Archives for November 2016

18 – The Art Of Martial Arts Coaching With Paul Schreiner From Marcelo Garcia Academy

Paul Schreiner is not your average martial arts coach. Discover how he articulates the art of jiu-jitsu and shares working with Marcelo Garcia.

martial arts coaching


  • The deeper meaning of martial arts and jiu jitsu in particular
  • Having the discipline to drill, revise and optimise techniques
  • Why letting go of your ego is not as modest as it's made out to be
  • The core habit that Paul has adopted from working with Marcelo Garcia
  • B.J. Penn's powerful ‘marriage of jiu-jitsu' statement
  • What you can expect when training at Marcelo Garcia Academy
  • And more

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


Developing expert knowledge or expert ability is your own process of discovery and taking ownership for your learning.

Hi, this is George Fourie and welcome to another episode of the Martial Arts Media Business podcast, episode number 18. I have with me today Paul Schreiner. Now, Paul Schreiner is a coach at Marcelo Garcia's Academy in New York, and if you recall episode 13 with Jess Fraser from the Australian Girls in GI, Jess was talking about Paul within all her traveling around the globe of training at different clubs and learning jiu-jitsu.

Paul Schreiner was the person that left the biggest impact, that stood out for her with his unique coaching abilities and being able to articulate his learning and making an impact on someone, getting his message across of, not just teaching different techniques, but also being able to explain the art and the transitioning of the different moves and so forth. So this is a very in-depth conversation, I enjoyed this. This is not so much about the business side of martial arts, although as a martial arts business owner, you will get a lot of value from this, just learning from about how they go about things and working with Marcelo Garcia and just the pure passion for martial arts. There's a lot of gold in this episode.

Now, of course, for more of the business stuff, you can head over to to be exact. We give away a free martial arts business plan for online media, which kind of defines how you can market your business, what you should focus on. It gives you a bit of a holistic view of how you can approach online marketing and covers a lot of the pitfalls that people are facing right now with marketing, doing one marketing strategy and it's not working, or it stops working and this gives you a bit of a holistic view and approach of how you can approach marketing your business and get your leads.

Now, as always, the show notes, transcriptions and all links mentioned in this episode can be found at, that's the number 18. And I want to keep this short and jump straight into the interview, so please welcome to the show Paul Schreiner.

GEORGE: Good day everyone, today I have with me is Paul Schreiner. Now, if you recall on episode 13, I interviewed Jess Fraser and Jess was discussing, within her travels, training at Marcelo Garcia Academy and the one person that stood out for her as a coach was Paul Schreiner. So I wanted to get Paul for an interview and just have a chat about his involvement in jiu-jitsu, his coaching methods and so forth. So welcome to the call Paul.

PAUL: Thanks for having me.

GEORGE: Awesome. So I guess just to go right from the beginning – who is Paul Schreiner?

download-4PAUL: Let's see… I'm basically just a guy that does jiu-jitsu full-time. I'm 38, I started jiu-jitsu when I was 17, I think. I'm from California, so I grew up surfing about. I grew up in a pretty crazy family, progressive family. My dad was kind of a social activist and we lived out of a VW van a lot and drove to Central America every summer, so I got a lot of world exposure that way I guess. I grew up surfing and I wrestled my senior year in high school, actually my junior year in high school, and then I was looking to continue with a sport. I saw that there was jiu-jitsu in town. This was back in 96-97, and I started training jiu-jitsu and other than some injuries, I haven't really looked back. So teaching was just a logical progression for how to stay involved with the sport for me.

GEORGE: So from your training, did you evolve into tournaments and so forth?

PAUL: Yeah, in the beginning, I was just still mostly focused on surfing and traveling. Jiu-jitsu was a hobby for the first couple of years, and I injured my knee on a surf trip and I had to take a couple of years off of everything, I had to take about a year and a half- two years off. I got an infection in my knee, it required a bunch of surgeries to try to get it more or less functional again. And at the point, when I went back to jiu-jitsu, I actually just recently told this story, I haven't thought about it for a while, but I remember I was driving past the academy and it wasn't there and then I was driving closer to my house and then I saw it just had reopened, the school I started at had reopened at my neighbourhood, and my old coach, Garth Taylor's truck was out front, so I just pulled into the parking lot and walked in and Garth was training with B.J. Penn, and J.D. And they were getting ready for the world championship when they were both brown belts, and B.J. was just getting his black belt the following week to compete as a black belt in the world championship. So I walked in, I saw those guys training and I've been out of it for about a year or two, so I just hadn't been exposed to that babble of jiu-jitsu and I walked in, and I was like, this is what I want to do. So basically, ever since that day, I've been training full-time with the intention.

Back then, my intention was to compete in tournaments and I competed a lot for a bunch of years and pretty early on in my competition, I realized that it was valuable to compete, not just for me, but as a part of the school, and that it would be an invaluable experience to have if I wanted to coach and teach jiu-jitsu someday. So I always looked at competition through the lens of the personal challenge to win and as a way to experience jiu-jitsu on a deeper level and something that I'd be able to share with other people someday.

GEORGE: So what does that mean for you? The deeper side of jiu-jitsu?

PAUL: I guess it's just the idea of taking anything and getting better at it every day. The idea that you're working towards this perfection, this excellence – perfection that isn't attainable, but the excellence, the near perfection is something that we can experience and just try to sharpen ourselves. I feel like also I was a little directionless as a teenager and as a young adult and jiu-jitsu just gave me something that I can always, no matter what else I was doing in my life, I could always train and I felt like a better version of myself for it. And then, just the other lesson that jiu-jitsu teaches us is how to confront our ego, or how to get our ass kicked and get smashed and get held down and not be able to get out, but not give up either and learn how to find space and breathe and survive in any situation.

xThose are some of the deeper things, nothing too esoteric or spiritual, just the idea that it's something that we can make incremental progress at; we apply ourselves, we show up every day and we show up with respect and the requisite concentration and give it our best. I was in college, I took a lot of art classes and one of my painting and drawing teachers, Howard Ikemoto was, to this day, was probably the most influential teacher I've had in my life, just in terms of how he approached the process really.

For me, it was never so much about the result, it was always about the process and it still is. To this day, I make time a few hours a week to drill and work on new positions and go back to stuff I haven't done that I used to do ten years ago, I don't do anymore, and see if I can reconnect with those techniques and if it fits in with what I'm doing now, so I'm still trying to engage myself better as a martial artist. And then I try to pass along and communicate that passion for falling in love with the process and being respectful of the process and that's really what I'm trying to pass on to the students, rather than any particular idea of jiu-jitsu.

GEORGE: So you highlight the process of applying and you said that this teacher was your most influential teacher because of that – can you elaborate a bit more on the process and how you apply it?

PAUL: Yeah, not to be disappointing or not to disappoint, but I don't have a particular methodology really. That teacher, and also, I started to get involved with Zen Buddhism when I was in my early twenties and meditation, so the process for me it was just  trying, or giving my best or going and fighting. And then, afterward, the breaking down, the natural analytics of what you do after a match, breaking that down with my coach, my coaches, with myself, sometimes writing things down, just trying to search for, watching videos, studying afterward. And then the next day, trying to literally forget everything that I had studied and then go in as a blank slate again and practice whatever my coach said to practice that day, without asking questions and train and then have the questions come and then have the process to break it down again and restart the next day.

And just looking for sparks from inside for me, for whatever reason that's the way I respond as a learner of anything, I try to find a little insight to a particular situation and then try to see if I can expand that across the board in whatever I'm studying. I mentioned this recently in another interview, but for me now, my process that I'm understanding, my own learning process in jiu-jitsu, I've been trying to apply it to fly fishing, which is something I've taken up more seriously in the past three or four years. I did it as a kid and then I got out of it and I'm getting back into it and trying to understand and figure out how to get better at that too and enjoy the ride.

GEORGE: Awesome, it's not disappointing at all. It sounds like you're aware of what you do and then just being open minded about what you did, analyzing and breaking it down and just really improving it.

PAUL: And another thing I would say, it's a part of understanding yourself, especially for someone who's competitive – reasonably competitive, I'm not extremely competitive anymore I think, but it is how you relate to your ego and I think there's a little bit off, people bullshit around the idea of, that we were completely letting go of our ego and we step in the door and for me at least, it was more trying to understand how to harness my ego and my desire to beat whatever training partner that was beating me.

download-5Figure out and study what techniques and what timing I needed to equalize and maybe even pass them in trying and then, again, forget about that and then be able to be just present and aware and in the moment. You get smashed and you get held down by the same person every day and it starts to drive you crazy and without making a personal grudge you couldn't channel that ego into figuring out what you need to do to make yourself better and more complete in jiu-jitsu. I was always, and I still continue to be driven, not just by competition jiu-jitsu, but I'm still trying to understand what jiu-jitsu is. It's a big thing, it comes to self-defense and self-control and competition and Vale Tudo and everything else. I'`m still, as you can see, sorting it out.

GEORGE: You're miles ahead.

PAUL: Thank you.

GEORGE: So, how did working at the Marcelo Garcia Academy come about?

PAUL: Even before Marcelo came onto the scene in 2003, when most of us become aware of Marcelo and his break up from Abu Dhabi, a lot of people obviously knew who he was already: he won the world's at every belt level, from blue juvenile to purple adult, and brown adult. So it wasn't so much of a surprise that he was something special, I wasn't super aware of him. Except in Brazil, I heard people talking about this kid from Fabio's school that was amazing and then after 2003, I became a big fan of his. In 2004, I attended a seminar that he taught and we got to know each other.

Then, at the time, from about 2000 to 2007, 2008, I was spending about four to six months a year in Brazil, training and competing, so I would run into Marcelo in tournaments. We'd always talk, just say hi. I interviewed him one time for “On the Mat,” the website. And we just kind of stayed in touch and then I was with Dave Camarillo, who was one of my main training partners for a long time. At the Pan Ams in 2006 I think, or maybe 2007 Pan Ams, and I just competed and Marcelo was there and I introduced Dave to Marcelo. Then Marcelo invited us out to New York to help him train for Abu Dhabi. Dave Camarillo bought me a ticket and we came to New York for two weeks and trained with Marcelo, so that was how I got to know him better.

And then after that, every time, if he had a big event coming up or if I had something I was competing in, I would try to make the trip from California to New York and then later to Florida and then back to New York to help him train, or helping get myself ready. So that was kind of the genesis of me getting to know Marcelo and we always got along really good with him, he's kind of, what you see is what you get. I feel like a lot of us, I'm sure you feel like you know him already, he's the guy who always has a big smile and he never has to act or pretend like he's a tough guy and he's just an absolute beast when he steps on the mat.

We always got along, he has a great sense of humor. We became friends and at some point, I told him I'd be interested in moving out there just to train with him and I guess one thing led to another and he opened a school in New York and invited me to come be the instructor, the other instructor with him. So I moved here to New York in 2009 and I have been here ever since, teaching and training full-time. Now we have a number of other teachers at the school, we have Bernardo Faria, we have Marcos Tinoco, Mansher Khera, Matheus Diniz, Jonathan Satava, Joe Borges. We have some up and coming people, who are going to be great teachers, like Scott Caplan and Phil, so yeah, we're in good company here.

