Archives for September 2016

9 – Brannon Beliso: Replacing Contracts And Belt Testing Fees With Service And Martial Arts Merit Badges

Brannon Beliso shares his versatile life of being a musician, Ted Talks and teaching life principles through martial arts merit badges.

martial arts merit badges

martial arts merit badgesIN THIS EPISODE YOU WILL LEARN:

  • How to avoid an unsustainable bad business model
  • A different perspective and philosophy to martial arts business
  • Locking people into contracts vs. giving them what they really want
  • Leading a new movement of business
  • The humility habit of success
  • What consequences occur when kids can't deal with rejection
  • And more

*Need help growing your martial arts school? Learn More Here.


You need to have a very clear vision and vision is based upon purpose. Once you understand what your purpose is, then you create a vision to facilitate that.

Hi, this is George Fourie from and welcome to the Martial Arts Media Business podcast, episode number 9. Today, for the first time, I cross international borders and have an American guest on board, all the way from San Francisco, Mr. Brannon Beliso. Now, of course, I'm still going to be interviewing multiple Australian martial arts school owners, but the aim of this podcast is to interview guests from all over the world, anyone who is a leader in the martial arts industry that is doing great things and anybody that we can learn from. And professor Brannon Beliso is definitely on the list of one of the great leaders within the industry.

I was familiar with these one merit badge systems before I knew who Brannon was, which is basically a system, a  reward system for kids. And we're going to touch a bit on that, which you might probably be familiar with already. But more importantly, we're going to talk about Brannon's philosophy on martial arts, how he got started, basically living on top of his dad's martial arts school premises when he was a kid and how he's focused on the servicing side, on providing a great service and modeling different companies on providing a great service to the martial arts industry I can assure you, lots to learn from Brannon in this episode.

Show notes and transcriptions are available on, the number 9. And I would love your feedback: anybody that you recommend that I should be interviewing, any feedback on what we can improve on this show. And if you want to support us, the great way to do that is to head over to iTunes, which you'll find the link to this episode Find the link that goes over to iTunes and leave us a comment and a review. Five-star reviews help us to get up there in the rankings, but an honest review is much appreciated.

That's it from me for now- please welcome to the show professor Brannon Beliso.

GEORGE: Good day everyone, today I have with me my first American guest, professor Brannon Beliso. Brannon Beliso is all the way from Sacramento, is that right?

BRANNON: San Francisco actually, San Francisco.

GEORGE: San Francisco, all right, I got that wrong in the first few seconds of the interview. All right, we'll definitely flip it from there. Now, you might be more familiar with Brannon's program as well, which is currently called one merit badges. This is the first thing I remember from when my son started martial arts, he's getting all these badges that were really impressive because it’s got all of these successful words and complimenting words for skills and things that they achieve in their classes. And now I actually meet the man behind the whole system, which is Brannon Beliso. So, welcome to the call.

BRANNON: Thank you, thanks for having me George, I'm grateful to be here.

GEORGE: First up Brannon, let's just go back to the beginning for the people who are not familiar with you – who is Brannon Beliso?

BRANNON: Well, somebody the other day labeled me: I am a multifaceted modern-day renaissance man. And I went, wow! I've actually got a couple of books I'm working on, a children's book, I've got an actual self-help type enlightenment book coming out. As you know, I have one merit badges, which will soon be called kids love life skills, that's in 300 or 400 schools across the globe and it's very big in Australia.

I own two martial arts schools, one in San Francisco, one outside in a suburb. And we have about 900 students between the two locations. But it's a very unique business model and I'm sure that with you and a little bit… I had a big music career in Asia about 20 years ago. I've owned several other businesses. I love to create, I love to impact, I love to make a difference. Anything that allows me to do that, whatever medium offers me that, you'll find me there.

GEORGE: Ok, so I’d almost call you a true artist – not just a martial artist, but a real artist because it sounds like you're using a lot of outlets for the expression of your creativity.

BRANNON: Absolutely. Now, with social media, you'll find me at Snapchat, Pinterest, Instagram – any type of social media, anyway, I can communicate. I use Facebook live, I break all the rules. It's really about content. We know content is the king, whether it’s social media or otherwise and it's producing relevant content. Not just sales-based content, but relevant content that impacts people at a much higher level. And I find that to be an art form as well.

GEORGE: What came first, the music career or martial arts?

BRANNON: I'm going to date myself a little bit George. I started martial arts back in 1967, I'm actually 55 years old. So I started in 1967. At the time, kids weren't training and my father was one of my instructors. So as a child, I’d sit in the corner for two hours a night, 3-4 days a week I believe. And I’d have to sit in Seiza, kneeling position in silence to prove to these adults I wouldn't be disruptive if I was allowed in the class.

So I actually began training in San Francisco at the age of 5. I've done martial arts my whole life, but I never really looked at it as a viable business. I see the majority of our industry, I don't know how it is there in Australia, but I would say 80-90% of the industry, maybe 100 students, the owner is the operator, he teaches, he does everything. And that's pretty much the way they exist for the entire duration of their martial arts career.

And for myself, I felt that to be a very bad business model. I didn't see this to be profitable as I believe the martial arts instructor should be. Kind of like the teachers here in America get paid so little, or politicians make so much – I think it should be the other way around. Teachers that are educating children and making an impact should make so much more money.

So I never looked at it as a business, I always thought, I was a good soldier. I taught to my father while I was running other businesses, I taught my other instructors. So it was never really a business I looked at – I have to say, though, I had a school when I was 19 years old, down in Southern California in Los Angeles. But I was a fighter, so every night was fight night – within nine months, that school was closed, so I didn't really consider that a business, it was more of a hobby that fed into my training. So I didn't succeed with that. I was a great fighter, but the school went nowhere.

GEORGE: Ok, so not to go completely off that topic, but how does a musician – and I'm a musician, this is the self-interest coming in, I play the drums very passionately in my living room. Where did the music career art come in  Asia?

BRANNON: I think originally, my father managed this guy that was the Elvis Presley of the Philippines. So when he was here in America doing his shows and his tours, I was a young child. My father being a single father, I would tag along by default. So I already, at a young age developed a kinship for music. Then I started playing in bands and I did that well into my 20s.

I wasn't landing a record deal here and I got tired of being married to five guys – not to be discriminatory, but drummers are the artist! We're always turning over those drummers, right? All the time we're replacing a drummer. So we never developed the music because we're always trying to break in a new musician. I went solo, taught myself to play well enough on any one given instrument. Kept plugging along and eventually, I wasn't getting a record deal here and I landed one with Warner Brothers in Asia.

Had a top ten album, three-time ten hits. I did that for a number of years and the lifestyle was just too decadent for me. If I could just be on the stage every minute, I would be fine, but the rest of it wasn't something that really appealed to me.

So I gave it up and came back here and put out a very popular, my version of Tae Bo at the time. I liked it because it had music, it was martial arts, it was all sort of rolled up in one. So I put out of my own version that's still at Amazon, it sold quite well. And then eventually from that, I opened up my first school.

But you need to know, I think the thing with my platform or the message that I communicate with people George is, I don't believe in most of the philosophies that the martial arts industry offers us today: the contracts, the upgrades, the belt testing fees, the enrollment fees. They're always nickel-and-diming you.

When I hear that perception associated with the martial arts at all, that makes my heart very sad, when you can look into Wikipedia and you see a term McDojo, or black belt factory – that was very unappealing for me, that hurt my heart, having grown up in a martial arts school, because we actually lived above my father's martial arts school, so martial arts is a life for me. And I would never associate it with something like a used car salesman or McDonald's.

So what I set about doing George is, I created a service-based business model. And that's a huge movement. If you look at companies like Zappos, companies like Amazon, everything is working towards being more sales-based, getting rid of the sales scripts and service space, getting rid of the sales scripts  – all those things are going to the side. And you look at people's social media, like Gary Vee, Vaynerchuck would say the same thing: content is king, people don't care what you know until they know that you care.

So I created this business model which is very service based. And what we've done with that, which is very unique: both my schools, collectively, the first school, we broke our first million in year seven. That grosses a million a year, that's a 30% net – that's pretty phenomenal for a school in 3700 square ft. The new school that we have, which is only 18 months old, has 330 students and is on a path to do $700,000 this year. So people are very intrigued that there is actually data now because we're replicating it, and the people that I consult also feel that way.

Because at heart level, I don't believe a martial artist who wants to sit somebody down in an office and sell them a contract. And if you ask any mom what would she prefer: a month-to-month, or a long-term contract? I think any mom's going to tell you, I would prefer month-to-month. So if we look at it from that perspective, as an industry that we want to serve our clients at a higher level, George, then we're in a whole different realm. And from that, I've created this very unique business model. I lead the movement, I would say I'm one of the only successful people doing it this way. A lot of people are doing it with no contracts, things like that, but are not very profitable and they're not very successful.

GEORGE: it’s interesting, because at the end of the day, if you follow the service based business model, if you just put your focus on delivering, if you deliver, you're going to keep a happy client, rather than keep them there under this mess of contract that keeps them there unwillingly as such. But beyond the contracts, where do you think school owners are going wrong?

14075190_10204914864509733_127820860_oBRANNON: Well,  I think it's, number one, really defining your values and what your purpose is in this world. I learned at a very young age, sweeping in my grandmother's restaurant, you know these little coffee shops: I love service. I love serving people, whether I'm being paid, or not being paid. I love serving people. You come to my house, I'm the first one to cook dinner for you, and I just love to serve. So at a heart level, I understand very clearly what my purpose is in this world.

Now, to turn that into a profitable business was really the goal and loving martial arts, it went hand-in-hand. So I think that's the first thing. In martial arts, normally you buy your teacher's school or you get a black belt, you love the martial arts, so you 14074563_10204914852229426_2103477239_o14074563_10204914852229426_2103477239_othink you're going to throw down some mats and open a school: you need to have a very clear vision and vision is based upon purpose. Once you understand what your purpose is, then you create the vision to facilitate that. Does that make sense?

GEORGE: Definitely so, definitely so.

BRANNON: Yeah. So for me, that was really important. Once I knew my vision was about service, and I wasn't going to be this guy, that sat you in an office and tried to sell you a contract. And then six months later, I'm going to upgrade you to a black belt club or a master's club or a super ninja club. Once I was clear about that, then it really had to go about creating a business model that didn't exist. There was no data in our industry because all the data is contracts, upgrades,black belt fees, retail, equipment etc. So there was no data. So I had to look outside our industry for that, but I was able to do that because my vision was very clear.

So going back to that question, where are martial arts school owners going wrong: first of all, understand your values and purpose. Second, define that clearly into vision. Then once you have a vision, then you develop an action plan and then you develop the team to facilitate that. Then you execute it on a daily basis. Because we're living in a dual purpose: I have here and I have there. Here George is, I have got to open the door, take the money, teach the classes – that's got to happen, or I have no business. But beyond that every day, I want to move my business there: what is it going to look like in 3 to 5 years? How many students, how many team members, how much revenue am I going to generate, how many locations? If that's even in your vision. Some people are perfectly content: I want 100 students, that's all I ever need, that's my vision of success.

be-a-master-of-sustained-passion-2And that's the other part about that: if you're very clear on your values, you're very clear on your vision, then who, but you, can define what is success for you? And that's the big thing with the consultants and staff. I'm going to step up and stand toe to toe with any of them: I'm tired of consultants telling you, this is what success should be for you. So what do we do? Out of fear George, what do we do? We chase these guys, we want their cars and we want their success and what they have when it may not even be your vision, to begin with.

This year, my business will do about 1.7 million – that'll work. I mean, I'm very content with that. It’s not as much as other people, but for my lifestyle, it works really, really well. Really well. So based upon that, you have to decide that. If I would make a dollar and I spend $.50, I have $.50 in the bank. I make $1 million and I spent 2 million – I'm in debt. So it’s also the lifestyle you want to create and what you determine a value, versus what isn't a value. And for me, service is just that.

And that's the first thing: be clear about your values, be clear about your purpose, make that vision, make the action plan, develop the team to facilitate it and then execute that on a daily basis. And then I think what everyone should understand: when you open up a martial arts school because you love to teach – teaching is probably the smaller part of what you're going to be doing.

Here's a great example: I love to bake, so I open up a bakery. Guess what? I'm not only baking: I'm hiring, I'm firing, I'm marketing, I'm doing payroll, I'm doing books, I have to do customer service – probably have to clean the place on my own in the beginning too, and the band played on. So recognize it's not martial arts by itself: it's the martial arts business. And I cannot just be a black belt on the mat – I have to be a black belt in advertising, Facebook ads, customer service, hiring, firing, motivating a team – I mean, there're so many facets.

And you need to know enough of each so that you can speak to an accountant in an educated, professional manner and know what you need and what to get from it. Just like if I speak to a janitor: I want to be able to know how to facilitate that best. So you need to kind of wear many hats in your business and be great at wearing those hats.

GEORGE: Excellent. I want to know more about where that there and that vision is for you. But I want to go back just one step again: as you mentioned, and as it’s known, as it is here: most martial arts business owners are not that successful. And I guess, if you take the flow of how that happens, there's a passion for martial arts, obviously there's this burning desire inside, like, I feel like I could make a better difference, I could do things better, I want to show my way of doing things. And that progresses into going for the business.

But do you think it’s hard for martial arts business owners to ask for help? Just because of the nature of martial arts, because you achieve so much going through our belts and achieving a success level in martial arts, that it’s hard to go and face the music and say, well look, I actually need help with this, instead of just being stubborn about it almost, and not asking for help? And due to that, maybe that being the cause that martial arts business owners are not that successful?

BRANNON: Well, I think we should go back to establishing the mindset, to begin with, and I'm very passionate about creating a success mindset. And that success mindset is rooted in learning. 14060089_10204914862829691_480199071_oSo everyday I wake up, I put on a white belt and I'm the first person to raise my hand at a seminar, I'm the guy sitting up in the front row, taking the best notes: I just want to be successful and to be successful, you have to learn, because if I'm not learning, I'm not growing. And if I'm not growing, I'm not living.

And you're right: they become a black belt and they put that black belt around their waist and it's almost like, I can't show that I'm weak. I can't show that I don't know. And it's so detrimental because I'm my own best friend, I'm my own worst enemy. And if I wake up every day and I'm my own best friend, I'm going to recognize. To be successful, I must live from a learning or a growth mindset. Because how else is my business, not only going to sustain but be growth oriented if I don't live from that place?

GEORGE: Right.

BRANNON: So it’s accepting that. Humbly accepting that every day, the oldest white belt is the one who woke up the earliest today, and that's it. And you're right, because they wrap too many degrees around, and then they're the master, or the grand master, the super great grand master – I don't know when that happened, because when I grew  up, we had 2 things: there was Sensei, which was Japanese for teacher and there was Shīfu, which was Chinese for teacher.

And then somewhere in the 80s, I don't know what happened, all of a sudden there was a master. And then there was a grand master, then there was a great grand master and then suddenly, these guys get 50 different black belts and it just became this thing of insecurity and everybody trying to one up another one. It should be the actual opposite direction: the higher I get in the martial arts, the less I know.

