126 – Ed Carr: How To Rise Above Bullying Through Martial Arts And Live An Empowered Life

Edward Carr shares how he’s built 2 thriving clubs through word of mouth, while helping his community combat cyberbullying and live an empowered life.


IN THIS EPISODE:

  • How to harness the power of word of mouth
  • Tips to boost martial arts community engagement 
  • How to encourage bullied children to share their experiences
  • Edward’s book against bullying, Lift Them Up: How to Rise Above Bullying and Live an Empowered Life
  • Effective ways to build a strong online presence
  • And more

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

TRANSCRIPTION

GEORGE: Hey, George Fourie here. Welcome to the Martial Arts Media™ business podcast. So today, I have a special guest with me: Edward Carr from New Hampshire in the United States. And so, Edward owns two locations, Tokyo Joe Studios and Team Link MMA, both at the same actual location, in the same facility, on two separate floors.

So, we chat a bit about that divide, and also how he's built a thriving business. 320-330 plus students, mostly on word of mouth. And, look, always when someone says word of mouth, I'm always curious, because it always means there's a strong program, a strong product, and much more to it, right?

And so we chat a lot about things that they've done in the community, their community promotions, also his book against anti-bullying, that positions him as an authority. And all this, how it helped them thrive through the pandemic, and almost not losing any students after being locked down for a full year. So, we're going to jump into that.

If you are new to the podcast, do check out on this page martialartsmedia.com/126, depending where you're listening or watching, and be sure to download our ebook, ‘The Ultimate Facebook™ Guide for Martial Arts Schools', that will help you create your next winning ad campaign. And of course, wherever you're listening or watching, make sure you hit that subscribe button, so that you get notified when we release our next episode.

Alright, let's get into it. So, Edward, over the last couple of months, or just in general, what's been the top marketing strategy and lead generator for you?

EDWARD: It would be a lot of word of mouth, a lot of word of mouth and online. You know, some online advertising definitely helped out, but the word of mouth has been incredible-  with all the students promoting, you know, the school and, you know, me being involved in the schools a lot, also has helped out quite a bit, you know.

Just like I said, just promoting and having fun, and, you know, going from there. And just letting the kids know, you know, letting everyone know, you know, what we're doing, what we're about, promoting safety, you know. Letting them know, like, even though the pandemic, you know, people are still nervous, you know, having all the safety stations everywhere, and all that.

Just making everyone feel comfortable, and then having them go out and telling all their friends, “This is a place to go to exercise and have fun”, and, you know, how do kids learn.

GEORGE: So, if you've got great word of mouth, it's always a sign that you've got a great product, right, and great training and good program. But other than that, how do you feel you kind of orchestrate a lot of word of mouth? And what do you think? What do you think escalates it?

EDWARD: Every time someone competes or does something. Well, we've had a few big name fighters, you know, fight for us. That always brings in a lot of students, people see it, they watch it on UFC Fight Pass, you know, they go from there. We've had a lot of kids… Muay Thai tournaments, grappling tournaments, and karate tournaments – they're starting to do them again and that's always been great.

You know, kids want a medal, a trophy, they're all happy, they tell their friends, you know, and that's the type of word of mouth stuff that's happening. I wrote a book, and it was on bullying, and I got that involved in the schools. So, you know, they're, you know, me being involved in the schools and helping out and talking to the children, you know, about bullying and this and that, it's also been huge.

So, it's a good word of mouth, you know, think, you know, for me, you know, to do all that. Like I said, there's been a little bit of online, you know, stuff, I've done some, you know, contests here and there, you know, for everything, get the students involved, you know, and just try to work it, make it a grind.

GEORGE: What's the book called?

EDWARD: Lift Them Up.

GEORGE: And it's available on Amazon?

EDWARD: Yeah, it's available on Amazon. Yeah, Amazon, the book is called Lift Them Up: How to Rise Above Bullying and Live an Empowered Life. You know, just as in deal with this typical boy who deals with cyber bullying, you know, it goes through the whole… You know, everyone thinks bullying, you just, you know, pick on someone.

But, you know, a lot of people don't realize there's a whole cyber bullying, internet bullying, texting bullying and all this. There's so much out there that people don't understand or realize. So, you know, I mean, it's done well. I've sold like 400, 500 books, I can't complain.

GEORGE: That's perfect. Well, I hope you sell 4000, 5000 more after we do this podcast, right?

EDWARD: Absolutely!

GEORGE: If you don't mind sharing a little bit of insight, because I mean, it's a whole different planet, just like you saying, you know, it used to be bullying, face to face. But, you know, if I look at kids today, I think they're dealing with this whole – a whole different form of bullying, that's, it's pretty intense. And I don't know, I sometimes wonder how kids have actually got to deal with that, right?

If there's, especially if there's a group of people that are bullying you, or doing cyber attacks and just being nasty kids, what's your advice to kids on how to deal with that?

EDWARD: Communication. A lot of kids tend to hide things, you know, and I have a lot of kids that feel very comfortable coming to talk to me, and not even their own parents, or teachers, because they're afraid or scared. And it's just communication, I'm trying to, you know, when I talk to them, I want them to feel comfortable.

I want them to realize it's okay to talk to the teachers, it's okay to talk to your, especially your parents. Let them know what's going on. Too many kids out there just bottle it up, and unfortunately, you know, bad things do happen. And you know, a lot of times they'll bottle that up and hold that negative energy inside, and they explode, and something negative can happen off of that, you know.

And that's all, the key, you know, is communication. Letting them know, you know, that people are out there that, you know, these people in these positions care for them and want the best for them – and want to help them out.

GEORGE: And so, is that something you do on the mats, like mat chats and things like that?

EDWARD: Yeah, we talk a lot about that, you know, on the mats. At the end of every class, I usually have, like, a little, you know, 2 – 3 minute mat chat with them. And we're always talking about bullying, you know, certain situations, you know, just how to train, you know, how to deal with it, you know, how to use your words first, you know.

Everyone thinks, a lot of kids think too, you know, how to deal with things they don't understand either, gotta make them aware. Like, they think, “Okay, I know karate and martial arts, I'm just gonna go beat the bully up.” That's not what it's all about, you know, trying to get them to realize you go talk to them, try and make them – be their friends or walk away.

If there is a self defense situation there, then of course, you know, deal with it in the proper way. But definitely learn how to use your words first, and your brain. I always tell them to use your brain first, speech smart.

GEORGE: That's awesome. Cool. So, talking about online, moving through the pandemic, and you mentioned earlier that you managed to maintain almost a full student base, how long were you locked down for? Just curious.

EDWARD: About a year. It was about a good year, you know, and, you know, you weren't allowed to have any, I could do one-on-one classes. I had a couple people, you know, that would, I would make sure at 12 o'clock, they could come in, it was just them, no one else could be around.

I'd have to give a half hour's worth of time in between, so I could clean and sanitize and then could have another private – but that was it. No group classes. I could do family classes, but I'd have to do them outside. So, thank goodness, a lot of this was during the summer. So, it worked out pretty good.

GEORGE: Yeah. 

Martial Arts

EDWARD: And so I'd do a lot of group classes, you know, with families outside in the parking lot, which, another way in which pretty good advertising too, because then people driving by, seeing us working out and exercising and doing something, so it was good advertising in that way. So, you know, it was rough. But it was a learning experience for me, because trying to develop a system that keeps everyone happy on Zoom.

You know, I've never taught, I mean, I've done a lot of seminars and this and that, but I've never taught on Zoom, you know, pretty much eight hours a day, standing in front of a camera, trying to teach forms. You know, trying to teach, you know, a kickboxing combination and make sure they got proper footwork. It was a learning experience for me too.

But it worked and kept everyone happy. And, you know, like I said, we just always have a contest, I always had something going on just to keep them, you know, feeling good about themselves.

GEORGE: What do you think you've taken from that?

EDWARD: It's made me definitely a better instructor off of that. You know, it definitely opened up my eyes a little bit. I definitely became better – just made me practice a little… You know, we kind of get into, I don't want to say a rut in a bad way, but we get in a rut and a daily routine of coming into the school, four o'clock class, five o'clock class, six o'clock class.

And what it made me do is step out of the box a little bit – I hadn't done that for a while, because I got a successful school. I'm happy, I'm always wanting to grow, do what it takes, but I was, you know, doing well. So, I was like, okay… But this made me step out of the box a little bit, made me realize, you know, “Okay, start training, you got to start training, you've got to start using your mind, come up with these ideas, you know.”

You know, make these kids happy. Let these kids know you care, let the parents know you care. You know, BJJ, MMA make them happy, make sure, you know, and be a coach. And so it made me step out of the box and become a better person for sure.

GEORGE: Were there any, like, specific obstacles that you faced with the kids having to show up online and getting involved and engaging?

EDWARD: Yeah, it was interesting because I'd have to mute a lot of stuff. Like, they could hear me, but I couldn't hear them, because, you know, we'd have 30, 40 people online. Sometimes you can't have everyone, you know, they're still at home. So, they still have their home life.

So, you have dogs in the background or brothers and sisters poking their brothers online. So, at times it was a horror show. It was like, “Whoah, what's going on?!” But, I mean, that was the biggest obstacle, the biggest thing was just like, you know, trying to overcome all that at first, but once, you know, after a week or so, it smoothed out pretty well.

And it wasn't really that bad. You know, just trying to engage them, to let them know that they could do martial arts on the computer and not just play video games was rough, because I would have some students that would blank the screen, but forget to mute it, and I could hear them playing video games in the background.

So, then the parents would ask me how they're doing. I'm like, I don't know, you need to ask him, he's been playing video games. So, you know, stuff like that would happen on and off. But overall, it was, you know, it was definitely tough keeping them engaged – because just staring at a computer screen, even my own daughter would do karate in her bedroom. And, you know, I'd have to tell her to stop jumping on the bed, like, “Listen, you're in class, stop jumping on the bed.” Trying to keep them engaged was definitely a learning experience.

GEORGE: So, what did you do to have that constant state change? You know, because I mean, you can't let them do one thing too long to get in – yeah, boredom kicks in.

EDWARD: I just constantly kept them moving as much as I could. You know, sometimes in a normal class, you know, you take your time, you go over form more, there's more of a pause, more of a… So, you couldn't do that online.

I almost taught it like a cardio kickboxing class, you know, where I just kept moving and moving and moving and moving and moving. Class is only 30 minutes long, but it was, like, just keep them moving. Don't give them that time to stop. You know, don't give them that time to think.

We would do a form to warm up and right from that form we'd go right into some kicking, some punching, and then we'd go into some, you know, self defense techniques, and I'd make it a game and just keep them moving. So, they didn't have that time to go look around to see who's playing outside or stuff like that.

GEORGE: Gotcha. And then jiu jitsu – and how did you handle the BJJ side, and the adults, and so forth?

EDWARD: That was the tough part. Like teaching Thai kickboxing or MMA wasn't so bad, because you could teach them some combinations. So, sprawls, double legs, you can teach transitions, and stuff, that was okay.

But the BJJ was tough, you know, like I had, when – Everyone would make their own dummy, grappling dummy, or they could buy one from me, you know, but, and, you know, whoever made the best dummy won a free gift, you know, stuff like that. So, we had, like, 15 people make their own grappling dummies. So, that's part of getting them involved and engaged, a few people bought some off for me.

And then basically, it was just teaching them transitions and moves and talking to them about, you know, the connecting points, you know, always have points of control and hip pressure and where your hips should be, where your shoulders should be, where your grip should be. And it was more of a, you know, just teaching the technical side of things, you know.

There were some drills out there – you could do, you know, switching back and forth, knee on belly, switch and go into mount, going into, you know, back to knee on belly, to arm bars, north south, all that you could do all that stuff too. But that was, actually trying to teach them actual moves was, you know, definitely interesting.

GEORGE: It's something that is – obviously working with school owners, we've got a group we call Partners, and we've got gi school owners from around the world, but different styles.

And so, it's always conversations that have come up, obviously, with the pandemic. And interesting as well, because everyone was always at a different stage of; we're going into lockdown, we're coming out, what do we do, but it was a good opportunity to cross pollinate ideas, but…

EDWARD: Yeah.

GEORGE: We had one of our members, Carl just talk about, they were just in a two month lockdown in New Zealand, and – 100% jiu jitsu school – and managed to keep all his students going, but the main focus was just movement.

EDWARD: Yeah, 100%.

GEORGE: Movement, and keeping the community going. So, you know, a big thing that we've spoken about was the community, the content and then the coaching. So, how do you do those things? How do you create the community going?

I mean, that's the big thing, and how do you keep the coaching going? And we came up with some creative ideas, right? So, he bought the John Danaher set, and then we just, he would just go through a video, or they would post, you know, a clip from an instruction from someone else, and then they would study it, and they would analyze it, so the whole… Use even someone else's content, but then create the conversation around it to keep the community…

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EDWARD: Yeah, we did the same thing. We actually, one day, myself, would do a jiu jitsu video with my student, he's, I've known him forever, and it was him and I. We'd do a jiu jitsu video, then the next day would use a video of something from someone else.

We used a lot of John Danaher, Gordon Ryan, stuff like that. And then the next day, I would do, like, a karate video for everyone, and then the next day, my student would do a kickboxing MMA video for them.

So, everyday we'll put out a video for the students, also to give them some content to study. And so, not only could you do classes, I would send these videos and post them to everyone, and they could go at home and practice those same combinations, three or four combi- you know, five different ways on how to do an overhand right, you know. How to do two pins in the proper way, you know, a form, you know, and so that worked out pretty well, too.

GEORGE: Sounds good. So, give us a bit of a background about your school and your location. And I know you've got a massive facility, and you've got two floors, and just give us a bit of an overview on the infrastructure and how things operate.

EDWARD: I've been here since 1999. I pretty much have always done martial arts since I was 14. And I just turned 50, so I've been doing it for a while. I just woke up one day and decided I didn't want to do my job anymore, and so then I'm gonna open up a school. Let's try it.

GEORGE: How long have you been… 

EDWARD: So, 1999. Yeah. And so I found this, I found a location. And at first it was only, we only had about 2000 square feet, but I liked this location because it always had an opportunity to grow.

So, I started off with traditional karate, I always studied grappling and wrestling on my own on the side, and had already had a couple fights on the side, but I didn't really promote that too much.

Yeah. And then as we grew, we grew fast. For six months, we grew pretty quick. So, I got to open up another 1400 square feet or so in the back, and we used that room for a while. And then what I did is, I always had the basement downstairs, and it's a giant, like, two big garage, you know, basement. 

And one day my landlord's, “Like, you know, if you want the space, I'll charge you this much for it. And, you know, just take it over and do what you want, you do the work. I'll give it to you cheap, and it's cheap.” And I was like, “Alright!” So, I did all the work, and then like I said, we got two open floors upstairs, bathrooms, office, all that stuff. 

Downstairs is a couple different ways you can go in, it's got showers, a couple of locker rooms downstairs, a bag room, it's got a ring, a cage, and probably about a 1800 square foot, like, weight room too. So, I did the weight room originally for the parents, a lot of parents don't have time to go to the gym. So, I allow the parents for free at first to, while the kids are in class, go downstairs and run on the treadmill, lift some weights to do something.

That way they won't have to worry about their kids, they know they're doing class. But that took off, and you know, that was taking off pretty good. So, now I hired a personal trainer, you know, so he comes in – he does personal classes, you know, for the parents and you know, it's a little bit extra income off of that.

And stuff like that, you know, they scheduled privates for the kids, a lot of them they'll come down here and work with them during the kids class and get in shape.

So, you know, we got a little bit of everything. You know, kids are martial – all the kids' classes are fresh. We got kids BJJ, kids Muay Thai, kids kempo karate, and then usually at night time, it's a, you know, depending on the day, gi, the adult Muay Thai, adult MMA, adult BJJ, gi or no gi on the day, and then cardio kickboxing too.

And then we do stuff on the weekend – Saturday is a full day of classes, Sunday is kind of my day, I invite either the black belts in and we do like a black belt workout or I'll just invite some fighters in and we'll just train, so it's like a training day on Sundays for us. So, you know, it's a full time job. Like I said, it's like 8000 square feet, full time job, I have about – maybe now 330 students.

And yeah, you know, it has its moments. But, you know, I've been blessed throughout this whole pandemic, so I can't complain.

GEORGE: That's cool. So, you've got two names, right? Tokyo Joe's? 

EDWARD: Yes.

GEORGE: Tokyo Joe's Studios and TeamLink MMA.

EDWARD: Yeah.

GEORGE: Curious on two names, but also Tokyo Joe's?

EDWARD: Well, my instructor, who was 14, was playing football, and he was in karate, and he's from East Boston, and he was doing some karate, was a football practice. And they just named him Tokyo Joe, you know, that was his nickname.

So, as he progressed and opened up his own school – he met me at – that was always his nickname. He called it Tokyo Joe's Studios. He named the downstairs his nickname.

And then I was at the Canadian Open as a karate tournament. And he had met me, he said, “Hey, you fought really well, why don't you come train with me?” And he goes, you know, “I'm like, alright.” And he was close by, so I started training with him, and, you know, competed under him, you know, in all these karate tournaments all over the place.

Also, I got a chance to train with like Johnny Tension, and Reggie Perry, who were part of the team, Paul Mitchell, who, you know, are World Champions too. So, it opened up some doors and ideas. And then one day, he's like, “You know, you should think about opening up a school, you're a great instructor, a great motivator, you're a good leader,” and I didn't really put much thought into it.

And then he kept bugging me and bugging me, and then one day, I'm out doing my job – construction – I was doing construction, driving some equipment. I'm like, “You know, yeah, it's time. I don't feel like doing this.” So, I went into the office and gave my notice and went back to him and said, “I guess we'll open up a school. Let's try it.”

So, that was the karate side of things.

GEORGE: Right. 

EDWARD: I'd always done MMA on the side, I was part of Miletich Fighting Systems with Pat Miletich. And when I trained there with them, it was, you know, they had three out of the five UFC champions, it was one of the best gyms around, we did a lot of fighting and training there. But as they all got older and branched off, opened up their own gyms, and everything kind of disbanded. 

I was just left with, like, no direction in my life; my BJJ program was only a purple belt at the time. And really know, you know, didn't know how to, you know, what to do. So, like I said, Michael Alvin, Gabriel Gonzaga, and Alexander Marino all came to me one day, because I trained with them, helped them out with fights and worked with them. 

And they're like, “Why don't you just join us, you know, it'd be a great marketing thing for your BJJ program.” It's a little confusing for some people, but once they get in here, they realize, I kind of keep it separate, and I like keeping them separate, because I like the younger kids… 

I think, you know, even though we do BJJ, we still teach a little bit of focus and concentration in that class, like a karate thing. I like them to learn about the focus and concentration side of things, you don't need to necessarily see all the hard work and training that goes into MMA.

Plus, parents, you know, sometimes they get the wrong opinion, they see the fights on TV, and they think that's what it's all about, and I don't want to give the parents that impression. So, that's why I have an upstairs and downstairs and stuff.

But it's actually become a great tool, because parents realize all the hard work and all the dedication that goes into that, that's their martial art, you know, that's their form, you know, while the kids are learning this stuff, they see the adults or the teenagers doing this, and they realize it's a lot of hard work if it's taught the right way. 

So now, you know, like, whenever we have someone fight, you know, a tough fight passes, I gotta open up the school, we'll have a school full of people watching it on the TV, you know what I mean? Becomes a school party sort of, brings them all together, you know. Like you said, you try to try to create a good, you know, good atmosphere, you know, for everyone – good environment – and it brings them all together, the watch, the fights, and stuff like that.

So, it's kind of cool.

GEORGE: Because that would be my next question – how do you balance the two cultures? Do you find that they are divided or they sort of come together?

EDWARD: It's actually come together- at first, it was pretty divided. You know, when it first – the sport was starting to grow, it was pretty divided. 

You know, people thought, you know, brutality, this, that and you know, and you can definitely understand that. But over the years, as time has gone on, people see it, you know, they've seen the fights, you know, parents have asked, you know, we've, like I said, they've, you know, they got, you know, a lot of kids would do karate competitions, you know.

So then, you know, now they have kids Muay Thai, very controlled, but kids Muay Thai and then, you know, they get kids BJJ. So, because of all these classes that we have, you know, kids getting involved in all these other smaller competitions, the parents are wanting to see what the adults and teens are doing and how that's evolved. So, it's actually brought it all kind of together.

You know, and everyone's, you know, everyone's… it's pretty cool to see everyone, like, you know, support. Everyone gets together, supports everyone and have fun, too. You have a lot of parents that will just come down on Wednesday nights, our sparring night, they'll just come down and just watch, you know, they get to – they bring their, you know, 10 year old kid and you know, “Is there sparring on Wednesday?” “Yeah.” “Can we come watch?” “Yeah, come on in!”

You know, you have a whole group that will just sit on the side to just watch, you know. This is awesome, you know, because they get a chance to see, you know, kicks, punches and stuff and blocks and wrestling, they're into – actual, you know. You get a lot of kids that don't compete, we don't force them to compete. If you want to compete, we can get them ready.

But it gets to see them, you know, put it in practical use, kind of, you know. So, they like watching it.

GEORGE: Perfect. So, just to change gears a little bit – back to the marketing aspect. You got a successful school, 300+ students. You mentioned word of mouth is good. What else contributes to the growth?

EDWARD: Community involvement. Like I said, but everything's changing now. The whole world's changing. I mean, you know what I mean.

When I first opened up, you know, you had to advertise in the yellow pages, you know, big giant ads in the yellow pages, you know, that was a thing. You had to – who had the biggest ad, you know, the big best looking ad in the Yellow Pages, then as time went on…

GEORGE: And your name's gonna start with ‘A', right? So, that you, like, at the front of the book.

EDWARD: Yeah, exactly! Yeah.

Then as time went on, you know, the Internet became more, it was, like, you know, websites were huge. You know, websites are still very important, and they're still a useful tool. But, you know, that was important then, you know, now social media, you know, the whole advertising world has changed so much over the 20+ years, you know.

So now, I'm just trying to stay on top of things. I do a lot of social media, I do a lot of posts, and I do a lot of contests, you know, within the schools. I do a lot of, like I said, I'm involved in the community, the schools, you know, certain fairs, certainly, you know, town fairs, this and that. Those are all advertising avenues for me, you know, when they have town fairs.

I do a community fair myself every – well, I haven't done the last couple years, because of the pandemic – but I rent all kinds of bouncy houses, obstacle courses, this and that, dunk tanks, and at the end of every summer, I do, like, a community thing, you know, everyone's welcome. We'll do a little open house, some demonstrations, and have a huge cookout for everyone.

And you know, it's just, advertising like that is big. I'm always looking though, like, you know, I know right now, you know, I got, I'm looking to step up on the digital side of things, pick up the digital side of things on marketing, some online, make my online presence a little bit better, is my goal for this year.

GEORGE: Perfect. So, I love the aspect of community. I mean, that's, I think that's just gold, right?

Because being involved in the community, it makes you stand out. It also builds your authority, you know, way behind just the martial arts you offer, but you mention, things are changing; what are you noticing that's changing the most, especially with just the world and online that's impacting your marketing the most?

EDWARD: Really, it's just the online presence, you know, having a great online presence is very important now.

You know, before, it wasn't, but now, you know, a lot of you see a lot of the biggest school, you see ads all the time, you see this all the time, and, you know, these schools aren't spending that amount of money, if it's not working. You know, there's certain things out there, you know, and I know these school owners very well. 

And I know that they're not putting these ads out there if it's not working. And I just noticed a huge online presence and how important it's becoming, you know what I mean? And, you know, before you had a whole script on the phone, you know, very rarely do I get phone calls now.

Now it's all emails, or sometimes even text messages. “Oh, my friend gave me your number, my son's in…” You know, it's emails, it's text messages. It's all online. “We've been to your Whatsapp, we've been to your Facebook page, you know, what about this…” So, just the online presence is becoming very important.

And just making sure, you know, your name's out there, and making sure you know, you promote your product, or whatever it may be – your services out there. There's what I think is the best, you know, is what's changing the most.

Before, you know, you're right. Fortunately, I have a great word of mouth. And that's great. I mean, like you said, you got great service, you got great products, you got it. But, you know, you can always do better. So, I definitely want to do the online presence thing.

GEORGE: I think school owners like yourself, where you benefit is you built this whole foundation without that. Fine tune the product, the delivery, the programs, the community aspect. When you elevate your online presence, it's really just fuel on the fire, because you've got all the foundations right here.

I mean, we like to really, especially now, in the work that we do with school owners, we really just try to think of the simplicity of it. And like you were saying, people don't really call anymore. So, when you look at that it's not, you know, the message is still the same. It's just the medium of communication is …

EDWARD: Exactly.

GEORGE: So, people, you know, you’ve got to ask permission before you call.

EDWARD: Yeah, yeah.

GEORGE: The world's just gotten like that. I always text someone and say, “Hey, is it okay to call you?” “Yeah, we just picked up the phone.” Right? But yeah, exactly. Messenger and, you know, Messenger, I mean, we find ads to Messenger is still the best thing ever, because of course, you've got the process to sign people up and work through the process.

There's so many things that we are seeing changing and, and like you said, I mean, I'm a web developer, from you know, way back and my first advice was always just get the spanky awesome website, and get it up on Google and you're good. Now I don't give that advice anymore.

You know, I would say, right, let's get your offer, right? And let's get your ad up, you know, let's get your message out there and find a simple way to follow up. And if you can get those things right, websites are good to have for the people that will go Google and check you out. But you can build a big organization just without that.

EDWARD: Exactly.

GEORGE: The only thing that always scares me is the control factor of putting all your eggs into a basket like Facebook. And you know, that's the one thing that drives your business, and if it's not there, well, I mean, I think it's still going to be there for a long time, right? But especially when you see things shuffle, and people change the different platforms, it's good to be tabs and be a bit omnipresent in that way that you can do without.

EDWARD: Exactly, I mean, it's definitely been interesting noticing the changes, that's for sure. Like you said, you know, everything.

I always tell everyone this, you know, I've helped a few people open up schools, and I just, you know, that's what I – get your online presence going, you know, well, what about this ad? No, you don't need that ad. It's not like the old days, you know, you don't need yellow pages, you don't need this, you don't need that.

Get your online presence up and going. You need a website, of course, you know, people still visit it and go on, you know, make sure you have this in your website. And like you said, the right content on the website that's going to attract the people that go to it. The right ads, the right deals and stuff like that. 

Online presence is, you know, definitely one point for sure.

GEORGE: So, what's next for you, Edward? Like where are you guys going? Are you opening up more locations?

EDWARD: I don't know. Honestly, what's next for me is I've been really, I've been doing this for a long time. Just really been toying with the idea of doing another smaller location.

I don't know if I, you know, but before I've done that, I've been really trying to develop a good strong, solid staff here. I'm one of the few instructors, like, I enjoy teaching. And like some instructors enjoy running this school, you know, and then they have instructors teach for them.

I like still being on the floor, you know, with the kids and teaching, and I still like teaching them on the mat. I still teach BJJ, and people think I'm crazy, but I still teach up to 40+ classes a week. And, and I love it, but I'm also 50 now, so now I'm developing the staff, and the know-how, you know, really developing, like, I got some really good fighters that still have a few years left in them, but know that, you know, the end's coming… but unbelievable instructors.

So, I'm getting them involved, you know, developing a really solid foundation in the BJJ group of instructors, working on getting them, I got some unbelievable teens, getting them involved in them karate side of things and showing them and teaching them, you know, so that way, when that second location opportunity does come, I know that I'll be able to leave for the day and leave this place in good hands.

You know, staff training, and you know, picking the right people to find out. I want to be part of the team and make sure we share the same vision, you know what I mean? 

And so that second location, within, you know, I got a goal – I set goals, but within a couple of years, I want to definitely have something up, the second one up and going, you know, like, you know, this school is all set. So, that's, that's really what I've been working on now.

GEORGE: Gotcha. And I guess lastly, what are you most excited about? For the next couple of years?

EDWARD: Just growing. You know, I love it. There's, like, you know, we had, you know, already since January. It's, you know, what's today? The seventh. We've had, you know, it's always the New Year rush, but we had 14 new people sign up. So, it's been great.

I love getting the new people going, you know, I just love teaching. I just love growing and, you know, and just helping people out. You know, I can't complain. I got a – I have a great job – and so I mean, what's next is just to keep growing, keep having fun, and keep sharing what I love to do.