GEORGE: That's excellent. Something that you mentioned, you had a lot of depth within your club that there's just so many good trainers, but I do want to ask you, and I guess there's many, but what are sort of the core one or two things that you've learned from Marcelo?

PAUL: One is showing up – not that I was unaware of the importance of that before, but Marcelo doesn't, as a coach, he never asks you to do anything that he doesn't do himself, so there's nothing artificial about training, there's a culture of hard work that you guys are all in there together, making yourselves better, and it really helps you believe in yourself, or it helps you believe in the technique. I was told one time, a lot earlier in my jiu-jitsu journey, that the most import thing, above all else, is that you believe in the technique and that will substitute even for belief in yourself when things get really rough.

download-6If you believe in the technique and commit to it, there are some situations where things are so bad in a fight that if you're just thinking how could I do it, you could potentially give up, but if you have that faith in the technique, it's going to work. Marcelo has that absolute belief in the technique. If the technique is going to work, it's going to work against anyone. It's not like it's going to fall apart if this guy's bigger and stronger than you. So I think that the value of hard work and showing up every day and being there twice a day and cutting out the distractions from your life, the pressure, just staying ahead of your opponent and being aggressive, looking for the finish – that's what I respect about Marcelo's jiu-jitsu.

It's not overly strategic, it's about two people fighting until one person quits basically, which I think is the big idea behind jiu-jitsu, that's what made me fall in love with it in the first place. It wasn't because I can sweep and win a match by two points, which I'm happy to do. I'd rather win by two points or by an advantage than lose, but the idea is to step out there and fight until you make your opponent tap. And Marcelo really epitomizes that spirit, he would almost rather lose the match than hold anything back and not go for the kill.

GEORGE: That's powerful, right there. I want to step back to just your coaching methods – and I know you mentioned that you're not so focused on a particular process and so forth. But it's something that, when Jess Fraser spoke about this, she was really inspired by the way that you teach and explain jiu-jitsu as such. Can you elaborate a bit more on that, on your teaching method and how you handle different people and different learning abilities and different styles and so forth?

PAUL: Yeah, sure. As a governing principle, I'm always trying to strip down, rather than elaborate whatever I'm doing. A lot of times in the past I was given credit I didn't deserve as a good coach when looking back I don't think I was because I was a good explainer of moves. And I think that's almost one of the least important things about coaching now, being the teacher, being the explainer of moves. It's more about getting your student to be able to do it and understanding how the moves connect and the art of redirecting your opponent's attack against them.

download-7Your attacks and your jiu-jitsu are connecting together within your body and then relating in a binary way with what's coming at you. It's not a mess, it's not just you throwing techniques against the wall. Our jiu-jitsu is connected to what our opponent is doing. And then understanding the physics of it and the mechanics of jiu-jitsu in a very simple way that we can communicate, but also understanding the art, what's going on between the moves to our opponent, or to our students rather. I heard B.J. said this one time: jiu-jitsu is the marriage or the union of basically two things: the technique and the will to win.

And you can't just train one and not train the other. You can be the most technical guy but have no desire to win, no will that pulls you through the fight to survive and find the way to turn the fight and go for the kill. We can't only have that belief in ourselves or that desire to kill and not have the technique to back it up, it's really both. And again, it relates to, our belief in the technique helps to build our will, and it helps to build our will in the general sense and it helps to build our will within the fight. So it's getting our students to understand how they can access their own power. And I'm a blue belt at that, I'm a purple belt at that, you look at someone like Fabio Gurgel or Marcelo, a lot of the greats – they're black belts with that.

And another thing that I think, you definitely see them in the art world, in the creative world that I've always been adherent of is that you take what works. If I see Marcelo teach a great class, I steal it, you know? And I figure out how to make it maybe mine in a way that I can communicate it with my words. I see the way he puts things together so that it teaches to the level of where the students at, of what they're going to get out of it in the simplest way possible, so that you don't have to go off and elaborate on principles: the principles are included in the lesson in the simplest way, so that your student discovers it, rather than you delivering it and hand feeding it.

And so much of developing expert knowledge or expert ability is your own process of discovery and taking ownership for your learning. To the best of my ability, I try to see the way my student learns and I try to tailor in some sense what I'm teaching to that and teach just above that level so that they have to extend themselves and really dig to get that. And then there's just the physicality of it too, you kind of have to go through the fire a little bit, it can't be too easy. I'm always trying to balance accessibility and experience.

GEORGE: That's a good answer. I did want to ask you, what can people expect when training at Marcelo Garcia Academy?  Guess you've kind of answered that – is there anything else that there is to add to that?

PAUL: I like to think that the single most important thing is that we're welcoming, we're nice to people. Regardless of jiu-jitsu, if you treat other people well and with respect, it seems to come back around. That said, we have a culture of hard work, so you can expect to train hard, but if you don't want to, if it's not in your future to ever compete and you have no interest in it, you're not going to be forced into competition, or competition training. You can just come in and train, but the idea is, we built a culture and we built a room where people can train hard, train safe and shake hands and be friends before and after.

That's I think how we framed training and the culture and the environment of Marcelo's is the thing I'm most proud of and the biggest thing that hopefully you can count on when you come. That really comes from the top, that comes from Marcelo, that's the way he is and that's the culture he's created and that's the product of the people he's surrounded himself with at the gym. People who, if their ego is too big, it's too much about them, they usually don't end up fitting in in the long term. That's the thing I'm most proud of from the gym and I think that's hopefully what you can expect when you come to train at Marcelo's. Technical jiu-jitsu, hard training and a good vibe at the academy.

GEORGE: Paul, it's been great chatting with you. I've got two more questions for you: one would be, do you still get to surf in New York?

PAUL: Yeah, I do, I surf when I can. My timing is atrocious now, but there's the good surf, there are good waves here, there are really good waves. It's a little bit more fickle than what I'm used to in California, it's not like good point brakes, at least that I'm aware of. For the most part, it's a lot of beach breaks, and the sand moves around, you kind of have to be on it with the swell direction in the wind. I usually just call my friends that are better at that stuff than I am and they tell me where it's going to be good and I try to get out there. Yeah, I try to fish a lot too, which is my other option for getting out of the city, so I try to go upstate and fish the Delaware River and the Farmington River. I fly fish when I can as well.

GEORGE: Sounds good. Paul, it's been great chatting to you – if anybody wants to learn more about you and find out more about you, where can they reach out to you?

PAUL: You can always walk into the academy at Marcelo's. I'm there 6 days a week typically, for some Part of the day. I teach Monday through Friday and then I teach a class on Saturday every other week. I have a website, it’s, so you can get in touch with me through that, I'm also on Instagram. I have Facebook, but I'm not super on it about checking it. That's it – again, the easiest way is to just come by Marcelo's. I know it's a bit far for you guys, but you'd be surprised at how many Australians we have at the academy, any given day there's a number of Australian visitors there.

And I have to say, from what I see here in New York, the level of jiu-jitsu is getting really high around the world and Australia really seems to be closing the gap with a lot of really technical competitors. I think being so far away from the center and being so much in a periphery, people really have to take ownership of their training. Like what Jess does, you have to travel and we end up with people that are a lot more passionate about it and that's what it takes to be good. It's that passion.

GEORGE: That's it, awesome. Paul – thanks again for making the time and I hope to connect with you again soon.

PAUL: Anytime, thank you, George.

GEORGE: Thank you, cheers.

PAUL: Cheers.

GEORGE: And there you have it  – thanks for listening, hope you enjoyed that interview. I learnt a lot, especially as a jiu-jitsu student as well, it made a big impact on me, just how they break things down, especially the key thing that stood out for me – well, one of many, but the one thing that really stood out was mentioning how it's not just about the technique, but having the will and faith in the technique and trusting the technique that it's going to work and you can't have one without other, you can't just have the will and no technique, and you can't just have technique without the will. That really really stood out for me, amongst other things.

Thanks a lot for listening, I hope you enjoyed this how. Again, the show notes are at, and if you enjoyed the show and you enjoyed all these shows, please head out to and there's a little picture there below, you'll see a link, or a blue button that says “View on iTunes,” and please head over there, just leave us a good review – a 5-star review helps us get our rankings up within the show. So if you are enjoying it, that is the one thing that we can ask in return, which would really really mean a lot to us.

That's it, thank you very much for tuning in. I'll be back again next week with another episode. Have a great week, I'll chat with you soon – cheers.


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

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17 – Growing Your Martial Arts School With External And Celebrity Instructors

No time to groom martial arts instructors to grow your martial arts school? Con Lazos hire's externally if they're a match. Martial Arts celebrity Richard Norton most definitely makes that list.

Grow Your Martial Arts School - Con Lazos and Richard Norton


  • How martial arts ‘fills the gap' with education
  • The school teachers advantage to martial arts instructing
  • Having access to the knowledge of world-renowned Richard Norton
  • Trusting your gut feel when hiring instructors from outside
  • When you take your foot off the pedal and have to start from scratch
  • Grooming students to be the best version of themselves
  • And more

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



The main thing here is that we teach from a total love perspective. What I mean by that is, we have to love everything about what we're doing.

Hi, this is George Fourie and welcome to martial arts media podcast, episode number 17. I have with me today Con Lazos, from Fusion MA. And we talk about a few interesting topics, that being going back to the whole teaching aspect again as an ex teacher, using those principles in teaching martial arts, but also something a bit counterintuitive to what most people recommend, and that is, instead of just grooming instructors from the ground up, but actually employing people from external clubs and external expertise to come and coach at Fusion MA.

And that's the blend that is really working well for him and he's got various experts on board, other than himself. One famous and well respected martial artist from Australia, Richard Norton, who, if you're not familiar with, was the fight coordinator and stunt coordinator for “Suicide squad“ and a whole bunch of other movies, so you can check that out on Google, you'll find a whole lot of information about him. And we discussed a bit working with Richard, but more so, talk about Con's vision and how he likes to impact youth and students through training martial arts.

Now, if you've listened to a few episodes, you know that I've always been asking, please leave us a positive review on iTunes and I've been sending you to the link But I have to apologize, because somebody brought it to my attention that it’s only halfway to leave a review when you go to that link and iTunes does not make this easy, they make it pretty confusing.

Martial Arts Media Business PodcastSo the link is correct, but it’s not the last step to leave a review. So when you go to, you've actually got to click on another link and you'll see there's a sort of a red, fiery, I don't know what you call that, picture of me, with a logo of martial arts media. And just below that, there's a blue button that says, “View on iTunes.“ Now, you actually have to click that button “View on iTunes“ to open up iTunes and then you're able to leave a review.  So, apologies for not giving the whole swell of how to get there, but that's basically it., click on the “View on iTunes“ button and you can leave the review. And why do I ask for this? Because, if you're getting value out of this show, that's all that we could really ask for in return. Leave us a good review that makes the episode stand out within the iTunes directory, so it gets noticed more and it helps us get the word out about the martial arts media business podcast. So if you want to help us in that way – much appreciated.

