33 – Kyoshi Dave Kovar: Breaking Through Barriers Holding You Back In Your Martial Arts Business

Kyoshi Dave Kovar from Kovar Systems reveals how to conquer blocks holding you back from success with your martial arts business.

dave kovar martial arts


  • The one movie that brought the popularity for kids karate classes
  • How your approach differs when your goal is to keep students for a decade or more
  • Setting up your students for success to build confidence
  • Preparing your students and parents for the day that they might decide to quit
  • The 6 word philosophy on developing your martial arts team
  • And more

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

Download the PDF transcription


It's a quote I learned from my father: wherever you are, be there. And you've got to put the time and effort in and quality time in.

Hi, this is George Fourie and welcome to another Martial Arts Media business podcast, episode number 33. Another awesome interview for you today, with Kyoshi Dave Kovar from System Kovar Satori Academy. And how this interview came about, now, you're probably familiar with Dave Kovar as most people in the martial arts business industry is familiar with Kyoshi Dave Kovar, but how this interview actually came about was, having a chat with Matt Ball from episode number 28 and in that interview, Matt Ball was sharing how Dave Kovar helped him release some stuff within him that was holding him back. And that led to this conversation.

So, if you listen to that episode, this is a great follow up on that, as Dave was actually just visiting Matt Ball, as well as Matt Wickham and probably a bunch of others school owners in Melbourne and this episode came about. I missed him while he was in Melbourne, but we managed to catch up just after he left back to the US. So this is a jam-packed interview with great value. I was really blown away by the information that Dave shared and this point of time, Dave and his organization cater to 3000 students, they're running at a 96% retention rate with a 115 new students every month.

So there’s a lot of core components that came together in this interview, so you're really, really going to get a lot of value out of it. And there's one thing that really stood out for me: as we help martial arts business owners with their digital marketing systems and we are putting together a systematic structure, a course that can help martial arts school owners take their marketing into their own hands. And with that, I really picked up something very unique that Dave was doing. Maybe it’s just because I was paying attention to it, but I want to know from you if you pick that up as well, and I’ll reveal what that is at the end of the episode.

And also I just want to thank Gordon Storie, who mentioned to me on our Facebook page that you weren't able to access the episodes past ten episodes, so if you're a new listener and you haven't listened to all the back episodes, there's a ton of great, great, great content there for you. You can now go through, well obviously you can access it on the website, martialartsmedia.com but if you are listening through the podcast app, or the android app Stitcher radio, any of these devices that you get, apps that you get on your mobile phone that you can use to listen to podcasts, then you can now backtrack and access all those back episodes. I think that the last 30 episodes you can access.

All right, so your show notes and all links, everything mentioned in this episode is of course on martialartsmedia.com/33, the number 33 and that's it from me for now, please welcome to this show, Kyoshi Dave Kovar.

GEORGE: Good day everyone, today I have with me the founder of Kovar systems, Kyoshi Dave Kovar. How are you doing this morning, this afternoon rather?

DAVE: I’m doing great, it’s afternoon for me, I'm doing great, thanks for having me on this show.

GEORGE: All right, awesome. And today, there's obviously many directions we can take this conversation, but we're going to be discussing things that a lot of your clients have brought up with achieving breakthroughs within their schools and so forth. But we'll get to that in the course, so welcome Dave.

DAVE: Happy to be here and hopefully I can be of some value.

GEORGE: Awesome. So just to take things back right to the beginning – who is Dave Kovar?

DAVE: I’m still trying to figure that one out, you know? I’m a guy that's been doing martial arts for a really long time. I started in, I always wanted to do, I'm almost 58, so in the mid 60s, I'm 5 or 6 years old. I saw a silhouette of a guy doing a fly side kick on a billboard somewhere. And I didn't know what it was, but I knew that's what I wanted to do and it took several years beyond that before my folks would have anything to do with it. So I started wrestling in year 7 in 1971, I started karate in 1973 and I kind of fell into a school in November 1978, I took over a commercial location that had almost no students and I was 6 months out of high school and this is all I've ever done.

