147 – Buzz Durkin: The Martial Arts Master Of Lifetime Student Value


Discover how Buzz Durkin, the headmaster of Uechiryu Karate, effortlessly keeps martial arts students for as long as 52 years.


IN THIS EPISODE:

  • Internal marketing – a strategy used by Buzz Durkin to attract new students
  • Community building within a martial arts school
  • Teaching beyond physical skills and the importance of using the physical curriculum
  • What is AAA theory – Awareness, Appreciation, and Action, and how is it important to martial arts students
  • An overview of Buzz Durkin’s Success is Waiting: The Martial Arts School Owner's Guide to Teaching, Business, and Life book
  • Charging fair tuition for martial arts classes
  • And more

*Need help growing your martial arts school? Start Here.

 

TRANSCRIPTION

GEORGE: Hey, it's George Fourie. Welcome to the Martial Arts Media™ Business podcast. Today, I am interviewing a true master in martial arts and business, Buzz Durkin. I was really fortunate to spend some time with Buzz when I hosted our Martial Arts Media™ Intensive event, which was part of the Bushi Ban Power Week hosted by none other than Grandmaster Zulfi Ahmed.

As part of the Bushi Ban Power Week, we hosted the Martial Arts Media™ Intensive, and I had Buzz share a talk in regards to retention and keeping students for life and how they basically work all their marketing from the ground up. I was so inspired by the speech; well, so was everyone else. He got a true standing ovation, and I invited him to speak at one of our events online, which is the Partners Intensive. Our members were just blown away by the information. I wanted to bring that over to you as part of the podcast, so I'm going to share a video on this page. If you want to go visit it, martialartsmedia.com/147.

Buzz shared a video during his talk showing how every Saturday, how much experience, and how many black belts they have. It ranged from four years to, I think, 44 years of experience, and I can't recall counting. There were at least 20, 30, got to be like 30 people at least.

Anyway, Buzz is truly a master at keeping it simple, keeping students for life, and he's got some valuable strategies to share. So, without further ado, jump in all the show notes on martialartsmedia.com/147. That’s the numbers one, four, seven. Jump in. Let's go.

GEORGE: Buzz Durkin, welcome to the Martial Arts Media™ Business podcast.

BUZZ: It's my pleasure to be here. I'm happy to be here with you, George.

GEORGE: Good to see you again, and we'll loop back to that story. But a question I always like to ask first is, what's the number one thing that you do to attract new students into your school?

BUZZ: Well, the number one thing we do after all these years that's evolved is internal marketing. We do internal marketing with some social presence, too. We do a lot of posting on Facebook, and Instagram, just about every day or at least every other day. Our main venue for acquiring new students is through internal marketing. Parent's nights out, pizza parties, and birthday parties, where we encourage our students to bring their friends, inviting their friends and school teachers to our black belt promotions.

So, we concentrate mainly on the student body that we have and how can we grow that family from within primarily.

GEORGE: Very interesting. So, everything from the inside out. And so, when it comes to promotions, you're still sort of doing a little bit of outbound because you're saying with the social and so forth, but the focus is what's happening internally and making that the message to attract more students?

BUZZ: Yes. We like to make our students raving fans, and we like to make our students want their friends to study and train with them, whether they’re five years old or 50 years old. So, we try and provide a high degree of value in every single class so that the students will want to talk about what a great experience they had. And like we say, we don't teach good classes here. Every class has to be a great class.

And I think the marketing– I think anything starts on the floor. I think it all starts with good instruction. You have to have something of substance that you're teaching, and you have to do it in an effective way. I think it all ebbs and flows on the quality of instruction on the floor. Everything should spring forth from that, I think.

GEORGE: I know you're the master at keeping students, and I want to tell this little backstory. So, we met officially for the first time at Grandmaster Zulfi's Bushi Ban Power Week, where we got to host our event during the Power Week, which was the Martial Arts Media™ Intensive. Buzz Durkin was one of the featured speakers. You shared a video during your talk that I can't recall how many students there were, and I'm probably, if that's okay with you, I'll share it within this podcast, just in the show notes so that people can see it.

But you had, I think I counted about at least 20, 25, 30 students that have been with you from four years to about 50 years. Is that right?

BUZZ: Yeah. Yeah. We let one junior black belt in there. There was one four years, yes, but that is correct. That's correct.

GEORGE: What keeps that level of community, unity, and commitment? Because I mean, yep.  We love martial arts, and we love dedicating ourselves to the art, but staying to the course for that long, there's got to be something more to that, right?

BUZZ: Well, I think a lot of teachers think of the martial arts, regardless of style, of being one dimensional, physical, develop that side kick, develop that armbar, develop that spinning back kick. It's multi-dimensional. My philosophy has always been that if through your physical curriculum, through the physical curriculum of doing the side kick, the punch, et cetera, if by doing that, if you can show your students or the people who are studying with you how to develop mental, emotional, and even spiritual strength, they'll stay with you forever.

And the reason is they need their mental strength. They need that emotional strength more than they need the physical strength out in the real world. I mean, what is a student more likely to use on a daily basis? A spinning back kick or courtesy or self-control? So, I think the secret for us has been that we're able to use our physical curriculum and, through the physical curriculum, make the students aware of the fact that it helps them mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. When I say spiritually, I don't mean in a religious sense but in an attitudinal sense.

I think having an approach that is multi-dimensional, and everything's based on the physical curriculum that's why they come to us. That's why they do martial arts. They want to learn how to defend themselves, and that's critical. But that's not the end all be all if you want to keep students making it a part of their lives.

I think what happens is there's so much negativity out in the world. It can drain your batteries. It can make you whether you're an adult who has an obnoxious boss at work or whether you're a young person who's having a tough time in school, the outside world can drain your energy. I like to think of the people who come down to the dojo. It's recharged their batteries. Recharging.

Why are they being recharged? They're being recharged because they’re being in a supportive group. They're being with friendly people. They're being with cooperative people. They're being with people who want to get better like them, sharing the same goals, and that stuff doesn't get old. So physical alone gets old.

I'm the best bar in the dojo. I can beat everybody up in the dojo. So what? In the scheme of life, what does that mean? It's important to have those skills. I'm not saying that it isn't, but it doesn't get all that.

I need my self-control. Someone cut me off in traffic driving the car. Do I lose my temper, or can I take a deep breath? If a good teacher relates what's going on on the floor with these types of incidents outside the dojo, I think it's going to make people want to keep coming back. It's really a unique community that we all have.

It's more than lifting weights. It's more than going to the gym. It's a unique community where the body, the mind, and the spirit are all developed. And we all know this. I don't want to sound cliches, but it's important.

We have the ability to do that through our wonderful martial arts. The teachers that do that will find the students want to keep coming back to recharge their batteries. Keep coming back to recharge, and they'll use your dojo and your school as a place to do that. So that's what I have found, and that's what's worked well for us. So, it's not unusual on a Saturday morning for us to have 30 plus black belts, all of whom have been studying for at least 25 years.

And these aren't senseis. These are just people– adults who want to enjoy it. Another thing that happens when you take that approach is you develop a wonderful sense of community, a wonderful sense of, not to be too corny, but a wonderful sense of family. People like to come in and develop friendships over the years.

Some of the best friendships are through the dojo, coming to a class, and seeing my buddy I haven't seen in a week or a couple of nights. It's wonderful.

GEORGE: I love that. In a practical sense, we've got the direction; it's more about not so much about the physical, well, it is about the physical, but way more high level.

BUZZ: Physical plus.

GEORGE: Physical plus, right? So, let's talk about that plus, like, in a practical sense. Because you've got your curriculum, and you've got the things that you're teaching.  How, on a practical level, do you teach all that on the mats?

BUZZ: Well, let's suppose we have a student who we know is lacking in confidence. We work with that student in developing confidence and saying how important confidence is in life, et cetera.  So, when the students are ready, we set them up for success. We might have that student perform individually in front of the entire class. Set everyone off to the side and have the student do a particular technique, a different kata or kumite, or whatever.

And just by doing that, getting up in front of supportive, friendly, happy people, they gain confidence. Before that student would leave the middle of the floor, we'd say, “Now, that's the same confidence you can use in doing your sales project or your sales presentation tomorrow.”

Same thing with the kids. If someone's shy or introverted, we set them up so that they can come out of that shell a little by doing something, maybe in front of the class or in front of several of the teachers. And we always relate that to, “You can use that in school tomorrow, can't you?” or “You can use that at work. You see how easy you could do it?”

So, using the physical curriculum– and I don't want to sell that short. I mean, the students have to be in shape.  If you teach fluff, they'll never come back. But if you can teach something that'll stick with them, mind, body, spirit. It's like, I really believe we need– everyone needs to be charged up.

There's so much that will drain. It’s support from one student to another. One of my favorite sayings is, “As the individual gets better, the class gets better.  As the class gets better, the individual gets better.” It's a mutually symbiotic thing that the class gets better, and I'm a member of that class.

I can't help but get better physically, and mentally, showing more self-control. I mean, the self-control that a black belt may use working with a junior student, we articulate. That's the same self-control you're going to use X, Y, and Z outside the dojo, you know. The same type of fear that's overcome by sparring with someone in a safe way in the dojo is the same kind of fear you'll overcome when you have to do a project at work or things like that.

I know I sound like a broken record. I keep going back to it, but I think it's so important if, through your physical curriculum, you can develop it in your student’s physical, mental, spiritual, and emotional strength. We all need emotional strength. Let's face it. I think you'll be well-served, and students appreciate that. Students have become aware of how much the dojo has helped them, and even people who leave will come back.

I mean, this week alone, we had two black belts come back. One of whom has been away for 13 years. The other has been away for four years. So, they felt the need to get back into the camaraderie of the dojo, the support of the dojo, and the physical excellence of the dojo.

GEORGE: I love it. So, it's really subtle in a way you're teaching the physical, but always noticing where this applies in life.

BUZZ: Yes. Yes. And I think that's very important. It's my opinion. If it's just physical, physical is important, but if it's just physical, that's not a reason to keep a 45-year-old man who's been with, you know, it's got to be more than physical. Along with the physical. Am I making any sense?

GEORGE: Hundred percent. You apply. Talking Pasadena.  I invited you over to speak to our Partners’ group online, and they were really thankful for that.  Again, Buzz, you were the favorite of the event. I just got to tell you that.

BUZZ: You say that to everyone.

GEORGE: No. Well, you know, I've got to say, like, I know, I know. I know, we don't have egos in martial arts, right?

BUZZ: We martial artists don't have any ego, right?

GEORGE: No. Nothing. Not at all. But when you put up a three-day event, and you put in all the effort, and you hear that, you know, you weren’t the favorite, it's something that you've got to process. I'm kidding. But yeah, our members were really thankful for you sharing all the strategies and philosophies. One thing that stuck was a three-step process that you use within awareness and taking action. Do you mind sharing that?

BUZZ: Yeah, we call it AAA theory, and you have an awareness of what's going on, an appreciation for what's going on, and you take action. I think it's so important to be aware of what's going on at your school. Don't hide behind a desk. Don't hide in the office with the door locked. Having an awareness of what's going on. By the way, isn't that what we teach? We teach awareness on how to become more aware. So, awareness, appreciation, and action.

Our teachers are always looking for reasons to do that. That I used was, and this was not too long ago, I walked by the men's changing room before a class, and one of our students, who's been with us for a while, said, “I bought a new truck.”  My ears picked up, and he was talking to his buddies in the changing room about how he's got this new truck. He's so thrilled with it. He's so happy with it. It's beautiful.

So, we came out to the dojo, and before class started, I said, “Hey, congratulations on your new truck. I heard you got a new truck.” “Oh, I did, Mr. Durkin. It was great.” I appreciated the fact that he was so enthusiastic about it, that he told his buddies about it, and that he was very excited about it. So, I showed an appreciation.

I said, “Congratulations. Good for you. I think that's wonderful.” Before I went home that night, I took out one of my little note cards and said– no, but I take it back. I took out one of my note cards and I said, “Congratulations, Dave, on your new truck.” The next morning, I went up to the local gas station up the street, and I got him a $50 gift card for a tank full of gas. Nowadays, a quarter tank full of gas.

I sent that $50 gift certificate with my personal little note, and I just wrote, “Happy motoring.” An old expression, happy motoring, and sent it off to him. And when he came in next week, he was telling everybody, “Oh my God. Look at what Mr. Durkin did. Look at the dojo did.” And I thought he was just so appreciative.

Now, here's the other side of the coin. He's a third-degree black belt. He's been with me a long time. His two children are junior black belts.  All the income they have paid to the dojo. What's $50? It's like nothing. It was a no-brainer. It's $50 out of pocket versus thousands of dollars that he's paid on martial arts training for his children.

Another example is awareness.  Not a class goes by.  I'm not teaching a junior class, for instance, and I'll still go out and shake hands with all the parents. I think that's critical. I welcome them like I'd welcome them if they came to my house.  And I saw a mother whose younger sibling was sitting next to her, who's not a student.

Her brother was on the floor as a youngster. And the mother said to me, “Look at little Joanie, she just got a Kindness Award. A Kindness Award from her class at her elementary school.” And I said, “That's great little Joanie. Congratulations.” I had an awareness. I was glad I found out about that. I showed appreciation for it.

I said, “That's very meaningful. That's what martial arts is about, too, being kind to people.” And before I went home for the night, I wrote a little note saying to Joanie care of her parents, of course. And I said, “Congratulations on getting your Kindness Award. That's wonderful.” Two, or three sentences.

Well, you would have thought the next time they came in that they won an Academy Award, you know, that the mother was thrilled and it was so nice. It's very interesting. I'm a strong believer in handwritten notes.  What do we get in the mail? In America, we get bills, junk mail, and very little personal mail.

What we have found is when we send out these notes, so often they end up on the home refrigerator, tacked to the refrigerator for everyone to see.  I call it the AAA, where you have an awareness of what's going on outside the school with your students and appreciate it. Take an appreciation for it even though it may not be that big a deal to you, and that's no good unless you take action and acknowledge it. I think we do a pretty good job of doing that, along with AAA theory – awareness, appreciation, and action.

GEORGE: It feels like the personal note always loops into this strategy, right? It’s always the thank you, the appreciation part. The action and appreciation part is always based on showing appreciation through physical notes. Almost always?

BUZZ: Almost always. I mean, depending on the situation. We'll make phone calls.  George, this is going to sound really weird, and I don't want people listening to think I'm too weird, but it's not unusual. On certain students’ birthdays, we'll call them up and have two or three members of the staff sing birthday to them.

GEORGE: That's epic.

BUZZ: Just why? Because it's fun. We don’t take ourselves too seriously. I think it’s important to be self-deprecating. Through cards, through phone calls, through messages, through private messages. I don’t think you can communicate too much, and I think you should not be afraid of communicating with your students. Everyone likes to feel special. You like to feel special, I'm sure.

I like to feel special. Every opportunity you have to make your student feel special, he's going to reaffirm the fact that, “Man, am I glad I'm here?”  I think every teacher who's teaching martial arts has the opportunity to make their students feel special. I'm not talking about rah-rah, way participation awards, yeah, yeah, yeah.

I'm talking about balancing that with something of substance, something that could save someone's life, something that could keep somebody out of trouble, and a place where someone develops so much confidence in themselves that they never have a need to fight. You can develop a place where they have so much confidence in themselves and they're having a great time doing it.

The students will just stay.  Again, I'll keep going back to multi-dimensional. Now, I come from very traditional styles called Uechi-Ryū, UECHI, Uechi-Ryū, it's an Okinawan style of karate. We have four kumites, two-person pre-arranged drills, and we have eight kata.