I'm not afraid of what I don't know: I'm afraid of what I do know George because that's what limits my thinking, that's what narrows my vision, and that's when ego and insecurity dominate that and then I'm at a loss. So if I can wake up every day, strap on that white belt, and live from a humble learning mindset, I don't believe I can't be successful. It's impossible.

GEORGE: All right, excellent. Brannon, you were heading in the direction of the “ there“ and the vision, the vision that you have – do you mind sharing a bit more about your vision?

BRANNON: Yeah, my vision is to change the world. That's it. And I'm going to start with the martial arts industry and work my way out. I love the martial arts, I was born on the mat and I'll die on the mat. I love being a martial artist. So I want to change the  industry and that first part is recognizing one: you don't have to suffer for your art, and two, you don't have to be a McDojo and be a terrible martial artist and a great businessman. I don't believe that I think that's old thinking and it needs to be eliminated.

I think you can have quality martial arts and be extremely profitable. It's like a fine restaurant and I really promote that vision. So that vision today as part of that is recognizing. Number one is the food in the restaurant, and that is the curriculum we deliver. It's the same thing. Food = curriculum. You want to put a bad restaurant out a business – give them great marketing. And that's what bothers me with the consultants, that's what bothers me with the majority that's out there. Everything's marketing, marketing, marketing. Marketing, marketing, marketing, but they never get into what's the quality of the product and how to improve that product.

So curriculum is the food in the restaurant. Second is the staff. The waiter, the busboy, the hostess – well, that's your teaching staff and are they delivering that food, or in this case the curriculum at the highest level. I spend a lot of money on curriculum development, I spend a lot of money on staff training. Those two things are very, very important to me. Then three, fulfilling our purpose of service. So we develop systems and teachings to teach people to serve better. So really, first it’s that vision and then I want to reach a bigger audience and that's where the one merit badge comes in, soon to be kids love life skills.

I don't know if I'm just getting older, but I see the challenge for children today with iPads and technology and everything. There's a huge disconnect – respect is not a bad word, self-discipline is not a bad word, we should not be afraid to be parents. We should not be afraid to challenge our kids, we need to stop pacifying them, we need to hold them accountable, we need to give them the tools to be successful. And so my vision on a bigger stage is to facilitate learning for parents, for coaches for educators, for instructors on how to teach life skills. Cause life skills aren't taught anywhere. Maybe in church on a very small way, but it's not taught in everyday life, which it needs to be, even in martial art schools.

I think for the majority, we need to do a better job. You wouldn't go to the football coach and say, Hey, teach my son focus and discipline, but you would walk into a martial arts school and demand that. And if we don't have some type of written, proven system in place, then we're just spinning our wheels with life skills. So I think that needs to change too.

And then lastly, my vision on a bigger platform is to speak, to travel, which I'm doing so much more and affecting every business. Any type of business that believes in service, believes in people before profits, that believes in raising that bar and developing a culture, developing a tribe where their team wins, where their clients win, where everybody can prosper – that to me is the future. Fortunately, being here in San Francisco George, I have right in my backyard, Facebook, Yahoo, Twitter, Google, Youtube – everybody's here. Everybody's here, so this movement of being in a service-based business, where everything is month-to-month and where we aspire to serve you, is really something I get to be immersed in on a daily basis. So I’d like to spread that further too.

GEORGE: That's awesome, yes, you're definitely at the heart, the foundation of where all the top startups of the world are positioned. I’d imagine you'd almost feel that when you wake up, just that buzz of business and passion on a day-to-day basis.

BRANNON: Yeah, absolutely! We have Tesla here! We get Elon Musk right here my backyard, and want to talk about an artist! Creating all the time, and what I learned from him is you don't have to know to go. He knew nothing about space travel or anything. He decides he wants to colonize in space – boom! Developed a new wing. This guy developed PayPal, I mean, it’s incredible just to see that type of inspiration here.

And of course, Apple’s in my own backyard with Steve Jobs, God bless his soul, so just to see that. Creating balance is the other thing that I see, the work-life balance. Zuckerberg fights for that in Facebook with his people. And I'm striving to create that with my team, I don't want to burn people out, I want them to love to come to work, I want them to love to live their life outside of work. So it’s supporting that in every way possible, so yeah, I wake up to that buzz every day. Every day and I'm very grateful for that.

GEORGE: I want to get back to the one merit badges that are now changing over to kids love life skills – how did this come about and if you can just give a bit of a background for those that are not familiar with the program?

BRANNON: Absolutely. I walked in a guy's school and I say, well how do you teach discipline? He says it's up there on the wall. What do you mean it's up there on the wall? Anyone can hang a sign that says discipline, how do you teach it? Well, if you do 5000 kicks, you have discipline. I said, no you don't, you have a really good kick. Again – teach me how you teach discipline? So I saw that huge disconnect and I knew as far as being a premium service, being able to fulfill that client's needs, going back to everybody's walking in the martial arts school, demanding you teach focus and discipline. I felt a huge gap, a huge disconnect. And the other thing I saw out there was every life skill system that was available is very task driven. And why don't tasks work?

I’ll give you my example. I was judging at a tournament in forms. Kid step into the ring, had a black belt, right? Black belt kid, perfect respect, perfect eye contact, perfect focus, perfect form discipline – everything. First place trophy. I looked over 10 minutes later, that same kid had his black belt tied around his head and he was kicking and punching his friend. So does he really possess those life skills, or was he simply dancing for the prize? I believe he was simply dancing for the prize and that's the problem in our culture as a whole. I want people to love to learn, not appear smart. I believe if you love to learn, you're learning, you will be smart.

But they put the cart before the horse, it's the same thing here. They say yes to your face, and then they turn their back and they're dropping the F-bomb. Or on the flipside, in our industry you've got leaders dropping the F bomb left and right.And I think it’s just so backward now. And of course we have the election coming up and we know we've got Trump on one side, who has no problem saying anything about anyone.

I think that's wrong, I just think it's wrong. I think we as the leaders need to teach. Going back several years before that, I really decided I wanted to develop a life skill system that was more organic. People say, what do you mean by that? You're from San Francisco, OK, I get it, you're organic. No, no, no – what I meant by that is, where people learn a life skill like focus, they practice a life skill, like focus. Then it becomes a habit through that practice, and it becomes part of their nature. So instead of saying, you have to do these 10 things to get a focus badge, we look for signs by planting seeds, by creating opportunities, environments, exercises where people organically are experiencing focus, not just simply learning it.

It’s like when you took a history class, remember that? Memorize a bunch of useless information, got a great grade in the class and as soon as that history class was over, we forgot all of it. It had zero impact on our life, zero. And I recognize that too,  I watched all the students doing these pages and pages of these life skill systems that are out there, and I'm going, it’s much like as a fighter: when I step into the ring, I used three or four techniques. So I had to learn discipline.

If I can't write a match in one short page, I better go back and rewrite it again. I'm either being very repetitive, I'm adding a bunch of fodder that's useless, so I had that discipline. Every document at the student-parent handout, which we give to the parents to utilize, but we don't tell them what they have to do: we simply say, read this.

Apply it to the dynamics in your house and you choose how they earn this badge at home. So again, holding the parent accountable, involving the community – all those different elements. And it is a little, as we say, kum ba yah, cause people, I want them to become critical thinkers, not sheep. No, tell me the 10 things I must do to get this… No, no, no, no, no, no – you tell me the 10 things you want your student to do to get that focus badge.

GEORGE: Excellent.

BRANNON: See, we live in this instant gratification, quick fix society where people want it all done for them. I think that what's lacking, because now again – I'm going to date myself George. I grew up when there were no computers, right? There was none of that. Nowadays, if I don't know something, I just Google it. Look at a video on Youtube. So that critical thinking is being bred out of people methodically, because of technology. And there needs to be that balance, where we're critically thinking through every challenge that we have. Because at the end of that critical thinking and solving a challenge you might have in your life, is self-esteem, is self-confidence, is a self-worth you feel from figuring something out. So one merit badges basically assimilate those different philosophies.

GEORGE: Great. What I like about it is it’s covering all modalities: it’s kinesthetic , so it’s physical because the kids are earning it and they’re working for it. Then it’s verbal, they get it from their instructor, well done, you get the focus badge. it’s visual, audio, and kinesthetic . I remember my son, his last martial arts gi was kind of unbalanced because he had all these badges on the one side. But the pride that the kids feel when they earn that, and they really earn it because they put the hard work into it to get it, and they wear it with pride, definitely.

BRANNON: Well, that's why it’s called a badge. It's not a patch, it’s like a badge of honor, they're earning this. And that's the key thing that you picked up right away as a parent George: sitting there in the audience, watching your child in the martial arts school, is that they learn to earn things. Because we are earning our whole life. We're earning our personal self-respect, we're earning our wages, we're earning for building a business, we're earning the respect of our team – we're constantly learning things. And I think the quick fix, give your kid everything, where they believe they're entitled, is a huge mistake and a huge injustice that we're giving our children. They should learn to earn things, that is very crucial to their development. I believe that.

GEORGE: I had a conversation about this a few days ago, that I think we're going to see the repercussions of this way of teaching. Everybody gets a reward, everybody gets participation awards, nobody has to earn anything – and I hate to be negative, I'm certain there's going to be some repercussions in the next few decades of this whole lack of education and getting people to earn what they learn basically.

BRANNON: Well yes, because they believe they're entitled. With minimal effort, they have this misconception that they're great at something when they're not. It started that way here, you see 3-4 years old, my son was playing baseball – they never kept score, everybody got the same trophy and everybody got on base. And I went, what? That doesn't make any sense to me whatsoever because you know what? Some people win, some people lose. There is first place, there is second-place, there is third – that's life. And if you can't handle disappointment or process disappointment – I do some of my best learning lying flat on my face George. Flat on my face! I don't learn to be comfortable and complacent: I learn when things are challenging, I learn when life asks me to step up and swing that bat when there's nothing left.

That's a huge difference. We're already witnessing it, we had it here a while back, where a young man who is very pretty well off at one of the colleges, wanted to date a certain ethnicity of women and the girls wouldn't date him. So he was so bummed out, he killed his three roommates, went over to the sorority house, killed a couple of them, then drove his $70,000 Beamer to a downtown area hitting people till he shot himself. Because he simply couldn't handle the disappointment and the rejection that came with that.

Rejection is necessary for life. We need to learn to process rejection, disappointment, failure – that's just part of life. And if you can embrace it and learn to embrace it as a positive and make it work for you, that's very important. I've had parents come up to me, I really think my child should have earned a badge. They didn't earn a badge in class, and that kid has. I hear you there ma'am: here you go. Here's a student-parent handout, I will give you the badge and you can choose how you want them to earn it. And then they go, wow – OK. And then they're even tougher on their kid then we were in class.

So I think that it's just an awakening and I agree with you George, we need to awaken people to that. Children simply mimic what we teach them and that's the truth. Of course, they have their own individuality, their own expression, but when the day is done, we as educators must recognize. If I take a seed and I stick it in the dark and I never water it and leave it on a paper towel, it will not grow. I give it fertile soil and fertilizers, and good water and I play Mozart to it, and I stick it in the sunlight every day, it's got a better chance of growing strong, right?

GEORGE: Definitely.

BRANNON: So yeah, I'm very passionate about that as you can hear. Cause I have children myself, right now, I have a five and a seven-year-old. And I see that. And my children learn things and they do have more than I ever had growing up as a child, but they will never walk around as if they're entitled. I'll be the first one to check them on that.

GEORGE: Excellent. Brannon, just a  few more questions, I want to touch on the TED talk and how that came about. And for the people that aren't familiar with TED, how would you describe TED?

BRANNON: I think TED is a very unique culture. Their demands are very high, very stringent. I speak all over the world, I teach all over the world – haven't been to Australia yet, but I know they're going to bring me out there soon. It'd be a great thing to go to Australia. It really is, TED is a movement, TED is a culture and it's about critical thinking. And it could be a highschool kid, it could be a philosophy professor, to a scientist, to a fireman – anybody that's a critical thinker that's trying to make a difference, trying to impact the world – TED will definitely look at you.

So I submitted a tape, I submitted my philosophy, who I am to TED. And a local TED event contacted me. And I've never had to do this: I had to submit a full written 18-minute speech what I was going to present on. They countered it, crossed it out, edited a bunch of stuff. I had to go to a rehearsal, two rehearsals, and a dress rehearsal – it was intense. But it taught me to be a better speaker, it tested my conviction on what I believe and mine was being happy on purpose.

And I spoke about happiness as a choice and what it takes to facilitate that choice of wanting to be happy. Because we live in a very cynical, negative world and I think it takes a lot to be happy. When you are happy, people want to pull you down and there's negativity, so it's really about what it takes to be happy, so it was called happy on purpose. And it's out there, I think they pulled it down because I wasn't happy with the edits. It was shot very poorly, it needed work. I had one of my people clean it up as much as possible, it will be back up at the TED site soon enough I believe.

GEORGE: Ok, well as soon as it’s up, we will link to that here in the show notes, or actually include it in the post right below here. Brannon, thank you very much for your time. There's a lot of points that you hit that I can hear you're so passionate about. I’m not fond of asking this question, but I have to ask it to you: is there anything that you'd like to share that I didn't ask you and that I didn't lead into?

BRANNON: I think we're at real crossroads in the martial arts industry. I think people believe they have to suffer for their art, and if they're in any shape, way or form profitable, they feel guilty, almost ashamed of it and I think that needs to change. I think we, as true martial artists, need to take back our industry from these salesmen. We need to take it back from these consultants, that every slick oil salesman that's trying to sell you, I’ll get you 1000 students in six months – all that needs to be done away with. I think we need to become a culture based business that's rooted deeply in service and values – and we need to be clear about our purpose and responsibly and transparently market to people and believe in our product at the highest level.

I used the Disneyland experience: you don't walk into Disneyland and they make you sign a contract to pay for next year. You walk into Disneyland, you go for that one day, they create a memorable experience and guess what: you come back again and again. And people do that from decade to decade, from the time they were a child until they become an old person. And I think it's really, really important.

We're at a crossroads and I see people are just throwing up their hands in desperation, they're giving their last penny to these guys. And I'm a consultant, so I know I'm shooting myself in the foot with this, but you really need to know who you are. You really need to spend that time. Go on a walkabout as you say there. Go on a walkabout and really understand why you're here in this world, what your purpose is. Because once you can truly understand that and your vision is clear, guess what? The law of attraction.

The right mentors will come to you. You will see them, they will gravitate. And those type of unities will happen. It needs to happen, cause I'm feeling it here. I feel like it's the dark side against the Jedi knights. And we're fighting, because people are desperate, they're giving up and they're just falling in line with the fitness industry and their marketing practices and I don't think we should be doing that. I think it's short-term, it's shortsighted and long-term, we're going to end up hurting our industry more by doing that.

GEORGE: I love it! Brannon, thank you so much. If anybody wants to get in touch for you, where’s the best place to get in touch with you?

