martial arts virtual gradings

98 – Brett Fenton – Evaluating Your Martial Arts Life & Transitioning To Virtual Gradings

Lifelong martial artist Brett Fenton talks about taking action fast, navigating through obstacles and transitioning to virtual gradings.

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IN THIS EPISODE, YOU WILL LEARN:

  • How Brett navigated his martial arts business through the pandemic
  • Evaluating if it’s your time to throw in the towel
  • The steps Brett took to pivot his business successfully
  • How Brett's agile leadership helped his team to adapt the right mindset
  • Brett's recovery plan
  • And more

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

Download the PDF transcription

TRANSCRIPTION

It is a great time to evaluate where you sat as far as life goes. So you can go, “Do I really love doing martial arts? Do I love teaching? Do I love turning up and doing all of this?” Here's the perfect opportunity for some people in the world to go, “You know what, I'm gonna actually jump out of this, because it's not actually something I enjoy doing anymore.” But for me, it actually made me assess the other way and go. “I love this so much, I've got to keep this going. I will turn over every rock to find a way to make this keep happening.”

GEORGE: Hey everyone, this is George Fourie from martialartsmedia.com and welcome to another Martial Arts Media business podcast. So I have with me today something that I speak to quite regularly within our Partners program. Great martial artist, great school owner, Brett Fenton from Red Dragon Martial Arts. How are you doing today Brett?

BRETT: I'm awesome George, thanks for having me on your podcast.

GEORGE: Thank you. And so a little bit of an insight: this is round two, but round one.

BRETT: Correct.

GEORGE: So we actually did a podcast… Well, it would be a good six months ago?

BRETT: Yeah, absolutely.

GEORGE: Yeah. And I had my laptop stolen unfortunately and there were two files that did not upload into the cloud. And one of them was Brett’s podcast. So it's been a long time in the making. Lots of change in the world, but here we are.

BRETT: Absolutely, a bit of a different environment now.

GEORGE: Exactly. So we can chat a bit about that, but first up, just for anyone who doesn't know who you are, just give us a bit of a roundup: who you are, what you do and a bit of your background.

martial arts virtual gradings

BRETT: Absolutely, thanks George. I’m a lifetime martial artist. I've been training since I was a kid, and jumped around different styles depending on which family member taught it to me, or friend. Didn't have a lot of money as a kid, so I latched on to anyone that looked that knew any martial arts and basically got it for free as a kid. Moved to Brisbane in the late 80s and basically started training with my still sifu Tom Lowe for the last 30 years. I trained with him in Wing Chun, Jow Ga Kung Fu, Wu Style Tai Chi funnily enough, because he thought I was an angry young teenager that needed some calming down, so he taught me that. Later on, taught me crucial lion and dragon dancing, so I did all the whole Chinese culture, immersed myself in their culture for a very long time. 

Lived over near Sunnybank for a long time as well, then obviously went down the route of when the UFC came out, MMA, Brazilian jiu-jitsu with John Will. Trained and traveled overseas a lot, started with the extreme martial arts in the mid to late 90s and 2000s and started bringing that out, probably late 2000s started teaching that, and Kali and Escrima with Ray Floro. So just basically, just gone on this journey of trying to find the very best martial arts to suit me. And funnily enough along the way, a lot of other people that I've taught have gone, “That's cool, I want to learn it.” 

And so now we have over 400 students. We run nearly 100 classes a week, full-time facility with multiple rooms. But we started in 97’ in a community hall, so we've done the usual kind of thing for most professional martial arts instructors. Community hall to full-time school over about 23 years. And that's pretty much my story, so that's all I keep doing today.

GEORGE: Perfect. So you were mentioning you were on this search for the perfect martial arts for you. Now, knowing, working with you from my perspective, you're a guy that sort of, you just jump in head-on into different directions and you're pretty quick to take action. But also get in front of, you know, what is going on with whatever you take on. So for you that you've done all these styles and all of these different things, what’s the sort of martial arts that resonates with you the most?