I’m actually in my 39th March of running a martial arts school, so along the way, I'm still trying to figure it out. I know no one has all the answers, but I seem to make a lot less mistakes than I did a decade ago and certainly a lot less mistakes than I did 25 years ago. So I spend a lot of time now coaching other schools. I have a chain of schools in Northern California, that my company owns. We have 8 locations and we average 327 members per location, so they are good-sized schools. Obviously, some are bigger, some are smaller. I have 5 licensed schools and then I coach about a 150 schools through our Kovar Systems, PROMAC  throughout the world, got probably about a dozen schools in Australia and probably about the same number in the UK and a few in Germany, but most of them are in the US.

GEORGE: All right, fantastic. Now, you've achieved so much in the martial arts industry: what is it like, going back, how did you start the whole teaching journey and how did it evolve from training? And I know you've also competed as well, so how did you take that stepping stone back in the early days of getting into owning your own school?

DAVE: Well, you know, it was like back then, I'm sure you've heard, and your listeners here heard: “You do what for a living? You teach martial arts for a living?” But that's in 2017. In 1979 or 1978, it was frigging unheard of, right? There were a few schools, but I actually taught, my parents, they loaned me the money to take over this school and I just started university and I promised them if they helped me with this, I will get my education. Anyway, long story short, we had no clue. There were truly very few places to go that had any clue how to run this like a business. And so it was real trial and error for years.

I mean, for a while I painted houses by day while I taught in the evenings, and then an interesting thing happened: by the way, back then, there was no kids, very few kids I should say, doing martial arts. All right? When I started, I was one of 6 kids in the whole school under 18, right? But I kind of always enjoyed working with kids and by the early 80s, I had one of the largest student bodies of kids in the county and I had a grand total of 11 junior students, the rest were adults. So there wasn't many, I just had one kids class that met Mondays and Wednesdays at five o’clock, that was the only time the rest were adult groups.

And then, an interesting thing happened in the mid 80s, let me see what the name of that movie was again… I'm joking, it was Karate Kid. And overnight, things changed. And I literally remember, this is actually a true story: at the time, I was painting houses and apartments, so I would paint from 7 to 3 and I'd rush home to my duplex and I would take a shower and I'd race to get to the school by 4 and teach classes till 9. I remember, I would show up, this would have been like 1986 now and there would sometimes be a line of parents holding hands with their kids, waiting to enrol in our school, because there was nowhere to go and there was a big demand.

My older brother Tim came on as my business partner in 1987 and that's really when things took off for us. And so at the time I was teaching all the classes, in the early 90s my brother was the program director and I was teaching all the classes. We had actually, and by this time, I had a few assistants, but we actually grew our one facility to – this is a legitimate number: 903 active members. And so, my brother would be like, come on man, we've got to train some other instructors and we sat down, we kind of outlined some teaching tips and some rules, that later on became our first in 1993, we did a “how to teach martial arts to kids’” video series that did really well, actually internationally.

And that's when we kind of went, OK, we're onto something and we kind of have been ever since, kind of fine tuning our business and teaching skills and what the whole deal is that we actually use our schools as our centres of excellence, meaning the stuff that we coach other schools on is actually stuff we really do, you know what I’m saying? It’s not just kind of theory and thought, it is tried and true, and so we just made it a point to spend time on the psychology science of teaching more so than the actual curriculum we might be teaching. That's what we try to present to other people.

GEORGE: Ok, and could you elaborate a bit more on that?

DAVE: Well, yeah. For example, back in the day – everybody’s got back in the day stories, right? But there was this whole generation, I'm sure it was the same across the industrialized world, the martial artists that came back to the States, the people that started teaching, were usually former military, right? That were stationed in Okinawa or Korea or somewhere like that. And so when they came back, the line was kind of blurred: this is my impression, this is my theory. Between boot camp military, hard core training and martial arts and so they got blended together.

