­self re­peat­ing the same se­quence over and over. Maybe you do like­wise, or maybe you’re hop­ing to em­bark on your own jour­ney of school own­er­ship. Ei­ther way, I’d like to share some of the things that have kept me lov­ing what I do and mo­ti­vated to con­tinue con­vey­ing my art to my stu­dents.

DE­RIVE PRIDE from your school name. You must love it and love say­ing it so the name elic­its a pos­i­tive re­ac­tion from peo­ple. I went through a cou­ple of school names be­fore I ended up with Trad Am Karate, which is short for my eclec­tic sys­tem of tra­di­tional Amer­i­can karate. The name works well be­cause it re­flects our sys­tem, it’s easy to say and it has a ring that a com­mu­nity can get to know — which helps get peo­ple to train at the school. I didn’t come up with the name overnight; the process en­tailed writ­ing down a moun­tain of names and de­scrip­tions over the years. I was happy when I made the change. Now if your school name is work­ing as is, that’s great. If not, change it.

Don’t change your school name too of­ten or in an ef­fort to cap­i­tal­ize on the lat­est fad. You’ll just seem wishy-washy to the com­mu­nity. Also know that many names have been trade­marked. Do some re­search be­fore you pull the trig­ger.

ES­TAB­LISH A NET­WORK for dis­cussing busi­ness is­sues. The lone wolf doesn’t last many long, cold win­ters. I meet with a men­tor from time to time, as well a few like-minded peo­ple I call reg­u­larly. It’s re­ally ben­e­fi­cial to talk to fel­low mar­tial artists who can un­der­stand the chal­lenges you face, whether they in­volve teach­ing, mar­ket­ing or so­cial me­dia.

Warn­ing! Avoid be­ing overly crit­i­cal of your staff or stu­dents with your net­work un­less the dis­cus­sion is a sin­cere ex­er­cise in­tended to find so­lu­tions to par­tic­u­lar prob­lems. This in­cludes not bad-mouthing other schools or in­struc­tors in your area. A dis­cus­sion that de­te­ri­o­rates into at­tack­ing peo­ple who aren’t there will leave you feel­ing worse and un­der­mine the pos­i­tive mo­ti­va­tion you’re seek­ing.

JOIN AN OR­GA­NI­ZA­TION that pro­vides the pro­fes­sional guid­ance you may need. There’s no limit to the help you can re­ceive — on cur­ricu­lum devel­op­ment, school op­er­a­tion and even rank cer­ti­fi­ca­tions. Three prom­i­nent groups are the Amer­i­can In­de­pen­dent Karate In­struc­tors As­so­ci­a­tion, the Mar­tial Arts In­dus­try As­so­ci­a­tion and the In­de­pen­dent Karate Schools of Amer­ica. (Full dis­clo­sure: I’m af­fil­i­ated with IKSA.) You can find oth­ers by search­ing the web.

Warn­ing! Steer clear of groups that re­quire you to make too many changes — such as al­ter­ations to your art. Also, avoid those that are op­er­ated by peo­ple who seek to strip your free­dom or in­de­pen­dence.

FRE­QUENTLY AT­TEND sem­i­nars or con­ven­tions. They can mo­ti­vate you and of­fer new knowl­edge and ideas. Case in point: When I at­tended the 2016 Mar­tial Arts Su­per­Show, I liked a sug­ges­tion from the key­note speaker that per­tained to build­ing a “photo op” area in your dojo, one that in­cludes your logo in the back­ground. The speaker then said that when­ever you host an event, en­cour­age stu­dents to take pho­tos there with their par­ents/spouses/sib­lings. When those pho­tos get posted on

so­cial me­dia, it’s great ex­po­sure for your busi­ness.

As ben­e­fi­cial as that proved, it was just a frac­tion of the wis­dom I en­coun­tered at the Su­per­Show. There are many other con­ven­tions, train­ing camps and sem­i­nars that take place across the coun­try, and most of them will leave you bet­ter pre­pared for suc­cess.

Warn­ing! Avoid events that make over­reach­ing prom­ises or that guar­an­tee a rank ad­vance­ment just for pay­ing a fee.

AL­LOW PEO­PLE TO PAY their en­roll­ment fees di­rectly to you. Let it be a way for them to say you’re an awe­some teacher — af­ter all, you’re help­ing them make their lives bet­ter. If asked, be pos­i­tive about the fees you charge and don’t hes­i­tate to men­tion that their fi­nan­cial sup­port helps keep your school thriv­ing and vi­brant.