And, you know, hopefully the second location will come in a few years and go from there.

GEORGE: Sounds good. Hey, Ed, thanks so much for jumping on. Been great to chat, and just the title of your book again?

EDWARD: Lift Them Up.

GEORGE: Lift Them Up.

EDWARD: Yeah, definitely on Amazon.com and Barnes and Nobles, it's also on Barnes and Nobles website too. So, if they want to check it out, please check it out. It's a great book on bullying. You know, all the different types of bullying that are out in the world today. So, definitely check it out.

GEORGE: Perfect. We'll link it up in the show notes. So, wherever you're watching or listening, it will be https://martialartsmedia.com/126, numbers one-two-six. That'll take you there. And just lastly, any shout-outs you want to give or any way that people can connect with you, if you're open to that?

EDWARD: Yeah, you can always, you know, we just talked about it, you could always hit me up, you know, of course, my email is at tokyojoeshooksit@comcast.net.

You can always hit me up on Facebook, under Ed Carr, or you can visit the school webpage, Tokyo Joe's Studios, Instagram, I'm on Instagram – @tokyojoesstudios – and on Twitter. So, those are the best ways, like I said, we're talking about social media and stuff. You know, that's what people use.

The best way to hit me up, send me a message. Ask me any questions. You know, you can call the school, 603-641-3444, if you want. Ask me any questions you want. I'm always here and always willing to help.

GEORGE: Fantastic. Ed, thanks so much. I'll chat to you soon.

EDWARD: Thank you. Thank you very much. Thank you for having me.

GEORGE: You're welcome.

 

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114 – John Will – Balancing Your BJJ Black Belt ‘Mindset’ Across All Aspects Of Life

Australia’s first ever BJJ black belt, John Will, shares a lifetime’s experience of being an outstanding coach, adapting to adversity, and mastering life through a ‘black belt mindset’.

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IN THIS EPISODE:

  • What is the ‘black belt mindset'?
  • How to learn new skills effectively and enjoy the process
  • How to create a positive martial arts club culture
  • The consequences of chasing martial arts marketing tricks
  • The smartest financial thing you can do for your martial arts business
  • And more

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

 

TRANSCRIPTION

Most people aren't up for that. They want the quick magical, they want the quick answer. We want the quick everything, right? Instant gratification, the marshmallow theory – you need one marshmallow now, rather than two marshmallows two weeks later, people want that. So, they want quick answers. And I think that's silly, because I don't think it's about the outcome. I think it is about the journey and about enjoying the whole process.

GEORGE: Hey everyone, welcome to another Martial Arts Media business podcast. This is George Fourie, and I've got an exceptional guest with me today, John Will. And so, I'm going to give just a short little intro. So John, if you're not familiar who John is, John is famous as one of the Dirty Dozen, meaning he is one of the first twelve non-Brazilian to reach a black belt in jiu jitsu, one of the early adopters and also the first Australian to receive a jiu jitsu black belt. Welcome to the call, John. 

JOHN: Yeah. Thanks, George. Thanks for having me. 

GEORGE: Cool. So, look, if we had to go through all the credentials and background, we'll probably take up all the time of the podcast. So, and when somebody has their own Wikipedia page, I think that's where you should start and just go read that. So, I want to skip that. I think I want to just start with a bit of context how I initially came across you, John. 

So, back in, I think it was 2015, I was probably training jiu jitsu for about one year, and the club where I was training at was sort of a side gig, you know, they were a very successful karate school, but jiu jitsu wasn't really the thing. And, jiu jitsu sort of crawled into my life, and I felt like, alright, this is the thing that I'm going to do. And you know, I'm going to only start with the training. So, I was looking around Perth, and I wasn't really, you know, well versed in the know-how of which clubs do what and which, you know, which different organizations and so forth. And I came across a podcast, BjjBrick Podcast. 

JOHN: Oh, yeah. 

GEORGE: And I was listening to you talk, and I can't remember all the details, but I remember the one thing that stuck by me, which was the way you articulated stories and combined it with metaphors and your way of teaching. That struck me as, alright, you're someone that doesn't just know martial arts, but know that delivery aspect of how to teach it and how to articulate. So, I thought we could just start straight there. How did that develop, that side, obviously have lots of years and years of martial arts experience in jiu jitsu and many other styles, but where did this concept of teaching develop, on how you articulate with stories, metaphors, and so forth? 

BJJ

JOHN: Well, I think that the way that I started, first of all, even though I started in a traditional martial arts background, you know, meaning Taekwondo, karate, I did some freestyle wrestling, and all that, that was just like my first toe in the water. My real experience was gained in Southeast Asia, where I did a lot of traveling back and forth and training over there in the formative years of my life, you know, between like the age of 17, 18 through to my mid-20s. 

And so, the way that I was learning was by looking and analyzing, because I couldn't speak the languages, George. Right? I mean, when they first went over there, you went to a foreign country, I didn't know whether they were giving me good instruction or not. Now I can hazard a guess – probably not. Just like most people, they're just saying things, you know. And so, because I couldn't speak the language, at least initially until I learned, you know, how to speak Indonesian or different languages. Prior to that, I'd be looking, I would figure out – who's the best guy? What's he doing? What's he doing that's different from everyone else, and try and model that. 

So, I became, my learning style was one of the like, an autodidact style of learning how to teach myself through modeling. And that in itself, I think, puts you on a different road than most people. You know, because you've got to look, and you've got to analyze, and you've got to do comparative analysis, and all that kind of stuff. So, I was always like that, and then, I think that speaking is just thinking out loud. So, that's the way I was thinking, I was always thinking analytically about things. So, then when I started teaching, to the extent that I did start teaching by that, I was just doing that out loud. And that's how I started. 

And then I had a few influences that were known martial arts people, and I thought – wow, I would like to be able to sound like them and be effective in the same ways that they were being effective. But in martial arts, a martial arts landscape rather than in the landscape they were on. Robert Kiyosaki was, I mean, nowadays, people might know Robert Kiyosaki, the guy who wrote ‘Rich Dad, Poor Dad' and the guy who's shilling gold and Bitcoin. 

But prior to that, way back, I'm talking 35 years ago, I met Robert, I spent a few weeks with him, and I was astounded. Like, I was really impressed by his communication style, teaching through analogy, gamifying lessons that he wanted to impart to other people. And I thought, wow, I'd like to be like that, but in the martial arts landscape. So, that kind of got me going that way. And then I guess the short answer to your question is, that was the beginning, the catalyst if you like, I was always analytical, because of my, where I started training in other countries, not being able to speak the language. 

So I did the analytical, I was influenced by him and a couple of other people, thought – wow, they really do well in their own thing. I wonder if I can do that in my own area of interest, martial arts, and then the next thing, so I combined those two things. So, every time I took a class, I would debrief myself with notes. If I said it this way, I got that result, if I change that around a little bit, I got a different result. So, I did brief myself for probably 20,000 classes. That's how I kind of developed my own teaching style. 

GEORGE: Alright, so, it's a lot of fine-tuning and refining, because what you're mentioning here is you're actually debriefing every class and being very analytical about the approach, really refining process ideas. 

JOHN: Yeah. Yes. 

GEORGE: Okay, cool. A couple of things that you touched on, and I was at your seminar a couple of days ago, at AMMA Gym, here in Perth, and a couple of things that you said that really resonated with me. And, you know, one part I'm trying to listen for that jiu jitsu knowledge and the other thing is, that that really struck me. One thing that you mentioned was talking about a black belt brain, and talking about how you develop as a martial artist, as a black belt, and how it kind of surprises you that people don't apply that all or out in business. 

I've used a fraction of that analogy before when we work with martial art school owners just about growing their schools, and really tying that back. Well, you know, if you really, if that's how far you get with your art, and you develop that as a mindset, then why is it not being applied elsewhere in business? In business and in life? So, wanted to ask you actually, John, where do you feel that people actually get stuck, that they're not making this a way of life in all aspects of life? 

BJJ

JOHN: I think it is, it is strange to me, George that people don't. I can't relate to that very well, because I can't see how if you do something here, and the approach you take here works for you, then I just do not understand why you don't take the same approach everywhere else. I don't get it. I was always that way. It's just a matter of how much time you allocate, in my view, meaning that if you take an approach to something – growing potatoes or, you know, designing houses or doing jiu jitsu or cooking, and it's working for you, like, if you're methodical with your cooking, you know, you go, “Well, I want to learn to cook. I'm interested in how to do that. 

So, I'll find some people who are really good at doing that. And I'll do what they do, and they have a recipe and so, okay, if I follow his recipe, exactly, I should get something pretty similar.” So, to me, that's like, an absolute no-brainer, why would I try to reinvent the wheel? Why would I not do that – follow the recipe? So, when I see people trying to bake a cake, to pursue the analogy further, the recipe has eight ingredients, mixed in this order, but they can only bother using five ingredients, and not using the same order. I do not understand why they do that. It is absolutely beyond me. 

Worse, they expect or complain that they don't get the same result as that person, when clearly they're only using five out of eight ingredients. I don't understand. So, I don't know, like why people don't do it. They are unreal, people are delusional, and like a lot of people clearly when you look around the planet, as a species, human beings are very, very happy to delude themselves at every turn. And to think that we can get this done, but without doing the same work as the person you’re trying to model, is kind of delusional. It's magical thinking. Perhaps that's what it is, and human beings, as we can both well imagine without drilling down too much, are awesome at magical thinking. Like, we are masters of bullshit, like, and convincing ourselves that, you know, all these untrue things are true, because it makes us feel better. 

And if I want to, you know, apply that same magical thinking to baking a cake, I can make the cake without, do I really need the eggs? I can't be bothered going to the shop, I'll do it without the eggs. I might think that. But you know, that's again, it falls into the category of magical thinking to me. I think the black belt mindset, if you and I are going to call that such a thing, to me it's very personal. It's different for every black belt, you know, and who am I to make a statement about what that means? But for me, what is a black belt in BJJ? What is a black belt mind? How is that different from a brand new white belt mind? I don't think it's got much to do with the amount of techniques you know or don't know. I don't think that's the thing, because some black belts know 1500 techniques, and other ones might only know 300 techniques, but it's not about, it's about how you use whatever techniques you know. 

By the time you're a black belt, you want to, in my view, have developed an appreciation for nuance and detail. And you realize that small nuance and small details can make a giant difference, and that's something as a beginner, you don't realize – you're just looking for the big things. And then as a black belt, you realize that by having your fingers that way or pushing that way, it's a giant, it's a big difference in outcomes. So, that's what I mean when I say a black belt mindset, someone who has developed a palate for nuance and detail. Like coffee – what's the difference between someone who's a great barista and someone who doesn't know how to do it? They have developed a pro coffee. 

GEORGE: Yeah. 

JOHN: And that's something that takes a long time to develop. With that kind of mindset, if you can have an appreciation for nuance and detail, and the importance of nuance and detail, and how relevant that to outcomes that might occur. It should occur to everyone that the same thing applies, irrespective of the subject matter. That if we're growing vegetables, I still need to figure out what are the small little things that my grandma does to grow tomatoes, you know that she gets an outstanding result, I don't. I've got to do all the things that she's doing, not just the convenient things that she's doing. Dig a hole, throw seeds in, cover up, water it. That's the convenience stuff. 

What are all the little inconvenient things that she's doing? But they make a big difference in outcome. I think, people, most people aren't up for that. They want the quick magical, they want the quick answer. We want the quick everything, right? Instant gratification, the marshmallow theory – you need one marshmallow now, rather than two marshmallows two weeks later, you know, people want that. So, they want quick answers. And I think that's silly, because I don't think it's about the outcome. I think it is about the journey and about enjoying the whole process. 

GEORGE: As a dad and having a teenage son, I think that was one of the hardest concepts to actually get across to my son. You know, when taking music, for example, we, you know, I used to play drums when I was a kid, and I remember trying to learn and getting this tape cassette of Enter Sandman, and I've never seen somebody sit in front of drums. And I'm like, trying to figure where my arms go. And I'm listening, and I'm rewinding and forwarding. And you know, when my son started playing when he was four years old, at the time when he was enjoying it and playing it, yeah, it was YouTube, and it was there. The outcome is already achieved visually. 

So, the hard work almost feels unnecessary. And I think that takes away a lot of resilience in kids that it's just, they don't see the work, and the outcome is already visible. But on that, so, you know, on the topic of black belt mind and talking about recipes, and I guess what it really comes down to then is habits and problem solving. Do you have sort of a, I don't want to put you on the spot, but do you have sort of a recipe in mind or something that, you know, you have developed, that if you took on a new skill or whether it's investing or just anything other than jiu jitsu, that you have this methodology of how you go about approaching things? 

JOHN: Well, we have a big advantage nowadays, of course, as you just alluded to, you know, YouTube, and we've got such so much information that, you know, we didn't have when we were kids, we didn't have that. So, that's both a good thing and a bad thing. Yeah. So, at least I'll use the good thing. So, I will tend to go out and find out, like, I try to get the big picture first. If I'm going to build a puzzle, like a jigsaw puzzle, I'll want to see the front of the box, because I want to see what I am trying to build here. But that's something that is kind of important. 

I remember doing that experiment way back. You know, I've got a bunch of jigsaw puzzles, got a bunch of people all divided up, I gave half the box of a jigsaw puzzle, the other half just the same puzzle, but in plastic bags. Click stopwatch, go! I mean, who finishes the puzzle? The people that know what they're building, and the other guys are still trying to figure out it’s three ducks in a pond, you know, that they're clueless. But the first thing I always tried to do is I try to take a macro view, step back, what is it? What's the whole, what's the bigger picture? And YouTube is awesome for that, You know, you can do that. So, I try to get the big picture first. Okay, I'll give you an example of something more concrete. I designed and built my own home, the one that I'm sitting in now. 

BJJ

So, what did I do? Well, I just went online, and I Googled very simply, best 50 architects of all time, well, recently. And then each architect, what are their top three houses of their career, or buildings or something? So now, I've got three x 15 – 45 pictures. Then I asked about the big picture, what's happened in architecture? Now, I look at those 45 pictures and go, “What do I like?” Well, I don't like 40 of them that leaves five. I like, you know, falling water, the house, falling water. What's the architect? Who's the architect – the famous, oh my god, slipped my mind. Everyone's listening to this guy, idiot. It's, anyway. But I like the look, I go, I like the look of that. I like the look of that. I like the look of that. 

So, I get those things. And then I started, I got Google SketchUp, spent 15 hours trying to learn how to do the Google SketchUp and then I kind of drew some stuff that looked like what they did and then went from there. You know, so, I don't think it's hard. So, I guess my approach is always to try to get the big picture first. Get a feeling, what I like about it. Then I try to find some people who have done it before me, which is like, lots. Then try to isolate the best ones, and then kind of model. See if I can get into their head a little bit like, wow, you know, and what they are thinking about. And then I go from there. 

I'm also okay with making mistakes, I'm okay with that. As long as it's not catastrophic, you know, as long as it's small mistakes, you need to make a lot of them, you don't want to make big mistakes that you can't come back from. So, I'm conservative in that way. I'm up for making mistakes, I rather make lots of little ones that don't cost me much. Rather than all in and make a big one. You know, investing in cryptocurrency, put 1% of your portfolio in and make as many mistakes as you want. And then when you figure it out, then put in another 2%, and you're good to go, right? You don't go all in. I mean, every now and again, someone goes all in, but then someone picks the time, right, gets it all right, and they do exceptionally well. 

GEORGE: And we hear about him. 

JOHN: We hear about that guy, because of what's it called? Survivor bias. You don't hear about the other 99. So, I'm a bit, I'm much more fearful. And I will go, I'll go all in, but with 1%, you know what I mean? 

GEORGE: Yeah, perfect. So I've got, I guess, if I just break it down, what I got from that big picture, get a clear understanding, part of what you actually want out of this thing, like, what do you like? Boil it down into who can you model and they look for the little attention to detail, the nuances. 

JOHN: Yeah, exactly. Yes. 

GEORGE: And I guess the last thing, which is always the thing that no one does, is take action. Take action and do it. Yeah.

JOHN: Yeah. The reason why I don't feel a problem, like, I don't seem to have a problem with pulling the trigger, or taking action is, I actually enjoy that process that we just talked about. That's the fun for me. That is the fun, the outcome isn't. I'm not waiting to move into my house to enjoy it. You know, I'm not waiting to take the trip, to enjoy it. I enjoy the planning of the hike, or whatever it is, you know, and I enjoy sitting down if it's about, you know, Bitcoin or it's about whatever it is, I enjoy the process of that thing we're talking about. I actually like that. I like that bit. It's almost like, you know, it's a bit of a letdown when you get done, because that process is, in a way, ended. The fun is the training to black belt. It shouldn't be like, I'm not having fun until I get the black belt. 

GEORGE: That's depressing.

JOHN: That is depressing. Like, anyone who's like that will never get it, because it's just too difficult. That is the fun, you know, so therefore, yeah, I think you enjoy the whole thing. I enjoy learning. And I enjoy learning about new stuff and I enjoy that uncertainty, try and figure it out. Try to put the, you know, the bits of the puzzle together to sit back and see the picture. It's not that it's all miserable until then. Oh, it's done. Beautiful picture, two ducks in a pond. What, no, the fun is doing it. Yeah.

GEORGE: Perfect. I think something that you said on Sunday that goes well with that is, in a way there's no such thing as a bad position in jiu jitsu, meaning that you can put yourself in situations where you're going to make mistakes and be vulnerable and still move through it. 

John Will

JOHN: Yes, anything, like, if we're in jiu jitsu. So like, any position, unless you're telling me that you know, everything there is to know about that position? Or if it's a bad position, so-called bad and underneath side control, do you know everything about escaping and this and that, because if you did, we wouldn't be there, right? So, you don't, so what do you need to do? You need to spend more time there. So, in other words, wherever you are, is exactly what you need to do. Enjoy it. It sounds like a Buddhist Zen thing, but it's not, it's just real.  

Wherever you are, is exactly where you need to be, and if you're stuck on an inside control, then that's exactly where you need to be, and you need to be learning, and then the same thing with everything else in life. You know, if you're, if you've got financial drama and whatever, and you're trying to fix that, then that's exactly where you need to be. Someone giving you $5 million to make your problems away, is not going to make your problems go away. It's just going to put a band aid over it. But you need to be wherever it is. So, you may as well enjoy it, because eventually, it will go away. You won't be there, you'll be somewhere else, with another set of challenges or whatever. It's all good. 

GEORGE: It's all good, yeah. So, I want to talk about two things actually, if we change gears just slightly. Obviously, coming out of things like COVID, you mentioned, it's been your best year yet. And I want to talk a bit about club culture and things like that. But I think first, probably a good place to start, as I mentioned it – pandemic, if you want to call it that, COVID presented a lot of challenges, interesting challenges for a lot of schools, a lot of martial arts styles, jiu jitsu and everyone else. I know, I've met a lot of people adapt, you know, a lot of people crawled in a hole and waited for it to go over. Some people took it on, took different directions in business. How was the experience for you? 

JOHN: Yeah, we shut where I am in Victoria, Australia. We shut down for 10 months, meaning our academy shut down for 10 months. So, like everyone else, at the beginning, I thought, “Oh, this might be two weeks or might even be three weeks”. So, it was like, “Awesome! We get to take out a two week break, and then we're going to be back,” and then two weeks turned into three weeks. So, at that point three, four weeks – uh-oh, this going to go on for a while, you know, it was becoming a little bit worrisome. 

By worrisome, what I mean by that is, it's unprecedented. I've never been here before. We've never experienced this before. This goes on for three months, six months, and nine months. What's going to happen to my academy, my martial arts school? Like, I don't know, but because I've got, there's no historical precedent. Do they all come back? Have they all taken up skateboarding? As it turns out, they all came back the night I came back. I didn't know that at the time. 

So, I just made the best of it, we had a great time – my wife and I did a lot of stuff we wouldn't normally do, because you're forced to. So, go for bike rides and walks and this and all that. So, great. Pointed my brain at a few things that don't really interest me that much, but I know I got to do it. You know, like my self-managed super fund, my finances. I'm not interested in that kind of stuff, but I've got the time now, so I may as well look at it. And it's amazing when you point your brain at it and tweak a few things, how much better things get. You know, it only takes 5% of your attention, is infinitely better than 0% of your attention. 

So, I pointed my mind at a few things that didn't interest me, but I've got nothing else to do, so I may as well do that. Wow, that was good. So, it was all of that. But it was interesting to me how what I learned from it is, it was really like pressing the pause button on a movie, going away for 10 months, coming back and I just press play, and the movie started playing again. So, I can't tell. Like, a week later, after we started again, I could not tell that there'd been a break. The only thing was that I had not opened my academy door for 10 months. That's good to know, in case it ever happens again. Also heartwarming to know, you know, everyone's pretty keen to get back to training. A lot of schools struggled, because I know a lot of schools and a lot of them struggled. A lot of them struggle, because they were completely unprepared for a Black Swan event. 

BJJ

So, for those who don't know what Black Swan event meant, you know, it's just a way of saying, it's a book by Nassim Taleb. And he wrote a book called ‘The Black Swan', and basically, it just means a completely unexpected event. But when there's a completely unexpected event, you can't, it's difficult. Most people don't prepare for it, because to prepare for things means you kind of expect it. 

So, an unexpected thing like an asteroid hitting New York or a pandemic, most people are not prepared for it. So, that taught a lot of people a lesson. They need to make sure they have 6 – 12 months of money put aside for an emergency. They need to make sure, you know, all these kinds of things. Most people didn't, so they were 100% reliant on their income. You know, that must have put a lot of stress on those people. I didn't need an income, I've got enough income put aside for another 20 years. So, I don't need any. So, to me, a cup of coffee, or a cup of water, or, you know, whatever, I was just sad that I couldn't see the people who I normally see, and train on a mat, and do teaching, which I love doing. The money wasn't a part. I didn't care about that. So, that's interesting. 

Like, I think now people, they should go, you know what, maybe we should start saving 20% of our income, like for a rainy day, not just for retirement, I'm talking about just for an emergency, you should get, because emergencies clearly happen every now and again. Some businesses fell over, you know, now I take a harsh view of that. Probably a bit unfair, but I say, you know what, that's Darwinian forces at play. Here they are, next. Bit mean, but hey, that's nature. You were weak enough to fall over? Yeah. You don't deserve to trade in the marketplace.  It's interesting. 

My wife and I had that conversation, you know, about all these businesses closing. I know, I mean, it always saddens me, you know, with the business going down, but I also think, you know, was that business going down already? Was COVID just the tipping point? Yes. Yeah. I think you're perhaps, I mean, if you're on that, if you're walking such a fine line, really, do you want to do that? Walk such a fine line for the rest of your life? Really? I'd be getting another job, or another two jobs. I mean, someone asked me the other day, it was only five minutes. It was after a class. I didn't have any time. But they said, “I heard you got some properties. 

So, how do you do that?” I've got a question to ask me, and I've got five minutes on the way. I said, “Do you have a job?” And he goes, “Yeah, I've got a job.” “What do you do?” “I do this.” “How much do you earn this month?” “Okay, here's my first thing, you need two jobs, or maybe three jobs. Go get two more jobs, and once you get two jobs, and you're saving all the income for those extra jobs, then come and ask for the next step. You got to have some fat or some leeway, I don't think you can be walking along, living on such a fine margin. That's not a great way to do life, I don't think – because the slightest little earthquake, and you're dead. I used to call it, you know what I used to call it, George? A bug on a leaf. 

A bug on a leaf, so, in the canopy of the rainforest, a branch is falling down, it's opened up a hole, a little ray of sunshine comes down. And it makes this little one meter square ecosystem with certain little mosses and certain leaves and it's a certain temperature. And if you're a bug, that's beautifully acclimated for that one square meter that is not a good place to be. Like, you've got no options, you can't move anywhere. If there's a five degree change in temperature, you're dead. But I don't want to be that delicate an organism. I want to be like a cockroach. Shit, it can be minus 20, it can be plus 40. There can be wind, no wind. It can be radiation, a nuclear bomb can go off, and I’m golden. I want to be a cockroach. A bug in a beautiful little environment. 

GEORGE: I love that. Change gears again, just a little. I was chatting to one of your students who works with us, Sam Broughton. Actually, I was on your website last night, bjj.com.au. By the way, and I know it's a side note, but what a great domain name bjj.com.au. I'm a bit of a domain name nerd. 

JOHN: Early adopter! 

GEORGE: Early adopter is what it's called. Yeah. There we go, if you had any questions about the early adopter there. I was looking through the list of black belts, some of the people that we work with that's on that list, Brett Fenton, Cam Rowe, Mike Fooks, also Karl Norton. You know, we were talking about questions and things that we should discuss and, and you mentioned that I should ask you about club culture – club culture and the relationship between student and teacher. 

John Will

JOHN: I think it's really important. For me, club culture, it's purely a side benefit that is also good for business. I am not that interested in business. It might not look like that from the outside. People go, “Hang on, you got all the stuff that you got, and you got this and that”. I couldn't care less about it. It's a byproduct of being passionate about what I do and caring about what I've learned. Now, the analogy I'll give you is before, you might have to remind me about the culture question. This was an analogy told to me by Robert Kiyosaki, who was talking about Buckminster Fuller, who wrote a book called ‘The Critical Path'. 

Buckminster Fuller was the most inspiring person, he was Robert Kiyosaki's hero. And Buckminster Fuller gave this analogy, and I'll repeat it here, he says, “How do you know, that you're doing life well, is by the consequences of your action.” In other words, and the analogy he used was, a bee goes around being a bee, and it wants to collect pollen from the flowers. It doesn't even know about the greater thing, which is cross pollination of flowers. It just thinks it wants to go and collect the pollen. With the greater processional effect of it doing what it's doing, is that it's cross pollinating flowers, and we get these gardens, and we get all this stuff. And he says, you can tell the bee is being true to its Venus, because of the cross pollination, that it might even be unaware of. I kind of liked that idea. 

To me, the money side and the business side, and the successful stuff like that, is the cross pollination of flowers. I, as the bee, actually don't care about that. I care about being passionate about what I'm doing, and I'm interested in it. How I know I'm doing it right, is if I step back, when someone points out that cross pollination happened. That is, I got no debts or got enough money for 20 years, and all that shit that I don't care about, you know, what I'm saying? I think a lot of people chase that stuff. If they are chasing the effect, maybe they're not truly being tethered to their passion or their mission. So, going back to your question about club culture, it's very important to me, it has certain benefits, which I don't care about. 

But I'm passionate about what I do, and teaching at my school. So, because that's an extension of my home, my mat. When I'm on the mat, it's kind of like an extension of my home, it's another room in my house. So, it's not like business, separate. It's part of who I am, defines who I am. So, I want that to be comfortable, and I want it to be the way… Like, if you run a barbecue at your house, you're not going to have people come to the barbecue that you don't like, who aren't behaving well. And my school is just like that, except that's not a barbecue, it's training. 

So, I'm not going to have people in there who don't gel with the atmosphere that I want to create. Now, weirdly, paradoxically, like when people in martial arts business, I guess, I'm no business guru, what do I know about business? I just know how to do life. But business – if they're just focusing on business and the numbers, then one of the things I see happening is they think more customers are better, because it's more money. And that to me, I disagree with, because that means they'll train anyone for money, and now they've got people in there who are acting counter to the culture they're trying to build. 

So, I think that some of what they want to do is counterintuitive. They've got to identify and get rid of the 10% of their school that's taken away from the culture they're trying to build. That is counterintuitive to a purely business person who's trying to get as many customers as he can. I don't give a shit about customers. Customer, getting numbers, I don't care about that. 

GEORGE: I think you just answered the first topic we discussed, you know, we were talking about having a black belt brain and applying yourself and why people aren't succeeding in other areas of life. And it could be that it's just the wrong ‘why', it's following the wrong drive, and focusing on the wrong thing, and all these side effects possibly are happening. 

John Will

JOHN: You will be very aware, as anyone who's done any kind of business or I mean, talking about saving money, investing money, superannuation, American 401k, you know, whatever it is. You need to do whatever it is you're doing for a long time for this to work, right? Mostly, there's no shortcuts, sometimes you get one, you know, you can buy 100 Bitcoin when it's $5. But it wasn't genius, it was just luck, right? 