As always, transcriptions and links mentioned in the show can be found on our website,, that's the number 17 and that will take you to the page where this podcast episode is hosted. Alright, let's jump into this interview, and please welcome to the show – Con Lazos.

GEORGE: Good day everyone, today I have with me Con Lazos from Fusion MA. And a couple of things we want to talk about today, something that's really been brought to my attention that really stands out on what Con is doing, is employing talent from outside and not promoting people from within, but actually creating a martial arts school that serves a vast variety of styles, because of the way he is running his staff. And of course, I want to thank Michelle Hext for putting me in touch with Con, who I interviewed a couple of weeks back. So welcome to the show Con.

CON: Thanks a lot for the intro George and very excited to be on this call with you.

GEORGE: Cool, awesome. So I guess, starting right at the beginning: who is Con Lazos?

CON: Right. So, I'm 43 years old and I've been running Fusion martial arts fitness for a lot of years: in the Yarraville location since 2001, in the Port Melbourne location since 2008 and I've been teaching martial arts since 1991 in various different places. An ex school teacher who saw a need for proper martial arts teaching to fill in the gap about what they don't do at schools and my whole life has been basically health and wellness through the martial arts.

GEORGE: Where did you actually get going with martial arts yourself, before all the teaching and everything came about?

CON: When I was a young kid, a primary school kid, I actually use to live in Greece and I got into martial arts through watching martial art films in outdoor cinemas in my home town of Chalkida in Greece. Every summer, I think this was a plot by the martial arts club that was opposite the cinema, that just used to run those old school martial art films that are so eclectic, those kung fu films with Bruce Lee and snake kung fu and this and that. And I used to go and watch them all the time and I used to bug my parents to go and take me to the martial arts center. And my dad was an ex army boy and he was like, there's no way you're training at any of these martial arts centers, they're just not the standard to what you think it’s going to be, so you're not doing martial arts.

So I had to befriend a couple of kids that were martial artists and their dads used to run the school, so I used to go around to the house a lot and basically try and learn anything I could in my primary school years. So I got a little bit of a wing chun at the start, but didn't officially start until we moved to Australia and my first official martial arts instructor was a really good man called Ragnar Purje, through Goju. He took me in for a few years and then I just kept going on forwards from there.

GEORGE: So you went from martial arts, you decided to go into teaching – how did that transition to your martial arts instructing?

CON: Alright, when I finished year 12 at high school, just before that, I was basically state level swimmer and I was making my way up through martial arts, through Taekwondo specifically. My parents were like, you're not doing sport as a job, because you know what? You should just keep it as a bit of fun.

So I went and started applied science for a couple of years, and then I realized nah – actually, this is what I'd like to do. And then I started physical education and mathematics at the University of Ballarat, so I could become a better martial arts instructor, because I was already pitching martial arts since I was 18. So I went into this University at 21 and yeah, I did my bachelor of education, just so I could become a better instructor with what I do. Obviously, then I went and became a school teacher for a few years, but the martial arts was a real calling, and I eventually had to stop school teaching, because the martial arts then took over all my time, and the training.

GEORGE: Now, this seems to be a common theme, because I spoke to Sean Allen and Sean Allen, he was also an ex teacher, and he was being very vocal about using the whole teaching concept through martial arts and then, a few weeks back, I spoke to Jess Fraser, and her go-to coach that she was speaking about, Paul Schreiner, which also focuses a  lot on the coaching element and does a lot of studying with coaching: how do you feel this gives you that edge? Having that teacher background and applying that in your martial arts instructing?

Fusion MA - Grow Your Martial Arts SchoolCON: I think it’s a massive advantage for myself, because you've seen the other side of the coin about what they're trying to do at schools and what they're trying to achieve and how they basically are trying to make the kids to move along at a particular kind of pace. I wasn't happy with the pace that I saw here and I just thought, you know what? We can do a lot better with the kids, even twice a week coming in, to do a lot more character development for the people, through high training.

I know some people that do character development with the clubs basically, they focus a lot more on that and they don't focus as much on the training. We really focus on the training, but we're trying to bring up the best kids that are going to be really well integrated in the community. And we find that a lot of the kids thought the systems that we're doing here, that when they go to school, they might have come from nothing, but they end up being school captains, because they know how to be good leaders.

They take home all these trophies from school. I've got this young instructor here, Fred Made is winning all these major awards, for the type of kid that he is. So the school teaching element let's me marry what they do in schools now with what we're doing and we're just filling the gap. Not everyone can do everything, and we certainly don't say that we'll do everything, but we're certainly filling that gap for pushing kids to go further in life and to learn how to be successful.

GEORGE: Do you structure this with a set curriculum, or are you very more sort of in tune with the individual needs of each student?

CON: We've got a curriculum that we have. It used to be so much more filled up to what it is now, but kids have changed and adults have changed and the time they commit, and come to the classes has changed. So our curriculum is 100% reduced to what we used to teach, in regards to all the wrist locks and arm bars, because my system that we have here at Fusion martial arts in the Taekwondo system has a lot of self defense, you know?

So we've narrowed it down so it’s certainly easier to learn, but certainly the conversations that we're having with the kids about what we're expecting them to get to, to get their black belt, that's really honed in basically every single class. So it’s a looser class structure, it’s not like we don't set out ten weeks they want and tenth minute is what you do, but we do have the rough thing that we do and we're just making sure we're covering it over the ten weeks.

GEORGE: So you've got a few instructors that were with you?

CON: Mhm.

GEORGE: Just give me a bit of an overview of the setup, because I know we're going to lead into, there's a lot of external players that also help with instructing: just give me a bit of background on how that's set up.

CON: Ok, so: four or five years ago, we used to bring up everyone from internally and they trained with me, because I used to teach all the classes. It was really good before, because I actually could bring everyone out. And then eventually, some of those people, they wanted to become my instructors, so they used to take an assistant role and take more responsibility and then obviously, sometimes the people meant to move on and do something different with their lives, because they get families and so on. I've got one instructor now, his name is Jake Vella. He's been fantastic with us and I brought him right through since he was seven old, he's now 23. He runs my Port Melbourne location, he knows the way I like doing things, but now what we're doing is, we're bringing people from the outside, but we still keep building our assistant instructors and everything from the inside.

So if they now want to do their own career, they can actually go and have their own place outside of Fusion and be able to run their own centers. That's still a few years to go, but we've got a really good teenage team at the moment, that in the next 6 or 7 years time, they'll easily be able to run their own places, if that's what they want to do. I've got some really good people that have come in from externally.

I guess the most famous one that everyone around the world would know is the gentleman called Richard Norton, who is one of the first 12 non-Brazilians to get a black belt in Brazilian jiu jitsu. Basically, right up there with Chuck Norris and done all those movies, so every time professor Richard Norton is in Melbourne, Fusion MA is his home base. He comes and helps teach some of the classes out of here. Obviously, the guys really love it, but his main focus is to go around and run seminars, all around Australia, with all the different things that he does, on top of even just the Brazilian jiu jitsu. So he's a really good name. And then I've got another couple instructors here from Iran, one is Arash Mojdeh and his brother Eisa.


They're fantastic, they bring in that hardness from Iran that sometimes I think we've lost in Australia. I feel like all that old school training and that's what we're trying to lead with from here. So it was really good to bring Arash in from the outside, because he was an international competitor at the time and I needed someone to look after our competition team, so his main focus is to look after our competition team. And we've got national team members back on board now because of this.

GEORGE: And is that also for Taekwondo?

CON: He is a Taekwondo guy, yeah, Arash is only a Taekwondo guy. Obviously, with my guys, they want to learn all around. In time, they've learned Brazilian jiu jitsu, they've learned boxing, they've learned everything, but his forte is Taekwondo, yes. An then we've got another instructor that teaches basically Jeet Kune do, we call it modern day kung fu, Jeet Kune do. His name is Christopher Christoph, he's from Bulgaria. He runs a big security from here in Melbourne and he just loves his Jeet Kune do, so we've just introduced him into the club. Anyone that wants to do Jeet Kune do, there's that. So we've got a really good variance of people in here.

GEORGE: Having someone like Richard Norton – I know obviously he's a busy guy and he's got all these great movies going on – what was the latest one I saw…

CON: “Suicide Squad.“

GEORGE: There, that's it, “Suicide Squad.“

Richard Norton and Con Lazos

CON: He's involved with everyone, he's so popular with helping people, Scarlett Johansson, all that kind of stuff. He's right up there, he's at the top of the tree. And for him to come in and pitch at the club here, we're very thankful, I'm very thankful. I've made great friends with him, because we've got the same kind of philosophy on what martial arts should be all about. So yeah, it’s really really good.

GEORGE: Is that a big draw card? Do you find that, most people that start martial arts, they're just not familiar with who people are, but does that celebrity status help you at all to draw students?

CON: I've personally got a big issue with really promoting. I've got a bit of a backwards kind of a thing: I've worked with a lot of top end people as well, as does Richard.

If you actually come into Fusion MA, it’s very Spartan about what you see around, unless you ask, you won’t know who's who. Obviously, with Richard, he’s got the name out there, and he’s very well respected. I think it’s a very good thing for people outside of Fusion to know that he’s here. The people inside Fusion, I think guys like this, when you're used to having someone around, obviously you totally appreciate it, but you really don’t know what the gem is you have until you don't have him anymore.

He’s just gone missing for a couple of years now because of all the movies. He’s just returned to come back on the mats with us for a couple of months and the guys are absolutely appreciating it, because they missed out on him for a couple of years. So now when he’s come back on the floor, the talent just shows. It’s just a totally different kettle of fish. I guess I could exploit it and say, this is who we've trained and this is who we've got and all that kind of stuff and I think that we would get a lot of blow ins.

But for me, I'm not really interested in blow ins, I just like to have our students and what we’re doing with our students and really developing the people that we actually have. I like people to stay with us for a long time and keep on building them up. So if someone wants to come across because our professor Norton is here, or any of the instructors are here, that’s great. But we don't want you to just come here for like a month or two and then, see you later. We want to work with you and make something of you.

GEORGE: For sure. So going on those principles, let’s just start internally, and then all these external influences that have come in. So, when you sort of groom people internally to become instructors, how do you get all these philosophies across? Because, you've got experience with teaching and all this: how do you communicate this message that it can't be one step, two step, three, which I guess can be a lot harder for younger people to grasp, how to communicate effectively and spot the needs in people and so forth. How do you go about handling that?

CON: These instructors that are coming up to be internal instructors, they started with us since they were really young. So when they come up and become teenagers, they've already got the feeling of what the club is like and how the instructors are really talking to their students and so on. My main thing here is that we teach from a total love perspective. What I mean by that is, we have to love everything about what we're doing. We have to love everything about the people that we have and we want to work towards bettering the other person.

So if you're in that environment all the time, where you're coming from a place of love, even when you have to discipline someone: if you're doing it from a place of love and care, that goes into that person over time, and then, when they start teaching, we can start reminding them: remember when we did this with you? This is what it is. Remember when we did that with that kid? That's what it is. If we see that they're not doing it the way that we like, we take them aside and we do the job ourselves to show how we do the discussion, or how we go forward with that and obviously, they'll learn through us, through example.

