122 – From UFC Fight Pass To Dana White’s Contender Series ( With Ben Vickers )

Ben Vickers shares his UFC journey, from Eternal MMA’s 14 fight shows on UFC Fight Pass, to Scrappy MMA’s Jack Della Maddalena winning his fight on The Dana White’s Contender Series.

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IN THIS EPISODE:

  • How the UFC ‘Walks the Talk’ and raises the bar in the industry 
  • Molding fighters through collaborative coaching style
  • Australian champion Jack Della Maddalena’s martial arts success story
  • Creating a pathway into the UFC for Australian fighters 
  • How to navigate flights and borders during restrictions
  • The journey to Dana White’s Contender series
  • And more

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

 

TRANSCRIPTION

I actually think the key and the secret is they're so close as a team that they all want to lift each other up. I never have issues on the mats with ego. Everyone's just there to get better. And it's really proving the results now.

The guys are self-motivated. I don't need to beg them to come into the gym. They're there. They want to be there, and they want to be the best. And they're prepared to put the work in, and it's showing. There is no secret. It's hard work, it's good quality coaching, and it's teamwork.

GEORGE: Hey, George here. Welcome to the Martial Arts Media™ business podcast. So, I've got a repeat guest today. Ben Vickers from Eternal MMA and Scrappy MMA. How are you doing today, Ben?

BEN: Yeah, I'm good. I'm good. I'm enjoying the sunshine in the backyard, so happy day.

GEORGE: Well, last time we spoke, we were grabbing a coffee, but last time we spoke on the podcast, podcast 87, we spoke about Eternal MMA. You just got a deal with the UFC, UFC Fight Pass to have all your shows and everything featured. And I was at… Actually, I just bought a ticket yesterday to Eternal MMA.

Yeah. So Ben and the team run an epic show, Eternal MMA. Real top quality production, great fighters. Kind of see now how you've got to deal with the UFC, but wanted to bring you on to chat about the new development that's happened.

And I guess I could just leave it to you before I maybe go down the wrong path with it. So how have things evolved with the UFC from the last time we spoke?

BEN: It's like anything in business really, I'm learning. I'm a self-investing accidental businessman. I had a passion for martial arts. I competed, and then just by natural progression, I ended up owning an academy, coaching fighters, and then running an MMA event.

So I kind of happened upon this business world, but as I am noticing now, it takes time to establish these business relationships and stuff. So I guess for the last… Since 2019, when we did the October Melbourne event, Eternal 48 debuted on Fight Pass, we've done 14 shows with the UFC. We have regular communications with them. We have a monthly call with them where they fill us in on what they need from us, what they want from us, how we are doing.

And we're doing very well. We're one of the strongest events on the platform. We get great viewership all across the world, which is a testament to the matchmaking because we show in a very bad time zone for the U.S.

Our shows go live sort of 4:00 and 7:00 AM East and West Coast. Sorry, that was the wrong way around. So it's normally 4:00 on the West Coast and 7:00 AM in the East. So it's not a great viewership time for the U.S. market, but we seem to be attracting attention there, which must state that we are doing something right, and people enjoy the entertainment that Eternal's providing.

We've got a big viewership in Europe now. We're the second highest performing platform on show outside of the UFC in Europe, sort of a non-European show, should I say. So everything's going really well, and we're really happy with our partnership.

We've got another deal locked in for next year, and we're in the process of signing another TV deal with another massive sports company. One of the… Probably the foremost sports platform in the world. So things are looking good for Eternal.

GEORGE: Great. Well, congrats I'd say, first and foremost. Does it conflict with the… So you mentioned you got moving… Well, you signed the additional deal. How does that work with the UFC? Do the contracts conflict in any way, or-

BEN: They do.

GEORGE: Do they complement each other?

dana white's contender series

BEN: They definitely complement each other. The company that we are going to work with works closely with the UFC as well. That's how we've been able to do the deal, so the deal's not signed yet, so I won't say too much about it, but it's in the latter stages of getting signed.

But yeah, there is synergy there, and what's been really nice for our partnership with the UFC is they've actually gone outside of scope a couple of times and sort of waved the exclusivity clause on a couple of things for us, which is kind of unheard of in the market, especially with the UFC being such a juggernaut. They don't normally do that, so they genuinely believe in the term partnership.

In business, partnership, teamwork, gets thrown around all the time by people that want things, I feel, but the UFC sort of really seem to be living up to that, which is great to see. I think in business these days, a lot of people promise you a lot of things, and from my experience, people very rarely deliver, and that's at the core of my business values is delivering on what I say I'm going to deliver on, and I expect the same thing from people that I'm going to work with and partner with.

So it's really nice to see that such a big company has the same respect for us, and it's a two way street, which is probably the first time in my experience that that's ever happened.

GEORGE: Yeah, that's great to hear. They definitely walk the talk. I mean, if you look at all the reporters and all the media, the negative press they get from obviously people trying to chip at the biggest player and critiquing how they pay for their fighters, you see a lot of negativity come around and it's good to hear from someone that's actually in the trenches, working with them on how the partnership is complementing your business and the direction where you guys go.

BEN: Yeah, I don't think you can be as successful as they are without being good at what you do, and you're going to moan about fighter pay and stuff like this, but if you look at what the UFC has done for the sport, I'm probably not sat here if they haven't made the sport as big as what it is because there's that flow down effect, and they're putting in front of everybody's eyes which is filling my gym, which is inspiring people to want to take up martial arts, which is inspiring people to want to come and watch local MMA and see.

And now we've created this pathway. We've had a couple of fighters go from Eternal champion into the UFC, so now we're creating a pathway where people go, “Well, hang on. If I fight in Eternal and I become the champ, there's a chance I can go and fulfill my dreams, and the UFC might pick me up.” So it's nice to have created that pathway for Australia, for Australian martial artists, and hopefully we can start hammering a few more people into the UFC and really get Australian MMA…

Although it's pretty well on the map, I think we can… I think the standard of martial arts and MMA in particular is super high in this country right now, and there's a lot of talent out there, so hopefully we can get that to the big show.

GEORGE: Yeah, so let's talk about that and your most recent trip. I mean, one thing I noticed at Eternal MMA, which is what I didn't know, is you have a bench of really strong fighters. I mean, all the guys from Scrappy MMA that were part of the event were just really, really good to watch.

So you've definitely developed a great team of fighters yourself. So what do you account that for? Is it just experience or is it also painting this pathway, and your team being able to see more of what is actually possible in the sport?

BEN: For me, I believe that… See, I don't think I'm necessarily a great coach. I think I know what I know, and I know how to put that across. I have a collaborative coaching style. I have a lot of very experienced, very talented fighters. We work together.

So their input is taken on board by me. We'll often sit and talk about positions or things that happen in fights and brainstorm it with all the brains that are around, come to the best solution, practice that, make that part of the game, and then move on to the next position that we want to discuss.

So that's a big part of the collaborative coaching effort. It's not a dictatorship. The guys don't turn up and go, “Right, you're doing this, this and this and this.”

We sort of get our minds together. There's many years of experience on my mats now. I have a hugely experienced team of high level guys, so I tap into their knowledge base as much as possible.

BEN: But what I actually think is the key and the secret is they're so close as a team that they all want to lift each other up. I never have issues on the mats with ego. Everyone's just there to get better, and it's really proving the results now. The guys are self-motivated.

I don't need to beg them to come into the gym. They're there. They want to be there, and they want to be the best. And they're prepared to put the work in, and it's showing.

There's no secret. It's hard work. It's good quality coaching, and it's teamwork.

GEORGE: Yeah. Awesome.

BEN: So that's my key.

GEORGE: Love it. So I don't know how much you could talk about your recent trip to the States?

Jack Della

BEN: That's all… So we… Jack Della who… If any of you don't know who Jack Della Maddalena is, he's been Australian champion on Eternal since 2016. He's got a really interesting story.

He started his career 0-2, losing his first two fights. And then we had a conversation after that, and I basically said, you're too good to be 0-2. Let's set the goal that we're going to get 10 straight wins.

We're going to move to 10-2, and we're going to laugh about this period in a few years’ time. So Jack went 9-2. I don't know if you were there for that one where he knocked out Aldin Bates in spectacular fashion at the HBF Stadium in 72 seconds avenging his first pro MMA loss, and that was his last fight regionally.

And since then, Dana White's Contender Series and the UFC came in and gave Jack a match on week three of this season's Dana White Contender Series, so if you go on UFC Fight Pass, Dana White Contender Series, season five, week three, Jack's on there. He fought an incredibly talented fighter out of Sanford MMA, which is home to Gilbert Burns and Michael Chandler. Kamaru Usman used to train there.

A bunch of high level guys down there, and we went from little old Perth, and we cut the head off the juggernaut, and Jack sort of demolished this guy. It was a three round fight, and the guy hung in there, but he got his ass kicked for pretty much 90% of the fight.

Jack had Dana on his feet at the end of the fight and a round of applause. Basically Dana White Contender Series is a trial, so if you win your fight and he's impressed with you, he's going to sign you to the UFC. So Jack was awarded the contract that night, and we now have a matchup for early Jan in the UFC for Jack to make his UFC debut.

So it's been an epic, epic few weeks. I've done two weeks in the States which was great, and then I've subsequently completed a month. Well, almost completed. Today is my last day of my month quarantine back here in Perth Australia.

GEORGE: Great, so I mean, congrats to both of you and for really putting, I guess, Perth on the map officially as having a fighter in the UFC as well. So, how does that go from here for you? The fights, the travels, the whole agreement?

BEN: Yeah, so Jack signed a four fight deal with the UFC. Those deals are very one sided so that if Jack had one fight and the UFC decided they didn't want him anymore, they would cut him, but he is tied in for the four. So it's very biased towards the company; however, we know that. You know that when you get involved.

GEORGE: It's your foot in the door.

BEN: Yeah, exactly. Yeah, foot through the door, and if Jack goes out and does what he's capable of doing, then his contract will improve quickly, and for us, it's never been about cash. It's always been about being the best in the world, and I firmly believe that Jack Della Maddalena is going to win the welterweight championship in the UFC. So that is the goal now. That is the new goal is to hit the rankings first, get top 15, and then push towards the title.