And that's all we have. That's what we do. But we're able to integrate all these things into what's happening outside the dojo walls than what's happening inside the dojo walls. You know, what's important and to keep people coming back is your belief as the sensei in what you do. Your belief in what you do.

The students, if they see something in you, they like. If they see something in you, they admire. If they see something in you, some skill that they want to have, and they realize that you got that skill through the curriculum you're teaching them, they'll buy into it.

GEORGE: Very cool.  I love it. I want to check just more about a little bit going into your history because I was looking– I saw that you opened your first martial arts school in ‘74. That's a good three years before I arrived on Earth. So, it goes back.

It feels like you've got this such a strong, obviously devotion to your martial arts, but then it feels like these traditions have– it's very simple what you do, but you do it so elegantly and with such focus and it's obviously just paid off heaps and bounds to your success in the industry and, mind, body, and spirit.

Where does all this originate from? Is it coming all the way back to the roots that this evolved from, or maybe I can ask it in a different way, and that is, where does Buzz Durkin get recharged?

BUZZ: Well, that's very interesting. I started my training in 1966, and times were very different then. Martial arts schools were small, dingy, dirty, and if you wanted to really train, you'd have to go up onto the fourth floor of a building to get to the dojo. You know, no one rented space on the first floor. It was too expensive, and it always bugged me that the martial arts schools were like that.

No showers, no good facilities.  They weren't ventilated properly. And yet health clubs at the time were springing up all over America and beautiful facilities. And why can't a martial arts school be like that? One of my missions was to build our own school and have it built to custom to our design and make it a place where a student would be proud to come. A place where a student would be proud to show their friends. This is where I work out.

In 1974, I opened the dojo. For 14 years, we rented a space of about 1800 square feet with the goal of someday building our own school. That dream came true in 1988. We built our own freestanding building, 8,000 square feet. It's beautiful. It's got hardwood floors, showers, locker rooms, the whole thing

Thirty-five years later – in 1988, it still holds up. People come in, and they think it's a new building.  I know, George, how much martial arts training helped me.  I know how much it helped me and what it's done for me in my life. And if I can give back just a fraction of that to even one student, I will consider my mission as a success.

I know how much it's helped me and what it's done for me and, as time has gone on, how it's enabled me to make a wonderful living, and, if I can have that happen to the students who study with me, that'd be great. You know, one thing I'm very proud of is that we have an association. 12 of my senior students own their own dojos. They make a wonderful living teaching. They're all professional martial artists, and it's just a wonderful thing to see. We all get together for seminars, black belt testing, and social events.  You know, I don't know. It's like everyone listening to this call: you love martial arts.

And in my opinion, there's nothing better than it. So, what got Buzz Durkin? I know how much it did for me when I grew up. I grew up in an upper-middle-class family, never got into fights, never got into– never was troublesome. I went into the service for a couple of years because I had to because everyone was doing it at that time. I just thought martial arts training karate would be something good to know as I go off into the military.

I never had a dream that I'd be doing it full-time 50-something years later. That's what happened, and I don't regret one single day of it.

GEORGE: Amazing. Buzz, before we wrap things up, I want to ask you about your book, Success is Waiting: The Martial Arts School Owner's Guide to Teaching, Business, and Life. I actually wanted to have a copy in my hand, but I don't.  It's in the mail.  There we go.  I love it.

BUZZ: I always have a copy of the book around somewhere.

GEORGE: Can you share a bit? What is in the book, and what are the philosophies around that? Knowing what I know of just being in your presence for two of your talks, is that sort of the foundation of the book, or tell us more about the book?

BUZZ: The book is a hundred percent truisms and all anecdotal stories that I have, anecdotal stories that I’ve learned, that I've lived through during the past, at the time I wrote the book several years ago, forty plus years of teaching and working with people, working with different people. The first part of the book is loaded with anecdotal stories that I'm sure every martial arts teacher has experienced.

I talk about how I dealt with that anecdotal experience and what it taught me. And how I learned about human nature because of this anecdotal experience that I had at the dojo. Another section of the dojo goes to examples of great customer service, how to be aware, and how to be appreciative.

We have a section there on outstanding student service. The last section is basically on running the business and techniques and skills to acquire a successful dojo, whether saving a certain percentage of your income every month or planning ahead. It's basically a little bit of my starts, my history of what got me interested in the martial arts, anecdotal stories that have happened through the years, student service tips, and, quite frankly, business tips

And, you know, one of the things that got me, it keeps me excited is I started my karate training in 1966 with George Mattson. I don't know if that name rings a bell. He was the first American to receive a black belt in weight in Okinawan Karate, Uechi-Ryū Karate, and believe it or not, he's 86 years old. He's still teaching two or three times a week down in Florida.

I still have my original teacher after all these years, which I think is, I'm very proud of. He's been an inspiration to me. I think primarily what I've learned from him is perseverance. You know, when we went ahead to– and my dream was to build our own school.

I was mocked and laughed at. Realtors, “You're crazy. You'll never get alone. You'll never get that kind of money to run a karate school.” In those days, karate schools were little storefronts, you know. You could roll up the rug, take down the heavy bag, and be gone

And from my teacher, primarily perseverance. Stick with what you want to do. Believe in what you want to do. Don't listen to the naysayers. I think that's great advice for every martial arts dojo owner.

If you want something, go for it. There's nothing that can hold you back except your own personal beliefs.  We teach people to believe in yourself and be self-confident. We have to be that. We can't be afraid to ask for X amount of dollars for tuition and say, “This is the greatest thing you'll ever do.”

And the lack of confidence to say, “This is what I should charge fairly.” That makes any sense. The other thing that I find as time goes on and we're celebrating our 50th anniversary, and I think all true martial artists will find this to be true, it's a joyful experience, and it gets more joyful as time goes by because you understand it more. The more you understand it, the happier it makes you.

I really believe that if a young school owner is out there, keep at it, stick with it, and plow through it. It's a wonderful experience, and we can do so much good for our communities by running a proper martial arts school. You can help so many people. It's just a wonderful, wonderful thing. I'm pretty excited about it.

GEORGE: I love it. I’m really glad that you mentioned charging your worth because I really feel you do a disservice when you don't charge your worth; where you might be.

BUZZ: I agree. A hundred percent, yeah.

GEORGE: –where you might be thinking you're doing people a favor, but you're not, because it's just true that when people pay, they pay attention. When they pay more, they value it more. You know, it can't be the best thing in the world if I'm paying next to nothing for it. So, there's got to be– it's got a way up; the financial, what I invest has got a way up with the quality of service that I'm getting.

BUZZ: Yeah. Yes. If you don't charge– if you charge a pittance, that shows you the value you think of it. I mean, I get that so many times when I talk to especially young school owners, “Well, I really should be charging more.” Well, charge more and make it worth, you know. But one little tip that we do whenever we have a tuition increase, whenever we do, we add some value to the program, whether it's an upgrade in the changing rooms, whether it's an advanced, an extra class, whether it's a more private lesson or whatever.

So, we never go up on tuition without adding some value to what's going on here.  But I think it's sad when teachers will think that, “This is the best thing since sliced bread. It's great. We have the best program, but I can't charge that. That's too much. I can't charge that.”

And a lot of times, people don't understand how they should charge. They pick a number out of the air and say, “That's a good number.” That's not the way to do it, you know. You write down your pros and cons, your expenses, your income, what you need to run, not only your school but your household, and come up with a figure.

If I have a hundred students, I have to charge this. If I have 300 students, I have to charge this to cover expenses, et cetera.  We add so much to the community. The martial arts school deserves to make a good living. Deserves to make a good living. Every bit as important as any doctor in the community, as any lawyer in the community, as any CPA in the community.

And they don't do half of what the good that we do. I would encourage every school owner, especially new school owners, to be bold and, you know, back up what you say by charging what is fair, right? People will appreciate that.  People will appreciate that.

And I think, probably the highest tuition around, we have probably the biggest school around. You said it earlier. If you charge something the fair price of value, people will value it. You know, as historically, as I look, when our tuition went up, our retention got better. Isn't that strange? People valued it more, you know.

GEORGE: There's a famous copywriter, Dan Kennedy. I don't know if you've read any of his books.

BUZZ: Yes, I know who he is. Yes.

GEORGE: Right. Dan Kennedy's philosophy on pricing is you're only strategic, competitive edge in the market is to be the most expensive, not the second most expensive, not the third, but the most. And when you're the most expensive, then you've set yourself as a category of one because why are you the most expensive? Then people start to ask questions, and it's like, if you had to walk into a Mercedes motor garage versus a Kia, they are both great vehicles; they both get you from A to B, but Mercedes is probably going to have a nicer floor.

Salespeople are maybe going to be dressed more professionally. It's going to be a different level of experience. You're going to get a feel of the experience. Because you're going to

BUZZ: That is so true. Bingo. A hundred percent. That is so articulated well. That's very, very, very true.

GEORGE: Awesome.

BUZZ: We have a wonderful thing going on. I know you do a tremendous amount of good through your teachings and the opportunities you present to other school owners, so kudos to you. It’s a wonderful thing that we do, and let's keep doing it

GEORGE: I love it. Well, Buzz, thanks so much for hanging out. I much appreciate your time and it's always a pleasure to be in your presence and learning from you and your philosophies. I walk away and recharged, so that's amazing. Where can people-

BUZZ: Well, thank you. Go ahead.

GEORGE: Sorry. Where can people go and learn about you and if they want to reach out to you if that's an option?

BUZZ: If anyone wants to talk to me, they can reach out to me. I'd be happy to talk to any school owners. If you're interested in my philosophy and stuff, the book is on Amazon, and it’s done pretty well, actually.  I value our friendship very much. It was a pleasure meeting you for the first time, and every time I meet with you, I like you more. So, everything's good.

GEORGE: That's awesome. Amazing. Buzz, thanks so much. Have a great evening, and I’ll speak to you soon.

BUZZ: My pleasure. Thank you very much for the opportunity. Bye bye.

GEORGE: Bye.

How epic was that? Did you get some value and some insight from Buzz Durkin? What is the one thing that you can grab from this and implement in your school today?  Reach out to me wherever you find me on social, on Facebook, look me up, or shoot me an email at george@martialartsmedia.com, and let me know what is the one thing that you got from this.

I would love to know, and if you got a lot of value out of this, do me a favor, and please share it with one of your martial arts friends, an instructor, a school owner, and even better if you can tag me where you do that, I will give you all the praise for sharing this episode and passing on the magic.

All right. Thanks so much for tuning in. Remember martialartsmedia.com/147. You'll find the show notes and all the videos that we spoke about right at the beginning of all the black belts, and if you need help growing and scaling your martial arts school, we have a great community. We call Partners where we get together every week, we mastermind and share some awesome marketing strategies, business growth strategies, and so forth.

If you want to know more, reach out to our website, go to our website, martialartsmedia.com/scale. This is a short little form. Tell me a bit about yourself, what you have going on, what you're working on, and where you're stuck, and I'll reach out and see if we can be of help.

All right. Thanks so much. I'll see you in the next episode. Cheers.


*Need help growing your martial arts school? Start Here.

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146 – The Partners Intensive: A Deep Dive into Australia’s Premier Martial Arts Business Event

George Fourie explores the highlights and game-changing strategies shared from the Partners Intensive – a live martial arts business event held on the Sunshine Coast, Australia.

IN THIS EPISODE:

  • What Was Covered At The Partners Intensive: A Premium Martial Arts Business Event
  • The 1 Thing That All Martial Arts Business Owners Desire
  • What’s Special About Hosting Martial Arts Business Events On The Sunshine Coast?
  • The Magic Delivered By Bushi-Ban International’s Grandmaster Zulfi Ahmed
  • The 90-Day Growth Plan That Eliminates Overwhelm, Clarify Goals, And Delivers Martial Arts Business Success

*Need help growing your martial arts school? Apply Here.

 

TRANSCRIPTION

Hey, it's George Fourie. Welcome to the Martial Arts Media™ Business Podcast. Today, I'm going to be doing a bit of a review of an epic martial arts business event that we ran here on the Sunshine Coast in Australia. We are going to be talking about the highlights, epic, real cool things that we did. And most importantly, also talk about the next event that's coming up and how you can potentially be part of it.

All show notes can be found at martialartsmedia.com/146. Head over there and download everything, and you'll get all the resources on how you can potentially join us for the next event. All right, let's jump in.

A couple of months back, we hosted our Partners Intensive. Now, some context: you've heard me talk about Partners if you've been on the podcast. If you haven't, Partners is our martial arts business group that we work with, school owners from around the world. We get together online a lot, well, two to four times per week.

 

But it's also important to get together in person. And so, we put together the Partners Intensive, which was a three-day event that we hosted on the Sunshine Coast here in Australia. I've got to be honest; it way exceeded my expectations of how amazing it was. We had speakers from multiple parts of Australia and also Grand Master Zulfi Ahmed from Bushi Ban International, who flew over from the United States to come and join us for the event.

Martial Arts Media Partners Intensive

I'll tell you what. You've probably been to a business event, but if you haven't, it's the one thing that brings it all together, right? It's great that we've got all these online tools, and we can switch on Zoom and teleport virtually altogether from all different locations and connect fast.

And there’s nothing that beats that quick way of accessing information. But when it comes to human-to-human connection, we martial artists like to be around people, and the same goes with the events. Plus, you can get all the content that you want online, but it's that one conversation you have with a person who sits next to you, that insight that you get, that conversation that you're a part of where the magic happens.

And I want to say, whether it's my event or someone else's, but if you're going to go, look at the business, look at it as a nice little tax write-off to get away and do it because whatever you spend, you get back tenfold plus form awesome relationships with like-minded people, other martial arts, business owners, et cetera.

That was a universal plug for all events, including ours. Coming up. I want to give a bit of a rundown. I'll tell you what, a bit of insight from me. We moved across the country from Perth, which is in Western Australia, all the way to the East, which is the Sunshine Coast. For those of you, maybe if you're in the United States, that's the equivalent of moving from San Diego all the way through to New York, give or take.

So, opposite sides of the country, right? Of the, in our case, the continent. And I knew we had to put this event together. I was thinking, “Look, where do we go? Where do we go?” It's always good. I was putting this event together, and I was thinking, “Where do I host it around the country?”

Most events typically happen in a nice city, and people fly in from all over, so it's going to be easy to be accessible. At the time I was standing in this thought process, I was standing on a beach close by, Mooloolaba, that's how you say it. I got it wrong a few times anyway. My daughter's playing in the playground, which is down by the beach and the sand.

I'm standing there thinking, “We could do it on the Gold Coast. We could do it in Sydney.” As my daughter's playing, I look up and see, here's the Mantra Hotel. I look the other way, and I see the ocean, and I look back up at the hotel, and I'm like, “Well, it's got to be there, right?”

It's in my backyard. We moved here because I believe it’s one of the most beautiful places in the country, if not the world. And I thought, “Wow, wouldn't it be magnificent to bring martial arts school owners from all over the world to meet up on the Sunshine Coast?” And so that was it.

It was so successful that I've already booked the hotel for next year, June 2024. So, how did the event go down? All right. I played mostly part as a host, which is what I wanted to do. I think everybody in our group hears me talk a lot. I like the aspect of bringing so many people around and bringing people, having people from our community step up and share a lot of great insights.

Martial Arts Media Ross Cameron George Fourie

I think I'm just going to break it down from top to bottom. I kicked off the event, and straight after me, we had Ross Cameron, who spoke about the $20,000-a-month pro shop formula. This was a really exciting session. And, you know, when I was promoting the event, I promised that within day one, y

ou would walk away with six figures.

 

Strategies that would get you six figures in the bank if implemented within the next 12 months. And we did that on day one. A big part of this was Ross Cameron's $20,000-a-month pro shop formula.

