I really felt I had to write this post as I have had a few conversations recently that have pushed me into this topic. I want to talk about some of the un truths that are put out here about martial arts and and particularly the business of martial arts.
In a previous post I spoke about cross training and my experiences visiting other instructors in their dojos. This is something that I actively try and do as often as possible but it is not always made easy for me. The reason that it is not easy is that some instructors, when asked if I may attend a session or 2, say that in order to train I must take out their association membership for "insurance reasons". They suggest that I would not be insured to train as a non member of the club. This is simply not true. Ill explain the way a martial arts instructors insurance works (or mine does anyway). All instructors in Shinri have their own insurance policy. They are all listed under the Shinri name but the individual instructor must be named (like a named driver on a car). We can choose the level of cover we require. The maximum policy covers the instructor for £5million (this is what we have). It insures the building we hire and covers us for public liability (should we be liable for any accidents). It covers us to teach karate at any location in the uk, and to teach anything that can be included in the wider description of "karate". Our policy costs us thousands of pounds a year.
We also have a member to member liability policy which covers anyone in our sessions should one member be liable for injury to another member. Shinri karate schools members have no individual insurance policy and neither does any other martial arts student in the uk (obviously I can't speak for every karate club but I do know that there are only 2 or 3 insurance companies offering cover to martial arts clubs). Every person that trains in one of my sessions (which could be as basic as a private session in my back garden or as complex as a large seminar with hundreds of people attending) is covered by the same policy.
Any responsible and professional martial arts instructor will have this same insurance cover and any prospective student (from the 5 year old first timers to the "expert") will be covered.
There is a slight difference in that some karate clubs do not offer an "open door" policy where all are welcome to train. Shinri clubs are open to all. Our members receive cheaper lesson prices and are eligible to grade. They may also hold memberships with other martial arts clubs if they desire. A few of the clubs I've been involved with have the opposite to this policy. You must take out association licences before you can train and once a member you are expected to limit yourself to only training with that one club. This is something I do not agree with in the slightest and will stand up against it where ever necessary.
To further the "great martial arts swindle" we should mention grades, especially black belts. There is no national register or database of black belts. A few small association have a list of every one that they have awarded a black belt too but there is no national list. There is also no set standard for black belt grades. The examiner or instructor sets the required/desired standard that each prospective black belt must reach (this standard can sometimes differ from student to student with the same examiner!). As a karate instructor I have to be responsible for the level of black belts in my clubs. Obviously I want them to be the best possible and so set a syllabus that I think will help achieve this. I also try and be fair and think of the standards I set in my black belt gradings and can only ask the same of my students.
Teaching martial arts is a business. In all business you will get "cowboys". One of the main reasons we set up Shinri was to be transparent and ethical in our approach to our business. We aim to teach good karate and from instructors that are insured, checked, legitimate and fair.