Warn­ing! When op­er­at­ing ex­penses rise, some­times you have no choice but to raise prices. Don’t feel guilty. The last thing your stu­dents want is for you to close down be­cause you can’t pay the bills. And don’t worry about what oth­ers in your area are charg­ing. Charge what you need to charge to pay the bills.

DE­VELOP A POS­I­TIVE MIND­SET and start to­day. Be­gin by us­ing pos­i­tive self-talk. Never say, “I have to teach class now.” In­stead, say, “I get to teach class now.”

With dif­fi­cult stu­dents, don’t say, “I dread to­day’s kids class be­cause of so-and-so!” In­stead, say, “I can’t wait for the kids class be­cause soand-so is go­ing to help me be­come a bet­ter in­struc­tor.”

An­other case in point: My wife, who teaches more than I do, used to come home af­ter our com­mu­nity karate classes and say, “Tommy and Timmy (not their real names) were be­hav­ing so aw­fully I don’t want to go there any­more.” I told her, “One day, they’re go­ing to be run­ning the dojo.” Ten years later, my wife said to me, “You were right — Tommy and Timmy were run­ning the dojo to­day.” It was so re­ward­ing to watch those kids ma­ture and be­come model stu­dents.

Pos­i­tive self-talk also in­cludes telling your­self — and truly be­liev­ing — that you’ll al­ways get new signups. If you’re pos­i­tive, you’ll at­tract pos­i­tive. If you’re neg­a­tive, you’ll at­tract neg­a­tive, and that can drag you down.

Warn­ing! Don’t spend too much time think­ing about cir­cum­stances you can’t con­trol. If a new school opens across the street, there’s noth­ing you can do about it. You can, how­ever, con­trol your at­ti­tude. When a new

tang soo do school opened near my school, I used it as in­spi­ra­tion to cre­ate new win­dow posters and spruce up the lobby. It also mo­ti­vated me to be a bet­ter teacher. It’s all about the sil­ver lin­ing.

SPREAD A POS­I­TIVE AT­TI­TUDE to those around you. One way is to make an ef­fort to be in a good mood and say things out loud that are pos­i­tive. Also, avoid com­plain­ing about per­sonal prob­lems or life in gen­eral when your stu­dents or their par­ents are around. Once, I was talk­ing about this very sub­ject on the phone with Dr. Jerry Beasley of AIKIA. He ad­vised me to re­ply to how-are- you-do­ing ques­tions with “I’m happy, healthy and ter­rific.” I’ve been do­ing that for years — no mat- ter how I feel — be­cause it makes me feel good and never brings oth­ers down.

OR­GA­NIZE SPE­CIAL EVENTS at your school to spice up the rou­tine. For in­stance, hold day camps dur­ing spring break or sum­mer va­ca­tion. Con­duct train­ing sem­i­nars and work­shops. Find a guest in­struc­tor who will be a good fit with your art. Con­duct an oc­ca­sional tour­na­ment at your school and keep it fun and friendly.

Warn­ing! Limit the num­ber of events you have through­out the year, or you’ll wear out and de-mo­ti­vate your staff. If an event won’t ben­e­fit you or your school, don’t hold it. I de­cided to stop do­ing day camps be­cause they were harm­ing a few stu­dent-in­struc­tor re­la­tion­ships, and the break­down found its way into reg­u­lar classes. On the other hand, a friend of mine named John Li­pari runs day camps at his schools in New York and Cal­i­for­nia, and he’s been do­ing them with no is­sues for more than 25 years.

FI­NALLY, ADD SOME­THING to your own train­ing plan. A hand­ful of my se­nior stu­dents and I started do­ing the tra­di­tional Ja­pa­nese art of ken

jutsu a cou­ple of years ago. We found that adding to our skill set was mo­ti­va­tional, and it has spilled over to our stu­dents — in­clud­ing those who will need to wait for some time be­fore they’re in­vited to join us.

OABOUT THE AU­THOR: Floyd Burk is a San Diego–based 10th-de­gree black belt with 45 years of ex­pe­ri­ence in the arts. To con­tact him, visit In­de­pen­dent Karate Schools of Amer­ica at

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