I'm very much in the club as much as I possibly can. I've got five young kids myself, I'm still here at least four days a week, just to make sure that everything is running really well. Obviously, before I had kids, I was basically living in Fusion, so those people are really well groomed. So yes, if we always show them that we've got a sense of love and care, that gets past down very naturally to everybody. And obviously, if someone is stepping out of line, it’s myself that will step in and I will deal with that myself and I will explain to them how we go about doing that. Because sometimes – you know what martial arts is like: sometimes, people get a bit of an ego, and they want to be the hero and they want to teach a little bit harder, they want to show someone discipline, or whatever it is. I've got to always remind them that it’s not about us: it’s about our clients and about how we deal with our clients.

GEORGE: How do you deal with bringing in people externally? I've seen this conversation around in a few Facebook groups, that people are very anti bringing people in from the outside. It’s always, groom people in from the bottom-up, groom people to become instructors. So it seems like it’s a big thing that business owners fear is to bring people in externally. Now, you've got all of these strong values, and love and care and value service with your students, instructors as such: how do you convey that message to anybody like Richard Norton, or anybody that comes in externally, to be an instructor at Fusion MA?

Arash Mojdeh Fusion MACON: I guess the first thing, I've never put an ad out for an instructor. It’s always been through introduction, or it’s always been through someone. Let’s just say, I’ll give an example, which is Arash. Arash had come from overseas, he was living in Footscray up the road, he'd gone around to a lot of Taekwondo clubs and he just happened to drive past Fusion in Yarraville. And walked in and – I don't know what it is, but I've got a sixth sense about someone when someone walks in. I can tell whether they're going to be a good person or not.

I introduce myself to them, I'll have a bit of a chat. Then he opened up and said that he was a Taekwondo person. I said, how do you feel about coming in and just having a bit of a kick around. You know, I've got friends in Iran, and obviously, we hit it off from then. Because I've got a lot of friends form overseas, form international competition myself and been having my ear on the ground and so on. You sense something about someone. And then obviously, he's coming in, training. One day he goes, I really loved your club because you guys are really training well.

You're training hard, you love that kind of thing. If there's any chance that I could work here with you guys, I would love to have a chance. So then obviously, we test it out a little bit by little bit. I teamed him up with Jake Vella, who is, as I said, my student that's been with me for a long time. He went out to the Port Melbourne location, which was South Melbourne at the time. He worked alongside of my right hand man, which is Jake, for a year, until there was a position available in Yarraville for him to be able to do it. And then I just gave him what he's really good at, which is the competition team.

And we started backwards from that: OK, you're going to start the competition team. We're going to build that from nothing to something, and then I'll integrate you in my normal classes. And now, he's basically running the show here in Yarraville for the Taekwondo. And obviously, there's always conversations to be had, because it’s not only someone from outside, it’s actually someone from another country altogether, and they have different systems and so on. And we just keep on talking it through. It’s the easiest thing to do, get upset, that someone's not doing something right: the hardest thing to do is to be able to discuss it and realize that we're doing it for our students and not for ourselves.

And then, it just sort of pans out. It doesn't always pan out 100%, we've had people come in externally and they've taken it to a different level to what they thought that we're going to go for and it just didn't fit into our culture and I've lost a whole bunch of students because of this before, so I just try and get it out a little bit earlier. I think that's why the instructors are scared to lose students. I'm not scared to lose students, I'm only scared to lose students that have been treated wrong and if I'm not on the floor watching what's going on, that's my fault. And I've done that and basically, my club went down from whatever numbers I've had to a third before, because I stepped back as I had another child and I thought, you know what, I think I've got everything down packed. I think everything's going to run really well – I basically stepped off the club for six months, I'd come in 2-3 times a week. And in that time, I lost most of my students, so

I had to restart from scratch. And actually, that's when Arash came into the club, at that time. So yeah, if you don't have your finger on the pulse, you're going to lose it for sure, 100%. Because this is a personality based business. People that walk in, they've got an expectation of what they want. We obviously try to match what we are with the way that they are, and if it matches, they stick with us for a long, long time. If they come in with one set of perspectives and then they see something different, either then they join or we've done something wrong with one of our instructors. So there's lots of conversations that need to be had all the time, that's the key.

GEORGE: That's awesome. Keeping that ear close to the ground and just really paying attention. That really sticks out for me, just being on top of it before things escalate in a  direction that you can't control.

Richard Norton Benny The Jet Con LazosCON: Yeah, that's right. And you know what, a lot of people are interested in opening up a lot of clubs and good luck to them and everything. I've seen some really successful people open up multiple clubs and I think the only way it works is when the other instructor has got a major share in that club, because they feel like they're doing something good for themselves or their families and so on. However, if the culture's different between the clubs, the person that loses is the person that created the name. Obviously, this club is not called – it’s called Fusion MA, because I like to bring in the best of everybody, but the culture has to be the same.

GEORGE: Con, awesome. It’s been really great chatting to you. Where do you see this going? What's sort of your plan? Where do you want to take your journey with martial arts and your instructing and your school?

CON: This is actually something I've been working on really hard on myself over the last year. I think martial arts is a very, very difficult gig and I'll be honest with everybody: I think it's about as hard as it gets, and I'll tell you the main reason for this: we've got basically four, maximum five hours a day to make a business work from a business perspective. So you've got a building that sits there all day, where other businesses, they can make it work 24 hours a day if they really want to. Martial arts is a very hard business, but you don't have to get rich. I think you can do it, there's ways to do it. If you want to leave a bit of a legacy behind, I'm finding that this is better.

So I'm not interested in opening up more Fusion MA's around. One of my students wants to go and open up their own, it will be their club and they can have my love and support behind them, and so on. I just want these two to run really well. Jake, I totally trust in Port Melbourne, that's his people out there. If Jake left, those people would not stick around, I guess the only person that could step in would be myself, because I obviously used to go in and out a fair bit, but really, that's his club.

Yarraville, it’s always going to be here and it’s going to be bringing up instructors and so on. This is a career for a kid that wants to go to university and you know you want to see yourself through while you go and make something different of yourself. If someone wants to become an international competitor out of here – by all means, go for it. We've got all the facilities, the gym equipment, we've got the talent, we've got the knowledge, we've got the location- we've got everything like that.

That's where I see Fusion going, just making better people out of Fusion, looking out for this local community. There's a lot of great instructors, I'm not interested in going and competing with them, or try and take over territory and all that kind of stuff. I just love everyone to know who the best is in their area. We definitely want to look after all this area that's around Yarraville for what we do. And the same thing for Port Melbourne: if someone wants to go in competition with us, we just keep on doing what we do really well and our clients will be our clients for life. If they left, they weren't our clients to start with. I think that's the long game, just keep on looking after your clients.

GEORGE: Awesome. Con, it was really great chatting to you. Where can people find out more about you?

CON: They can go to For myself personally, most people find me through Facebook. I'm always trying to calm my Facebook group, to try to keep it under 5000 people, because obviously, you need new people coming through. So that's Con Lazos, and you'll find Fusion MA attached to it. Yeah, that's the best way to go about doing it. Bit of a Google search and you'll find us straight away, we can't hide very much these days.

GEORGE: Yeah, true. All right, Con: thanks a lot for chatting to me, I hope to chat to you soon.

CON: Thank you so much George, thanks for your time.

GEORGE: Cheers, bye.

There you go  thank you very much for listening, thanks for spending your time with us here today.I hope you got something of value out of that. Thanks of course to Con Lazos from Fusion MA for sharing his journey and his perspectives and values that he brings to the martial arts industry. And for me, when I do listen to any podcast or any training, it’s nice to listen to the story and get the context out of it, but at the end of the day, I'm also looking for that transformational info that I can apply to my business. And a simple goal that I set for myself when I listen to stuff is just one thing: can I grab one item, one thing out of this conversation or training that is actionable, that I can apply to my business? And I hope you can do the same for your business, I hope there's things coming out of these podcasts that you can relate to and just make that one little shift and tweak that is profitable and builds a better business and helps you influence more people through your martial arts training.

Thanks again for listening – show notes are at If you can, please leave us that review that I've been asking for. I would much appreciate it. And, but click on the blue icon button that says “View on iTunes.” It takes you to iTunes and you'll be able to leave a review there, we much appreciate it.

Anyway, back next week with another awesome interview. Looking forward to that and I will chat to you then – cheers.


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16 – Justin Sidelle: The Lifestyle Of Running A Martial Arts Business In The Tropics

Sun, surf and martial arts? Brazilian Jiu Jitsu black belt Justin Sidelle shares the laid back lifestyle running their martial arts business.

martial arts business


  • Justin’s martial arts journey that inspired him to travel the world
  • How a healthy environment motivates martial arts training and how it affects your performance
  • The importance of “word of mouth” and social media in boosting your martial arts school’s exposure
  • Having a martial arts holiday in Bali, Indonesia vs Thailand
  • Giving back to the community and making a difference
  • And more

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


And on top of that, being in such an environment that's that healthy and that welcoming, your training goes through the roof. You perform better, you learn better, you learn faster.

Hi, this is George Fourie from and welcome to the Martial Arts Media business podcast, episode number 16. Today, I cross international waters – again. Well, it's not really international for us so much, because it's just Bali, and Bali and Perth, that's about a three and half hour flight, but I'm speaking to Justin Sidelle. And Justin Sidelle is the head coach at Bali MMA, the head jiu-jitsu coach at Bali MMA. Now, if you recall episode 13, I had Jess Fraser on, from the Australian Girls in GI and she mentioned that Bali MMA is her home gym, although she jet-sets and travels around the world. So I wanted to get in touch with Justin and just have a chat with him about his lifestyle: living in Bali, being able to train jiu-jitsu, which he loves and living in the tropics and just living an awesome lifestyle and living a very laid back life and doing a lot of good things within the Bali community.

But first, just a quick update, more a notification, if you're not aware of it, depending of course on where you listen to this podcast, if you listen to it on your iPhone or through your Android type device like a Samsung or so forth, or on the website. If you listen to it on the website, you might have noticed it, but we give away a martial art business plan for online media for martial arts business owners and it's basically a plan for the online media side of things.

It's looking at the different components of digital marketing for your martial arts school, so what you need to basically cover all the elements. There's a lot of information out there, you've got to do this on Facebook, and you've got to do this on Google and you've got to have SEO, but this is kind of giving you a holistic view of all the components that you need to have a prosperous martial arts school, but not only that, to make sure that you're not single point sensitive.

Let's say Facebook fell off the map today: can your business still sustain and can you still market? Do you still have ways and means to actually get in touch with your people? So it's just looking at things from a holistic point of view and all the elements that you need to cover. It's on the website, you can download it on, or if you go directly to the link, it's Download it, check it out. That will put you on our email database and we'll also send out weekly updates from when we release this podcast and such.