So the first couple of decades in martial arts in America was very negative: push ups till you're blue in the face, teaching to hit the guy in the back of the leg or the shin if his knees aren't bent – all those things that I'm not saying they're wrong, they might be the right thing for some people, but I think overall, those teaching methodologies are kind of archaic now and we know if you look how they train dogs now: they don't use the stick as much, it’s reward based. And people know that's a better way to do it, it simply works better, right?

And so it’s kind of similar in martial arts, our training, we have all these rules for example. One rule would be public praise, private reprimand. And the concept is during class, if somebody one of the students, does something correct – and by the way, this applies to people of all ages, then you shout it from the rooftops! You let everybody know. However, if someone is screwing up or doing something incorrectly, you try not to draw attention to that. Now, what happens is, most instructors figure this out eventually on their own, but it might take them 20 years, right?

And so, that's something that new instructors understand if you teach them right out of the gate, that's just what they do and that saves a lot of students that may have publicly felt like they're humiliated or a quitter, right? And so the concept we call 3-by-3, which stand for, every class, an instructor, his goal with every student in class is to use their name, appropriate body contact and eye contact three times during class, because that lets the students know that you knew that they were there.

Now, most instructors, good instructors, are going to eventually do this, but when you teach a rookie out of a gate, they can become a really good instructor in a fraction of the time, because they actually have the methodologies and science behind what exactly to do. And how and why you run a class a certain way and how if somebody is losing interest in training, how you go about re-framing that and finding out what their cause is and if you can do anything about it. And so, there really wasn't anyone like that when we were going through the ranks and so we kind of saw a need and we've been working on trying to figure out what's the motivation to keep somebody training, for not just a few weeks or a few months: you and I know that someone can train for two or three months in martial arts and they can benefit from it certainly.

But the real benefits from martial arts come from long term training, right? And so there’s a lot of things that have to happen for a school owner that they have to do in order for someone to train with you for a decade, which is always our goal. When someone comes in, our goal or intent is to have them train with us for a decade. Of course, they don't always do it, but what our intent is there and we're working with that in mind, we get them to stay a lot longer than they would have otherwise. Therefore, they benefit from the martial arts training dramatically and of course, the business model would be way more successful because our retention is going to be better, our student body etc. is going to improve.

GEORGE: That's excellent, because it really starts with the intent. I mean, if you know that your students only last a year or two years and you might frame things in a way that you know they're only going to last 2 years, but I find that fascinating, because if you have the intent to keep someone for ten years, then that changes your approach. But how would it change your approach? If you know you want to keep someone for that long, a student, how would you treat them differently?

DAVE: Well, I think it’s this, first and foremost, I used to have a school for years, I had a competition school and I had like 35 members, right? By the way, this is when I had a day job, because that was the only way I could do it, right? And my 35 members they were tough! We won a lot of first place trophies, yada yada, that was the emphasis of the school. By the way, there's absolutely nothing wrong with competition, don't get me wrong. It was the right thing for me, and it’s the right thing for a lot of people, but I put such an emphasis on it that everybody that was just there for other reasons, kind of felt like a second class student, right? And so, what happened is, one day – and by the way, all my guys that I thought were so tough, look at my 35 guys.

Actually every one of them was tough before I even met them, they didn't really need martial arts. What then happened was, I scared away everyone that really needed our products by going too fast, too hard, too soon, right? And so what I looked at now is like, hey man, you've got someone coming in the door. The average person that comes to your school is usually, maybe doesn't have a high level of self-discipline or a high level of confidence and those that have those things, the students who take great pride in it because they're natural athletes and man, look at them, they’re going to train 8 months and look at how good they are, honestly, we don't have a lot to do with them. They were self-driven. And so, what I tried to get across to my instructors is, the real value is, when you take somebody that doesn't have a high level of confidence or is incredibly uncoordinated, and you're able to keep them in the school long enough to develop them into warrior.