BRETT: Yeah, I get asked that question quite a lot, especially by my students here, which is my favorite. They always go, “Sifu. what's your favorite style?” I go, “It's like asking which is your favorite child; depends on the day and the time.” So depends on which one is upsetting you the most. I like… again, I still train, I love my kung-fu because I grew up in the Bruce Lee era, so for me it's still a big part of who I am. But I also love the nuances and the complexities of the Brazilian  jiu-jitsu. I was only just watching UFC yesterday and just watching two high-level jiu-jitsu guys in a cage, throwing crazy control, like twisters and stuff in an octagon. And that was exciting. So I still find that exciting, I love hanging out with, chatting with my coaches like John Will, he's like, he's a wealth of knowledge that I love to just chat to all the time. And so just that kind of stuff is really exciting. 

I love blades, I had my first knife when I was six years old and I've got a collection, probably not as good as Ray Flores’ collection, but I have a pretty good collection of knives that have been given to me over the years by students or family and friends. So I've always loved any kind of bladed weapon. So yeah, at the end of the day, I'm fully immersed in it. I gave up being a top-level sportsman in tennis, cricket, volleyball to just pursue martial arts and that was hard, as like a 20 to 22 year old, I could have gone down there. Martial arts was just such a pull to me that I went… I preferred myself as far as the martial arts goes, preferred myself as a person when I was doing martial arts than I did as an athlete in other sports and stuff. So I went down that road fairly early on as a young adult male and it's paid off, because this is all I do for a living now.

GEORGE: Got it. So, a quick backstory on how you transitioned to where you’re at with your school and everything and then we can take on a bit more of a conversation just on current matters, the current climate and how you plan on getting through that. So what was the… You stepped into martial arts: what was the transition for you going into school owner? You mentioned, from the school hall, etc. Elaborate a bit more on that.

martial arts virtual gradingsBRETT: Yep. So I started with my sifu at the moment in 1989. Started doing Wing Chun and then later on, about a year or so later Jow Ga Kung Fu and then Tai Chi. Early on, he probably recognized that I had a passion for passing on knowledge. I probably did it just organically with my classmates. Like, when I saw someone having an issue with learning something, I would always go over and help them. And so it was very early on that I found myself up the front doing the warmups, probably within a year or so and then after that running small group classes. And we actually had a very big martial art school for the time back in the early 90s, ten schools, like all satellite schools around Brisbane, running one or two nights a week in community halls with hundreds of students.  

And so for me, I was like “Wow, this is amazing.” I would literally drive from one school, I'd finish teaching – this is probably like 1992, I would finish teach at our Indooroopilly headquarters at 7:30 or whatever and then I’d drive into the city, the YMCA in the city and teach a class there 8:30, finish at 9:30 and then probably head out to Jindalee All sports and do a white session. And so for me, six – seven days a week of martial arts training and weight training and fitness training was not, I didn't think of it as anything special, I was just completely wrapped up in the whole thing. So that led me to running my own school in 94’. Like, one of his branches, was quite successful at that. Then I moved up towards the Sunshine Coast and I've made my school in 1997 and we've been running that one ever since. It obviously has evolved and grown since then.

GEORGE: Gotcha, okay. So quite the story. Now, I mean things have dramatically changed obviously, talking depending on when you listen to this podcast, but I think it's important to just address the current situation of where things are at. Because I think anyone in the world has never faced anything like now and some people have obviously, you know, really felt the pressure. And also not, you know, kind of waited in freeze mode and didn't take any action. And others have really sort of embraced the change as much as possible, you know, to really get through this pandemic that we're facing right now. So walk me through just how's it been for you and what have you done to navigate through this?

BRETT: Absolutely, thanks George. One of the biggest things I think was that I noticed it is a great time to evaluate where you sat as far as life goes. You can go, “Do I really love doing martial arts? Do I love teaching? Do I love turning up and doing all of this?” Here's the perfect opportunity for some people in the world to go, “You know what, I'm gonna actually jump out of this, because it's not actually something I enjoy doing anymore.” But for me, it actually made me assess the other way and go. “I love this so much, I've got to keep this going. I will turn over every rock to find a way to make this keep happening.”  