That's just it from me. I want to get into the podcast now. I've got to tell you as well, this was always going to be a problem: talking to someone in Bali, I knew the internet wasn't going to be the best, we ended up talking on the phone and there was a bit of a delay, which kind of overlapped a few times. All in all, the interview is awesome, you're going to get a lot of value from this and it might even spark you, light a fire under you to go take a nice tropical holiday with some awesome martial arts training. So, without further ado, please welcome to the show – Justin Sidelle.

GEORGE: Alright, good day everyone. Today I have with me a guest from Indonesia, from Bali to be exact. Well, I guess rather saying, based in Indonesia, but actually an American gentleman. His name is Justin Sidelle and how I was introduced to Justin was through Jess Fraser from Australian girls in GI, who I had on the podcast episode 13 and she mentioned that Justin is her head coach and her home training grounds, if you want to call it that way is the Bali MMA. Welcome to the call Justin.

JUSTIN: Thanks George, thanks for having me.

GEORGE: Alright, awesome. So I guess we should start right at the beginning and we're going to ask of course how an American ended up in Bali, but  – who is Justin Sidelle?

JUSTIN: That's a good question, man. Who you are as a person never stops changing, right? So it's hard to answer that question I think for a lot of people. I was somebody who was out traveling. I was traveling through Asia and I got a good job opportunity thrown my way and I was first in Thailand, so I worked in Thailand for a while and then I met the Leone brothers and Donny and they wanted to come out to Bali and open a gym out here, so I kind of followed them out here and we opened Bali MMA.

GEORGE: Alright, cool. How long ago was that, how long did you start traveling that you went over to Thailand?

JUSTIN: I've been out of the States now for three years. So a year in Thailand and now two years in Bali.

GEORGE: What was the big motivation for going? I know there's a lot of motivation to set up in Bali, but what was the idea behind setting up Bali MMA?

JUSTIN: I think it was a passion for, I still look at the guys I came here with, I still look at Andrew and Anthony and Donny and a big passion for them was surfing. They all wanted to come out here and surf and that was something I was interested in getting involved with. Definitely, the Asian lifestyle, living in the tropics, is something that I think attracted all of us for wanting to come here.

15049824_10209156096792461_674409732_nJust that training lifestyle and the destination, that's just kind of so inspiring and makes you want more for yourself and more on where you're at in the world. It was just the perfect place to open a gym really, and there was nothing really out here like this already. We were the first really professional gym that set up. So it's kind of cool, we're working our way up towards being a world class destination gym and I think we've done that. Then you continue pushing forward to really keep up with our competition.

GEORGE: With not having the competition and you were the first there, what was your primary goal? Were you thinking, OK, we're going to set something up for Indonesians as such or Bali, being such a hot travel destination, was it more a goal of being a place where people can train on a holiday, or were you going for that expat market for people that are living in Bali and trying to accommodate for them?

JUSTIN: That's a good question. I think initially our goal was to be a destination gym. Because before we were in Phuket and Phuket was a much more transient place, we had a lot more tourists coming in and out. That much said, we don't have that here in Bali, we just find that there are more expats and locals here that are interested in training, which we didn't have as much in Thailand.

So I think what we figured out quickly was that we were going to be able to cater to both. So I have my core group of guys that are either part of our professional fight team or live here in Bali that train with me daily and then I also have handfuls of tourists coming through every week, if it's even just for a drop in class or just two months of a hard training camp, or maybe just 6 months to a year, just to give their life a new start. I get all of that, it's a great environment.

GEORGE: So the majority of people who train there, what styles are you coaching and is it mostly adults or do you have kids programs as well?

JUSTIN: Oh yeah, adults and kids both. We're really multifaceted, we have a professional MMA team that I coach for their jiu-jitsu, so my approach to them has to be a little different, right? My concern with them is not only them  having a pristine jiu-jitsu technique, but also that they're safe in a fight, so for them, I kind of structure their jiu-jitsu a little differently, so I know they're going to go in there, they're going to be safe in a fight, they can handle themselves well and they're looking to finish.

So I have  a different mindset for my pros than I do for my hobbyists. My hobbyists, depending on whether they're competing in jiu-jitsu, I need to give them tools so they're going to work in that style and that environment. My hobbyists, I tend to steer towards more self-defense. Again, kind of like that mixture between MMA and sports jiu-jitsu that has to be taught to them. So I really try to cater it to my students and who's there. Kid's programs, we have a couple.

We have our main kid's program here that's taught by Andrew Leone – fantastic kid's coach, he's really hands on, he's funny. He knows how to get the kids rolled up and having a good time, he does a great job with our kid's program here. I helped him, I established that with him, we built that together, it's a ton of fun. And then we do a program called Jalang, with a green school. Jalang it means “to wonder” in Indonesian. They come out once a semester for six weeks and we teach them jiu-jitsu and boxing and wrestling as well. We do it separately, so it's not straight MMA, but we teach all the components to them.

GEORGE: What a variation there! How do you cater for international clients, and people coming through on holiday? How do you get the word out and how do you get the marketing out in a place like Bali?

JUSTIN: A little bit of it is word of mouth, a lot of it is through social media. There tends to be, what we're finding is that there's a community of people that want to go on holiday and do something healthy for themselves. They just don't want to go partying the whole time, so a lot of people are choosing to do things, like go to an MMA camp, in a destination like Bali, so they can go and get the holiday they want, but train on the side, eat healthy, live a clean lifestyle while they're here and then go back to the real world.

So a lot of it is just networking, people who come through, they go home, they tell people from their gym, and then next time, they come and bring friends – it’s just people who like to travel already. And then a lot of it is people that have come back, that have trained with us before, so maybe they pass through. When we were training together in Thailand and in Bali, so now they're coming over here to check out what we're doing over here. And then, we just establish those relationships and people keep coming back.

GEORGE: I can see you have quite a few, I know Tiffany Van Soest, that's also the home training facility for her.

JUSTIN: She's my neighbor, she's right next door.

GEORGE: Oh, cool. So does that help a lot with marketing, having someone like that on board, and big names, how does that influence it?

15045612_10209156137353475_1634376610_nJUSTIN: Oh, absolutely! She's such a big influence on the team here, the energy she brings into the room. It says a lot about her skill set, she can walk into a room full of MMA fighters and they all just shut up and listen to whatever she has to say, so it’s a technical striker. All that input is really great and having high-level competitors like that in the gym pushes everyone else to raise the bar on themselves and train harder. Having world class athletes that we do, that come in regularly makes a big difference in the energy of the gym.

GEORGE: Going back, I want to know a bit more about you. Alright, you come from America, you started traveling and so forth – let's just actually take a step back from all this and let's start with your career, where did you start in martial arts?

15050023_10209156119793036_29076811_nJUSTIN: I started doing traditional martial arts as a kid and then when I got a little bit older, I got involved with Brazilian jiu-jitsu. So I in 2005 I started jiu-jitsu and I fell in love with it right away, I knew that's what I wanted to practice and that's what I wanted to do. So I just kept cutting the fat around things in my life that wouldn't let me train and it was actually after I did, in 2010, I was still training probably three or four days a week in jiu-jitsu and competing actively, I competed in IBJJF, really great jiu-jitsu tournaments. Jiu-jitsu just becomes such a Mecca in California, you could go to California and train, it’s just always tough competition, great guys to train with.

So anyway, in 2010, I went to Thailand for the first time and got the taste of training full time, I went to Tiger Muay Thai, and did like three weeks there and it blew my mind. On my way back, I ended up getting a job offer from the gym I was training at the time, with Dave Camarillo, so I ended up at that point in my life, switching from, I was working in restaurants and bars and grocery stores and stuff like that, to training jiu-jitsu full time. And so I trained and taught with Dave for the next four years, I've probably been a brown belt for maybe like a year and then I left to do some traveling in Thailand and south east Asia and I ended up doing work with Olavo Abreu. And so I took that and stayed there and got my black belt from Olavo Abreu and then came to Bali.

GEORGE: That's got to be the ultimate lifestyle for you, living in Bali, being able to train every day, quite a laid back lifestyle?

15044892_10209156097392476_288918132_oJUSTIN: Oh, for sure! It's great man, I wake up every day, go get breakfast on a beach, drive my motorbike around through rice paddies, all that good stuff, and you go to the gym and you train – I love my team, I love everyone there, the atmosphere of the gym  is so great. I thought about this a while ago: when you show up to work at least 30 minutes early every day, for no reason other than to be there, you like your job. You know what I mean? When you're getting out of bed early just to go to work, you really like your job. I'm just so happy to be at the gym and training with my team, it’s been great man, it’s a great lifestyle.

GEORGE: How big is the gym? How many students do you have coming in and out? Regulars, versus the people that just come by for holiday training and camps and so forth?

JUSTIN: It's hard to say, cause it’s kind of seasonal, but it’s unpredictable. When we have people coming in slow all day. So I'd say when it’s slow, I can just – jiu-jitsu is what I've got the best idea of, right? So when it’s slow, I have ten people in my class, when it’s busy I have close to thirty. So it kind of depends on the time of the year and how many people are coming in. I can get a really even mix and now, since I've been down here for a while, I have people who come and train with me for longer.

I'll use Jess as an example, she loves training with us, so she'll come up for months. And then I have Jess with me for four months, and that's great. And then, she feels like a local, she feels like family to me, she's been here so many times for long stints. But then, there's the tourists coming in and out and then the people living here. Whenever someone leaves, someone else comes in, you know what I mean? The door is never wholly shut, we've always got people in the gym.

GEORGE: So let's say, a place like Australia, if I look at Perth: Perth is probably, I wouldn't say it takes the majority of Bali, because Bali is a big place, but I know that it's the number one vacation destination, just because, I mean, it's a three and a half hour flight, it's cheap for us.

JUSTIN: Oh, it's so close to you guys.

GEORGE: Yeah, driving down south or getting on the plane to Bali is kind of the same thing for us, except Bali is a whole different country, so it’s very popular for multiple reasons. But also, there's so many people that come from here and then they go to Thailand, they go do things like Tiger Muay Thai and Sinbi and go train in those destinations. What would you say to people to consider Bali MMA as an option beyond the other alternatives, like there is in Thailand and so forth?

JUSTIN: Again, it’s something that you should just experience. I've been fortunate enough, I've trained at Tiger Muay Thai with a top team and I've trained at some of the smaller gyms in Phuket and then I've been here. it’s just such a different experience, it’s a different vibe. There's a lot of similarities too, they're all great gyms to train at, you've just got to shop around and see these other destinations. I think training at these gyms is a bonus to the place you're in too. I always wanted to go to Thailand, training at first was almost as a bonus, it was something to sweeten the deal.

15050297_10209156096952465_1302411700_nThe vibe in Bali is just so different, it's something you really have got to come in and experience and see just how warm and welcoming everyone is. One of the things people talk about are the dogs, we have all these gym dogs at the front of the gym and they're super friendly and nice. You walk up in this cafe area and you're greeted by these super friendly dogs. The people at the cafe are super friendly. They're all international so they're really welcoming and excited to meet new people. Then you go inside and everyone's very welcoming again – everyone's ready to lend a hand, answering the questions you have, super supportive people that just make you want to stay.