BRANNON: Oh yeah, of course. At several places, you'll find me on Facebook as Brannon Beliso, you'll find me at Instagram, Pinterest. You'll find me on Snapchat as well. But you can go to, all my services are there as well. You can go to my Youtube channel, there're tons of motivational videos, I post tons of free content. People call me the robin hood of the industry because I'm out there.

Also, what people are actually telling me is, don't post so much, you're hurting us. You're posting too much free content, how are we supposed to sell any of this? Well, I think you can only keep what you have by giving it away. And when the day is done, if I can make a huge difference – so be it. But my services themselves, my online videos you can purchase, different things like that are at, and you'll find me on every social media outlet.

GEORGE: Excellent, thank you very much for your time, Brannon.

BRANNON: Thank you, sir, thank you, George, for having me. All the people there in Australia – thank you for supporting one merit badges, thank you for supporting my vision. I know I see a lot of you at the super show and the different places I speak. I know that we're kicking around the idea of me coming to Australia: don't let that one go, I would love to come out there and share this and give it a new sense of hope and possibilities of what we can do as true martial artists, who are a great businessman and be externally profitable. So thank you George.

GEORGE: Thank you very much.

And there you have it – thank you very much for listening. So: how did you like the interview? Did you get value from it? Is there something that stood out for you? How do you feel about Brannon's philosophy and perspective of delivering service and everything else that he discussed? Please let us know, head over to and leave us a comment below the show notes and transcriptions.

Thanks again for tuning in – I’ll catch you next week. Cheers.


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8 – Sean Allen: The Importance Of Martial Arts In Physical Education

A business to match your lifestyle while teaching the importance of martial arts in physical education? Meet Sean Allen.


  • How to structure your business to match your lifestyle
  • Life lessons from martial arts that go beyond self-defence
  • Why only having a great curriculum is not good enough
  • When it's ok to ‘sell your martial arts baby'
  • How martial arts help kids think creatively under pressure
  • Using martial arts as the vehicle of values and education
  • And more

*Need help growing your martial arts school? Learn More Here.


What I've done is, I've completely changed my martial arts curriculum to answer today's problems. And it might not defending yourself against a right-hand punch in the face.

GEORGE: Hi, this is George Fourie from and welcome to Martial Arts Media podcast, episode number 8. Today's exciting guest I have for you is Sean Allen.

Now, with this story I wanted to go full circle, because if you remember my first episode, my first three actually, the first interview with Graham and Phil from the WA Institute of martial arts, which was split over three episodes, you might have picked up that they actually purchased the school at that point from their initial instructor, and that instructor was Sean Allen. And although Sean grew the business to about 5 or 600 students at that point in time, before he sold it off, that's not what success means for Sean.

And I found it fascinating that much like myself, Sean has based his entire life around building a business that suits his lifestyle and not the other way around. And Sean is truly living a successful life for himself, he's moved down south, here in Western Australia, down south being Margaret  River area, with just amazing surf spots, where he gets to surf every day and teach a  very small, niche group of people, but really where he gets to express his personal values and teach kids the life lessons and skills to deal with problems and life situations through his martial arts, and through his martial arts classes.

You can find all the show notes on and all the transcriptions are available from this interview. If you get any value out of this episode or any of the others, please head over to iTunes, you can find the link below this episode. Head over there and just leave us a review. Five-star reviews help us get up in the rankings, but an honest review is much appreciated. With that, I want to leave you, and I’d like to welcome to the show Sean Allen.

GEORGE: Good day everyone, today I have with me, Sean Allen. Now, honestly, I don't know Sean Allen too well, but I've heard his name around the industry for quite a while. Now, my podcast started out initially interviewing Graham and Phil from the WA Institute of Martial Arts. And if you've picked up on that story, before it was the WA Institute of martial arts, the pretty much purchased the school. And the original owner was Sean Allen.

So I wanted to go full story and go back and interview Sean, because when I use to train at WAIMA, Sean Allen's name popped up a lot, and it was always these one liner words of wisdom that came from Sean Allen, and I never knew who Sean Allen was. Now, other than the start of WAIMA, before it was WAIMA, I'm going to get into that story, Sean Allen has vast experience in martial arts and has now moved over to Margaret  River, where he's living the lifestyle. I always see his surf pictures and things pop up on Facebook. I want just to introduce Sean and get him of course to share his full story. So, welcome to the show, Sean.

SEAN: George, thank you very much, much appreciate your interest in my side of the world and me of course.

GEORGE: Awesome! So, let’s start right at the beginning, with you as such. So, who is Sean Allen?

SEAN: Well, 35 years of martial arts, I'm 54 years of age at the moment – actually, it’s a bit over 35 years of martial arts. I started as a teenager, for the usual reasons. Just before us starting to talk for the interview, I said that, as everybody does, I've evolved and changed in my 50s, and I'm a vastly different beast than the one that I was when I was training and teaching in the early days when I first started as an instructor.

And I suppose we can go back to the original reasons I started training in martial arts, which probably wasn't that much different to most other people. But it depends on where you want to start, whether you want to start why I first started training in martial arts or where I am at the moment – which year should I start at?

GEORGE: If you don't mind sharing the beginning or what were your reasons for starting martial arts?

SEAN: As a young kid, I was bullied. I haven't got the monopoly on being bullied, I moved around a fair bit as a young man with my father moving up his corporate ladder and moving the family to different opportunities that he had, and I changed schools eight times. So I was always the relatively new kid, which left me feeling a little bit insecure, as it would with anybody. Later on, that was an advantage, because it means that I could adapt to new situations quite easily, but I was picked on, bullied, beaten, hit, purely for the fun and enjoyment of other groups of people.

So, when I was in school, I thought, this is crazy, I've got to learn how to defend myself because I've never been a violent character. I've never been one of those guys that like to fight. So it was a real challenge for me to be able to step into a martial arts academy. I tried Taekwondo  for a while, I've tried karate for a while, I've tried a judo class here and there, and I sort of stuck with bits and pieces.

And it wasn't until I had just become a legal age to be able to go into a drinking establishment and I saw my original instructor walking out and there was a large group of guys encircling a car and – geez, this just goes way back! And my original instructor, Rod Stroud, was not a big man. He wasn't tall, but quite a strong person. And he went out and told these guys, it was 15 or 16 guys, to clear off. 

A few of them fronted up to him and he made short work of them. And I just remember him being in the middle of a big circle and everybody being scared to go near this guy. And I remember thinking, holy crap – who is that? And I was standing at a safe distance about 50 meters away, and a guy next to me said, that's my instructor, he trains at – and he told me where and when they trained. That was on a  Sunday – I was there on Monday and continued to train. I brought two friends, they dropped out, I continued on after that.

And it was always, for me, a series of consecutive challenges. It was a challenge to turn up to training in those days because the content was plentiful. These guys weren't placid martial artists in any way, shape or form. They were violent men who worked in security, who had a string of assault charges on them constantly. So, knowing that and me being a surfy boy, who was a bit of a pacifist, it was a challenge for me to just turn up for training.

But then, lo and behold, the next year I kept training, and I grew 6 inches, so I became 6 foot 1, and I could start to get a bit more control over what happened to me. And that became a series of challenges that I kept focusing on for the rest of my life, especially the rest of my youthful training life. Full contact kickboxing, whatever was going to challenge me and scare me, that's what I would focus on. If something was easy, I lost interest on it. So the martial arts was always that focus and challenge for me and challenging myself.

GEORGE: Ok, it’s interesting you mention how these events, and it’s always easy when you look back at these events in your life that seem as if you had a disadvantage, you moving around and moving around. But then there's always a hidden benefit that you're going to discover later like you said, it was easier for you to adapt to situations because you kept on moving around. So you mentioned challenges: what were the challenges you were struggling with, just to get to training and so forth?

14199200_10153916008768511_482799919776758480_nSEAN: In those days, the intimidation factor in training was reasonably high. I just posted a picture of my instructor standing next to Bob Jones, with their shirts off in the 80s when I was training with my instructor. And there was just a string of comments like, omg, who would ever step foot into a room with those men? People who were there in those days go, I remember the fear of training with them. And these people that were commenting and saying I remember the fear – these guys are Australian title holders in kickboxing. They're national, international champions, in their own field, in full contact – Thai boxing or kickboxing.

So these guys are not just your general mainstream Joe off the street – these are highly accomplished fighters, who admit to being scared when they trained with these two men. So, for me being a pacifist and being not a natural fighter, it was hard for me to just wander into training. And it’s only now, in the fullness of my fifties, that I can say – yeah, I was scared! But to me, that was the challenge that I wanted to overcome, I didn't want to be scared.

I remember, at school, being scared of people challenging me to fight, purely because I didn't know what to do. So, by confronting that fear, funnily enough, it extinguished. And within about five years, I was fighting full contact, I had state titles. Most of my friends started teaching earlier than me. I just wanted to work in the security field as a doorman. I wanted to fight full contact, I wanted to continue to focus on getting control over my emotions in serious situations, and not teaching because I didn't feel that I was qualified to teach yet.

GEORGE: Ok, so how did the journey of teaching then come around? And I'm going to get back to that, because there's obviously a vast difference from what you described now, with the whole intimidation factor. I could be wrong, but it’s something that I haven't really seen in other places today.

SEAN: Yep.

GEORGE: So we can get back to that, but how did your journey then evolve into teaching from there?

SEAN: You know, it’s funny because of just this week, I was standing in front of 20 kids, we're doing a martial arts class, and one of the kids said, why did you start teaching? And it stunned me, because I thought, first of all, I couldn't remember, cause when you're in your fifties, it’s hard to remember where I put my keys, let alone what my original motivation was.

So I had to think about it and I remember thinking, when I first started training, I enjoyed the training so much, I wanted to find a way to be able to continue to train more. And I started training and then, especially when I started focusing on a full-time martial arts club, I wanted to be free to train during the day, so I wanted to be able to run the martial  arts school at night, so I could train and surf and do all the things I enjoyed during the day. So, my initial motivation for getting involved in teaching was more of a perception of a lifestyle than wanting to help people.

I know that sounds selfish, but I've got, to be honest – I wanted to be able to train other people and create strong black belts and all that stuff, but I wanted to be able to train my way. And that was my initial motivation. It just so happened that I was studying to be and was a school teacher in those days, so my method of articulating a technique out the front or just being able to control a group of people was one that I’d learned at university, not one that I just sort of fell into and had to work out along the way – I was professionally trained to be teacher.

GEORGE: OK. All right, so – how did the progression go then from that point? You started teaching, where did you go, how did the whole ownership of your first school come about?

SEAN: I was reading self-help books and positive thinking books in the 80s. I was also buying cassette tapes and listening to those in my car or whatever it might have been in those days and I remember it one time, they said, they were talking about creating your own future, creating your own lifestyle, to just going to work for someone else and jamming in what you'd like to do on the weekends. They said, in this particular program, they said – write down your perfect day, write down your perfect week, write down your perfect month.

So I wrote down my perfect day, what if I would have taught martial arts during the night time, and during the day, I would be free to do what I wanted to do? Because in those days, I had a boxing trainer, I had a Thai boxing trainer, I was still fighting full contact, I was doing a whole range of things. So I thought – what fits in with my perfect day? Don't think about what I'm doing now, think about what fits in with my perfect day. And running a martial arts school did.

So, therefore, I had to work out, well, I've got to be able to create the same income from running a martial arts school that I am as a school teacher. Because if I'm making $80,000 as a school teacher, and I can only make $50,000 as a martial arts instructor, my opportunity cost is $30,000. It’s costing me $30,000 to be a martial arts instructor. So, as you can see, I researched the economics of running a martial arts school to fuel my perfect day and my perfect life, how I wanted to run my life. Most people do it in reverse.

GEORGE: Interesting. And I don't think it’s selfish at all, because that's what I'm doing right here, it’s a lifestyle by design. I've structured my business around the way I’d like to live and it’s fascinating that that's how you actually started your whole planning. And really strategically planning it out, that this is how it’s going to match your lifestyle by design, as such.

So what were the next steps to follow? So you had this plan in place, that this was going to fund your lifestyle in a perfect way, that you're able to surf and do all your things and still have your passion for martial arts grow and evolve. What were your first steps to open a school and get that started?

SEAN: I've had 8 different locations for martial arts schools. Seven or eight, something like that. Well, now it will be nine with River included, but my first locations were part time locations, shoestring budget, leaving pamphlets in letterboxes, got my first few students, just started to get it going.

Interestingly enough, the information that was around in those days for running a professional school – this is before the internet: all you were left with is a couple of international magazines and I bought online, well, not online, I bought via mail and paid for a book to come to me on how to run a martial arts school, and this is archaic stuff!

And basically, in those days, I just got started with teaching and was trying to read everything I can on martial arts school. Because there was only like a handful of martial arts schools in Australia that were running professionally. And even then, you'd find that the guys might have had a day job or were supplementing their income in other ways. So I really had no other schools to look at that I could say, I want to model my school on that. So I just gradually learned by trial and error.

For example, a student of mine, I bumped into him in the shops, and I remember thinking about this recently, I'm amazed at how simple this was and people these days who run a school would think, it’s a little bit archaic for Sean to learn it this way. This guy said he joined another school. And I said, wow, OK, how's it going? And he said, Sean, the type of training is inferior to the type of training that you do, but on the walls are all the requirements for the belts, so we know where we're at and we know what's in front of us. He said it’s a little bit unclear as to what we're expected to do in the future to get better with you.

And I remember it hitting me like a bolt – that's so obvious. But in those days, none of us used to do that, because we'd come in, we'd rent a hall, and then we'd move out and someone else would come into the hall. And rented after us, so you couldn't put stuff on the walls or windows or whatever. So I started doing things like that, I started letting my students know, and I'm talking probably 1989, I started letting my students know, this is what you have to do for your next level. This is the reason why and you have to practice this and we're going to help you.

And I started to be able to do that and the school grew. And then one of my higher ranks quit and one of my other higher ranks saw him out somewhere and said, how come you're not training anymore? And he said, I'll tell you the truth, there was nothing wrong with Sean, he said it was just that I'm sick of learning white belt stuff all the time. So I split the classes up, cause it was all belts in one class. And I had so many people beginning all the time that I just couldn't focus on the advanced people and the beginners.

So that was the start of splitting classes, the start of a rotating curriculum, that was a start of requirements. So, unfortunately, it was a school of hard knocks in those days. You learn when things went wrong and you really had to sit down and think and take it personally: he quit because I couldn't take care of him. So it went from 10 or 15 students, I changed locations, because my then the current location was taken over by the state emergency services, it became an office budding. I moved to another location, which had a cheap rental agreement, but it was in the wrong demographic, it was in a Mount Lawley, which is a retirement area practically.

So I just couldn't work out why the phone wasn't ringing. So I closed that down and got a map of the northern suburbs of Perth, our city. And put markers, dots wherever all the high schools were. And then I put a different color marker where all the primary schools were, and looked at the spread of dots, and just looked straight in the middle there for a location. Found a location, started training – lo and behold, the phone starts ringing like crazy. I outgrew that, moved into Canham Way, just down the road from where you're training with WAIMA. Outgrew that and then moved into a big center. Outgrew that, and moved into the combined buildings next door, and the rest was history.

