• How much is a belt worth?

    Since becoming a manager of a Kickboxing Club my learning curve has been steep to say the least, but a few things I’ve witnessed does make me think about whose interest is being served in the sport?   This is not a whine at governing bodies, as I do think that they do the best they can and they are pretty good at regulating the sport, even if there are so many of them. Club owners have a vested interest to be the best they can to draw in clients. I don’t apologise for using that term clients rather than fighters, ultimately fighters pay for a service that the club provide. So while owners nurture a feel of being a club, it is generally run as a business weather sole trading or as a Limited entity. Even part time clubs have to pay bills for floor rent, insurances and all the other bits and pieces that are entailed in running an organisation. I don’t have a problem with that, think of running a club as a business where you attract clients, you won’t go far wrong whatever your main objectives.

    The main issue I do have is watching some clubs just take advantage of clients, in the main parents who want the best for their kids and students who want to develop in their chosen disciplines. The majority of clubs I’ve had the pleasure of dealing with are genuine in wanting the best for their students/clients. They help them develop and grow through each progression of grading or competitive fights. There is a cost involved in all of this, like belts, certificates and the Instructors time out-with a normal timetable and venue rent/heating etc…….

    I like to think at SFEAR we are one of those clubs. We have an excellent Lead Instructor who has developed a lot over the last few years. She has also taken a number of students on the instructing journey with her and they are starting to flourish with the added responsibility and knowledge of how to communicate some fairly complex movements and principles to students. We have not stood alone with this and like all good clubs we have looked outside of our own goldfish bowl and sought advice and training from all over the UK. Whilst our syllabus may change a little now and again, how we deliver training and understand how the fight scene is continually evolving, we then evolve with it. I talk to other club owners continually and listen to their concerns and victories and what works for them and what doesn’t.

    To that end I like to think that we offer a product that has value and our clients see that value and are willing to pay for that service. Jason Aston (Top Marks Free Style) is one of those individuals who has prided himself on not standing still. I admire the fact that he has turned his back on a well-paid, technical profession to pursue a career with Kickboxing and Fitness delivery. Every time I speak to him he talks about how his guys need to develop, how he is driving his business and most importantly how his clients see the value in his services. He is in it to make a living, but he is passionate about what he does and has not lost sight of the important part of running a Sports and Fitness business, the client needs to feel valued and understand the value in your product – teaching and delivering quality kickboxing and fitness classes is the foundation for him and he’s good at it.

    But, all is not good, there are clubs out there that seek to take advantage of parents and clients to make a quick buck and put their own self-interest first, above that of their product, services and most importantly the client. If you are in a club that offers skip a belt, intensive training weekends to jump a grading then I suspect that you are in one of those clubs. Martial Arts is just that, an Art form, that takes weeks, months and often years to perfect. Reaching Black Belt 1st Dan is really only the start of turning your discipline into that Art form. This means, in my book, that there are no short cuts. How else do you hone those skills that are required? It is an insult to suggest that you can take short cuts in martial arts. There is the path of least resistance on your journey, absolutely. What I mean by this is you prepare yourself for class, are punctual, remain focused and make sure everything is in place to allow you to be in the right frame of mind and physical fitness to develop and learn as effectively as possible. There is nothing wrong with that, it often makes the difference between those good fighters and the truly great fighters.

    I have seen first-hand how a club owner would run a class and get a student to do a technique that would be be challenging for them at their stage of their development or even above their next few belts. Then they would prey on the parent who would be concerned about their child, who’s been told they’ve got talent, that they could offer a one-to-one session to help them along the way for a fee. I have no issues with one-to-one instruction by the way. If I’ve missed a few classes and want to catch up or have struggled in class to understand a given technique then I’ll ask for that development. If I’m competing, then I’ll increase my training regime to prepare. But to engineer a situation to prey on the vulnerabilities of a student or their parents is just wrong and does a great miss-service to a sport that I have come to love. If you think you are in one of those clubs, ask yourself; I am being continually asked to buys services or kit, Insurance/licences be involved in club events. If you go away to competitions, are you paying the going rate for accommodation and transport or does it seem a little steep? If this is the case you should think do I value that service as one of quality or not? Am I valued as a client or a cash cow?

    Therefore, for me, what is the cost of the next belt? Financially, you can distil it into the payment of monthly and grading fees and likely at the higher levels, one-to-one private tuition fees as well. For the owner/instructor it’s their time first and foremost, the cost of the belts and certificates and venue costs. For me as a practitioner of Kickboxing it is the emotional strength needed to be disciplined, patient and focused to learn or hone a skill. Therefore, don’t take short cuts, it cheapens your achievements. Making life easy for yourself is not a shortcut, it’s called preparation, jumping a grading is! Be true to yourself, know the worth of your achievements, embrace the challenge, be all that you can be!

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