That's generating $20,000 a month from your pro shop. Ross, being an engineer by trade, went down into all the aspects to look at and how to design your pro shop, from the layout, where it should be exactly, how to display the items, what to display, and where to source them from, changing stock.

There was so much to cover. It was a really, really impactful 90 minutes. Next up, we had Cheyne McMahon, who spoke about the open day—a six-figure open-day formula. That's something we've covered a lot. Shane's done really well with running open days. We call it the six-figure open day because that's what's generated on the day in student value.

Partners Intensive - Cheyne McMahon & George Fourie

For him, his record, I think, was 89 students signups on the day. When I moved up to the Sunshine Coast, Shane lives in Brisbane, and I knew he was running an open day. I thought, hang on, I want to get this on film. We've talked about the strategies and bounced it around, but I've never really been hands on a part of it.

I drove down to Brisbane, filmed the entire open day, and just watched him. Watch the whole process. It was great because we got to talk about it after, but we got to run through the open day live and break down exactly each strategy, what to do from the marketing, how to fill the room, what to do during the day, the demos, who to get involved, organic marketing through the community.

And so we did a rundown through the video and basically covered all the strategies from that. Awesome. Next up, this is all day one.

We had Lindsay Guy. Lindsay Guy was talking about retention boosting strategies, things that they've done within their school. When we started working with Lindsay Guy, it was reported that he's grown his business by 233% since being in the community.

Partners Intensive Lindsay Guy George Fourie

He attributes a lot of that to things he gets from our community. That's not “me and me. Give myself a pat on the shoulder”, but the weekly calls that we have where we have a bunch of martial arts school owners that get together. That's where the magic happens because that's where the ideas are shared.

The martial arts school owners that attend those calls are the ones that succeed the most because that's where you get the live feedback, right? There's nothing like bringing a problem to a call, and you've got someone that's been in the business 30, 40 years and has gone through those different phases and be able to share those insights with you.

How to create retention boosted customer experiences from first contact to walk-in to introduction to sign up. Awesome. We finished the day off a bit early, but we did something epic. We did a mastermind on a river cruise. We hired, what do you call them? A big boat cruiser. To do a river cruise through all the canals.

We also got a sponsor on board club works and martial arts software, and they got on board and contributed with gifts and just really enhancing the experience, which was really, really amazing. So anyway, it's sunset now; if you haven't seen the sunset around the Sunshine Coast, it's pretty spectacular.

I've got a video and some footage that I'll include below this post, martialartsmedia.com/146. Go check it out. It's pretty amazing. We had the river cruise. We got on board. It was networking, a bunch of drinks, a bunch of fun, and picked up a bunch of world-class seafood and had meals on board.

That wrapped up day one for us. Pretty amazing for day one. On day two, we had Grand Master Zulfi Ahmed. Now, there are a million things that I can say about working with Grand Master Zulfi Ahmed on the day and through the weekend. But I can say he completely blew everyone away with the value, the knowledge, his energy just unmatched.

Grand Master Zulfi is a unique individual. You've probably heard of him; if not, go look him up. Based in Pasadena, Texas. Bushi Ban International is his organization. And Master Zulfi, we spent the entire Saturday with him going through a bunch of topics, which I was actually sworn to secrecy and not allowed to share.

Partners Intensive Zulfi Ahmed

I can tell you that everybody in our group still talks about the experience that day, and he went over and above and delivered. After the event, we visited different schools around the Sunshine Coast in Brisbane, having lunch, having dinners, having talks. For me, it was just a super, really, really valuable experience.

The amount of knowledge that I gained spending a couple of days with Grand Master Zulfi Ahmed. That was Saturday, a jam-packed day. The next morning, Sunday, we started wrapping things up.

Grand Master Zulfi shared his insight, which was what he promised. His promise was that he would show you how to increase, give you a million-dollar idea, how to increase your trial-to-member conversions by more than 70%.

He demonstrated that with a bunch of school owners. They sat down, and he showed us the structure of how they do that, which was mind-blowing, pretty spectacular. Within that, we hosted what we call the Instructors’ Roundtable, but we had a bunch of top school owners who joined us and basically sat on the hot seat.

That was a great experience. We had Grand Master Ridvan Manav shares from the Australian Martial Arts Academy in Sydney—one of the largest martial arts schools within the world. Listening to the wealth of knowledge he brought to the table, being interactive with everyone in the group, being open and generous, and helping everybody within the group.

Also, Zak Jovanov from Premier Martial Arts in Perth sharing how they run thousands plus students between their two schools and just a wealth of knowledge, and it is great to have him on board. That almost brought us to the end of the day.

Then we had Kyl Reber. Kyl from Chikara Martial Arts in Brisbane. When I put all the event details together, I shared everything, and he sent me a message and said, “Hey George, I really love the lineup. It's all great on money-making strategies and everything. But if I could take 10, 30 minutes and share a couple of things that we do differently and how we've grown our school to 370 students plus by really focusing on community activities.”

And then another great community member, Kyl Reber, shared cultivating culture and community for retention. Kyl sent me a message after I put the lineup together for the Partners Intensive and said, “Hey, George really loved the lineup. Everything seems focused on money-generating activities, which is awesome, but we do things different.”

Martial Arts Media Partners Kyl Reber George Fourie

And organically, they've grown their martial arts school to 370 plus students without running ads but really focusing on their culture and community activities. Kyl said, “Look, if I've got 10, 30 minutes, I'd love to share.” And I said, “Well, you've got 90 minutes. Take it away.” It was a really amazing session and just brought a bit of a different flavor to the event.

Last but not least, I finished up with the 90-day growth plan. Every 90 days, we get together and work on a plan—a plan for what are the things that you need to do. And I guess for, I don't know about you, but sometimes you go to an event, and you get all this information and insight, and then you go home. You're so pumped with everything to do, but now I've got this long to-do list of things you've got to get done, and you don't have a plan on the most essential thing to do next.

It's great that you've got all these ideas, but if you're at a certain level and someone is at a completely another level to you, the insight that you might have gotten is great advice, but just not in the moment. The 90-day growth plan is all about taking all the things from the event and make sure that you get a plan structured and you know what to do as soon as you get home.

Anyway, that gives you a bit of an idea of what happened at the event. We've got a few events coming up, and I'd love to invite you to a few, depending on when you're listening to this. I'll be hosting the Martial Arts Media Intensive. I'm coming over to the United States. I'll be hosting the Martial Arts Media Intensive as part of the Bushi Ban Power Week, hosted by Grand Master Zulfi in Pasadena, Texas, which will be running between the 18th and the 22nd of October, 2023.

We'll be there Friday, the 20th. We're going to be hosting the event, and we've got five speakers covering over three different continents, right? Two speakers from the United States, two here from Australia, as well as from the United Kingdom. It's an epic week that Grand Master Zulfi hosts the Bushi Ban Power Week, which is their martial arts organization.

There's between gradings, martial arts seminars, and the martial arts workshop, business workshop. There's a lot happening. If you're in Texas or keen to travel, I'd love to meet you in the USA. First time back in five years, almost since the last time I spoke at an event. Three years, four years, something like that.

Anyway, we'd love to see you. On top of that, we have two martial arts business events happening. One online and one again in Australia in June 2024. I know online isn't as cool as in person, but the cool thing about online is that we've got access to speakers from around the globe, and we get double the work done in half the time.

And you don't have to travel, right? I know, yep, being in person is great, but in between, we run our online events too, which are awesome. And no matter where you are in the world, you could potentially join us.

Look, if you'd like to know anything about these events, shoot me an email at george@martialartsmedia.com or wherever you see this, comment below, whether it's on Facebook or Instagram, or wherever you see this, comment below and ask. I will reach out to you and share with you all the details of how you can attend the next event. Awesome. Look, thanks so much for watching or listening.

If you've got some great insights from this, please share this with someone, one of your martial arts school and friends, somebody who might get good value from this. I look forward to speaking to you on the next podcast. Go to martialartsmedia.com/146, and you'll find all the photos of the events, some videos, and a couple of cool resources.

Anyway, thanks so much. I'll speak to you soon. Cheers.

 

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Podcast Sponsored by Martial Arts Media™ Partners:

143 – Increasing Your Martial Arts Lead Conversion From Trial To Member By 70% To 90% (With Zulfi Ahmed)

Zulfi Ahmed covers conversion-boosting strategies for your martial arts business and shares the content to be delivered at The Partners Intensive.


IN THIS EPISODE:

  • Creating a 100-day onboarding funnel to boost martial arts student retention
  • Master Zufli’s advice to martial arts school owners with over 100 students and pushing to 200
  • A powerful concept that can help increase martial arts lead conversions rate by 70% to 90%
  • Masterminding with your staff to create an amazing system for martial arts school success
  • How to set up an encouraging martial arts career path for your students
  • And more

*Need help growing your martial arts school? Start Here.

 

TRANSCRIPTION

I'm going to share with you a very powerful concept, only in the meeting, that will increase your lead to conversion, by up to 70% to 90%.

GEORGE: Master Zulfi, welcome back once again, back-to-back weeks to the Martial Arts Media™ Business Podcast.

ZULFI: My pleasure. It's my pleasure.

GEORGE: Today I want to do, I guess just extend last week's Episode 142. We spoke about how to elevate your martial arts business to the next level. It was a bit of a teaser in the subject line, with Master Zulfi's Breakthrough Mindset Formula, and we didn't go that deep into it. 

So what I wanted to do today, was chat a bit about what that is, in a bit more detail, but also for anyone that's coming to The Partners Intensive on the Sunshine Coast in Australia, which will be the 2nd to the 4th of June. 

Master Zulfi is joining us all the way from Houston, Texas, about as far as you can travel, and he'll be spending the entire day today, going through a bunch of things that I want to learn about today, as well. 

I know it's going to be great. It's the challenge of, how we condense 50 years of knowledge into one day of impact, and that it's impactful for you as the school owner. So glad to have you back on.

Zulfi Ahmed

ZULFI: Thank you very much. It's my pleasure. And again, I'm super excited. Finally, get to go to Australia, meet my friends, make new friends, and share some of our successes and even failures. It's not all hunky dory, it's not all perfect.

I've experienced many failures and that itself is a part of the journey. What to do, what not to do, what to be cautious and mindful about? What to be careful of, and how to approach situations, which might be very challenging.

And George, all of us martial arts school owners, if you stay in the martial arts business for X number of years, there are certain things we are going to experience. Like in America, taxes, death, and health, it's inevitable in life. So same thing in the martial arts business timeframe, there will be challenges we know that we have experienced and we will experience.

So some of you folks out there, they might not have experienced these. So my job with my team and my group is, “Hey, be mindful, retention, instructor staff retention, instructor staff training. Sometimes deflection, people leave and go open a school down the street, some legal issues.

All things, which if you've been there for as long as I've been, you will experience, hopefully not negative, but if you are armed with the knowledge, information, and mentally aware, then you will deal with them at a much better rate.

Believe me, I've experienced a lot, good, bad, and even ugly and I've learned everything has been a lesson and everything has been a growth and it's just keeping us moving forward. So that is what I want to share.

As we were talking about, a little bit earlier, what am I going to do? So there are 2, or 3 different models where a presenter comes in and presents. So one is, with a big group, when we are in front of hundreds of people, you can go up on stage and do a PowerPoint and explain and share your information.

But with a smaller group, which I love, and I do that in the UK, Germany, Pakistan, I've got 30 to 40, 50 people that's more personalized, more intimate. And the way I like to share information and work and connect with them is number one, I will give a couple of presentations, which I feel will be very valuable and worth their time.

And then I like to open for a Q&A, we do a discussion, and we open communication, so I can understand everybody's position, phase, stage, age of business, wants, needs, fears, desires, hopes, strengths, weaknesses, challenges and we work as a team, as a think tank.

And then if somebody has a question or answer or concern or request of the set of information, whatever I can do, I will elaborate on that and then it works. It becomes a group interactive conversation with myself facilitating and leading in the area where I might be able to give more or different types of information.

So I love that and it really becomes extremely powerful and the takeaways and the breakthroughs and the moment of epiphanies become very powerful. So that's one of the models which we are going to use. Then we have that one-on-one or very small group, two people work with me. That's what I do when I go to an independent school owner.

So let's say I go to X, Y, or Z school, and in the morning or afternoon, we'll sit down for 2, 3 hours and we'll discuss. Because a lot of times there are things that you cannot or one does not like to discuss openly.

And no matter how close the group is, certain things are very private and we don't want others to know our challenges, but we don't mind sharing it one-on-one, with a person who we feel has the experience to first of all, communicate, get a second person point of view and maybe they can help you solve or resolve or overcome the challenge or the issue.

So that is very powerful on a one-on-one level. And believe me, when I go to these schools and when I do one-on-one, that powerful 2, or 3 hours is worth years of searching or trial and error or trying to figure it out themselves.

But when you have somebody who's done it, been there, seen it, and still growing, still learning, that hour or 2 hours, is worth years of searching challenges, and frustration. And when you can get that answer, that epiphany, that realization in a moment, it's well worth it.

And a lot of time people don't like to, even in small groups, unless it's one-on-one. So that's the second, third model, which I do and which I love because now I can work with you one-on-one and then we can be very open in the things we can talk about, we might not talk about them even a smaller group.

So that's another model which I will be available to do also. And then we have breakout sessions. Let's say when we do a breakout session, so we'll say we'll do a project, we might do a project, okay, let's build a funnel, just give an idea, onboarding. What are the steps that we need to do for the first 100-day onboarding, funnel, and process and nurturing? What do we need to do?

So we'll go to one group, one group, one group, two, three people in the group and we sit down and we work with the workbook or with an exercise and then we'll all come back together and say, “Okay, you give me your two points, you give me your two points, what did we come up with?” And together we all create an amazing system or process of procedure, based on solid principles and based on the input of the whole entire mastermind that we have over there.

And lo and behold, you'll see, within 45 minutes, we'll develop an amazing system, which anybody can take and incorporate. And we can help each other say, “Okay, now that didn't work. I tried it, but it didn't work, or I said this worked amazingly.” That's another format we can do. So I'll be there. I'm there for you guys.

GEORGE: I love that. It's funny you mentioned that. Yesterday in our Partners group, we did a similar thing called, the Instructor’s Roundtable. We just brought everybody in an online but roundtable setting and all instructors brought just questions, things that they struggle with, and used the power of the group to get answers and just everyone sharing the one attribute that really makes them stand out as an instructor.
But what I'm thinking we probably going to delay is, we are working on a 100-day Email Sequence for onboarding. And I think I might tell the group that we're going to wait a little bit because if we can have your hands-on input, that it'll make it so much more powerful.

Zulfi Ahmed

ZULFI: I would be happy to. So about nine years ago, I did a 52-week and a 104-week and I was working on the third tier of student onboarding, nurturing, from prospect to a member, to a blue belt, an email sequence. And as we speak right now, I'm creating a custom funnel, software for my organization, which will have to be automated.

So we've been using Constant Contact and Mailchimp, but hopefully, by the time I get to Australia, it will be finished and integrated software system with our Bushi Ban International website, where our curriculum is parked and it's a private website for only affiliates and licensed Bushi Ban schools. And this will have an onboarding and then member, 52-week nurturing process.

And just to give you an idea, it'll have emails, it'll have doodle videos, it'll have whiteboard videos, it'll have actual videos. So we've been working on that and right now we already do, I'm going to share with you a very powerful concept, only in the meeting, that will increase your lead to conversion by 70% to 90%.

And I'll bring you examples, just from lead to conversion because a lot of people get leads but they don't know what to do once they get the lead. They might do automated email. I'm going to share with you some powerful breakthrough ideas, what to do with the lead and you will see immediately, I guarantee you, that's my guarantee, otherwise I'll buy everybody lunch. All right? That it works, it works like a charm and immediately, they'll see a response. They'll see a response, a 90% response. So we'll share that, I'll share that with you guys. 