And what does that mean exactly? It’s things like setting them up for success, like for example, the first time someone ever does a tip test or a strike test, or a belt test – if you don't think they're ready, you should test them, because the last thing you want to do is to have someone that the first time they step in front of their peers to perform, they fail. That's going to kill their confidence and there's a good chance they're not coming back. So the trick is to set them up for success by making sure that the first time they walk off the mat after an event like that, they were successful. And what that does is, that builds their confidence a bit.

And so slowly over time, and then it’s about making sure that you set realistic goals. Now, by no means should you lower your standards to black belt at all, but what a lot of people do is, maybe their belt doesn't happen for a year and a half: well, that might be too long for a lot of people, so could you give people stripes or something between those, so there's a lot more incremental goals along the way. Because people of all ages enjoy having a short term goal to work towards. And so that would be one of the things.

The next thing is, most instructors what I see, and I have a chance to travel a lot and see a lot of really high level schools and it’s really cool to see how far the martial arts profession has come from a standpoint of professionalism and quality of instruction, but where we tend to be weak as an industry is in one-on-one communication with students about their progress. So that's something that we're really stifflers on, we have all these systems in place, points of contact along the way in their early training, where we make sure that we sit down with our students on a regular basis, to give them feedback on what they're doing well, where they could maybe improve and getting another commitment out of them for them to continue training. And little things like this.

For example, as an industry sometimes, we tell people, let’s say you have a parent and they want their child involved in martial arts. And so, they come in, the first class is really fun. And we maybe give the impression of, oh yeah, your kid is going to love it. It’s going to be fun, they'll love this. Or guess what? They're not always going to love it; it’s not always going to be fun. There's going to come a time where almost every kids going to want to quit. You know that, I know that, it happens to everyone. So, if you wait until the parent says, yeah, he's losing interest, he wants to quit and then you try telling them, it’s OK man, every kid goes through that.

Perseverance, yada, yada – it might be too late. However, when they're still excited about training, if you take a moment and say, hey sir, just to let you know, I know your son is enjoying the process, I just want to let you know there's going to come a time where he doesn't want to do this. And don't worry about it, every kid goes through it, everybody that ever got their black belt, or almost everybody, had a hard time and wanted to quit sometime along the way, but just let us know, we'll work through it, no problem. And so, now when it happens, you think I'm Nostradamus, because I predicted that, right? Does that make sense?

GEORGE: Yes, very much.

DAVE: And so all of a sudden – by the way, I have to back it up with a great floor. Stephen Covey has a quote that says, “You can't talk yourself out of a situation that you behaved yourself into.”  What that means is, if their program is only mediocre, there's nothing that I can say that's going to keep them training. So I have to assume that my classes are running stellar, we call it the SSL rule: it’s smile and sweat and learn. People are having a good time, they don't really have to be smiling, but they're enjoying the classes, they're getting a workout, they're learning something new, and they're getting feedback. And if you can do that, then it’s way easier. If your pre-frame ahead of time that it’s not always going to be fun, but don't worry, that's when perseverance comes into play.

Perseverance only happens when you want to quit something and you don't, that's when you have perseverance. And you talk to the parents about it and you don't want them to develop a quit muscle, and what's a quit muscle? That's when you let them quit whenever they feel like it, because that's the muscle they're developing. You want them to develop a perseverance muscle, which means they have to push through low spots. Now, like I said, if you pre-frame that talk ahead of time, then you can get a lot of people through that low gap. And so, that would be one sample of what I could do, especially in the first 6 months of training, to have that conversation a couple of times with the student, because if I can get somebody to train with us for the first 6 months, there's a good chance I'm going to keep them for a really long time.

GEORGE: Wow, that's awesome. Ok, now, just on that topic: you were talking about having the fight gym and focusing on the fighters. How would you create a balance in a school that has multiple avenues of serving kids and fighters and these different demographics?