And I think that's the thing most of why people come, they get that overwhelming sensation of feeling so welcome that they should stay here and they feel at home. And they are the people that want to come back and keep training with us. I think that's something that's definitely worth experiencing, it's the camaraderie that we all carry here, it's very strong and we make people feel very welcome when they come here to train. And on top of that, being in such an environment that's that healthy and that welcoming, your training goes through the roof. You perform better, you learn better, you learn faster. So the level in the room is very high.  And because everyone's taking care of themselves and working so hard, people get a lot better here really quickly. Again, you've got to come try it.

GEORGE: From what you're saying, because I've been to Bali multiple times, That whole relaXed and laid back culture, it sounds like you've really embraced that and I can actually visualize how you would experience that within your gym and just have a really awesome holiday, but get all this great knowledge and value from all the expert coaches and trainers out here.

JUSTIN: Right. And it's a really good place for people to go who are traveling alone too. When I first started traveling in Asia, I didn't have many connections, but the connections I had were through martial arts. So the great way to go out and meet some people who are doing the same thing you are, if you're traveling and you train, definitely go stop by a gym, it's a  really good way of meeting some local people and it will give you a better experience of the place you're seeing and visiting. It's something I took on very early on in my traveling and it's something I do even when I'm still traveling, I always bring my GI with me, I'm always ready to go train at a gym. It's just a  great way to meet people.

GEORGE: Ok. You mentioned earlier, briefly, that you also have fight shows and tournaments and things within Bali. Can you elaborate a bit more on that?

JUSTIN: We have something called Canggu fight night. We just had one for Halloween that was really successful, we do kickboxing smokers, people then come out and watch, the boxing and kickboxing. We just put on a  really good show, a good time for them. If you follow us on Facebook, you can see there're some videos that we recently put up. And again, it's  that vibe that makes it so different. I've been to a lot of Muay Thai fights and MMA shows and stuff like that.  

The vibe really affects how good of a time the people watching are having. And everyone here is just so easygoing and laid back, it makes the fight truly fun and people are just genuinely having a good time and I think when the fighters are having a good time, so are the fans watching. It gets everyone to kind of open up, put on a good show and fight hard. Our next one's going to be, I think the second week of December, so if you guys are thinking about coming to Bali, definitely try to be here for Canggu fight night.

GEORGE: OK. And where about in Bali do you host that?

JUSTIN: We're based in Canggu.

GEORGE: OK, that's where all the awesome surf spots are. 

JUSTIN: Right, yeah. We've got some good surf spots here. Canggu is an interesting place, it's kind of where hipsters meet hippies, it's  very unique. Again, if you're looking for having a healthy holiday, it's a really great place for it, because there're so much health conscious restaurants close to the gym, and just again, the environment here is really great. There's a ton of rice fields everywhere  and we're close to three beaches with great waves. It's a good time.

GEORGE: Oh yeah, definitely. Alright, awesome. And then, one more thing I want to ask you before we start wrapping it up: you also mentioned your involvement with one of the orphanages there?

JUSTIN: Yeah, we've done some work for the orphanage called Jodie O'Shea. People usually go in and work with the kids a little bit and then a bunch of the other guys from the fight team come out too, pretty much all the fight teams and then Subba brothers come out quite a bit.  It's a good time, it's just kind of something we started doing because we wanted to give back. I've been trying to get a program up and running with them to be a continuous thing, but it's difficult, they're pretty far away from us and with the traffic and everything, it's a little difficult. We just try to do stuff where we can give back to the community. If it's doing free women's self-defense seminars, or working with kids locally here. I think it's something really good we can do to help share our passions.

GEORGE: Justin, it's been awesome chatting to you and I know I'll definitely make a trip to Bali to come and see you guys sometimes. For anybody that wants to come and visit you guys and make a trip to Bali, what should they be doing? What would be the process to get in touch with you guys?

JUSTIN: Either on Facebook or our website, Any questions you have, don't be shy to ask. You can message us directly, but it's better to go through the site. People will message me all the time, asking me questions about coming out to train – please, please don't be shy to do so. If you guys want to come out, train, see Bali, just explore, it's a great place to do it. So Bali MMA, check us out on Facebook or  our website.

GEORGE: Justin, it's been great chatting to you and I hope to see you  on the sunny side soon.

JUSTIN: Absolutely, thanks, George.

GEORGE: Cheers.

15126212_10209156097552480_676270323_oGEORGE: And there you have it. Thank you, Justin and I'm sure that might have sparked some ideas for you, to go and train. Awesome trainers in Bali and a great lifestyle. And if you've been to Bali or if you haven't been, Changu, where they are situated, is a really, really cool part of Bali and there are nice surf spots. What I like about it is, it’s because I don't surf that often as I used to, the surf spots are, it’s kind of from the beach, so there're not long extensive paddles, but it's reef breaks that are in easy access from the beach, and there's nice little restaurants and it’s sort of out of the main hustle and bustle from Bali. And of course, they've got an awesome gym in there, Bali MMA, so great place to have a holiday.

Thanks again for listening, thanks for tuning in. I do want to ask a  bit of a favor: if you could head over to iTunes and really help us, we're really trying to get the rankings up for the show. The more people vote on the show, the better we get listed in the iTunes library or directory if you want to call it that. So if you do want to do us a big favor, and if you've gotten value out of this show, please head over to iTunes. You can just go to, that will take you there and just leave us a review. Five-star reviews are what helps us get the good ranking, but an honest review would be much appreciated.

And that's it. Awesome guest on board again next week – I will chat to you soon, have a good week. Cheers!


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15 – Martial Arts Advertising Ideas: Google Adwords vs. Facebook Marketing

Looking for martial arts marketing ideas? Google Adwords and Facebook ads are the big players. George Fourie shares the core differences.


  • The key difference between Google Adwords and Facebook Ads
  • Why one click doesn't help you generate leads anymore
  • How to focus on multiple touch points to engage your leads
  • All martial arts marketing ideas are worthless without this (HINT: Remarketing)

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


Good day everyone, it’s Facebook marketing, SEO: should you be doing all of this for your martial arts school, what should you be doing, what shouldn't you be doing, what is the differences, can they work together – let's discuss.

I'm George Fourie from In this video, I'm going to be talking about Google AdWords, should you be doing it, how does it compete with something on Facebook, what is SEO and all these fancy things. How do they work together and what strategies should you be looking out for where you implement this different marketing on these different platforms. So let's look at a comparison.

b-86Google and Facebook. Google: firstly, Google has a whole different way of advertising and marketing, because when you go to Google, you've got the intent. You've got intent to find a solution for a problem, you're looking for something. On Facebook, you're not looking for something. You're interacting, you're being social with your friends, you're looking at funny cat videos: you're doing something else than looking for something of martial arts or what it is that you're looking for. So Google has intent and Facebook is more like an interruption type of marketing. You've got to keep that in mind on how you're interacting with people, because if you think about it, it’s going to take someone 6 to 8 interactions with your brand before there's any form of conversion.

And that conversion is not necessarily joining up, that's a conversion of leaving an online inquiry, or picking up the phone and trying to engage with you as such. So the key thing to keep in mind: on Facebook, for example, if the first interaction is an ad, you have risked potential of turning that person off and not being able to take that relationship further, whereas, if you have relevant content for them, something that might interest them and from that lead to an ad afterwards, which is something that you can do, then you have more chance of converting that ad, that person into a lead, by following a different sequence.

Same as with Google of course. With Google, it’s a bit more direct, because somebody is searching for something, so an ad will show up, telling them, “This is what you've searched for,” and if your ad matches what they are looking for, that message-to-market match, then they're going to engage with your page and they are going to more than likely convert.

3With both these platforms, you've got to bear in mind that there are multiple touch points. It’s not just going to take that one click and that one view of the ad for somebody to actually convert. So you've got to be covering multiple platforms, and this is where you can have them both work together. This is how you're going to save money eventually on marketing. If you think there're 6 to 8 times that there needs to be an interaction before somebody's going to convert, how are you interacting with your prospect 6 to 8 times? How are you getting in front of them? Offer, offer, offer, offer, or content, value, content, content, offer? You've got to play around with how you are approaching your people so that you are starting by building a relationship and then slowly working towards the conversion.

Let's get back to this multiple touch points. A recent study – and thank you, Ezra Firestone, for this, mentioned that people start a search query on mobile and then they finish the transaction on a desktop. If you think about it, how many people are looking at your martial arts website and they click on the inquiry form and they just look at all this text and now they've got to sit and try ad work it on their phone with their thumbs and people just give up.

If somebody's found your website for the first time on the mobile website, they might not finish that inquiry on the mobile device, so you need a way to actually get them back to the website because chances are they're going to forget. How many times have you looked at a website on your mobile device, thinking that you'll get back to it and then you simply don't? I know I've probably got hundreds of saved things on my Facebook account that I don't even go back to that.

So it’s just something that you do and because of the way technology works, attention spans are just getting shorter and shorter and shorter and shorter. So you've got to keep interacting with people on these multiple platforms and this is why platforms can work together, because if somebody has found you on Google and they looked at your page but they haven't done anything to convert, you can now do something like marketing campaigns, by tracking them through what's called the Facebook Pixel and you can show them ads when they land up on Facebook, so here's you next interaction. So you need all these little elements to work together.

Same as with Google Remarketing: when somebody goes to Google ads and they go away, you can have ads appear on different websites to get them back to your website and make sure that they convert. So if you accompany that type of things with good content – content meaning instructional videos or information that your prospects might be interested in and a good follow up email sequence, then you're touching all these multiple touch points and that is how you're going to have a profitable business and make your ads work and make your ads convert.

That's it – if you've got any questions with this type of thing and you need an help with that, – get in touch with us on – I'll see you in the next video. Cheers!


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14 – Hakan Manav: Martial Arts World Titles, Movies & A Thriving Business – The Ultimate Martial Arts Success

Hakan Manav, 5th degree Taekwondo black belt and world martial arts champion, shares his life journey of success and their thriving martial arts business.

hakan manav


  • How to deal with the constant pressure of being ‘The Master's Son'
  • The truth about martial arts skills that improve coordination in other sports
  • How business principles discovered in tertiary education lay the frameworks for a successful martial arts school
  • Getting everything you can from TV publicity (Australia's Got Talent)
  • Business growth hit the ceiling? Do these 2 things to breakthrough to the next level
  • The training schedule of an elite world class martial artist
  • And more

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



It all started back in that day, we went overseas, we opened our eyes, we invested in ourselves, we sought knowledge outside of the martial arts industry, as well as within the industry, and then it was just one step at a time and consistent growth.

Hi, this is George Fourie from and welcome to the Martial Arts Media Business podcast, episode number 14. Today I have a very inspiring, very versatile, talented young man on board and this gentleman is truly, truly a gift of multiple talents, and what I mean by that is, first up, he's born into martial arts, he is an amazing martial artist, his skills are just beyond, it’s another level. If you follow any of his social media accounts, he spends most of his time in the air. His tricking ability is beyond this world, his skills are just phenomenal, you've got to see it to actually absorb what it is he is capable of.