With the travel and stuff, I mean, most of the fights are going to be stateside at least for the foreseeable future, so I guess it just depends on what happens in the world and where we're at come January as to how much of an ordeal it's going to be, or whether it's going to be…

It would be really nice to just fly out there, do what we need to do, and then come home and just slot back into normal life, but I understand that's probably not going to be the case. Jan, maybe later on in the year, but as long as we can get out there, we can have the fight, we'll worry about the rest of the stuff.

GEORGE: So, I have to ask for anyone in the world listening that's not familiar with how Australia works, but you know, in Perth we're pretty stuck in our state, but we can't actually leave. You can't come in and you can't leave. So big the question, how the hell did you get out?

BEN: Getting out was actually easy. We got the sporting exemption. The UFC is obviously a very powerful entity, so they have lawyers, and they can make these things happen. Seems very strange to me that sports and celebrities get the free will to travel where there's people that have domestic problems, and it doesn't sit very well with me, but I wasn't going to turn it down out of principle.

At the end of the day, we were granted the exemptions to leave, so we left. The problems were when we came back to Australia. Getting out was fairly easy. Once we touched back down on Australian shores, it was a bit more complicated.

GEORGE: In which way?

BEN: No one knows what's going on. No one knows what the rules are. And this is entirely not the people on the ground's fault.

It's obvious there's a lack of direction from the top level feeding down to the employees who are enforcing this stuff. So you get told 10 different things about the same question from five different people. Everyone's a bit confused as to what the rules are, what the rules aren't.

So we did the two weeks hotel quarantine, which was expected. We kind of knew that that was on the cards. They lock you in a twin bedroom with an on suite for two weeks with no opening windows, and it's a little bit inhumane to me, like why you can't have a window and no fresh air for two weeks.

And the room we were in, unfortunately, got no sunlight because it was on a curve. The building was curved, and the sun never hit our side of the curve. So no sunlight, fresh air for two weeks was interesting, but we kind of prepared ourselves for that.

And then getting back to Perth, that's another problem all in itself. New South Wales, especially, is viewed as Chernobyl in this country at the moment, but we managed to get our passes signed off to come back home to Perth, which was great.

It's kind of a weird conversation to be having with someone, to ask if you can come home, but we were eventually allowed home, and I'm just completing my two weeks home quarantine. So it'll be a six week trip for a 15 minute flight, which is a lot of effort.

GEORGE: Yeah, so that begs the question, right? Because if that's going to be the norm, how do you do that? Do you relocate? Does Jack relocate? How do you…

BEN: No, I think… I could be being overly optimistic, but I think that this is about to come to an end in some way shape or form. The vaccine numbers are creeping up towards where the government wants them to be. International travel is about to start again. They're talking about home isolation as opposed to hotel isolation. So I think it is going to improve, but I'm very committed to Jack and the sport and Jack.

If I didn't believe so strongly in Jack, it might be a different story, but I firmly believe that he's going to be a world champ, and I'm prepared to do whatever I have to do to help him make that happen. And he's the same way, so if we have to sit for a month in quarantine, after every fight for the foreseeable future, if it gets us to the goal, then that's what we'll do.

I'm lucky that I've got such a good team at the gym, and I've got a business partner in Eternal that they can… Everything I can't do remotely they can look after, so I don't stress about the businesses and stuff while I'm away. And I just get the freedom to focus a hundred percent on what we're doing.

GEORGE: That's epic. How do you feel about this whole situation now that you've traveled? Like the way we are handling the COVID situation versus internationally? And there's two sides to this, right?

Because for most Australians, we feel like… I think in Perth, people feel pretty cool about everything because we just got freedom until you try and leave, right?

BEN: Yeah.

GEORGE: And then Queensland pretty much the same, but for most of us, we don't want to be in New South Wales and Victoria right now.

BEN: I think vaccinated, New South Wales isn't a bad place to be. I think they've just let all the clean people out and the dirty unvaccinated people must stay indoors for another couple of months, which is crazy as well. Yeah, I'm… Look, it's probably not the best conversation for me to have. I have pretty strong views on it, and they might not fit everyone else's. I'm not an anti this or anti that, I'm a pro doing what you feel is right for you.

So if vaccine's your method and your coping mechanism, I support you a hundred percent. If it isn't, I also support you a hundred percent. Just do what you feel is right for you. I'm blown away having been to America, which was supposed to be like this hotbed of COVID, and people are just cracking on and living a normal life over there.

I feel like it's been badly handled, if I'm honest. We had the jump on everybody else. We had hindsight, we had time to look at what was happening in the rest of the world. We used our geographical position as a safety net without any real thoughts of strategy or long term strategy.

We were just gloating to the rest of the world how good we had it over here in Australia, and now we are the worst in the world. So to me, that's poor leadership.

I feel like forcing people to do things they don't want to do medically is a very slippery slope, but I have no choice in the matter really at the end of the day. Comply or live a second rate life. Your options have become very limited, so it's a bit unfortunate this happened, and two years ago, we'd be sitting there having this conversation, and if we started bringing into to the conversation, you must have a vaccine or you won't be allowed to do this that and the other, well, we'd have thought we were both gone completely mad two years ago.

So it's funny how quickly it's changed. And essentially in two years, 50% of the world is now vaccinated against this, which is… It's crazy, but that's where we're at. So we just got to make the most of it, and do the best we can, navigate our way through this mind field and try and get out of it the other side as safely and healthily as possible.

GEORGE: Yeah. Yeah, for sure. What's next on the cards for you guys, just with everything that's going on? Is there a different structure in the team and how you are doing it, especially with the focus, having a fighter at that level?

Does the team adjust with training schedules to support, or is it just business as usual?

BEN: It's business as usual? Like Jack's part of the team, and when it's his turn to fight, we'll focus on him for the six weeks prior to his fight, exclusively, probably. He's on a slightly different time schedule to the rest of the boys, but I've got boys fighting in two weeks.

While I was in the States, Jack Becker went away and won the Australian title on the Gold Coast. He went on his own, and that's the confidence he had in his own skills. He didn't need his coach.

He was happy to go over there and beat an undefeated dude. Knock him out in the first round and take his title. So I've got him fighting November, which will probably be the last fighter I have out this year.

And then all the focus will be on Jack's training camp. He's got a UFC fight in Jan. So, no, we crack on as normal. And I'm hoping that Jack Becker defends his title.

He might follow Jack Della's footsteps next year into the international scene. He's definitely ready to go. And I've got a bunch of boys just chomping at the bit to get out there. So we'll all train together.

The team mentality stays. Jack's not a big time guy. He's humble. He'll be in the gym as normal, like nothing's changed. No, we just crack on. As far as Eternal's concerned, again, it's just business as usual.

It's been challenging these last two years. I'd say now trying to get at these shows across the line, and it's cost a lot of money to travel people around for no reason, and there's been umpteen challenges, but Eternal has grown and gone from strength to strength as well during the pandemic, so all these challenges just help you get better at doing what you do.

We think on our feet now, so when something comes up, we've always got contingency plans in place. We know so-and-so might not get here, so who's going to fill in, and have we got the people on the back burner and sometimes we might give you a little retainer to stay ready for just in case, and we're sort of trying to future proof the business as best as possible and get as many good fights on as we can and, and keep doing what we're doing.

GEORGE: You're definitely doing that. On the contingency type plans, I was curious, what is the plan when you have the show scheduled for X date and government decides, hang on, we got a case and we're shutting the city down, which happens-

BEN: It happens, yeah.

GEORGE: What is the plan? Is it just shift to the next weekend? Or how do the venues compensate and work with you in that situation?

BEN: The venues don't really compensate. Everyone's sort of covering their own ass, if you like, at the moment. So what we'll do is we'll pencil dates in the distance.

So say that Perth was an example around February, our February show. Perth went into lockdown, and it came out of lockdown the day the show was supposed to take place, so I moved the show 16 hours, and I did it on Sunday. So it's just little things like that.

Once it gets canceled that late, boys are already cutting weight and stuff like that, so we want to try and keep it as close to the original date as possible so as not to mess around with the guy's health too much. So that's always my main concern is making these fights happen as close to the original date as possible.

But the last Gold Coast show was postponed numerous times. I think it went on the third date that we planned it for.

GEORGE: Wow.

BEN: It's just having the dates in the diary, speaking with venues, and venues understand the scenario, so they let you multiple pencils, and if people are canceling their events and you can slot in then we'll do that, and it's just being reactive really. I mean, it's a very tricky space at the moment. Imagine I've got a show on October the 30th, but if we have a lockdown on October the 29th, there's not much I can do about that.

Everything's in motion, everything's paid for everything. That's a tough one, but that's where insurance comes. And there are grants available from the government. They're hard to get, and they take a while, but if you qualify, which we haven't managed to receive one yet, then they'll compensate you for canceled events and stuff like that.

GEORGE: Got it.

BEN: You've just got to keep working. It's like anything. You want the result you want at the end, you just got to put your nose to the grindstone and make it happen.

That's all it is, is the extreme desire to make these events happen. It'd be easy to go, “Fuck it. I'm not doing anything for three months until this shit calms”, but you could be waiting three years.

GEORGE: Exactly.

Jack Della

BEN: You might as well just try and make… And we haven't… We fulfill our contracts every year with our broadcast contracts, the main COVID year, and then this year as well, we will fulfill our broadcast contracts, which is what… Like I said, at the start we promised we would deliver that, and it's important to us to…

I'm sure the UFC would understand if we didn't, given the circumstances, but it's never really been an option for me.

GEORGE: Yeah. I love that attitude. It's like survival of the fittest has taken on a new meaning. Like you just get it done. And I speak to a lot of school owners, and it's always frustrating when people have chosen…

I don't want to pick on anyone, but chose the backseat, chosen to… It's okay to not follow through and not succeed because X, Y, and Z.

BEN: Yeah.

GEORGE: Yeah, so it's not easy. It's complicated. It's definitely not easy. It's definitely not simple.

If you can navigate through this and manage to put all these different contingency plans in place with everything that you do, I think when everything's over and done and a bit more normal, whatever that is, you'll just operate at a whole another level.

BEN: Absolutely.

GEORGE: Yeah.

BEN: I always said to Cam, who's my Eternal business partner, I always said, “If we position ourselves right, and we play this right, we'll be in a very strong position at the end of this pandemic, and it's just literally a can-do mentality. Like whatever it takes to get the job done, and then having the support of commissions and people and years building up these relationships, they come to fruition when you need something from people, and you've been consistent in your behaviors and your delivery over the years, people are much more willing to help you out.

