The greatest competition to martial art schools is NOT other martial art schools. It’s the more mainstream sports like soccer, basketball, baseball, hockey…. Imagine yourself driving through your neighborhood on a typical summer day. As you pass house after house, you see the local kids “playing” at their particular sport. You see basketball hoops on garage doors, hockey/soccer nets on driveways, baseball and football pitching screens on front lawns. You see kids playing by themselves or with a buddy or two. What you don’t see are kids and their friends doing martial arts or playing with martial art equipment.
There are two main reasons for this: The first main reason for this is that the skill-development equipment for mainstream sports allows athletes to practice solo or with friends outside. Martial art equipment is focused on indoor use and interaction with friends for most of skills is considered too dangerous. You can’t safely throw sparring gear on a buddy and say “lets spar!”
The benefit of being able to interact and entice friends and family into trying a friendly game, lets the athlete demonstrate the skills they have developed and receive well earned recognition, praise and positive reinforcement. This encourages the athlete to practice more, which results in greater skills and greater achievement in class and at competitions and therefore MORE positive feedback and so on.
Consider it a cycle of positively reinforced practice. The secondary reason is that the nets/goals involved with most sports provide immediate feedback on how well they did, as a whole martial art equipment does not. When a child performs a pattern or Kata they have no proof if it was better than the last one or not. Mainstream sports have also made their equipment more interactive and challenging. They have turned “practice time” into play/game time. Bright colors, aiming holes, breakaway targets and more have turned practices into carnival games.
Carnival games are addictive because the objective seems so simple and you can see how close you are at every attempt and success is just a matter of trying again. The simplicity and enticement of the mainstream equipment encourages even non-athletes to try their hand and if it’s exciting enough or the person comes close to success they might actually decide to take up that sport. Consider this system of passive advertising and recruitment for that sport.
So what equipment/skill can we as martial artist do that offers immediate feedback, dynamic action, enticing colors and levels of difficulty, and can impress friends and family and be exciting enough that they will ask to try it??
Board Breaking, of course!!!!
With new equipment available on the market today, kids can set up a board holder outside in the sun, on the side of their garage and armed with a stack of multi colored re-breakable boards, they are set to turn practice to play. After a few “Kiya’s” and the snap of boards breaking, watch the neighborhood kids gather around to join in.
Encourage board breaking amongst your students and martial art friends so that we can break the monopoly mainstream sports and their equipment have on our neighborhoods. Let’s see more kids outside playing at martial arts and reaping all the same benefits that other kids get from playing at their sports.