And when it comes to the business side, their family own and operate one of the most successful martial arts schools in Australia, if not the most successful. And that, of course, depends on how you measure success, but what I can tell  you is that their main location has a total of 1450 students, they have another 5 set locations of 200 students each approximately and they have systems and a staffing in place that allows them to operate 7 days per week.

So whether or not that is your goal, look, there's value in what these guys have learned along the way. And the guest that I'm talking about of course, after much suspense, Hakan Manav. Hakan shares his journey from humble beginnings, having to live up to the expectations of his dad's reputation, Master Ridvan Manav, and just his journey going from where they started out with basically nothing and building up this organization and feeling that pressure from a young age and dealing with that.

We also touch on his moving career, how an Australian talent show opened multiple doors for him, so much to share in this conversation on multiple levels. As always, depending on where you're listening to this, you can find the show notes and everything else mentioned within this podcast, you can find at, the number 14. And that's it for now, I want to get into this interview – enjoy, and welcome to the show Mr. Hakan Manav.

GEORGE: Good day everyone, today I have a guest with many talents with me today and that is Hakan Manav. Now, I'm really not sure how this conversation's going to go because we can talk about movies, we can talk about being featured on Australia's Got Talent, we can talk about his martial arts career in general, but we'll see where this goes. So welcome to the call Hakan.

HAKAN: A pleasure to be here George, thank you.

GEORGE: All right. So, for those that are not familiar with you, let's start right at the beginning: who is Hakan Manav?

HAKAN: Well, let's go back to when I was born. Basically, my father established the Australian Martial Arts Academy well over 30 years now, I think pushing on to 35 years soon, I think 34 years. I'm currently 28, going onto 29, so I was born into the family, born into the martial arts from a very young age and I grew up with it and I had many fantastic experiences, because of the martial arts. I've been very fortunate, there are photos of me in the nappies starting out in martial arts.

GEORGE: That's way back!

HAKAN: Yeah, many many years ago.

GEORGE: So what came first? You grew up in martial arts, how did things evolve? Was it just a given that you're going to become an instructor?10341619_10152080186176277_1515235339274962255_nHAKAN: Well, my dad was heavily involved, he was quite young at the time, he was active and I had that role model there from the very beginning. We were predominantly a Taekwondo  tournament based school back in the days, so that was the culture that I was brought up with. And back then, the academy was part-time, in that my father had a full-time job and he did this with a passion and all we wanted to do was fight, training to fight, make the Australian team, travel and everything that came along with that.

So my young journey started with that and I competed in many tournaments growing up. There were my fond memories as a young kid, traveling to all these destinations around the world, competing, camaraderie, having fun. And then I got to a point where I completely had enough, hated martial arts, sick of martial arts and didn't want anything to do with it. So that's when my friends started to play a bigger role in my life and we had this constant struggle in the family household. But I found my way back into it, found what I loved and the rest is history.

GEORGE: What do you acquaint that struggle to? Is it sort of having plateaued too quickly, or…?

HAKAN: I think it is a culmination of things. First of all,  it was the pressure, it was a pressure situation. I was always the master's son, the boss' son, so that came with a lot of pressure everywhere we went. So I always had this weight on my shoulders. So there was  that and there was my friends doing other sports and things like that and then you've got the business element to it, so everything that comes with the stress, trying to ensure the members.

As a young kid, I was exposed to all of this and it all just kind of played its toll, setting up at festivals, doing the extra work, doing the makeup classes and everything, when instructors couldn't show up – all this added stress was on my shoulders from a very young age. I do remember, I do embrace it, it was a fantastic learning experience, and it really set the platform for where we are today, but it was a culmination of things.

GEORGE: Ok. I can understand how that could happen, all the pressure and so forth. How did you actually get it back?

HAKAN: I've actually been training throughout my whole life, in martial arts. There were just periods where I would train more, 5-6 days a week and then there would be periods where I only would train a minimum of twice a week. So back when I was about 13-14, at that age, just started high school, friends were cool, hanging out was cool, all my friends back then were into rugby league and all the team sports, so they would talk about their games on the weekend – none of them really cared that I was the best Taekwondo athlete in my division, for my age group in Australia, none of them would really care about that, so that was really hard for me when I would come back to school, I'd just come from an overseas trip, I want to share all my experiences and it just would've gone nowhere.

That was the struggle that I faced, but then I tried some other sports. I did soccer, I did tennis, I did basketball, while still doing martial arts twice a week, but I would always also do this and then go on their games on the weekend. So I did that and then I had a lot of fun with it and I can definitely say when we do promote that martial arts does improve your coordination, does help with other sports, I can personally say that it does, because when I did do other sports, I picked it up very quickly because of that athletic background. I played soccer for a few years and I picked it up really well.

The footwork, the agility, the dribbling, all of that I did really well, but I soon realized that I wasn't as proficient at soccer as I was with martial arts. There are a lot of very good kids that were doing the team sports and I realized that I was good, but I wasn't in the top tier that I used to be in the Taekwondo. So I went through that period, I had my fun with it, but then I realized, I think my true passion lies in the martial arts. That's what I was essentially born to do, so I found my way back into it, back when I was about 16.

I had a few years where I didn't compete, just kind of had a bit of fun with it, but then I found my way. I'm extremely grateful my parent allowed me to do that. However, we have to share this funny story with you all. As a young kid, I was super flexible. I could do splits in my sleep and I played soccer for a couple of years and then I lost my split, I lost my flexibility. I came back and I remember going to my dad, “Dad, why did you let me play soccer, I lost my flexibility!” It was just this funny family feud that we had.

GEORGE: Yes, because I think I saw a picture of you floating around that puts Jean Claude van Damme to shame.

HAKAN: Yeah, he was definitely one of my role models. I actually met him at a young age. We had photos of him, my dad also was extremely flexible.

GEORGE: How's your career evolved? I see you've been in movies and I see you're doing all this tricking stuff, which is just phenomenal, and then you've got the instructor side of things going, so what sort of the predominant drive where you're taking your martial arts career?

HAKAN: Like I said, it all started back when I came back to martial arts. I was about 16, I made the Australian Taekwondo  team, our school was predominantly based Taekwondo school then. I went to Korea for the Junior World Championship and there I saw these demonstrations, they were called the Korean Tigers and they were fantastic. So I continued fighting, but I remembered the impact they had on me, the moves they were doing were fantastic, but what really drew me was the entertainment value they brought to martial arts, the wow factor.

It was something I had never seen before. So I came back home, and I continued training, and at that time I was just about finishing school and my family always stressed the importance of education. So not only did I want to be good at martial arts, I also wanted to ensure that my schoolwork was there, I wanted to get into a top university, I wanted to do a degree that I loved and during my final years of high school, I really put my head down, and I would do a minimum of three hours of study every night back in the day and also continue my training, so keep both of it up.

I received a really really good, I guess UAC, which is the HSC year 12 exam result. I went to the university of Sydney and I studied a Bachelor of Commerce, Major in Finance. I did that for four years when I was about ages 18 to 22. At that time, we applied a lot of the business principles to the academy to lay the foundations and frameworks to running a legitimate, professional business, ensuring that the marketing, the accounting, the human resource, the curriculum, the delivery – everything was laid there. All of that process happened during that time.

Around the same time, back in 2009, we saw this audition for Australia's Got Talent, so we thought we would give it a go. It was a great challenge, we entered it and it was a great challenge for me, because up until that time, I always had a great experience in the competitive aspect of martial arts, the sportsmanship, the traveling, the weight cutting and everything, the discipline, the satisfaction, the sacrifice that goes into training every single day.

So I wasn't really able to get my creative juices flowing at that point. This opportunity came along and I jumped at it. I said, let's see what we can do, let me see if I can make this as entertaining as possible. Now, throughout my whole life, I had this frustrating experience in that, anytime I told people that I would do martial arts for a living, or we run a martial arts school, it would really be looked down upon. And I think it’s because a lot of the times when people have had a martial arts experience, it’s often in the local church hall, or the local school hall, so people felt that, for me personally, people really looked down upon it, it didn't really have a positive stereotype back in the days.

So I thought, this is a fantastic experience for me if I could really get our school out there and hopefully shine a positive light on the sport. So rather than going out and doing a whole bunch of kicks and things like that, we thought, let's make it entertaining, let's make it appealing, let's add some comedy in there, let's add a bit of a storyline. So we did that and we got really far, we got to the finals and we didn't end up winning, a singer ended up winning, but we had a lot of fun with it.

And that opened up a lot of doors for me, that experience there. It just took off from there, we put our school on the map, the demonstrations increased dramatically, the demand increased dramatically for the performances, as well for the school. And then we just rode the wave. And for a few years, I did seminars, I did martial arts seminars, extreme kick seminars, just really adding this element to all martial arts schools around the country, just getting that wow factor in there. Just motivating, providing students with another element they can add to their curriculum. It proved to be successful at our school and many other schools as well.

GEORGE: Excellent. So when the Australia's Got Talent happened, you just saw the opportunity and that was it, you jumped on that?

HAKAN: I jumped in it, yeah. Look, I know there have been a lot of other martial arts schools that have also done it, but it was hard. It was hard, it was a challenge, it was definitely a challenge because there was no real benchmark and nor real precedent set that I could follow.

GEORGE: How have things evolved from that point? You guys have got a really really successful business, how's this all played a role in that?

HAKAN: Basically, also at that time, that happened about 2009, let's go back a few years, let's go back to 2005, 2006. We went overseas to the martial arts industry supershow, which is the martial arts convention that was held in Vegas. And again, that really opened up our eyes to everything that we could do  in the martial arts business, in the martial arts industry. So we created our Little Dragons program, we created the Dragons program, we created upgrade programs, and we really had an experience, that major culture shift within the academy.

So when I talk about being a fighter dominated school, we really transformed that. It took a bit of time, but we really focused on leadership and cultivating leaders, assistant instructors, junior instructors, really developing and instructor program. That happened about 10 years ago now, so we experienced that. I was just coming out of school and we had some fantastic instructors who are still with us today, who are open to change, who are open to  making things better, setting a professional platform, aiming for world class service in the industry.

It all started back in that day, when we went overseas, we opened our eyes, we invested in ourselves, we sought knowledge outside of the martial arts industry, as well as within the industry, and then it was just one step at a time and consistent growth. So I'm going to say back then, we would have had about 300 students at the one location.

GEORGE: OK, and you've expanded that to 1450?

HAKAN: Yeah, right now, we're actually just sitting on 1450 members in the one location.

GEORGE: What challenges does that bring, you obviously must have huge premises, but having 1450 students at one location, what challenges does that bring on a day-to-day basis?14886222_10153814456386277_1285758414_nHAKAN: There are a lot of challenges definitely, but when you develop a fantastic team of instructors and you develop that leadership culture, you keep everybody happy. Everyone's got their roles, it’s definitely manageable. We operate over 120 classes a week, our academy runs 7 days a week. Everybody's got their roles like I said, we have a tier instructor system, starting with my father as the master, we have 5 head instructors. We've got our instructors, our assistants, our volunteers and so on. And everybody plays a part and we just continually ensure that everyone is looked after and make sure that we're consistently improving.