GEORGE: Yeah.

BEN: It's been a big collaborative effort from everyone involved, and I appreciate that. It is easy to go out, you know, “Let's just leave it. That's too difficult. Put it in the too hard basket, and move on.” But that's not how I operate. I like working under difficult circumstances. I like pressure. That's where I want to be.

GEORGE: Do you feel it kind of fires you up in a way?

BEN: I just like being in the thick of it. I don't like… Like for me, quarantine is the worst thing that could ever happen to me because I like being amongst it. I like shit to be happening all the time. That's just how I like to do it.

GEORGE: Love it.

BEN: Yeah.

GEORGE: Hey Ben, it's great catching up. For anyone listening, it's kind of… And I did chat about it in the last podcast episode, but it's actually funny how we met because our daughters go to the same daycare.

BEN: Yeah. They're all grown up now.

GEORGE: Yeah, growing up. Growing up and… Oh sorry, you've got a son as well that's growing up that's now in the same daycare. And I was just wearing the UFC shirt the one day Ben came in and it was like, “Hey, UFC”. And I could just… I looked at Ben, and it was like, yeah, he trains and-

BEN: Yeah.

GEORGE: That was the conversation.

BEN: Yeah.

GEORGE: And so I bump into Ben every so often just at the daycare, we have a bit of a rant or bump to his wife or at the local coffee shop which is Alex Junior.

Alex Junior Coffee

BEN: Alex Junior Coffee has the finest coffee in Perth.

GEORGE: There we go. Yeah. What is the full story behind the Dadbury? So, and for anyone listening, that's obviously… We're using terms here that are pretty not… Yeah, if you're not in Perth, sounds strange, but Padbury is a suburb. Go for it.

BEN: Padbury is where we live. It was the idea of one of the local dads that we should have a community of people, and what Dadbury does is get the dads together for one, but they've actually now got government grants and government funding. And what they do is they help people out in the suburbs. 

So say you might be a single mom and your garden's got away from you. The boys will come around on a Saturday, they'll dig your garden out. They've got a Bobcat and they'll… Or your roof's falling you in, and you can't afford…

So they're helping the local community, raising money for kids that are sick, cleaning the school grounds up, all kinds of stuff. It's just like a community, and anyone can sort of message the page who lives in Padbury or even I'm assuming, sort of the runnings of… But if you were the next suburb over, but you've been from it… It's just a community of dads that have different skill sets that…

My only skill set is I can rock up sometimes and lift some stuff and move some stuff around, and be a bit of a morale, making people laugh by falling over and being clumsy. But it's just a great group of people.

And I kind of have a little routine. The coffee shop, they built a coffee shop here, and it's become like the hub of the community. So after I drop the kids off in the morning to go to school, before I head down on the freeway to work, I'll drop in. I'll get my coffee.

I spend 10 minutes talking to the lads, whoever's around. It's a really nice suburb to live in. Like everyone sort of knows everyone's out for everyone, and being from London, I never really had that.

Everyone's too busy. Everyone's doing their own thing. No, one's really interested in what their neigh-… I didn't know the name of my neighbors, and they lived above me and beside me directly.

So it's really nice to walk around the suburb with the kids, and the kids play with other people's kids. You can sit and have a coffee, and it's a nice thing.

Community is very important to me and my gym is a community that I have, and now I have another community where I live, so I'm in a pretty good position for support. In quarantine, the lads come and drop coffee off at the doorstep for me.

GEORGE: Wow.

BEN: It's been amazing. They made sure to, when they saw Nat while I was away, make sure they didn't need anything. It's just nice to know that someone's got your back while you're away.

Obviously with traveling, it's going to become a bit more frequent for me now. It's nice to know that we live in a nice place where people are looking out. And I think if there could be more of that in society, then I think we'd all be in a much better spot.

GEORGE: Yeah, definitely. And I, I've got to admit it's… And I'm kind of sad I discovered that part before I moved, and I'm 10, 15 minutes away, but whenever we drop our daughter off, that's the first spot I go for coffee, and it's just got a great vibe to it, and it is kind of rare.

It's the first little hub that I've found in Perth that is very, very close and very… It's just got a different vibe to it. And that is rare in most places.

BEN: First time in my life I found it… Obviously, I was a soldier, so I was very transient, so I never really had a home base, and I never really had friends, loads of friends or a group or a community where I lived. It was more like at work.

And then when I went home on leave, I'd meet up with the other soldiers and you wouldn't really fraternize with your local community. So it's really nice for me, and it's probably the first time ever that I've had this sort of community vibe as an adult, and I think it's a great way to live because if you're…

Sometimes you feel shit, and there's a bloke down there you can just talk to. He doesn't really know that much about you, so it's quite an open sort of… Don't really… Yeah, so it's nice just to be able to get things off your chest, chat, and just have a laugh and some banter and push through the day.

But everyone knows that there's someone there if they need a shoulder to cry or they have some issues, then there's plenty of lads there to have a chat.

So I think it's important for men. Men don't talk enough, and I've had some mental health struggles in the last 18 months, and the support of those communities I have around me has been instrumental in getting through that, coming out the other side in a good spot. So find a community, whatever it is. Join a club.

I think men are terrible for just bottling everything up and drinking their way out of problems, and before you know it, bang, there's an explosion there.

GEORGE: Yeah, very, very true. I can vouch for that, and I think coming from a culture, South Africa culture which can be perceived as very stubborn and very hard in mindset just because of the circumstances of where you're from. But it's a lot of pride that goes into opening up and you always got to show up, be cool, be a hundred percent. Can't…

BEN: I mean, I think it's been great that Tyson Fury has come forward so heavily. For me, he's the greatest boxer of my generation. Definitely the greatest heavyweight of my generation, and what a human being.

I've never really met anyone that doesn't like him. He's been to the bottom. He's the baddest man on the planet, and he wanted to top himself, and here he is a week removed from one of the most amazing boxing fights you'll ever see, and he's flying, but he's a good advocate for… He's the baddest man on the planet, but he's able to stand there and go, “Yeah, I have mental issues, and I need to deal with it.”

So to have more advocates like that is fantastic, and it doesn't make you weak. There's this stupid stigma that us men have that we are weak if we have a problem. I was the worst for it.

I wouldn't tell anyone anything, but there's a reality check coming at some point in your life and you won't… It might… It chooses the right to time to come for you to work through it. So it happened to me at 40. It might happen at 50. It might happen at 60, but at some point, if you don't start getting rid of some of these demons or some of these problems or some of these issues, they're going to compound, and there's going to be an explosion, and there might be some collateral damage, so sooner or later, get it off your chest.

Find someone that you can confide in, and I think it's really important to do that.

GEORGE: Yeah. Yeah. Totally. Hey Ben, next time I'll hit you up for some coffee, and next time we chat on the show, I think we'll start talking about bull champions. How about that?

BEN: Yeah, sounds good.

GEORGE: Or earlier.

BEN: Give me a few years. When was the last one? Couple years ago?

GEORGE: I was looking this morning, so it's episode number 87 for anyone who wants to listen. 2019.

BEN: Yeah, so a couple of years.

GEORGE: Yep.

BEN: Yeah, I reckon if we circle back in a couple of years, we'll be knocking on the door.

GEORGE: All right. We'll call this the Ben and George Show, episode two of 20.

BEN: Yeah, there we go.

GEORGE: It'll be slow. It'll be slow paced. We'll do it once a year, once every couple years, but yeah, we'll just document the journey.

BEN: I'll get Jack to jump on and the next one.

GEORGE: Yeah. Sounds good. Would love to chat to him as well.

BEN: Perfect.

GEORGE: All right, mate.

BEN: Thanks for the time.

GEORGE: Good to catch up, and all the best for the last few days of quarantine. Enjoy the sun, and you'll be back on it next week.

BEN: Cheers, mate.

GEORGE: Speak soon. Cheers.

 

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***NEW*** Now available on Spotify!

121 – Is The ‘Anti-McDojo Mindset’ Sabotaging Your Martial Arts Business’s Success?

Cheyne McMahon and George Fourie discuss overcoming a somewhat outdated, old-fashioned, traditional mindset that’s holding many martial arts businesses back.

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IN THIS EPISODE:

  • Original, traditional karate charged at premium prices?
  • How to raise prices and still keep your students
  • Been called a McDojo?
  • Martial arts fees based on value vs time
  • Growing from 110 to 350 karate students
  • And more

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

 

TRANSCRIPTION

I think as instructors, maybe people try to be that person on the pedestal and be that person that they want to be, but they can't because it's not ingrained in them. But if people perceive them as that person, perceive them as, oh, my sensei does it for the love of karate. Well, yeah, we all do it for the love of karate or the love of the martial arts. If we didn't do it for the love of martial arts, we wouldn't do it. 

GEORGE: Hey, George here from martialartsmedia.com and welcome to the Martial Arts Media business podcast. I've got a repeat guest and I think I just discovered the record breaker of repeat guests, record breaker, Cheyne McMahon, third time on the show, I believe. 

CHEYNE: Yeah, that's right. Thanks for having me, George. Again. 

GEORGE: Cool. Welcome back. We used to introduce Cheyne as Cheyne McMahon from Australian Karate Academy, but now we'll add to the introduction Cheyne McMahon from Australia Karate Academy and the Karate Over Coffee Podcast. Cool. 

CHEYNE: That's it.  

GEORGE: Cool. We're going to talk about that, but Cheyne and I were chatting a week ago, so I'm going to put some context to this conversation. This might turn into a bit of a rant, I don't know, possibly, but it's going to be something that you really want to listen to, if you are struggling with growing your business, your martial arts business.

We're going to focus on karate, but I see this overlap in martial arts school owners I've talked to that do jiu jitsu, Kung-Fu, Taekwondo. I don't know if it's a generational thing, but it's a problem. And we're going to take it head on.

And I hope you get a lot from this. And if you have felt anything similar in the circles that you hang around, in the martial arts community and I hope this helps because this is the one thing that I see holding school owners back the most.  

As you guys know, if you listen to this podcast, I work with a group of school owners, we call Partners. And we promptly help school owners attract the right students, increase signups and retain more members. A lot of people always reach out and say, “Hey, we want help with our marketing.”