We started on March 23rd, we were given information, which was a week ahead of what I thought the schedule was going to be and when we were going to be told to basically close down physical training. So I know that I was chatting with you, leading up to that, saying we're gonna set up Zoom classes and we already were thinking that way and overnight it happened. And so within 24 hours, I had to go from being on this side of the camera, where I would sit and have conversations with you and the Partners and I was the person watching, I was being the viewer most of the time, to actually steering the ship on the other side of Zoom. And so 24 hours of educating myself from how Zoom worked, creating like breakout rooms and doing all that and we were up and running the very next night with our full Zoom classes, with everything still running, same timetable. 

For me, I reveled in that excitement. I like being challenged, I like being out of my comfort zone. I sometimes get stressed out by doing it and I know that meditating is good for that and I do do that every day, but I get excited when there's… when it's kind of like ice skating. I found that very exciting and challenging. Stressful, but exciting. So for me, I was a lot for that I and I still am. Like, I'm always thinking ahead a week or two ahead, going “Alright, this is what we're gonna do over the next couple of weeks.” and I'm already planning, it goes into my calendar, these are the things I need to do. And I know that you see on a Monday, when you ask every single Monday in Partners, “What's your plan?” So I already know what it is, so I just type it straight in. So I already know what my plan is for the week. And I go ahead and execute. And that's what I do.

GEORGE: Yeah. Personally, I think entrepreneurs were made for this. I mean, you know, that's what we do right? We solve problems. Interesting that you mentioned, you know, where a lot of people jump ship. Maybe it was just the easy way out. I think it also, it really… like you were saying, it really makes you think deeper. Like, am I… Is this what I really want? And I think that's where, you know, if people have been following their niche or, you know, trying to make money in an industry or something. And you didn't have that gut check before you started it, you were just hoping to make financial gains, which is – hey, it's, obviously, that's okay as well, because that's what, you know, people do in business. 

But it's a good time to reevaluate and really sit back and think, “Okay, well is this what I really want?” And then how to go from that. Now, how did you say to see this playing out? I guess, you know, at the time of recording this, where you're at in Queensland there's been some restrictions left. I know in Perth we can… there's already gyms or training outside, restriction of up to ten people, that's moving over I think next week. So what's the plan for you? Where do you see this evolving?

BRETT: Absolutely. One of the things that I've noticed like, we've got a week and then we go to having ten people in an outdoor space, so we can do I suppose boot camps, or outdoor classes. The biggest issue for us is that mostly our classes are at night and it's winter, so once we hit five o'clock, it's going to be too dark to do classes. So in fairness to everyone that trains in our school, we can't fit everyone into their classes. We'll get the three to six year olds done and then everyone else wouldn't be able to. So we're going to continue to run our Zoom classes, but we're bringing our instructor team now into the school, because up until now we've only been allowed to have two people in the building. And when we run two floors, three instructors to a floor, it's a little bit hard to do that. But now we can do that, we have multiple cameras, multiple laptops going, multiple TVs going. 

And that'll allow us to use our breakout rooms to break everyone into small classes. It'll actually be probably easier, because they'd actually be able to verbally tell each other when they need to move people from one breakout room to another. At the moment, we'd be messaging each other, “Can you move such and such over to me, I'm teaching them to do this,” and I have to sit there and pretty much just be a DJ, so it's… my job on Monday, Wednesday, Friday classes is, I'm DJing the whole Zoom classes and I'm shuffling people around. 

It's an interesting time and I saw in the U.S. just the other day, someone's… because they've lifted restrictions now a little bit there. And they said, we're not doing Zoom gradings now, we're not doing our virtual grading. We're gonna do them in person and there was actually quite a bit of backlash about that, because people aren't ready for such a quick change. And so it's, we're gonna keep our gradings going this weekend. We've got Friday, Saturday, Sunday scheduled for 50-plus gratings. They're all private one-on-one gradings that I'm doing and because – again, we can't change people quickly. 