So, most of the time, whatever you're going to do, you're going to do it for 10 or 20 years, whether it's investing in property – it's not a five year gig, it's a 10 to 20 year plan. Saving 20% of your income and reinvesting is a 20 year plan. Learning a new language is a 10 year plan. It's not a three month plan. So, everything's a 10 year plan, let's say, but what I really mean is 20. But if everything's a 10 year plan, our approach has to be the kind of approach that I can sustain for that long. 

So, there's even another reason why I want to be very careful about the way I budget, I have to be happy with it, so that I can keep doing that for the 10 or 15 or 20 years it's going to take to get these peripheral benefits from it. So, I mean, you could do all these – I remember going to America a lot, way back, and you know, some of these martial art conventions and stuff, right? Where it's all business tricks, how to do business tricks, to trick people into joining your schools, then you can make a lot of money. All these suits walking around giving lectures about business tricks, made me sit. One, because none of them, I wasn't impressed with any of them as martial artists. So, there's that. 

And the second thing is, how long could they do that all before they wanted to just, woke up one day and wanted to shoot themselves in the head? And some of them did, because if they're not really, they're just doing tricks and they're not connected to their purpose and passion. They're too busy learning the tricks. I think you've got to take a stance of green and stuff, you got to take a sustainable approach to whatever it is you're doing. If you take a sustainable approach, you'll be happier as a human being, your relationships will be better, you'll be a better person. And you'll be able to do it for 10, 15, 20, 30, 40 years. And even if you do a bad job, if you do it for 40 years and save 10% of what you earn, you'll be a millionaire a couple of times over. I take that approach – got to be sustainable. 

GEORGE: Love it. John, I want to be conscious of your time. I've got one more, one question for you. I so resonate with the tricks because you know, I mean, what got me into working with martial art school owners was the fact that there was a business model where it comes from passion and drive and something with some essence. 

Coming from that online marketing space, it is a place full of hype and tricks. It was never there when I started working with martial arts school owners, but I was sorely disappointed when it started to creep in. And I'm very against that, because it's tiring, and it's not sustainable. Chasing tricks means your business is chasing tricks. But it's kind of what we spoke about in the beginning, of not being resilient and working on the things that actually bring results over time. It's dabble here and dabble here. Like I always say to my clients, just put the horse flaps on, work your plan, do your thing.

JOHN: Do all these things are what these American people do? I don't do those things, but I've got a waiting list of 103 people to join my school. I don't do the tricks, but what I do is, I do my job well. I care about planning my classes, I care about the class, I care about getting outcomes on the mat, getting results, the culture created, you know. Obviously, there just has to be some things, there's got to be some basics in place. 

So that you automate things you don't care about, like payments, good that they automated, I don't have to care about that. Or advertising – we don't do much advertising, but pre-COVID, we were dropping flyers out. So, I wouldn't reactively market, I just do 60,000 flyers, give them to the guy and say, “Put out 5000 a month and call me when you run out.” So, I automate the things that I'm uninterested in, automate the things you're uninterested in. Just make it automatic, so you don't have to attend to it ever again. 

GEORGE: Focus on the product. 

JOHN: My business advice, but I like automating the things. I know I should do these things. You know, so I'm not saying you shouldn't do things, I'm just saying, it shouldn't be all about trying to find some trick people. That's no good. When COVID happened, a lot of the martial arts schools were begging their students to keep paying the money, “Keep paying my fees, I'm gonna die! If you want your martial arts school to be still here, when COVID is over, you need to keep paying me. I'll teach you a Zen class on stretching, so that you feel like you're getting something for your $100 a month.” I didn't do it. I just stopped everyone's fee straightaway, because leaders should eat last. 

If anyone's going to suffer, it's going to be me, not my students. And so I stopped everyone's fees right away. If I need money, I'll go, if I did need money, and if I wasn't organized and squared away, and I was owing money, I would go and get a job at McDonald's or digging holes, or whatever I needed to do like every other human being. And then I would live on that. And that's what, so I stopped it. I bought a lot of goodwill by doing that. And that goodwill that I got, when I came back, about eight weeks before Christmas, I didn't turn their fees back on, I said, “I'll give you six weeks, no one's going to pay fees for the rest of 2020. It's on me, at my school, to enjoy it, because I know everyone's having a difficult time.” As it turns out, the goodwill that I got with that was worth way more in dollar terms and what I would have got by begging for money. 

So, you know, so the same thing I'll say to a lot of people, what I say to a monk in Thailand, “Hey, you want money? Go get a job like everyone else.” I think that we need to show leadership. Well, we don't have to, but the way I view it is that I have a leadership role at my school. And now if I want to go beyond that, outside the circle of my mat into the community, and if I'm calling myself a leader, which I'm not really, people are, but if that's the role I had, I should show some leadership and suck it up. You know, so I think all of that is so important and life is, it's not always easy. You know, it's difficult. So, it's difficult for lots of people. We need to show that we can get through that, that we can suck it up. You know, it's like most things, get this, rainy days followed by a sunny day. You just have to wait, you may as well make the best of the rainy day, enjoy it, because it's going to go away and then it's going to be too hot. And then everyone will be complaining about it being too hot.

GEORGE: Yeah, I've got to admit I've been, because I remember you sharing that, that post about shutting down and everything, and I've got to admit, I was sort of on the two sides of it. Because, you know, I had a lot of clients that I was concerned about, like, if you do that, you might not be here in two months, you know. I remember I had an event planned in Perth for over the weekend, and that's when we realized COVID is actually a thing. It's actually a thing. 

I ignored it for probably the longest, but then I realized, alright, this is probably serious, and I was with my wife and I said to her, “Look, I'm going to go down to the office and I'm just going too…” I'm a martial artist. I've not run a school. But I've worked with martial arts school owners for longer than I've done martial arts, and I thought if there's one thing that I could probably bring to the table, was my knowledge of running a business online. Can somebody get something out of that, that they can provide value through their membership that's not on the mats, you know, the vehicle of the mat is gone, and it can be done online. 

So, I put together this thing, and I gave it away for free and I just wanted to make sure we can help and looking back at it now, you know, some guys did. Most of your jiu jitsu guys did exactly what you did – shut completely and kept things going for free. I think the karate guys, the Taekwondo guys had it a bit easier, because Zoom is a bit easier. I mean, I've got guys in the UK that are still running their Zoom classes, and you know, it's become a thing. But it's interesting to look back, because a lot of guys that did go one path did it successfully, you know, the online thing, and some guys are still trying to get their students back. And then the guys that actually cut everything and carry the weight, when they flicked it back on, we're in the same situation as you were – that the goodwill carried over. Nobody had to put in a cancellation, I think was the key thing. Nobody had to assess what we were doing and put in a cancellation and they're not able to get open doors and carry on. 

John Will

JOHN: Look, it's also good to take the macro view – life is long. Yeah, like people who've been around for a while in the martial arts, the way I looked at it was – you know what, this is just the long service leave that I would never take unless someone's got a gun to my head. So, someone did put a gun to my head, saying “You're taking long service leave,” and I went, “Maybe I should be!” Just like that, you know, the race is long. I think a big lesson, which is one that I would have, I've been recommending to people anyway. 

So, we can talk about, if we have a discussion about making a living from martial arts, okay, let's call it business. I don't think of it like that, but we'll say that. If you're talking about making a living from martial arts, to me, it's not just about how much money you're getting in. I don't think that matters actually as much as people think. You can get in 60, $70,000 a year that's, yeah, very modest, running a nice little school. But it's what you do with that 60 or $70,000 over 15 to 20 years that will make you fantastically independently wealthy or not. There are other people who are boarding $300,000 a year, 400 grand a year, and they still don't own their home, and they still have credit card debt. Like, I don't know, other people who might only earn $60,000 a year, but 20 years later, they own three, four houses with no debt. 

So, it's not just about the money that comes in, it is how much you're keeping. And I think a lot of people have a bucket, and the hole in the top of the bucket is the same size as the hole in the bottom of the bucket! And they're wondering why the day after the rain stops coming that they’re dying of thirst. I mean, guys, you need to learn how to plug the bottom of the bucket and even a little sprinkle of a rain, meaning the income, will see you with an excess of water. So, you can't just concentrate on making money. You've got to look at your lifestyle, maybe tune that a little bit better. And then your investment strategy – maybe tune that a little bit better, and create a self-managed super fund, so you're not going to get taxed and then you've saved 30% right there. 

Do all these little things and not put all of your attention on “I need another customer”, because we've, what do you call it? A modest amount of income. It's never been unbelievably good. You know, it's not been hundreds of thousands of dollars a year. Plenty of people earn that, we haven't. But you know, it's easy to accrue millions of dollars and have no debts, if you just put it in the right spots, and learn a tiny bit about self-managed super-funds, 401K or, you know, in America, IRA lots. I'm not talking about being serious, just spend half an hour a week, and do that for a year and you'll be ahead of 99% of the planet. Read the richest man in Babylon, and then just double it. I believe this is what you should do, like, not 10% you should save 100% of one of your two incomes. 

GEORGE: Nice.

JOHN: Get two jobs, or if your wife's got a job and you've got a job, or work two jobs, suck it up and save 100% of one of those jobs. Just do that for five or 10 years, and wait. But people don't want to do it. 

GEORGE: Patience and resilience, yeah. Hey, John, thanks so much. I do have one more question. Again, at the seminar, you were talking about reevaluating the reasons why you do what you do. 

JOHN: Yes. 

GEORGE: And I wanted to ask you that, you know, you mentioned the reasons that you train, still train, you know, for where you're at in life has evolved and changed over time. So, what is that for you? What keeps you going? 

JOHN: So, when I started, it was about, I mean, if you really dig in, it was probably about building self-confidence. You know, if you drill down, I could say it was about self-defense, but probably really about when you get into some fights – it's not just self-defense that you're then looking for, it's really about your confidence having taken a hit, and you need to build your self-esteem, stuff like that. But you can say self-defense, but unless you're getting into like a fight every week, you're only getting into a couple of fights a year, which most people aren't even doing that. But say it was a couple of fights a year, because you're the kind of personality that can't take a step back, let's say. 

Then, it's still not about self-defense, because a couple of fights a year, really? You're going to spend all that money and all that time and get all those injuries? You're better off just having the two fights a year and getting beaten. In terms of the injury, and the money, it doesn't make sense. So, I think it's about self-esteem. I started out like that, then it becomes like you're fascinated with the concept, and the way you see yourself as this thing. So, you have to like, so you don't suffer cognitive dissonance, you have to make the vision that you have in your head and the reality of who you are the same. That requires training. 

And then it's like, morphs again, for me, it morphed into, like just the adventure of it all. Like, it's just an adventure to, you know, training overseas in different countries. It's like the hobbit going on a journey. You know, it's like, you don't know what's going to happen. Some good stuff, some bad stuff, like, COVID was a bad thing, but don't cry, because you're sad you're alive. You want to go live to be an adventure, I will don't you realize that when you're a hobbit on an adventure, there's a troll that's trying to eat you. 

So, what you're telling me is you don't want all of the adventure, you just want the fun bits. That's not an adventure. An adventure is the contrast between the bad and the good things, and that the grind and fun day, and the lack of money and the money, and the hunger and then that nice meal, and you know that it's an adventure because of contrast. If there's no contrast, you're in hell. So, it was then for me about all the adventure and all that. Now, it's not so much like that. For me now. It's about I like design – by design, putting things together in a more optimal way, which goes to design. I like that and problem solving, creative problem solving, or problem solving that requires creative thinking. I like that stuff. 

My martial arts practice is a vehicle to just keep that part of my brain. You know, training like, keep it active. I like doing that. And for me now, it's much more about that and leaving, sounds a bit weird, but leaving a good footprint in the world. So, I like to do that with the footprint, try through teaching, because I have, to some degree, a captive audience when they're on the mat. So, I can teach them this thing that I like doing myself and that they're there for. And then I can slip in some other stuff when they're not looking, to make them maybe live their lives a little bit better. And then I'm making a better footprint on the planet. So, that's why I do it now. Not for the money anymore. 

GEORGE: Love that. And that, what you just said, brings things sort of full circle and kind of what I experienced when, you know, when I listened to you at the seminar. It's not just the jiu jitsu, it's the life knowledge, and everything else that's being taught in between. 

JOHN: Well, I don't want to get into this whole thing about being a guru. Right? Because a lot of martial arts people are portraying themselves as some kind of life guru. But if you look at their lives, you do not want their life. They are hollow, in debt on their credit card, bad relationship, they're plastic, inauthentic. I don't want that. But I'll just say, listen, I want to try to live my life by example, and I'm happy to be judged. 

In all, every facet of my life, I'm happy to be judged, because I'm trying to do the whole thing well, balanced. And then people can make their own decision. So, they can go, they can look and go, “You know what, I'm going to listen to this person, because they seem to have ticked the boxes. So, I'm going to listen”, you know, and then they should listen to a lot of other people. And then they should step back and then make up their own mind about which advice they can take from who to create a better life for themselves. 

GEORGE: John, thanks so much. You know what, yesterday I walked into one of my favorite little book shops. It's a niche little book shop, I pop in there every so often. And I was pretty lucky, right? Because I walked in, and I saw these three stacked next to each other, and I thought, yeah, that's something I don't see in the bookshop every day. So, I'd love to say I've read them all, but it's been one day of about 10 pages in. Yeah, so they are available on the website, BJJ? 

JOHN: They are on my website, BJJ. Oh, the name of that book, Rogue Black Belt. 

GEORGE: Rogueblackbelt.com. 

JOHN: You can get them there as well. Basically, I mean, it's an autobiography, but it didn't start out to be that. Someone like yourself just asked me a question. They said, “What are the 10 best things you've ever learnt?” You know, like the 10 best life lessons I've ever learned to think about. I wrote them down. And then, oh, is that 11? Oh, 12. Oh, hang on, there's 24, 25, so that in those books, there were 60 most important things I've ever learned. So, I wrote them down. And then I put them in chronological order, and then told the story that went with that – turned into an autobiography by accident. 

GEORGE: Great, awesome. Well, I'm looking forward to diving in and perhaps I can, I'll swing you in for round two after I've got some more insight. 

JOHN: Yeah. 

GEORGE: Perfect, John. Thanks so much. So Rogueblackbelt.com, you mentioned? 

JOHN: Yes.

GEORGE: And bjj.com.au. Anything else? Any last words? Anywhere we should check out any of your seminars or any… 

JOHN: Oh, they can figure it out, I'm not trying to sell it. 

GEORGE: Perfect. John, thanks so much for your time. Much appreciated. And I'll catch you in the next one. 

JOHN: Thanks, George. 

GEORGE: Thank you. Cheers.

 

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113 – Wired To Win: Game Plan And Strategies For Martial Arts Business

Turning the tables. Florence Sophia interviews me, George Fourie, about Martial Arts Business, training brazilian jiu jitsu, marketing, success and life.

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IN THIS EPISODE:

  • The three key strategies to pivot and grow your martial art business 
  • AIDA Model: What is it and how to use it in your marketing
  • The most important element that many school owners forget to add on their ad campaigns 
  • Why some martial arts businesses fail
  • How to stand out from the crowd with your martial arts business
  • How to create a sustainable game plan for your martial arts business
  • And more

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

 

TRANSCRIPTION

So, I'd like to talk about marketing, because how marketing applies to that. Because without the marketing, you really don't have the business and you're not able to teach, create the impact that you want to create through martial arts and live that lifestyle. So, it always comes down to the marketing side of it. Though you can be a great teacher, if nobody knows who you are, it's always going to be a struggle. And I mean, 99% of the school owners I speak to, it's always, “How do we get more students?” 

Hey, it's George, I hope you're well. So, a bit of a different podcast interview for you today. I just got off a podcast interview where I was the one being interviewed. So, it was a little different – me sitting on the other side of the fence, getting asked all the questions – it was a lot of fun. And so I decided to actually share the podcast interview with you here. Yeah, thought it was a good idea – we discussed a couple of cool things. 

First 20 minutes – more or less sort of life background stuff – but I think about 18 minutes in, we really got into some real good actionable marketing steps, things about business, life, and general. So, I had so much fun, it was great, and I thought it would be good to share the podcast with you today, simply because I'm always the guy asking all the questions. 

So, perhaps you'll learn a bit about me, if you're curious about that. If not, you've heard all that stuff, skip the first 18 minutes and get into the nuts and bolts because we really discussed a couple of real good concepts, actionable stuff for your martial arts business. So anyway, the podcast was with Florence Sophia from Toronto. You can check out her website at bjjyoga.com, and also her Instagram handle is @jiujitsuyoga, right, @jiujitsuyoga, and website bjjyoga.com. Anyway, here we go. Hope you enjoy the episode.

FLORENCE: We are alive. Hi, George. How are you doing?

GEORGE: Good! How are you, Florence? 

FLORENCE: Very well! It is 8pm in Toronto, Canada, and 8am in Australia. 

GEORGE: That's right. 

FLORENCE: In Perth. I can't believe we are speaking from such a distance away from each other. 

GEORGE: It's all good, the future looks good for you guys. 

FLORENCE: Right? The world seems smaller than what it is actually with technology. Amazing. So, let me start by introducing our guest. I am Florence Sophia, I am your host today. And we have an amazing podcast – ‘Wired to Win' is the title – Game Plan and Strategies for Martial Arts Business. I am so much looking forward to this conversation with you, and thank you for making the time to be with us today, George.

So, George is the founder of Martial Arts Media. And from a former computer programmer he turned into a successful online marketer. He found his passion for martial arts by following his son's journey, and fast forward eight years later, you're now a purple belt. Congrats on that, that's an amazing achievement. 

GEORGE: Took a while! 

FLORENCE: People don't get there. Yeah, yeah, a lot of tears and sweat, I bet. So, George works with a new group of school owners and community called Partners, and we'll get into it shortly, where the focus is generating more income, more impact, and leading the lifestyle that martial arts provides.

Your success comes from your expertise in online marketing, coupled with your ability to bring in tested principles from outside the industry and apply it to the gym and school owners. That's amazing. So, tell us, George, what are the things that are interesting to you that you are working on right now? And also why is it interesting to you personally and professionally? 

 

Martial Arts Business

GEORGE: Probably, if I had to go with the most recent, it would be just completing the 75 Hard Challenge. I don't know if you're familiar with that? 

FLORENCE: Yes, I did two days, I lasted two days. Yeah.

GEORGE: Where did you get stuck? 

FLORENCE: Going back to work. The weekend was fantastic. I had the time and then the Monday came, and yeah, it's just challenging when you have a busy work schedule. But, I do intend to get back to it and also with the weather being nicer, it's going to be easier for the… Right, so, one of the items for our audience who doesn't know about the 75 Hard is 45 minutes of workout outside, which sometimes, yeah, with the snow might be challenging, which I'm sure you don't have the challenge in Australia. 

GEORGE: Yes, so we probably, the outside workout is probably a lot easier in Australia. And now, when you move on to phase one, you've got to add cold showers to the mix as well, which, in summer, yeah, it was easy to do. But the 75 Hard Challenge, yeah. So, if you don't know, it's a challenge that you do for 75 consecutive days, doing five things – two workouts, 45 minute workouts a day, one outside, read 10 pages of non-fiction, follow a diet, no cheat meals or alcohol. And I'm missing one… Water! How could I miss that? A gallon of water, so, that's four liters of water a day? Yeah, so it's a real simple thing. 

But it's, to be honest, and I've done a lot of personal development, you know, working on myself over the years. But that's probably hands down the best thing I've ever done, because just that reinforcement of daily habit, to really understand what habit and discipline is – that really ingrained it in me and it's not something you pick up in a book, not something you read, you just got to do it. And once you've done it, it really transforms your life in so many ways. Yeah. 

FLORENCE: I'm actually curious, you completed the 75 days, right? 

GEORGE: I did the 75, yeah. 

FLORENCE: How was that journey? How did you feel along the way to keep yourself motivated through it? Because I bet, you know, I know a lot of people who go halfway and then have to come back and like me, you know, lasted two days. But it takes a lot of discipline, like you're saying, to get to the 75 days. 

GEORGE: Yeah, a big part could be accountability. If you're in a group of, and you got to choose your group wisely, of course, but if you have a group of motivated people that are doing it, it's a lot harder to fall back on what you're doing. And yeah, and just obviously wanting to do it, the thing is when you follow it on the app, but the further you get into it, the stakes just become higher. And you know, if you're 20 days or 30 days in, and it's 11 o'clock at night, and you haven't done that second workout, you suck it up, and you do it, because you don't want that little meter to go down to zero. 

And I've never been one for challenges and doing this type of thing. I always thought it was what, “Yeah, I don't know.” It didn't catch me until I did it. But how was the journey? So, what I decided to do was, I figured, well, I've got a daily routine of training jiu jitsu at 12:00. So, I figured, well, I'm going to not change the rules, but I'm going to, I'm just going to do it a bit differently in the sense of I will have jujitsu every day, which is kind of an hour to 90 minute workout. 

But then I'll do my second workout, which might just be like an evening walk, like a brisk walk outside, and could do that for 45 minutes. So, that was my plan, right? I'll just do jujitsu every day. And which is always a great plan, until injuries start to creep up. So, which they did, because I got a shoulder injury, and I'm now sitting with tennis elbow, which is, anyway, we're not going to talk about injuries, right? Because we talk jujitsu and injuries could go, they could, yeah. 

Yeah, so, my shoulder injury came back up and I just decided to work around it, like really work around it. And I know it needed rest, but uh, I just carried on training and really, it just paid off. And two, three weeks in, my shoulder was better, routine got back on track.

The hardest part was traveling. Because we had a holiday booked. And so we've got on the plane, this is the first time I've gotten the plane after this whole, you know, pandemic thing, hit. And I felt sick, really sick. I remember being on a coaching call with my clients and I couldn't talk. I really couldn't talk. I just, no words came out and so that week was probably the hardest part of it, because I had to really… 

FLORENCE: Push to stick to it and not give up. 

GEORGE: Again, just having to start over again. And I had the deadline of, my deadline was – the 75th day was Christmas. So, I wanted to have a good meal on Christmas Day. 

FLORENCE: That's a good deadline. 

GEORGE: So, I knew stopping and restarting, then, you know, going over. Anyway, but um, yeah, that's kind of what got me through it. So, if you are going to do something like, just make sure your deadline, make sure that you've planned out, you know, obstacles in between of what dates can come up that might throw you off course, travel, birthdays, celebrations, etc. And have a good group of people that are cheering you on. 

FLORENCE: Yeah, that's wonderful. So, talk to me about your journey from the computer programming industry to being, you know, the successful online marketer that you are today for martial arts businesses. 

Martial Arts Business

GEORGE: Okay, so, that's a, whoa. What's that about, a 26 year journey compressed into a little bit? But it's something that really fell from one thing, and I'll skip a lot of gaps, because I don't want to go into, bore you with too much detail. But I mean, I started computer programming after school, I'd never done martial arts, martial arts was never, as a kid, the right thing, it was surfing, playing drums. That was really my passion. And after taking some time off after school, I was like, “Alright, I've got to go do something.” And I've got to go study marketing. Like, that's what, that's what it feels like, for me. You know, this feels like a calling. 

And I remember, you know, people giving me advice, as people that care about you always do, telling me that, “No, you shouldn't do marketing, everybody does the marketing!” And so somehow I stumbled on “I'm going to do computer programming.” And so I started computer programming, which was actually quite funny, because when I walked into the class, the first day, I recall sitting around all these kids that have obviously been programming for life, right? And they just tapped away, and here's me trying to figure out where do I actually put the computer on? That's how amateur I was with technology.

And so, yes, I started computer programming, which was really interesting in the sense of problem solving, and learning, but halfway through, I started selling computers to my classmates. And so that just got me into business.

So, I kind of just fell back into what felt natural – was marketing. And so yeah, after studying, I had two paths. One is I go follow the corporate lifestyle, or number two is I become an entrepreneur. And so I thought I would give this entrepreneur thing a go, and that's the early 20s, you know, where things really began, you know, we started knocking on doors and trying to figure out how we're going to get clients. And I think we got our first client out of pity more than anything, you know, two young guys knocking on business doors. 

FLORENCE: Faith. 

GEORGE: Yeah. Yeah. And so that became a thing. And we became super successful, you know, like the talk of the small town. And we did well, and about two years in and now this is going back in time, if you know, the year 2000, where all computers were going to die. Well, obviously, that didn't happen, right?

But we couldn't navigate our business through that and we crashed in more ways than one, you know, financially, egos… Yeah, so I lost a lot of money and that was it. I parted ways with computers for a good ten years. And then I've got into sales and marketing, more like a default profession, not chosen. I'm from South Africa. So, in South Africa, sometimes employment opportunities are not great. 

FLORENCE: Yeah. 

GEORGE: Yeah. So, I just started in sales and marketing. And that was, you know, when I started in sales and marketing, I really understood why my business failed. It's the lack of understanding, marketing, and sales. And it's probably the best education I've had in life, is just going through that sales process, because when you have sales managers that are really drilling you and really putting the pressure on you to understand yourself and what you are projecting to the world and how that is affecting your business. Yeah, that was life changing. 

FLORENCE: It wasn't a failure. It was a lesson. 

GEORGE: Yeah, everything is disguised as a lesson, right? But yeah, fast forward the life story. I moved to Aus. I broke my neck actually in a car accident. That was probably the biggest wake up call of all, broke my neck, and I look back on it and you know I think what sort of really struck a nerve is, I was in hospital and yeah, I had a big neck brace on, I had a hemorrhage – I've still, if you can see, I've got a cut. 

FLORENCE: Yeah. Yeah. 

GEORGE: I'm lying in hospital and a doctor's looking at me and he laughs! And I'm like, “Why are you laughing?” “Yeah,” he says, “Guys like you, we normally just don't operate.” And I say “Why?” And he says, “Ha! Because you're dead in 2 weeks,” and he walks out. I snickered, but it hit me so hard.

You know, like, it was just, you know, the kind of the thing that hit you between the eyes and was like, “Whoah, okay, well, what if that was it?” What if that was my life? I was 27, 28 at the time. And then I planned my exit strategy, like, how am I going to leave South Africa? How am I going to live life?

And yeah, I got a job on a cruise ship in the States, moved to the States, around Los Angeles, New Orleans. We cruised through Alaska, did all that. And then I, yeah, I landed up in Australia. It was going to be a holiday, turned into life. And then yeah, here I am in Australia.

Where are we at in the life story? Yeah! So, I got back into sales and marketing and somewhere along the line, I picked up a computer and looked, actually, in reality I landed up in Australia, and I didn't have a valid working visa. I'm legal now, any authorities listening. 

FLORENCE: Congrats! That's a big milestone. 

GEORGE: Yes. I mean, well, I was expecting a son, and I was in Australia, I couldn't leave to go and apply for a visa, and my son was going to arrive. Like, it was a bit of a juggle. And in that time, I had a lot of time on my hands, and I bought a computer and I got back on to marketing.

And that became a blend for me, right, because now I had computer programming knowledge, but I also had a lot of sales and marketing. And I started looking at business opportunities. And I spent my money on a lot of stuff, just trying home business opportunities, and network marketing and selling ecommerce products, and just a lot of trial and error. And that's why I just don't take for granted what we have now – because now we have Facebook groups and knowledge is just infinite, you know?

Back then, 2006-2007, there wasn't much around, right? There was Google, there was MySpace, and you know, you could search and you can find stuff. But it was really hard to, you know, if you just a newbie starting out, there's nobody to ask. I got into a book and this was probably the most foundational book that changed me into, you know, like, that really taught me about marketing was Perry Marshall's Definitive Guide to Google AdWords.

And that really taught me the foundations of how does marketing work? How do numbers work? And I still have that same type of conversation with school owners every week, because those foundations still don't change – understanding your lifetime, your lifetime customer value. How much can you spend to get a customer and understand those metrics? That's super powerful. 

FLORENCE: So, tell us what, what has jiu jitsu taught you, and what aspects of the digital mindset are you applying? You know, in times of uncertainty, like right now in the lockdown. 

Martial Arts Business

GEORGE: So yeah, so look, I guess just for some context, I started training martial arts just after that, wasn't jujitsu at first. I figured that I could only train jiu jitsu after getting punched in the head. And the doctor said, “That's not good.” 

FLORENCE: I don't think it was recommended. 

GEORGE: No. And so yeah, so I got into martial arts and, you know, so I have been doing jujitsu for the last six, seven years, I believe. Anyway, but just skip from that story. What has jiu jitsu taught me? Well, really resilience, problem solving. Being okay with obstacles and learning how to overcome them. You know, we're fortunately in a completely different situation, compared to I know, you guys in Canada for having a super tough, in the UK, and so forth. 