The first… I think the one thing that almost 99% of school owners always come to me for is, “Hey, we need more students.” That's always where the conversation starts. But what I've really noticed of late is, it's almost never the problem.  

It's almost never the problem. It's not. Yes, it is the problem, you need more students, but it's not the root cause of the problem.

It's not the marketing. It's not the, we need the latest trick. All those things are relevant. The problem goes way deeper than that. And it's mindset and mindset around money. Mindset and mindset around money. And I think this is the biggest thing that's holding most school owners back, especially, we're going to talk about karate, traditional karate, and beliefs around money and how to overcome that.  

Cheyne, let's just talk about where you're at right now with your school and from where I sit. I think if we talk about traditional karate, I think that Cheyne lives and breathes karate, like someone I've never met in my life. It's seven, eight hours a day. It's karate, it's talking karate, it's teaching karate, it's learning karate.  

And then, when you look at his school, if anybody has a label, throw those… What's with those dodgy labels like McDojo or things like that? If anybody has to do that, they need a bit of a reality check. But not that anything that we're talking about is wrong, but if we talk about purists, Cheyne does karate. He doesn't add other classes, there's no Muay Thai, there's no kickboxing, it's karate. There's no birthday parties. It's karate.

Everything is just centered on this one, the core of what Cheyne lives and breathes. I'll hand it over to you, where's your business at right now? How does it look and so forth?

Martial Arts Business

CHEYNE: Yeah. Well, at the moment, student-wise, we're in the 340 to 350 mark in the one dojo. We have a dojo in Sydney as well and he's looking around the 150 mark. But karate-wise, I've never moved away from teaching the best quality karate that we can offer.  

Everything is based around our style of karate. We teach the little kids, the kinder ninjas, but we kept those numbers. We have kids and we have many adults as well.

We'd be close to 150 adults in our program and that's not teaching anything other than traditional karate, karate and Kobudo, the weapons. Everything is geared around learning, understanding traditional karate. The dojo has gone, we have to keep expanding the dojo to have everybody in there, which is a great problem to have, but it doesn't mean that we've watered down any of the karate.

In fact, our karate has gotten better and better over the years because I've been able to… Instead of working a nine to five job and then coming and teaching karate, I've been able to focus everything on understanding more about karate, because I've got, not free time, but I've got allocated time during the day, now, for example, to spend on understanding more about karate and reading books about karate, reading internet forums about karate, watching videos.

I can spend a couple of hours a day just doing that and incorporating that into the classes, instead of going nine till five at a job and then having to teach, two, three hours after, a couple of days a week. Everything is geared around karate and karate getting better. Learning more about the oldest style of karate, traditional karate. 

GEORGE: Perfect. When it comes to fees, would you say that you are the cheapest in the market or more sort of the most expensive, when it comes to fees?  

CHEYNE: Well, I'm the most expensive, yeah, in my area. If you look at the karate schools around me, I'm definitely the most expensive, but I have the most available times. I've got a big training area, I've got toilets, change rooms, air conditioning, and new flooring.  

I am the most expensive, but not only that, my family have been doing karate for a long time. I charge the most because I deliver the most and I consider my karate to be the best. That's why, if you walk into a Mercedes dealership, you know you're going to be paying Mercedes dealership price.

If you walk into a Kia dealership, then you're going to pay a Kia price. The Kia salesman may be wearing a tie or they could be wearing a polo, nothing wrong with that. But if you go into a Mercedes dealership, they're wearing cufflinks, they're wearing tailored shirts. The tiling on the floor is a hundred dollars a tile, the Kia dealership is $10 a tile, so you get what you pay for.  

GEORGE: 100%. I've framed the word expensive and fees and cheap and expensive, but really what it comes down to is, and you've answered that is, you are priced based on your value. You are priced based on your value and not on just the time or so forth.  

CHEYNE: Yeah. We also have… The mandatory time is twice a week. The minimum time for you to train is twice a week. If you're after a once a week class, then I'm not the dojo for you. I'm only looking for serious students who want to do serious karate.

If you're interested in just doing once a week at a community hall, no problem, I will send you there and I'll give you the instructor's name, but for me, and the way that I want my club to be, it's a serious karate club, where we teach serious karate.

GEORGE: All right. Let's talk about why you feel that traditional… Let's start with your background and, if you're listening in a different country, or you've got a jiu jitsu school, TaeKwonDo, it doesn't matter, but we're going to go from Cheyne's experience, draw from Cheyne's karate experience, talk about traditional karate.  

When you speak to other school owners, traditional karate and so forth, where do you see the problem with them getting to the level that you're at?  

CHEYNE: I think it's a mindset from their previous instructor. It can be a preconceived idea that if you teach martial arts, you shouldn't make any money. Whereas in reality, in karate, I'll give you just a quick background story.

When Japan came over and took over Okinawa, all of the martial arts that were taught were in the Royal, there were 39 families, I think, something like that. 39 families and that's where martial arts were created.  

When Japan came over and took over Okinawa, those families had to leave the palace or they were made redundant more or less. They had to go and teach or they had to go and make money. And these guys, the only things that they knew how to do was read and write. Some became writers and other people, all they knew was karate, for example.

They would go on and teach karate for money because that's how they survived. And that's when… For people to think that karate instructors shouldn't make any money, they were doing it 150 years ago, whereas people just don't understand that.  

GEORGE: Where did this belief then… How did it infiltrate the modern, in our times today? 

CHEYNE: George, I don't know, mate. Maybe it was the Karate Kid. I honestly have no idea, because if you look in the sixties, seventies, eighties, and I'm only just talking about karate because that's all I know. We were bringing Japanese instructors to Australia, paying them money for us to learn karate, and then we would turn around and not charge our students. 

It may be an ideology that we want to be the samurai who doesn't make any money. We go from village to village and you pay me in bread and you pay me in water. I honestly have no idea.

It's that whole humbleness or the humility in karate or martial arts in general that we try to… Not BS, but yeah, probably BS about what really karate or martial arts teachers are. I say this a bit…  

GEORGE: Say it.  

CHEYNE: But I don't know, if you're an asshole outside of karate, before you learn karate, then you're going to be an asshole learning karate.  

But I think as instructors, maybe people try to be that person on the pedestal, be that person that they want to be, but they can't because it's not ingrained in them. But if people perceive them as that person, perceive them as, oh, my sensei does it for the love of karate. Well, yeah, we all do it for the love of karate or the love of the martial art. If we didn't do it for the love of martial arts, we wouldn't do it.

And there's that whole idea that my sensei, or even instructor… My sensei doesn't make any money out of karate, he does it for the passion. Yeah, well, how is he paying for the rent? How is he paying for insurance? Of course, everybody charges money, but yeah, to answer your question, mate, I don't really know, but I would think that's where it would stem from.  

GEORGE: And does he show up 100% devoted to teaching your class or does he show up halfhearted, because he knows that when he walks out here, there's a whole bunch of other problems to deal with that's money-related? 

And so there's half a commitment. Intentions are pure and so we're not talking about intentions here, because I think the intentions are pure, but what baffles me is that money sometimes, this ingrained and maybe ancestral belief about money that's genetic, carries over and somehow when someone's more successful in martial arts, let's throw them under the bus.  

And it's spoken about a lot, the crab in a bucket philosophy. If you put a bunch of crabs in a bucket and you watch them try and get out, one, they never get out because one just pulls each other down. And I mean, I've lived in Australia a long time. I don't know but I've only experienced martial arts…

Well from the start, mostly in Australia, other than speaking internationally and speaking of other cultures and so forth. I don't know if it just stems mainly from Australia, but no, it doesn't, I'll correct myself.  

CHEYNE: Definitely not. Well, I see a lot of instructors who have 50 students and they always ask you, how do you get more instructors? How do you get more instructors?

But it's not getting… Sorry, how to get more students? How do you get more students? But it's not about getting more students, it's about, you've got to set the time aside to get more students. You have to have the times available for those new students. 

If you're only Monday and Wednesday for an hour, you're only going to get a small percentage of people who have those times available. Instead of thinking, if you want to grow your dojo to be something that is a full-time dojo, then you've got to be a full-time dojo. You can't expect to be a full-time dojo running two or three times a week. 

GEORGE: And juggling three other jobs to…  

Martial Arts Business

CHEYNE: Exactly, yeah. If you're really passionate about your martial art, then you can dedicate yourself to it. And that's what I like to consider, I've dedicated myself to karate and that's how I'm able to offer so many different classes.  

GEORGE: Cheyne, let's talk about a term that gets thrown around. We've touched on it. It gets thrown around a lot, McDojo, what comes to mind or what triggers you when you hear the term McDojo?  

CHEYNE: Yeah. Well, I think those who point those fingers, I know some people would think that I'm a McDojo, for sure. But generally they're the people who are teaching karate from the seventies who haven't evolved their own karate. They're still practicing and teaching the same karate as what they learnt and really they have no idea what karate really is and what karate isn't. They're not doing the research. They don't know what they're doing. They don't know why we're punching to the body, why we're blocking to the body.  

They're teaching stuff that they don't understand the biomechanics, where I've put in the time and the research and so has my father and they're teaching karate from the seventies and still charging five bucks a class, where the karate that they're teaching is really poor, is bad karate. And they're the ones who think they're doing traditional karate, where in fact, they're doing modern sports karate. 

Whereas guys like myself are teaching traditional karate because we understand where karate comes from. We understand the changes that karate has had. We understand what karate looked like before and what karate looks like now, and they're teaching karate from the seventies, eighties, and nineties, whereas they're really just teaching modern sports karate from Japan, instead of understanding what karate is.

And for them to accuse me of being a McDojo, Well, I've spent many, many hours and many, many dollars on understanding what karate is and what karate isn't.  

And these guys are at a local hall, on a dirty floor, teaching two hours a week, karate from 1975 and parading around like they're a Japanese sensei and, “Don't question authority,” all of these sorts of things, and really they are the McDojo because they are actually… If you're going to say a McDojo, it's an awful term, but they're not progressing their karate.

They're still doing karate from 30, 40, 50 years ago. Whereas the Japanese instructors, who taught that karate, didn't understand karate, didn't understand what they were teaching because their instructor didn't know what they were doing.  

Whereas now we can go back through and we're researching… I'm not going to say we, not me, I'm following the guys who are doing all the research, but these guys are understanding what karate is and what karate isn't and how karate has evolved in the last 30 years.