Like, I know I can change quickly because obviously we've got that entrepreneurial kind of spirit thing going on, but for most people it's gonna take a leading of a month to see any kind of changes and we have to plan that for them and slowly bring them up to the boil. And so having them watch Zoom classes while we're teaching back in the school starts to build that familiarity with the students, to see the school again, they start getting excited about doing it. We started booking in our Calendly bookings, started on Saturday. So straight away, as soon as that notice went through from our Premier, I created calendars for all of our classes to allow ten people to come in from June. So June 12th, we are allowed to have 20 people in the building and so that basically means ten people in each room. 

And so we've done our booking for an entire timetable and I literally on Saturday night, watched my phone do two hundred and something emails while people booked in for their classes. So they're excited and it gives them a month to get themselves sorted out. We've got to set up all of our stations for sanitary stations, signage, all of that stuff. We've got to get our processes in place so that we are above and beyond the call of duty as far as what we implement when June 12 comes along. We want to make sure that we're one of the… I suppose the spearheads of that and we showcase how to do this the right way. So it's very important.

GEORGE: Yeah totally. I mean, there's so much that goes into it, right? I mean, if you ever thought your processes were in place, now your processes just change after every premiere announcement.

BRETT: Yeah.

GEORGE: It's new systems, it's new things. You know, interesting things that I see, I think where a lot of guys might find it challenging, where people just shut shop and thought that everything would go back to normal. Well, I know about you, but I sincerely doubt that… you were just mentioning that, I mean, there's been this whole behavior. People have adapted their behavior. You know, there was shock and there was fear, there's all this and… yep, things are gonna slowly return back to normal, but what is that? 

Does that mean 100% physical classes? Does that mean a bit of a hybrid and a balance of, there's online and there's physical. And how do you see this playing up? Another thing that I want to really ask you is how are you managing with your team throughout this? Because I know you've got a large team and how are you managing them and getting them to have this right mindset with all the changes? I know that's two questions, but…

martial arts virtual gradings

BRETT: Yes, that's okay no worries. So again, it's one of those things, you've got to go slowly. I think that we're lucky, we've been reasonably lucky in Australia that they've given us plenty of lead-in time and they've planned this fairly well. There's no knee-jerk reactions, which is good because people don't react well to that. They don't like… We saw when they released a little bit of the rope and allowed people to go shopping – it was literally Boxing Day sales every day for the last two weeks since they did that. So people have gone… They've been cooped up for so long now, they're exploding. 

So we're trying to make sure that we're very, we're over communicating with all of our students to make sure that they understand that there is a limit of how many people can come in and if you do not book in, you'll still be doing the online classes. We're going to give them both and my idea is to keep doing that even beyond like, let's say six – twelve months to still be running that system. Because we have students that have been on the spectrum ADD, DHD, Autism, doesn't matter, Asperger's, where they don't like being around people, but they love martial arts and they love the benefits of martial arts. And so they will be able to still do it from home with Zoom. The hardest part is to train the staff and the instructors to not just focus on the class, the physical class they’re teaching and the physical students they’re teaching, but also to focus on the ones that are up on the TV doing the Zoom class. 

And so like, we've got massive TVs that are going up in each room, where they'll be able to look up and just see who's up there training. And it's just about teaching them to not forget about them. They've had to undergo a very big learning curve and most of them aren't entrepreneurial. Some of them are, they do their own little side gigs as well, but to most this is overwhelming most of the time to them. So some of my team haven't been out to teach online classes, because they don't like looking at themselves on a camera, they don't like being in that environment and so basically, we've put them into hibernation. We keep contact with them, make sure they're okay, but I've already spoken to one and as soon as we can go back, we're gonna actually up, we're gonna start doing Sunday classes and we expect it to be quiet, so she's the perfect person for that because it'll introduce her back into normal classes and she'll just do the set there Sunday classes and give her a row back in the school without putting her under too much pressure. 

And again, most of our instructors are old students. They've all gone through from white belt to black belt, they're homegrown and so we treat them still like they're our students as far as the way we kind of bring them into new situations like we were experiencing at the moment, but slowly doing it is I think the key.

