View Full Version : amateur instructors / professional instructors

1st January 2003, 02:10
I'm interested in finding out how many users of this forum are professional instructors or are trained by a professional instructor, and a little of how this breaks down according to the art practiced. By professional I mean that this is your primary source of income and/or you own and manage your own dojo.

My own situation is I teach kendo in a club setting for ostensibly no fee; in a local community centre with kids as a paid employee of the centre; and occasionally in a corporate setting as a consultant/contractor.

None of these is enough to pay the rent, hence I consider myself primarily an amateur instructor (oh how I wish I'd spent all those years learning yoga - those guys are never out of work!).

I'm also interested in what is considered "the norm" in your particular field. For instance, in kendo, it is extremely unusual outside Japan for even the highest ranking sensei to earn their living from kendo. Most have day jobs and do it voluntarily or for small honouraria.

Please forgive the categorisations but they were necessary for brevity. Also my use of the terms amateur and professional are not perjorative in any way - I do not see one as being somehow 'better' than the other.

Happy New Year to all on the boards.


Ben Sheppard

1st January 2003, 02:13
The "categorisations" were going to be in the poll I tried setting up but I made some mistake. So it looks like anecdotal responses only...


Ron Rompen
1st January 2003, 02:21
My first sensei (Hap Ki Do) was initially an amateur instructor, in that he also worked full time (at Algoma Steel if I recall correctly). However, he is now a full-time instructor/head of his style.

My current sensei is a full-time teacher; this is what she does for a living (gods know she must love teaching, because she sure isn't getting rich doing it).

1st January 2003, 10:10
My teacher is a full time teacher, however I doubt if one could consider him as an example: he is teaching Korindo Aikido, Judo & Karate and has 6th Dan in the first two and 5th in the latter, having practiced and taught for the last ~40 years (since he was 16). I would also add that despite having his own Dojo, he is teaching in other places to get a descent salary and sustain his family.

Some of his senior students are teaching, all those I know of do it as amateur instructor, teaching one group only.


Budoka 34
1st January 2003, 21:24
My instructor teaches full time.
I hope to someday as well.:rolleyes:


3rd January 2003, 14:07
It seems to depend on the popularity of the art... My friend runs a taekwondo club full time, has his own building for training etc and of course a LOAD of students. I, on the other hand, teach iaido. You've guessed it, work for a living, only a few students, etc...
My own teacher(Japanese in Japan)has retired from a 'real' job and also would be in the 'amateur' list, although he has 8 dan hanshi... no doubt if we could all make a living at it we would do it full time, although I worry about what would happen to my attitude... would it become a 'job' where you moan about getting up in the morning etc!!!

Tim Hamilton

6th January 2003, 17:32
I can suspect when you make your Hobby your Job, you must be willing to suffer the disadvantages of it being a job. A job one likes is better then a job you dislike, but is still is a job you must do, if you wish to earn your living.


Andy Watson
7th January 2003, 11:16
Myself and a couple of others teach for nowt at our dojo while our sensei, Chris Mansfield, is off living in Japan teaching English and training in iai, jo and kendo.

7th January 2003, 15:48
Today is the 4th anniversary of our club at our church. I teach because it is my passion, but not my profession. I earn a living in the pension funding business and work as a laison between insurance companies and insurance agents (hence my need for violent expression through martial arts :D )

The fact that I do not receive income from teaching does not reflect on the "professionalism" I insist upon in the club.


Mitch Saret
11th January 2003, 21:39
I consider myself a professional instructor for two reasons. Before I was doing it full time I was teaching about 9 classes a week besides my regular job. During that time I was doing much research on modern teaching methods of a variety of student types. I did a lot of reading on ADD, ADHD, physical and mental handicaps, and just about anything you could think of that would be presented to you as a student. That's why I am a pro, I train myself to do the job better and am constantly updating my knowledge in the field....in the field of teaching, that is. The second reason is that in January of 2002 I hit my 40th birthday and had the realization that I didn't want to work for anyone else. So I took the dojo full time. My instruction methods have not changed because of it, they change with new information, and my curriculum has not changed. What has changed is the way I recruit and retain students.

As an afterthought, I will admit a method of teaching may have be considered to have changed. I haven't changed what I teach or how I teach it, just the order in which it is taught. I re-vamped my curriculum to a rotating format. More explanation on this by request.

Troy White
12th January 2003, 19:39
This is from an email I just recieved a few days ago concerning 'professional' idea.

By Stephen Oliver, MBA

Are you a Professional?

As you may know - I have been proud to be a columnist for
Martial Arts Professional Magazine for about 18 months now.

The current month's issue has a column that I am especially
proud of - hope that you will look it up or, call NAPMA's
office if you are not on their distribution list.