GEORGE: That's completely my language and so I'm loving that selfishly for me but obviously, for everyone that's going to be there, it's going to be awesome. I want to maybe just do an example. We were talking about the roundtable setting and working through school owners' problems.
And I'm also a big fan of this smaller type of event because this is where the transformations can happen. I feel it sometimes very impersonal, where you're at a big event and people are talking at you and the interaction feels a bit awkward and rushed.

So having that smaller type of setting, is really where you get the real breakthroughs because you get to dive deeper into what problems you're facing and what you're right about, the next thing is to take on.

So let's say, I'm going to start at the top this time and work our way down. But let's say, we took a scenario with two different school owners. Let's start with one at the top, let's say, they've got two to three locations and we're working with different situations. What is a common situation or problem that you will see faced, let's say, at about 2 to 3 locations, that you would typically work with?

ZULFI: So the first thing we do is, work on the structure of education. So I've got people who have 2, or 3 locations, how do they manage their calendar, their time, their staff training, and how do they interact with their staff with each location? What are the processes, procedures, events, training, and methodologies they have and how do they incorporate? I'm going to share my 10 points.

So every quarter we have our big staff meeting. So on May 17th, which is Wednesday, we will have about 40 to 50 people here at the headquarters and we start at 9:00 AM and we go through our staff training and these are not directors, these are instructors, managers, program directors, they'll all come together and we are going to share with them their duties and how can they be the key significant operator to help the business grow?

We give out actual tasks and responsibilities, how can they provide and produce for the business? So we have a clear outline and we share that with you and I'll give you that presentation that day. Please remind me, I'll give you 10 points, but when you have your key staff meeting, what is the mindset you want them to have?

Because they're all well-wishers, if they're working in your business, they want to be there. All right, so first we need to understand, they are not there to harm you, they're there to help you. But as a school owner, and as a business owner, what can we help them with so they know clearly, defined actions, methodologies, and systems that they can incorporate the next day and start making money and growing their business?

So I'll share those 10 points with you, so you can go and start teaching and I'll share how we do the staff meeting.

This is a big staff meeting, 40 to 50 people come in, different schools and we do the training staff and instructors, directors training, then we have lunch, we have some awards and prizes.

So I'll share that with you. So this will help the multi-school or even single-school owner, how to motivate, inspire, educate, and allocate tasks for each school or each staff member, so they can become a much more valuable component of your business success. They need to know, above and beyond their regular job description, what else can they do.

What do they need to see and understand to help you grow? That itself is extremely powerful. Once you understand that and your staff understands that, you will see an immediate change of culture, an immediate improvement in retention and new member acquisition, and upsells immediately. 

GEORGE: Very cool.

ZULFI: I hope that helps.

GEORGE: Yeah. Awesome. And so if we flip the script and say, the school owner was at just over 100 students, pushing to the next 200, what advice would you give and what obstacles are you typically dealing with, at that point?

ZULFI: So the advice is, start working on the systems now, which you will be needing six months, eight months, nine months. Understand what got you where you are, now what else do you need to add or delete from what you got to get you to the next level? Who are the key players to help you grow? Identify those players.

And what do you need to tease them, for them to help you grow to the next level? How do you help them go to the next level? That's what a staff meeting is. And what mindset and what systems you need to have or sometimes you need to eliminate.

See a lot of school owners don't realize, they might have, for example, a program or a class or a staff member, that might be hindering their forward progress. So how do you identify that and how do you either change that, or get rid of that?

So I'll give you a quick example. There are some schools, that would do the fitness kickboxing program and they've been doing it for years and years and years and they continue to truck along. I ask them, “How many people?” “I used to have 40 people, now I have about 5, 6 people.” “Well, why are you doing that?” “Well, we've been doing it for 20 years.” “Get rid of it. Well, what time is it?” “It's in prime time.” “And it's how many times a week?” “Four times a week.”

“I say, you are doing something which is no longer relevant in your business and it's no longer producing and providing you a forward, fast pace momentum, it's actually holding you back. You are availing your key time floor space, and your staff, to fulfill a dying program. If you just switch it around.”

So, a few schools did that and right away, boom, from five, they went to 25 people, just by switching that old method and realization of, “Hey, it's not working anymore or if it's working, it's not as productive as it used to be.” So being relevant, what is relevant now? What should the school do or look for and how do you tweak it, how do you change it? So sometimes, letting go is the biggest challenge. 

GEORGE: Right.

Zulfi Ahmed Martial Arts

ZULFI: Once we are used to something we've been doing for so many years, “No, I cannot do that.” “Well, yes you can.” You have to see the pros and cons, is this holding you back? Or maybe a staff member. That staff member no longer needs to be a staff member.

They need to either change their designation or tell them bye-bye. They're just hurting you, they're not helping you. Or a staff member that you need to utilize their maximum potential. They might be ready to be in a high-level producing leadership position and you're not giving them that opportunity or there's a program out there and you should add that program or a system, you've not done that.

Those are the things that we need to discuss and realize and find out and investigate, so we can identify and then see what we can do to implement. So those are the things that they need to be aware of.

And as a coach, a consultant, a mentor, a guide, and a facilitator, it becomes my responsibility, or anybody in my position, to find out the needs and the challenges. Not just come in, blah, what I think works for me but I need to know what needs to happen to you. See, what is working for me, might be totally alien to you.

So to grow your student, you must know your student. Don't grow them up thinking this is what is right for them but first find out. The same thing to the Mastermind, to help the Mastermind grow, I need to know the Mastermind, the key players, and what are their challenges, what are their needs, what are their desires, what are their fears, what are their weaknesses, what are their strengths. And once we can define and identify, then we can catapult the information to the next level.

GEORGE: I love it. I wanted to ask you one question before I wrap it up. And this is for my members yesterday because it's relevant to this and it's a question that came up. You've got all these locations and students that have evolved into instructors.

And I recall at the virtual intensive that you spoke at a few years ago, you spoke about creating the career path from day one, from day one, you start talking about the journey. How do you structure that? How do you create a career path for students, that they actually want to become instructors? And then how do you face the challenge that maybe they go to university and they go study and now all these other options are on the table and how do you make martial arts the priority for them?

ZULFI: That's a great question. There's no easy answer, but I'll share some of the things with you. So martial arts is a lifestyle. So Bushi Ban is a lifestyle, martial arts and that's what we start from day one. Bushi Ban, my system, is a lifestyle, martial arts. We have programs, and we have memberships, but our whole objective is to make that individual who comes in, to learn, fall in love, and pursue martial arts as a lifestyle and there are small steps we have to go through.

I'll share with you, just now, about 45 minutes ago, I had a grandfather, this is my third generation person, Mr. Vicary, he just came in, his son is my black belt but he's now 30 something years old. His grandson who's 16, he'll turn 16 soon, Caleb Garcia. So Caleb is right now is doing swimming and he has not been to class for the last nine months and grandfather wants him to be here, grandmother wants him, Mom and Dad, but he's got into water polo and swimming and he's got the varsity jacket.

So we are very proud of him and Caleb is my second-degree black belt, really good at martial arts. He started with me at four and a half years old. So he came, he had some boards, we do board breaking, Tameshiwari. So grandfather, Mr. Vicary, brought some board. He said, “They've been lying around, I just want to drop them by you.”

I said, “Hey, when am I going to see my boy Caleb?” He said, “Well, he's swimming and I want him to be there. I just bought this new Mercedes, come and take a look at it.” And I'm going and sitting in it and I told him, “Hey, I've got a three o'clock podcast, I need to talk to my friend in Australia. Hey, by the way, I'm leaving for my international trip. I'll be in Thailand and Australia.” And I shared with him, on May 21st I'll be back.

He said, he called me Zulfi, he's much older. “Zulfi, I want the same for Caleb. I've been telling him.” But I say, “Hey, he's only 15, 16 years old. He's on his path, let him do it. But he's been indoctrinated in the Bushi Ban system.” And he said, “I'm a multimillionaire.” I said, “I know you are.” He said, “I will put any money to help Caleb because I see your lifestyle.

I want this for my grandson and I will invest.” I said, “No problem, it's already in his DNA.” And he said, “I wanted this for Josh but Josh went a different route but I want this for Caleb.” And so to make a long story short, it's not to impress anybody but impress upon that, it's in the culture and lifestyle curriculum and lifestyle system, that students and their grandparents and their parents want to become part of this ongoing journey and become lifelong martial artist.

And once you identify, the school owner, that this person, it'll be good for them. So again, it's all about the student. What needs to help the student, will help you. Don't think of selfish gains, first give.

And I told him, “Caleb is extremely talented and I see him being a school owner and I will help whatever I can do, give him my brand, give him my detail, give him my systems, I'm there for you.” He said, “I want him to do it.” So because I know Caleb will be a great, great martial arts instructor, he's a great martial artist, young man, but he got a long way to go.

So is it part of your system? So for example, I'll show you. So this is a book, I've written several books, Wisdom of the Masters. So this is written by, it's part of a project for our Senior Masters, to share their wisdom with our young people. This next book is Reflection of the Grandmasters. These are life lessons that we teach our leadership team.

This is a book I wrote, I Quit, to overcome the challenges. And we give this out to a lot of our members and parents, so they understand that there'll be a time that a child might want to quit and how to overcome that. Then most of you have seen this, Signs and Secrets of Becoming a Master. So we plant the seed early. I want them to think like a master instructor early.

Zulfi Ahmed Bushi Ban

So what is the support material? How is it entrenched in your curriculum, lifestyle, and martial arts? How do you indoctrinate your students into thinking at one time to become instructors, first serious students, to black belts, to junior instructors, instructors, and school owners? What processes do you have, procedures do you have? What opportunities they can see and what examples are they seeing?

See, that's very important. Are they seeing examples, real-life examples of people converting from a black belt, into a master instructor, into a school owner? Are there examples that they can follow and what is their support system and how are you nurturing their mindset and the heart set and how are you showing them the benefits and the value? Not just being a black belt, but being a school owner and how sincerely and authentically, you are helping them find the path? So it is part of the culture, lifestyle, and martial arts. 

GEORGE: A good note to wrap it up. Zulfi, thanks so much. I look forward to seeing you in Australia. It's going to be great. It's going to be great to hear you.

ZULFI: I'm looking forward to it. God willing, I'll be there in one piece and I can't wait. I'm excited and I appreciate it, thank you so much for your kind invitation and hospitality. I'm really honored and I'm really, really inspired and I appreciate it and I'm grateful to you for even thinking that I can come and help out and I look forward to it. 

GEORGE: Of course.

ZULFI: And I can't wait. I'm excited to meet my old friends and to make new friends and to share and give whatever I can give and share, that's it, and enjoy Australia. 

GEORGE: 100%, there's lots to enjoy. That's great.

ZULFI: Thank you so much. 

GEORGE: Thank you Zulfi. So just a quick wrap-up. So 2 to 4, June, The Partners Intensive. It's formally a private mastermind, we offer guest tickets available. So if you would like to attend, just shoot me a message, at george@matialartsmedia.com or find me on Facebook.

Also, just want to give a shout-out to some of our members that will be talking on the first day and the last day. So Ross Cameron, Cheyne McMahon, Lindsay Guy, and also Kyl Reber will be on Sunday. So just a shout-out to our Australian members and love to hear from you. If you got any questions about the event, just reach out and Master Zulfi, have an excellent day and I'll speak to you soon.

ZULFI: Thank you. All the best.

GEORGE: Thank you.


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142 – Elevate Your Martial Arts Business To The Next Level With Zulfi Ahmed’s Breakthrough Mindset Formula

Zulfi Ahmed is coming to Australia to share his breakthrough mindset formula that’s responsible for his martial arts business empire.


IN THIS EPISODE:

  • When is the perfect time to scale your martial arts school?
  • How is Purpose defined for martial arts school owners in Partners?
  • The teachings to anticipate from Master Zulfi Ahmed during the Partners Intensive in June 2023
  • Zulfi recounts his martial arts journey from childhood to a master instructor and successful school owner
  • Finding the right balance between your martial arts passion and business purpose
  • A breakthrough formula that will take your martial arts school to the next level
  • And more

*Need help growing your martial arts school? Start Here.

 

TRANSCRIPTION

It's not just the idea. It's not just the clarity. It's the process, procedures, and steps that people need to take to get through to the next level. We might know that I want to get 400 students, but I want to get 600 students. Well, I need to advertise more. No, there's more than that, but I will give you that process.

GEORGE: Master Zulfi Ahmed, welcome back to the Martial Arts Media™ Business Podcast.

ZULFI: My pleasure. Thank you for having me. Happy to be back.

GEORGE: Awesome, so I think it's good for us to just go back down in the history of the journey on the podcast and then we'll jump into the big reason we're chatting today. So, we spoke back, I was looking earlier, in February 2018. We spoke about The Real Secret To Success With Your Martial Arts Business. I believe this was just before Fred DePalma‘s event in San Diego where we met for the first time.

Then in episode 110, we spoke about How To Become A Master Martial Arts Instructor. Actually, just when your book came out, we had a chat about that. And today, we're back. We're back for episode 142 because you're coming to Australia. How good is that?

ZULFI: Yes, I'm excited. Thank you very much for the kind invitation and I'm super excited. I can't wait to get on the plane and go and meet you again and all the friends in Australia. I have some very good friends, and fellow martial artists in Australia. I would love to see them and make new friends. And I am excited, super excited.

GEORGE: I think it'd be good, even though this is the third time around on the podcast, it'd be good to go back to your story. But a story I want to share quickly, which was really, I think a pivotal point where we really connected is at Fred DePalma's event. You spoke at the event and I really loved your chat and your knowledge. 

And I remember you making a lot of Jay Abraham references, which I thought, “Oh, that's really good.” For those of you that don't know Jay Abraham, look him up. And in the morning when we were flying back, we were all waiting down in the lobby at breakfast. We were all waiting for our trip back. 

And we just got into a conversation. And it was one of the most valuable conversations I've had in martial arts and martial arts business, and you just openly shared things that I can do in my business, how I should approach it, and how I should approach the American market differently. Yeah, so I want to thank you for that because I took a lot away from that.

ZULFI: My pleasure.

GEORGE: And so, we've always kept in touch. And so, the conversation came up and I know we mentioned it, somewhere along the line we mentioned, maybe sometime you'll come to Australia. And so, we host this event for our members once a year. We call it The Partners Intensive. We did one in Brisbane last year. 

I just moved to the beautiful Sunshine Coast in Australia and I thought, “If I'm ever going to do a great event in Australia, it's got to be here because it's beautiful.” And we're planning one for the US later in the year. And lucky enough, our dates have aligned well, and I'm really excited that you're going to be joining us for the event.

Zulfi Ahmed Martial Arts

ZULFI: Me too. It's a pleasure. I can't wait to do this. I've been wanting to go to Australia for many, many years. Actually, in 1979, I'm originally from Pakistan, so we had a Pakistani Burmese kickboxing team. We were going to go to Australia for a tournament in 1979. 

And we had some visa problems at that time. So half the members of the team got the visa, half the members didn't get the visa. I was one of the people who could have gotten the visa, but I was very young, so my parents said, “No, we have to have the whole team go otherwise …”

So, lo and behold, the trip got canceled. And we came to find out that the promoter, an Australian promoter, unfortunately, went through a heart attack, so the whole event got canceled, and postponed. So since then, since 1979, I've been looking forward to going to Australia. 

And I have some friends who live in Perth and Sydney, and then you are there. And there are some great martial artists like Ridvan and Hakan who are good friends of mine. And we have Phil and Graham also. I think they're in Sydney.