GEORGE: Cool. So what's the situation that you actually navigated someone through that? Because that obviously brings up a lot of beliefs and you know… I guess block for people where they go, “Hang on, I just don't feel comfortable being in front of the camera.” You know, for some people that might just be that introverted personality and they’re just never gonna be that. You know, we’re all different and that's all good but what's their situation, that you actually manage to navigate someone past that and just say, “Hey look, well…”It's kind of just like having a conversation, it's not a Hollywood show, you know? It's like you’re doing a normal class, but you've just got this screen in front of you. Did you manage to navigate past that? Was there anybody in your staff that they were struggling with that, but you managed to push them past that point?

martial arts virtual gradings

BRETT: Well, we've had obviously with our team, they've gone through a gamut of emotions. For a lot of them, their first biggest worry was, I’m going to lose my job, so a lot of our instructors not just work for me, they work for other businesses. And on that day, the other ones shut them down and they went, “No, we can't keep going.” I kept going even though we were like, they were teaching from their living rooms, or their bedrooms, or their garages. They kept going, I kept paying them for their classes and I tried to maintain as much normality for them and reassure them that we will get through this, looking to the future and saying that when we get through this, we're not going to change what we do now. This is just a different version of what we do. 

And so 90% of our teams were teaching through this. And one actually seemed to prefer it, because the whole social distancing was doing her head in, trying to stop children from touching each other and just frustrated her. As soon as it went to the virtual environment, she didn’t have to worry about that, that was not a problem and an anxiety she had to experience anymore. So that actually, it was like she was happy when it happened. So she's gonna have to prepare for the other side now as we come back in and whether that means that she still teaches from home via Zoom and she doesn't lose Zoom kids, that's fine. And we have that ability to have them teaching, if they're not happy to be in here and be around students because they're worried about it, they can still be able to teach because we'll still have students at home doing Zoom and so they'll be able to take care of the Zoom students.

And so again, I think it's about being flexible. It's about being able to like Evan, flow with the times and I think one of the things that I think everyone probably, particularly in the business world now will quantify, is that small businesses had an advantage because we've been known to like to chop and change directions quickly with the times, with whatever we were given. We could change and adapt, whereas a lot of the big businesses fell over because they had certain systems and procedures. They ended up having to just kill their staff and here's why so many people are out of work. And it's from the big businesses, which I know like in Australia kind of mindset is, they're always considered safe. Like go work for a blue chip company, or a big business. 

Who would want to work for Virgin at the moment? You wouldn't want to work for a lot of those big companies because they couldn't adapt. They’re just too big, they're like the Titanic. Whereas a lot of the small businesses, we can zig and zag and not feel that pain as much and also be able to connect with our staff and our team to make sure that they're feeling okay and navigate them through this minefield of emotions and turmoil that they could be experiencing.

But I think we've done really well, like I'm proud of my team. They've handled it really well and we're preparing now to go back into semi normal classes and then in another months’ time after that, so July, it should be mostly like we were before we went into lockdown. Hundred to a building, like this mostly social distancing, but I think this will play out till the end of the year. I think by Christmas we might be out actually to give a high five and hug some people.

GEORGE: Yeah, I mean, hats off to you, because I know you've just been on to it then, you know, everyday we checked. You've implemented this and you've jumped into a new direction, implemented new strategies and really taken it on. What are you excited about, coming in the next… I know, excitement for a lot of people when I ask that, they’re like…

BRETT: It’s fear.

GEORGE: What does that word mean? But I mean, if you really put the opportunity hat on and really look at it, “Okay, things have changed, things have shifted,” – what are you excited about in the next coming weeks?

martial arts virtual gradings

BRETT: Well, again, I've tried to maintain, I actually turned one of my students who wanted to do an in-person grading and they don't want to do a Zoom one, it's not like a real grading. And I said, “Well you know, it's not the same as an in-person grading – it's different. It could actually potentially be better, because you're doing it one-on-one.” Now, it's gonna be a different feel, we may never get to do this again. This may be the only time in history where we do every single person in the school as a Zoom grading. 