Whereas these guys are still doing the same poor karate that they were doing without understanding biomechanics, how the body moves, how the body doesn't move. They're still teaching sports karate, thinking they're teaching traditional karate, where it's not. My karate has evolved, their karate hasn't.  

GEORGE: It's a word that I hate and I don't understand because I see it begins and for me, it comes from a place of jealousy. It's this place of, well, would you value this person's karate or martial arts more just because if they were less successful than you? Okay, the karate is great and successful, oh, but now they make more money than me, now they're a McDojo and they're selling out. What a lot of crap, selling out. 

Or it angers me a bit because is that what we teach people in life? If martial arts is the vehicle to improve people and improve your wellbeing way beyond what you do on the mat then is this what we have to teach people? Well, here we talk about… Well, we don't talk about bullying, it's not accepted and we are anti-bullying and we do this, but between each other, between our peers, it's okay to bully each other.

It's a bit of this hypocrisy in a way, yeah, don't bully, we'll teach you how to physically not bully, but mentally we'll tear everybody else down around us and that's okay because they are McDojo.  

CHEYNE: I'll tell you where it stems from George, it's insecurity, insecurity about their own karate or their own chosen martial art. If you are secure in your karate or secure in your martial arts and if you understand what you're doing, then you don't even worry about what other people are doing. You just focus on what you're doing. But for those who rant and rave about this McDojo, this guy's making too much money, that guy's making too much money.

Obviously this is a crap dojo because you are so insecure about the karate that you teach, if you've got to pull everybody down and that's what a bully is, they're insecure.  

GEORGE: Bullying and martial arts, who would have thought?  

CHEYNE: Well, I was bullied by somebody not long ago, a very well-known person, because obviously they are insecure about something that I said and they're insecure about it. And I called the person on it and they didn't hear anything else, but it's just because people are insecure, they're jealous.  

GEORGE: Let's talk about different pricing and positioning. In our Partners program, we have a new section which we call Onramp, which it's basically the first 10, 11 steps that a school owner's got to walk through before sort of graduating into the real group, into the official Partners group.  

Until a few months back, everything was marketing and how do we get the marketing right? But right now, the first thing that we actually care about is mindset. Mindset and turning time-based pricing to value-based pricing. And what I mean by that is, a lot of school owners would come into the group and they feel like they're still charging per class. It's per class or it's for this time. And it's like, well, that's what the value is based on the time.  

And a big focus for us is to shift from that to value-based pricing, which is, well, it's not about the time, it's about what do they get in that time and what do they get in the time as in a full experience. And that is how you are able to raise your prices, because it's almost not what you teach, it's how you frame what you teach and realize that the outcome exceeds just the physical aspect of martial arts.  

Let's talk, just in current times, I don't know when you're listening to this or if you listen to this in current times, but with the state of the world going from lockdowns, in and out of lockdowns, and maybe you're not in lockdown right now, but who knows, there could be one coming or you've just come out of one. But with that happening, a lot of martial arts school owners are reverting to online classes.

And some are cool with that and some are not. And I find it fascinating that just speaking to some school owners, they lock in down for two months, they've got a 90% retention. Students are getting value.  

They still get value from being in the club. They're not physically in the club, but they get value from being in the club and being in the community. And that is a big step for realizing what your value is, because it proves that the outcome that you get from martial arts and being in the martial arts environment, exceeds way more from being on the mat and how you punch, how you kick, how you do chokes, how you do submissions, whatever type of style you do.  

Let's talk about your process. Let's break it down. You're a martial artist, maybe you're a traditionalist, and you've only got a few students and you want to take a step up, you've got to grow, you know you got to scale but you may be in that situation where you got one or two classes. You don't have the funds potentially to grow and scale and so you've got to make changes to your pricing.

How did you go about changing your pricing to a direct debit, more sort of a recurring basis and raising your prices? Because you were saying earlier that you're actually the most expensive in the market. What was the process that got you there?  

CHEYNE: I doubled the fees and those who stayed with me paid double the fees and those who didn't, left, but it was a very small percentage of people that left. I doubled the fees.  

GEORGE: What conversation did you have with yourself when you doubled the fees? How did you combat the little voice that was fighting you, saying that there's no way I can double my fees, that's unethical, I'll be labeled a McDojo, everybody's going to call me a scam artist? My peers are going to look down at me and call me a scam artist or whatever.  

CHEYNE: McDojo is such a bad term. People consider anybody who charges fees a McDojo. If you charge for a grading, you could be considered a McDojo. Lose that mindset of being a McDojo. Well, I suppose everybody is a McDojo, who charges money and everybody charges money.

There's not a martial art club in the world that I know of, that wouldn't charge money. If you're doing it at home, I can understand maybe not charging, but if you've got to pay rent, you've got to charge money.

It could be considered, everybody's a McDojo. The mindset I had was, well, I'm worth it. The 35 years I've been involved in karate. And when I say involved, it's not just once or twice a week for an hour or two. It's all day seven, eight hours, thinking about karate, reading about karate, writing about karate, talking about karate, doing podcasts about karate, doing videos, traveling, seminars, the amount of money that I've spent over the years, it is huge.  

I think that my time is worth this. And if you think it is too fantastic, you pay your money. If you don't, there's a local community dojo down the road, happy to send you there. The mindset was, I don't really care what other people think of me, I'm comfortable with what I really like, I'm happy with where I am.

I believe my karate is fantastic and I believe we offer a fantastic experience, quality karate, quality experience, and these things. And I charge what I think I'm worth, I stopped caring what people thought of me a while ago, mate.  

But honestly, it did take a while. It did take a while, if I'm going to be honest, it took a while for me to get over the fact that what people would think of me. Now, I don't care.  

GEORGE: It's interesting because I remember, it's a story I did tell a lot, but the first time we had a conversation was when you had 110 students and the dojo was flooded. What I found interesting from that story was that you listened to this podcast, it was episode number 44.

If you ever want to listen to it and you sent me a message straight after and said, “Hey, I did this thing that you said on the podcast, and I've got new students or inquiries.”  

I can't remember at the level the result was. And then we got talking and 110 students, you took a gamble on yourself and said, well, I'm going to do this thing. And we jumped in, we created some really good offers. Something we probably never spoke about was mindset, but we just put the right offers in place. And before you knew it, it was 200 students.

And then before we knew it, there were 300. And now you're sitting at a very sweet spot of 340, 50 students. And you've got a wait list. Am I correct?  

CHEYNE: Yep. 

GEORGE: Yep. 

CHEYNE: We have a waitlist, yep. For all programs, yep.  

GEORGE: How has your pricing changed from Cheyne that was at 110 students to 340, 50 students?  

CHEYNE: Well, I'm able to employ more people, more instructors, which makes it easier for me, which gives me the time to make the classes better, and make the karate better as well. Instead of taking every single class, I can spend more time with my family, whether they like it or not.

It allows me breathing space as well. Having more instructors gives me breathing space to make my karate better, so I can learn more stuff.  

We have a separate black belt class where I teach. I love that class, the black belt adult’s class, where all we do is the secrets of… No secrets, but all we focus on is all the stuff that I've learned, new stuff, more, Kobudo, more weapons, all the stuff that probably separates my karate from other people's karate, because I've put the time in. I've been everywhere, I've learnt from many people.  

That extra time allows me to make sure that the karate that I'm giving is the best quality traditional karate. Our karate is based on Okinawan karate and we have a Japanese sensei as well, who's 88. Time is limited, but it's based on karate that was done a hundred years ago. We include throws, joint locks, take downs, the pressure point strikes, as well as weapons, as well as [kakia], which is all different drills, two person drills, kumi kata, sticky hand drills, all of these things that I'm able to teach into my system.  

And I'm not bogged down by teaching kata, hundreds of kata. That's a total karate podcast, but these are things that I've already done. I did those things 20 years ago and now I'm able to teach the best karate that I can. But the biggest thing is, it's not like I'm making a million dollars. I wish I was, shit, who wouldn't? 

GEORGE: And you should, for the value that you provide.  

CHEYNE: Yeah. Well, it also allows me to employ people, instructors, and to give back to those as well. We have a group of maybe 10 instructors who teach and help out. And yeah, it allows me that as well. It's not like I'm making all the money, because again, if I did all of the classes and all of those sorts of things, then I would make all the money, but I couldn't develop my karate and I couldn't give back because I'd be out there for four hours, five hours a day teaching classes, instead of being able to understand more about karate.  

GEORGE: Yeah. You're building a legacy and you're transferring knowledge. Knowledge is not just ending with you, it's actually going through you and you're empowering the next generation.  

Martial Arts Business

CHEYNE: Yeah. Building the legacy. That's a huge thing that I'm trying to do. Build a legacy for my son as my father did for me. That's the biggest thing I want is to build a legacy where karate is the best possible. And hopefully my son takes up karate, whether he does it…

Whatever he does, that's cool. I'm not going to put any pressure on him. And my dad certainly didn't put any pressure on me either, but the karate that my son is going to continue, is hopefully better than mine, because I know mine is much better than my dad's, but don't tell him.  

GEORGE: I'll be sending this over to Bob. I'm sure he'll be listening anyway.  

CHEYNE: I wouldn't say it's better than my dad's, but we do more and more than my father did, because I've got another 30 years on top of him. In 30 years, when I'm his age, I will be 30 years further than he was.  

GEORGE: Got you. Yeah. I guess if we had to sort of start wrapping things up, if you're really stuck with your martial arts business and you're not moving forward, then maybe take this episode on board. If things triggered you that we spoke about and we were talking before this and we went deep into a lot of aspects, but if anything triggered you then have a look at your… I guess, have a look at your relationship with money.  

Two things from this podcast that have stuck with me, one was, first time I spoke to Kevin Blundell and Kevin runs a multi-billion dollar organization. I think there were 24 or 25 locations, I can't keep up. But one thing that he mentioned to me that really stuck out was the minute you charge a dollar, you're in business and you've got an obligation to fulfill and deliver value.  

If you're charging nothing, great, and that's great. If that's what you do, and a lot of people do that and this is not about discriminating or looking down, if that's a choice and that's something that you want to do and you provide value to your community in that way. But the minute you charge a dollar, you are in business. Now this is where you've got to decide, well, how much value you can deliver for a dollar versus a hundred versus a thousand versus whatever, however your fee structure works.  