You know, for us, you know, we've moved past it. And so things are a lot different here, you know. We can walk freely and you know, no masks, etc. We continued with, you know, normal day-to-day life, but uh, yeah, for the most part, what it's taught me is just being in the moment, being able to navigate through problems. And there's always options, but there's always a second option. There's always options to go beyond the situation of what you're dealing with.

FLORENCE: I can definitely hear the resilience in you. I do relate to that aspect of jujitsu. But tell us, like, moving on to the main topic of the night – martial arts, businesses and end strategies – what would you say are the three key strategies to pivot and grow a martial art business? Especially, you know, when everything seems to be going wrong? 

GEORGE: Okay, so, so it's a big question, right? And I want to be conscious of, you know, your audience and where people are at, and especially if they, beyond the pandemic, or, you know, still navigating out of lockdowns and so forth. But for me, because I help school owners with marketing, you know, I'm not an instructor, a teacher or a school owner, marketing is where we help the lead generation. So, I always start there, because the same advice I could give a school owner that's trying to get to 100 students, we got school owners that have, you know, a client base that have multiple 1000 students, and they're still applying the same principles. 

So, I'd like to talk about marketing – how marketing applies to that, because without the marketing, you really don't have the business and you're not able to teach, create the impact that you want to create through martial arts and live that lifestyle. So, it always comes down to the marketing side of it. Though you can be a great teacher, if nobody knows who you are, it's always going to be a struggle. I mean, 99% of the school owners I speak to, it's always, “How do we get more students?”

FLORENCE: Yeah, one of the strategies I heard, actually today, is, you know, you are, you are successful, when actually you don't need to brag. It's the other people who do that for you. Which I, you know, for me, was like an aha! moment. 

GEORGE: Yeah, so, and in that sense, right? So, if you've got a great product, and you can get your students to talk about it, I mean, you know, that's magic, you're never going to be the power of a good referral. So, so first up! And this is why I always, what I've grown to learn is, you know, everybody asks the question, “How do we get more students?” But it's a loaded question, because it goes way deeper to that – “Well, are you keeping students? Or are you getting the leads in, but you're just not converting them? 

So, to go back on your question – how do we go about this – there's the three core things. And I'm happy to dive deeper into it, but the three core things start with one – irresistible offer. So, you've got to have a good offer that people can resonate with and that kind of gives a no-brainer effect. And I always start there, right?

Because if, you know, when people come to us and say, “Well, you know, been posting these Facebook ads, they're not working.” That's probably the first place we normally start, is how does the offer look? And just to clarify, the offer is the transaction that people have got to do to take the next step. So, is it a free trial? Is it a paid trial? What do they have to do? And how attractive is it?

And so there goes, a lot of science goes into creating that offer, because it's got to communicate value. And sometimes there's a disconnect, you know, as martial artists or a school owner, that, you know, you understand the value of martial arts, but the person looking to start, they've got no clue. And it's, you know, to tell someone, they're going to get confidence or fitness or self-defense. Yeah, but what does that really mean? So, some packaging the offer in a way that communicates value, and it's a no-brainer. And the risk is on you, the school owner, not the client, to take the first step. 

That's the most powerful thing that you've got to do. So, that's number one. Have a good offer. And then number two, how do you get the offer to market? So, look, there's always talk about this social network, but you know, for the most part, the easiest way always is for Facebook, Facebook ads. If you follow the right formula, and you know how to grab attention, pique interest with a good benefit, present your offer, and then number three.

FLORENCE: Sorry, what is the right formula? 

GEORGE: Yeah, so the formula we always use is, and people are super familiar with this, but if you go a few levels deeper, but the formula we stick to always is, it's called the AIDA principle. A-I-D-A, but I'll break it down for you. So it stands for, A's for Attention, I for Interest, D for Desire and A for Action. So, attention. Attention is you've got to stop people in their tracks.

So, if you think of a platform like Facebook, you know, people are mindlessly killing time, you know, nobody's really looking for something. And so, if you have to compare a platform like Google and Facebook, Google's got intent, because people are actively typing in the thing that they're looking for; where Facebook, they're not. People are just looking at cat videos or whatever they're doing.

But you could target, you can target so accurately with Facebook, that you can put the right offer in front of them. And that's why the offer is so important on Facebook. So, you've got to stop people in their tracks. So, how do you do that? Well, you can call them out, just say, Toronto parents. Yeah, that's simple, you call them out, but 70% of why people will stop, will be your media. So, your photos, and videos should be on point.

Now. People will say videos are better – they could be, if you're super good at video, but most people aren't. And even people that are good at video, miss the points of the true benefits. They might be a good video editor, but it's not resonating with people that they're actually going to stop. They can't see themselves in the picture. But a picture is easy, right? A picture is, “Can I see me or my kid there?” And so that covers attention, right? I've stopped.

So, now I'm paying attention, and so now you have got to grab my interest. And so there's two ways we go about interest – one is to ask a question; number two is a benefit-driven headline. I'm not such a fan of a question. And a big mistake I see people make is stacking the questions, so – do you want this? Do you want that? Do you want this? And you know, your prospect might be sitting there – yes, yes, yes, no. Right?

So, you've got to be, you've got to make sure that if you ask a question that it actually answers ‘yes', but you're probably still gonna have to follow up with a benefit-driven headline anyway. So, I just start with a benefit-driven headline. Yeah, so easy formula, the easiest formula still is this, I think, so many people claim to have made this popular, but I know it as how to benefit without pain.

So, how to get the thing that you want, without the thing that you're trying to avoid. So, you could look at your audience and think, “Okay, well, what is the thing that they get the most out of their training, jujitsu or martial arts?” And if you don't know, just interview 5, 10 of your students, you'll get a clear insight real quick. And then, what are they, what don't they want? Are they sick and tired of the gym? Are they sick and tired of people posing in the mirror at the gym? Are they, you know, what is it that they don't want? And so this is how you create this polarizing effect. 

Florence Sophia

FLORENCE: I like it. How do you get the thing you want, without doing the thing you don't want? 

GEORGE: Exactly. And that framework, it's probably the simplest place to start. So, going a bit deeper, the thing that you want is not a jujitsu class. That's the vehicle, right? The thing that you want is what the jiu jitsu is going to give you, or what the martial arts is going to give you. So, what is that outcome that's going to resonate with people? You know, is it confidence? Is it self-discipline? Is it self-defense? Is there, like, what is that higher level? I mean, you can go way deeper than that as well, because what do they get out of self-defense? 

But I mean, that probably comes up more in a conversation. But that's how you establish the value, right? So, you got to remove the value from just the vehicle. It's what does the vehicle give? And so this really helps people, I think, in the sense where people get hung up with their art, and sometimes people will tell me, “My art is so complicated. I don't know how to explain it.” Well, you don't, because you're the only one that at that point cares about it, right? A new prospect – they typically don't understand the difference between karate, jujitsu, muay thai, most of them just don't. 

FLORENCE: They're looking for a feeling, for an emotion. 

GEORGE: Yeah. So, most people just aren't, maybe there's a fraction of people that are educated, but they probably know where they want to go anyway. So, the general population that you're talking to don't. Alright, so that's where we are, right? Now, you've stopped them in their tracks, attention. You've gathered some interest, now some desire.

You know, desire, depending on the price point of your trial, you might need a few bullets, like short, little benefit-driven sentences, but typically if you and I, you know, what we do is we would have like a paid trial, like we work with this sheet that, you know, numbers that we've tested and price points that we've tested. So, it kind of takes the thinking a bit out of it. But if that offer is below $100, then you can typically just get away a desired section with a good offer. So, if you have a really good offer, and it's crystal clear, it's well communicated – that could be enough. 

FLORENCE: And what if it's higher than $100?

GEORGE: If it's higher than 100, you might want to have some bullet points to back it up. 

FLORENCE: And those would be the benefits? 

GEORGE: Yeah, those are just the extra benefits, what they get with this offer. So, kind of before the offer. And then action, like what do they need to do to get this thing? And so two big mistakes that school owners make here is, one not having it. Yeah, that is probably the biggest mistake is people just don't tell them. They do this perfect ad, but then they're like, what do I do to get this thing? So, telling people super clear what they got to do. 

Now, this is where you got to be, you've got to abide – we talk about abiding by the platform rules. A lot of times, I'll see people have like a flyer, and they put the flyer on Facebook. It was a great flyer, but now it's on Facebook. So, it's great in print, but it's not a great ad. And on the flyer, there'll be a ‘Call Us’, phone number or email. Now, I don't know about you, if you've ever tried to click on a phone number or email address on a phone – doesn't happen, right? So, imagine most of your people looking at an ad and looking at it and, “What's the number? They don't have a pin? I don't know, what do I do?” 

FLORENCE: And then they forget. 

GEORGE: “And then I'll do it later.” They've got all the intent to do it later, but they just won't, because you've lost them, right? So, what's the simplest way to have a call to action? Well, what we've learned over the years, and I guess, I'll say that – six years ago, when we released our first Martial Arts Media Academy course, which was, which is a marketing course, our advice was also different.

We would say, have a great landing page, and send people to a great website or landing page. Now, I never start there. Will having that be an added asset? Yeah. But now, we just want to sell the conversation. We just want to have more conversations, because if you have more conversations, we can have more conversions.

So, we just go for what is the best way for people to get in touch. Easiest is to send a message. Or you could do like a lead ad in Facebook, where you gather the names, emails, and so forth. But again, depending on the level that people are at, we just go for the messaging. So, those are the three things right?

You have to have a good offer, the formula to put in front of people, and then what is the call to action. And you can do those three things at scale. Because I see people do that with 10, 20 students a month, to hundreds. That means staying focused on it, getting better at the method, kind of like your martial arts, right? You don't just go practice once and do something new.

But I think as business owners, we get bored with our marketing before anybody else does. So, we want to try something new. But if you've refined that and you know your offer converts, then you can improve the offer by the messaging, and then you can improve the conversion by the way you actually follow up on the messages.

FLORENCE: Alright, so just to recap, we have an irresistible offer number one, number two was how to get the offer into advertisement, and that is AIDA. What is next? What comes out? 

GEORGE: Master your messaging. So, your follow-up process, and that's for the call to action. So, mastering the follow-up process of taking people from curious, to serious, to sign up. So yeah, we typically use Messenger for that. We've got what we call the Messenger Signup Method, which is just sort of a process where you go on, how do you build relationships fast and establish value and then take the orders.

Florence Sophia

FLORENCE: I like that. How do you follow up to have them from curious to serious? Generally speaking, why would you say martial arts businesses fail? Or how do they plan for risk management? 

GEORGE: Risk management. Wouldn't say that I'm the best person to answer that, but on failing, things that I have come across, a lot of it, well, everything in business starts with mindset. That's sort of the overarching theme. And with mindset comes beliefs about money, ethics on charging money for martial arts. And a big one that's probably never spoken about is the peer group, because if your great, great, great master teacher that you learn from, doesn't charge for martial arts, or, you know, maybe they've got different philosophies, and that's passed on to you, that creates a lot of conflict. 

Because if you want to try and grow a business, but your martial arts master who is truly a master at martial arts, is not a master at business, but is a master at martial arts is enforcing those beliefs and mindset onto you, you're going to face a crossroads, right? Because you're going to have to let go of that to move forward. So, a lot of it starts with mindset, and I was on a, we host this virtual event, it's called the Martial Arts Media Intensive.

We used to do it physical, but hey, digital is great, because I can run the events and go home. I can access the world, so it's always better. And I was going through this process, and somebody brought up, somebody was chatting about… We were talking about sales, and he mentioned, “I'm too honest a man to be good at sales.” I was like, “Whoa, whoa, we got to talk about that. Right?” Because for you listening, you know, maybe there's something else that you're attaching to it, right? Maybe you've got a different type of belief.

So, you can take this example and, you know, work it into your own scenario. But we really had to dive deep into that, because if you feel that you are too honest to be good at sales, how are you going to move your business forward? How are you going to present your martial arts to someone, if you feel that what you're doing is unethical? You will sabotage your own success, day in and day out. So, you've got to get clear on that.

And the easiest way to really get clear on that is just go look at your students, like if you're teaching martial arts, do you change lives? How many lives have you changed? Are people better off after training martial arts with you or not? If they're not, you probably shouldn't be in business, right? But I think for 99% of martial arts school owners, you change lives. And I know, you know, we skip that part of my story. But you know, it definitely changed my life when I got into martial arts.

And I wish I was a kid, you know, and I had a martial arts instructor convince my parents to get me started when I was a kid. I know the benefits now. I mean, I'm 44 now, but, you know, I started in my mid-30s. I see the benefits now and I see how that's helped my son. And that message needs to be enforced.

So, you have to be able to communicate your value, and understand the value that you provide, and the value that you provide is not on the mats. It's much higher. And this is what really helped us help school owners during the pandemic. Because what do you do in a pandemic, when the vehicle that you attach to, which is your martial arts training on the mats, camaraderie, friends, high fives, that community?

If that's missing, then how do you transfer that experience without the vehicle? And that's what you got to think about, right? Well, how do you do that? Well, how do you take your community? The missing element? How do you take that online? How do you continue being a coach? How do you continue being a coach and make sure that people move up? And what content? Can you provide the support? That challenges your thinking in big ways, because that's the vehicle. 

FLORENCE: And also, you value, you know, I would imagine the value you're bringing to the community has to speak from a place where you're understanding yourself as a business owner, what you and the gym is bringing to people's life. So, how do you translate that into your sentence? How do you translate that into a powerful value proposition? 

GEORGE: I don't know if it's much of a, how I can put it in a sentence, but it's more of a – give me a better scenario, like let's say, are you talking about a current circumstance?

FLORENCE: Let's say there's, around Toronto, there's like, I don't know, hundreds of jiu jitsu gyms? How do they create a message that is different from all the other gyms? And is not saying come to train with me, I'll build your confidence, I'll help your child not to be bullied, right? How do you separate yourself from everybody else who is offering the same, basically? 

GEORGE: Offering the same? But how do you go about presenting that message through to people? So, maybe this helps. Last week on our Partners Power Hour call, I was with one of our Partner members who is based in the UK. And I think the UK and Canada are still in, I mean, I know for the UK, they've been in lockdown for about a year, but now things are starting to look up. So, we looked at, alright, well, well, what's the plan? How do we navigate through this? 

So, for them, they're still doing their online classes, they're doing things online. I know jujitsu can be a bit trickier, because how do you do it online, but there's many successful models that you can look at of people doing that, like if you look at what the Gracies are doing, you can take things from that and apply that.

Now, some people might look at that and say, well, that's the Gracies, and that's them, and we can't be that. But, wrong, because you're the coach, and you've got your community and your community listens to you. And where would you want him to get the content – from someone else or from you? So, you totally got to be the leader, if you're trying to step up as a leader. 

FLORENCE: That's a powerful statement, is don't be afraid to kind of steal from somebody else and give yourself that permission. Yeah. 

GEORGE: So, just a bit more context on things that, you know, we really saw school owners struggle with, is when things are going up and down, you know, how do you stay positive? Right, it looks like the whole world is crumbling, you know, locked down, not locked down, we're open, we're not, break up, you know. And so you have to divide empathy and sympathy, and sympathy – what I mean by that is, when things go wrong, I see school owners jump straight to Facebook, and they take that emotion of sympathy with them of how life sucks. And it goes, that energy goes out in their posts, their communication. 

And it's kind of like saying, “Hey, all of us, we've all got our heads in the sand, and I understand because I've also got my head in the sand and let's all have our heads in the sand, and life sucks and we'll wait for better days. Or you can have empathy, and take it as an opportunity to lead – meaning, it sucks.

And then give yourself permission to go have a sulking moment of how life sucks for an hour or two hours, get it out of your system. And now I have to find your message. Okay, and this is the hardest thing, but like, okay, so what? What's the plan? Because if there's no plan, and this is, you know, when we saw all these cancellations, you know, when people run out of the future with you, they cancel.

So, you know, when things shut down, they're like, well, we'll cancel, because what's the plan? Yeah, so it's important to have the plan. And I'll get back to how we're doing this with one of our school owners in the UK, you've got to have the plan. And having empathy is understanding the situation, but then turning the wheels.

And so we did this with Don a few times where like, “Okay, we're locked down. Well, how are we going to handle this?” And the messaging was something like, to his members, right, “Okay, we're in a lockdown. It happened again. It's probably going to happen again, too. Right? But, what are we going to do? We're martial artists, are we going to let this get in our way? Or are we going to actually just commit and get the thing done and train and be better off when we open, because when we open, this is the plan that we're going to do X Y and Z. So, if that helps in one part.

So, what are we doing with our client in the UK? Well, they know that, I think by the end of this month, they can, I forgot the exact dates, but I think by the end of March they can do more outside training. April, they're looking at opening doors, and then they're moving into summer. Now, one thing that we noticed in Australia was schools boomed at times when they wouldn't normally boom, meaning like right before December or as people move out of the pandemic, people were just keen to get on with life and gyms are just booming, right? 

I spoke to someone yesterday, doubled his business from last year. So, things are really looking up, right? Martial arts school owners that have moved past it are thriving. And so for us looking at, in the UK, we were looking at all right, well, so we've got these four dates, we've got the end of the month, we've got something happening in April, we've got summer, etc., coming up. So, how do we plan the campaigns? Well, the secret to that is having your message to market match on point. So, the right message, at the right time, for the right person. And this has been the trickiest in the pandemic, because you've got, as much, whether you agree with governments or not, what they say, goes, right? 

So, you can hate it, love it, and fight it. Like, that's what is said. So, what can you do if you just ride the train, you can piggyback on what it is that they're saying, and you can draw the good news out of that. So, we're preparing the campaigns, and we're going, “Well, we've got these four dates.” And the minute the announcements get made, then it's good news. We're open, you know, it's sending the message out that we're ready. Let's go, right. So, you know, if things have been tough, and you're looking at the next few months, and like, what's going to happen? Well, be prepared, right? Because your time is coming, and the boom is coming, but make sure that your messaging is on point at that day, because the message one day before lockdown, and one day after, it's a completely different message. 

So, you've got to be prepared, that your message resonates where people are at mentally, at that time, and move past it. And just know that for every 50% of people that don't want to continue on with life and are paranoid and everything else. There's another 50% that are. 

FLORENCE: In terms of the messaging, would you say, for the messaging to be on point, is to say what's in the moment, or divulging a part of the plan? And where the gym is, like, what's the vision? 

GEORGE: Depends on where the marketing message is at. If it's for retention, it's definitely more about the plan. If it's for marketing, and attracting students, in ads, I would have been more in the moment of what it is. And, you know, if there's sort of a glimpse of the plan, that's ahead of opening dates etc., do that. But you know, something that could really work to your advantage in all this, is waitlists. You know, wait lists and scarcity is a really powerful thing. And if you're dealing with restrictions, and you can't have enough people on the mats, follow up or waitlist. People understand demand and supply is a scarce thing. And that can drive a lot of people to make sure that they get on the list for when you open or when you have a spot available as well.

Florence Sophia

FLORENCE: Nice. So, if someone had to start a business today, where do they start? And how do they create a sustainable game plan? 

GEORGE: Okay. 

FLORENCE: So, the question… 

GEORGE: It is, so look, I'll just give my perspective, right. And my perspective, I would say, simplify. And what I mean by that is, you want to, obviously want to have a good product, you want to be good at something, delivering something good. And be clear on what that is. And, and then again, going back to market, well, where is your market? Who are your ideal customers, and how are you going to get a message out to them?

And you can go back, actually, to my initial marketing advice, get a great offer, find a way to put it in front of people, follow up with them. And do that until you have a sustainable customer base, and then you can get all fancy and everything else. But I'd want to do that before I build websites, get a flashy logo, do all this stuff that feels like I'm an entrepreneur, but I'm not, because if you don't have a customer, then you got nothing.

So, I'd focus on like, what is the minimal viable way I can get started, deliver the thing? And perfection is a killer, right? So, just go, because you're going to learn when you go, be clear on what you're offering to people, what benefit they get, find a way to get that started, even if it's not running ads, and it's just in your sphere of influence. Friends, family, sometimes they're your first customers, right? A lot of people have had a mum as the first customer. But you know, just start somewhere and get that out and just refine that. And avoid, have horse flap blinkers on and just fill the customer base. 

FLORENCE: Great advice. What would you say are the biggest myths for online business marketing? What are the things that someone should avoid? And what are the absolutely must to implement?

GEORGE: Lists to avoid? So, I guess, be careful where you get your advice from. That's a tricky part, right? Because in today's world, you can buy the course on how to be the expert, and that's your intro into business. It means that someone hasn't applied any of what they learned in a real business, or maybe it works in another business, and they haven't adapted it into a model. So, just be super cautious who you get your advice from based on what you want to do. That's probably the biggest thing. People will always sell on their strength, right? So, people will always sell what they sell. 

So you know, people who are selling websites are going to tell you that you need the best website, if they selling course on AdWords, they're going to tell you AdWords is the way to go, if they're on YouTube, they're going to say YouTube is the best way to go. So, you know, people are always going to sell to their strengths. And that's why I, and I was that guy, you know, we used to do websites, and yeah, that was the go-to thing. But I realized it took a lot longer for people to get where they wanted to go. And so we stripped it all away, and boiled down to the three things that I shared earlier – the offer, get the message, right, get the follow-up. 

FLORENCE: And if you don't know to whom to go for advice, they should come to you, George, and before we close, I want to be mindful of our time. I know you have a call in in about eight minutes. If people want to follow you or just get in touch with you. Is there any, you mentioned there's a master class you're providing? Where can they find you? And how can they contact you? 

GEORGE: Yeah, the easiest way probably is martialartsmedia.com/scale. I don't know if I can help you, but that's what this little form is about. It's like a six step form. It just tells us who you are, what you're doing. It gives us just a bit of a gauge on what you need help with, and if we feel we can help you. We'll have a chat anyway. But yeah, if we feel we can help you we jump on a call and we will chat about the details. We only take on clients that we can help. 

So, I'm very transparent on that part. You know, don't want to try and help people if we can't help them. We typically only work with martial arts school owners, that's jujitsu, taekwondo, any martial arts of all sizes. So we've got different programs depending on where you're at. But that form is the best place to start – martialartsmedia.com/scale. Let me know exactly what it is that you're struggling with and we'll see if we're the right guys to help you with that. 

FLORENCE: I love it. Thank you. So, the website is… 

GEORGE: martialartsmedia.com/scale. 

FLORENCE: Awesome. And we'll put it into the show notes. Moving on in two minds. Sorry, go ahead. 

GEORGE: Yeah. And if you log on today, our new website is going live like three days ago, so if it's down, it's just because they are moving. Supposed to be done yesterday. 

FLORENCE: Exciting. All right, we will share the link in the show notes. If you could go back before you started your online business and give yourself that conversation knowing everything you know today, on top of the pandemic, you know, everything that happened? What would you say to yourself, you know, and what would you say to yourself the day before you started the process of preparing yourself for what is to come? 

GEORGE: Think less, do more. Just execute. Perfection is a killer. Perfection will kill progress. Think less, do more. Do get a result. Assess the result, improve on it. 

FLORENCE: I love it. I think let's do more. Let's move on to the fire, rapid fire questions – our favorite of our audience here. And so I'll just, you know, come up with a couple of rapid fire questions and you can just answer with whatever comes to mind, okay? What is true?

GEORGE: What is true is there's always an option. There's always a plus side, there's always an option. You always have options. 

FLORENCE: Love it. What is missing in your life right now? 

GEORGE: I wouldn't say it's injuries, because I've got those. Good waves. 

FLORENCE: Good what? 

GEORGE: Good waves, good waves in the ocean. Yeah. 

FLORENCE: Do you surf? 

GEORGE: I surf, yeah. 

FLORENCE: Yeah. Nice, amazing. What is the greatest fear moving forward that you will overcome next? So, you've done the 75 Hard. What's next? 

GEORGE: Well, I mean, my biggest fear is still jumping out of a plane. But I can't say I'm gonna address that one, but fear of just not living to my full potential, more than anything. 

FLORENCE: Beautiful. Life is a journey. So, you know, like you said, keep your jiu jitsu mindset and go for that fear, right? That's what makes us grow and stronger. What is your favorite, by the way? You have your own podcast, and is that weekly, monthly? 

GEORGE: It's weekly and sporadically. So, I interview martial arts school owners, that's how I got it started. I'm just wanting to learn from martial arts school owners. It's called the Martial Arts Media Business Podcast. And then I, you know, as I've gathered knowledge of marketing and things, I sporadically just share thoughts and ideas that are current in the moment, and then we feature the odd case study with our clients, and so forth, as well. 

FLORENCE: And then I've seen bits and pieces on your IG, @GeorgeFourie. So, I encourage anyone in our audience today to check that out, those are really great and inspiring. 

GEORGE: Thank you. 

FLORENCE: Virtually all the tips and techniques that you sharing, so good for you. What is your favorite podcast? Besides yours, of course, that you would recommend? 

GEORGE: The Martial Arts Media? I don't listen to too many I go in and out. I guess the longest podcast that I've listened to is one of my mentors, James Schramko. From superfastbusiness.com. That's probably the most value driven podcast there is. The others I sort of move in and out of. I'll listen to a bit of Joe Rogan, if I'm interested, a bit of Tim Ferriss. I like Franklin's podcasts, super short, marketing advice. Those are the ones that I typically dive into.

FLORENCE: Awesome. Imagine the world is coming to an end. And these three lessons that you can share with the world? When will they be? 

GEORGE: Wow. The world is coming to an end. Well, the lesson is, go out and live. Go make the best of it. 

FLORENCE: Beautiful. Thank you so much, George. I want to acknowledge you for the work you are putting. I want to congratulate you for allowing people to tap into their potential. And thank you so much for joining us today and spending this hour together, I can wait to share this podcast and have the world discover what you're doing. And I hope you know I definitely took so many golden nuggets from our conversation.

And I'm sure you know everybody listening today and who will be listening from the recording will get you know, maybe we will need to have a second follow up because I still have a lot of questions. So, thank you so much. I don't know if you have any closing words. 

GEORGE: No, not really. Firstly, thanks. Thanks so much for having me, it was really great to speak to you. It's always find it funny when I'm on this side of the chat, because I'm always the guy asking, asking all the questions. Yeah, I guess just for martial arts school owners, you know, if it's been a tough year, but sitting in an area, which I'm thankful for, and I don't really like to say it's so great here, because I'm conscious of how people are struggling and you know, we got clients in the USA, Canada, the UK, New Zealand, Australia, you know, it's all over. And, you know, we had to really draw the positives of what's good and what's, you know, what's good in the martial arts industry, which a lot of people haven't been talking about. 

Your time, if you are struggling, your time is coming but sympathy, empathy, get your, you know, get your mind right, whether you like it or not people look up to you as a leader. So it's, it's your opportunity to lead people through it at the misery out into the misery, so be careful what you say on social media. Be careful of getting rowed up into politics and having ranks, because it's never a winning conversation you know? So look after your own mind I know I know it can be tough but you know look after yourself first go do something like the 75 Hard Challenge or something like that if you're if you're really struggling to get momentum back and yeah, just be in the moment and make it happen, because life is good and there's good things coming.

FLORENCE: Just wire yourself to in, like the title of our podcast. I love it. 

GEORGE: Choice, by choice. 

FLORENCE: Thank you so much, George.

 

Here are 3 ways we can help scale your school right now.

1. Join the Martial Arts Media™ community.

It's our new Facebook community where martial arts school owners get to ask questions about online marketing and get access to training videos that we don't share elsewhere – Click Here.

2. Join the Martial Arts Media™ Academy and become a Case Study.

I'm working closely with a group of martial arts school owners this month. If you'd like to work with me to help you grow your martial arts school, message me with the word ‘Case Study'.

3. Work with me and my team privately.

If you would like to work with me and my team to scale your school to the next level, then message me with the word ‘private'… tell me a little about your business and what you would like to work on together and I'll get you all the details.

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***NEW*** Now available on Spotify!

95 – Peter Graham – Applying The Winning Martial Arts Mindset In Uncertain Times

Peter Graham, top martial arts school owner, Bellator Champion and Multiple World Title Holder, shares how to apply the fighter’s winning mindset to daily life.