So like, and that's the truth, it basically may never happen again. So for me that's exciting. I've pulled out all stops to make this grading the most spectacular grading that they'll ever experience virtually, because it may never happen again. So I'm excited to do that like, literally from this Thursday, it’s Monday today, so from Thursday, from 7AM until about 7PM, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday, I am grading every thirty minutes and I know how exhausting that’s going to be. But I also find that exciting and I'm a big fan like, I'm a… what do you call it, I’m a podcast savant. I just like, I just go and listen to podcasts 24/7. It’s my favorite thing, I don’t listen to radio, but that's what I listen to. And it used to be tapes in my car, then it was CDs, now it's podcasts. 

And so I’ve always been a big fan of Tony Robbins, lucky enough to have done some training with him, done UPW and a few other things with him. And one of the things that he always talks about is to the professionals, like the professional athlete, or a professional entrepreneur: when they see something that could be scary, feel fearful, they look at the same thing and they look at it as excitement, because your body goes through exactly the same chemicals, endorphins, okay, the adrenaline. It's exactly the same thing as fear. Like, if you looked at it side by side, okay, anyone that's ever fought in the ring, or competed in a jiu-jitsu tournament, or done MMA, or just been up in front of someone to do a grading, you've got two options: fear, which is, “Oh, I'm going to stuff this up,” or “I'm gonna get hurt,” or “I'm no good at this,” to exciting “Oh, I can’t wait, this is so cool.” Exactly the same experience, it's the outcome that's different. 

And so for most martial artists, I think most should have done pretty well through this, if they've got that kind of background. They would have gone, “Wow this is exciting. This is just like another competition, this is another chance to to show my skill, to really challenge myself,” because I think if any industry was really prepared for this, it'd be the martial arts industry, because that's what we do. We live for the challenge, that's what makes us different. Most normal people can't understand martial artists, they look at them and go, “Do you enjoy touching each other and checking each other out and…” – really? Because that's not normal behavior. 

And so that's kind of set us I think apart from everybody else in the world who's freaking out and putting their head under the duna as Scomo likes to say. So yeah, and I think we're well prepared for that and for me, I'm excited to do it, literally, I'll be doing a 65 hour- 70 hour week, this week and 60 of those hours are in four days. That's like, it's insane, but I'm up for that. I love that stuff.

GEORGE: Yeah cool. So if you don’t mind, before we finish up and I think this would be really valuable for other school owners, can you walk us through what you are actually doing with your virtual grading? How's the day going to plan out, what have you done prior and how's the whole process going to roll out?

BRETT: Yep. So similar set up to what we would normally do with a grading and here's another thing, that's the one of the things that I'm looking at as positive coming out of the COVID-19 thing is that, we now have some new systems that we never had before. So everyone that ever wanted to have their curriculums online and available to their students and we're struggling with like, getting like, whether it's IT departments of your website, website developers to actually pull the trigger and do it – they all jumped to it the night this happened. Within two days you had all of the ability to do this. 

And so that was a benefit, being able to schedule all of our gradings on Calendly. I know I can just look at my Calendly now and it is literally 200+ appointments long. It's just like this big list, but I know who's next and in all of my Zoom gradings, they all have their own unique code. All I have to do is click on there, then next I'll click and it brings me to the next Zoom invitation and I'm ready to grade them on my laptop right here, right where I am now, this is exactly where I'll be Thursday through to Sunday. I will shift from one room to the other depending on the grading, and basically one of the other things I'm doing that's pretty cool is, we've over delivered, which I think is really important. So every student normally only gets a certificate and their belt; this time they’re getting a backpack with a certificate, their belt, a bumper sticker and a gift. 

So there's probably $200 worth of value in there for a $50 grading. So they're gonna see that. We're also developing a virtual certificate that pops up on their screen saying “Congratulations, you've passed your virtual grading.” And that'll be branded, but it'll look really space-agey kinda like, very new looking, sparkly, I don't know. Liam and the design team did that at our printers to do that, so he's designing that this week and everyone's coming in to pick up their backpacks. So every 15 minutes, they're picking up a backpack. We're videoing the whole process and we're going to do a video at the end where it basically just crunches it into a little, probably three-minute version, well they call those videos…

GEORGE: Time-lapse.