DAVE: First off, we have a fight team at our schools. I've got guys that do point tournaments and extreme martial arts form competition. I also have guys that compete in jiu-jitsu tournaments and MMA, so we're across the board, right? But, we don't make a big deal about it to the general student body. It’s kind of like it’s by invitation only and we don't put that, we understand that that's going to be an exception, that's not going to be a norm, at least the way we do things.

And so, it’s best thing if you have a fight team, like an adult fight team, I've seen it kill a lot of schools where they let those guys mix with their regular students in a sparring environment. So I think it’s really important to understand the difference between nature versus nurture. Meaning, survival of the fittest, nature. All right, the new guy is in here, we’re going to join the fight team, get hurt not going to train again, versus kind of nurturing our students and we let the beast, they have their own time that they do that.

And we kind of look at that like kind of a hobby, because honestly, I don't know, and I'm sure there's somebody out there, I don't know anybody that has a fight team, unless they have a high level sponsored fighter, that really makes any money off the fight team. It’s usually a distraction, from their business and if you want to do it, that's great, but look at it as a hobby, kind of a passion more so than profession. Your profession, in my mind and what I've seen in successful schools around the world, are people that are taking the average person of average skill, of average time available and they are doing the best they can to keep that person training and developing the benefits that martial arts can give them in their everyday life. Not putting their main emphasis on developing athletes.

GEORGE: All right, fantastic. Now, I want to go back to, I had Matt Ball on from SMACK in Sum of All Melbourne. And I see you've just had another visit with him a couple of weeks ago and in our conversation, Matt mentioned his exact words were, that you helped him overcome a few breakthroughs that were holding him back, hang on, I'm going to read this. “Matt Ball from SMACK releases some stuff within him that has been holding him back.” Now, can you elaborate with how you helped Matt overcome his obstacles?

DAVE: Yeah, you know, I think, first off, I have regular respect for Matt Ball. Great guy, he really looks out for his students and he does a lot for his martial arts community and the people in other schools, he's a very giving guy. One of the things that I've shared with him is that he kind of put himself last, he's like he kind of maybe there's a little guilt associated with making any money teaching martial arts. And that's what I saw, I've been over his place three times. He had a lot of students, but he kind of let his students maybe bully him a little bit, meaning that, they didn't have money, he would let them slide. And so what happened in his mind somewhere, it was programmed that if you're successful financially running a martial arts school, it’s somehow like you sold out. And kind of what we talked about is, absolutely that reverse is true.

By the way, I've had that mentality as well, a lot people have it. The bottom line is; I don't know of anybody that has a big successful school for an extended period of time. What I mean by that is that might be some flash in the pan, but someone that has a successful school, meaning a lot of students, for an extended period of time, that isn't doing pretty good work, because the general public is very, they're pretty savvy and years ago, you could pull the wool over the eyes, you could fake people out, but not anymore. If you have a successful school, you kind of have to know what you're doing, you have to, sure, put students first, but here’s what Matt and I discussed: you really owe it to your students to be successful, because if your school is successful, first off, you're going to have nicer facilities, brand new equipment… but also, desperation.

There's three types of motivation: there's desperation, there's inspiration and there's purpose. And we've all been motivated by desperation, in our business, I know I have. Like, holy moly, it’s the 4th of the month, rent was due on the 1st, if I don't get it to him tomorrow, I'm going to pay a fine. And all of a sudden, guess what happens: you work your butt off, you find a way, you make rent. That's desperation, right? And then the other kind of motivation is inspiration, that's where you went to a seminar or a class or read a book and you're really inspired to get to the next level. And that usually is effective, but it’s temporary, both of those are temporary.

But what isn't is purpose and that is having a real clear idea where you want your school to be and why you're there. What is your reason for being in business? And when you're really clear on that and what happens, I want to serve my community and I also that, if I'm desperate, I talk when I'm desperate for business and I’ll tell you what: people can smell it a mile away. I've had someone come in my school and I needed them to make their monthly payment in order for me to keep the doors open and they sense it and it’s not a good feeling. I've also been in a situation where my school was very financially successful and I'm just a better teacher, I'm a better boss, I'm better for everyone, that pressure is off.