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IN THIS EPISODE, YOU WILL LEARN: 

  • How to stay motivated in a period of downturn
  • How to make decisions under uncertainty
  • Helpful tips for successful goal setting
  • How to think and perform like a ‘true’ martial arts fighter
  • And more

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

TRANSCRIPTION

We're scared, we're worried. It's not just for ourselves, you know, we have families and the people we work with and train with, you know, we know them really well. But now is the time for us to dig deep and say, “I have this feeling – it's okay. But what can I do to fight another day?” And that's a real martial artist’s or a fighter's attitude.

GEORGE: Hey this is George Fourie and welcome to another Martial Arts Media business podcast. So I'm joined today with a special guest, Peter Graham. And Peter Graham, we were having a chat the other day, so just recently, we just started working together in our Partners group and we’ve been having a few calls and we had a few chats about…

Obviously right now, depending on when you’re listening to this, but the current pandemic and the situation. And we were having real interesting conversations about us being martial artists. Now. Peter's experience or credentials go two miles further than mine do, but the real conversation got going about the martial arts mindset.

Now, Peter is a real successful martial arts school owner and I'm going to get in to share a bit of his credentials right now because I couldn't keep track of all of them. And we're going to chat about just dealing with the now, how our martial arts mindset could benefit us in this current situation and wherever this conversation goes. So welcome to the call, Peter.

PETER: Thanks George. Hey, you know, this is where they say who I am. I am a martial artist, so I come from a karate background, kyokushin background. I was an uchi-deshi, so I lived in Japan doing karate. And that moved on from one thing to another, to another.

Basically the whole budo experience. You know, I just wanted to fight all the time and the best people I could fight. So not unlike a lot of karate or taekwondo guys and girls, you know, they always go to lots and lots of tournaments and, you know, if you keep winning, I guess you try to find ones that are even more up the pay scale so to speak.

So I also have a black belt in kenpo karate, BJJ experience for ten years or eleven. Last couple of years I haven't really been focused on it. I was pro MMA, so I made it to the finals of the Bellator. Lost to Cheick Kongo in the finals, but that's okay. He's a good guy, yeah, I can deal with losing to him. 

Made the K1 Grand Prix, which is top-paid. Oceania champion. Six kickboxing world titles, Thai boxing world title, boxing world title. But really, that was just part of being a martial artist, part of me trying to be the best I could be. And it was the whole, I guess a word that people use all the time at the moment is mindset.

Martial Arts MindsetSo along my path to where I thought I wanted to go, or where I thought I needed to be, there were blocks depending on, you know, which, you know, which country rose in or what was happening in the political climate. The economic downturn in 2008, you know, really killed K1.

And, you know, there's always something. But instead of throwing my hands up in the air and saying, ah – always look for something else to do. As a fighter, there's different organizations in different countries so I just always kept on looking for that next opportunity.

And I guess that really brings us to where we are now. I mean, with the current situation, you know, all schools are closed down and, you know, I see a lot of people really panicking and stressed out and I understand that, you know, the complete lack of finances is stressful.

But in this time, you know, it will really show the people who take the mindset of a martial artist. Anyone who has a black belt, whether it took them two years or twenty years to get it, has that ability to see into the future knowing that the hard work they put in now can repay later on.

The success of earning a black belt is a huge thing for a lot of people and of course young martial artists, you know, some of them, it's more than half their life as a young child. And sometimes people who have been a black belt for so long or been a champ for so long, or been successful so long, you know, we get a bit soft.

We’re used to the good paychecks, we’re used to the high-fives and the successful meetings and the, you know, all the good things and tracking that come along with that. And then we forgot how difficult it was when we first started, you know, we got some really, really great… It's my five-year-old, showing me her cut out of a car.

Now, we've got some really, really great athletes and my gym. And I tell them, I say, hey guys: you see that that new person down there, the chubby guy down there who's turning purple in the face and his lips have gone all white and he's just about to roll his eyes? I said, he's the one who's working the hardest today. Don't forget that.

You've got to outwork him every time if you want to get to be… If you want to be the champ. And at the moment, I think that is a massive point for successful people at the moment, you know, specifically in our line of martial arts and combat sports is that we have to say, “hey what was it like when I first opened the dojo? What was it like, you know, the first time you got that big rent bill and went, how am I going to pay for that?”

Or, you know, you started to pay stuff or insurance or whatever it was and you went no, no. And, you know, fight that urge to run away or throw my hands up or lie or cheat or steal and do the right thing and stick to my personal principles and continue on.

I remember George, when I first opened my dojo. I was sitting on the steps inside the building. This class of boys come in and there's some steps right in the front. And I was sitting there with my wife, we’d been there a month. We had all of, it was 12 or 14 students.

And I said, hey honey, do you think we could just kind of close the doors and run away and go to Brazil? I said, you know, we can hide out there, no one will know me there I'm sure. She looked at me and she said, you know that's not going to happen. That's not you.

But we all had those urges and it's a, you know, it's like Cus d'Amato said to Mike Tyson: ”the hero and the cow both feel the same. But it's what the hero does that makes him the hero and what the cow doesn't do that makes him the cow.” And I think in these situations there's a lot of us who feel similar feelings.

You know, we're scared, we're worried. It's not just for ourselves, you know, we have families and the people we work with and train with, we know them really well. But now is the time for us to dig deep and say, “I have this feeling – it's okay. But what can I do to fight another day?” And that's a real martial artist’s or a fighter's attitude.

Because you hit the canvas in a boxing fight and anything after round six, let me tell you – after round six, life gets very different. You really start to get those goals, become very polarized. But you hit the canvas off to round six and you ask yourself, “Why in the hell am I doing this? Am I going to get up and fight another day? Do I need to?” Because if you're going home in a new Mercedes Benz to your silk sheets, you know, with your beautiful wife and fantastic kids, that motivation may have gone.

But if you don’t get up to win the fight, your kids are going to miss a meal, or you're going to get kicked out of your, you know, shitty apartment somewhere. Let me tell you, your motivations are different. Different people obviously have different motivations, but that's the mindset that I take.

Now, things are good. My life is great. I'd like to continue that and, you know, all of us can jump up and down and complain and be grumpy at the current situation saying, well why did I do this or do that. And some of us may have prepared better than others, some of them, you know. We might have had our worst month ever, but you had your best month ever. But the fight’s on.

And now we're really going to see the cream rise to the top. But there’s awesome things as well, you know, if this is, you know. If you're just starting out only a few months into it or even a few years, yeah, you could.. Because everything is…

GEORGE: Equal.

PETER: Yeah. Everyone's scrambling to open online dojos, everyone's trying all these things. What works, what doesn't work, should I use zoom, should I use Skype, you know, “Can I do it on Facebook, can I monetize it? How do I monetize it? You know, can I stop the payments? Should I keep them?”

Okay, all these things we're all asking yourselves. And that's something that a real champion and a winner does. We all ask ourselves questions, right? You wake up in the morning, roll out of bed, “Should I drink the whiskey or should I have a cup of coffee?”

Hopefully that's not the question you ask yourself, but just saying, if you wake up in the morning and say, “What am I going to do? Am I going to get down on it? Are we going to hustle? You know, push myself to the 10th degree, or am I going to go hmm. I'll watch TV or, you know, see what’s on Facebook and Twitter and Instagram and, you know, cause a problem with someone because I don't like them or I'm bored, or not motivated.” 

But motivation is simple, right? It's very, very, very simple in my mind. There’s the horrible part and there's a good part. The horrible part is, if I stay where I am, it's going to be horrible. And the good part is, if I do what's needed to be done, this will be awesome.

You know, you want a drink of water, you're walking through the desert. If I don't get a drink of water, I'm going to die. If I get a drink of water, I'll be fine. It's very polarizing, you know. But if you're doing well in a dojo and you’re doing well in your business, you're doing well in whatever and you say well, you know, if I keep on doing what I'm doing now, I'll do okay. And if I don't go too hard, I'll still be okay.

There's nothing, you know, you're 50-50…. But now it's very polarizing. Everyone’s going, oh man, if this keeps going, I'm going to go under. So we start asking ourselves those questions, but then you ask yourself how important is it?

GEORGE: I've been having real interesting conversations about this and partly why I want to do… Speaking to you is kind of bringing it home. So when this pandemic happened, I decided to reach out to other coaches and just other business owners in general with different perspectives, facing different scenarios.

First I spoke to Jason Everett, who is a high-performance salon coach. And the energy he brought to the podcast was amazing and he's… Well, there's no virtual haircuts happening. Look how lucky you guys are. You can just put it and run online. And then I spoke to Kylie Ryan. And Kylie Ryan was all about mindset.

So I wanted to talk about decision making and, you know, where should you be when you make the decisions. Because if you’ve got your head in the sand, versus you are striving and you’re leadership focused, there's going to be two different decisions that you make. And the language that you can express is going to be completely different.

And so the thing that came up with Kylie was to really just find that place of, you know, just take a step back, breathe and make your decision from that point. Because if you’re consumed in this media here and your mind is there and you're trying to make the decision, it's not going to be the right decision.

So now listening to you and the way you've applied a lot of things with martial arts, which is really bringing it full circle for me in… Who knows where the next conversation is going to take. But this is really, I think this is great for all martial arts school owners listening here.

Now, taking this fighter’s mindset and really applying it and the conversation I guess I want to get to is, how do you trigger yourself into that “it's on.” like, what do you do as a martial artist to go, “all right. Well, here's a situation, it's difficult. I'm going to show up.” how am I going to show up, what do I do? What is the inner self talk that you have with yourself and you said, “all right, it's game on.”

PETER: You know, that's a really good question. You know what, I'll tell you exactly what I do is, I start to ask myself questions. How important is this to me? How important is it that I get up this morning and start chipping away at those things?

And then I ask myself more questions. What do I need to do? How much money do I need? How much money have I got? How many bills were coming? How many people do I need? How many people need me? So the more questions I ask, then the more answers I'm going to get. But there's also another little trick to it I say is, you want to ask yourself the right questions.

If I ask myself why coronavirus is destroying my business and life, I'll probably come up with an answer if I give it enough energy. Most smart people will. And then at the end of that question, the answer will be whatever it might be, but it'll be negative and I'll be in the same spot.

But then I ask myself a similar question structured in a different way: how can I make sure this coronavirus is a positive thing to my business, for my family? Probably going to come up with an answer if you put the same amount of energy into it, you’ll still come up with an answer. So asking yourself those questions is important that you're asking yourself the right questions.

And what I mean by that if you didn't understand it from that first explanation George, is asking in a way that in the end you come up with an answer that's going to develop something and you're going to have forward momentum from it.

So why is everything so bad? No no: how can I get something good out of this bad situation? You know, how come we've got no money? I’ve got no money because I've got all these bills and I've got no money coming in.

Okay, that's correct you're going to answer the question, but it hasn't helped you any. How can I generate more income? Well, I heard that guy George, he's got this thing he's doing online and these people zoom. Well, what’s zoom? You find out what zoom is – ah! Man, would really work for me but how come it doesn't…

You know, I've never been good with technology stuff. How come it always has to be technology stuff? Well, that's not going to work either, right? You place the right question: how can I learn more about zoom? I'll talk to my mate George, he will help. I'll talk to my mate Peter, I'll ask the guy down the road.

Martial Arts Mindset

So I'm always asking myself the right questions, always trying to catch myself say, am I asking myself a question that is going to get me to go forward and have that forward momentum, or am I going to ask the wrong question that’s just going to keep me where I am. And the other thing is, I don't expect it to be easy. I don't expect anyone to do anything for me, I don't expect anything from anyone else and I'm not bitter about it.

It's not like, you know, your whole bunch of bosses, I don't care. It is what it is. There's no self entitlement. No one owes me anything and I'm fine with that.

However, these are lots of good people who all come out of the woodwork and help each other, which is great. And I see that, but knowing that it puts it on you, that emphasis on you and I guess from being a fighter for so long, you know, you can blame the coach or, you know, you have to fly economy halfway across the planet or, you know the airline was shitty or the hotel room was horrible or you only had a week’s notice – you're going to have all these things, and you'll still lose the fight. That's the reason why I lost.

Well, you come up with the solution but you know, I'm just going to be super super careful in that fight, I'm going to make sure that I stretch it out beforehand. Like I'm a big guy, I'm six-three, so flying economy halfway across the world, it's a tough gig. But I want to win the fight. So that's the thing: I desperately want to win that fight. And there's a lot of other people who desperately want to win this fight.

I know that I want to win it. So that way, by asking those questions, you come up with the solution that is what we need to do. And I say this all the time: to me, there's only two types of people. And people hear me say this again and again. But I mean there really are winners and losers. Winners make solutions. Full stop, period. Losers make excuses. There is a subcategory now, I call it smart losers – they make reasons.

GEORGE: Ah!

PETER: The reason this isn't happening yet – I can see your brain thinking now George, you’re thinking, I’ve met lots of people like that. Oh, but George the reason that happened was, I'm a smart guy. Here’s these reasons why I can't succeed. Well, congratulations: you're successful at being a loser. And if you want to do that, that's fine. Some people will fight tooth and nail. No, no, no, there’s a… Okay, stay where you are, it's okay.

But the people who truly want to be successful and get through whatever it is, not just business: life, relationships, money, you know, they're the people who ask themselves the right questions and come up with the solution.

And if the first solution doesn't work, they go for another one and then another one and then another one. And it goes back to what we were saying before: it depends how important that goal is. Or how important it is that you don't stay where you are.

Sometimes – just getting, just out of it, is important to. Say you’re in jail and you want to break out. You’re not thinking, well, I don't want to be here. I want to be in a mansion in the Bahamas. You think, I just want out. We’ll reassess everything and as soon as they get out of these bars go away and I'm out of jail. It's a terrible analogy, sorry, but I think people will get what I'm saying, right?

GEORGE: Totally. I mean, and I really love that because I discovered this really, I mean really that it hit home for me was, a couple of years ago, I think it was my wife that asked me a question that I just wasn't contemplating. I was actually working part time, trying to build up this business.

You know, I've never shared this story and it's a crazy thing. Because I was really embarrassed to actually talk about it, because it was embarrassing, right? I've been this sort of a, you know, business mind and computer programming guide for so long and then you know, I moved to Australia and I was working in the sales job, it was going well.

And then I wanted to start this online business. And I wanted to do this online business but it was just… This pivot in school owner’s experience, right: you’ve got full-time income, you're trying to be a business owner – something's gotta give. Something’s got to tip and I couldn't make this tip.

My next-door neighbor walks up to me and says, we just bought a lot of delivery business. I said, okay and so they asked me to be the driver and I was like, no way in hell will I do that. I won't do that and it's ego talking. Look,  just from context: there's nothing against, honestly doing that proper job. It was just… I just didn't feel that was where I should spend my time.

PETER: Absolutely

GEORGE: And so I got a few bills and it didn't look good and uh…

Peter: The delivery driver looked good.

GEORGE: And I think okay, so I just got to give up to sleep two nights a week and I'm going to get about an extra four-five hundred dollars a week and I'm not… That's really going to take the edge off. That's going to make me build this business. So I reluctantly said yes.

And so I started doing this before long but then I got accustomed to it, no sleeping and operating that way. Before I knew it, bills got really bad and then I was working five nights a week, my life was deliver milk in buildings from 10pm to 6am, sleep for four hours, train martial arts, have a nap, get to work on the business, take my son to martial arts, have a nap – and this was my life for three-four years.

Anyway, long story short, but I was really stuck. I couldn't move forward because of my mental capacity… I was a walking zombie. And it was until my wife just started throwing a question at me about what if… What if I did it this way, what if I did it that way. And I was so stuck in this rut for so many years and I went, huh. 

And that wasn't the first time she threw a question at me that definitely made me think. And it's since then that I really just take a step back. Because sometimes, especially now, you know: schools are closed, it's terrible. But what if it's not?

Okay, my business is closed. Okay, so where’s the opportunity here? Well, I could do something online. Okay, I don't want to do something online. Well, okay, I've got a choice. I could either be out of business, or an online business. Okay, so I'll be in an online business. So what's the opportunity here? Well, I can add this extra component to my school, which I never had time to do. I don't have time because I'm…

PETER: George, can you stop just there for one second. Exactly what you did is what needed to be done. You know, you weren't really thinking about becoming, you know, your dream job wasn't becoming a milk delivery guy. But the pain of staying where you were was too much, so you had to do something. And something came up, but then you should thank your wife. She started asking the right questions.

Also thank yourself for asking yourself what can I do? Well hold on. And the reason, I'm going to guess, you came up with the right answer because the pain of not sleeping…

GEORGE: It sucks.

Peter: Yeah, it sucks. It's so annoying, you know, and it drove you to what you're doing now. So that's awesome. You know, you've got that and it's funny, you'll see very quickly which category people sit in when you just ask them a few questions. As you were, keep going.

GEORGE: No, perfect and I mean it's just to add context to this conversation, right? Because I think right now people are really being put to the test. And I kind of look at this industry, you know, what drew me to this industry was the first things I saw on the wall. Respect, integrity, confidence, resilience, all these things.

And if there was ever a test to display what you've been teaching, this is it. Like, how are you showing up to this. You can either bury your head in the sand – then what have you been teaching? Or you can say, well hey.

PETER: Exactly.

GEORGE: This is the battle. This is the battle we’ve been training for. Are you with me or are you leaving?

PETER: Yeah, no, this is exactly true. You know, and it's really easy for me to achieve big goals. Because I find this is a big goal. Get to the end of this and open my doors and have everything go back on as per norm.

But to begin with, I'm like, I have no idea. I don't know what to do. And that's exactly like a white belt. But now we're all white belts, we’re all sitting in that same place, all going, what do we do? And what happens? You either get a tip or you go for that first grading and you're scared and you're annoyed and it's frustrating.

Or, you know, you don't know what to do because you didnt train hard enough. Or you get there and you do really well. And what happens, when do people drop out? They hit the first belt and they quit. So there's going to be a whole lot of quitters at that first grading. They're going to come into that first challenge, whatever that may be and they’re going to quit. We know that because we see it.

Training is like the world you know into… it gives me all the answers I need. And then it's going to be a few more gradings and some will do really well. In the beginning, there's going to be some who are going to be really talented. We're going to go, ah, these people are awesome! Look at their online business.

But some of them will quit and some will keep going. And some will be successful and some will be really successful and some will fade away. Some will get a black belt and realize that’s just the beginning. Others will give up before their first grading and lots of them will come up with excuses and reasons. And that's all it is.

I mean, you know, people are looking for a big, complicated answer – it's not. The amount of effort that's required to get to where we're going, especially in these uncertain times. We’re not even sure where it is we're going, specifically. That effort might be a lot more, just like you and your milk job. You know, 10 o'clock to 7 o'clock in the morning or something, ridiculous.

GEORGE: Yeah, it was crazy, yeah.

PETER: Get the cows to give milk at milk at different times. But the pain of going home to your family and saying, sorry, we're just having lunch and dinner from now on. And we're moving into my mate's caravan. This is painful, I'd hate to have to tell that to my wife. I love my house, I love my home, I love my family.

And that's, again, going back to those, you know, those principles. And principles of martial artists, you know is, stick to the program. You know, that intestinal fortitude, that inner strength. You know, should I go next door and rip off the guys lawnmower and then I can sell it. That goes against my principles.

To some people that's fun. I know that, cuz I'm home all the time. I know when they're home and when they're not home, everybody goes steal the whipper snipper as well and I'll be like, if that's where your principles lay.

People will do that, but that's, you know, it's not me, it's not you. It's not martial artists as a whole mostly. But we all have to keep on continuing to go back on what we know already as a martial artist and stick to the program. And realize that we're probably going to fail a few times.

You're going to stumble a few times, there's a few times we're going to walk out of the dojo, we’ll walk out of a meeting going I just got my ass kicked. I was talking to, before we jumped online, that I just got a letter from my accountant saying, Pete, looks like you've missed one of those bass payments.

It's a body punch. Zero income – hey, the tax department wants a really big check from you Pete. I have to pay for it or you know, lie down and go ahh. But I'll come up with a solution, because the idea of doing anything else, not because I'm particularly…

What's the word, particularly fond of the Australian taxation department. It's, I'll pay the bill and I'll get it done, because I'm fond of where I'm at. And the other option is certainly not going to happen. And once you have that mindset that, I'll either win or I'll be dead, you'd be surprised what you can achieve.

Most people don't want to have that commitment to anything, right? Most people are like, huh pretty good. You know, if I get this job, you know I put in the effort there and I'll do this and it'll be alright. They’re scared to take that risk – I understand that. Don’t want to mess up what they already have. Why do you think so many great fighters come from shitty areas and shitty homes and you know, not even, street kids.

It's because you’ve got nothing to lose. No one’s saying to you, George if you fuck this up mate, you're going to end up with nothing, you know.

So, well Pete I’ve got nothing already so, sky's the limit. But when you’ve already got a whole bunch of nice things, it can be harder. You know, you can be paralyzed with fear. Say, I don't wanna lose any of this. If I bet too much, I could lose. I don't want to lose, so I'm just going to keep on that small track. But now, we're all being forced to bet everything. You’re either all in or you’re all out.

GEORGE: So on that Peter, where does your drive come from? What made you a successful fighter? What was that thing that lit a fire under you that you really wanted that success. And still want a continuous, moving forward in business in life.

Martial Arts MindsetPETER: You know what, when I was a kid, I moved around a lot. I went to lots of different schools and I was a nobody to everybody. And I didn't like that. I wasn't good at making friends, because I was always the new kid. And I'm talkative and I get lots of energy and I get really excited.

So when you’re the new kid who's really talkative and excited about things, you think, this guy's clearly crazy. You know, every three to four months since I was about 12 or 13, I had to move. I lived in the youth refugees. And then I used to lie all the time. Yeah I've got this and I've got that, my dad's this, my mom's that.

Clearly my mom wasn't this and my dad wasn't that and I didn't have anything. Didn't have friends because that would mean you have to be somewhere for a long period of time. I didn't have family, certainly didn't have any money and I had no education at all. And for a while when I was young it was like, well you know, you just carry on.

Then after a while, you get sick of it. Now unfortunately, most kids who grew up like refugees and street kids and you know, what they call harmless refugees and stuff, even in awesome places like Australia, they end up alcoholics, drug addicts, criminals and their lives are horrible. And that was all around me and I certainly didn't want that.

I remember one day, this is a story that really shows where I just said, this has got to change. This particular time, I was living in a big stormwater train, a place called Eastful. A couple of suburbs outside of Sydney. The reason I was living there and not in the city where most street kids live or in the train yards and stuff like that is because I was scared. Because when I was a kid, a really young kid, I actually came from a nice area.

And we won't go into the back story of how everything went horribly wrong, so I wasn't you know, everyone I ever met who was a street kid, you know, they’re all, my dad's are criminal and my mom is this. And you know everyone could fight me, everyone was tough and I wasn't that guy. And it was my little sister's birthday, so I said, you know, what I'm going to do is a big graffiti piece.

Now, I was too scared to do it on a train or on a public walk, but inside this big stormwater train, if I could do it there, yeah, probably not going to get into a lot of trouble. To show you the type of kid I was, I saved up and bought the paint. No respect, I know.

Anyway, so you know, I sprayed on the wall and it looked absolutely terrible. This is ridiculous and it was possibly one of the lowest points of my life. It's basically at that time. No friends, no family, I wasn't going to school, no money. I said, you know what, I am going to become a criminal.

Now, down the road there was a big sports store with a big plate glass window. And I went, what if I go up there, because I've always been a pretty big kid, I'll pick up this big terracotta pot and I'll throw it through the window, take all the sports athletic gear and I'll walk around, I'll look real cool.

So I went over there and stashed my stuff in my stormwater train, just outside there were a bunch of trees. So I put it under there, under bushes. And it was, you know, two o'clock in the morning, no one around. And I pick up this, you know, this big terracotta pot and I throw it in this place plate glass window and it bounces off, shatters into a million pieces, you know, and then all the alarms and bells and whistles, everything just went off.

And I was like, what? And I run off  and I run back and I jump over the fence and then go down into where the big stormwater train is. And I remember sitting there, I was going, this is ridiculous. I can't even be a criminal.

Now, what does everyone say, they say, you keep going like that George, you're going to end up a crim. I couldn't, I didn't even have the ability to end up as a criminal. I was shattered, it was like I am good at absolutely nothing and no one gives a shit.

And I remember sitting there just contemplating my life and how crap it was. And I said, it's got to be something. Something's got to be there. And I said to the universe, I said, make me good at something. Anything, I'll take anything. At this point, I'll take anything.

Now, if you're a religious person then you ask God or whatever and at that point then, absolutely nothing happened. I didn't have a moment of clarity, I didn't have some deep insight – absolutely nothing happened. Nothing happened at all whatsoever for another four years. But what did happen was, I started searching. I’ve got to be good at something, I’ve got to be good at something.

And for me, I could hear it ticking in my head. You're going to run out of time Pete, you’re going to run out of time. You're going to end up like everybody else. You'd better hurry up, you better find your thing.

You know, I didn't have much self-confidence, you know, for a lot of reasons. Mostly because I kept failing everything. Because I’d go to school for a couple of months and then the next school would have the same thing or then they'd have something completely different.

And then after a while, you just give up. And on top of that, I’ve got add, attention deficit disorder which means concentrating on anything for more than a split second it's normally kind of tough.

Martial Arts Mindset

But what I do have and I had it in a bucket list, I had a desire. I said, wherever I am now is so shit. I didn't have any guidance, no one’s saying what you should do Pete, you should do this and see that person, or be that person. You could talk to  George – none of that.

You know, I'd like to say that, you know, there was some great insight from other people along the road, but there wasn't. It was just that same shitty feeling of feeling like I was invisible. I’d go to school and it didn’t matter if I’d turn up or didn't turn up, you know. Whether I was lalateid or wasn't late – it didn't matter.

And I wanted to matter. I wanted to be famous, I said, I want to be famous. I want to have something, anything. And that desire just kept burning into me.

And then the day happened. I had a fight with this guy, I was in a refuge at this time. And I'd made my lunch, it was the last of my food and I was walking back into the common room to watch the tv. I wasn’t allowed to watch the tv with my food, you know, there's no food in there.

And this guy Brad said, as I was holding my plate of four sandwiches, he goes, you're not allowed to eat in the common room. I went boom! And all my food went everywhere and I just lost my mind. Yeah, let's just say Brad and I didn't stay friends for much longer and I got kicked out.

I was so angry too, because I was like, it wasn't me, I didn't do it, it was this guy. And what was I doing? I was blaming. I was so mad and I didn't want to move, because I was living in this great house in North Sydney in Sydney, which is a great affluent area and thought it made people think that I had money.

So it was really cool. They said no, you’ve got to go. And they took me and they said, we've got this other place, because I was about 17. They said, you can go there and it's kind of, you know, it's not a halfway house. It's like moving from being what they call young homeless to being young and unemployed. They really kind of set you up there.

But anyway, but every day, they moved me there and it was great, this was cool. But I used to go down to the bottle-o. because you know, me and my friends would go get drunk and hang out. I still smoked cigarettes at that stage when I was a kid. I used to go past this karate dojo and I went, that's what I'll do. I'll do that.

I think I wanted to do taekwondo, because I thought the flag was better. Japanese flag, just the red dot. The Korean flag with cool little words and the yin yang, that was a bit cool. I said, this'll do.

I walked into the dojo and there's a guy behind the counter called Johnny and I walk in, and I said, hey what do I need to do to be a karate champ? And he told me after, yes Pete, I just rolled my eyes when I went back and said, man there’s this crazy kid out here, you know, who’s so big. There’s this crazy big kid out here, he wants to become a karate champ, you know. They were kind of laughing at me. Just turn up at 6 o'clock.

So I turned up at 6 o'clock and something happened. I started doing those punches and I thought this is it, this is pretty simple. All I've got to do is work harder than everyone else. And I got it. And I thought, ok all I need to do is turn up and at that time it started, I had a job so I had a bit of money and I had a stable place, because I was just about to turn 18.

And once you turn 18, you know, you can stay in one place for a longer time, unless you're, you know, there's a few other rules and regulations and stuff. That your parents clear the papers and let you stay somewhere, but mine didn't. And that was it.

I was 17 and I thought, if I don't do this now I'm going to miss the boat. I started karate and punched and kicked and screamed all the way to the K1 Grand Prix. And it was a desire to be better than what I was. And I would do anything, I’d go on every tournament, I would take anything.