GEORGE: There's a lot of growth spurts there, what do you account to that? You mention the structure and people knowing exactly where they're going, but what was the cause of getting the word out and getting people to reach out to you that the school grew so much?

SEAN: Two things: number one, in those days, you would put an advertisement, an ad in the paper. I remember, I put an ad in the paper and I would hear, I don't know if your listeners will remember the old pager system? Before mobile phones, we had pagers. And it was like a little button with beep on a little machine and it would be a message to say, John Smith called, please call me back on such and such, interested in martial arts. So I remember, I would get 60 inquiries in a night in those days!


SEAN: And I remember at one stage, I had 30 people coming to watch a  class. So it was 30 in a  class and 30 people watching. So it was a case of number one, you were fishing by yourself in a River full of fish, with hardly anybody else fishing, and they were just jumping onto the hook. The unfortunate thing was that the systems were a week. My ability to be able to retain a student was a week, so I had a lot of student loss in those days. But because I trained so hard, I was reasonably articulate at the front of the group of people. I actually had a linear growth pattern with my schools.

A lot of guys, they might have been great at marketing, but I grew nine students a month for about three or four years. And when I say growth, I might join 15, lose 6, which is 9. But I gradually grew, I grew nine students a month, until I had about 500 students, which was unheard of in those days. And it was also my ability to be able to change the system that I was training under, and having the courage to be able to go – I'm not going to do that and I'm not going to do that because I don't think it’s a good idea. If I'm going to lose members, I'm not going to sacrifice quality, but I'm not going to do something just because it was done in the past.

So it was that, the courage aspect to be able to front up to my instructor and say – look, I'm running a school, I want to do it properly. And he'd say, great Sean, and I’d say, I don't think I should do that, that, that and that, which was relatively unheard of in those days. And luckily, he supported me and didn't beat the living daylights out of me.

GEORGE: It sounds like you picked a great location, you had a rush of people – obviously there was a lot of word of mouth because people wouldn't just naturally be attracted to your location as well. So, with all this happening and you say you pretty much had to scramble to get things in place to retain the business – what were the systems you put in place first up, to structure the business, to maintain all that flow?

SEAN: First of all, for me personally, when I was teaching all the classes, initially I was teaching 7, 8, 9 10 classes a week. Again, it was trial and error. First of all, I had to identify what the requirements were and make them visible for all the students. Then I had to work at how I was going to train people of a variety of different levels. You would have, obviously white belts, people who've done a year, people who've done 5 years, so you've got to think, how do I split the classes up?

And I remember one of the first things I did, I mean, I tried a lot of things – I would get all my black belts, and I would say, right – can I get you to take all the people that joined in, for instance, what is it now, September? So let’s make it August. All these people who have joined in August: I want you to take them through and teach them all the white belt curriculum through to their first belt – go.

And he would take them and there might be around 15 people in his group – I've still got all this paperwork funnily enough, in my archives somewhere. And he would have to identify who they were, he'd have to know their name when they've trained. They would have specific times with him, and as  I'm joining people in September, I’d have a separate black belt take those people on. And then as the first guy from August started to train those people, I’d be watching him. He would then graduate those people, we'd have a graduation night, and he would dump them into my class.

And then he would be free to take on the next month of people, say in October. So I tried that for a while. I then had one instructor training all white belts, no matter when they joined. So I was constantly changing things around to work out what worked the best. A mistake I made in those days was, I had an instructor in  a room next to me teaching, and I was teaching the advanced grades, and I realized that through word of mouth, he wasn't following the curriculum.

So in retrospect, I should have had someone taking the bulk of the students, someone taking the beginners and me floating between the two groups. So it really was a trial and error thing in those days. And I'm talking early 90's when the school had probably around 100 to 150 members.

GEORGE: You're talking about this curriculum stuff in the past – this is a conversation I had recently with a jiu-jitsu instructor, about the whole structure thing. And I'm a novice, but when I've trained traditional Zen Do Kai and that type of martial arts, there was always the structure. You could see what was going, what you need to do. And it kept you on track. And then, I started training jiu-jitsu and it was sort of, you get thrown in and there's no clear definition of what you're doing.

You just know – OK, you're training jiu-jitsu. For something like jiu-jitsu, and I know that a lot of Muay Thai clubs do that as well, that it’s just, there's no real structure of training: what advice would you give someone that has that type of style, that they can put things in place and sort of create this curriculum style that people know where they're going?

SEAN: Ok, well, first and foremost is, most schools might have a curriculum and requirements and what have you, but they're successful because of the personality of the person at the front. They're not successful because they teach Arnis, Muay Thai, Brazilian jiu-jitsu, or whatever, even though Thai boxing and Brazilian jiu-jitsu and MMA are the buzzwords today. So, yeah, if I taught some weird system of martial arts, it would be harder to make a viable business out of it. But having a good curriculum is only part of it.

If you've got a good curriculum, but you're boring at the front, you're going to struggle to be able to retain students, because in this day and age, the way we can access things on the internet, people want edutainment. They want education and entertainment at the same time. They want edutainment, so therefore, if you're an instructor, you need to be able to obviously show students what you're teaching and where that's going to lead to, but you have to ensure that they're being entertained at the same time.

I don't mean entertained like they're laughing, but you need to give them a buzz in their training. You need to give them a buzz out of handling frustrations successfully, because in the 80s, to create a large body of students, they made it easy. And then you ended up with weaker long-term students, whereas the reason the MMA is so powerful these days is because you can't survive as a weakling. You either quit or you blossom and you toughen up.

So going back to your question, my focus for one of those instructors would be to create a visible pathway that you are taking your students through. The instructor knows what they're doing, for instance in Brazilian jiu-jitsu to get from white to blue. But they have to make the student understand that pathway and understand how they're going to get them there. That's something that we never did before, you just don't question your instructor, and say why are we doing this? That was just unheard of. Usually, it was met with violence or expulsion from the school.

GEORGE: Ok, great. So what made you, not knowing the exact history, what made you sell or leave your Greenwood location?

SEAN: A succession plan for any business owner is important, and also taking yourself out of the picture, so that I wanted to be able to ensure that the business would continue to run and continue to service the 400 or 500 members, and it floated between 400 or 500 for probably a couple of decades, maybe a decade. And when I sold it, it was about the 400 mark. And I effectively, not entirely, but I removed myself from the situation and I wanted to be able to have a system that still created solid students, even if I wasn't the one teaching all the time.

So the decision to move out of the spotlight was a variety of things. I knew that I wanted to embrace a new direction in my life and I think that you can't move in a new direction in your life in any area of life unless you completely let go of an old direction. It’s a bit like, you can't see what's on the horizon without setting sail and  leaving the safety of the port, you might say. So that was my motivation because I've always had an ability to be able to change my mind and go that way if I feel I want to pivot.

So, when I was about, what am I now, 54 – about ten years ago, when I was 44, I realized that my direction was changing. I had a faltering marriage and the Grahams and the Phils in my club supported me in that, which I'm forever grateful for.

And I was really going through something that we all go through, not a midlife crisis, but just a questioning period – who am I, what am I doing? What's my contribution to the world? Is it just martial arts? How am I contributing to my own life and my world around me? So I realized I needed some time off. At the same time, I had two kids in high school and I realized I was missing their growth. So, for example, when I did sell the school, my focus was to get back in touch with them.

So I spent basically two years, not being  a full-time dad, but traveling with the kids and sort of concentrating  on getting myself together after nearly 20 years of total focus on the business. Yes, I was burned out, but I need to be able to find someone who could carry the mantel of business because I'm  not the sort of person who can just  close a business down and walk away.

I'm mentally and emotionally traumatized  every time someone quits my martial arts school, even when I had 400, I would still be traumatized  when someone says I want to quit. I’d take it personally. So knowing that I had to create a system of strength that could carry on after me. I looked at franchising, partial ownership, the whole lot, but I thought, no, I want to step away completely.

GEORGE: We touched on this a bit earlier – how have you evolved then? You mentioned that you had this whole change and real questioning of who are you and what you want in life. And now you've moved out of Perth, you've opened a new martial arts school: how have things changed for you?

SEAN: Well, one of the things was, one of my kids was questioning – I've got two kids, and one of the kids was questioning and saying, we won't see you as much if you move to Margaret River. And I said, look, I'm only 3 hours away, but how can I teach you – I'm your dad, I'm supposed to show you the way in life: how can I teach you to chase your goals in life if I don't chase mine?

So that was the reason for me going, OK, rather than me spending a month a year living in an idyllic location, and 11 months of the year working so that I can do that, why don't I just live in an idyllic location? So we looked all over the world for places to live, we looked at the fact that myself and my wife have both got kids: I've got two kids, she's got triplets. So we have 5 kids between us, we wanted to stay accessible to them, so we had to make it within two or three hours drive away from Perth.

And then we just got the map out and said, where do we want to live? Not where do we live now: where do we want to live? Which goes right back to our original conversation: what kind of a day do I want to lead? What would be a perfect lifestyle for me? Not how much money do I want to earn, or what kind of house do I want to live in. It’s what kind of activities in enrich me on the inside most?

So I tended to that first, and funnily enough, I'm a better teacher now, I'm a better martial arts instructor, I'm a better dad, I'm a better partner because I've taken care of myself first. So when I focus on my wife or my kids or my parents, I'm totally focused on them, because I'm coming from a strong, calm foundation of – I'm living the life I want to.

So that was the reason for the move, the departure from the big martial arts school. Everyone used to say, how can you sell your baby? And it's like, well – it’s not me. It’s something that I've created and it will evolve with the next owners too, which it has. And now I need to move in a different direction. I had to really investigate what matters to me most in the world, what do I think is wrong with the world, what do I think is my message to the next generation, and that's the basic message I have. I just happen to do it via the vehicle of martial arts training.

GEORGE: That's awesome. Sean, it’s been great chatting with you! Is there anything I missed, any questions that I didn't ask that I should have?

14333207_10153944234108511_5067751564843855344_nSEAN: Look, the thing I totally focus on now is, in the martial arts industry, there is a lot of who's got more students, whose got a bigger location, whose students are the best, whose students have more titles, which instructor is toughest. And at the end of the day, with the challenges that we are facing globally and nationally, who fights better than another person is of minimal interest to me and really to everybody.

It’s the things that are challenging us globally and nationally, which is what we should be focusing on. So I've looked at the things that matter to me, things like climate change, things like religious intolerance, things like crime and drugs and what have you, and I thought, right: these are the things, which are important. These are the things that are really going to threaten the lives of my kids in the next decade, let alone by 2050.

14054138_10153872490968511_9104346470015392360_nSo I thought if I can identify the types of things that, for example, kids need to be armed with to be able to be successful and happy in their life. Sure it’s an ability to be able to defend themselves, but that's not of primary importance, kids these days, adults for that matter too, but kids these days need to know how to think creatively. They need to be able to make up solutions to problems where there is not an obvious solution. And martial arts can do that.

Martial arts, it’s up to the martial arts instructor to go, look: I've taught you defenses number 1, 2 and 3: they're not gonna work. You've got to work out how do you blend 2 and 3 together. You've got to work it out, I'm not going to save you. I mean, I save my little kids occasionally by going stop, start again, you're crying, whatever it might be. But quite often, after six months of training, they're stuck underneath someone in Brazilian jiu-jitsu or whatever it is – I'm not your mom. I'm not going to save you, you've got to work it out.

13692905_10153789969843511_7822940420007814257_oPerson on top – stay on top, come on, you can do it. I'm there barracking for you, but I and your mom or dad are not going to save you. And it’s that, I suppose tough love, but it’s that making people comfortable with the struggle and getting to think outside the box, even when it’s uncomfortable, that's a life lesson. And that's something that should be articulated by every instructor. Who cares who can punch the hardest? It’s can you handle the difficulties in life and can you come up with answers.

I mean, what is it: 40% of the jobs in today's market won't be in existence when the kids today leave school. And what's that, by 2020 or whatever it is – 40% of the jobs won't even exist! So we don't even know what the future's going to look like. We have to teach our young people, and adults for that matter, to think creatively under pressure. That's what martial arts can do, very well. As you can see, I'm passionate about that. When I talk about the history, it’s like, ok, I'll tell you what happened years ago – today's different. And that's what I've done, I've completely changed my martial arts curriculum to answer today's problems. And it might not necessarily be defending yourself against a right-hand punch in the face.

GEORGE: Wow, that was a great way to end things off. Thanks again for your time. If anybody wants to get in touch with you, I know you also do coaching, where can people get in touch with you?

SEAN: If they search Margaret  River Martial Arts, they search Sean Allen – I've got websites and what have you. Me, growing myself financially, that's sort of taken care of now: I'm more interested in seeing social change and change within the industry, so if anybody wants to contact me, they just search me and search my name and Margaret River martial arts. And just stay in touch with the types of things that I'm talking about because I'm researching the latest educational techniques for martial arts instructors.

For example, my martial arts system that I'm teaching now is a blend of the Montessori education system and traditional martial arts. So if someone wants to learn more about that, I've written articles about that. I’d rather see me turn the industry upside down so that it’s helping more people, rather than having more violence to an already violent society. I don't think we need people to be more violent: I think we need people to creatively think their way out of problems more.

GEORGE: Excellent. Sean, thanks again for your time, it’s been great chatting to you, I hope to chat with you soon.

SEAN: George – much appreciated, and thanks for asking me in the first place.

GEORGE: Thanks, Sean, cheers.

And there you have it. Thank you, Sean Allen. And as you could hear the last few minutes here, that is where Sean's real passion lies. Being able to teach people life skills through martial arts classes. Big takeaway I got from that is, what's success for you? Success doesn't mean numbers and big premises, but what is a success for you as a person and what are you doing to serve your life purpose through your passion for martial arts?

And he’s got a completely different process, the different system in place for a school. Very niche based, very small, and has a huge waiting list. Think about that, how you could apply something like that, although this is not a tactic for Sean, it happens because of his good service. But if you've only got small premises, think how you could differentiate yourself from all the other martial arts schools out there, by providing a better service, actually have a waiting list because you are in demand. And by that of course, when you have a niche service and have a better service, people are prepared to pay more for that.

So once again – show notes are at, the number 8. I have a few exciting guests coming up, I'm also working on an excellent training, online webinar training for martial arts school owners, about all the aspects of martial arts marketing methods, but more on that later. That's it for now, thanks again for tuning in and I hope to speak to you soon – see you next week, cheers.


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7 – The Smarter Way To Go About Martial Arts School Student Retention With Paul Veldman

Paul Veldman from Kando Martial Arts shares how to improve martial arts school student retention by spotting the ‘quitting signs'.


  • Knowing your demographic without being everything for everyone
  • Market for a season or a reason
  • Growing young confident students through Leadership Programs
  • Who your real competition is
  • The real reason why your students leave
  • The one thing you need before your martial arts business will flourish
  • And more

*Need help growing your martial arts school? Learn More Here.