All though the name of that fine magazine is Martial Arts
Professional, I feel that unfortunately, very few of
those many thousands of martial artists who read it really
think of themselves as professionals, even those who do rarely
behave that way on a consistent basis.

Although the name is non-specific Martial Arts Professional
does not really mean Professional Athlete, it means
Professional school operator/teacher. Although there
are a few Professional Athletes in our industry they are few
and far between. Maybe some of the current fighters are able
to make an adequate living using strictly their
fighting skills, really things haven't changed much since 1980
when I changed my personal view of what professional would mean
to me in Martial Arts.

A short story. 1980 and 1981 I was attending Georgetown
University and working with Charlie Lee and John Chung and,
a big stable of 'Professional' fighters. That stable was part
of the Jhoon Rhee Institute and included my teacher, friend,
mentor Jeff Smith who was the World Champion as well as Rodney
Batiste (U.S. Champion,) Mike Coles (U.S. Champion) and, a bunch
of up and comers (and, a few wannabe's).

We were in a unique situation of hosting ESPN televised fights
about every other month sanctioned by Joe Corley's PKA and of
having a student base of a couple of thousand eager students
buying tickets to the fights held in one of Jhoon Rhee's schools
(a monstrous 13,000 square foot school, boxing gym, kickboxing
training center, and events center wrapped into one.)

I ended up in Washington, D.C. (actually I was living in Jeff
Smith's condo across the street from the Pentagon in Crystal City,
VA) to train to be a professional fighter and to get a degree
in Economics on the way to an MBA.

During my time in Washington I learned some interesting (and,
at the time disappointing lessons.)

The first lesson that I learned was the meaning of 'Professional'
as it applied to athletics. The training regime that was required
of Jeff Smith and the other fighters in our stable was truly
incredible compared to martial artists that were not professionals.

Each of our world-class fighters had a huge regiment of road-work,
weight training, time in the Boxing gym with trainer Jimmy Jones,
and time in the kickboxing gym working on jump rope, shadow
sparring, medicine ball, and bag work. This didn't include the
many rounds of sparring the proceeded any significant fight.

I was soon to discover that it was impossible for me to train as
a 'Professional fighter', be a 'A' student at a top 10 school
like Georgetown, and to be a 'Professional martial arts teacher.'

The next difficult lesson that I learned, is that being a
professional fighter is a difficult, dangerous, and, unlikely
career. At the time Bill Wallace, Jeff Smith, Joe Lewis, J
ean Yves-Theriault, and Don Wilson were at the top of their game.

I was soon to realize that most 'Professional' fighters were
earning $100 to $200 per round and, even the World Champions
were unable to make much of a living through fighting
alone. Most supplemented their income either through seminars
or, by 'Professionally' running martial arts schools.

In watching and learning from Jeff Smith, I quickly figured out
that he and Jhoon Rhee, and Nick Cokinos were driving nice cars
life-style from running martial arts schools. Jeff was careful
to keep his fighting from interfering with his real career of
running profitable martial arts schools. I learned in 1980 that
a career as a professional martial arts teacher was much more
likely than a career as a professional fighter. And, frankly
much more lucrative.

Having learned that 'Professionalism' was in the preparation
and training, not just in the execution. I quickly shifted
attention and decided to be a Professional in every
way in my career from that day forward.

I decided to move to Denver to open professional martial arts
schools. I began training to be a professional school owner.
That meant studying everything available about running a
professional business and school. For two year's I studied
with Jeff Smith, Nick Cokinos, Jhoon Rhee, Ned Muffley and
others about how to really run a profitable school.

Next, I 'camped out' at the Library of Congress and read
everything I could get my hands on about advertising, direct
marketing, and sales, as well as general business operations.

Then, I learned that the FTC was having hearings on Health Spas
– so I spent several months going through the millions of pages
of documents on file and, read the sales manuals, sales
manager's manuals, and club operations manuals for every
major health club in the country.

For good measure I took every class offered by the Small
Business Administration and by SCORE on business operations.

Finally, I spent 9 months working with a start-up school
to learn the in's and outs of how to start a new school

Finally, after all that I put together a 200 page business
plan and moved to Denver and opened 5 schools in 18 months with
$10,000 in capital.

In the past 20 years I have earned a Master's in Business,
read 20 to 30 books (sometimes more) per year on some aspect of
running a professional school (ie. Education, sales, marketing,
management, etc), often spend $50,000 or more a year training
myself and my staff and, continue to study the best schools
in the country and, model similar businesses in other fields.

My question is this. Do YOU train yourself as a professional
as a school operator?

If not, why not?


Things to think about.
T. White