BRETT: Timelapse, that's it. Yeah, we're gonna do a time-lapse video from the four days to show it with a soundtrack behind it. So that's something cool. I'm also photographing myself this Wednesday in front of all the logos, so in front of the school like, we're all buzzy here with all the different uniforms that I wear for all the different styles. So we’ve got seven different martial arts styles in the school, so I'm going to be basically getting changed, doing a new photo with a plain background, with this background sorry. And then every single student when they grade, there's going to be a list inside their backpack of all the things they have to do so they have to take a photo of themselves with their new belt on, their new certificate with a plain background. 

So like, white, yellow, as long as it’s not dark, nice clear background, then send the photo to me. I'll then superimpose that into the photo next to me on the wall back and then post that onto our Facebook page. And so it will be like they were there. So we're just going to make this virtual, because again, it's a virtual grading, so we can use Photoshop and make it look cool in a virtual world. Like, you know, everyone's been loving the Zoom backgrounds that create their own, I've got a few, I’ve used the matrix dojo in one of my classes one day. Everyone over the age of 30 thought that was cool; everyone else was going…

GEORGE: What’s that?

BRETT: Yeah, exactly, they had no idea what it was. And again, it's about building hype and excitement around something that they may never ever experience ever again. And one of the things I've been talking to the parents is, that a lot of people under the age of 25 have never, ever, ever experienced any kind of thing like this, like any kind of hardship. they've been pretty cruisy for the last 25 years as far as the world economy, the way the world's gone, no big wars, it's been really good, okay? Since 9/11, it's been pretty cruisy. So this is really something that's bonded the whole world together, an experience that everyone's going through. 

So let's make something out of it, let's come out of it and say “What did I get out of doing that? Did I get better about my relationships? Did I get better at learning new tools and skills? Or did I just watch Netflix for 12 hours a day?” So like what did you do with it? And so it'll be an interesting year, next year will be an interesting year to see what tools did people get and where did they take those tools. Like for us, I want to go VR. I want to put VR goggles on students in the home environment, so they're part of this class that we run here. So if this leads us down the road to that, then I'm happy because I was already thinking about it two years ago as adding it to my already system. Because I’m a big fan of Gary Vaynerchuk and I’ve spent some time with him and he's keen to get VR up and running so I'm like, “Cool, I'll look into that at some stage.”

GEORGE: Yeah, totally agree with you. and that's the thing: if anybody thinks this is a phase, nope, it's just the stepping stone, because it's brought this… it's funny you know, I've been doing these Zoom webinars about three to five a week for a long time. And inviting anyone to a Zoom meeting was always a weird thing. This Sunday my two-year-old daughter was having a Zoom party.

BRETT: Yep.

GEORGE: Because that's what you can do. But it's brought a lot of these technology things, it's just accelerated the normality of it. And people just really had to step into it, so it was that or nothing. And now that everybody's so accustomed to it, it's definitely not going away. This is leading to the next thing and if you think of, I had a chat with someone about virtual reality the other day and she was showing me what they were doing in the automated mining industry. And when I saw that, I was like “Oh, okay, this makes sense.” You know? It's taking objects and putting it in the lounge and you can walk around it… it's like a whole new experience. Now, yep martial arts: it's never gonna go away, the physicality of it. But I think the learning experience is definitely going to enhance in ways that we can't even comprehend right now.

BRETT: Yeah.

GEORGE: Yep, for all those thinking that we're just going back to normal – I’d relook at that perspective and really think of “Okay, well how are things gonna be different from here on and how are we going to embrace this.”

So yeah, there's so much good that's come from it. Yep, there's been a lot of hardship, you know, there’s been a lot of industries that are wiped out. There’s a lot of things that, you know, by no means are okay. But then there are the things that are okay, you know? I see people are friendlier, you know? When people see each other, you know, a lot of people are more… just friendlier greetings. My teenage son that used to just skate has spent a lot more time at home. It's been really good for us, he's been doing a lot of work around the house which has been interesting for a 13 year old boy to be repainting the door and doing things. I mean, those are little things, right? But I think there’s just so much benefit to what's happened and…

BRETT: Mmm.