And then the second thing was, Kylie Ryan, who is a mindset coach who I really respect. And we just spoke in the midst of the whole pandemic. And one thing that she pointed out was, when people pay, people pay attention. And when people are paying more for a service, there is a subconscious value to it, that you appreciate it more and that you are more committed to it because if you are showing up and it's just costing you five bucks, you might not be that committed to show up.  

But if it's 500 bucks or whatever the fee is, you might look at it a bit differently and you might value it differently. And that's probably the same from your parents, from parents with kids in martial arts as well.  

If you feel you are stuck, then have a look at your surroundings, who are you listening to? Who's influencing your thinking about money and maybe unfortunately, that is someone real close to you, within your family, or maybe that is someone higher up in martial arts that you aspire to and they are the best and sincere and authentic martial artists. But their relationship with money is crippled and you are forced to live under that same mindset and thinking, and if, unless you deal with that issue, you can have all the marketing solutions in the world and get all the students you want, they're going to be leaving and it's not going to result to success. 

CHEYNE: Yeah. I think there's a lot of jealousy. A lot of people don't understand what money is and how money works. And when somebody else has more money than them, people get jealous and point fingers and don't really understand what it takes. And it could also be that your sensei has a, as you said, bad relationship with money because their sensei had a bad relationship with money and didn't understand.  

GEORGE: Yeah. Perfect. Just to wrap things up. Two things, if you need any help with any of that, do reach out to us, martialartsmedia.com. You can contact us from there. And if you want to learn more about karate, Cheyne, since the last time we spoke, Karate Over Coffee podcasts, tell us about that.  

Cheyne McMahon Karate Business

CHEYNE: I love karate and I'm a big fan of coffee. It's a podcast where I talk about all my experiences in karate. Interview people, it's all karate based, everything is based on karate, obviously, that's why it's called Karate Over Coffee. And yeah, we talk about lots of things, dojo management sometimes as well. Talk about competitions. Talk about what kata and what karate is and what karate isn't. And yeah, I only really scratched the surface so far. We've got some sweet merchandise there.  

GEORGE: I can see, if you're watching this, Cheyne completely outdone me with my plain black shirt and, oh, that's it. We've got a mug and we got a shirt, all right, I'm going to need to up my game. That's for sure. Where can people tune in to Karate Over Coffee?

CHEYNE: Well, you can go straight to the website, karateovercoffee.com. I got all the episodes there, or you can follow us on iTunes or Spotify. However you listen to your podcasts, there's a YouTube channel as well, just type in Karate Over Coffee, yeah, we've got some shirts available karateovercoffeeshop.com. We're everywhere.  

GEORGE: It's everywhere. Perfect. Cheyne, thanks so much for being on again.  

CHEYNE: No worries.  

GEORGE: We might break another record and have you on for episode four of the…  

CHEYNE: Yeah. When I hit 500 students, for sure.  

GEORGE: When you hit your 500 students. Okay cool. The half… I almost called it the half century mark, the half… The 500 mark.  

CHEYNE: 500 mark, yeah.  

GEORGE: Cool. We'll call this part three of 20 of the Cheyne and George sub-division podcast overlaps over the Martial Arts Media™ Business Podcast versus Karate Over Coffee. And I think this is where we got to call it quits.  

CHEYNE: Thanks for having me, George. 

GEORGE: Thanks, Cheyne. Speak soon.  

CHEYNE: Cheers, mate. 

GEORGE: Cheers.

 

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***NEW*** Now available on Spotify!

120 – 3 Martial Arts Photo Mistakes That’s Hurting Your Brand And Reputation

If a picture says 1,000 words, what are yours saying about your martial arts school? Martial Arts photographer, Francine Schaepper, shares 3 pitfalls to avoid that could tarnish your brand and reputation.

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IN THIS EPISODE:

  • The costly mistake that school owners make with random photos
  • Why use a vision board to strategize your martial arts photos
  • How to create attention grabbing martial arts photos for Facebook ads
  • Forget ‘message to market match’ – think ‘photo to market match’
  • The Power of Pictures: How to use them to communicate your message
  • And more

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

 

TRANSCRIPTION

There's a lot of mistakes you can make, and we're not talking about technical mistakes here. You know, the how to, that's a whole different story. But the main mistake that I see is that a lot of martial arts schools who are owners don't have a plan when it comes to photography, they have no plan.

There's very little purpose behind when they take photos or how to take photos. And then also because of the first two, then there's no message, or there's a wrong message which can really greatly damage your school and your image really. 

GEORGE: Hey, it's George here from martialartsmedia.com and welcome to the Martial Arts Media™ business podcast. So, I got a repeat guest with me today. Good day Francine. 

FRANCINE: Hello. 

GEORGE: Hello Francine. Francine Schaepper from Martial Arts Photography International. We've got a great episode lined up for you today, and we're going to talk about the three martial arts photo mistakes that's hurting your brand. So photos that you might take in the school, training, photos that you're using for ads and promotions and three mistakes that you should avoid and how it could be tarnishing your reputation and your brand. 

We've also got a great download with this episode with a short little instructional video. So I'll give you all the details on how you can get that. But first up, if you haven't listened to podcast one or two, you can go listen to that and get the full story about Francine. I think we spoke a lot about that and a bunch of other things, but for now, Francine, if you could give us just a two minute background, who you are and we'll go from there. 

martial arts photography

FRANCINE: Okay. I'm Francine. I am a martial artist of 20 years myself. So I've been training in different styles, it's kind of my passion. Well, it's not kind of my passion, it is my passion and I am a professional photographer as well. So at some point it merged.

I created my niche and I've been taking photos for martial arts schools for, I don't know, maybe six, seven years. Yeah. I've got thousands and thousands of photos of martial arts and martial artists in my database. Yeah, I love doing it. So it's an awesome industry to be working in. 

GEORGE: Okay. So let's talk about photos. Now, depending on the state of the union, the state of your country within martial arts where you're at, what I'm referring to is whether you've got restrictions or lockdown or so forth, chances are you might not have a professional photographer on hand that could take photos and a lot of people are just doing it themselves. I mean, smartphones are so good.

Actually Francine and I created a course, the Smartphone Photography Masterclass, which is all about taking photos with a phone. 

So phones are really … it's kind of all you need, but it's not just about point and click, right? There's a lot of things that … it's the little things that can make the difference. And I think what we want to really talk about today is those things that you've got to look out for and avoid. So three mistakes, what are the three top mistakes that you see martial arts school owners make when taking photos that's tarnishing the brand and reputation? 

FRANCINE: There's a lot of mistakes you can make, and we're not talking about technical mistakes here. You know, the how to, that's a whole different story. But the main mistake that I see is that a lot of martial arts schools who are owners don't have a plan when it comes to photography, they have no plan.

There's very little purpose behind when they take photos or how to take photos. And then also because of the first two, then there's no message, or there's a wrong message, which can really greatly damage your school and your image really.

GEORGE: All right. Okay. So big picture overview. Now let's … if we can get a bit more into the details, like a plan, what type of plan are we talking about? A written plan or a big mind map, or what am I doing? What's wrong with me just looking at the class and getting happy snappy and just taking random photos?

FRANCINE: Well, you can always … It's better to get happy and snappy than not taking photos at all, which I see too. So that's probably the main mistake, don't take any photos. So that's the fourth one. Look, the plan is chances are when you started your school, and I'm going back a bit because that's really, that's the work I do with every single client I work with. 

And you can do it for yourself, it is just stepping back and going, okay, when you started your school, when you were really excited about it all, at some point you decided about a brand. You decided, okay, my color is red or green or blue, or that's the name. And then that comes with all the emotional things, which is good. Like the passion, the emotion, you might be in a very traditional school, like a Shaolin school, where it's all about … You've got your little alter there and things like that. Or you might be super clean cut and modern. 

And I bet with all of you that at some point when you started, or I hope so at least, that you had that thought that you had this big vision of your school. And there might be chances that you have a business plan as well. The problem is when it comes to photography, often that gets forgotten because, “Oh yeah, I'll just take my phone and take some happy snaps.” Like you said. The problem is that often, and that's something I might talk about a bit later, that you forget what the original vision was.

So let's say that your vision was, you have this really traditional school and it's all about the details and you've got really cool uniforms and the weapons are carved. I mean it's a stereotype, right? But let's say this is your school. 

And then all your photos are really just quick snaps of, I don't know, just really wide shots. You're not really showing those details and you lose that passion and that love for details that is a part of your brand, if it is. On the other hand, if you have a very, very modern brand, you're nice and clean cut. Everything's really nice and neat.

I don't know, and then you take photos where there's a yellow bin in it in every shot, or you don't look at the details you have … I'm going into probably too much detail, but it's just that you lose … If you don't have a plan, then you don't have a direction and it's just very random. All your photos are random, and chances are that they just look like any other school, even though when you set out to create your brand, you had these points of difference that were very you. 

And it's almost like when you do your planning or your vision boarding, that's what I will get you to do, is like, okay, sit back, remove yourself from everything that you have now, even if you've had this school for 20 years, sit back. I use Pinterest, which is a free app with most of my clients. And it's not about finding martial arts shots. It's about finding shots that convey that feeling or the energy and everything that makes your school so unique because your school is unique.

Every school is different. And sit back and really have fun putting photos in that you'd find online. And that could be a photo of a dragon. It could be a photo of a cat. I don't care what it is. 

But once you've got that vision board and that collage, it will tell you all, this is what I should look like. And you might have a lot of detailed shots in there, or you might have a lot of very specific colors in there. And then if I came in, I would look at that and go like, “Okay, well, that's your visual … that's your vision for what you want your brand to look like.”

And then when you take photos, the best thing is you print it out, you put it on the wall, then it reminds you, “Oh yes, I do want to record all those really intricate details because that's part of my brand.” Or, “No, I want it clean cut. It's about lines and being very clean and that's how I'm going to shoot.” So it's just about having a plan in the background that you can get back to. 

GEORGE: So on that plan, right? And you were mentioning all these different elements, the cat and everything else, how do you get to the point where … I mean, because you've got this clear vision of what you want your school to look like. What are you trying to draw inspiration from so that you can make your vision the reality?