Personal development is a big thing. And as you know, as most martial artist instructors know – the bigger you get, the less trouble you seem to get into.

GEORGE: Hey, it’s George Fourie from and welcome to the martial arts media podcast, episode number 7. Today, I chat to Paul Veldman from Kando Martial Arts. Another great chat, very inspirational. I’m getting a lot out of these podcasts. My focus is always to start with something martial arts related, but I see it evolving, with all the chats that I'm having and all these great martial artists and business owners that I'm speaking to. It always evolves to the deeper stuff behind the business, what makes the business work, the message behind it and so forth. And that's what you're going to discover in today's podcast as well, so more about that in a minute.

I have a few excellent interviews coming in the next couple of weeks, and I'm going to continue with this week by week, interviewing top martial artists, top martial arts top business owners, top business owners, top motivational people, coaches – you name it. Anything that relates to martial arts in a way and can help you build your martial arts business. From my side, I am preparing to do a series of martial arts podcast with a few live pieces of training, about different aspects of online marketing. How you can grow your business through online media. And the more I speak to martial arts business owners; I see there's a lot of confusion out there on what is the right thing to do, what they should be doing.

Some people that have gone down the journey spent a lot of money on somebody to do their SEO or something stupid. They forked out thousands of dollars and pretty much wasted their money and came away none the better. And I see there's a lot of distrust because of people out there that give advice; that shouldn't be giving advice. Old school methods and just taking a chance to provide real crappy services. It’s something that drives me nuts, but it’s unfortunately out there. And I can see the frustration that people have by going down these avenues and not doing the right things first, which is very, very costly.

So I'm going to embark on a bit of a journey and do a few live training. I've got a few things in mind that I want to teach that I know the essentials. If you've downloaded our martial arts business plan for online media, you will get an idea about what those essentials are, and I'm going to shift a few of those things around and elaborate on them. But I would like to know from you: what would you like to learn, what would you like to know about? Obviously, I'm not going to teach about anything that I'm not qualified to do.

If it’s something that is pressing, that everybody is requesting, I will get an expert to help with that. Or if not, I will do the research and make sure I do my homework before I offer any advice. But anything else that we talk about, that I talk about, I’ll make sure that it’s tried and tested, that it’s been done before, that's it’s not a thumb suck idea. I would like you to get in touch with me. My email – I'm going to say it on the show: george at martial arts media dot com. Very easy, george at martial arts media dot com. Email me directly, tell me what you would like to learn about, what you're struggling with, what your biggest obstacle is in your business now, and I would like to focus on that and give a few training.

So that's it for now, that's what's coming up in the next few weeks, but we still have a few interviews to go before we get to that point. Ok – show notes is at  Show notes; you can also download the transcript from there. And that's it for me for now; please welcome to the show – Paul Veldman.

GEORGE: Good day everyone, today I have with me Paul Veldman, all the way from Victoria. You're based in Melbourne, is that correct?

PAUL: Based in Melbourne, yes.

GEORGE: Based in Melbourne. And Paul is from Kando Martial Arts, and Paul has been in the industry a long time, and it’s funny enough, as I was researching for people I can interview, a lot of people said, “I've been mentored by Paul Veldman.” And that's kind of how I got knocking on Paul's door, and I thought I’d like to get him on the show and get him to share all his industry experience and knowledge with us. So welcome to the show, Paul.

PAUL: Thanks, George, good to be here.

GEORGE: Awesome! So, I guess to start right at the beginning, how did you get into martial arts and what's your background story?

PAUL: Martial arts training, I probably started when I was around 13 years old. And there was no real reason, I wasn't bullied, I had a nice stable house, a home. It was just something I thought I might like to do. Spoke to mom – mom said, you can do martial arts, and I’ll pay the fees, but you've got to find somewhere you can walk to, because I'm working, and these are the jobs you've got to do around the house to make up for your fees. So back then, 30 years ago, there was a judo club or a freestyle karate club in walking distance, that was the choice. So I went with freestyle karate, and I've been training ever since.

GEORGE: All right, awesome. You were also in the police force, weren't you?

PAUL: Yeah, and that was the tipping point as to why. So I trained as a kid in the freestyle karate, I went into traditional karate in the Shukokai stream. And training with my instructor, as we were all young and fit and having a great time and training two or three classes a day, a few days a week, then in conjunction with that, I was going to have a crack at our special operations group on the police force. And in training, I blew my knee up. So I had a full knee reconstruction, and I went from training five or six days a week with my instructor, training at my workplace, training at the gym, to answering phones in a room with no windows.

And as you can understand, it drove me crazy. So I went down to my sensei, and said, I am going nuts here, can I come and help out on the mats? And he said, yeah sure, come on down, help the kids classes. So there I am, in my knee brace, with my crutches, hobbling around. I got off the crutches, and he says to me one day, why don't you open up a club, there's a place down the road? And I went, oh yeah? How hard can it be to run a business in a martial arts club? So for the next ten years, we ran it very, very, very badly as far as the business side went. We taught what we knew. We didn't market; we didn't advertise, we didn't know anything of that.  I worked full time in the police force; I worked six days a week in the club.

We had a young family, and we went through burnout phases regularly. And then, maybe ten years ago now, the first martial arts SuperShow was running Queensland and the first martial arts business seminar I ever went to was with a local Roland Osborne. And the first thing he said to the class was, everybody will leave you in your school. Everybody who's in there now will leave you. They might leave in thirty years time when they've fallen off the perch, or they may turn and quit tomorrow.

So enjoy it, make the most of the time you have with them, but don't let it become personal when they go. And that resonated with me, cause I just lost one guy who was helping me out, and he got a promotion at work, and he left. So I was back to running the club by myself after eight years of running, and I was just in total burnout stage. And so it was then I realized – you know what, there's so much more to the industry than just learning to how to throw a punch or a kick. We might be black belts in what we're doing on the mats in whatever style we're doing it, but boy, we're a white belt or less in the administration, business owner things.

And so that's when we discovered, if we're going to do this, let’s do it properly. Let’s reach more people, let’s do it well. Let’s give people the same goals and career opportunities that we had. So we started getting some business mentoring, we started looking into the subscriptions around, which back in those days were very American, but it was the turning point, it was a real tipping point for us.

GEORGE: Ok. So two things I want to get back to the American vs. Australian systems, and how you adapted that. But going back: you said your first ten years, you guys sort of run it badly. What were the core mistakes that you were making at that time?

PAUL: I think, especially in the first couple of years, you try to be everything to everyone. We were a Shukokai karate base, but with what I was doing in the police force, we were just starting to blend some Brazilian jiu-jitsu, some Filipino martial arts. So you have somebody come in and say, do you guys do Cato, and we say, yeah absolutely, we do Cato, we're Shukokai. And you have someone else come in and say, I want to do sparring, but I am a bit scared, do you do it no contact? And we say we can do non-contact.

Next bloke comes in and goes; I want to get on the mats and punch on, and do full contact. And we go, we can do full contact. And you make a little note to yourself, looks like I'm sparring with this guy most of the time. So we didn't know what our demographic target was. We ran classes that we enjoyed, and to be honest, that's still the basis of our club today. I enjoy the traditional karate, the values, the strength, the style. I enjoy, although I'm not very good at it, the Brazilian jiu-jitsu. I enjoy the Filipino martial arts, so that's what our styles evolved into.

But we're a lot clearer now on who we want training with us. We don't want the knuckle-dragger who's going to come in and hurt people, who want a professional fighter because we can't cater to them. So identifying who our ideal customer was looking at who do I want to train with? Who's my perfect training buddy? And that evolved into, well – who's the best customer for what we offer?

And so when someone comes in, who's wants don't suit what we have, then we're really happy to recommend a couple of clubs nearby, there's a couple of really good mixed martial arts clubs, there's a couple of smaller clubs that are maybe a little bit cheaper than us and a bit less full time. And to be honest, I'm more than happy: as long as someone's training, I think that's great. If they're training with me, that's fantastic, but I would rather have someone not join me, and go to another martial arts club, than not train at all.

GEORGE: For sure. Ok, so that solved a lot of problems, when you defined exactly who that audience is that you can zone in with your market, and it’s something that comes up in the interview yesterday as well. So, moving on from that: you mentioned you learned from the American systems. I've worked in America for a long time, and I had a shell shock when I came to South Africa, and going to America, coming to Australia – I was adapting myself to those different styles. Now, you've mentioned that you've learned a lot from the American way of doing things: how did you take that and applied it to the Australian market, without becoming too Americanized as such?

PAUL: Our first package we joined up was a Mayer package. And what it gave us, it started giving us structure. It started to say – have a plan. Because I think I've run my club for nearly two years and nearly closed the doors, before I put the pamphlet out. You know, the old adage – if you build it, they will come – build it and they will come if they know about you! So we found with the American Marketing, one – it was all there was. There was nothing local back then. And so, it gave us a structure; it gave us things like marketing for a season or reason.

So when father's day came around, the father's day workout, New Years, Spring specials. And tying it with all that makes sense. Their senses might be opposite ours, so the package we're getting is no good for now, but it gave us an idea. It gave us an idea of making things colorful, and not just putting a sign in the window. But then, the artwork was never for the Australian market. They don't look like Australians. We're relatively similar on the outside, but the artwork looked very American, the Mother's Day or thank you, mom, M-O-M – never translated. But it gave us a start; it gave us a bit of an idea of what was happening.

The first guy, a mentor I know, was a chap called Keith Scott. A fantastic little Texan, he's just a wealth of knowledge, a guy who shared everything. And he came to Australia a couple of times, and we started to bring him around to the Australian way a little bit, and he would help tweak things. He came and did a two-day assessment of a school, where he stayed with us for two days. He came to the school, sat through all the classes, all the instructor meetings, etc., to feel the difference.

We made those mistakes through trial and error – some ads worked, some ads didn't work. It was a little bit of a shotgun effect, where we'd throw everything out there and the ones that came back, we'd go with them more. So we gradually fine-tuned things. Nowadays with Facebook and social media, that's a massive part of it that we're still getting our head around.

GEORGE: Yeah. Well, one thing you brought up, and this is something key that we try and teach: if you're doing social media and stuff yourself, the easiest way to do things and to get traction is just pay attention. You had a name for it, season or reason I think it was?

PAUL: Yeah, the market for a season or reason.

GEORGE: Yes, and that's such an easy way to get traction in social media because, when you're talking about what's already been talked about and you can tie that into your marketing, people are automatically paying attention. They're already paying attention to the Father's Day, so piggyback on that promotion that's already happening and then make that your marketing.

PAUL: Yes.

GEORGE: Ok, cool. So, how many locations do you have at this point?

PAUL: We have three locations, the main one is in a place called Hughesdale. We run… I think we're seeing around 670-680 students out of that one. We've got another one that's two years old as of yesterday, they're seeing around 250 students, and we've got one that's six months old, and there are about 80 students.

GEORGE: Ok, so let’s go back to how did this all evolve? At what point did you decide you were ready to branch out and go for that number two?

PAUL: I guess, with working through the police force as well, I got out of police force about 6- 7 years ago. Not because I didn't love what I was doing, but the time just came to jump, one way or the other. I was finding I wasn't doing anything properly, I was half doing the club, half doing the police force. And so, when I went full time with the club, it gave me so much more opportunity to develop. Not just the style or the students, but the instructors. That was one of the key points, after that first mentoring was to understand that you can't do everything by yourself.

You've got to build your team. And your team might be your guys on the mats, your guys on the desk, it might be your accountant, your solicitor, but your team has to be there. I’m very lucky that I've got still with me now some really good young guys, kids, that are now in their mid-twenties. And I always earmarked an area, that demographic. I lived here; I thought this would be a great club one day. And a couple of young guys that talked about running clubs, and one day, James came in and said, I know you've always said you'll do this area, but I wouldn't mind starting something – what do you think?

And I said, look, I'm not in a position to do it, so, we could do that – what do you think we do a partnership? And he said, well what does that involve, and I said I have no idea at all! So, we formed this idea of a partnership, which is an interesting demographic. Like I said, James has been with me since he's been five years old, and he's now an extremely competent 23-year-old instructor practitioner. So we went – let’s just do it. And the stars aligned to a certain extent, and I think it’s like anything: if you've gotten things on your checklist that you want to have happened before you proceed to something, good luck if you get 6 or 7. So do we prepped in some areas? Yeah, absolutely.

James is a fantastic instructor. The premises came up quickly, which was unusual down there, so we thought let’s just jump at that. Areas we could have worked more on if we had more time, was the admin side of things, the business side of the club. But we're up and running. We had some teething problems, we fixed things that we needed to go, and as long as the face of what was happening, to the students, to the customers, was OK, and then the behind the scene stuff – we scrambled where we had to scramble. So it wasn't an expansion plan as such, it’s just that we had such great success here.

And the guys who helped me make this place so successful by taking classes and being such great instructors saw it as a genuine lifestyle choice. And so, we thought why not? It’s not your traditional career path, but we know that financially it can be rewarding, and even more so rewarding in the way that you interact with people through what you can do. So the plan to expand was never “I think I want to open up two or three clubs.”

And one of our mentors, Fred DePalma, says, “When you think about opening your second or third club – don't.” Headaches do come, things get to a certain critical mass, then things start to come together. The clubs support each other; you bounce ideas off each other. So yeah, I guess to answer that – I never planned on opening multiple schools, but we a have a really good instructor development program, where we almost develop the instructors to the point where, if we don't let them go at it under us, they're going on their own anyway.

GEORGE: So what does that involve? I’ll probably skip this step as well. Were you balancing your full-time job and then the school part time?

PAUL: Yes.

GEORGE: So you went full-time with the school first and then opened the second one?

PAUL: No, I’d run the school six days a week from the day I opened it, this was just, again, not knowing what to do. My instructor ran his school six days a week, so I did the same, I ran my school six days a week. But I was also working a full-time job – he wasn't. So that was probably mistake number one, it was too much. And doing that for multiple years, where every working week was 80 hours +, was just crazy. The kids paid the price; the family paid the price; we don't do that anymore. Even the new schools on their full time only run four days a week. And we won't run more than four days a week until we create a critical mass. So there was that.

GEORGE: Ok, so you have this program then where you sort of groom the instructors. Can you elaborate a bit more on that?

PAUL: Yeah. There's a very solid element of self-defense involved in martial arts. And my background, my street background with policing and so forth, has helped with that, what works and 14365348_10208838587554765_1464196218_n1what doesn't work. But in this day and age, especially the demographic we live in, our area – 14365348_10208838587554765_1464196218_n1personal development is a big thing. And as you know, as most martial artist instructors know – the bigger you get, the less trouble you seem to get into physically. You don't have that need to get into a confrontation, you've got nothing to prove.

Your awareness of what can happen, both to you and from you is there, so we work very much in developing the kids and their confidence. We start off with what we call a leadership program, and kids can join that at ten years old. And simply, that involves them coming down to help one class a week and then once a month we do a leadership training hour. We'll cover things like public speaking, how to break down teaching.