I used to go through the magazines, look for tournaments going to them. But it was that desire to be better than what I was. I find out now, she's my lovely wife, that what, you know, being famous is great, but having a family is a million times better.

But it's exciting, because that same way, that drive and that, you know, that perseverance that was needed to get to where I was, happened for two reasons. One is, I really didn't want to be there, and two, I really wanted to get somewhere else. Turns out, the final goal was a little different, which was fun. But it set me up. And it's awesome, it's a wonderful feeling to know that I have that part of my life figured out completely, how to be a success in whatever it is I choose to do. And it works for everyone if they want to be honest to themselves. Some people don't.

GEORGE: First up, I mean, I love your story. That's inspiring stuff. How would you, what would you say to martial artists in general now? You've got, I mean, you've got really extensive knowledge experience in, you know, in the fighting arena. And I know a lot of martial artists do, but maybe some people have forgotten where they were at. Maybe they've gotten a bit complacent: what advice would you give to martial artists, martial arts school owners now in this climate and navigating through the obstacles?

PETER: Super simple: treat yourself as a white belt. You’ve just walked I,n first day on a mamat. What was that thing that said, this is for me? Learn, learn, learn, learn, learn and know that you're going to make mistakes. All the things that we tell a white belt, all the people who walk in that have never done anything before, you know. That open-mindedness that you tell them to have, we have to have now.

Learn and beat despair. Don't be afraid to ask questions. It's okay, we're all in the same boat, ask questions. Hey, how did you do this, how did you do that? Can you help me with this? I'll help you, if I find out, I'll help you.

So, you know, ask yourself the right questions, you’ll get the right answer. And nothing, nothing, nothing, nothing beats hard work. What's hard work? Just do it.

Write down a list of things you could possibly do, a list of things, a list of people you could talk to. But things that are going to make things better. Ask yourself the right questions. That's it, hard work, discipline, sticking to the program.

Although the final goal might change a little bit, you've got to start with something. You know, I want to be here at the end of this coronavirus. I want to have a dojo and I want to be able to open the doors the day that we're allowed to. That's my goal. And I'd like to have a little bit of money.

GEORGE: Love it.

PETER: If we get there and it says, I'm going to have a lot of money and a great online business and everyone rushes back into my dojo because they’re super pumped to come back, even better. Preparation meets opportunity. That's good luck.

The lack of preparation, well, the opportunity comes, you’ll get popped. The fight, it's, you know, straight away. In business it can be, you know, a three month lag. So work hard now and in three months, you have a better chance of being there. I can’t guarantee it, no one guarantees your business is going to be here, nor mine or anyone else's. But you're going to give yourself a better chance if you train, or work as hard as you can.

GEORGE: Awesome. Hey, Peter thanks so much for taking the time to hang out. Look forward to having a few more cool conversations with you. If anybody wants to reach out to you and connect with you, what's the best way for them to do that?

PETER: Just jump on my Facebook, Peter Graham. There's a picture of me. By all means, shoot me through some messages and I'll try  to get back to as many people as possible. Thanks George, I really appreciate talking to you. And thank you for all the help you've given me as well, you're doing a great job.

GEORGE: You're welcome. Perfect, awesome.

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!

 

Here are 3 ways we can help scale your school right now.

1. Join the Martial Arts Media community.

It's our new Facebook community where martial arts school owners get to ask questions about online marketing and get access to training videos that we don't share elsewhere – Click Here.

2. Join the Martial Arts Media Academy and become a Case Study.

I'm working closely with a group of martial arts school owners this month. If you'd like to work with me to help you grow your martial arts school, message me with the word ‘Case Study'.

3. Work with me and my team privately.

If you would like to work with me and my team to scale your school to the next level, then message me with the word ‘private'… tell me a little about your business and what you would like to work on together and I'll get you all the details.

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76 – Practical Tips On How To Grow Your Martial Arts School

Robbie Castellano from IMC Australia shares practical tips on how to grow your martial arts school.

IN THIS EPISODE, YOU WILL LEARN:

  • How creating a 5-year plan grew Robbie Castellano’s school from 135 to 500 students
  • How local and international martial arts tournaments improve their student retention
  • The ultimate test for turning over your school
  • The importance of having an effective leadership program
  • How finding a strategic school location completes half of your marketing
  • And more

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

 

TRANSCRIPTION

GEORGE: G'day, this is George Fourie and welcome to another Martial Arts Media business podcast. I have today with me Robbie Castellano who is actually a returning guest. We won't get into the details why. He'll probably be a returning guest again, but this is the first actual official podcast we're doing together. So, welcome to the show Robbie.

ROBBIE: Thanks George. Glad to be here.

GEORGE: Awesome. So, just a bit of introduction. So, Robbie's based in Sydney. They run IMC Australia. And also looking at the website now, I'm seeing number one rated martial arts center in Australia as rated by ISKA. So, yeah, we're going to have a bit of a chat and hear what Robbie's up to. So, welcome to the show Robbie.

ROBBIE: Thank you George.

GEORGE: Cool. So, just give us a couple of minutes intro, just your background, what you've got going on, etc.

ROBBIE: Yeah. So, basically started as a kid. Went to a local karate school which is in Western Sydney. Started at the age of four, five. Trained up until I was a teenager and then started working part time for my instructor, teaching. Always loved teaching. So, it was always good to teach the kids and then eventually teaching adults. And then got to my twenties and decided I wanted to go and see the world, so I went traveling around the world for about seven years and I still came back home every now and then to teach a little bit, travel again before eventually settling and managing the school for my instructor and then eventually buying it out 100%.

GEORGE: Excellent. So, in the travels, were you actually instructing as well?

ROBBIE: Na, not really. I was always training, like I was in Thailand and Belarus and England and Colombia. I eventually stayed in Colombia for a few years where I eventually met my wife, but it was always just training, it's hard to teach in a different language.

GEORGE: Got you. I've always wondered if that's an opportunity for young kids if they are learning martial arts and they can instruct if there's an opportunity for them to actually travel abroad and just plug into different schools and instruct for a while.

ROBBIE: Yeah. I'm sure there would be, but I didn't do it, no.

GEORGE: Okay. So, from teaching to owning the school, how did that journey evolve?

ROBBIE: Yeah. So, basically I was in Thailand to do a bit of training with my wife and my instructor had a … he gave me a call saying that he's had a few problems with his current manager and basically asked me if I want to take the reins and manage the school for him. So, I did. I got on the first plane back and started managing the school. We sat down and had a chat, worked out a five year plan. So, I would manage it for five years and then eventually buying it out which I now own. Yeah. So, when we took over, it was up to about 135 students when I managed it and we built it up to about 500 mark now. So, it's going well.

GEORGE: Got you. So, how do you feel that helped, as in having that five year plan and having a good structure and sort of knowing, alright, this is where you're going and I guess, maybe easier to make the purchase as well, sort of.

ROBBIE: That's it. I'm pretty fortunate that I had an instructor, Paul Zadro, as a good mentor. He already did all the hard work of going to the conferences overseas and learning the dos and don'ts. So, we basically sat down and it was like an apprenticeship. The five year plan was to learn the ropes, how to run the floor, run the business side and yeah, to help me eventually to buy it out. So, without that five year plan, I probably wouldn't have been able to do it. So, we've designed that now in our whole IMC organization for the rest of the generation to come through and do the same thing.

GEORGE: Okay, fantastic. So, how does that look then? So, you've got the sort of five year structure where you know how to groom and educate and train people to take over location. How does that look? Do you … are you looking for that within instructors who can take that role or are you looking at that as more sort of an expansion type …

ROBBIE: Yeah. Look, a bit of both. We've got our leadership program and those youngsters that want to come through to eventually open up their own school, we tell them, this is what you have to do. They've got to go through all the reins of being an instructor and then floor manager, program director and then a school manager and then and then the system is to buy out, if they want. We pay our managers fairly highly. So, if they’re happy to just keep their wage and that's fine. If they want to go bigger and more responsibility, we've got a plan to buy it out as well, for them to buy it out.

GEORGE: Got you. How many instructors have taken up that role, taken that path?

ROBBIE: Yeah. At the moment, myself has done it. We've got another instructor Mitchel who runs the IMC Wetherill park school. He's doing it at the moment. He's on the five year journey. We're about to open up another school in the West of Sydney, a young girl and she's going to start the five year journey as well.

GEORGE: On the five year mark, so, does that take 100% ownership or do you still sort of run under a type of franchise model or?

ROBBIE: Yeah. Look, the deal that I had was, I'll take over 100%. Okay? That was always the plan. My instructor always wanted that for me. I've been with him since I was a kid. So, he helped me out. I would want the same for my juniors that have been with me forever too. So, yeah, I was to buy it out 100%. It was still under the IMC organization, but our schools are separately owned.

GEORGE: Got you. Okay. So, when it comes to … so, you have … you mentioned how many locations again?

ROBBIE: We now have four.

GEORGE: Four locations, all Sydney based?

ROBBIE: All Sydney based, yep.

GEORGE: All Sydney based. Okay. So, when it comes to things like marketing and the bigger picture, how do you guys go about that? Is that a team effort or do you still operate individually?

ROBBIE: Yeah definitely. Look, we're big on our organization with team effort. Be individually owned but we all work together. So, every Monday we'll come in, do a team meeting and we all throw out all our different ideas, marketing strategies, statistics, everything, and I think it's … it works in our favor because we've got a lot more heads together, create different ideas and to grow our schools all together. We swap and change instructors sometimes too. I'll send one of my junior instructors over to a different school for a week so they can pick up some new stuff and vice versa.

GEORGE: Yeah, that's super powerful. So, you almost have this whole mastermind group within your own organization and everybody can come from different angles and different perspectives.

ROBBIE: That's right. 100%. Yep. 100%.

GEORGE: So, how do you then take those … let's say, if we had to walk through it, you guys have your Monday meeting, somebody comes up with an idea, then what sort of a process of rolling it out within the schools? Would you trial something first at one school or would you just roll it out and run with it and access the results after?

ROBBIE: Yep. Look, every Monday we'll come through statistics, that's usually the first thing on the agenda, where we've lost, where we've gained and then we'll do our marketing for the month, what we're doing and then we always close the meeting with an idea. If someone's got an idea, we'll get that person to try it in their school, see how it goes and if it's successful, then we'll try it in the other schools. If it fails, then the other schools don't do it obviously.

GEORGE: Got you. So, can you say a bit more just about sort of that structure of that Monday meeting? So, you mentioned you've got statistics, you talk marketing, etc, is there anything else that you cover within moving the organization forward?

ROBBIE: So, we always talk about what we're doing that month. So, whether it's a life skill project or something like that, gradings or if we're doing seminars, how to organize that. But pretty basic standard meeting. Nothing too drastic. But it works. Everyone turns up and everyone is on the same page. That's important. If one ball drops, then the rest will crumble in the end. So, it's important to keep it all together.

GEORGE: Got you. Okay. So, let's talk a bit more about … so, you're based in Liverpool right?

ROBBIE: Yes. Western Sydney. Yep.

GEORGE: Western Sydney, got you. I believe that now that we're talking about it, Paul Zadro, I did see him on the news taking on the political role. Is that right?

ROBBIE: Yeah. I think he's got to that stage in his life where he needs another challenge. He's a very successful man, so I think he wanted that next challenge. So, he worked for the local Liverpool seat. Unfortunately he didn't win, but I'm sure he had a good experience. He made a lot of contacts as well. It was actually good for us to watch it so it all works.

GEORGE: Got you. Actually, I did another podcast interview yesterday with Jim Morrison in Canada and he was mentioning their 15th birthday this year and the mayor’s coming along. I was like, hang on, you can't let that story just rest. How do you get the mayor to attend your birthday?

He said, no, okay, they actually train together, but it was interesting that he mentioned how much community evolvement that creates, because of having the … obviously having the mayor and the kids train there, but just getting really involved with projects that they do with kids with autism and sort of being on the forefront. Would that open different avenues for you within the martial arts school with having Paul in that position?

ROBBIE: Oh yeah, for sure. Look, it's just another way to get your name out there. You know what I mean? We had the New South Wales Sports Minister come to our school with this campaign and he came to see what we do in school, how do kids train. We did a couple of demonstrations for him and that goes all over social media as well. So, it's just another avenue of marketing and getting your brand out there again. So, yeah, it definitely helps.

GEORGE: Got you. Okay. So, let's talk about Liverpool. So, we were just chatting about it earlier just … IMC Australia number one rated martial arts center as rated by ISKA. So, what's a big focus for you? Is it just … I guess let's start from the beginning. What styles do you teach?

ROBBIE: Yeah. So, basically we're a multi-style school. We teach karate, kickboxing, MMA, jiu jitsu. Our main clientele is kid's karate. Probably makes up 70% of our school. MMA, jiu jitsu is just sort of an extra thing for people to come and kickboxing program is pretty big as well, but our basic main focus is kid's karate.

GEORGE: Got you. And then the competition component with that is?

ROBBIE: Yeah. ISKA a good organization that has multi-styles, so you can do from kickboxing to middle ninjas, five year old kids competing. So, we always start on the ISKA circuit. It's probably the biggest in Australia as well, covering all the different states and we've always had a strong tournament team going into these martial arts tournaments and most of the years, we always rate number one. That helps our students with retention as well. Sometimes kids get bored in their normal training, so they want an extra bit of push, so they join the tournament team and they'll compete.

GEORGE: Got you. Okay. So, is that tournaments and things happening locally? Do you give students the opportunity to travel abroad?

ROBBIE: Yeah, pretty much. There's always a tournament nearly every month. Some are in Sydney, some are in the country. There's tournaments in Queensland, Melbourne, even in Perth where you are. I think Graham MacDonald runs the ISKA in WA. Every couple of years we take a team over to the US Open, compete over there. Last year we actually went to Jamaica for ISKA World Championships there which was awesome. I love traveling and when martial arts and traveling come together, I'm very happy with my life. Any opportunity to go overseas and take a team, we're onto it.

GEORGE: So, how did that help the team? When they go to a place like Jamaica. I spent a lot of time in Jamaica when I was in my young travel days when I was working on cruise ships. Crazy place, but it was always good fun. Just beautiful beaches and friendly people. So, when a team goes and they travel to a place like that, how does … what's the effect on just the culture and the team when they get back?

ROBBIE: Yeah. Well, you know yourself. If you're traveling and you go overseas, it's a whole new experience, you know what I mean? They get to see people from different countries, different styles, different ways of life. So, any type of traveling is good for anybody. You always come back a different person and I think it brings a team together as well. You spend a couple of weeks with somebody overseas on those tours, and it brings back a closer relationship too. So, it always works well. There's never a negative experience on these trips.

GEORGE: Got you. So, where are you guys headed as a … and you personally, you're part of the IMC group, what's the path forward for you?

ROBBIE: Yeah. So, look, we've designed our leadership program to keep growing. All that school was of course anyone's goal is to also keep growing. My personal goal is to open up another school which we're in the frame of doing hopefully this year and then, yeah, just keep going. Do as much as possible and the sky's the limit.

GEORGE: You mentioned your wife trains as well. So, is it just you in the business? Is it family business or?

ROBBIE: Yeah. It's just me and my wife. She mainly does all the admin for the school which I'm pretty lucky because that's what she studied in university. So, it all planned out and worked together. She stays at home, I pretty much run the school. I've got my manager of the school, so I don't have to always be there. I try to have at least a couple of days off in the week to spend with my family, but it's all about the system. You've got to design those systems, then you've got to stick to them and make sure they work. As soon as one of those systems kicks out, it all falls apart. So, I think it's so important that you have those right and stick to it.

GEORGE: I'd love to ask you about that. So, you're mentioning, obviously you're preparing to go for a second school, so yes, your systems have to be in place and you mentioned, okay, you've got your wife involved, but you mentioned she doesn't really come to the dojos, just working at home.

ROBBIE: Behind the scenes, yep. She's not behind the scenes.

GEORGE: You've got family, you've got kids, right?

ROBBIE: Yeah, I've got two little kids, five and two. My son who's five, he trains and he's one of those karate kids that pretty much lives at the school and he loves it. So, I'm very grateful for.

GEORGE: So, how do you manage this and moving forward? So, you mentioned you're really clear about your systems and then your family time. So, how do you create that balance and especially knowing that you've got the new location coming as well?

ROBBIE: Yeah. Well, it all comes down to the right person, right? If you can open up another school, you wouldn't do it unless you had someone that you believe in that could do it. So, that's where our leadership program comes into place. So, we have a person now that's ready to step up, she's pretty much been managing my school for the last couple of years. I sort of stood back a bit to see how she runs it all by herself and she's proven that she can do it easily. So, we sat her down and asked her if she wants to move forward and open up another school and run that one and she agreed. So, she's in the process now of training somebody to replace her which is awesome. All about the systems.

GEORGE: So, let's say you're starting the systems, what are the core systems that you have to have in place before you feel that you're ready to open that extra location?

ROBBIE: I think, well, my instructor always told me as a test, if you go on holidays for a month and your school grows by that person that you've left in charge, then they're capable of running the school on their own. If it fails and you lose students while you're away, then maybe that person isn't. So, that's one little test we do. We make sure everyone's trained up.

Okay. So, we've got our leadership program like I said and we have different levels in that leadership program and if someone isn't up to standard in a certain area, we make sure that they need more training. We do our staff training once every couple of months, a big staff training or we make sure everyone's up to speed because there's always new casuals and new leadership members. We just make sure our standard's high and up to date.

GEORGE: And sort of the core system? Like the system of systems that the … the one thing that kind of steers everything and puts everything in place, what would you say that is?

ROBBIE: Yeah. Look, it's pretty straight forward like every other school. You know what I mean? There's so much information out there now. You can go on Facebook and see a whole lot of stuff even for free. It's funny because, like I go to the ISKA tournaments and I speak to so many school owners that are trying to do martial arts full time and I tell them all the different stuff, they like to go to an EFC conference for example.

I tell them they should go if they want to grow. And then they don't do it. You know what I mean? It's simple stuff that you can follow and they just don't do it and then they wonder why they don't grow. You know what I mean? So, yeah, just all the basic normal stuff that's out there. Follow the system that everyone has created. There's plenty of information out there.

GEORGE: Okay, cool. So, Robbie, you're well established, you guys have got … you tick all the boxes, you've got the systems, you've done your ten thousand hours and beyond in business. So, if you had to break it down, what advice would you give to someone going from zero to a hundred, a hundred to two hundred, two hundred to three hundred students, etc?

ROBBIE: Yeah. Look, first of all, if I was … first thing I'd do is find the right location. All our schools and even our future schools, we open up on a main road. So, that's half of our marketing already done for us. You can try to beat the rent and get something a little bit cheaper in the back alleys, but you're going to pay more in marketing. So, all our schools must be on a main road. So, that's one thing I'd be looking at. The next thing is, is I'll be trying to find the first person that walks into my dojo with leadership skills and I'd be starting to train that person to help and eventually put them on staff. That would be my first things.

GEORGE: So, location, super important, and then really identifying that leader from the get go. Anything else from that point?

ROBBIE: From there, if I started to grow my school, the next thing I would a hundred percent put in would be a leadership program, whether it's kids or teenagers, because that's going to be your core of your school of who can run your school for you while you can concentrate on other things to grow. So, I'll be a hundred per cent be all for leadership programs straight away.

GEORGE: That's gold right there. Good location, half your marketing's done, find your right leader and start focusing on the team building.

ROBBIE: Straight away. Yep.

GEORGE: Anything else you would add to that?

ROBBIE: From there, the school would grow because you would've trained your staff to how you want it, to follow the systems, I'll probably sign up with, if I didn't have an organization like I do, I'd probably sign up with … I mean, there's plenty of companies out there that help you, I'd kind of like to stick with the Aussie groups. I'd be signing up for that straight away as well because that's going to help you grow your school. These guys have got it all in place for you.

That's what I keep saying to these guys that I was talking about. It's already done for them. They've just got to sign up and follow it. They don't do that. That's why they don't grow. So, if you're serious about going to school, find a good mentor that's done it before and follow the system. It's not rocket science.

GEORGE: Do the work, right? Okay, awesome. So, one or two more questions. You mentioned your location in Liverpool, right? So, you're on a main road. It's also probably, on a wild guess, reckon that Liverpool has the most martial arts schools per square meter in the whole of Australia. So, what's your take on that, on the competition?

ROBBIE: It's true, there's so many martial arts schools right where I am in … I remember telling my instructor about it when he offered me the job. I said, oh, but there's so many schools around here, how are we going to compete? He pretty much said if you do the things that I tell you to do, you'll be the biggest and you won't worry about them. That's what we did and now we are the biggest. I've got a school that's 200 meters down the road from me and he's still successful. He's got I think about 400 students and I've got 500 students. It doesn't matter.

Would I be bigger? Probably. I probably wouldn't be able to fit everyone in if he wasn't there, but it doesn't affect this really any way. As long as you keep your school professional and provide a good service, people always come. Know what I mean? So, it hasn't bothered us, no.

GEORGE: Thanks for being … I'm going to ask one question and I've been contemplating whether I should ask this question, but I think it's worth talking about it, because it's a … I've got my take on this word and question and a lot of people do. I'm going to keep my appointment back, my appointment, my opinion for now and I'm going to ask this question on a few podcasts and see how it goes. So, here it is. McDojo. The word McDojo. What does that mean to you?

ROBBIE: What is a McDojo? What even is a McDojo? I've heard the concept before. People say if you're big and you're charging quite high fees that you're a McDojo, I reckon it's all crap to be honest. Okay? Because, I mean our standard hasn't dropped and I challenge anyone who hasn't got a big score or has a smaller score and think that their standard is higher, then bring that student in, and see if they can keep some of our students. I'll bet you they can't.

So, just because we're large and we charge a higher fee, doesn't mean our standards drop. If anything, I think our standards rise because if we don't provide a good service and keep a higher standard, then they'll leave and they can go down to the road to the $10 a week school, that's fine. So, I think it's a load of crap to be honest.

GEORGE: Love it. Awesome. Robbie, it's been great having you on. Where can people go to connect with you or find more about you?

ROBBIE: Yeah, you can see our website, www.prestonskarate.com.au or you can add me on Facebook at Robbie Castellano. You should find me on friends of all the high profile martial arts in the country. So, yeah, add me, I'll be happy to help you if you have any questions.

GEORGE: Fantastic. Thanks a lot Robbie.

ROBBIE: Thanks George, really appreciate it mate. You're a legend and it's awesome what you're doing, I love it.

Awesome. Thanks for listening. If you want to connect with other top, 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. 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 Community and an easy way to access it is if you just go to the domain name martialartsmedia.group. So martialartsmedia.group. G-r-o-u-p. There's not dot or anything. Martialartsmedia.group. Then we'll 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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75 – Growing Your School With Video & Teaching Martial Arts For Special Needs (From A Wheelchair)

Jim Morrison talks about contributing to the community, creating content & teaching martial arts to kids with autism and special needs.

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IN THIS EPISODE, YOU WILL LEARN:

  • The surprising benefits of giving back to your community
  • How Jim Morrison teaches Taekwondo in a wheelchair to students with special needs
  • The importance of being genuine about your martial arts business
  • How to communicate effectively to your target ‘avatar’
  • Useful techniques in creating awesome martial arts videos
  • And more

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

 

TRANSCRIPTION

You know, just like martial arts, we all start as white belts, right. Every single one of us, the greatest martial artists to ever walk the Earth, started on their first day and they sucked. And you know, we have to really embrace the suck, right, that's what it is. We know how hard martial arts are, right, if you can't embrace the suck, then you're never going anywhere from there.

GEORGE: Good day, this is George Fourie, and welcome to another Martial Arts Media Business Podcast episode. So today I'm speaking with Jim Morrison, all the way from Barrie, Ontario. How are you doing, Jim?

JIM: Awesome, how are you?

GEORGE: Very good, very good. Great to speak with you. This is the first time we've just been chatting before the show, and Jim's been going for about 15 years in his martial arts school, Champs Academy. And yeah, we're just going to have a conversation and add some value for you as the school owner. So let's jump in.

JIM: Awesome.

GEORGE: First up, Jim, just to … just give us a couple of minutes, who you are, what type of styles you teach, all the rest.

JIM: Awesome. We're a martial arts academy that primarily focuses on Taekwondo and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. We've had our studio in place here in Barrie for about 15 years. Before that I was in the martial arts industry teaching for my instructor for many, many years. I think since I was 17, I was teaching. And then I started martial arts when I was about eight years old, so it's a long time ago.

And yeah, we've grown and grown. We started as a small school out of a community center that expanded to a small unit and then that unit grew, and now we're in a 10000 square foot space, yeah, and we're looking to open another two schools in the next two years, so yeah. We're programmed for growth.

GEORGE: Awesome, so 15 years, break that down a bit. So you got started with the same business that you've got now, 15 years ago?

JIM: Yes. So we've been, Champs Academy has been in business for 15 years, this is our 15 year anniversary, so we're actually going to have a big anniversary party this year, mayor's coming and everything so it should be really fun. But we started 15 years ago, it was a small school, we were just teaching out of a community center.

I always had aspirations to make this a full time career, at the time I was working construction during the day, and teaching at night. But you know it was always a big thing for me to be able to make the plunge, and make myself a career martial artist.

And it was just, I'm a growth minded person, and over the years the industry's changed a lot, but I've been able to try and stay on top of all the growth and all the changes over the years. And yeah, I think we've done a good job of staying on top of the pulse of our community, and it's helped us kind of grow.

GEORGE: Hang on, you're not going to let that off so quickly. You've got your 15th birthday party, but the mayor is coming. How did you do that?

JIM: So actually, the mayor is, his family's training with us now, too, but before that we'd also made contact because what we do in our community, we do a lot of outreach stuff in our community. I think that's really important, because if you want to be the go-to location in your area, you need to make sure that you're present in everything you can possibly be in your community.

So we do a lot of work in the schools, we offer free bully prevention courses that we go into schools and teach. We go in and do self defense courses, stranger danger courses, things like that. We do Cub Scout groups, anything like that we do big group areas.

We also work with a lot of special needs in our community. So the word of our club gets out in so many different avenues, even outside our own marketing. We're so well known in the community by now that when I approach the mayor, the mayor's office knows who we are, so it's easier for us to get our foot in the door and put our name on his schedule, right?

So that's something we've always tried to work at is that easy way to start our marketing, to start to open up to the community, and give back, and it's something that gives you back in return. So it's helped us a lot.

GEORGE: That's fantastic. So you got … so you used that a lot as in a … I mean you probably can't use it as in the front of your marketing that you're taking the mayor along, can you?

JIM: Of course, you have to be respectful of the fact that he's going to fit in a job, and you're not the only thing he's dealing with every day. But I think whether it's the mayor, or we've got in contact with our local politicians in many different levels, and the big thing we try to do is be respectful of them, but we also encourage them to be part of what we do.

Even on small ways, whether it's sometimes we teach an autism group. And for example, autism in Ontario right now is, there's an issue with funding and things like that. So there's an opportunity there for us to a part of that, a voice in that community, because we work with a lot of autism groups, and that means we're on the page of the news as well.

So it helps both ways, obviously we're genuine about getting back to our community and helping these different groups, but at the same time, I'd be lying if I say it didn't help us in some way, because it does give us a voice outside of our club.

GEORGE: Yeah, it's such an underrated marketing strategy to just actually care and give, and if you do that, you can actually be surprised what comes your way. Instead of just thinking about, how do we get? How do you give, and things start to shape up for you.

JIM: Yeah, I think the ethics of what we teach, we always know that giving back is a part of that. We've all been taught that since day one in martial arts, but somewhere along the way when we start a business, we kind of want to put those ethics on a shelf or those ideas on a shelf. And I think if we explore them a little more, I think really there's a lot of benefit for our own club from giving back to our community, and doing anything we can, because it spreads the word of what we do.

And if that's the message of what we do, well, people connect with that. That's a passion that people connect with. And in this day and age, when people are inundated with marketing, and advertising, and flyers and media and commercials on TV, they have choices that they never had before, and when they hear somebody who's genuine and passionate about what they teach, and they see that they're somebody that cares about their community, I think that speaks volumes for what the product we sell is, and that's helping people get that message, too, right.

So I think we want to always expand in that general direction. It keeps in touch with my family's ethics, but as well as what I teach in the martial arts club.

