A Leap of Faith (twice!)
As we approach our five year anniversary as a martial arts club, I got to thinking...
It was early 2016 when, working for local public sector organisations, that I decided to start a martial arts class. Initially I did this, like so many others, alongside my day job, not able to put 100% into either role, but working as hard as I possibly could to be my very best version in both roles.
When we opened, from a shaky first session, we had some phenomenal success, swiftly growing in student numbers, opening up classes for Tigers (ages 3 to 6) as well as Leadership students (ages 6 to 106), together with male only & female only classes. By October 2016, I was running just to stand still and something had to give.
I had become increasingly disillusioned with my full-time role in the public sector, frustrated about not being able to do what I knew to be best, to the best of my ability & in the best possible timescales. So I jumped…
With the grudging approval of my wife (full time role to self-employed entrepreneur with a young family), I went full time and threw myself into what I had come to love more & more and did not consider a job. The economy wasn’t great at the time but I had faith that if I carried on doing what I was doing and really focused in on being my best version of me, I could do it.
If you’re in any way thinking that being a martial arts Instructor could be for you, explore that possibility. I have never looked back! Have the courage to explore that dream - there is a group of folk within the FMAC Franchise organisation that you can speak to, who will support you & who will challenge your thinking. But, ultimately, if you want it, you have to reach out & grab it.
Let me first say that I did not just wake up one morning in October & decide to quit my job. The decision was months in the making with countless hours of planning.
I ‘volunteered’ to teach & help out at my local centre before becoming a part-time instructor & I spent a fair bit of time looking at who was successful within our organisation. More important than the ‘who’, was the ‘why’, but I kept going out to other centres, training there, observing what went on & deciding how I would do it.
As my part-time school expanded, I started looking at the next steps & worked on several business plans. It’s a very grand term for some scratches in the back of my notebook at work over lunch & some figures on a spreadsheet, but what I was doing was creating the plan which was a road map to building a full time, successful martial arts centre. It was still just a dream at that point but at least on paper, I proved that it was a viable idea. So when I finally cracked, I knew I could pay the bills (at least for the 12 mont period my wife had said I could have to make it work!)
From the October of 2016, when I went full time, until February 2017, I still used other people’s venues, teaching at community centres, school gyms & working mens clubs (Yes - just ask the old timers at Prestwich about the British Legion on a rainy day!). Despite all the challenges, the school continued to grow & we got very close to reaching the dream numbers in my business plan that indicated I could have a space of my own.
In February of 2017, one year after opening, we had about 100 students in total, still not enough for a venue of our own but getting close. An opportunity came up to move into our current home & after a little deliberation, taking advice from a range of friends & family, we took the leap & took the space.
With the support of an understanding & helpful landlord, plus a student cohort that spread the word on our behalf, we’ve made it work. I’ve expended a lot of shoe leather on leafleting, but by doing the basics well & focusing on the students, I think we’ve done a pretty fair job. The model also works, as we’ve used it to open another centre in Oldham where my son now teaches & where martial arts is his full time job.
So if you’re even partly considering what the world of martial arts teaching might look like, give us a shout & let’s have a brew - I’ll tell you al the things not to do & what worked for us. Speak to Master Parkinson about getting onto the Instructor Training Programme which was invaluable in formalising how to be my best version of me on the mats & in the office.
So, five years after starting & four years after moving into a centre of our own, how did it go? Well, prior to the pandemic, we had over 250 students at Prestwich alone & the 12 months I was given by my wife (my harshest critic, but my best friend) has been & gone. We have a second Centre & it’s now a family business. Was it worth it? Oh yes! Would I do it all again? Hell, yeah! Would I change anything? A few bits & bobs around the edges, but, mostly, no!
Take the leap - you won’t regret it. If you are considering taking a risk & stepping into the unknown, don’t let people deter you. Do your homework & if it all stacks up, as Nike says ‘just do it’. There will always be reasons not to do something, including a global pandemic. Trust yourself & take the leap of faith.