GEORGE: They'd be both in Perth.

ZULFI: Perth. So, they came and visited Bushi Ban headquarters and I just connected with my Aussie friends. So yes. And again, thank you for this kind invitation and I look forward to that.

GEORGE: So on that, and thanks for the brief intro, but I think even though you've been on the podcast before, I know a lot of martial artists that I mentioned were really excited that you're coming to Australia for the first time. And then there are a few that aren't that familiar with you and what you do in the space. So I think it'd be good to just recap on that. Just give us a bit of a background, your history in martial arts, Bushi Ban International, and so forth.

ZULFI: Sure, happy to. So, I'm originally from Pakistan. Most of you know where Pakistan is. But at age 23, I migrated to the United States and I grew up in martial arts. My history in martial arts is wrestling, Indo-Pakistani wrestling. As a little kid, it's like soccer in America, baseball, and almost everybody is exposed to Indo-Pakistani wrestling.

Actually, my father was a patron, and a big fan of wrestling, and my grandfather was a patron and fan of wrestling. The Great Gama, one of the greatest wrestlers who ever lived, my grandfather's family sponsored him, and they had a special pit, the akhara, we call it akhara wrestling pit, in my grandfather's land, where Gama would come and do what we call ZOR, wrestling, wrestle away. And my grandfather's family sponsored him through some of his fights. So it goes back into my history, my ancestors. And one of my uncles was a wrestler.

Then as a young kid, my father would take me to Pakistan, the Bholu wrestling pit and we would go see the matches and they would take me as a five, six-year-old, go, just roll around in the pit and hang out with the wrestlers and learn a few tricks and take-downs and all this cool stuff. And then as you get older, you get into other sports, hockey, and cricket and all this stuff. 

Zulfi Ahmed

Then I started at a very early age judo. My brother was a military cadet and he would come and beat me up from the military college when he would come home and do judo and boxing. And then I got into neighborhood boxing and my brother's friend was a judo brown belt. So he would teach us judo and we would take comforters from the house. We didn't have mats, so we put them down in the backyard and they were my judo mats.

And we learned some basic judo from him. And then in 1975, a Burmese grand master, Grand Master Ma Tai, migrated from Burma to East Pakistan, which is Bangladesh now and into Pakistan, and he started teaching Burmese Bando, Burmese martial arts. Lethwei is bare-knuckle kickboxing. Naban is the Burmese wrestling, Bando, Banshay, Thaing. He's still around, he still teaches, and he's still my teacher. 

And so I enrolled in his school. That was the first official school that I enrolled in Eastern martial arts. My father didn't care much for boxing, so I would have a few boxing matches when he found out I was doing boxing, he didn't think it was good for me, too much trauma. Bando Lethwei was even worse. But we didn't know back home, it was new. Nobody knew, we said it's karate, we're doing Bando karate. So okay, karate is good, you go train.

So I started training at a very early age, actually nine years of age. And then I'm still his student to this day. Whenever I go back, I of course give my love and respect to him and learn and visit with him. I was very fortunate to be on the Pakistani team, the martial arts team the first time we ever went outside Pakistan, the national team. 

We went to Malaysia to compete in the Keijo Hanan International Karate Championship, in 37 countries. I was the youngest competitor ever, and I won a gold medal in kata and weapons. And I got disqualified from fighting because our style of fighting was different from traditional karate. We were more Bando contact people. 

So I broke somebody's nose, and I got disqualified. So 14 years, little bitty, stinky little kid. And so from that time when we went to Malaysia, I was exposed to other martial arts, Shotokan, Ken Shin Kai, Goju-Ryu, and Malay Silat, and we were there for two months, Singapore, Malaysia.

And we traveled. All we did was soaked in martial arts, the whole team was a five-member team. We would train in the morning at the Kung Fu Kwoon up on the rooftop. We would go to GT Mings Dojo, learn Goju-Ryu, we would go to the Ken Shin Kai dojo, we'd go to KBI, Karate Budokan International, which by the way I believe has a big following in Australia. 

KBI, Karate Budokan International. And the Grand Master was Chew Choo Soot. So I would go train at his dojo in Malaysia. We were ranked in Shotokan, Ken Shin Kai under his organization. We became black belts under his certification ranking.

Then, as a 14-year-old, traveling, and competing just opened my mind. And I just fell in love even more with martial arts. And thanks to my father's support, and my family's support, I started traveling all over the Southeast Asian countries, Philippines, Thailand, Burma, India, you name it, I've been to the Far East and competed, trained, learned, and sometimes taught also. 

So my journey started internationally at age 14. Then I moved, and I migrated to the United States, to Houston, Texas. In 1985, I came to New York and then from New York to Texas, went to school here, San Jacinto College, Texas Southern University. But I had been teaching professionally starting at age 14. I used to teach in my school, my junior high school as a young person and I had 60, 70 students.

So I would teach, of course with the blessing of my teacher, Grand Master Tai. Then in 1979, I got the youngest title of black belt in Burmese Bando. And then I got permission to travel more from my teacher. And then in 1980 – '81, I opened my own school and started my own system called Bushi Ban and started Zulfi's Academy of Martial Arts. 

It was a blend of different styles, which I'd learned throughout my years, traveling all over competing, but at the same time connected to my teacher with his blessing. He was very open-minded and even though very traditional, yet open-minded. He gave me his blessing. I opened my own style, Bushi Ban. The evolution of Bushi Ban started in '80 – '81. And I'm still learning. It's evolving, it's a live system. We always learn, incorporate, and improve.

I was also fortunate to fight on the undercard where in 1976 or 75, Antonio Inoki, the great god of wrestling from Japan, and the great Akram, Akram Pahalwan. They had a freestyle fight in the National Stadium in Karachi, and there were like 42,000 spectators live broadcast. 

You can still find that match on YouTube Inoki versus Akram. That was my first-time exposure to mixed martial arts. Mixed Martial Arts in that part of the world have been around, but it was not called MMA, it was called freestyle wrestling.

And it would be all strikes. And there's the first time in public, somebody got arm barred. So Inoki beat Akram and broke his shoulder with an arm bar. Okay, so now for that fight, the wrestlers came and trained in Burmese Bando with my teacher. So my teacher was the striking coach, but unfortunately, Inoki arm-barred Akram, because Inoki was really good at grappling. 

Zulfi Ahmed Martial Arts

So that's when we started doing judo. And our exposure to jiu-jitsu started in 1977. There's a family in India called the Barodawalla family, which has a very, very cool history. It's just like the Gracie family. 

Parallel to Gracie family, the same story because the Indian army, the Japanese came to India in the Second World War and created some spies and they taught jiu-jitsu to some of those Indian spies. So they also started teaching and recruiting martial artists. So Dr. Barodawalla was a judo master, so he was also taught jiu-jitsu.

So his sons came to Pakistan for a visit and we were introduced to jiu-jitsu close to the way it started in the Gracie tradition. And that was my first exposure to jiu-jitsu. And they were teaching in the police academy. Anyway, I was exposed to grappling, wrestling, and judo, at an early age. So I continued training. 

When I came to America, I was under the mentorship of the Great Grand Master, Dr. Maung Gyi. He is the head of the American Bando Association, a highly respected, worldwide authority in martial arts. He introduced kickboxing to the United States. He's a mentor, was a mentor to the great Joe Lewis, and worked with Ed Parker and Robert Trias. His history is amazing. 

So he's still alive, 94 – 95 years of age. I just saw him last October. He's still my teacher. He's my mentor. He's the one who awarded me a 10th-degree black belt in 2017 under the American Bando Association.

So currently my own system is called Bushi Ban. I hold a 10th-degree black belt under the American Bando Association flag. I train every day as much as I can. I  teach every day. I oversee about 40 plus, 50 martial arts schools. They're not mine, but I guide them, I mentor them, and I coach them all over the world, not only in the United States. 

We have 13 Bushi Ban schools in America. We have many affiliate schools in America. They use my curriculum methodology system, and they have their own unique brand, but they incorporate the Bushi Ban system. From the financial part of it, which is just a byproduct, I don't know if you know what EFC, Educational Funding Company, is part of our billing company. And my headquarters was number one in EFC collections, for over 10 years. Number one grossing school in the United States.

And then other schools come up with this wonderful evolution. We are still with EFC, and we're still a very high-grossing school, but now we don't share all our numbers with everybody. Each one of our schools is very profitable. We believe our system, our style, and our curriculum is very robust and very timely. 

We learn to adjust to what are the needs, wants, desires, and fears of our clients. And we cater to our philosophy, students first, martial arts second, and business third. So first there is always the student, their wants, needs, desires, and what we can do for the student by way of martial arts. And then because we have the business, the business of martial arts changes lives. So students are always first. 

I continue my journey. I've competed all over the world. I've competed in grappling tournaments. I'm no world champion in grappling or Muay Thai. I've been beaten more than I've won, but I've been to over 300 competitions, tournaments, matches, and fights from all different styles.

I've fought in Thailand. I've done grappling, jiu-jitsu tournaments, boxing tournaments, sports karate tournaments, kickboxing tournaments, kata, and weapons. I've had two world titles in weapons and kata and lightweight sparring. So I believe I'm a well-rounded martial artist, but I still continue to learn and grow. 

Zulfi Ahmed Martial Arts

And my system, the Bushi Ban system, is what we call a supra system. It's a mega system with many integrated concepts, principles, and philosophies. So it's an eclectic integrated system with a traditional value base. So we have the traditional values, we have the traditional structure, but the modern approach. 

Now I know a lot of schools nowadays are claiming the same thing, but I believe that we are one of the pioneers of this mindset and this structure, which we started many, many, many years ago. And if we've gone through a lot of trials and errors and where we are, I believe many schools are starting where we were 20 years ago.

And I help a lot of schools refine and define their brand and their presence and their methodologies because I feel there're many multi-program schools, but they are kind of confused about how to integrate, how to layer, how to structure, how to bring the chain of difference, so their schools are doing programs. There'll be a school doing Muay Thai, Brazilian jiu-jitsu, and Krav Maga. 

Wonderful, but it's not system-based, it's program-based. We take pride in that we are a system-based organization where our system, and structure are eclectic and timely with traditional values. I don't know if that makes much sense. This is a tradition for modern times.

GEORGE: Yeah, I'd love to just dive a bit deeper into that. But first just congratulations on the journey.

ZULFI: Thank you very much. And still learning, still growing.

GEORGE: You say you're still learning, you're still evolving every day. So it's not like every day you reach a plateau, in a comfort zone where you're at. Just to dive a bit deeper into that, you were referring to a brand identity where schools can be confused. 

We got guys in our group that are one style and that's what they do and that's their focus. And then multiple styles, multiple demographics, and so forth. How do you feel about the difference between being able to brand yourself as a multi-style school? And do you feel that there's a point where you should kind of delay it before you add too many styles so that you create a culture and an identity for your brand first? Or how do you approach that generally?

Zulfi Ahmed Martial Arts Media

ZULFI: So there are actually two schools of thought. One is the linear school. That means that they have their brand, style, and system as one. For example, Taekwondo, they know what they know, they are good at it, they're experts at it and they are successful with that, more power to them. 

Then there's a school, which is a multi-dimensional school with different products. If you go to banking, they say different products. They have jiu-jitsu, they have Muay Thai, they have whatever they do, fitness. And which is another model, which one is better? 

I've seen mega success in model A and I've seen mega success in model B. So the key is what is the leadership mindset? How clear is the leadership on the journey on the route they're taking? If you are a linear school, that means one style with multiple functions.

So you can have Taekwondo, but you can have fitness Taekwondo, self-defense Taekwondo. But it all depends on the leader, their stage, and the phase of their life where they are. So if you are a mature school, in which you've grown up with a mature brand and you are successful, more power to you. 

Keep doing what you're doing if you're successful and if you're happy. People can be successful, but they might not be content. And people can be content, but they might not have the success of “hundreds of students and thousands of dollars.” 

So you find your bliss, you find where it makes you tranquil, where you feel harmony with your brand and your success and what you are comfortable with. What is your key lifestyle comfort zone? Or are you constantly ambitious, constantly wanting more, more, more?

So that is a very private personal in-depth question, which when I work with my students, like coach a lot of school owners, let's define that. Let's find out where you are, where you want to be, and how we are going to get there. So you need to know your inner self first before the external extrinsic, we need to define that. 

Okay, I need 500 students, I need to make a quarter million dollars. You might be doing that but might not be content. You might be in turmoil, stressed away all day, and can't sleep. Or you might have 100, or 200 students. You make good enough money, you have a beautiful family, and you are happy.

So we need to find it from the top. It's defined from the top. The school methodologies and the school structure is secondary. First, let's see what the leadership is looking for, searching for, and where they find it. Then we break down, okay, linear school or multidimensional school. And in that, there are some pros and cons in both of them also. 

So we decipher that. We find out, I know some people who are mega-successful with linear schools and I know people who are mega-successful with multidimensional schools, but it depends on the stage and age and phase of their life also. So this is a question that is customized to each individual. I cannot give you a general question, it has to be customized.

GEORGE: 100%. Interesting that when we take people through the audition process in our Partners group, we always start with a purpose. And the way I always mention to school owners the purpose can be vague, but everyone's purpose is different because you might want to have multiple schools, multiple styles, or you just want the lifestyle business. 

We break the purpose down into three levels, the income you desire, the impact you want to create through your martial arts, and the lifestyle you want to live. And it's different for everyone because you'll get some that say, “Look, well, I've had this job forever, this other business, I need the income to do this thing.”

And others are just, “Well, I really want the impact. I want to make a difference in my martial arts.” And then others want the lifestyle, someone to live, eat, breathe, and sleep on the mats and others want balance. So I love how you define that starting with the end in mind.

Zulfi Ahmed Martial Arts Media

ZULFI: The key is clarity. Are you clear about it? We all have a purpose. Our purpose might be to make a lot of money. Nothing wrong with that. I love to make a lot of money and make a big impact. I love to make a big impact. I love this lifestyle. 

But how clear are we with our framework? How clear are we with our vision? How clear is the vision? How clear is the mission? How clear are our values which align with the business? How clear are we where we are in the stage and phase of our development and our maturity, our capabilities, our abilities, our roadblocks, our challenges, and our ambitions? How hot is the fire? Where is the fire taking us?

So some people are super ambitious but have no clarity. Some people are very clear, but they don't have the fire and desire. They want this but they don't want to work hard. So we have to find that balance. And if the balance is not there, we have to create leverages to build that balance. 

So we need to find, okay, your passion is this, your purpose is this. Let's be clear there's your ambition and let's find out the mechanics of how we align that. So clarity is very important.

GEORGE: I love that. So Master Zulfi, twofold question, when did you get that clarity? Was it from day one, you knew that this was going to be where you wanted to go or did it evolve? And then once you knew where you wanted to go, and you already had that first location, how did you develop that to scale it from two all the way to 13 the way you did? That's probably a loaded question.

ZULFI: I was very clear at orange belt level, I was nine or 10 years old or 11, I was very clear that this is going to be my lifestyle because I was influenced and I was around people who inspired me, influenced me, motivated me, not by telling me that you'll become a martial arts master or grand master or school owner just by the way of life, the role model which I had, it inspired me and it gave me a living model of where I wanted to be, who I wanted to be, who would be my example of lifestyle. 

So I saw that at a very early age because Grand Master Tai's school had hundreds of students in one class. There was a class that had 800 students in one session. It's unheard of for 800 students. People might be saying this guy is lying. No, I have photographs of proof.

And this was 1975, 1976. I saw how successful a martial artist can be, but it was not the money. I was very young. It was the impact and it was the respect that person was receiving the love that person was receiving and the love he was giving back to his students by way of him being a mentor master, a grand master, and the way he taught students and changed lives. 