And so my point with Matt is, you really owe it to your community and your students and your school and your staff, because you want to be able to pay your staff well too. To charge a fair price and feel good about it. And there's, we don't look at a doctor who's committed his whole life to saving people through medicine, we don't look at them and say they sold out, because they make a good living, right? Or another business person, there's no difference from us. And I've often heard people say, yeah well, I do it for a hobby, I don't do it for a living. This is my hobby, like somehow you sold out if it’s your living, but who would you rather go to: a doctor that practices medicine twice a week in the evenings as a hobby and then by day is a carpenter, or would you like to go to someone that's a professional, that's given their life to it? You know the answer.

I look at the same thing in martial arts. Somebody that is a full time professional, there's a whole other level of service and quality that comes through. By the way, if anybody is a part time person and has a full time job, I mean no offense by this at all, because I have a lot of friends that have a great career and they teach part time and they do a wonderful job with passion, so that's not what I'm referring to, but I'm just saying that being full time and committing your life to it is not a sell-out, at all.

GEORGE: For sure. And it’s something that's come up a few times, almost that it’s noble to not be successful with your school or there's association with success, you don't want to be that guy, that guy that is high pressure selling or a just slick type of salesman and that you’re ripping people off. And I hear that come through in conversations a few times with people.

DAVE: Yeah, you know, like I said, there are some slick people, there's no doubt about it, right? Most of the people in my network, it’s basics, it’s focused on the basics. We don't have high pressure sales. When people come in, they've got a month to decide, we don't do upgrades, everybody has basically the same program and we're going to encourage them, we're going to offer them incentives to enrol the first couple of weeks, etc., but the bottom line is that most of the time, the people that you hear saying that are those people that have 35 people that they're teaching out of a garage, that are calling others successful schools McDojos, because they say, look at that lady there: she's 45 years old, she's a grandma, she's not in perfect shape – well, that's because that lady is doing the best she can with what she has, does that make sense?


DAVE: In other words, you can't compare a 23-year-old athlete with a middle aged woman when it comes to their sparing ability. And that's what a lot of these guys will do. And what it is, some of these guys that have that smaller school, they scared that woman away or that woman never even thought about enrolling at their place! So when you compare apples to apples, which is really what you've got to do. The whole concept, we've all heard the McDojo quote, and it’s rarely do I hear that from somebody that runs a successful school, because people that run a school that has a couple of hundred students in the trenches, they get all the hard work it takes to keep those students training and in that, it’s not that you're lowering your standards, you're not. But you're also taking a few considerations: somebody's age, physical ability, natural disposition towards martial arts in their training and you're not being stupid with what you're asking the beginners to do, and so eventually because of that, your advanced students are going to end up being real talented that originally had no ability.

GEORGE: Excellent. Now, another thing that Matt mentioned, he mentioned that he really valued your teaching and I can hear it, the way you speak with all the acronyms and how you named all things, all your processes and so forth, it’s inspiring. And Matt was mentioning how inspiring it was to work with you, but then in the back of his mind, he was a bit skeptical: OK, is this really going to work this way? And then when he visited your facilities, he realized that the whole message and those values resonated throughout your entire organization. Now, do you mind just sharing, how do you get everyone to work within the same system, the same values, throughout your entire organization?

DAVE: Well, when I get it figured out, I’ll let you know. Meaning, we're always working on it and we've come a long way. Right now, we've got a 115 employees that work with us at our schools, about 50 full time, the rest are part time. So any challenge someone has as an employee, regardless of what it might be, I promise you, we've dealt with it and maybe dealing with it right now. I mean, you name it, we've dealt with it, and any time you have 2 people or more together, there's going to be politics, right?  But with that said, I'm super proud of our organizations and why we've been able to have success I think with our team, is a couple of things: first off, we've been doing this a really long time and so we've been able to plant seeds.