GEORGE: Yeah, for sure. I'd like to talk a little more on that. I mean I work with a group of martial arts school owners called Partners, and a bit of our focus with marketing is … a lot of what you're saying is, how do you become an authority in your space? How do you stand out? And a lot about standing out is not by leading with the marketing of the offer, and how do you join, and how do you get a member in?

But rather, how do you give? How do you go that layer up, and how do you create content that provides value that connects with people that maybe they're a good prospect for martial arts, but they don't know it yet, or they have their problems that you can solve, but they don't know it yet.

Like you speak about autism, and I think most parents that have kids that have autism aren't thinking that martial art is the solution. So there's so much in your marketing that you can do, that is not about the offer, but it's about speaking to people on a higher level. So if you don't mind sharing, how do you go about speaking to groups that are potential prospects for your school, and how do you work within the community to get them through the doors?

JIM: Yeah, well that's a great question, because it's not an easy thing, because a lot of times it's even hard to find these specialty groups, even if you have the best of intentions. I think if we all started, the first time I ever started teaching any specialty groups is I was teaching Taekwondo, and I was approached by a parent that I was teaching the one son Taekwondo, and the other son was in a wheelchair. And she said something along the lines of, and I'm paraphrasing, “It's too bad there's nothing he can do like this, because it's helped my other son so much.”

 

And I said, “Well, if I had a group of kids like this, I'd be happy to do that,” and she said, “Well watch what you say, because I'm going to help you do that.” And the next thing I know, I'm in a rented wheelchair, teaching Taekwondo classes from a wheelchair, I don't actually have to use a wheelchair, thank god, but I'm teaching classes from a wheelchair to a group full of kids in wheelchairs. And it was such a great experience for me that I wanted to make sure that we continued to spread that message.

So then, when I had students that had autism, or I had a student that was in a wheelchair or something like that, we would highlight them. And what I mean by that is, any chance we got, not an advertisement, just to put something in the local newspaper, put on our website, put on our Facebook page, we're so proud of this student, and how far they've come. They are a leader in our school, and we're so proud of them, and to see how far they've come in their training.

And what we found was, a lot of people responded to that because just seeing that, hey, you know what, this is not something that is elitist just to the athletic kid from school. This is not just a … you know, martial arts, we have a horrible reputation. We have the worst … outside of our clubs, the marketing is horrendous. Most people think we, as people, are thugs, and we're tough guys, and we're all those other things, when the reality is we're almost the exact opposite of those things. Because the ethics of what we grew up with taught us to be so much more than that.

So I think it's up to us to break that wall down, and show people that everybody can do it. And that was kind of where we went with it, and right now we have three or four different special needs groups that we teach, specialty classes only for each of them, on top of the kids that we teach in our regular program that are special needs as well. It's become a niche for us, not intentionally, just because we're trying to reach out to the community that we serve.

GEORGE: That's fantastic. So do you actually then teach in a wheelchair?

JIM: Yes. I actually sit in a wheelchair, and like I say, I don't use it, and if you want to be humbled … If you ever want to feel humble, try and teach kids that actually sit in a wheelchair all day how to do things from a wheelchair. And muscles in your arms that you're not aware of, and your shoulders, will start to hurt in a way that you have not had any experience with, because they're so much stronger than we are at using their arms in different ways that we haven't had to use them in. So it's actually very humbling experience, but it's also very … I don't know, I guess it's something that I love doing. Something passionate for me.

GEORGE: That's fantastic. So tell me a bit more about that. So how do you then adapt, adjust your whole class structure, and like, what kind of strains does it put on you, and how do you prepare for that? How do you go about teaching a class from a wheelchair?

JIM: Well, whether it's from a wheelchair or any other special needs group, the first thing we always do is we have a system that our instructors use, and it's basically, it's our own self-assessment more than it is theirs. And what we look at is, we say, okay, what is the highest functioning action we can expect from this group, and it's usually higher than they actually think they're capable of.

So what do we think that is, and we have to draw a picture of what that specifically looks like for whatever group we're looking at. And then we look at the lowest functioning factor, and we say, okay, we have to meet them here, but we want to get them there. So we have to start to look at the physicality, very often the communication is a big factor, because like I say, we have a Down's Syndrome group as well, you know, they're not going to pick up on the same gestures and movements that you and I would in a class. Even the specifics of how you're holding your hand, things can be different depending on the physicality and the mental capabilities of the group that you're teaching.

 

And that's not to diminish where they're going to be going; it's just to say where the starting point is. So we always have a little chart, we do that, and that way any of the instructors that are, if another instructor's going to teach that, they can look at that chart and decide where on that chart they're going to focus that day. And of course, it can vary day to day, too, 'cause as any instructor knows, teaching any group of kids, there's days they come in ready to learn, and then there are days they come in, and I don't know who gave sugar to all these kids before they walked in here, but they washed it down with coffee. So on those days you going to do what you going to do, right?

GEORGE: Yeah. Definitely. Okay, so now … And just to clarify, so this is teaching Taekwondo classes, or Jujitsu, from the wheelchair? Or both?

JIM: The wheelchair classes are all done for Taekwondo specifically, it just lends itself a little easier to the techniques we teach. We see that the kids get a quicker grasp of the movement, and therefore they're encouraged. Of course, most physical situations that a kid is facing if they're in a wheelchair, they're very aware that they're working from a deficit of some kind, so one of the first things we have to do for all these kids, and this is the same for any kid, is build their confidence.

So they need to see some progress. Just like any kid would, right, so we just have to look at it from that same standpoint we would be teaching any kid off the street, and just say, hey, we need to build their confidence, so they know they can do this journey.

And then from there you can lead them down the journey you want, but if they don't believe in it, they're going to give up pretty quickly, regardless of whether they're in a wheelchair or special needs, or they're fine, and they just need to get started in martial arts, right? So we need to build that confidence before we step anywhere.

JIM: Sorry, that's why we find some of the Taekwondo techniques lend themselves a little easier to that.

GEORGE: Gotcha. And that was actually my next question, and I think you've probably answered it, with how does the mind-set differ? The mind-set of someone that has the special needs versus a normal child, and do you have to change the process of how you get them to instil that confidence in themselves?

JIM: Very often, yes. Because like I say, they face more challenges. I mean that's … things that we don't even think about, you know. When you pull up to a building, you and I don't have to figure out what part of the curb we have to get to, to get in a building. Something that simple, and those kind of things weigh on a person, you know, just think about all the things that weigh on us when we hit traffic, and it's slow, or things like that. Well you know, they're facing that plus when they get to the plaza they're going to, they can get in the door because they don't have a dip in the curb big enough for the wheelchair.

So you have to take into consideration what you're facing, so I think a lot of times, for us that's the biggest piece. For kids that are facing any more challenges than the average kid, whatever it is, like I say, start with that confidence piece and build from there, because the more success they could feel, there's nothing like seeing a kid break a board, right, but if you see a kid break a board who didn't think he could possibly break a board, there's something that changes inside you as a person when you see that, right, you get to be a part of something special.

And that's something, I think, that they experience, but also you as an instructor experience. So there is a mind-set we have to get past, and I can't attitude that we have to get past, because they really can't do a lot of the things that everybody else takes for granted. So we've going to get past that and give them some confidence, and give them some successes.

GEORGE: Yeah. I mean think about that next time you're stuck in traffic, you know? How tough life is.

JIM: Yeah. You know, we think about that with all our students. We try to … One of the things, getting back to the point we were saying is teaching from a passionate place, I think we try and talk to our instructors, and our staff and we say, look, you can't fake this thing we do. We don't have the kind of job we can call in, whether we're teaching anybody, an adult, a kid, we don't know what these people face in their daily life, and we could be the best thing that happened to them today. So we can't bring half an effort. We have to bring the best effort, and I think if we do that, it translates.

And like I say, in this day and age, people have choices they never had before. I started in the 80s, and my parents put me in the martial arts club that was closest to my house. That was it. That was their precursor for hiring a martial arts instructor for me. And it worked out great, I was very happy with it, but it could have easily worked out horribly, 'cause now that I know the industry a little bit better I know there's good and bad in everything. And our industry's no different, right?

GEORGE: That's it. So Jim, what's been the biggest shift for you over the last 15 years, from where you started up to now?

JIM: Well I think the biggest thing is to go to the idea of marketing. I think marketing, when we first started, first of all, like I say, they didn't have … people didn't have as many choices. There was one or two martial arts clubs in town, and even if the martial arts were something that the parent couldn't pronounce, if it was the closest thing to what they thought it was going to be, they just signed the kids up.

Nowadays, with the internet, it's a great thing but it's a curse, and it's a great thing because people have more choice, they have more variety, they can test drive things before they do it, they can go and look inside your facility before they get there. But it's a hard thing, because if you don't quite know how to communicate that to people, I think that you're missing out on clientele that they should be in your facility, they should be training with you.

And I think that's probably the biggest change in marketing, is getting a hand on what happens on the internet, whether it's your website, or social media, or specifically Google Analytics, and all the details. Getting content out there so people can taste test what you're doing, and they have an awareness of what you do. And the more we can do those things; those things I think are the big change over the last 15 years.

It used to be me and my students with flyers going door to door, nowadays, if I get a flyer I do what everybody else does, and I put it right in the recycling bin, and that's about the end of that. But we get so many clicks per video we've put out, and so much interest off Facebook, and our website, Instagram … That's the wave of the future. If you can't … You really have to get professionals on your side as far as what kind of web presence you're having, and that'll make a huge difference.

GEORGE: Definitely so. So do you have a … I guess when I hear the things that you have going on, you've got this big pool of ideas just sitting there to create content from. Do you have a specific strategy that you follow? To create content for your school?

JIM: Yes, well first of all we look at … The biggest thing is, we communicate what we do. So again, it's about being honest. Stick to the virtues that we teach every day. If we want to be honest about what we do, and what we don't do, I don't create MMA fighters. There are great clubs for that and I think it's fantastic, I fought MMA for a few years, but I don't want my kids to do it, so I don't teach it in my school, 'cause my kids are a very big part of my school now.

So I want to communicate exactly what we teach, so what we teach I want to show people the quality of what I teach, I want to give them a taste of what the class looks like, or feels like. I want them to see whatever my strengths are, I want to make sure I magnify those, and I want to make sure that I'm reaching the people that are looking for me. So again, that's about knowing you’re … I don't know if you guys use the same term, but we call it an avatar, which is your ideal customer.

So we always keep the ideal customer in mind and try and keep our content specific to reaching them as well. So it's two sided, it's making sure we're honest about what we're putting out there, but we're also making sure that we're targeting our avatar, so we're not wasting energy and money pretending we're something we're not.

GEORGE: Gotcha. Now I know that for a lot of schools, I know it's a bit of a … people get stuck when they want to create video, and I think even though martial arts school owners and instructors are super confident and know how to run and teach a class, there's something that just, there's this barrier that gets stuck when it comes to creating video and getting confident with that process. What was it like for you getting started with video, and how did you venture through any obstacles to get it in motion?

JIM: Yeah, well that's a great question 'cause I really sucked at it at first, so that's a great question. When we first started doing content and things like that, I really didn't know what to videotape, and I would just take my phone and videotape part of a class, and post it. And do the kind of things like that.

And it got mixed reviews, sometimes I'd get people saying, “Oh, that's a great thing,” or sometimes I'd videotape a class, and didn't realize that it looked a little hectic, 'cause I was taking a video of the part where they were having some free time. And so somebody else, they're like, “Wow, that doesn't look formatted or structured at all,” and now they get a bad taste of what we do.

So I didn't really know what to do. So I have to give credit where credit's due, my son, I have a … So I have a big family, I'm the proud dad of seven little kids, so.

GEORGE: Awesome.

JIM: I have seven kids, yeah, and my oldest son is 19, and he's now running our head office, and he's of course a little more in touch with technology than I am at 44. So he started getting really involved in what we videotape, and he's really good at researching what works out there. He started following some industry leaders, which I always recommend. Look for people that you know, whether you teach Jiu Jitsu, or you teach Taekwondo, or whatever you teach. Look for people anywhere in the world that are, who's got the most views, and who's popular for other people to watch.

Go and watch your heroes, the people you see who win tournaments and things like that, why are they getting views? You know and sometimes, we as martial artists want to give it the quick answer, “Well that's easy for that guy, he's Chuck Norris's student,” or something silly like that. Or, “That's easy for that guy, he's a world famous Jiu Jitsu fighter, it's Kit Dale,” or somebody like that. But it's not just the big name, right, it's making sure what people are really watching Kit Dale's site for is going to be those great Jujitsu tutorials, or those little pieces where they get a taste of something they want to learn.

So if you can mimic what they greats do, you don't have to know how to do the great content, you're just going to find your own niche inside that. And then I think, really, like I said to go back to, is being honest about what you offer. If you're not a Jiu Jitsu program, you know, don't model yourself after one, model yourself after what you really are targeting. And then you can specify to your avatar a lot easier.

GEORGE: Gotcha. And I'll probably add to that, because that also, and what I see is creating an obstacle. Because sometimes you look at your peers, and you look at the guys that you aspire to, but they're already at such a high level, and now you're entering this video realm and your expectations are to be exactly like they already are. And I think that puts a bit of a big roadblock in, because you want to get started, and just be perfect at it, but you've going to run the reps, right?

JIM: You know, just like martial arts, we all start as white belts, right. Every single one of us, the greatest martial artists to ever walk the Earth, started on their first day and they sucked. And you know, we have to really embrace the suck, right, that's what it is. We know how hard martial arts are, right. If you can't embrace the suck, then you're never going anywhere from there. If you could ever take a video of what it looked like your first day of martial arts, how proud would you be looking at that based on your current knowledge of martial arts? Well, you'd be almost embarrassed instantly, right?

Well it's the same thing with your first video. It's going to suck, but that's where you start. That's your starting point, and if you're not willing to take those steps and make those efforts, and try something new, try this, because if you haven't done social media marketing, and you haven't done it well, then you're not going to be able to go anywhere. But in that same breath, there is market leaders that can direct people, there are professionals out there that are really great, making sure you have a good website. Go to people, they're specific to our market in martial arts, and they design great websites that already attract great Google traffic.

There are people that already know how to use Facebook, and they can give you guys, anybody tips out there on how to find those little niches that they can target. You know, there's a lot of different resources out there, but just like martial arts, if you're not willing to go out and try these things, if you're not willing to go out and learn from somebody that's maybe a little further ahead than you, then you're going to stay a white belt, right, just like you would in a martial art.

GEORGE: Yeah, that's so true. I love that saying, and I heard that the first time in High Performance Habits, from Brennan Bechard. Embrace the suck.

JIM: Yeah, I read the same book. That's another thing I think is very important too, is martial artists, we're designed for growth. We have to realize, as martial artists, you and I, we should be constantly reading and listening to podcasts, and if you're not growing, you're dying. We have to really start to look for more things out there that can inspire and encourage us to grow, and become better at what we do. ‘Cause that's what we're doing here, that's what we're selling, so it's a lie if you're not doing it yourself.

You don't want to stand up there and tell everybody, “Growth is important, prove yourself, do these things,” and then you're going home to watch the same TV program and fall asleep in bed doing the same thing you did for the last five days.

I try and do something each day, just to grow, I don't think it's too hard, I think you can find some podcasts, or watch some videos online, or whatever you need to do to feel like you're making steps forward. And that kind of thing too can give you a little bit of confidence to take another step too, 'cause you can find people that are doing those things out there that you want to follow.

GEORGE: I love that, and I'll just add, one thing I'm noticing about you is, you're just doing what … you're just being true to yourself. And it's a big component of the things that we teach in our Partners program, we always talk about how do you create content? Well, just do what you do. If you have yourself in check, and you are growing, and you are being true to yourself, and you've got integrity, and you've got all these attributes that martial arts teaches, talks about, and you are living that, then just live it. Just live it, be it, and let that become your marketing. Let that become the way you spread your message.

JIM: Yeah, and then it just comes down to communication. And then it's just finding the avenues for communicating what you do. And then being honest with that, and putting it out there, right, like we just … I just spend the entire afternoon with my son, we were videoing different content for social media, we should have enough now for the next six months off of today's. Tiring day.

GEORGE: Awesome.

JIM: But yeah, great stuff, and but the thing was, I make a point like, because we don't teach high end MMA, for example. I'm using that as an example, but if you do, I mean, great, that's what you should focus on, and you should make sure you're communicating that. So there's no judgment on it, I just say that that's not what I sell. So because I don't sell that, I try to make sure each thing that I put out there is directly representative of what you would see when you walked into my club. So that means that when you walk into my club, you're already qualified to yourself as a customer.

So by the time I'm reaching these fingers out into the community to bring in people into our club, people that walk through my door, people that call me, people that email me, people that send us Facebook messages, which happens all the time, daily, all that stuff is already qualified as genuine leads because they know what we do. I've already given them a sample of what I do, so, and it's easy to find if you search me up, you'll find me everywhere. Instagram, Facebook, all over YouTube, everything, and that's purposeful. Because it's not, I'm not bragging, it's not something that I'm better than the next person, it's a window.

It's not about how good I am, it's a window into my club. So when you see that window, you can look in, and if it's not for you, you can decide that too, but if it is, you've already qualified yourself as somebody that would be interested in what we do. So we're not selling cars here, we're selling martial arts. If somebody walks through the door, if they make the effort to do that part, and we've done the advertising right, you should have 80 to 90% sign up rate minimum.

I mean that's a given, because if you've done a great job of your marketing, they're coming in for that, what you're selling. So they're already almost buying. They've got their wallet in their hand, they want to buy your product, so it should be an easy conversion at that point.

GEORGE: Just don't stand in their way.

JIM: Yeah. And make sure you know when to shut up, and you know when to talk, and you know when to answer questions, and you know when to listen, right?

GEORGE: That's it. Love it. Hey, so Jim it's been great speaking to you, and it sounds like we could speak another couple of hours, but we might do that on another one. What I do want to ask you though is, what would you do different? Going back over the years, what you've done, what's the one thing that you would tweak or look at differently in a way, moving forward, if you had to start all over?

JIM: I think what was really intimidating for me was a lot of the stepping my marketing to different angles, doing things that I hadn't done before. Because just like you're saying, I was intimidated at first, and when I first stepped into it I knew I sucked. I could watch other people do a much better job, and I didn't really understand that. I think I would just be a little gutsier with the going for that stuff, especially social media stuff. It's almost free. It's so cheap compared to any other marketing.

So I think what I would do if I could go back is spend more focus on those kind of things, and just do that, get that message out there more. I think I was a little bit too silent for too long with that, and now that we've got that ball rolling, we see the results of it, and it's great.

GEORGE: Love it, yeah, it's just something you've going to nurture and be patient with, and I guess just stay clear of all the distractions. I mean there's marketers pulling you in so many directions, and so many ideas, but it always comes down to the … I always, and I can't recall who mentioned this to me, but one of my coaches mentioned to me, always look at what people do, versus what they say.

JIM: Yes.

GEORGE: Which, people might be telling you to do this, but they're doing something completely different.

JIM: Yes.

GEORGE: And I think it's just important to focus, do the hard work. The hard work is creating the content, fine tuning your message, and looking after yourself. And if you can get that through, and be patient with it, you're going to build a following and it's going to start … that's where you get the whole snowball running down the mountain, and it just catches momentum. And you've got leads coming in from everywhere, and after a while you can't track where, it's just happening.

JIM: Yes. And I think that's the trick. Just get started, just go for it, just start putting your word out there. And like I say, be genuine with what you're putting out there, watch people that you trust, and watch what they're doing. And again, like you say, don't listen to what they say, watch what they do. Go follow them. Go follow them on Instagram, go follow them on Facebook, and you know what, the thing is that this day and age you can find all that information so easily, so you just have to be willing to take that next step and go for it, and follow the right people, and even make mistakes along the way. Be a white belt, embrace the suck, do your thing and just go with it, right?

GEORGE: Love it. Jim, been awesome speaking to you. If anybody wants to know more about you, and what you do, where can they go to find out?

JIM: Anybody can contact me anytime, I love helping people in my community, I love helping people in the martial arts community, so my email is direct from our website, so www.champsacademy.ca, or info@champsacademy.ca is our email. You can email me through there, I'm on Facebook as well, you can look for, I'm Jim Morrison, I know everybody's going to remember that, and I'm on Facebook, I'm on Instagram, I'm everywhere, so look for me there, and I can even put you in contact with my son, who handles a lot of this stuff as well, and he'd be happy to help. That's part of our mission.

GEORGE: Awesome. Fantastic, Jim, look forward to speaking to you again in the future.

JIM: Yeah, anytime.

GEORGE: Awesome, cheers.

JIM: Cheers.

Awesome. Thanks for listening. If you want to connect with other top, 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. 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 Community and an easy way to access it is if you just go to the domain name martialartsmedia.group. So martialartsmedia.group. G-r-o-u-p. There's not dot or anything. Martialartsmedia.group. Then we'll 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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13 – A World Class Australian Jiu Jitsu Jetsetter’s Perspective On The Perfect Martial Arts Gym

She travels the globe, dominates tournaments and is the driving force behind Australian Girls in Gi. Here's BJJ Black Belt Jess Fraser's story.

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IN THIS EPISODE YOU WILL LEARN:

  • The necessity of female martial artists sticking together to overcome challenges
  • Cross training in other martial arts gyms: great for community or a retention killer?
  • How male martial artists can improve their teaching skills with the ladies
  • What injuries can teach you about training martial arts
  • What the meaning of a true martial arts family is
  • The one core skill set martial arts instructors need to drive transformation
  • And more

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

TRANSCRIPTION

You wouldn't believe: I walked in with this sling on and these guys, they remember you and they remember your whole name and they remember everything about you and they run across the room to hug you. It’s just the most incredible thing.

Hello, this is George Fourie from martialartsmedia.com and welcome to the Martial Arts Media podcast, episode number, lucky  13. Today I have a different guest with me – different in the sense of, not a martial arts business owner, although she has a leading organization within the martial arts industry and she's also a martial arts expert, Jess Fraser. And once again, the attempt was to go one angel and the conversation really evolved into some deep elements and there's some real gold there for you as a martial arts business owner.

The reason why I want to do interview Jess is because she's quite the jet-setter. She travels all over the world, I've been following her on social media for a while and if she's not in New York, she is in Canada, she's around America, Las Vegas. She is in Bali, she's in Melbourne – so she's truly living the martial arts lifestyle of just being passionate about training and learning, and also, have a great organization, Australian girls in GI, which we're going to talk more about. 

So, first up, some news and what's been happening. You might have seen posts around, depending on when you're listening to this of course, about a survey that we've been running at martialartsmedia.com/survey and it's all about discovering what it is that you as a martial arts business owner need or struggling with, your pain points and what the obstacles are. Then we can find out where things are going wrong, what do you need help with: then we can interview better guests and of course, we can deliver better content and better solutions and the result of that is putting together a web class that is going to be invaluable by the way it’s going now.

And I'm not saying that to toot my own horn here: it’s shaping up to be a very valuable piece of information that I'm going to give away for free that most people would be charging a lot of money for. That's just from comparing to what the information that is floating around the internet at the moment and what people have been told to do with marketing their martial arts school, I can tell you that it could be a good game changer for you. And that's not me to hype up the training, it's truly a decade worth of experience and other people's experience that has gone into this.

So, I'm really looking forward to releasing that. Depending on when you're listening to this, we'll keep this survey going, because no matter when you're listening to this, we'll keep it running so that we can keep adjusting our approach and keep interviewing more guests and keep optimizing the delivery of our content, which is what you would probably have seen in the solo type shows coming up and the solo videos: it’s all based on the feedback that I'm getting through this survey. So thank you for that if you have completed it.

If you haven't, it’s at martialartsmedia.com/survey, it will take you about two minutes – much appreciated if you can do that for us. If you're enjoying this show and you would like to leave us a review, we would much appreciate it, it truly helps us in the rankings. You can go to martialartsmedia.com/itunes, I put the link there, so martialartsmedia.com/itunes and that will lead you to iTunes, just leave us a review. A five-star review would be magic, but an honest review would be appreciated. All right, so that's it from me, please welcome to the show Jess Fraser.

Good day everyone. Today I have with me a different guest. If you've been following the podcast for a while, we've been talking a bit to martial arts business owners, martial arts school owners and getting their perspective on how they run their business, how they do their marketing and all the rest. So today I wanted to turn the table and I wanted to bring in an expert martial artist, but not just anyone: someone who travels the globe, truly lives the martial arts lifestyle. I don't think she's ever in Australia – well, I did catch her in Australia now and I want to welcome you to the show, Jess Fraser – how are you doing today Jess?

JESS: Great George, thanks for having me.

GEORGE: All right, cool. So a bit of an intro, but first and foremost, from your side, who's Jess Fraser?

JESS: That's a big question, isn't it? I guess for the purposes of today, the easiest answer is: I am a black belt, I have recently received my black belt from my coach Justin Sidelle, who is based out of Bali MMA. He's an American guy, he's from San Fran and he's now based out there, so that sort of sums up what I'm like. I'm quite international and a bit of gypsy, which some people think is a bad thing and I think is a really great thing. But yeah, I travel the world training  Jiu Jitsu . I've been based out of Australia for a long time, but for the past 14 months, I've been traveling exclusively for  Jiu Jitsu  and plan to do so for the next year or so again.

I'm a black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu , I'm also the head and founder of a huge organization called Australian Girls in Gi, which is Australia focused, but of course has female members from all over the world. And basically, we're a gym and affiliate neutral community organization that fosters the growth and development and retention predominantly of women in the sport of Jiu Jitsu . So that's kind of being my greatest achievement in life, both of those two things. And I'm living the life based on them.

GEORGE: All right, awesome. We're definitely going to expand on the girls in GI, but for now, just a bit more about your martial arts career. You do travel a lot, so I take it there's a lot of competition involved in tournaments?

JESS: Yes, well, there was. I started competing very early on, I think 10 months into my journey, I was doing the ADCC trials and came second in that. And then about a year later, I was later in Abu Dhabi representing Australia as a blue belt, so it's been a lot of competition for me, but mainly it was because I felt like to lead an organization like I wanted to, I really needed to be an authority in some way.

And because I didn't have the belt that I wanted to be the leader that I wanted, I felt like I had to prove myself through competition. And I guess over the years I realized that maybe don't mean as much as how you treat people and what you give to the community and how you are within the community, you know? Maybe it does, but you don't need to exclusively be a competitor to be a great leader.

At the time as a blue belt or a purple belt or a brown belt even, I felt like I needed to compete a lot, so my competing was prolific. I've been to Abu Dhabi three times, I won the trials three times, which is a pretty good run. I'm a NAGA champ and all that kind of stuff, I've done a bunch, like the advanced division of NAGA or whatever, I've been to the world's a bunch of times and I've won medals there. And I've won medals once I've gone over to Abu Dhabi, I've done all that kind of stuff. I've never taken the top spot, I would love to, but at the same time, I'm in the game, you know?

I'm running with the pack and I'm proud of that, and I've been at each belt level. Yeah, that's kind of being me as a competitor. I have a background of, I came from a background of teaching krav maga, I was an instructor in that for a long time and before that, I was a yoga instructor. So my life for the past 13 years has been quite physical and the last 10 years has been in self-defense and martial arts as a whole.

GEORGE: OK. I find it interesting that you say that you had this bigger vision all along and that you felt that doing all these achievements in martial arts was what's going to allow you to be recognized as that leader. Am I right in saying that you didn't really feel you could be the leader that you are with your organization based on your martial arts credentials?

JESS: Yeah, I felt like, maybe it was just a personal perception, but in Australia, I'm the 12th female to earn her black belt in Australia. We couldn't even fill a bus, you know? There's not many of us and there're not many brown belt women, so it's really quite new in Australia to have a female black belt at the table, as it were. There are so many male black belts here, the community is actually really strong and really large, but as far as females, not so much. I sort of felt a bit of a , who are you, but who do you think you are, to start this organization that was a bit challenging for some of the old school guys.

And I say guys, because I mean the guys, it wasn't the women who were stopping me from doing it. There was  a lot of pushback about creating an organization that was about breaking down the walls of cross training and really bringing women together to train. Now, I had to. It's not like Australian Girls in Gi was aimed to only be, oh, we're all about unity and all gyms should come together. The fact of the matter is there was just the only female at each gym, so if we wanted to train with other females, it was out of necessity.