One of them is me, even though I come from a very educated, high-value, accomplished family, very academic, and very high-minded. I have doctors, engineers, and lawyers, but I chose martial arts because that man inspired me by being a role model.

So it was at a very early age. And then I pursued and as I grew older and as I traveled early at an early age, 14, 15, 16, 17, and I was exposed to martial arts in the early '70s, mid-'70s, late '70s, all over the southeast Asian continent, I just fell in love and I knew this is what I was going to do, even though I went to college, university, but this has been my passion. 

The clarity of my purpose has been there. The structure has come through learning as well as trial and error. A lot of it was trial and error, experimentation, creative thought process, and then aligning myself with the right mentors.

Great Grand Master Maung Gyi is extremely learned. He has a double Ph.D. He taught at Harvard University. He's an intellectual extreme. So his guidance, my parents' guidance, my other teacher's guidance. Who we are is a product of our surroundings and our influences plus what we do on our own journey of inquisitiveness, experimentation, learning, and discovery. 

Now 13, we've had more schools, some schools changed the brand and went to a different style, which is okay, and some schools closed down in COVID. So we have 13 locations right now in America and many, many in Pakistan, Bangladesh, and India, we have affiliates in Thailand, also Canada, and we are all around and have a lot of affiliates.

So to answer, it's been a journey. It's been a constant evolution. Constant breakthrough. So when you get stuck with 200 students, you’ve got to learn what your next breakthrough point is. So you discovered it through experimentation, learning, and going to seminars. 

And then you found that breakthrough, then you go to 300 students, then there's another breakthrough, then you go to two schools, then you go to three schools. So each stage and phase, we must come through a breakthrough realization of processes, procedures, philosophies, mindsets, values, systems, and of course actions. That is what gets us to the next level. But first, we have to be clear about where we want to go.

GEORGE: Love it. So if we were to take that into a seminar and a workshop for those that'll be attending us in Australia on the Sunshine Coast, 2 to 4 June 2023, depending on when you're listening to this. What can people expect on the day?

Zulfi Ahmed Bushi Ban

ZULFI: I'm going to give you one big claim, all right? I don't like to give big claims. I'm going to share with your attendees a massive breakthrough mindset, which people might know but never have seen or heard of clearly. They might practice it, but without this structure which I'm going to give them. 

I'm going to break down how they can break through if they are stuck in one level or one stage. And I promise you that they will have an epiphany, a realization that they've never had before. And I'm going to give them a formula, an actual formula which they can go and start applying the next day into the business. 

And I can almost, I'm not going to give a written guarantee, assure you and guarantee that if we meet next year and if they apply what I'm giving them, the secrets, the breakthrough secrets, realizations, their school will be on a whole other level. Their whole culture will be at another level. I promise you that.

GEORGE: Love it.

ZULFI: I know it is because when I teach this to my schools, the people who've been in business 30 years, and when they hear this structure, this methodology, they say, “Oh my goodness, now I understand. I knew it, but now I see it clearly. Oh my goodness, I never thought of it like this. Wow, what a great realization. Why didn't I think of it before?” But it's not a thought, it's a process.

I will share step one, step two, and step three processes. We are going to roll up our sleeves, and we're going to do a workshop. It'll take about two hours to get the whole system down. And I promise you, by the time we are done with this system, the attendees, whoever the lucky person is attending, he or she will have epiphanies, and clarity they've never had before. It's a big claim and I'll stand behind that claim.

GEORGE: I love that. And just to back that up, I just want to illustrate that or put emphasis on that. It's a workshop environment. We are a small high-level group.

ZULFI: I love it.

GEORGE: Interactive. I know sometimes, maybe not in the martial arts space, but you go to these events and there's one guy standing at the top and telling you this big hero's journey story and then three little things that you can do and you never get the context. This is not that. In a workshop environment, it's interactive. It's going to be structured for you to get the breakthroughs and be able to ask questions and work on your business.

Zulfi Ahmed

ZULFI: And it's going not only on for martial arts, this system, which I've created and I've learned through my trial and errors, pains and hurts and successes, which when I share, people might have heard or seen it in some form of way, but not in this methodology, not in this way. And we'll do an actual exercise per each dimension of this system. And by the time we get to the final stage, they will realize, wow, I'm going to start doing this tomorrow. 

Some of them might be doing this in some way or form, but the way clarity's going to happen and it's going to become a system for them. And that system is a secret to the next level of breakthrough. It's not just the idea, it's not just the clarity. It's the process, procedures, and steps that people need to take to get through to the next level.

We might know that I want to get 400 students, I want to get 600 students, and I need to advertise more. No, there's more to it than that. But I will give you that process. And when you start applying that process, you will see a systematic rise in your numbers, improvement in your lifestyle, and satisfaction in your lifestyle. 

Your staff retention is going to grow by leaps and bounds. Your staff loyalty is going to grow by leaps and bounds. Your staff commitment is going to grow by leaps and bounds because staff retention, staff loyalty, and staff commitment are one of the biggest areas that martial arts schools are faced with. And I will give you the secret to how to deal with that. I have students, I have staff that has been with me 20 plus years. Happy staff. The guy who made their deal, he's been with me 20, 22, 23 years, I've got people with me 30 years, students will be with 40 plus years.

So there's a system. The first thing has to come from the heart. It cannot be artificial, it cannot be fake, and it has to be from the heart. And I'll share that with you. So I look forward to sharing this and much more. Many, many more breakthrough ideas, which I guarantee will take your schools to the next level. 

No matter where you are, no matter if you're making a quarter of a million dollars a month, you will increase that by 20 to 30%. No matter if you're making $20,000 a month. You'll increase there by 20 to 30%, but you have to apply the system. I have to give you the system that you have to apply.

GEORGE: I love that, Zulfi. I'm now more excited than I was when we first had the chat.

Zulfi Ahmed Bushi Ban

ZULFI: I'm coming all the way to Australia, I'm not going to come and waste your time or my time. My time is gold, and valuable. I want to share what has worked for me. I want to share what I've shared with a lot of top promoters, and top producers in the martial arts industry. 

I'm honored to help them, grow them, guide them, and it helps them every day. I'm excited. So they'll be my gift to my Australian fellow martial artists and friends. And for whatever it's worth, if you apply, I know because it's changed my life. 

These systems, these ideas, these principles, practices, and philosophies have changed my life and I'm happy to share because when I travel so far and when you invest so much in me, and when I invest so much in you, it has to be worth everybody's time. It has to be valuable, enriching, nurturing, productive, and transformational. Otherwise, it's a waste of everybody's time. And I value my time as much as I value your time and I want to give as much as I can.

So again, thank you for inviting me, and thank you for doing all that you do. And I really look forward to it. I know we have a few people who have asked for me to go and do private mentoring for them and coaching, and I'm really looking forward to some tough guys out there, some from Australia. 

I said, “Wow, man.” And I'm honored, the guys who you connected me with, and I'm honored and I can't wait to go and share whatever I can with them. And some very good martial artists out there, I'm just really looking forward to being part of your organization.

GEORGE: That's awesome. Zulfi, thanks so much for your time. And yes, so if you like what you've heard today and you want to join us, we started this event as an exclusive members-only event. We've opened it up to the public for only a few tickets available for that. 

So we are looking at 2 to 4 June, right on the beach, Mooloolaba on the Sunshine Coast. Beautiful location. Reach out to me, george@martialartsmedia.com, if you would like to host LF at your school for a private workshop. Anything from instructor training to parent workshops. Give us a quick snippet on that, Zulfi, just so that everyone's familiar.

Zulfi Ahmed

ZULFI: So the structure which I have, I do for my affiliate schools or people who invite me into their school. I have a day or day and a half schedule where I do one-on-one private mentoring with the owner only or the key owners or the key. It's a private, two-hour brainstorming mastermind session with them and we try to find out, investigate and then see how we can improve, tweak, and start to start with the leadership. 

Then I also do group instructor training from instructor to master level or from junior instructor depending on the maturity of the school. We also do martial arts training for their student body. It could be from weapons to self-defense to striking to the ground. You name it. We can work with them. We also do children's workshops with what we call combative games and it’s really, really fun. The kids love it.

We also do a parent workshop and that is one of the keys which I want to share with the school owners, how to conduct a powerful parents' workshop or parents' teacher meeting in social. That in itself is immensely valuable when the schools start doing structured, properly organized parent-teacher meetings, workshops, and social, and I'll share that with you. 

So I do that for some schools also where the parents come in and I motivate them and inspire them to get into the martial arts. I show them the values and benefits of keeping their kids, not that they don't know it, but when it comes from a third party, from another authority, or from outside your school, it just creates a bigger impact. It just creates a bigger story. And we get the parents to connect with the school.

So my job is to help you build your brand to even the next level, to even take it to the next level. I'm not there to sell me, I'm there to sell you even more to your student body. So they see you as the ultimate authority, the ultimate brand, the ultimate go-to source. 

So my job is to be your aid to grow your school and grow your student body and bring them closer to you, the parents and the students, and the staff so that you all can create a bigger, stronger brand.

GEORGE: Awesome. Zulfi, thanks so much for your time, and really looking forward to having you over. If anyone wants to host Zulfi at their school, just email me, george@martialartsmedia.com. Thanks so much. Really looking forward to seeing you and we'll chat soon.

ZULFI: Thank you, everyone. Thank you, George.

GEORGE: Thanks, Zulfi.

ZULFI: And stay in touch soon. All the best. OSS.


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110 – Zulfi Ahmed – How To Become A Master Martial Arts Instructor

Zulfi Ahmed shares insights about his book, The Science and Secrets of Becoming a Master Martial Arts Instructor, and why it's time for the industry to level up.

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IN THIS EPISODE:

  • What motivated Grandmaster Zulfi Ahmed to write the book, The Science and Secrets of Becoming a Master Martial Arts Instructor
  • The difference between a Master and Master Instructor
  • Why the martial arts industry is stuck
  • The importance of stepping up to a mastery level
  • The universal philosophy of a great Master Instructor
  • And more

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

 

TRANSCRIPTION

How do I get them to the next level? What do I teach them? They're doing exactly, they're mimicking me, the way I talk, walk, the way I have fun. They're doing the same thing. What separates me from them, and what separates them from the new upcoming young people? So, there has to be in our industry a body of knowledge, which elevates our industry. But to elevate the industry, we have to elevate the leader, the instructor.

GEORGE: Good day, everyone! And welcome to another Martial Arts Media business podcast episode – and a very special guest that I have with me today and a return guest. If you recall Episode 57, I had Grandmaster Zulfi Ahmed, join us. And that was actually right before The Main Event in San Diego – that's going back – April 2018. And we've spoken a little bit, not the purpose of this chat, because we've got something really important to chat about today.

But one thing I really remember, Zulfi, was when I was at The Main Event, Kyoshi Fred DePalma's The Main Event in San Diego. And after the event, we were both waiting on our flights, you obviously back to Texas, and me to Australia.

So, we both got on, we sat down at the breakfast table. And we just had a long chat, and Kyoshi Fred DePalma held an awesome event, but that was the highlight of the event – actually having a conversation with you and just learning from you and your wisdom from the industry. And so, I'm really excited to be speaking with you again today. And I think, just a quick bit of context.

So, Master Zulfi has been in the industry for 49 years, founder of Bushi Ban International, nine locations in Texas, three in Connecticut, and multiple in Pakistan as well. And Master Zulfi's earned over 300 martial arts awards. Countless, countless credentials. But again, not why we are here today. We are here today, because Master Zulfi has put together a masterful book that I just received the other day, and I've just, halfway through it. It's called ‘The Science and Secrets of Becoming a Master Martial Arts Instructor'.

We'll leave details and links where you can actually get this, but I think just to kick things off, Master Zulfi, why did you write this book?

ZULFI: George, first of all, thank you so much for having me on your show, and I really appreciate it. And thank you for your kind words. It was a pleasure. And I remember our conversation at breakfast time, waiting for the van to take us to the airport. And it was delightful. And thank you for having the time to spend with me. I've cherished our relationship – distant relationship. And one day I want to go to Australia and share with you more.

Yeah, The Main Event was a great, great event. And, Kyoshi, she's a good friend of mine. And if you've not been to that event, you must go to the event.

Back to the book. You know, this is, one of my friends asked me, ‘how long did it take you to write this book?' And I said a lifetime. I've been in martial arts. You know, I will be almost 60 years old in March. And I started formal training at age nine, informal training at five. You know, in Pakistan, wrestling is a predominant sport.

So anyway, going into that, so, I asked, you know, he asked me how long it did take – I told him about a lifetime. But actually, this project – writing this book, ‘The Science and Secrets of Becoming a Master Martial Arts Instructor‘, started about seven years ago.

It arose out of a personal need. I was wanting one of my new directors to run a school, and he was not even a black belt at the time, he was a red belt. And we wanted to compile a body of information, instructor training, body of information that is befitting for an individual to spearhead a school – not just the teaching a class for kids, but a whole school. So, how do you develop that mindset, with confidence and authority? And the way they act, speak, maturity of a high level martial artist.

So, that is when the project started. And what I did was I did my research first, and I have my own experience, lifetime of martial arts training, learning, and traveling the world. So, I did my research, and I called some of the best organizations, top leaders, and I said, ‘Do you have any content, any information, a guide, a workbook, a resource, where you really are teaching an instructor to become the next level, to become a master instructor? Is there a differentiation?'

Now, in our industry, we have some fantastic, phenomenal material, which develops instructors, instructor training galore, you know, everybody now, all schools are at the level where they can develop, you know, instructors, no problem. There's great information out there, seminars are conducted, and workshops are conducted. And we all know that, and we have all learned that. And so my thought was, ‘Okay, that's great, you know, but what is the next level? Where is the industry going? How do we develop the next level instructor who turns into the master instructor?'

So when I did my research, I found out that there's really, truly nothing out there. It's all experiential, that you become a black belt, you train for X number of years after that, and you have X number of teaching hours, and then you become a master. So, now there's a differentiation between a master and a master instructor.

And in this book, I have outlined the difference between master and master instructor. So mastering the martial arts, you can become a master in the martial arts and different styles of that criteria, X number of forums, training hours, even teaching hours, and then you know, at fourth dan, fifth dan, sixth dan, and depending on the style and the system, they recognize you as a master and master martial artist. And there, there are wonderful, phenomenal master martial artists out there.

You keep training, that's a personal end of a personal pursuit. But to become a master instructor, what do we have to do? Just like we know, in our industry, that being a black belt does not qualify you to be an instructor.

You know, you have to have instructor training, you can't just put on black belt, a new black belt and start having them teach. They don't have the mindset. They don't have the communication skills. They don't have the principles, the philosophies, the practices of an instructor, so we develop instructor training.

Same thing, when you become a master level and you were an instructor already, and now you become a master in your style and system – does that automatically make you a master instructor? So, I don't think so.

So, what it does is, that my master instructor and my instructor, the differentiation between them is only the time they've spent there. But the body of knowledge, the epistemology is the same. The master instructor what I'm calling now  did the instructor's course now he's been in it for X number of years, and he's calling himself a master instructor, but the body of knowledge, the technique, the principle philosophies, thought process, the practices, the communication level has not transformed. It's the same. He's also giving the high five, the three time rules, praise, correct praise, all that standard instructor teaching techniques.

So, when I go and when a parent is sitting, and the parents see this person is a school owner. He's a AKA, you know, Grandmaster, Master instructor, and then we have a 17 year old full of energy, and vigor and animation, he or she is doing the same type of teaching protocol that the master instructor is doing. They're giving high fives. He's giving high fives, they go three times through praise. Correct. Great.

So, what differentiates? Yes, they are older in age. Yes, they have four more stripes on the belt. But the teaching methodologies, the style, the communication, the terminology, the verbology, the words, all are the same.