The majority of my instructors, if you go to any one of our locations, you're going to see some 35-year-old 5th degree black belt that has been training with us for 25 years, or longer, right? That's kind of the model. There's exceptions of course, but what that's allowed us to do is that those kids that are now out at someone's school that are now 10 years old, taking classes that have been with you for 2 years, that's our model for the future, right? So what it means is, they've come up in a particular system with a certain methodology and a certain belief that is just inherent in them and kind of our model is that, as far as with our team, we really sincerely try to go to battle for them. We try.

I've never wanted to be a place that had a bunch of followers, you know what I'm saying? Some martial arts systems, the senior guy is like, nobody questions him. When he comes into the room, everybody stands to attention. And by the way, if you do that in your schools, there's nothing wrong with that. If that's your culture, that's totally cool. There's nothing wrong with that, it’s the right thing for some people. For me, I wanted a bunch of people that were a part of the team that were respectful, but allowed to voice their opinion and give feedback to other people, so that's kind of what we tried to create and then we do our best to treat them as good as we possibly can and then we try to pay them as best as we possibly can.

So there's really 6 words that sum up my philosophy on developing your team: and the six words are: hire right, train right, treat right. So you've got to start with the right person, OK? It’s kind of like if you have a pile of poop, it doesn't matter what you put on top of it, ice cream, cherries, whipped cream, it’s still poop, right? In other words, the point is, you've got to start with the right person, but that's not enough. Most people, what they do is, they wait too long. If they need an instructor like yesterday, and they start looking around in their advance class for someone that can do it, and they see three people: none of them are exactly what they wanted, but one is less bad than the other two, so they hire that person. Does that make sense?


DAVE: What we try to do is, we try to plant seeds early, early, early, we see somebody when they're a yellow belt that we think someday could be a good martial arts instructor – we're having that talk right away. Now, most of them aren't going to get developed, but I call it plant seeds early, and often if you plant 10 seeds, one is going to blossom, somewhere down the line. And the very worst thing that happens to the other 9 people is they become better students because of the conversation you had about planting that seed, right?

And then, we work really hard to, we have a very formal training system, knowing that for every instructor we have, there's going to be ten people that are going to go through that training system that 9 of them aren't going to be quite what we were looking for when we get it back far along, so we're really making it a point to develop it. By the way, it’s a lot easier when they've grown up with particular teaching tips being practiced on them, for them to do it it’s natural. What's hard is when you have someone come in from a different culture, where maybe it’s not as positive, or encouraging or they have a different way of doing things to kind of re-train that, but then once you’ve hired the right person, you've trained them right, now the third part is, you've got to treat them right.

Here's the deal: the reality is, you could treat some people really bad, they would never leave you. And you could treat some people super good, perfect, over the top, and no matter what you do, they're going to leave you, but the majority of the people fall in the middle of that and if you treat them right, and you pay them right and you don't give them a reason to have to leave, they will stick with you and that's what we try to do.

GEORGE: That's awesome. Dave, I'm sure there's many… you're definitely a wealth of knowledge and we can talk for hours, but is there any direction that I haven't taken this conversation that I should have that we should elaborate more on?

DAVE: No, you know, I think for me, what sustains me and I still love this as much as I ever did – by the way, I'm not teaching 35 classes a week like I did 25 years ago. As a matter of fact, when I get off the phone tonight, I'm going to go to one of the schools and I'm going to teach five classes tonight. I don't do that very often, but I'm still in the trenches and I still love it. But it’s different for me now, but one of the things that I think is really important for listeners out there who are maybe new to this, or for people who have been doing this a long time is my kind of motto is martial arts first, teaching second, business third.

What that means is that we can't forget what we’re doing and what we're about. I know that when my training is going good, I'm just a better teacher, period. When I'm feeling passionate about my martial arts training. And that's half the job of being a good teacher is, keeping your training up and half the job of having a successful school is being a good teacher. So anytime you switch the order and you put business first, and you switch the order, you might have short term success and even improve success, it’s going to hurt you, so that would be a really important feature here. And then, it’s never easy.