And I’ll tell you what George: these kids are amazing. They might be 10 or 11 years old; they're like sponges. They will get up and explain to you the three attributes of teaching, what a good instructor should be like. So, from there, when they hit 14 years old, if they're really good, we put them on what we call a traineeship. It’s like an internship, so we're looking at how can this person get. So they come along for one night a week, and we want to see if they can maintain that balance of training because that's first and foremost – they've got to be a student.

If they can do that one night a week, they can maintain their homework. Because we have to work with parents into this. At 15, if they've gone through that pretty well, we’ll put them on as part-time instructor. And then they'd stay with us really, up until most of them finish university.

GEORGE: Oh wow, awesome.

PAUL: In my main club, we've got in the vicinity of 50 to 60 leadership team, and we run at about 15 staff. We've got three full-timers, and the rest of them are part-timers or casuals or students.

GEORGE: Awesome. I see the value in that. Where my son trains, they have the similar type leadership program, and he's been talking about it for a few years and very much is what you've explained, the whole progression, like you say, the public speaking and things like that. I’d almost argue that they get more value out of that from going to school because you see these kids in martial arts, they're at this maturity level that you can't compare with when you look at anybody else in their age group.

PAUL: And where do you get an 11-year-old these days, who can stand up in front of a class of 20 kids, take charge and give clear instructions? It just doesn't happen.

GEORGE: Yeah, it’s invaluable. I think it’s probably the most underrated skill, that confidence to be able just to present something. They say public speaking is what most people fear more than death.

download3PAUL: And I think you've touched on it there, when you say it’s underrated, I think if people knew the value of martial arts and not just the punching and kicking, they'd be lining up around the block to join clubs. I think as an industry, this is what we need to push across. It is the inherent value of what we do, and I know this sounds cliche, but I believe it: our competition's not the bloke down the street with the different martial arts club. I don't lose students to other clubs: I lose students to basketball or football or cricket or whatever that team activity is. But as martial arts instructors, if we can teach parents especially – look, this is what your kids get out of this it’s not about making them become thugs in our industry.

GEORGE: Do you use that in your marketing? You've hit the key point there; I guess that's the ultimate thing: it’s not the kicking, it’s not the punching. That's really what the kid is getting out of this martial arts training. Is there a way that you use that to communicate it to a parent?

PAUL: Yeah. And I guess I look at it in two ways: one, what I talk to parents, and two, what I talk about people that I mentor. To the parents, I say it straight up: we will teach your kid self-defense, and we teach age specific and school appropriate.We also give them tips on how to avoid bullies etc., like a lot of clubs, do. As I said to the parent, what we're going to give to your kid is more valuable than just being able to defend themselves.

If they're in a fight – initially, we're going to teach them how not to get into a fight. We're going to teach them environmental awareness, we're going to teach them verbal skills, we've got some download1fantastic instructors, who work with the young kids, and they're just guns, but the message they deliver is not just about punching and kicking, there are life skills there.

We've got a great book, where every week there's a lesson. Now, the lesson might be on good manners, or it might be when day comes up, a bit of history. So we're trying to make these kids more than kids. And as I say to the parents, think about the last time your kid had a real fight. And they go, well he hasn't yet. And we say great; we want to maintain that track records, with a few skills to back it up if need be. We talk a lot about kids, but it’s the same as with adults.

When you sit down, especially in our area, I say to the adults – when's the last time you had a real fight? Knock them down, stomp them in the head, poke them in the eye fight? And most adults, 95% of them will go – never. I say good, so who the enemy here? It’s cholesterol and stress and not having something to do for yourself. So these are the triggers we use for our marketing because they're true.

I’m 45 years old and to find something for me, when I'm not busy at work, I'm not busy with my kids or spending time at home, working around the house, finding something that's my outlet, is gold. And that's why, in our adult class, probably half of them are parents. And when we talk to business owners, we say, we'll put a value on your punching and kicking, and again, you've got to find your demographic we talked about at the start. Find your perfect market. If you're a fight school, and you want to groom fighters, then you're looking at a different market.

But I say, punching and kicking – man, that's worth $50-60 a month, I can get that anywhere. You add in nice venues at that, where the parents who are your customers, can come in, sit down, there's a coffee machine, it’s maybe a bit warm in the winter, a bit cooler in the summer – add another $30-40 a month on. Then you show the parents how you're going to develop their kids as people, and you've got a  good match-up program or life skills program – add another $30-40 a month again.

So you're constantly building value in what you're doing. And, when you think about it, the worst quit you have is the email from the parent – little Johnny is quitting, please cancel our fees. The best quit you have is the parent ringing up and saying, little Johnny wants to quit – how can we stop him from doing that, what can we do?

GEORGE: And how do you handle that? If a parent says, look – this is the situation, he wants to quit. What can you do?

PAUL: We try to be proactive before. So, what we look at, we look at training patterns. When the kids or even adults come in to train, they have a card, like the old punch card. And they take it out of the rack during the class, and they hand it to the instructor. Now, it’s old fashion; we have databases and things as well, but what that does is, it gives us a point of contact at the very start of the class.

We run a rule of three: that every student at every student at every class has to be encouraged and acknowledged at least three times. So the first one is: good day George, how's it going? I have a look at your card, I flip it over, and I can see your training pattern. And I saw you were doing great at the start of the of year, mid-year you've dropped off, and the last two months I've barely seen you.

So that's the indicator for the instructor to flag up with the parents before it happens before they stop coming. The instructors are OK to give out free private classes. So maybe he's having a bit of a problem with him picking up a kata or form, or maybe he's taken a knock in sparring, and his self-confidence is down. So we try to schedule just a quick chat with the parents and/or the student to say, hey – you're not training as much, what's going on? Is it something we can help with?

If we don't catch them before that, and they do cancel out – now, I should say, we don't run contracts. I have nothing against contracts; we just don't do it because if you don't want to train with me, I don't want to keep you here. We do have a 30-day cancellation policy. They can train in those 30 days, in those 30 days what can we do to reverse it? The biggest thing is finding why and the bottom line is, students leave because they're bored. Sometimes they leave because they don't feel like they're making progress, but they leave because they're bored. So we have to look for patterns in classes. We have to look at is it a certain class, a certain belt level, a certain instructor, and then we need to pay our due diligence there.

GEORGE: Ok, excellent. So this is going to lead in great with retention, because I think you're addressing this right now, it’s a question of really paying attention to what's happening with your students. It’s not like they just come in, and then you're in shock when a cancellation letter comes. You're actually in tune with that and watching for the patterns that might arise to address them. So, expanding on that, what do you guys do to manage retention within the club?

PAUL: Now, here is that piece of string and how long is it!


PAUL: People want to be part of a tribe, I think. People like to be part of a group, and organization, where they feel valued. So I guess we have two parts: on the mats and off the mats. On the mats, your staff has got to be good at highlighting the hotspot. Highlighting on the go, recognizing someone saying something well and just making a comment along the way. Or spotlighting, where you stop the class and go, hey, show me that again, that was fantastic.

So people feel recognized for the class they do. Something as simple as a high five or a fist bump for a kid, and again, if you've got a class of 40 people, you can't do it yourself, your staff have to be able to do this. So the system, being acknowledged in class. They need to see progress; this is why we have a belt system. But then again, as you know, it’s self-sourcing. If they're not training and not progressing – not progressing, they're frustrated and won't come to training.

So you need to have a belt system with the goals that are tangible for them. We have Good Joe cards. Every kid in our club gets a Good Joe card every turn. And again, there's a spreadsheet where the instructors need to find something they've done well. And it might be he mastered a kick, it might be his consistency in training; it might be his general effort. But every shift, the instructors have to have the Good Joe cards before they go on. And they write them like, and some of the Good Joe cards are amazing! They're almost like pieces of art. The instructors believe what they say, which is important. You and I, we get a letter in the mail, and we go, how much is this going to cost me?

A kid who is anywhere from 4 to 11 years old, gets a letter, and they're excited! My instructors recognize I did well in class, and they've acknowledged it! My three kids train, they've all been training since they were four years old. And even last year, my boys will get a Good Joe card, and it will go up in the mirror, even after all these years. So there is that acknowledgment. We have birthday cards go out when it’s your birthday or birthday week. We have little events, retention events, where we'll do pizza and DVD nights, we'll run in-house tournaments.

There's just a lot of things, and I think what you've got to realize is that there's no one quick fix. You've got to have a system of retention. And interestingly, if you do some math, say an average $130 a month student: if you can save two students a month, just by showing some extra attention, working some retention strategies, over two years, you're setting yourself to $70,000. So it’s not we're talking about here. Plus, that student who's left, he's not saying fantastic things about your club necessarily, they're not referring people. They're not with you; you don't want to lose students because some of the students you lose are fantastic people, and it hurts when you lose some of them.

GEORGE: Yeah. Alright, excellent. Awesome, I'm sure I could keep you going for hours, but I've got two more questions for you. One: taking all this experience that you have, where you're at now, what would you do differently, starting all over again?

PAUL: Wow! I didn't have a “Why.” I didn't have a “Why I want to open up my club,” and these days this is my main thing with someone who's an instructor, it’s having a why. So I opened up my club because I was frustrated and bored – that's not a good enough why. I didn't have a goal of, I want to help people, I want to generate income, I want this to take over my full-time job. So I would make my why a lot more solid because that would make it easier to focus on through the harder times. And it would just keep me in tune.

The second thing I would do is say, get educated. Especially these days, there's so much marketing around. When I started off, there was not the Internet. There were no packages, no one was allowed to cross train, to find different skills, it was very tabooed, not to go to another club. So get educated. Acknowledge the fact that you might be the most fantastic martial artist in the world, you might be a fantastic instructor, but if you don't know a Facebook boosted post from a  newspaper ad, you've got no hope in building your club, not in this day and age, there's too much competition.

So treat yourself like a white belt. I can't tell you how much the industry frustrates me, that I will get people who will spend $300 on a seminar, to learn a sparring technique or a new kata, but won't spend a $150 to go to a weekend business summit, where they could put 20 new students down in the next month. So what I would do differently, I would start off slower. I would educate myself on the marketing and business side of things. And if you're not running a business, if you're in a school hall, and you're charging $10 a class per person, then you're just not running your business very well.

So that would be my two big things: focus on the why, get educated earlier with the business and administration side.

GEORGE: Excellent! Paul, thanks a lot for your time, just lastly, you've got the vast knowledge to share and so forth: if people want to learn more about you or from you, is there anywhere they can go or find out more?

PAUL: Yeah, absolutely. I’m very excited; a lady called Michelle Hext, and I are launching an online mentoring program, Martial Arts Business Success. That launches in October. So if you jump into Facebook and look for Michelle or me – Michelle is an absolute whiz on Facebook and in IT. I’m dysfunctional with IT, but the strengths I have, we work very, very well with our staff, our growing schools, our retention. So it’s going to be a great little partnership there.

But have a look at that, talk to people more successful than you, talk to people who have made the mistakes. This is like training: we're training martial arts, so we don't have to go through the mistakes that the early guys made. Same with martial arts business: walk into the Facebook works, go to the summit weekends and just get educated and start to build up your network of guys that share the same goals that you do. Because as you know, you get energy from those guys. You look at what they're doing, and you're like, man, that a good idea!

And I’ll let you in on a little secret, you and your couple thousand of people that are going to watch this: all my best ideas are not my best ideas! Out of the hundred great ideas I've had in twenty years, probably three of them are original. And the other 97 I've gone – that's good, I'm going to do that. I might tweak it, but, yeah. So get invested in your industry and get to know people who are like you and just enjoy your journey.

GEORGE: Excellent, that's awesome. Thanks a lot, Paul, and what I’ll do is, once your program is out for those people that are listening to this later, I’ll make sure that the links are all in the show notes so that they can get access to you.

PAUL: Alright, great, thanks, George.

GEORGE: Awesome, thanks a lot. I’ll talk to you soon.

GEORGE:  And there you have it, a great way to end off. And thanks again Paul Veldman from Kando Martial Arts. Transcripts of the show, show notes is at, the number 7. And I liked the last message there from Paul – having your why. Having your why it’s so important. Why are you doing this?

Is it just to earn a paycheck, is it just that's what you're doing – what's the real why, what's the real motive behind building your business and doing all this? And the clearer you are with the why – it’s funny enough, everything else falls into place. We tend to look for the solutions and strategies and everything, but when you get clear on where it is that you want to be, everything else tends to fall into place.

All right – thanks again for listening. Tune in again next week, I have an excellent interview with you, going real, real deep on the why. Looking forward to getting that interview up to you, and as I've mentioned before – if you'd like to get in touch with me, george at martial arts media dot com, and let me know what you'd like to learn about and what you would like to listen to more on the show. Thanks again, I’ll chat with you next week – cheers!


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6 – Michelle Hext: How To Run A Niche Martial Arts School (And Mind-Bending Transformations)

Michelle Hext, author of The Art Of Kicking Ass Elegantly, shares her niche martial arts school secrets and mind-bending transformations.


  • How a niche martial arts school improves your marketing
  • The martial arts stepping stones that led to confidence and success
  • When ‘not knowing what to do' becomes your biggest business asset
  • The emotional motivator of changing lives
  • The power of vision and backwards planning
  • How to deal with the constant push-pull of self belief systems
  • And more

*Need help growing your martial arts school? Learn More Here.


GEORGE: Hi, this is George Fourie. Welcome to the Martial Arts Media podcast, episode number 6. Today I have another great interview with Michelle Hext. Now, I have to tell you: I'm not a big one on planning questions for my interviews. And I've had this turmoil with myself that I should be more prepared, and I should structure my questions. But the reverse side of that is, then the conversation is structured, and because I don't know the person I'm interviewing very well, I don't always know what questions to prepare.

So I try and play it very off the cuff, which can be risky, but I try and not prepare it all because I know that the person I'm interviewing is going to say something that's just gold, and then I'm going to go down that path and dig deep into it. And today, after my interview, I've got to tell you that I'm really glad that I didn't have a structured interview, because if I've had a structured interview, it wouldn't have gone down the path that it did, and I wouldn't have gotten the golden information that came out from this interview with Michelle Hext.

Now, I don't have any intention in mind. The intention was to focus on the niche side on having a martial arts school, having a martial arts business that focuses on a niche category, in Michelle's case, focusing on a women's only taekwondo school. And that was the focus, but the conversation just became much bigger, about the mindset stuff and her deep transformations, and it’s true gold. From a business perspective, you are going to get a lot out of this interview.

For the show notes and the full transcripts, you can go to, so that's the number 6. And all the details are there for you. No reviews to read out today – unfortunately, but we would love your feedback, we'd love your comments. Bare in mind, every podcast show, you can leave comments right below the post, also ask questions. If you do ask the questions for the guests I have, I’ll make sure that they stop and answer them for you. If you'd like to leave us a review, 5-star reviews are awesome, because they help push our show up the rankings, but hey – an honest review is more than appreciated of course. You can just follow the link on iTunes, which is at

That's it from me; please welcome to the show Michelle Hext from the Art of Kicking Ass Elegantly.