So, how do we separate the maturity level of a master instructor and an instructor? So, I started doing the research, I talked to some of the top, there's some of the best minds, professional minds and martial artists, legends, are in this book. And I called them, I said, ‘I want you to contribute to this project'. And they were very open-minded. I've got legends, you know, the name, the list, galore. And I also interviewed them and I, you know, said, ‘Tell me the differentiation.' And they have their own personal philosophies, but there was not a standard body of information to elevate the industry.

Because another reason was that I feel our industry is stuck. We have a problem. We're not moving. The way we were teaching 20 years ago, we're still teaching the same way. When I was 15, what I learned as instructor training, now I'm almost 60, I'm teaching now. So how do I evolve myself? What is a structure, methodology and guiding principles, philosophies and practices? Not experiential, not because I'm older, not because I have five more days, I can do more katas. But I know, by design, that I am a more evolved instructor.

So, when I spoke to people, they say, ‘Yeah, man, just take experience. You stay in it for 30 years, you become a master instructor.' Okay. Yes, you are a brilliant martial artist, you are exceptional. But what about the 20 other black belts who've been training with me for 20 years and have done the instructor course over and over again? How do I get them to the next level? What do I teach them? They're doing exactly, they're mimicking me, the way I talk, walk, the way I have fun. They're doing the same thing.

What separates me from them, and what separates them from the new upcoming young people? So, there has to be in our industry a body of knowledge, which elevates our industry. But to elevate the industry, we have to elevate the leader, the instructor, and they have to start thinking at a different level, more uniquely, more maturely.

So, what I did with research, with personal experience, with interviews, all over the world, this is not limited to the United States, you know. I have friends all over the world, and high level master, Grandmaster, which you already know, they're in it, my teacher and my other teachers, you know, tell me, ‘What is the separation? How do we evolve?' And then I started putting this about seven, eight years ago, and started putting this body of knowledge together.

And I contemplated on, and researched it, observed the master instructors. When I go to these events, I'm observing the master instructor, allegedly, or the instructor and I want to see the behavioral differences, the pattern differences, the communication style differences. And this is what this book is about. It gives you an outline, guiding principles, some philosophies, a lot of practices, which an instructor or even the master instructor thinks their masters can adapt and make themselves even better. We have amazing, phenomenal teachers, masters, instructors out there.

What this book will do is this will make them clearly understand their role and take them even to a greater level, they already at a high level, how we take them to the next level. So that's what I want to bring to the body of knowledge, the pedagogy, the epistemology in this book, that it elevates our industry. So, when our industry, when a leader is elevated, what happens is, it raises our standards, you know, throughout the industry, and when the industry standard is raised, then we have more people wanting to come into our industry, because now, we are teaching at a maturity level.

So, in my opinion, and just my opinion, the martial arts industry is teaching at a college level right now. Our teaching methodologies, principles, practices, procedures, processes are at a college level standard, and we have not evolved to a university standard. And my goal and objective for our industry is to have a contribution. I want to contribute to evolving our standards to get from a college or high school level to a university level. Now, when we have that level, it automatically elevates us. We are the same brotherhood, we have, and we are out for the same thing. And when we elevate the industry, we have more people coming into our industry.

So, that brings success to our profession, into our business. And that also helps us become better instructors, so we can go out and really, truly, beyond the physical, beyond the kick and punch, make the true transformational change in the lives of our students. Because how are we shaping the lives for success for higher growth, higher thinking, by real martial arts. We are not in a temple, we're not in a, you know, facility where they're spending their life learning to be a monk, or you know. We have commercial schools where people come in. 

Now, the reason they will stay is the quality and standard and the maturity of our teaching. Not just the physical, but the philosophies. The communication style. And this is not based on personality. We might there's only one Bill Superfoot Wallace. You know, there's only one Benny the Jet, there's only one, Dr. Mung G, there's only one, you know, Fred Dagobert, there's only one Buzz Durkin, but how do we reproduce those giants and bring our industry to their level of thinking, maturity and communication. So, my objective with this book is to elevate the standard of teaching. So, I hope that helps a little bit.

GEORGE: I love that. I love that you've captured all this knowledge, you know, before it gets lost, so to speak, you know, and you've captured it, and you've given a pathway. I want to go back to the college versus university style of teaching. But, I want to ask, how would you communicate to an instructor the importance of actually stepping up to a mastery level? You know, for a lot of instructors that might be, ‘Well, I'm just sitting, you know, I'm an instructor'.

And now, you know, they pick up a book like this and realize, ‘Okay, well, hang on, there's a level that I actually need to progress to'. How do you communicate the importance to an instructor to invest in themselves to become a master instructor? 

ZULFI: Great question. So, it's a process I created about 10 years ago in our organization, the Master's University, and I have a workbook which goes with this. So my instructors first read this book, and we have meetings and then they go to the, you know, 16 hour workshop, where each chapter and we dig deep into it and go through a workbook. So, that's the process. But the first thing we have to do is to turn their mindset on – say, ‘Hey, you are a great instructor, just like striving for becoming a black belt striving to become a master black belt, they need to first, they need to know that there is something more for them. 

There is a Master College or Masters University. There's a masters curriculum, masters course, that they can learn and there has to be differentiation that yes, wow, this is how I used to think of this, who I am, and when I become the master instructor my thinking evolves. I can see in ink, that this is the process, this is what I will become. And I can't wait to become that. 

So the first thing is we have to have the body of knowledge, the criteria, the syllabus, and then we have to let them know that there is the next level. You just don't stay in for 20 years and then now you become a master instructor. There is training, there is a process, there is information that you will need to learn. And then you will be certified and qualified and recognized, accredited to be a master instructor on an academic level, not an experiential level. 

So yes, so we have a workbook, and my goal is when this pandemic deal goes, then I will open up workshops whoever like to, we're doing it internally for my organization, because that's where the need arose. And now I'm, you know, having open workshops and I would like to create, you know, the masters university to the next level where instructors, even master instructors come in and get the knowledge, get the information, and at least know that, ‘Wow, wow, there's a difference'. There's a difference in thinking, there's a difference in teaching.

And unless they, if you don't know, we don't know, you know. If the instructor doesn't know, there's something out there, how will they want to pursue it? So, now there is something out there, and now they can pursue it, they can look forward to it. And there is a solid piece of information, education out there. 

GEORGE: I love this. So, I want to just quickly go back to the college versus university style of teaching. And it reminded me of, you know, a conversation we have in our Partners coaching group, where we have a bunch of school owners that we get together on a, on a weekly basis.

And when the whole pandemic happened, you know, a big thing that we were discussing was value-based pricing. What I mean by that is, you know, when the whole pandemic happened, the vehicle of martial arts disappeared, you know, the physical thing that we love, and everything moved online, but what I felt was missing online, was the focus still on the thing that was missing? 

Whereas the focus needs to be a higher level, meaning, what is the actual outcome that martial arts delivers? Because if the physical form is gone, how do you still deliver the actual outcome, the community, everything else that martial arts provides? And that got me thinking, when you mentioned university level and college level, how would you feel if all instructors had to step up to a university level? How do you feel the outcome would be different to the teaching and what students actually get from their martial arts training? 

ZULFI: Excellent. When a student goes to college, they get the fundamentals; high school, they get the start. It's like a beginner, intermediate, advanced level. So, if you put it in a comparison, you know, beginner level in martial arts, up to black belt is high school, you know, black belt to second, third dan is college. And then above that is university from the technical, physical, technical aspect, you know, up to like those, you know, high school, second, third dan is college, third, fourth, fifth dan is, you know, university.

So, that's the physicality. The maturity level, it is difficult, it'll be hard for me to express in such a short time. That begins with the leadership, that begins with the leaders, the owners, thinking processes – how do they think, how do they act? How do they communicate, and what kind of substance and content they provide and produce – shallow or deep, wide, broad, wide, long, tall. So, the wisdom-based experience shows wisdom, not learned information. So, college is information, university is knowledge and experience. 

So, the information we take from high school and build the next level of body of information, the university takes that information, converts it into knowledge and wisdom, with the culture that they have, and the type of teaching, the academia, the type of body of knowledge that they produce. It converts that information, tactical to practical, to philosophical. 

Now, when the instructor and the institution matures, I'm not talking about kick and punch, I'm talking about philosophy. I'm talking about life changing content. I'm talking about deeper meaning, let's say, let's say from a school who was reciting the student creed, if they have a student creed, taking the student creed to the highest level, in how they interject the student creed into their daily life. What other teaching philosophies, what other mental, spiritual guidance we can give to our students based on the martial arts field, that it elevates them beyond learning another kata, beyond learning another choke. 

Now, the thinking when we have a CEO or an executive comes into our, you know, facilities, yes, they are coming for the physical training. They're learning to defend themselves. But when they find, wow, there's a whole body of knowledge. My instructor is a wise sage, not just an instructor drill sergeant, this person is a wise sage, a guru, he or she is guiding me through my life by way of martial arts, not just by me memorizing the student creed, but he or she can really dig deep into the life development, my philosophy, my life philosophy, life mastery through the martial arts.

So, when we say life mastery through the martial arts, my instructor, my master instructor, really, truly has the wisdom to communicate with me what this life mastery through the martial art really is. Is it another kata which you learn? Or the principles of Boon Kai application? Or there's a deeper, much deeper – how is it changing my life? My thinking, my spiritual growth. Not making religion, but spiritually. There are some who do that, and there are few who, who connect to that, but the majority is not really receiving that.

The reason why is because the majority of instructors don't even know the existence of such a body of knowledge. So, when we elevate our thinking, when we elevate our understanding of who we are, then we can give more. So, my whole objective is to elevate our thinking. 

And everything starts with your thoughts. Then when the thoughts are elevated, as a more evolved, high level human being or instructor in the words which come out of our, you know, symbols, or the word which comes out of our mouth, those symbols connect to the student at a different frequency. There's a different vibration, with those words, beyond the kicking, punching, the choking and throwing arm bar. Okay, beyond the thrashing and bashing. 

So, that's why yoga is so far ahead of the martial arts. If you take a comparison, there are millions of people around the world, mature people, studying yoga, because yoga provides a higher level of philosophical mindset, as well as physical movement. Does the martial arts provide that? Martial arts provides it, but at a shallow level, in my opinion. I'm sure there are some great, you know, philosophical approaches in different systems, but I feel that we still need to evolve.

But that's, so, for you, if you have ever understood the yoga instructor teaching, you know, the guru teaching process, they elevate the yoga instructors' thinking, and they can sit and talk to you about life, from a strategic and from historic point of view, not from a personal point of view. 

And because they're thinking, they've trained their thinking, and they have history, you know, yoga can go back thousands of years, martial arts can go back thousands of years, but what you find in martial arts is killing. You know, it was a battle art. So, how do we evolve ourselves? How do we have the people see us more than kick butt machines? You know, we can kick your butt. “Oh, boy, karate guy, Chapo, I'm scared of you, you know, I want to stay away from it.” Isn't that normal? Isn't the normal response? “Oh, Who? Your karate guy? Oh, I'm scared of you. I'm not going to mess with you.” 

That's a standard reply from somebody who meets a martial artist. But instead of, I want them to say in a while, I would love to learn from them, but that only comes when we are evolved ourselves. And this is the first step. I don't know at all. I'm learning myself. This is the first time in my opinion, you know, this is just my opinion. And so we need to grow our thinking and separate it from the instructor to the master instructor. I hope this clarifies. I don't want to go into a different tangent. But I hope this answers the question. 

GEORGE: Yes, I love it. It's like, what you're really showing here is a way of self-mastery on such a high level, but now how an instructor could actually apply that and share that. I want to ask you, because you talk about in the book, this whole subject, elevating your thinking, elevating your wisdom and taking it to the next level. And you give great credit, a lot of credit to great Grandmaster U Maung Gyi, head of the American Bando Association, for helping you step up to that next level. If I could ask, in which way was Dr. Maung Gyi an inspiration to you? 

ZULFI: So, he is my adopted father, he's adopted me as his son. So, we had a formal ceremony many, many, many years ago, 1992 or 1994, when my father came to America, so this is cultural tradition. And Dr. Gyi is my mentor, and he's a father figure to me. And actually he has adopted me as his son through my father's approval. So, we had, my father formally asked Dr. Gyi to adopt me as a son in America, because my father was overseas. And Dr. Gyi, took that role very, very, to heart, and he has guided me with the highest level of integrity that anybody you know, he kept his word to my father, he said, “Don't worry, Mr. Ahmed, he's my son from now on, and I will take care of him”.

And his objective for me was to, you know, I was young at the time, much younger, to shape me and elevate my thinking. And the way he did that over the course of time and taught me martial arts, some of the best martial arts training I've ever gotten is from Dr. Gyi, the physical aspect, American Bando, the Bando system is very vast and very deep, and very, very, you know, full of enriching history and training.

But Dr. Gyi is not just a great Grandmaster in the Banda system, he is a multiple PhD, he was a, you know, invited professor at Harvard University. I mean, this man is just on a different level. A whole other level. He's not human, he's superhuman. I'm not saying that because my teacher, my mentor, but that's the truth. If you meet him, you will, you will realize what I'm talking about. And there are very few people out there like that. 

So, I'm very fortunate that I have had this genius of a man, this wise monk of a man, Sayadaw, the monk mind, is taking me under his wing to guide me and, you know, teach me. So, I've learned so much, and not only the physical, but the thinking. And I've learned by observing him, by observation, his mannerism. And we've had conversations, you know, I will give you an example, he came, he was writing a book on me, it's called ‘Panther from Pakistan'. He wrote a book, he stayed 22 days in my home. 

And this is how our daily routine would be: he would be up at 6am with his, you know, pipe and typing on my computer. And when I wake up, and my wife, you know, we make him breakfast. And then all day he would be going and we'd be training. And there would be times, George, and this is no exaggeration. It'll be 2AM, 3AM, and he's teaching me, choking me, stabbing me, showing me the tiger form and all, and we’re talking about history, philosophy. And I'll say, “Doc, it's 2AM, it's 3AM. We need to go to sleep”. And he's, “Oh, yeah, already?” “Okay,” I say, “Doc, go to sleep”, you know, and put him to bed like a child. And then he would be up at 7AM. And I'm dragging. 

So, it was an experience living with the legend. I mean, I learned the true definition of dedication and work ethics, just by being around him, not let alone the physical technique. But that's why he's a genius, multiple PhDs, linguistic, you know, he's military, decorated veteran, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. Anyway, I'm sorry, I got off the tangent, because when I talk about Dr. Gyi, I just get totally excited, because he's, you know, we need mentors in our life. And I'm so fortunate that he and other people mentored me. So, one way of elevating yourself is to find the right mentor. And mentorship is so important. And let the mentor you. 

Those are the lucky ones who get mentors in their life and they let them guide them and grow their thinking first before they grow their, you know, physical anything. And a mentor is not a person who is a, you know, feel-good coach – ‘Hey, good job'. A mentor tells you the way it is, you know, good, bad, he or she will let you know, you know their opinion. Then it's up to you. They don't influence you in doing something. They just educate you and guide you. So, I hope that helps. Also, I did. I forgot the question. 

GEORGE: No, that was great, I guess, one or two more questions for you. And I think for anyone listening, they can feel your passion, the wisdom and everything coming through, and definitely worth picking up the book. I do have one more question about the book because, you know, other than yourself sharing all this great wisdom, you've got so many people that have contributed as well.

I'm probably not going to name all the names, but yeah, we've got Great Master Bill ‘Superfoot’ Wallace, Grand Master Ridvan Manav. Yeah, actually long standing clients. Yes, I speak to Hakan Manav quite often. Kyoshi Fred DePalma, and we got Hanshi Dave Kovar. 