So it is a challenge, but something that we can all handle, do well, we're all young, we're hungry and we want to make sure that we keep this thing going as best we can. Some of the challenges we do face include of course staffing, that's the number one. That's the number one challenge, that's where I spend a lot of attention, ensuring that we're developing, we're training, we're motivating, inspiring the instructors to run the 120 classes a week that we run.

GEORGE: Ok. So if we go back, and this might be tough to recall, but can you recall what were the first steps you guys took? When you were at 300 students, you got back from the USA; what were the key things that you thought, all right, this is what we've got to do first?

HAKAN: It was a big slap in the face. One of the first things we did is, we needed to know our market. Our market before was fighters, people who came in, I mean if ten people come in, one or two of them were the ones that really stuck it through and were able to represent us well in the competition scene. That was kind of our focus. We then said, OK, what we want to do is, we want to make martial arts applicable, we want to make it accessible to the masses.

So how we did that, one of the first steps we did was dividing our classes. We had two classes back in the day: we had a junior class, everyone under the age of 15, and we had a senior class, everyone above the age of 15. So we divided the brackets up into some really small classes. We first started with, we looked at our membership base and we said, OK, where are the majority of our members? The majority of our members were in the what we call our ninja age group, which is the 9-12 age group. So we set age brackets into classes.

What we then did was, we developed a curriculum. We had the depth, we developed the depth in each age group. So we had the 9-12, then we went to the 6-8, then we went to the 3-5-year-old age group and we just really stuck at that for a while. As the number grew, as we started improving our marketing and our culture started to change and the instructors started to develop, we started to add more classes, more days, more age groups and more upgrade programs. So we went with the demand and that all really started from dividing the ages up into specific brackets.

GEORGE: And so at this point, you were still just focused on Taekwondo, is that correct?

HAKAN: That's right, yeah. Our base was predominantly Taekwondo, but then when we went overseas, we really were open to investing in ourselves, both in terms of business and in terms of leadership and knowledge and in terms of I guess physical martial arts skills. That's where I started going out and started learning things that we can apply to our upgrade program.

So things included the extreme kicking, the martial arts tricking element, the weaponry – this complemented our martial arts training and proved to be a further challenge to our advanced members, which then improved our retention. So not only did I do that, my father did that, and so did our other head instructors. We went out, we followed our passion in whatever field it was, we did self-defense, we did kickboxing and then we got all this knowledge embedded into our curriculum and then went from there.

GEORGE: OK, I just want to highlight that, if I heard that right. So you said that by raising the bar and making it more sort of a complex challenge for the students, that increased the retention?14914540_10153814456376277_1602600503_nHAKAN: Definitely, definitely. You know, again, I'm going to give you some examples. There were some students quite a few years ago where they would get their black belt, they would shake your hand and say thank you, as in, they thought it was the end. They thought the black belt was the end. Again, this was another learning experience for us, that was partly our fault that we made them feel that way because maybe at that time there wasn't a challenge for them.

So we then figured, OK, we've got to make this curriculum deeper, we've got to consistently challenge these people and provide them avenues, be it on the extreme side, be it on the leadership side, be it through the self-defense, weaponry – we want to make sure that there's something for everybody and that includes giving further challenges but that's challenges that are manageable and broken down into small consistent goals, if that makes sense.

GEORGE: OK, so what would be that step for that black belt? Because I sometimes think I'm facing this with my son right now, because he's just achieved his black belt, and he's ten years old. He's put a good five, six years in to get it, but I need to get him to realize it's time to put that white belt back on again. Your achievement is only that for where you are at.

HAKAN: Of course, of course. And look, I think all this does come back down to the instructor, because if we keep investing in ourselves and improving our knowledge, then we can, like I said, increase the depth in our content, increase the depth in our curriculum. It's going to consistently create that “wow” factor – wow look at my instructor, he keeps improving, or she keeps improving. There're so many more things we can learn.

So firstly, I believe it has to be cultivated through the leaders and through the instructors in the academy, that's what needs to be done. At our school what we do is, once people get a black belt, they have this, as well as they're doing a physical test, they have to fill out this worksheet and one of the questions is, how has achieving my black belt changed my life, so it's a reflection on the way they've come.

And the second part of the question is, what are my goals, moving into, going into the future, now that I'm a black belt? So it gets them thinking about that from a very young age. But then, we also have a beyond black belt curriculum, which we give to the black belts and on that they still grade. I feel that in most styles and most systems when people do get a black belt, the grading period is a very long time between grading. So that could make the black belts lose motivation. Why is retention so good in the younger belts, is because gradings are often more frequent, so they get a goal to work towards.

So we created this beyond black belt curriculum for our black belts and every six months, they have a challenge. They get to improve a level or get closer to their next dan or their next level within that black belt curriculum. We test them on the weapon, we test them on knife defenses, we test them on traditional forms and we really lay out the part for them in the future. Once they've achieved their black belt and we really lay out their path and make it click for them that this is just the beginning. We use the analogy that getting your black belt is just like finishing high school and then once you get your black belt, you've graduated and now you're welcoming into the real world.

GEORGE: All right, awesome. Now let's go back to your instructors because you've got this massive organization that you're running and you've got a lot of staff and a lot of part-time and permanent staff?

HAKAN: Definitely. At the top of the ship, we have my father who is the great master. We have five  full-time staff, we have seven part-time instructors that run classes, that are responsible for curriculum and ensuring that their program that they're assigned to are run well. These instructors operate between 3-5 days a week and then we also have a bunch of part-time instructors that do abut 2-3 days a week and then we have assistants and then we have volunteers, or non-paid staff, which we groom from a very young age.

We've realized that it's a long-term process and it is a numbers game, so we invite people into our leadership instructors program, and then hopefully, we funnel them out and we train and we groom the right instructors and this process does take time, but this industry is a long term game. It's a marathon and we understand that.

GEORGE: And how do you sort of define a career path for you instructor?

HAKAN: Again, we lay out the path for them. So we have I guess, a module, an instructor-developed the module that's got all the T's clearly written out in it, in terms of their roles and responsibilities and what needs to be done. They have a log and they have to do a certain minimum of hours on the floor, then they have to get checked off by somebody on top of them, so by an instructor of that day or that class who checks off and provides them with their feedback and that's how we go about doing it through that. Then we have obviously consistent training that we do and so on.

GEORGE: All right, awesome. Alright, so last few in the business: you have 1450 students – what's the next level for you guys?

HAKAN: Yes, that's 1450 in the one location. We have 5 other part time locations as well throughout Sydney and they have about 2 staff and they have about 200 members in each location there. And we're also in about 3 schools that we teach as a school sports program, as part of the intra-sports curriculum as well. I guess the next step for us is to continually raise the platform, continually develop instructors, as well as raising the bar, keep learning, keep developing, keep going on, keep following the trends as we know, for example, technology is constantly changing, so being on top of all of that… My personal goal is to ensure that we provide well class service, provide best practice service in the martial arts industry.

GEORGE: OK, excellent. Hakan, how about you? I've seen a few movie reels from you and so forth: how's that side of your career evolving?

HAKAN: Yeah, definitely, let’s go back to that. Again, the Australia's Got Talent put my team, put myself on the map. That opened up a  lot of doors for me personally as well, so that opened up a lot of opportunities for short films, feature films, stunt work. So what I did do is, I didn't throw myself completely into that field, I didn't my burn my bridges and say moved to LA per se, because I enjoy the martial arts business side, I enjoy teaching and that was still my passion throughout that time.

So when these opportunities did arise, I had the flexibility to go out and do it. I did a 6-week show in Dubai, a live theater show, which was a massive production and a fantastic experience. So for me, it's all about enjoying it, enjoying what the martial arts offers, be it through the entertainment, be it on the business side, the teaching side, giving back. I'm living a fantastic lifestyle that martial arts do offer. So for me, it's always been about challenges, opportunities, experiences and just really enjoying the life that martial arts brings.

GEORGE: OK, great. And then, I have to know: you're training schedule and so forth, the type of things that you're able to do with all your spinning kicks and stuff that I'm not even going to try and pronounce yet. But how much time and work go into developing that level of skill set?

HAKAN: Yeah, look, again – I have to be thankful for the discipline and the consistency that martial arts training has offered me from a very young age. So for me it's no biggie, it's what I grew up doing, it's all I know really, so I train about 7 to 12 sessions a week. 7 to 12 sessions a week: that includes weights training, that includes bodywork, calisthenic type of training. That includes Taekwondo, boxing, Muay Thai, as well as the flipping and the tricking as well. So I like to really mix it up and keep it interesting for me because I feel that's the way to grow.

So I always try to find ways to be a little uncomfortable and this tricking side is like that, the flipping side is challenging because it's consistently overcoming fears. I remember when I learned my first backflip: the fear of going backward was very tough. So I try and keep my training consistent, no matter what we go through, no matter how busy we are, I always ensure that I get my sessions in, weekends, weekdays, late nights, early mornings – who cares, it doesn't matter for me, I've got to find the time to do it because it's who I am and it's what I love to do.

GEORGE: That's awesome, so embrace the discomfort.

HAKAN: Exactly, and that's what I look to do. I'm going, pushing onto 30 now, I feel great and I always try to keep in shape, work on my flexibility, work on my stretching and just keeping on I guess.

GEORGE: Awesome. Hakan, it's been really great to chat with you. Where can people find out more about you, because I know there's so much to what you offer for the martial industry – where can people find out more about what it is that you do and offer?

HAKAN: They can contact me directly through Facebook, Hakan Manav is my name, so they can contact me through there. I guess all my videos and the program that I offer in terms of seminars and things like that are on my website at And for more information about our academy, it's basically

GEORGE: All right, excellent. Thank you very much for speaking to me this morning Hakan.

HAKAN: Not a problem, not a problem George, it's my pleasure, thank you for having me.

GEORGE: Thanks, we'll speak soon, cheers.

HAKAN: Thanks bye.

GEORGE: All right, there you have it. I hope you enjoyed the interview – how good was that? So many things to learn and besides the business value, if you head over to his social media account, look for Hakan Manav on Facebook, on Instagram. I will have links to that in the show notes, and think back to the fact that Hakan mentioned that he was scared about doing a backflip at one stage! It just shows once you push those barriers or fear away, what is humanly possible.

Thank again for listening, we'll be back here next week. If you want to support the show, it's a little effort on your part, not much. All that we ask for is a good review with iTunes. This helps us rank within the iTunes directory system, whatever you want to call it. And it gets the word out. It gets the word out to martial arts school owners like yourself, and what I'm finding interesting is that a lot of people are listening to the show that aren't martial arts business owners, but they are finding value in just the transformational journeys of top martial arts business owners.

And for myself as well, the value that I'm getting is just tremendous, because the information shared where I initially started and thought it's all going to be business: it's not, it's the deeper things behind the business. It's the mindset, the transformations and the philosophies that come strong from martial arts that just makes the podcast valuable, and obviously, the information that is being shared. So if you want to help out the show, and just leave us a review. Five-star reviews boost our rankings, but an honest review would be awesome.

That's it from me, we'll be back again next week with another show. Thanks again for listening, I'll speak to you soon – cheers.


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