Teaching martial arts is, you get up every morning and it doesn't matter how successful you were yesterday, you've got to do it again today. Some guys have a great deal of success and they put it on autopilot and they think that their success is going to continue, only to find out later on that they didn't stay hungry and all of a sudden, they lost student body and momentum. It’s not like you have to work 12-14 hours a day, but when you're at your school, to me, there's a quote I learned from my father: wherever you are, be there. And you've got to put the time and the effort in and quality time and knowing it’s always going to be challenges, but you're willing to accept that, then it just makes it easier.

GEORGE: Excellent. Dave, it’s been awesome chatting to you and I'm really inspired by your philosophies and your acronyms and all these, you can hear all the wisdom come through in how you've set up your systems. For anybody that wants to get in touch with you and learn more about what you offer, where can people get hold of you?

DAVE: You can go to kovarsystems.com. We have a bunch of various coaching programs, all the way down from our initial, we have what's called instructor's toolbox, which is drills and skills for the classroom, non- style specific, warm up drills and drills for kicking and striking and grappling and age specific, kids, adults, advanced, beginner. It’s pretty cool, it’s very affordable, and then all the way up to, we have our PROMAC, PROMAC stands for Professional Martial Arts Community and it’s where we basically, we have our resource library and accountability system, where everybody that's one of our clients pretty much has full access to what we’re doing.

It’s almost like a franchise without a franchise, all the marketing that we're doing, all the staff training that we're doing in our school, all the retention strategies. We help them set up a schedule, so that they know what they’re supposed to do this day and how to keep stats and the messages they’re giving to their junior students etc. So it’s pretty comprehensive, yes, go to kovarsystems.com and you can sign up to get more info and we’d love to help schools if they’re interested.

GEORGE: Awesome. Dave, it’s been great chatting to you. Maybe we're going to have to do this again sometime.

DAVE: No worries man, my pleasure, it was a pleasure being on the call and best to your listeners and you guys have an incredibly great day.

GEORGE: Awesome. Thanks Dave.

And there you have it – thank you Kyoshi Dave, awesome episode, great value. I want to go back to the beginning of the episode. If you picked up what I was referring to about how Dave expresses information and what I was talking about was systems. Systems and acronyms, everything has got a name, 3-by-3, it rhymes, it’s easy to distinguish, it’s easy to define what the system is for what process. And to me, that’s got to be why it’s so easy to duplicate their entire process and everybody has the same message and expresses the same values, because everything has a process and is defined within a system.

And look, maybe I’m preaching to the choir and maybe you’re familiar with this, but I know that’s quite a hard thing to do, to really systemize your business perfectly in a way that everything is dependent on the systems. And I can’t remember where I read it, but it was something to the likes of, there’s no such thing as a bad hire, only a bad system. Because most people, if they’ve got the right attitude, they can work within a structured system. So, it’s a lot easier to form moral of staff to blame the system, rather than to blame the staff, or personal confidence or issues or something that makes it inadequate of achieving a certain task. So focus on the systems.

And that’s something I’ve really been focusing on within our business and how we can help martial arts school owners with their digital marketing, which can be a very confusing world at time. There’s a lot of diverse information of what works and what doesn’t and sometimes the information that’s out there is really just based on what the person is selling. So they exclude all the other components that are really making a business work and just focus on their component, which is their core. And look, that’s what people do of course, to sell their coaching programs, but sometimes it doesn’t give the full spectrum of what is needed to run a successful business, whether that’s in martial arts or in any business.

More information coming up. Again, the show notes are on martialartsmedia.com/33, we’ll be back again next week with another awesome episode, have a great week, chat to you then. Cheers!

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George Fourie

Hi I'm George Fourie, the founder of MartialArtsMedia.com. When I'm not doing dad duties or training on the mats (which I manage to combine when my son is willing! :), I'm helping Martial Arts Gym owners grow their business through the power of online media.