GEORGE: Good day everyone, today I have with me, Michelle Hext. Now, Michelle has a vast spectrum of experience that I really want to tap into here today, starting of course with the 5th Dan Taekwondo master and her very niche based martial arts school, which is something we really want to dig into today, and then also, the author of the book The Art of Kicking Ass elegantly. I like how the elegantly part falls in there. So welcome to the show Michelle!

MICHELLE: Thank you, thank you for having me.

GEORGE: Cool. I guess we've got everyone, so let's start at the beginning: who is Michelle Hext?

MICHELLE: That's a big question, put me on the spot. So right now, I guess my main focus is, I have a business that's thriving, I love that. But I'm giving myself the gift of being a student in my martial art again at the moment. I've trained Taekwondo for 25 years and recently found an amazing instructor, and I'm feeling very spoiled having good instruction, it’s been many years since I've had an instructor that I felt was getting the best from me.  

I'm getting my 6th degree next year, so I'm focused on that, I'm enjoying that training, so that's one part of my life. And I'm also mom to a son who's 21 this month, and I have an 18-year-old daughter as well, but they moved out of the home, so I'm an empty nester at 47, which I did not think was going to happen. But the house is a lot tidier, and I have a lot more time on my hands. I'm an also an author of four books; one's about to be released. And I'm an entrepreneur.

GEORGE: Awesome. So the fourth book: is that in line with your previous one or is it in a different direction?

MICHELLE: It's really interesting actually: the course of my books, they way the evolved, has kind of mirrored my life really, over the last few years. And the first book I wrote in 2012 I think, didn't get released until early 2014, or something like that, end of 2013. But that book was Bulletproof Confidence & a Kickass Body through martial arts training and principles. And I had my women's only Taekwondo school, so it was the first of it’s kind, it was an adult, women only martial arts school.

We had pink walls, and our benches were pink, and our belts had pink embroidery, so it was much a niche school. And I wrote that book because I loved being in that space of teaching adult women, and obviously, I couldn't reach everybody, so that book was a way to let women know that they can be empowered through martial arts, and if they couldn't physically get to classes, then they could practice those principles.  So I was very much in that space.

And then, the next book was the Honorable Martial Arts Entrepreneur, and that was me saying: every instructor should do this. Their niche doesn't necessarily need to be adult women, but who are they most passionate about, where is that type of student on the map, what is it that lights them up, who is it that they love to teach more than anybody else? Because you can build a brand around that, and it means that not having generic advertising that advertises to all ages and all genders and just looks the same as every other martial arts flyer in town.

I've cut through that by having a specific niche, so that book was all about how to do that. And then the third book, The Art of Kicking Ass Elegantly was me stepping back into working with female entrepreneurs,  not just martial arts school owners, and it was a bigger conversation. It was written for women, for female entrepreneurs who were struggling in their business, but also didn't have much life balance. And I'm the first one to say it’s not easy to have it all and have it all at the same time, but I think you can do it. I think if we simplify and we scale,  there are ways that we can have everything that we want in our lives.

So that book was about that, there are a lot of mindsets in here, there's also strategy around how to grow your business as a female entrepreneur in a service based business. And this next book is, even more, mindset driven because I know that many of the women that I work with in my current business, the biggest hurdle they have is themselves. So what I've said pretty regularly is that success isn't about necessarily the things you need to do, but the crap you need to remove that's standing in the way between you and success. So that book is focused towards that.

GEORGE: Okay, so this whole author journey, what I'm hearing is, it’s stepping the stones in personal growth for you as such. From the confidence and then teaching only to female students with your martial arts school, and then going to the bigger audience and almost coming full circle with the biggest obstacle being yourself and the whole mind thing. So going back to the first book, where you talk about confidence: how did your martial arts journey play a role in that confidence in the early days?

MICHELLE: Oh, it was everything for me! I think I've always been very strong willed. I've always definitely been very strong willed, in a big way. But I grew up with domestic violence and sexual abuse; it holds you back a  little bit in life until you figure out how you're going to deal with it. And I think I did a pretty good job of dealing with that and moving forward. I was always ambitious, always driven, and I left school at 14.

I was told that my parents weren't paying for me to go back to school the next year. So, you can imagine, it's like I'm looking at this situation thinking, I'm going to be a statistic unless I do something. So I didn't know what I was going to do, I thought perhaps I would be a keyboard player for pseudo records – that was on the list. But I wasn't disciplined enough to keep practicing, but I knew I had to do something, I knew I had to hustle and be determined if I didn't want to be a statistic.

GEORGE: Was that the exact turning point for you? At a young age? It’s a bad thing that happened, but it was a real wake up call, sort of a turning point for you, where you took everything upon yourself with you own ambition?

MICHELLE: I didn't consider it, it was just the way I rolled. It was just the way that I dealt with things, but I think when I started my martial arts training, and there were structure and discipline, and I could see a way forward. You start as a white belt, and the next thing, there's a yellow belt. And then from there, there's another yellow belt, and there was such clear direction. And I knew that with this path open ahead of me, and I knew what I needed to do, I knew I could do the work. And I just got my head down and my bum up and I did the work.

Through that process, it was safe enough for me to look at my life and the things that had happened to me and be able to say, Wow, I'm thankful for that, because this is who I've become as a person. And before that, I've done big things. I've traveled over to the US on my own when I was 20, no one in my family had done that. I was doing my pilots license; I'd been solo for about 20 hours or something like that. So I had tackled some big things, but it was kind of all random and all over the place. Not really understanding the gift that those life challenges had given me regarding the strength that it gave me and the way that I'm able to help people. And Taekwondo opened all of that up. The way that I was able to help people, it was incredible.

GEORGE: Wow, that's awesome. How did that thing progress into deciding, OK: I want to open my first school. How did all that come about?

MICHELLE: Well, I started dating my instructor, as happens sometimes. And I stepped into instructing very early on. This club that I was at, the instructor had opened a school, and all of us that were training were white belts. So he was the only one ahead of us. He was 3rd Dan at the time I think, and everybody else was white. And I double graded very quickly. And I double graded all the way through pretty much. So I had a strong role in the club from the beginning, and I loved it. I just thrived under that. I was ambitious, very, very ambitious, and it frustrated the hell out of him I'm sure, because I just wanted to run before I could walk the whole time.

I look back now, and I'm mortified. It’s not what it’s about, but I was very ambitious, and I just wanted to learn more, wanted to do more, thought I knew everything the minute I got my black belt, all that sort of stuff. But I knew that's what I needed; I knew that's where I wanted to go, so I was able to open my club. And I think, even in the early days, it wasn't even happening back then, we're talking early 90s, I ran female only classes even then in the mornings and things like that. So for me, it was always going to be that direction, it was always going to be instruction. I was very ambitious, so I had my first school when I was 1st Dan.


MICHELLE: If I've been training 25 years, I would have had schools for 22 and a half of them.

GEORGE: Wow! So I guess it was a natural progression for you if you were already doing just women's classes to open a women's only school. Were you afraid of going so niche? It’s a big step, it’s a really big step to open a school, and you've got to get as many students as you can, but what sort of inspired the whole going down that niche and just sticking to women's only?

MICHELLE: Well luckily, I've had the experience of running a couple of online fitness businesses, and I only targeted women. And for me what I found so easy is, when you only have one market to target, the message is so clear! And it speaks to that market. So I hadn't had schools for a number of years, and I was training at somebody else's club, and I think I was grading for my 4th Dan, I was getting ready to grow for my 4th. And I just thought, I need to do this again, but I'm not going to do it the way that I did it before. I want to do it differently, and I'm going to test it. It didn't feel like a big step; it just felt like this is absolutely what I need to. And I always do what I want to do; I'm not ever bowed by pressure or what is supposed to be the right thing to do. When I think that, with the child I had and left school so young and all the rest of it, I've never known what the right thing is supposed to be, so I've always just made up my rules.

So that was it, I was just 100% convinced that that's what I was going to do, and so I did it. And the only regret I had is that, when I opened, I decided that I would teach adult women and girls, but my passion for teaching kids had long gone. I love kids, and I see them around Taekwondo schools, I love that they're there. But for me it wasn't about teaching martial arts, it was about the impact that I was having, and I was having a big impact on these women. The confidence that was growing, the fact that they were leaving abusive relationships, the fact that they were going out and starting businesses and all that sort of stuff that they hadn't done before they started training with me – that's what it was all about for me.

I had three kids' classes running, and I didn't want to teach them anymore. I was running out of instructors, and I didn't want to deal with instructors as well, that were calling in sick at the last minute and things like that. It took all the fun out of it for me, and for me to have another school because I had another online business running as well, it needed to be a passion project and something I was passionate about. So I had to let the kid classes fade away, I continued to teach those kids until the natural course of events occurred, and they either went off or went into the adult class, and then it was all about the adult women, and that was so powerful, that club was so, so powerful.

GEORGE: Ok, so it sounds like it wasn't a business you were passionate to scale because the whole satisfaction of the business was coming from you being able to have this positive impact on all these women. Is that about right?

MICHELLE: Well, I had visions to scale it in the beginning. I had visions of push schools all around the place, and we'd have our own push Olympics, and we'd have training camps around the place. I had a vision for that, but I outgrew bricks and mortar business quickly, and I just was doing so many exciting things in my online business, in my other consulting business, that I just felt tied to it.

I wasn't getting instruction myself as well, and I was dying as a martial artist. And every time I was on the mat, I was an instructor, and I wasn't a student. And I wanted that for me; I wanted to be a student. And I also wanted to do bigger and better things. And it was a very sad day for sure, to let that go. Sorry! Because it was a beautiful school and the women were so amazing. Obviously it still (inaudible 00:18:14). But I haven't regretted the decision because I'm still impacting women, and I'm still empowering women, and I'm leading by example.

GEORGE: For sure. That's impressive; it’s not like you've lost any of your impacts. I know it’s probably different, but then again, even you that you have an online business, it sounds like your coaching is very personal, and your public speaking and so forth. But having that impact with people face-to-face and so forth, it meant a lot to you. But then again, you've evolved, and although I interview about the martial arts aspect, there's so much more to it. And I want to get to that level. Because even if we take this conversation away from the martial arts aspect, the mindset and things that you've evolved, is something that can be applied all the way down.

MICHELLE: Oh, absolutely, yeah. It’s a bigger conversation, it is. I'm not on the mat sweating with them anymore, which is the part that I miss, but I'm loving being student, I like that. And as you're saying, it’s the mindset stuff and the lessons that I've learned through martial arts filter through everything I do. And it has an impact; it definitely has an impact.

Sharing my story as well helps people to see that it doesn't matter where you start: if you've got the will and you're willing to do the work, and you've got the vision above anything else because you can work and not get anywhere. But you've got to have such a strong vision and such conviction, that you're able to achieve it. And if you can get those things together you can achieve anything. It doesn't matter where you start.

GEORGE: You've mentioned a few things here, like structure and so forth. But is there sort of one thing that, when you look at martial arts, how it is impacting a life and how it transforms your life to shape things and move onto other things as such?

MICHELLE: The discipline of showing up day after day after day, training sessions after training session after training sessions. When you're hurt, you're banged up; you have to spar that person that you don't even want to have to deal with, all that sort of stuff. And that stuff just shapes you. At the time it feels like hell, but when you look back on that stuff. I've trained seven days a week. I remember going down to train under Mr. Chung, who was our head instructor. And Saturday morning classes, it was a black belt class, I was a blue belt.

I've been training 12 months. And it was just hell; I never slept the night before. We used to have to drive an hour and a half to get there, and it started at 8 in the morning. That was on a Saturday, and then Sunday, I was training with the state squad – same deal. The girls in my division are trying to take my legs out every session if they weren't trying to knock my head off. And I remember thinking – I've signed up for this thing to help me deal with my stress, and now I've got more of it!

Michelle HextYou just rise to every challenge, and it doesn't always feel like you're winning because you're filled with fear sometimes. For me, the fear of losing was massive: could not lose, couldn't lose a point. I was just like that about winning, so you never really feel like you're winning, you feel like you're always behind the eight ball, because that person got that point, or you lost that five. Or you weren't as switched on, or you didn't have the amount of energy that you wanted for that sparring session, or you went into that with a fearful thought.

So you never feel like you're winning. It’s only when you look back on it, and you think – wow! I'm so glad that I had that experience because it shaped me, and when I had my girls school, one time, some of them wanted to compete, so I took them along to a big Melbourne club, where they had an open mat sparring class. And I just had hip surgery so that I couldn't participate. But the girls that were on the mat – the look of pure fear on their face! We used to spar in class; it was pretty hard, but it’s not the same as when you go into an environment that's filled with competitors who are getting ready for the next nationals or whatever.

And I'm like, just get your ass on the mat and just do what you came here to do. And afterward there were tears, and everybody was like, I can't believe how hard that was! And I was like; I used to do that every week, twice a week, as well as the sparring in class. And that's why I had the mentor fortitude that I have and the internal strength. And those women, some of them I think were in shock when they were coming out of it. And they all just valued that experience so much, because it showed them that they had to do it, there was no way out. They all valued that experience, I felt very guilty actually at the time, because I thought I prepared them enough, but I don't think anything prepares you for that. I'm glad they did it in the end.

GEORGE: Awesome! You've mentioned something, and I might put you on the spot with this.

MICHELLE: Go for it! I've already cried, what else could happen?

GEORGE: All right, perfect! You've mentioned the fear of losing: now, this is the opposite of that, the fear of winning, as ludicrous as that sounds, a lot of people have a fear of winning. And I know for me, it’s a personal hurdle that I've always had to deal with. I’ll agree to point, and I would almost destruct what I've created, for the actual fear of winning. Now, you do high coaching and high-level coaching, and you're big on the mindset stuff: how do you deal with that?

MICHELLE: Yeah, I'm not convinced that it’s a fear of winning: I think it’s two things. One of my clients that I was coaching today, she was very excited about a business taking over but then she said, but I also don't want to be a bad mom. Because if it gets busy, then it means this. And so what she failed to recognize is that she gets to write the rules. It doesn't have to mean one or the other, so it's not clear about the fact that you get to write the rules and do it your way. It’s a push and pull a lot of the time. The fear isn't the fear of being successful, because that doesn't make sense.

It’s like, what do I have to give up to achieve that success? So it’s working out that bit in the middle, it’s working out what am I fearful of because there's nothing to fear from success. Is it because you feel like you're going to lose your anonymity if it means you're going to be famous or whatever? Does it feel like you're going to lose the time that you have with your family? So, it’s not about his success; it’s about the stuff that you're going to have to sacrifice. And then there's another side to that, which is not so much the fear of success, but the fear of not giving it a 100%.

What that means is, if you give something that you're so passionate about, and it means so much to you, if you give it a 100%, and you fail – what's left? So we say, oh, I could've done more. But it just didn't work out. If you give it 80%, you can be like, oh well. But if I gave it everything – then I’ll succeed. And you've got that up your sleeve a little bit, sort if. So – if I give it everything. But if you give it everything, there's a lot to lose. So it’s getting to the point where you have to create that win-win situation with that.