GEORGE: It's good to just sit back and reflect and think, “Right how am I gonna play my part in this next chapter moving forward?”

martial arts virtual gradings

BRETT: Absolutely, absolutely. I think that humans have always been like… aren't very good at adapting to situations and then thriving in it. And so I'm sure back when Henry Ford was designing the first motor vehicle, everyone was like, “Yeah, that'll never exist,” like planes didn't exist and it was just… computers! I think back to when I was a kid: when I was 6 years old, not only did a computer not exist; the thought of one didn't exist. And how fast technology has come in a very short period, what's the next 10 to 20 years going to look like in this space? And I think yeah, you gotta be open-minded enough to go, “Okay, I'm going to adapt to whatever comes that way and I'll try it.” And I think that again, as martial artists, we're usually pretty good at failing forward so we’re adapted, like learning to fail and then get back up and go again. 

And so the last 2 or 3 months, it's been all about failing and learning, failing and learning. I had to reschedule my entire Zoom calendar because I did a Zoom code for every single class and that meant I got messages and notifications every day for every single class that came up. So I just went. “No, we have one place where we all go and then we'll go into breakout rooms.” And that took me about a week to realize that that was not a great idea, So yeah, but you learn, that's what it's all about.

GEORGE: Yeah, that's it. A simple thing that I did was, I actually just purchased one domain name and had one meeting link. And because I just got sick of going back and forth.

BRETT: Yep.

GEORGE: What was the meeting number, what was the ID. So just create one link, one domain name, forward it automatically. If anybody wants to meet you, just give them the domain name and now you've just got back-to-back meetings.

BRETT: Yeah, exactly, yeah. I learnt that really quickly. And again, love learning, so it's been fun. Challenging, but fun.

GEORGE: Awesome, that's it. Hey Brett, thanks being on the second time, actually nailing it this time. Perfect, thanks so much for being on. Thanks,it's always good to chat to you, because you're always on top of what's happening and you're always quick to implement and do things. If anybody wants to connect with you, what's the best way to do that?

BRETT: I'm on Facebook, Instagram, our website reddragon.com.au. Just easy enough, a Facebook message is the easiest one these days I think so. Just look me up on Facebook, it’s pretty easy to find people these days. And yeah, just give me a shout out if you need any information or any help in any direction. I do a lot of mentoring for school owners, the smaller schools that want to try and go full-time, or they're having troubles with staff and how to train up instructors, I do a lot of work on that. So I'm always available, just hit me up. And yeah, my only thing would be, George, make sure you upload this one to the cloud, right after we finish.

GEORGE: I was thinking that just when you were saying that, just when I was giving props about how cool this episode was, I was thinking, hey I'm gonna make sure this one uploads to Google Drive – now.

BRETT: Absolutely, absolutely, because we’ve spoken in the past, I don't do retakes. The next time we interview, it will be different again. You could redo this one straight after, it would be different again.

GEORGE: Yeah, that’s cool.

BRETT: I’m not good at sticking to scripts.

GEORGE: Perfect, thanks so much for being on Brett.

BRETT: My pleasure!

GEORGE: I'll speak to you soon.

BRETT:  All right, see you guys, bye.

GEORGE: Awesome. Thanks for listening. If you want to connect with other top and smart martial arts school owners, and have a chat about marketing, lead generation, what's working now, or just have a gentle rant about things that are happening in the industry, then I want to invite you to join our Facebook group

It's a private Facebook group and in there, I share a lot of extra videos and downloads and worksheets – the things that are working for us when we help school owners grow and share a couple of video interviews and a bunch of cool extra resources.

So it's called the Martial Arts Media Business Community and an easy way to access it is, if you just go to the domain named martialartsmedia.group, so martialaartsmedia.group, g-r-o-u-p, there's no .Com or anything, martialartsmedia.group. That will take you straight there. Request to join and I will accept your invitation.

Thanks – I'll speak to you on the next episode – 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.

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