And I think a lot of us might have … We're not experienced photographers. Our vision gets blurred and we think that it's kind of looking like that, but it's not really. So how do we cross that bridge? And what are we looking for if we had a cat and we've got a boat? We've got things that look good, but what are the intricate little inspiration elements that we try to draw from that, that we could take on to taking photos of students on the mats?

Francine Schaepper

FRANCINE: Well, I guess it's more about … It's not, okay, if you've got a picture of a cat or a dragon or whatever it is, it's not about the cat or the dragon. It's more about the energy, right? So, okay, well that's going down the creative rabbit hole. But if you got a cat, like let's say cat style, old Kung fu or Karate, whatever, I don't know which style has cats or tigers.

Well if you think about it, it's a whole different energy of stalking and moving that if let's say you have a horse, which might be galloping. I mean, that's really weird, but I do go down these rabbit holes. And in the end, even if you're not creative, if you have that in the back of your mind that, okay, this is the spirit of the movement or whatever you're trying to show, then you'll start to take different photos. 

And that's something that we spend a lot of time on, where I spend a lot of time talking about in our course is that's the how, but that comes later. First you just have to put that vision up and just go like, okay, well just leave it there and just kind of marinate with it a bit. And it will, if you work with it, it will start infiltrating how you take your photos later on. It's not clean cut. You probably need a little bit of direction, which someone like I can give. Or maybe you have a very creative person in your team. 

So I always tell school owners who feel like, “Oh my God, that's just doing my head in just thinking about that.” Well, I'm sure you've got one of your especially junior instructors, right? They're on their phones all the time. They're on Instagram. They look at photos all the time. So find your most creative person, show them that vision board and say, “Does that … Can you do something with this? Does that inspire you to take photos?” 

If you get a person that is visual and that has that naturally, they'll probably … Because it's something that you do intuitively, it's not a technical thing, not so much. It's more of an idea, which I know, if you're technical, I've lost you now, but that's why I say, just find someone in your family or in your team that can do that. And then they can do it for you as well. You can delegate these kinds of things. Does that make sense?

Because the first step is very much just about, don't think about how am I ever possibly going to translate that into a photograph? That happens later. First, you just need to have that vision and just put it somewhere, and then how comes later. 

GEORGE: Okay, cool. And I think what would add to that would be this creative talk or things that cause some tension in your gut and you're like, “Ah.” Then find what you don't like. Sometimes it's easier to eliminate stuff than to pick the thing that you want. But you know, if you know what you don't like, then have that on your un-vision board and eliminate doing those things that will pull you towards what you need. 

FRANCINE: An un-vision board. I like that. I'll use that. 

GEORGE: That's … I just, yeah. 

FRANCINE: Yeah, that works.

GEORGE: It's a number two, no purpose. So there's a bit of an overlap here. So tell us about that. 

FRANCINE: Yeah. I mean, it is totally an overlap and I see that throughout. It's not just a martial arts business. It's with any business I work with. It's this thing of, “Oh, I need photos.” And we all do, especially now, we're a lot more online. We have Zoom classes. We just need content. We need to stand out.

And as I often say, yoga, Pilates, and all of these industries are much better than mine. They look better than martial arts. Let's be honest. They just look better. They're on it. So that's why our industry needs to catch up a little bit. But the thing is not having a purpose is more, “Oh, I need photos, take the phone, take a snapshot, walk off the mats.” And then later you look at it, you're like, “Oh, I don't even know what that was supposed to be.” 

And we're all guilty of that because you do it under pressure. You don't think about why you're doing it. And it's like going into battle without a plan. I mean, you have some plan and your plan is that vision board or that un-vision board, I do not want … And that's a good point actually. If you go, “I don't want dark photos. I don't want blurry photos. I don't want people looking like they're in pain in my photos.” Which is probably three things you should avoid anyway, so there's some extra for you. 

Even if you set out with that in mind, “All my photos will have really nice, bright exposure because I like bright pictures because that's on my vision board.” If that's the only thing you take out, you take your camera and that's something I can teach you, but you can YouTube it. I mean, we've got a whole course and you go out and you learn how to make sure that your photos are well exposed. That's the one thing you do. 

You have a purpose because your purpose is, “I'm going to create photos that look nice because the lighting is great.” Take, done, that's the purpose. Or if you go out and you say, “Okay, today my intention is, because I like close-ups.” Right?

So on your vision board you might have lots of photos of close-ups and details. Now translating that will be like, “Okay, I want to focus on somebody doing a punch. I want to focus on the head or I want to focus on the face or an expression.” So what you're going to do, your intention is going to be, “I'm going to go close in. I'm not going to stand outside of the mats and just take photos of whatever.” Potentially little Johnny crying in the background and then you don't see it. You post it. There you go. 

You're going to go on the mats. You're going to go nice and close. You're going to interact with your students and go like, “Hey, give me a smile.” Click, and then that's tick, that's another purpose. So even if it feels like a lot in the beginning, if you have that plan, just take one thing at a time, especially if you're new or if like you say, you have an anxiety attack even thinking about it. 

Pick one thing, bright photos, close-ups or colors. Can I capture colors? Belts or whatever it is. And you can make it a little challenge. I mean, we all like a little challenge. So just having a very simple purpose when you go out there to take a photo, that'll expedite, not expedite. That'll increase your … I just lost my word. That'll improve your photos a lot just by doing that. And I'm not even telling you how to do it, it's just the approach.

GEORGE: So we're getting a bit clearer on a plan. I guess what I'd like to know, where does emotion overlap in all this? Is there like a certain emotion that will be more leaning to the message in point three? But where does emotion fall in play? The emotion that we're trying to extract out of the photo or the emotion that we're trying to perceive from the person seeing the photo.

Francine Schaepper

FRANCINE: The message one, that's the next one. I think when you're just … you have your vision, you have your purpose. It's about your emotion, what you bring in. Because the photo is never … not never, but it's not about the tool. It's not about your camera. It's about how you … I always say it's about how you see the world, how you perceive the world or how you perceive what's happening. 

At some point, if you take enough photos, that's what is going to make your photos unique because nobody looks at things the way you do. I mean I'm someone, I like to be flat on my stomach on the floor taking shots. That's just where I like to be. I'm never just standing straight, but that adds that angle that people go, “Oh yeah, that's a Francine shot, obviously.”

And that's emotion in itself. And also because you're interacting with the students because they know you, the emotion comes through the shot and that's not something that you need to think about. 

I don't think about it when I take shots. It's just something that happens naturally because you are out there doing something with an intention. You're going to get some sort of emotion in there and probably take photos on a day that you feel happy and that you're good and not when you're grumpy. Because it always comes through, like it's with any creative process, it's a process that happens in the background. You often don't even know that it's happening. 

So you don't have to be artistic to do that. Everybody is creative in their own way. I mean, creativity is problem solving and your problem solving with martial arts. So you're stepping out there and you're just taking a shot, chances are that the emotion will come through and don't question it too much.

Just do it and just be yourself doing it. It sounds really simple, but it really is. It's not rocket science. It's just something that … And the more you enjoy it, the better it's going to get. And if you really hate it, then yeah, just delegate it to someone who loves doing it. And then you get that emotion through too. 

GEORGE: Yeah, totally. And so what I do want to do based on that is just take a bit of sidestep, right? Because like in our Partners group and Academy group, a lot of school owners want to run ads on Facebook. And so there's a message that they want to deliver.

And so, I mean, the first thing we always say is test, but then some photos are just not good and they should not even make it to any form of a test. Everyone's always asking for feedback on photos before they go live. And there's certain elements that we do obviously too, and a few rules that we always stick by just a couple of people and so forth. 

But the question I have for you is, let's say we are running an ad and there's a certain emotion or message. Maybe I'm leaning again to the message, right? But we're trying to communicate, like we want to display confidence for example.

It's a big one with kid’s karate or it's a self-defense situation. So maybe it's a lady's workshop, or it’s jiu jitsu and it's pretty brutal, but we're doing a display that someone's getting choked out and they've still got a smile on their face. It's a sort of fun environment.

So what are those elements? And I know I've given you probably too much to work with, but how do you go about that? Let's just take the first one and say, all right, well, I'm running an ad that promotes confidence with kids and so now I want to create a photo that's going to resemble confident kids. Where would I start with that? 

FRANCINE: Well, it has all three in it. So first of all, you would have to go … I would send you to go find photos of kids that you like that convey confidence and happiness. Just find random photos. They don't have to be martial arts because it's hard.

On Pinterest there's very, very little content for martial artists. I mean, one of my suggestions is I'm working on it, but go on my website, see how I do it and then try to copy that because yeah, there's not a lot out there.

But so the plan would be to find photos first that you like, that you go, yeah, that conveys confidence. Print them. Then you would go on the mats and go like, okay, well then your intention is, I need happy kids. Right? Happy, confident kids. You kind of want both. How do you do that? How do you see that?

So your intention is to show their face, right? So your purpose or the intention for you, the second one will be, okay, if I want to get that expression. I need to capture the face or most likely an interaction maybe in a self-defense kind of environment. Right? So there's two kids. They're doing their self-defense, they're looking or even with an adult, they're looking confident, but they look capable and happy doing it. 

So then that's your intention. Then the third one will be, okay, the message it's already in there. So you want them to be doing … You want them to look a certain way. And that's also when you start communicating, so you set the scene. So if it's kids, photos, you go like, okay, well, if you shoot that at night, when it's really dark, it's underexposed, you can't really see the face. That's already a no-no. So your message would be wrong.

Even if you have your plan, you've got your purpose, but you chose the wrong time to do it, let's say, right? So you got to go, “Okay, well, that's what I want because I want my viewer on the message to be, it's a bright, I don't know, it's a bright, sunny day that's happy.” Right? So it's bright and sunny.

It's a Saturday morning. That's happy, and the kid's having fun doing self-defense and then there's your message. I don't know if that makes sense because it's very complex. And for me it's easy because I do it automatically. But the more you do it, just think logically, like if you want a confident, happy kid, that's why you go back to the plan. You would never choose a dark alleyway self-defense layout or image. That would be maybe for women. Because you go like, “Okay, I need to walk …” A kid shouldn't be there.

So think logically, okay, well for a kid what's a happy environment? It's a sunny day playing with their mates, but they're still looking confident. And then from the plan, you've got your intention and then you translate it to your shot. Does that make sense? Because it's a lot of logic. Like if you want women, show photos of women.