That kind of cross training and all welcome policy, it's not that I was ever going to exclude anyone, but we desperately needed the coaches that were men to give us the green light on that, you know? It's only just now in the last year or so that female coaches are emerging in Australia of higher rank. I felt that as a lower rank, I didn't have the authority of the black belt or the 20 years in martial arts or whatever. I did have a lot of experience in yoga and krav maga, but we all know that that's not necessarily transferable, definitely not physically.

I felt like I had to do my time and earn the respect of the community, and whether that be proving myself out on the mats, or proving myself with my rank or the quality of my  Jiu Jitsu  or whatever, I just felt like I had to just not get anything wrong, you know? Not cause any dramas with anyone, try not to cause any politics, just really toe the line so I can let this thing happen. I also think that even if I was a competitor that was losing a lot that would be cool for the community too, at least they'd see me trying and failing and that in itself would lead other women that wanted a hero in that department as well, you know?

So either way, it would have been fine, I need to be trying, I needed to be perceived to be trying, so I could be really a part of the community. From the get go, from my very first competition, I competed, and then I was straight on one of the tables saying, hey, do you need some help and I was always volunteering and I was helping on events, from the get go, just trying to be as proactively involved in the community as possible, whether that be out on the mats or reffing or whatever – I just needed to be everywhere to try and make this thing happen for Australian girls in GI. And it worked, whether my process was right or wrong, it doesn't matter, we've ended up in a really great place.

GEORGE: Ok, it's got to be hard to avoid politics – I said we'll get to this later, but we're talking about it now, so we might just expand to it and then go back to the other stuff we want to discuss. I can see how there's got to be some politics and a feel of a business threat of a way, there's this organization under your own organization and what does it involve? How do you get this message across, to explaining to people what it is about and how it might benefit their organization with Australian girls in GI?

JESS: The thing is, the gyms that aren't open to cross training and aren't opening their doors either way, in or out, just aren't involved and that's totally fine. I'm not a missionary, I'm not trying to convert them. If that's what that style of gym requires, that's totally what they want to do and I'm not interested in pushing back on that, I'm not trying to make a change, I'm trying to foster help for those women out in the community that doesn't have another female to train with and their coach is like, you know what you need? You need to roll with another chick! I want to be able to solve that problem for her.

So the gyms that are really into it and feel safe and secure with open doors policy or a visitors policy or travelers policy, they're really involved. And what we can say absolutely is proven, is I can prove to you student retention. So if you're a coach and very often business owner, which is often the same person, I can prove to you that I can positively influence retention of your members. Now, we all now that that's just as difficult as sales, and just as important as sales, is to keep them. So if I can help you with that, I can help your income! Simple as that, the amount of women that's in the sport that tells me, look, Jess, you're the reason that I'm still here, is ridiculous!

They call me , they have me as a service where they can message me, they can contact me online and stuff, and when they're having a hard time or really feeling like they want to give up, they reach out either to me personally, or the AGIG community and we keep them! We save them.

GEORGE: OK, cool. Sorry to interrupt, but because we've gone down his track, now we've just got to take one step back:  how does it exactly work, what exactly is the organization about?

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JESS: So what it is, predominantly, like my day-to-day is an online forum that's very heavily moderated on Facebook, so we have a public page that people, like fans and mainly male teammates ad stuff and fans of female Jiu Jitsu and that kind of thing, they follow that and they can see our events coming up and see the photos and what we're getting done on the public page. And then, that sort of filters down as the second tier of the thing and it's the members. The members are all in a closed group, it's just one of those group forums on Facebook.

Each person that sends me a request gets a relatively large letter of terms and conditions as a response when they send that request, though. It's full of things, like terms or conditions of involvement. Now, there's no fees or anything to be involved in AGIG at all on that level, but we do ask, I do kind of list what I require out of members and that is like politics free, no bitching, no reporting to your coach that you roll with some girls and her arm bars are bad – there's none of that.

We're a unified group and try to lift each other up as a whole and then the group is used for discussion and not defamation, so the girls can use the group online to discuss problems they might be having, as a teammate or a technique or whatever it is. Kind of like the conversation that most guys would have on the mat after the training sessions or in the changing room after the training session – when you're the only chick on the mat, or the only chick in the changing room, you miss out on all of that conversation or perhaps you're not invited to the meal after training or whatever, so we provide that online.

We provide that communication and support and debriefing, very often there are positive things that the girls say after their training, like they finally got a sweep on some massive blue belt guy or whatever it is, and we all cheer for her, she's all happy, you know – that's what we do on day-to-day, that's the support on day-to-day. The group on Facebook is predominantly women, but there are male coaches in that group, like kind of invitational, like silent witnesses in the group so it is really important that the space is a space where women ask questions of women that answer and that females get the opportunity to see that in fact, like all the other women their peers do have a lot of authority in this field and are problem solvers and experienced and all that kind of stuff.

So it's really important that the male involvement in that membership online forum is quite silent, but those guys also really benefit from it, so they're getting to know they can go to understand things in Australia with this being so young. These guys are learning how to teach women as well, it's not an everyday thing for a lot of them, and a lot of these people are really remote. In Australia, the key places that you'd be doing BJJ would be probably the major cities, but there's heaps of Jiu Jitsu along the coast, you know?

And a lot of the coaches are purple belt guys and they don't have a lot of support, maybe they're one trip away to a black belt occasionally, they might have one female student and they've never taught a female before, they don't even know how to deal with her size or whatever, so we're supporting everybody in that way, the teams that want to be involved. So that's the online presence, but then my actual life, my real work, I create face-to-face events.

We do female-only competitions throughout Australia, but I try not to focus on the competitions to be honest, because I think that's not what everyone wants to be doing, but it is what a lot of people want to be doing, so I  try not to focus fully on that, but I do provide it as a service if they want it, mainly for the little girls. The under 12 are the most popular because mine's the only comp where they don't have to fight boys, which is like a Godsend for a lot of them. I do round robin style things, for ages 5 and up, so we do get a huge adults presence to that, but we also get predominantly little girls, they just want to have a wrestle with a girl, and it very often doesn't happen at the comps for them. So I do that.

I also do seminars all over the place, because I want to share my Jiu Jitsu with these girls, I got to black belt with the help of this group, so I want to share my black belt with them, that's really important to me. I also travel Australia, doing events so that every single woman gets to roll with a female black belt. I give my body to that, I really want them to know what they're gunning for, and to that end, I try to stay really good at this sport, so what they're gunning for is really high quality and it's really important to me that that's what they see, and that's setting the bar.

I spend a lot of time and money cruising Australia, trying to get that to happen and then I do also run camps and they're awesome. The camp in Melbourne, which is coming up in January, and I think we've got maybe 25 tickets left. That camp in January is huge, it's 4 days, I think it's 6 instructors, 5 assistant instructors, it's non-stop Jiu Jitsu and socializing and it's all accommodation included. it's all meals included, it's out in the bush setting and there are canoeing and pools and it's just the best thing ever, so that's the big thing that I spend most of my year working on.

And also, I do camps in Bali, so I've got one coming up on the 21st with Luanna Alzuguir – hall of fame, everybody knows Luanna, she won ADCC three times. I'm doing a camp with her, which is quite a different style camp, and that's coming up in Bali like I said, 21st of November till the 25th and that's a total DIY thing. You do your own accommodation, your own food, you just meet us at the gym each day. So that's what I do, I make it happen for the girls.

GEORGE: Awesome. I'm going to be getting back to this one more time, but I want to stop at Bali quickly because I've been following you on social media and I see you travel a lot.

JESS: A lot, yeah.

GEORGE: You pretty much live in Bali. I think I saw you in New York as well, around the States, I think there was a time you were in San Francisco or Canada, I can't remember which one.

JESS: Yeah, yeah.

GEORGE: So all over the place. Now, with all this traveling, what is the biggest benefit that you're getting, what is the biggest learning experience that you're getting from traveling and training in all these different locations?

JESS: The biggest thing that I learned this past year, what I did is, I was a brown belt when I left Australia and I really felt, again, that I had to prove myself a little through competition. The biggest lesson for me obviously is that I don't, but I went on a big journey, I kind of packed up my life and left my lovely boyfriend and left my job and my house and everything and sold everything to go on this big mission to do a lot of competition.

I had a lot of world's and Pan Ams and all the NAGAs and STRAGA open, and everything you can possibly think of. Abu Dhabi, everything, paid for, booked, everything, and I went on the journey, and I sort of started in Bali and really worked out that that was my team and that Justin and I really worked well together. And that we will continue to, whether it was remotely or not. He's a really great coach from a distance as well, he's such a great mentor to me, he's always challenging me and asking a lot of me technically and he's really expanded my Jiu Jitsu.

I started there and then I came back to run that camp at the beginning of the year in January and I jet-setted again and went to Hawaii and Hawaii was amazing. I was kind of unsure, not really knowing what I was doing. I was sort of being a bit like a Pokemon, finding them and fighting them, you know? I was just cruising around, trying to get to every gym possible in the world and just roll with everyone. I just wanted to feel what other people are doing and see how they're staying inspired and stuff because I was feeling a bit stagnant in Melbourne when I decided to leave everything behind. I was just on a mission at the time, I was preparing to compete.

I got to Vegas and I hurt myself pretty badly, pretty quickly. I ruptured my bicep, I did a pretty major tear on my left shoulder and ruptured the bicep on my left arm, so I was out of action for a long while and had to find a way to come to terms with that, that I packed up my whole life to travel for Jiu Jitsu and was sidelined for the first 2 weeks. And then, within four months, the bicep fully ruptured and it was the weird thing, it was kind of hanging on apparently by a thread, and on a Thursday I fully ruptured it choking someone. On Monday, because it was fully detached, I was rolling again, and I was at Marcelo Garcia‘s academy by that Monday.

I guess the big journey for me has been about finding a way to be in this sport without being a competitor, even though I want to be really good at it. Just discovering how other people are approaching that, big lessons about acceptance and friendship and support in the sport and what is truly important to me, because even in the four, four and a half months I had off, my life in Jiu Jitsu didn't change. In fact, my involvement in Jiu Jitsu didn't change at all, so it really taught me that the physical side of it is just sort of like the way to be involved in the community.

It became much more holistic for me and I am now sort of traveling more in Australia, now that I'm traveling Australia, I'm traveling more for the relationships than the sport. But I guess big lessons for me were about balance in life and maybe not putting all your eggs in one basket and even though I was injured, I was traveling and there's no way that you can wake up in the morning in Vegas as an Australian and think, oh God, it’s all bad – it’s all good! You're not at work, and you're traveling and you've got all these amazing people that you can go and see, and I just think that this community really can lift you up, even in some pretty bad times.

I traveled and I went and I saw my family, that's why I ended up in Canada and then I trained with a  bunch of teams in Montreal, even though I couldn't roll. There was a top team in Montreal, they took care of me. I couldn't roll, I couldn't do anything. I couldn't because I was in danger of making this arm worse that we thought it was going to get better. And they just let me come in and drill. These were complete strangers and they helped me get through a really really hard time in my life. They had a rack up at the back, so you come in for class with these guys and Fabio is an exceptional team leader.

He would let me come in, welcome me with open arms, he remembered me from an Abu Dhabi fight, I fought one of his girls in Abu Dhabi, a purple belt. And she was on the mat, preparing for camp and instead of automatically assuming, oh, you guys will be in the same division, which we would have been for world's, he was like, come on in, jump on the mats!

And they had a sports rack in the back of the gym, so I'd come in and we'd do drills that would not hurt me every day for an hour and then when the guys got to roll, I'd just do squats. So it was a really nice couple of months with those guys, they really supported me to get me back to the mats. And they did, I got to a point where I could roll light and then I fully ruptured the bicep and as soon as it was gone and I knew I could roll, I was on the plane straight to Garcia!

GEORGE: This is going to be maybe a tough one, but let's say you take Marcelo Garcia out of his gym: what is it that stands out with training there in comparison with other gyms?

JESS: Paul Schreiner is the short answer!

GEORGE: OK.

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JESS: For me, I love Marcelo and like everybody, I look up to him in a huge way. I think that his Jiu Jitsu is absolutely beautiful, I think that his attitude is absolutely beautiful. I see him manage a room of people that are all elite, there's some bad ass guys in that room, and girls, real good people. And he's managing all these egos so beautifully and he does it with such good grace. Him and his wife, they're just doing an incredible job with that gym. I don't know much of the back workings of that space, but I've always been really welcomed in there and I'd been out there, it's almost three years ago now, but at the time I was there, I'd been out there two years before for world's prep. And these are people that let me come in as a purple belt.

I paid my fees, which doesn't really allow me how I was behaving as a purple, but I paid my fees, turned up pre-worlds prep and was just trying to tear through everyone. I was like, I'm getting ready for world's, it's my time to bash people! It's like, you pay the fees to the gym, but there are these people there that train every day, it's their bodies you're using for that pre-camp. Maybe they didn't sign up for your pre-camp. Maybe your pre-camp doesn't mean as much to them as it does to you and I look back now and I think it was a really unfair way to behave.

So I went in there this year and was like, you wouldn't believe: I walked in with this sling on and these guys, they remember you and they remember your whole name and they remember everything about you and they run across the room to hug you. It’s just the most incredible thing and most incredible sport, they're kind of like my heroes that I follow on Instagram and stuff. From my first experience from feeling like that with Marcelo's, where it was so warmly welcoming, I wanted to go back there.

But the biggest thing for me, and I love Marcelo, I'm not saying it like I have favorites, but for me, the first time I was there, Paul Schreiner just blew me away as a coach. He is just exceptional and he's dedicated his life I believe to becoming an exceptional coach, he's continually upskilling as a coach. I'm sure as an athlete he just loves the sport so he just gets better by design, but this is a man that invests in the coaching aspect, which I find is really rare across the board.

GEORGE: How does that differ? What exactly do you mean, how does his coaching compared to another coaching?

JESS: I think that he is really well studied in communication and I asked him quite a bit about it because I went back there for him. I wanted to just sit myself in front of that guy and go – just teach a man, I just want to see you teach. I want to see your process and I want to see what you do. Of course, when I hurt myself at the beginning of the year, I had to make a decision on how I wanted to be involved in the sport and I couldn't be involved that year as a competitor and maybe never again, I don't know. I'm 37 and I'm broken, maybe this is why people quit competing.

That's something to come to terms with, but as far as my interest and what I learned was, I don't want to just be an exceptional athlete, I want to be an exceptional leader and a coach. And I don't think that just comes from being good at a sport. I trained for two years to become a teacher of yoga and we weren't just learning how to do the act of yoga, we were learning how to teach and how to communicate with different personality types. It was two years full-time study, and I just haven't seen really many of my coaches learn how to teach.

They might be really great at the sport, but I would like to see, and this is what I search for, exceptional coaches. And I don't think that that just happens accidentally by having a cool personality and being charming, I think that happens when people are really interested and they're upskilled in both departments. Not just physically as a Jiu Jitsu practitioner, they really are learning how to communicate. There're heaps of courses online that I've seen that are available that people just don't utilize, and they should. I can't just expect to use Facebook and think that I'm going to influence the world if I don't go find out how social media works. Get upskilled, whatever I'm going to do, learn about the thing!

For me, it’s very clear that Paul is investing in how to coach and I did ask him about it, he said that he studied a lot about how Iyengar yoga practice is done and how they approach teaching this thing. It’s very perfect, very detailed practice. I don't know much about the rest of his background, but it’s very clear that he's not just upskilling and not just focused on the sport, he's focused on how to communicate the sport to others, which is what a coach is. If you take Marcelo, long long long story short, if you take Marcelo out of that gym, oh man, there's layers under that. You take Marcelo out, you've got Paul, you take Paul out, you've got Bernardo. You take Bernardo out, you've got Marcus Dimarco, who is ridiculously good – all of these men are really fantastic like athletes and coaches, but for me, it's Paul Schreiner that just blows my mind.

GEORGE: So, it’s all in the communication, in the process, not as much the expertise, but the delivering of the expertise.

JESS: Absolutely, absolutely. For me, one of my first coaches, and he's still a coach, my coach Martin Gonzales at Vanguard in Melbourne, one of the things that he said to me years ago was that he sort of finds potential offensive, that potential is actually a waste if it’s not realized. It’s a waste, potential should be just the precourse to something great, you should be able to do something with it. And if you don't, that's on you. It’s not the greatest of things, I sort of see athletes that are really good at this sport are not necessarily the greatest of communicators.

They have the potential to be, they have all this information that they could hand over to you, but if they don't, it's value to them and them alone. And that's totally fine, that's the kind of athlete and person that you're going to be, but it’s not the side of sport or the community that I'm looking for. It sort of comes down to, again, with Australian girls in GI, there's two groups: the teams that really don't want to be involved in that sort of thing and the teams that do, and that's cool.

I'm all for the teams that do, the ones that want to cross train and get involved: they're my tribe, they're my people, let's do great things together. And I'm kind of leaning towards in having mentors and leaders that weren't necessarily the greatest of all time, even though, obviously, Marcelo is amazing, but I want them to be the greatest of all time at sharing. Sharing the information and what is truly beautiful in a coach is if they're the greatest in the world in sharing information, but they also have the greatest Jiu Jitsu behind them.

And I used to look at that sort of backward, I used to look for the best in the world, athletes, but the reality is, a lot of them that have got to that point have done so by having to be really self-focused. I wouldn't say narcissistic, but they had very self-focused lives. And to flick that switch just because they've retired might be quite hard for them. I don't know, it’s just stuff we haven't looked into and haven't unpacked yet. I don't think that just because you grew out of competition, whether it be through age or injury that makes you an exceptional coach, no.

GEORGE: Excellent, that's insightful. A few more questions on that now: the reverse of that – what's the worst practice that you see in your travels? Don't hold back.

JESS: The worst practice, how do you mean?

GEORGE: Why would you avoid training at a certain gym? Is it a commonality that you see around the world, whether it’s in New York or Bali or anywhere, that you feel it’s not acceptable, it’s not a place that you would train for that reason?

JESS: Ok, so somewhere where you wouldn't revisit?

GEORGE: Yes.

JESS: To be fair, everywhere I had on my list was great, and I had a massive list, and it changed from time to time. I really want to do a huge east coast of America tour, there're some people over there that are just off the hook. There's such a great run of people if you go all the way from New York down to the tip of Florida – man, it just never ends, but I just ran out of time and money and stuff. But everywhere I went was really great. I chose names definitely, even though I've just said I shouldn't do that, but I've had these dreams of meeting certain people for a long time and so I kind of had a list of names that I wanted to follow.

And I did ask a lot of questions, there were some people that I had the plan to go to, and a couple of people said, well, I don't know, maybe his online presence is great, but he's not very good of a teacher. So I listened to people, I listened to my peers for guidance, and  never really hit any roadblocks. I hit two problems in San Diego that I would say I wouldn't return for. One of them because of expense, there's a couple of gyms there that I just can't justify it – it’s Jiu Jitsu, you know? I've already spent $6000 to be there as an Australian and I can't justify $80 a day, I just can't do it, which is really disappointing. So I guess just out of necessity, there were a couple places I couldn't return to.

There're a couple of places that would require you to either remove your patches, which I am never going to do for anyone, no one's going to tell me to remove my patches. That's fine, if that's what they don't want in their gym, or a higher GI at an exorbitant price, I remember where they would be a brand, so you get stuck in this loop of getting sort of sold to, so you have to buy all their equipment so you can train with them. And that's fine if that's what they want to do. Like I said, if people want to be involved, they want to be involved with my thing and I guess that's what this business is doing as well, just setting the price at what they believe is the value of their academy and I agree with them, it’s absolutely worthy of that price – I just can't pay it.

That was me as a traveler – if I lived locally, yeah, I would probably train there, but I just can't afford the drop in prices, so that was a road block for me. Having said that, I'm happy to pay. I've paid my way around the world, I didn't expect to walk in and have any handouts anywhere.  I've definitely paid everywhere I went and I pride myself on that. I don't want to be in anyone's pocket, it's just, I know my limits with costs, you know?

So that was one thing. I also had a really nasty interaction with a very well regarded black belt at some point in my travels, where he really questioned me about being a nomad. We trained and he's been a hero of mine for a long time, so I was really hurt by it, but I understand what happened now. I came as a visitor and definitely they allow visitors at that gym and welcome them, but I believe that that is just because that's just the way that the sport has gone and they're sort of backed into a corner to not be closed doors anymore because of their fame.

But I don't believe that the head of that system likes it, I think he, in fact, resents it a great deal. He took me aside and kind of shamed me in front of a bunch of people for being a gypsy, for having more than one team patch on my back, for being on the road, a whole bunch of stuff. Said to me, look, I can tell in your Jiu Jitsu, I can tell by the way that you feel when you play Jiu Jitsu that you've either never had a master, or never let anyone be your master. Really kind of domineering, quite intimidating, very upsetting conversation, where he tried to question everything about me.

And that's fine, that's cool. I know self-defense, and I mean that on an emotional level, so I was just like, oh cool, that's really interesting, thanks for that and just left. That's fine, but that I found quite alarming and now that I've been through it I find that that was, you asked me earlier about the big lessons of the trip and I really thought on that one for a long time, cause I really loved him, I had all of his books, I really loved him and it was very evident that women on the mat were challenging to him and he called me a gypsy as if it was an insult and all that kind of stuff.

And then my beautiful coach in Bali, Justin, when we spoke – and I never mentioned who the person was but we spoke and I said I had a kind of a hard encounter and I spoke about a couple of things and he was like, yeah, but you're a gypsy, it’s the best thing! So I had these two men call me a gypsy: one thought it was beautiful and one thought it was horrifying, so it was quite interesting. But again, it comes back down to this thing: there're lots of academies and lots of humans that really respond well to kind of a dictatorship, they want to thrive in that environment.

These are guys that would probably thrive in the army too, but there're lots of humans that can't thrive in the army and can't thrive in that environment. So I see myself and people like me within the community that really liked cross train and travel and make this a lifestyle, not a membership. We really need that, say Studio 540, oh my god! That to me is the most progressive, amazing place, I love what they've done down there.

There's a whole bunch of coaches and they're all elite and there's Leticia Ribeiro there and Justin Flores is there, it’s so good. It's a melting pot of shared interest and shared the joy for this thing by the beach. That's everything to me that sums up why I love Bali MMA, you know? And why I love training up here in the Gold Coast and all over Byron, all this kind of stuff. It’s a lifestyle for me and being called out for it, saying it like I was doing the wrong thing by not having respectful lineage or loyalty, I was really taken aback by that with this.

He's a professor and he's somebody I looked up to for a long time, so the big lessons for me, I guess apart from acceptance of myself and my role in this community was I started to see the correlation between, everybody says, it’s my family, the team is my family, they talk about his family thing and there's all this push for respect and lineage and in fact, I kind of looked at that and I dissected it and looked at the idea of family and the fact that not all of us – and I'm not talking about my family because my family is wonderful, but not all of us are lucky enough to be born into the perfect family.

Not all of us are lucky enough to have two parents that stay together and are loving and are brave enough and are bold enough to get us through everything that we need to get through. Maybe there's fraction in the family or maybe the parents weren't even there or maybe there's a problem with your brother or whatever it is, but there's plenty of people that don't have the perfect family and don't have the luxury of it and to me, I've started to see family in that way. Lineage, definitely in the Jiu Jitsu community is a luxury, it’s actually a privilege.

These men that are so stern about it, you should have one master and one lineage and everything else or whatever they say, some kind of swear word or something, some kind of insult about changing teams. The thing is, if you were lucky enough to get all the way through with one coach and one master that your really like and you still like his Jiu Jitsu, that is a privilege like no other and you should be happy as hell. It’s amazing. And you know what? I'm jealous because some of my coaches have failed me. The reason I bounced was because my coaches failed me, one of my coaches had a complete mental breakdown. It’s hard to stay loyal to a guy that's no longer in the sport.

So having this, not grand master, but it’s pretty close, guy call me out for being a creonte essentially, OK I thought, well, you know, you're lucky enough to have a  nice, perfect family with two parents and a brother and a sister and a dog, but the rest of us, us orphans that have to band together, our bonds are just as real and they're just as important and they're just as worthy and in fact, if you've got someone like me that's not had the best upbringing as it were in Jiu Jitsu, and she's still in the sport and she's doing great things for the community, I think that should be commended not condemned.

And I guess that's a big reassurance for me with Australian girls in GI. The amount of women that I know that had a boyfriend at their gym and then when the breakup happens, the boyfriend gets the gym and the breakup – how could she be loyal to her coach? How is she able to stay perfectly near the sensei kind of stuff, if she's also got this real world problem for her that means that her whole life's been turned upside down. She loses her friends and her teammates in that exchange and it happens!

It happens to women in this sport, I'm sure it happens to guys too, but more often I see the girls that have to move gyms and I think that those kind of people that stay in the sport, that's real loyalty. They're loyal to the sport and just because something happened at the gym doesn't mean they're in the wrong. I think there needs to be an alternative way at looking at cross training because some of us need to, some of us need to, otherwise, we wouldn't thrive.

GEORGE: That's excellent. Well, I've got to tell you, I applaud you for your individuality and to do that, you know, it's funny, we're probably going to end it here, but you almost talk about this whole dictatorship of martial arts, and it’s funny, you're part of this family, until you do your thing. It’s all family, but as long as you do family our way, it's OK, but if you do family your way, it's wrong.

JESS: Yeah, that's right!

GEORGE: That's true gold right there. Thanks a lot for your time, it’s been great chatting to you, I feel like we really hit the mark here in these last 20 minutes with your learning and your experience and I think it will be great, because the majority of the people that listen to this podcast are men and are obviously martial arts school owners and it will be a great insight for them to get a  ladies perspective on how it is for you on your side and how things work. So with that, with the Australian girls in GI, how do people get involved with the program?

JESS: The easiest way I would say is to go to the website and then there's a bunch of ways to get actually involved with Facebook, but just so you don't have to remember all the different links or whatever, there are links on the website. The website is www.australiangirlsingi.com. That's the website, there's the get involved in Australia and you can become a member or a fan. The member takes you through to the forum, so that's the group. It would just be facebook.com/groups/australiangirlsingi, so if you sort of do Australian girls in GI in any formation on Facebook, you will find us.

But it's important to know that there is two different groups, different areas online in Facebook. There's the public page, and you will pretty clearly find that that's a public page, because there's no discussion going on, that's just where we put all of our updates so the world even knows that we exist, because otherwise if we're in this closed group forum, you guys don't get to see it.

The closed group forum is in that way for function, we're keeping the girls protected. You've got to understand that the first words, Australian girls, people searching for that group are not always desirable! I'm glad they're a fan of my work, but they're not the same kind of fans that we want, so I had to make it a secret group to protect the women in there. And there's a lot of women in there that write things that they don't want the public to see.

We're dealing with a lot of PTSD and anxiety and that kind of stuff, there's a lot of anonymous posts that people message me and they can post anonymously via me. So just jump on Facebook, just type in the words Australian girls in GI. You'll find us, there're heaps of events coming up, there's always events coming up in Australia and the only one that's quite international at the moment is Bali and that's in a couple of weeks. So that's the easiest way to find us, just send me straight a message, I'll always get back to people if they send it straight though the age and I can direct you.

GEORGE: All right, awesome. Jess, thank you very much for your time.

JESS: No worries.

GEORGE: And I hope to speak to you soon.

JESS: Yeah, great, thanks, George!

GEORGE: Thank you, cheers!

And there you have it, thanks for listening. If you'd like the transcripts of this show, you can go to martialartsmedia.com/13, that's the number 13. And I really enjoyed this chat, because it’s different to what we normally do, talking about the marketing side of things, and people's journeys and so forth, because this is a completely different journey and Jess is so well traveled and has got such a lot of experience dealing with different martial arts schools, so it’s great to get that perspective and most importantly of all, a ladies perspective, because in the industry that's mainly male dominated, for the most part, it’s great to hear the challenges that a lady has, trying to fit in with the whole martial arts arena and things that get in the way of politics and relationship and so forth.

There're a few things there that really take home with your marketing and especially the coaching side. The one thing that she mentioned was learning from all these experts, it’s not always about the expert, but it’s the delivery of the content, the delivery of the teaching. We all, as martial artists, we all want to learn and prove ourselves and we've got to do that in all areas in life: we've got to do that in our business, we've got to do that in our communication and everything else. So there we go – thank you very much for listening, we'll be back again, we've got a few more great interviews lined up, so watch out for those- looking forward to speaking to you soon – cheers!

 

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