GEORGE: For sure. Interesting, because on the other side as well, you could have both. You could still be a great mom, and you could still have the success you want. You don't always have to sacrifice one; I guess it’s more the internal conversation that you have that you can't be both. I can't be successful and be a good mom.

a (4)MICHELLE: People have so much crap, rules that they've created for themselves, that they don't even realize that they've created for themselves. For me, I don't have any eating issues, but it was like, if I'm going to train I have to eat this, and I can't eat that before this, and I can't… And years later, I'm not training to that same extent, and I still had a lot of these rules around my meals. And one day I went, this makes no sense anymore. And then I pulled it apart, and I realized that it’s just a leftover habit. It doesn't need to be there anymore.

And also, in building my business and the way that I help the women that I work with building their businesses, it’s really about working out what you want. Because you get to write the script here. For me, I remember I had coaching clients Monday through Friday. And I might have two on a Monday morning, and then one on a Monday afternoon, and one on a Tuesday lunchtime – it was just random. And I realized one day, this is not who I wanted to be, and then I remember asking myself the question, well, how do you want it to be?

And I was like, I only want to do two days of coaching. I've only coached two days for the last 18 months. And it’s like, but what if people can't – they'll just work it out. It was just getting clear on what I wanted, and everybody else fell in, it’s just the way that it worked. And so, setting the attention about what you want and removing any rules. Sometimes rules are OK, but they've got to be still relevant, and they've got to fit still. So, for her to say, success means this, we had to pull that apart and say, well – does it? Does it mean that? So let's just work out if this is reality or something you've made up in your head. And we worked out it wasn't reality. It was just an old habit leftover and it happens with us all the time.

GEORGE: So what are those first steps you take? Because if somebody comes to you and they are – I wouldn't say messed up, that might sound wrong. But you have whatever obstacle you have that you're facing: what are the first steps that you take to break through those barriers?

MICHELLE: I put things into perspective pretty quickly, because you've said it: people come in, and they think they're messed up. “I'm so messed up, and I can't do this…” “I'm messed up, and this a (2)is what's holding me back.” And a lot of the times, it’s one sentence that I’ll say, and they'll be like, “Oh my god, I never thought of it like that.” And it’s just because I have the perspective that they don't. We're all so close to our stuff and someone shining a light on it and looking at it from a completely different perspective is often all they need to get them thinking in a different way.

So the first step is me hearing and listening to what's going on underneath the conversation and often when someone's talking to me about the challenge, it’s usually a justification for something, and it’s fear based, it’s usually fear based. So I'm trying to work out where's the fear, cause that's what we've got to get to the bottom of. So I’ll let them talk, and I’ll let them talk and observe what's going on but listening to those undertones. Having done this for so long now and I've dealt with my stuff, I can see things pretty clearly.

So it’s having the courage to have those tough conversations with people because sometimes I think – why do I have to be the one that has to have these conversations? Because you know it’s going to make someone uncomfortable, but it’s necessary because without that they don't grow. Without it, they stay stuck.

GEORGE: Do you feel a sense of relief when people address it head-on and say, OK, I've got to think of that?

MICHELLE: Yes, definitely.

GEORGE: Or is it more painful?

MICHELLE: Never more painful, it’s never more painful. I haven't had an experience where it’s been more painful; it’s more relief.

GEORGE: Ok. And then, what would the next step be? You've addressed the obstacle, the problem, the fear base, the gender, or whatever it is – now, what's your next step for a person to be ready to discover where it is they want to go and how they're going to get there?

MICHELLE: The next question is always, how do you want it to be? And then, normally, with any clients that I speak with, I send them a visioning tool, I've created this visioning tool where it helps with a number of coaching questions. It gets them to, at the end of it, creates a pitcher of what their ideal day looks like. And then from there, we build it out. Because, if they can't see it in their mind first, they're never going to be able to achieve it. So I help them create a strong vision, and sometimes those visions will come back, and I'm like, so you're thinking this big – I need you to be thinking this big.

Because they're so limited by their self-belief that they can't even think bigger, so sometimes it does take a couple of goes. With the visioning tool, I have them write it into the future. Today is the 1st of September, so if I was coaching someone today, I'd have them write it with the date of 1st September 2017, like it’s already happened. Some people can't get their head around that, and I tell them, write about your ideal day. And I'm like, well, that sounds like the day you've already got. Well, yeah, it is, it would be perfect if this happened. And I'm like, no, no, no, no. So sometimes they can't even think big enough, they're so restricted by their limitations, that they can't even think bigger than that, so sometimes it’s a matter of asking the right questions to try and get them to open up and see what's possible.

GEORGE: Does that almost create more discomfort in a way?

MICHELLE: It creates excitement!


MICHELLE: I've experienced it myself recently. I have my vision that I read every day. And I was reading this thing, and I'm just skimming through it, and then it just hit me: you've been living this for 12 months, so this is hardly a compelling vision anymore. It’s a nice story, but it’s happened. So I was like, oh crap, OK. This is why I'm feeling a bit bored. So I had to go big – big, big, big. I just put my rules, what do I want my life to look like.

If I woke up this morning and had the choice to do anything that I wanted to do and be anywhere that I wanted to be, where would that be and what would that look like? And I start from there, and then I build back. And that's emotion at the moment, and the vision stuff is so important. It’s so important, because, without it, you're not going anywhere. And if it’s not a big enough stretch, you become bored. There are so many people I know that say, oh yeah, I forgot I set that goal! The way that I talk about setting goals is, the stretch has to be that it’s so big that you may not have been able to achieve it before, but you know that if you do all the things that you know you're supposed to do and if the cards all fall the right way, it’s doable, it can happen.

So that's a stretch goal. It’s not so big that it’s never going to happen. It’s not like; I'm taking my business from 2000 and up to 2 million by the end of the month. I'm not saying it can't happen, but if you don't think that's realistic, you'll never take the first step towards it. So it’s making sure that it feels doable. And then, if you can stay there, and you can get that balance right, then that time, it will work out.

GEORGE: Excellent, OK. And that process will be a lot of, obviously, dealing with our self-beliefs, because it’s easier to put yourself out there and then just gradually pull yourself back, is that possible, is it not.

a (1)MICHELLE: Yeah, like I said, it’s that constant push-pull. So you've constantly got to be alert for the pull when it’s dragging you back. You've got to be on alert constantly. I always say, the biggest tool any entrepreneur can have, or any martial arts school owner can have, or any martial artist can have is self-awareness.

If you're aware of your crap, you've got to be alert to it, because it’s always there. It doesn't matter who you are, or how evolved you are,  or how awesome your life is – it’s still there. New level, new devil. And it’s so true, I've had a business where I was struggling. I struggled for many, many years. And then in 12 months, it went to multiple six figures. And the same stuff is still there. It’s not any different; it’s just bigger.

GEORGE: So what do you do on a day to day basis, to keep you motivated and keep yourself on track?

MICHELLE: I have a process that I do every single morning. So the first thing I do when I wake up, I jump on social a little bit. My business is built around social media. So I'm on there, and I'm chatting with people from overseas and stuff like that. A bit of play for about half an hour. And then I start to journal. And the journaling is just how I want the day to be, anything that's bothering me, I sort of work through that stuff and then I read my vision, and then I create my daily actions based on that.

So I read my vision, check in with my goals and then my action is inspired by that. Then I write my to-do list, and I'm excited before the day has even started. I'm up at 5 o'clock, and that's all done by 7. I take my time, there's no rush, I take my time in the morning, have a cup of coffee and just really give myself that time. It’s just getting aligned. The biggest tip I can give is: if someone doesn't feel like doing something if you don't feel like exercising, there's no point forcing yourself to do exercise when you don't feel like it. So you have to get yourself in the mindset where you feel like it.

Listen to something, look at some stuff on Instagram or whatever the hell it is that inspires you, get excited about it, and then do it. Don't try and force yourself to do things if you're not inspired. And writing's a good example as well: if I'm sitting there and I'm not inspired to write, it’s not going to be a pleasant experience. But if I read what I'd written already, or I go back and read the first chapter of one of my first books, I get excited about that. So get inspired before you take the action. If you're not feeling motivated, don't try and make yourself do it from that space. Do whatever it takes to get aligned and motivated and then do the work.

GEORGE: All right, excellent. Michelle, it’s been an awesome conversation, and I'm glad it went where it did. My intention obviously, was talking martial arts, and then we took on a path that I just couldn't ignore. And it was inspiring to me, and I'm sure for anybody listening, it’s going to be awesome as well.

MICHELLE: Thank you.

GEORGE: Before we wrap things up: you've got a program, your coaching program: can you tell us a little bit more about that, what it is that you do and offer?

MICHELLE: The Art of Kicking Ass Elegantly, I've got an online program. I have a live mastermind program as well. Each of those programs run for 12 months and it takes business owners from the struggling, they can't quite get traction, they're still a little bit unclear, and it takes them through the 12-month step-by-step process to create a six-figure business for service-based businesses.

So there's that, and that's really for female entrepreneurs. I do have female martial arts school owners and fitness professionals in that program, because it fits perfectly for them. But I'm working in partnership with an awesome man called Paul Veldman. He has Kando Martial Arts, and we're partnering together now to release a new product in October called Martial Arts Business Success. And it’s all of the stuff I teach I my programs and more, plus Paul brings a whole other side to it. It’s every month; a new martial arts business tool will be released.

My specialty is in branding and marketing and positioning, creating, campaigns and it’s all that side of things, whereas Paul is very great at retention and business systems and all that sort of stuff. So he's great at all the stuff I'm crap at, and I'm good at stuff that he's probably good at too. But this is my bread and butter, this is what I do,  it’s how to get leverage on social media, how to position yourself in the market, all the branding sort of stuff.

So we're launching that in October, and what I'm excited about with that program is, we’re launching at the introductory price of $67 a month. And if people lock in that price, the price never goes up, it never changes or anything like that. And then there's also my program The Honorable Martial Arts Entrepreneur program. It’s going to be a bonus; it’s something that I was selling for $200, so that's going to be the bonus as well. Part of this membership, every month – there's no contracts or anything, we want people to stay because they love what we're doing.

But every month, we're going to release a new packet, we're calling it. Sort of the whole module on one particular subject that's going to help them grow or manage their business, and then we'll run a couple of live calls within that as well, so they have access to a Facebook group. So that's Martial Arts Business Success – we don't have a website just yet, it’s being built as we speak, but we have a Facebook group, which is Martial Arts Business Success.

GEORGE: Ok, great. So once that's released, we'll update the show notes, and make sure it’s live. But for the meantime, if somebody wants to get hold of you, what's the best way to do that?

MICHELLE: They can go to the

GEORGE: Awesome. All right – Michelle, it’s been great chatting to you, I hope to chat with you soon.

MICHELLE: Thank you very much.

GEORGE: Thanks.


GEORGE: And there you have it – thanks again Michelle Hext for coming on the show. How good was that? From going one point and discussing, trying to go down the route of discussing the martial arts journey, and it just went onto a whole other deeper level I didn't expect – thanks again to Michelle for opening up and really sharing her passion with true emotion and sharing all the obstacles she went through and transformations that came as a result, through applying what she learned in her martial arts training.

That's it for me; we'll tune back again next week with another show. Remember, the show notes are at And if you'd like to get in touch with us, any questions about what it is that we talk about, any questions about our services for martial arts school owners, or any suggestions for interviews, anybody that you would like to hear from on the show – please get in touch. You can go to and just click on the contact form, get in touch with me and we'll take it from there. Thanks again, have an awesome week, I’ll chat with you soon.


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You agree to use our website only for lawful purposes, and in a way that does not infringe the rights of, restrict or inhibit anyone else”s use and enjoyment of the website. Prohibited behavior includes harassing or causing distress or inconvenience to any other user, transmitting obscene or offensive content or disrupting the normal flow of dialogue within our website.

You must not use our website to send unsolicited commercial communications. You must not use the content on our website for any marketing related purpose without our express written consent.

Restricted Access

We may in the future need to restrict access to parts (or all) of our website and reserve full rights to do so. If, at any point, we provide you with a username and password for you to access restricted areas of our website, you must ensure that both your username and password are kept confidential.

Use of Testimonials

In accordance to with the FTC guidelines concerning the use of endorsements and testimonials in advertising, please be aware of the following:

Testimonials that appear on this site are actually received via text, audio or video submission. They are individual experiences, reflecting real life experiences of those who have used our products and/or services in some way. They are individual results and results do vary. We do not claim that they are typical results. The testimonials are not necessarily representative of all of those who will use our products and/or services.

The testimonials displayed in any form on this site (text, audio, video or other) are reproduced verbatim, except for correction of grammatical or typing errors. Some may have been shortened. In other words, not the whole message received by the testimonial writer is displayed when it seems too lengthy or not the whole statement seems relevant for the general public.

is not responsible for any of the opinions or comments posted on is not a forum for testimonials, however provides testimonials as a means for customers to share their experiences with one another. To protect against abuse, all testimonials appear after they have been reviewed by management of . doe not share the opinions, views or commentary of any testimonials on – the opinions are strictly the views of the testimonial source.

The testimonials are never intended to make claims that our products and/or services can be used to diagnose, treat, cure, mitigate or prevent any disease. Any such claims, implicit or explicit, in any shape or form, have not been clinically tested or evaluated.

How Do We Protect Your Information and Secure Information Transmissions?

Email is not recognized as a secure medium of communication. For this reason, we request that you do not send private information to us by email. However, doing so is allowed, but at your own risk. Some of the information you may enter on our website may be transmitted securely via a secure medium known as Secure Sockets Layer, or SSL. Credit Card information and other sensitive information is never transmitted via email.

may use software programs to create summary statistics, which are used for such purposes as assessing the number of visitors to the different sections of our site, what information is of most and least interest, determining technical design specifications, and identifying system performance or problem areas.

For site security purposes and to ensure that this service remains available to all users, uses software programs to monitor network traffic to identify unauthorized attempts to upload or change information, or otherwise cause damage.

Disclaimer and Limitation of Liability

makes no representations, warranties, or assurances as to the accuracy, currency or completeness of the content contain on this website or any sites linked to this site.

All the materials on this site are provided “as is” without any express or implied warranty of any kind, including warranties of merchantability, noninfringement of intellectual property or fitness for any particular purpose. In no event shall or its agents or associates be liable for any damages whatsoever (including, without limitation, damages for loss of profits, business interruption, loss of information, injury or death) arising out of the use of or inability to use the materials, even if has been advised of the possibility of such loss or damages.

Policy Changes

We reserve the right to amend this privacy policy at any time with or without notice. However, please be assured that if the privacy policy changes in the future, we will not use the personal information you have submitted to us under this privacy policy in a manner that is materially inconsistent with this privacy policy, without your prior consent.

We are committed to conducting our business in accordance with these principles in order to ensure that the confidentiality of personal information is protected and maintained.


If you have any questions regarding this policy, or your dealings with our website, please contact us here:

Martial Arts Media™
Suite 218
5/115 Grand Boulevard
Joondalup WA

Email: team (at) martialartsmedia dot com

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