Francine Schaepper

GEORGE: I'll make it easy. As we're talking, just thinking, we're including a download, which we'll talk about in a minute because when we talk about having no message and how to go about that. In the course that we created, the Smartphone Photography Masterclass. We had two sessions, Shooting With Purpose and People and Portraits. And I know people and portraits, we did a few comparisons with a few kids and photos and different styles, jiu jitsu and so forth and examples of great photos. I'm putting you on the spot, but would it be okay to include that as a download? So if people go to the episode and download the transcript that we can include those with the episode? 

FRANCINE: Yeah. I think it was a case study we did. Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. Because sometimes you just need to have sample photos that you go like, “Oh, okay. I know what she's talking about.” Yeah. 

GEORGE: So especially just being a podcast and it's auditory and you might be … maybe you're watching the video on martialartsmedia.com or you're watching it on social or you're listening on iTunes or Spotify or somewhere. It would be good to put the visual element in perspective. So if you go to martialartsmedia.com/120, one, two, zero, there will be a link where you can download the transcript. 

And in the transcript, we'll have the transcript of this episode. And we'll also include portions to the worksheet that come from the Smartphone Photography Masterclass with a few case studies and something that we're going to talk about next. So Francine, let's talk about the message and also the worksheet that's included. 

FRANCINE: Yeah. So the message, I mean, like it's apparent, those three things are intertwined a little bit. If you work backwards, if you say you want to have the message, you cannot have a message without having a plan and having a purpose. It's just not going to work because then it's random. It's like you're happy snaps, like you said. 

GEORGE: So before we get into the details, let's define the message. What are we actually trying to say when we want a message delivered through our photos? 

FRANCINE: We call it the photo to message match. I mean, there's this saying, I think in every language that a photo speaks a thousand words. No, a photo says more than a thousand words. And one of the things that I will ask is, well, if one word has so much … If one photo has so much power, then if you look at the photos on your page or your socials, does it actually tell the right story? 

And often I get this kind of like … And you know it doesn't because you know exactly like, “Yeah, no, that's not the story I wanted to tell.” Or it's just mismatched. So visual, and with visuals, it's even harder because there's a lot of space for interpretation, but that's at the pro level. But even when you do your day to day photos, just keep it super simple. Like what's the message? And then what is logically, how can you visually convey that message? 

Like I said before, if it's for kids, like confident, happy kids training, using a dark alleyway for self-defense in a self-defense like a hooded guy, you know? It's probably not the right message because that's not … Mothers would think, “Oh my god, what's my kid going to do?” Like, that's too scary.

Even though your idea might be right. It's not. Just think like your prospect would think and with kids it's the mums usually, right?

So if you put anything out for kid’s classes, you got to think … And I'm not telling you anything new. I mean, I hope that all of you have done a business plan. You've got your guide, you've got stuff in there. You've got your demographics, you've defined your demographics. What do they think, where do they go? Where do they get their coffee? All of that.

Now just use that. You already have it. So go back to basics, find your demographics, and look at this. You should have it. If you don't, it's the time to do it. And then just try to think in their terms. So don't think like a martial artist, don't think like a fighter, think like someone who has no idea. And think what would they … It's very elaborate. I mean you can keep it quite simple. If you have a boxing class and you've got that, I don't know what the title is on the sheet that we're giving you, which we had. I think I broke it down into four very… 

GEORGE: The Photo to Message Matchmaker. 

FRANCINE: Yeah, duh, I'm talking about that. And we've got four very … I think I came up with four total stereotypes. Right? So I'm going to take a step back. Usually you have your macro brand, which is your school, and then you might have a fitness class, a kid’s class, self-defense class and a traditional class.

Now, if you download that and it's not, you just read it because it's going to click, you're going to go like, “Oh, okay.” And you just change it with whatever you were doing. If it's for example, BJJ, you would go competitive sports BJJ, more self-defense class, maybe for women, then you've got kids and you might have something else. 

So just translate it to your own. And I've got a lot in there. And then just go back to your plan. Literally, you go to Pinterest and go, women's fitness classes, and then you see photos coming up and you go like, “Okay, well how can I use that?” But instead of a woman doing yoga, it's a woman doing a kick, smiling. If that makes sense?

So that's where the plan comes back into play with your message, if you're not sure what it is that you were trying to do visually. 

GEORGE: Actually Francine, I've got it open here on the screen. So just to add to that, four broad categories of different styles. If your style doesn't fit there you can pick one that's closest to it. But we talk about a breakdown of the audience, the motivated desired result, role models, aspirations, existing issues, environmental, fear barrier, internal, and then photo suggestions of how you can actually go about the photos.

So there's page two, there's three suggestions on each for photos. Then there's lighting tips, movement, tips, composition tips, and a few bonuses as well. 

FRANCINE: There you go, if you print that out and put it up in your academy, that'll solve a lot of question marks already. Because it is quite a … I mean, I could talk about this all day, but in the end, it's a very logical process. You think about who you are trying to sell it to? What do they like? And you have to work with stereotypes. I mean, you do. Women probably prefer bright, colorful kinds of photos. 

If it's for a fight club or for a sparring class for guys. Well then obviously you're not going to use pink tops. You've got to obviously make it a little bit more masculine. You can turn it black and white. There's a lot of tricks. I mean, there's so much that we have in the course, which yeah, I could talk all day, but it's just trying to think logically. 

And if you don't have that logic, I mean, it's a bit of a creative mutual logic. If you don't have that, ask your target audience, ask your mums at the school. Like, oh look … Even maybe print a few photos, like find a few photos online of kids' classes, no matter what sport, print them out. And then you can show it to the mums while they're waiting and go like, “Oh, okay, can you please cross which three do you prefer?” 

And you go cross, cross, cross and then the one that has the most likes if you want, or you could even do it on Facebook, because there's not a lot of material out there for martial arts. It is sometimes difficult. But if you think in movement it's really doable. And ask for feedback, ask for feedback from people that you want to sell it to. Ask them, what do you want? What would you respond to? A, B or a C? 

And they will tell you, and you will see that there's usually … because psychology works kind of very similarly. I mean, you've got to ask, don't just ask three people, and maybe ask 30 or 40. Ask your friends, ask your family, put it on your private Facebook and then see what … And don't talk to other business owners or other martial arts school owners because often you'll have the wrong mindset.

You'll think as the instructor, but you want to have the feedback from those who you want to yeah … You want them to come to you. If that makes sense?

GEORGE: Yeah. So a couple of things that I got from that, I think most martial arts school owners need to tone it down rather than to ramp it up. You know, the angry, focused, violent type look, it's probably more toned down for your target audience. 

One that really hit home and I think it really stings if you are really objective about it, is if a picture tells a thousand words, then what is mine doing? And just having an honest look and removing your emotion out of it I think is also key, because it might have been the best technique that you ever pulled off, but if you removed your emotional attachment away from it, how is this perceived for someone that just wants to give a class a try, type of thing? 

martial arts photography

FRANCINE: Exactly. Yeah, and I see that a lot. Like when I go and take photos, it's often … And I get it as a martial artist. I get it. It's always like, “Oh, what do you want the class to do? Let's spin whatever sidekicks.” And I'm, “Na, na, na, just keep it simple.” Because first of all, the more complex the technique, the more you can screw it up, and not everybody's very good at spinning sidekicks or whatever it is. 

And it's a very nicely executed, straight punch with a smiling kid will beat a kid looking … I mean, it depends what it is. If it's a competition, then yes. Get a kid that does a perfect sidekick looking really stern. Just know what story you're trying to tell. Like it's really about what's … and show people, take a shot and put it somewhere and ask people, maybe don't put it on your socials, but ask people. “So what do you think when you look at this?” 

Ask different people, ask some kids, ask some moms, ask some teenagers and they will all give you a different reply because I've got amazing shots. You know, my warrior shots that I think are amazing, but for somebody who starts martial arts, they're not the right shots because they're going to say, “I can't do that.” 

And everybody's always comparing themselves, so it's also important to really know your target audience and present. And if it's middle-aged women or mums classes after drop-off, don't … And I see that all the time, you've got these 20 year old, super skinny girls that obviously don't know what they're doing because it's stock photography. Don't do it. Get those, get someone in, ask a mum. “Oh, do you mind? Look, you can do a free boxing class. I just want to take a few photos of you punching the bag.” 

And then use that because it's authentic and it speaks to that audience. They go like, “Oh, if she can do it I can do it.” And that's how you need to think. Like you say, you've got to step back and not be the instructor or the martial artist in that you need to really try to understand what they would want to see and what motivates them. And it's nothing easier than involving your students, your parents and family, they all like to help. 

GEORGE: Okay. Thanks so much. So for all our listeners to get a head start, go to martialartsmedia.com/120, that's the numbers one, two, zero and download the transcript with it. We've included the photo to message matchmaker, which would be a great guideline for you to work with on how to approach different situations, different styles, et cetera. And we'll also include a couple of case studies to give you a good visual representation of good photos, how to take good photos. 

If you need to take better photos and you realize how important this is and it's something that you do yourself. And you're doing it or your students are doing it. And I get it, obviously you're busy with classes and so you just kind of make do with what you get in the moment and you post it up. Francine put together a great course, Martial Arts Photography Smartphone Masterclass. I've mixed it up. Ah, that's the worst promo ever. 

FRANCINE: The Smartphone Photography … No, I don't know now. 

GEORGE: Smartphone Photography Masterclass. So yeah, if you go to martialartsmedia.com/courses, just look for any combination of those words, the Smartphone Photography Masterclass. 

FRANCINE: And me. 

GEORGE: With Francine, there's probably a picture of her in pink. 

FRANCINE: Great.

GEORGE: Good little brand education on that. Check out the course, it will be super helpful. Will save you a lot of time, a lot of money. What I got from the course, and you know I was just a facilitator, all Francine's knowledge. And I was fortunate enough to learn side by side. The good thing that I got from it is it's all the little things, that it's not rocket science. 

It's just things I didn't know. And now I know it and every time I'm taking photos, I have these new trigger points in my mind for things that I have to look out for. And that's what makes a big difference and adds to your value. So Francine, thank you so much. And we'll probably get together soon for round three, who knows? 

FRANCINE: Yes. 

GEORGE: All right, awesome. Thanks so much. Speak to you soon. 

FRANCINE: Bye.

 

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