A lot of knowledge is packed in this book from a lot of super talented martial artists. And we were discussing earlier, you were talking, you mentioned you had interviewed all these people. And I don't know if this is even possible to answer, but with so much diverse knowledge being shared with you, what's the one or two things that really stood out, that was a universal philosophy of a great master instructor? 

ZULFI: The great thing was that everybody had their own unique approach. And there were some people who just did one liners. And some people wrote, like Bill Clark, wrote a whole, you know, some chapters in there. So, one thing was that everybody had their own essence; what this book has is the essence of their personal idea of what a master instructor should be or is. So, they just extracted the essence and put it in, in this book. 

One thing was that what I took away – that open to learning, a master instructor, which is universal, is open to learning. Next point, I think I'll go to three points, which stand out. They're learners, open-minded to learn and grow. Second, they are in service for the students, they have evolved beyond themselves, they are not pursuing it for prize, profit, or fame. They are doing this, because it is them, they have become the essence. They've evolved beyond the price, the money, the fame. 

Now, it's part of the DNA. So, they teach out of love of teaching, not out of need of teaching. And the third thing, which stands out is they all want, they're all on a path of transformation, transforming their students to a higher level of human being.

To them, martial arts is more than kick and punch. To them, martial arts is truly empowerment in transforming a student into becoming a better human being. So, these are the key essence, in how they do it, is in the book and how they see it is in the book. And I'm so grateful to all these great minds and great leaders and great legends that they contributed, because my objective was, and still is, to put that info, so it should not be lost. 

When I ask them the question, what is a master instructor to you? I wanted to put their, you know, essence in the book. So, this is not lost for the upcoming generation. So, this becomes a text which is standardizing our industry for master instructors. I'm already working on the next book – it's called, ‘Beyond the Master Instructor'. So, now I'm talking about the grandmaster level, you know, at the next level, so I've already completed about 12 chapters. So, my goal is to publish that in 2022, probably. 

But now, what is after this, because I want to leave behind a body of knowledge that continually shapes our industry. That is my contribution to our industry, which has been so wonderful to me. You know, martial arts has changed my life and martial arts has given me and made me, you know, who I am today.

Of course, the teaching of my parents, and my faith, and my teachers, but it's all martial arts, where I'm today, what the reason I'm speaking to you is because of the martial arts, and I want to help shape those other lives. Because I know it's given me a lot, I want to give back to the martial arts and I see it in a way of, you know, a book or a course or, you know, a training. So, I want to leave that behind and continue to ever agree to give back. That's my contribution that I want to leave. 

GEORGE: Love it. Grandmaster Zulfi, thanks so much for making the time to chat with me and for anyone listening, so, ‘The Science and Secrets of Becoming a Master Martial Arts Instructor‘. I even said it the American way, I even said Master, not Master. All the links to where you can purchase the book is in the show notes. Master Zulfi, anything you'd like to add, before we wrap up? 

ZULFI: Thank you so much. I truly appreciate your time. And, you know, thinking of me and helping promote the book, because I feel this will help everybody and you don't have to be an instructor. I've got students in my academy, purchasing these. They just want to learn, they just want to know what we think about. So, this is not just for an instructor or a master instructor. 

Anybody can, when they read this, if your students read this, you are already planting that seed way early. You know, if a green belt, adult green belt, reads this, you've already planted the seed, and you’re already building an instructor, master instructor, in your school already. It elevates your instructors. It elevates all of us. 

So, the lady who edited this book, she's a PhD. And she's a retired professor of education. She used to write manuals for instructors in college. So, she told me, she said, “Master Zulfi, I learned so much from this book”. I mean, she's an educator, she writes manuals, I've learned so much, and she edited it. “I've learned so much from this book. Why don't you write this book for teachers, not martial artists, for teachers? All you've got to do is change the master instructor to teacher. 

And this will be a very big addition to the academic industry.” I was not thinking of it like that. And this person who's outside of industry, who did the editing, she's who I look up to. And I said, “I hope, I'm telling you, I hope this is good enough”. She said, “I've learned from this myself. And you can bring this body of knowledge into academia, academic work and help, it will help the teachers”. 

So, what a great testimony, what a great encouragement that she gave me and made me think in a different way now. So, I highly recommend it, and I'm not worried about selling it or not, I've already achieved what I wanted from this book. But whoever gets this book, first, I want you to give me your feedback, what you take away, so I can improve myself. And I can grow and also learn from it. And it's not only for instructors, it's not only for master, granted, it's for everybody. Your students can read it and when they read it, they will see the martial arts instructor at a different level. And you know, I just wish everybody the best of luck. 

Hang in there, guys. Good times are on the way. You know, when this pandemic is done, people are cooped up, they just want to get out what a great thing we do, what a great service we provide. I guarantee you give it time your schools will be packed. Just hang in there, be true to your profession, keep bringing the best of yourself, continue to grow yourself, and your school will be jam-packed again, that mark my words, it's about to happen. Not happen maybe in the next six months, the one who's relevant, and who's present, will reap the benefits.

GEORGE: Totally. I just want to add to that for, you know, especially for anyone listening from elsewhere, I can definitely vouch for that. You know, one thing that we really assess working with school owners in multiple countries, is watching countries ahead of the curve, get over the pandemic, sort of deal with things, open up and come out of lockdown. And I know here in Australia, schools are booming. And we see how that is trickling through. So yeah, if, you know, if things aren't great now, just be ready, because it's coming. 

ZULFI: For several reasons. Number one, cabin fever. Number two, there's some great movies coming out. Number three, if we have been active and relevant, people appreciate and notice and support that, you know. So, your success is not what you do for them, your success is how they see what you do. The community will support you, because you've been around supporting them, and it's very important to stay present and relevant. The community will recognize you.

GEORGE: Love it. Great opportunity to lead.

ZULFI: Thank you so much for your time. 

GEORGE: Thank you, Master Zulfi.

 

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***NEW*** Now available on Spotify!

57 – Zulfi Ahmed – The Real Secret To Success With Your Martial Arts Business

After 45 years, Grandmaster Zulfi Ahmed from Bushi Ban International has discovered the real secret to martial arts business success, and it's not what you might think.

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IN THIS EPISODE, YOU WILL LEARN:

  • The ‘real secret’ behind Master Zulfi’s success and longevity in the martial arts industry
  • The ‘ONE’ thing that he would have done differently at the start of his career in the USA
  • What keeps his passion in martial arts thriving
  • The importance of attending martial arts events to meet like-minded people
  • More details about Bushi Ban International, a comprehensive martial arts system that Master Zulfi founded
  • And more

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


TRANSCRIPTION

GEORGE: Hey this is George Fourie and welcome to another Martial Arts Media Business podcast. I have a fantastic guest with me today, all the way on the other side of the world in Texas, Master Zulfi Ahmed. How are you today Zulfi?

ZULFI: Wonderful George, thank you. Appreciate you contacting me and pleasure to be on your show.

GEORGE: Alright, awesome. So we've got, just to give this conversation a bit of context: Zulfi is the Grandmaster from Bushi Ban International, 10th degree black belt, 45 years’ experience in martial arts. There's a lot that we can obviously gain from this call. So I guess we've got to start just from the beginning, to give a bit of context: how would you, if someone has to ask you who is Zulfi Ahmed, what would be your answer?

ZULFI: Well, Zulfi Ahmed is a short little man, who was born and raised in Pakistan, a third world country and I migrated to the USA in 1985 and I've been studying martial arts since I was 9 years old, so 45-46 years in the martial arts. And I studied all over the world, I've competed, fought, trained in almost every part of the world, except Australia.

So that's where I need to be heading soon! And I have my organization, which is an international organization called Bushi Ban International. Our headquarters is in Houston Texas, Pasadena Texas to be precise. We have 9 locations in the Pasadena Greater Houston area and we have 2 more in Connecticut and few affiliates in the US and several schools, affiliates in Pakistan, Bangladesh, India, in that part of the world.

The system which I teach is called Bushi Ban, it’s my system of development. I've studied many styles throughout my years and I'm still a student of the martial arts, I consider myself an ever-going, ongoing student, everlasting student of the martial arts. In the beginning, I studied the system called Bando. Burmese Bando, it’s a system from Myanmar and it has different branches, it’s called Lethwei, which is the bare knuckle kickboxing, Banshay, which is the self-defense and weapons art, Thaing which is the animal style and classical art, Naban which is the grappling art of Burmese martial arts and then I studied wrestling, Pakistani Indian wrestling when I was young, I studied Muay Thai, Shotokan karate… many, many styles.

And after studying for about 20+ years, I developed my own system and it’s an ever evolving system and that's the brief background. I've competed all over the United States in many different circuits from point type tournaments to full contact to MMA, to grappling, to Jiu Jitsu, to kickboxing, boxing, you know. So I've had a very well rounded learning experience. I've had people from all different disciplines took turns beating me up, so I've learned a lot.

GEORGE: Alright, fantastic. So Zulfi, did all this start… because I mean, you've got your own system and you've got nine locations in the United States: how did that all start? Because you came from Pakistan: was that the goal of the immigration, or were you already that far in your career when you were based in Pakistan?

ZULFI: Great question. I've already had many thousands of students in Pakistan. I came to the USA for higher education, so I was enrolled in college and university here. I was enrolled in Bernard M. Baruch College of Business in New York City, Lexington Avenue. I had a little, mini international scholarship.

Plus, I had an immigrant status. My sister, she's a pediatric on colleges, a specialist for children and my brother in law were citizens of the United States. They sponsored me for a green card. When I came to the USA, I was already a green card holder as an immigrant, but I came here to go to school and I really didn't have much intention on staying for any longer than I needed to and going back.

But I fell in love with the country, with the people and the opportunity presented itself, because I still had thousands of students in Pakistan and the opportunity presented itself for me because martial arts is my love – it’s my passion, it’s my fire, it’s my fuel. So, of course, I wanted to be in the USA to compete with the top of the line martial artists at the time in the whole wide world. So I jumped on the competition circuit. At that time, we had sports karate more prevalent, about 34 years ago. Very few other disciplines, but very scattered.

So whatever I could find, I jumped into that arena and then I opened my own little club teaching in daycares, with little children. And then, one thing led to another and I started with a small school, went to a bigger school, bigger school, bigger school and finally, built and bought my own building of 24,000 square feet, which is the headquarters now. And as time went by, we had more schools.

At one time, we had up to 17 schools and some of those schools are still active, but we don’t license them anymore. So they chose their own path. And to make a long story short, I came with the intent of finishing education and then see where my destiny leads me and my destiny kept me here and never looked back. Don't regret it for a single day. Love it, love the people, and love the country. I love my students and I love the martial arts. I’m a blessed, blessed human being.

GEORGE: Fantastic. I always love hearing an expat success story, as I'm from South Africa and I'm living in Perth. It’s always good to hear people who succeed. I call it the expat advantage because expats normally go and go with a different mission, because they've just got to make it work.

ZULFI: We have to make it work.

GEORGE: Yeah. So I want to learn from you: how did you go from… we always talk on the show about schools, and then marketing and so forth: but I think the topic we don’t explore that much is, how do you take that next jump? You've created this school and you've got a business: how do you scale to the next level that you can open the next locations and I guess in a way start removing, taking a step back and letting other people lead?

ZULFI: So, you know, if a person has a deep belief, deep conviction, deep faith, deep passion, deep fire, you know, of what you do, you love, and then you keep doing that, things happen organically and things happen with planning. So you must let your destiny lead you and don't question it. You must be led by your passion to a point where you are willing and ready to sacrifice and I'm a big believer in fate and destiny and karma and you know, recreate your own luck.

So what happens if one is passionate about and they believe strong enough and they're resilient and they don't give up and they are not greedy in the process. Then automatically, the universe opens doors. Sometimes, people come into your life because you attracted them and sometimes you go into people’s lives who you attracted. And they attract you.

And as long as you are aware of where your endpoint needs to be, things will manifest themselves as long as you are true, honest, hardworking and you are committed to your goals and dreams – you've got to have a dream. Then, things will happen. Don't doubt, things will happen.

When I came here, I was passionate about my martial arts. Schooling was my parents’ directive to me more than my own, even though schooling is very important and I did schooling and I recommend everybody does get their schooling and degree, because that's your plan A.

But fortunately, my plan B became my plan A, because I'm born to be a martial artist, my calling in life is martial arts. And I've known that since I was an orange belt since I was 9 years old. That this was what I wanted to do throughout the rest of my life. And that comes through my mentors, my teachers who inspired me to live a lifestyle of martial arts.

And then, being at the right time, right place with the right people, with the right mission, right purpose, opens doors. So I wish I could give you a more strategic, tactical answer: do this, do this, do this, do this, but to me, the best answer is just to follow your dreams and don't give up and don't quit and keep believing. And the right things will happen if you have the right intent. If your intent is good, if your intent is sincere, the doors will open yourself, just don't give up. That’s the answer.

GEORGE: Yeah, that's the better answer, because it’s always, you know, there's tactical change and it could be different for everyone and I think everyone has different strengths in what tactical things they need to do and not do. So yes, that's the better answer, thanks, Zulfi. So, at which point – I’ll get to this question in a minute, but when you feel martial arts school owners are going wrong in their path?

I mean, we've spoken about following their dreams and setting that intention and goals, but with the martial arts industry just being at a big booming stage. Where do you feel the school owners are missing the boat on their journey, with their schools?

ZULFI: I can't answer for the martial arts individual industry, I speak a lot in many different forums with the Martial Arts Industry Association, Educational Funding Company, MA1st. BTW, I’ll be speaking to our mutual friends, Fred DePalma’s event in April. I think it’s 26th-27th-28th if I'm not mistaken.

GEORGE: That's correct.

ZULFI: Fred is a great friend of mine and you know, I have the utmost respect for him and I’ll be speaking at his event. I’ll be speaking at many other events, EFC event in England also in April, the week before that I’ll be in the UK, speaking at the EFC, European Convention. So, basically, what I want to say, the answer is, you know the phases of learning and maturity is… the four phases of learning are unconscious incompetence, conscious incompetence, conscious competence and unconscious competence.

So, you don't know what you don't know and that's where a lot of martial arts school owners, there’s so much out there, they just don't know what they don't know, you know? I still don't know what a lot of things are about. Then there are martial artists who know that they don't know, which is a great stage to be at. And then there are martial artists who know that they don't know and they want to pursue that, which is wonderful, and that comes to a point where you know what you know, and then you don't know what you know because it becomes second nature.

So I believe our industry is going through that second and third phase. We have a lot of martial artists, they don’t know that there's information, knowledge of business development, personal development, martial arts entrepreneurship exists, you know? I’ll give you an example: tomorrow I have a mastermind here in Texas, I've got Ken Pankiewicz, and he’s travelled all the way from the UK. He's got five schools there, I've got people coming from all over and I've got local martial arts schools owners coming in, who have never been to a martial arts business development event.

They just didn't know that something like this existed. So I think once you figure out that there is information there that could prove us and we take steps to go out and learn and implementation is the key. Everybody learns it, everybody knows it, everybody sits and takes notes, but can you go and implement?

So I think one thing which martial artists in this time and age, there's one school, one group, they don't know that we even exist, martial arts business educators. The second group is that they re information junkies: they love information, but they don't do anything with that. The third group is, they go and they take what fits in the model and they implement it right away, like my friend Ken, Ken is sitting here. He is soaking up and implementing. Then there are guys who already have implemented, they just need reassurance. They need to know they're doing it right; you know?

I go to these events to learn and I go to these events, let me give you a very honest answer: I go to these events to be humbled. When I see people who are doing much better than I am, it brings me back down to earth, because we are all kings in our own little kingdom, but when we go outside and we see, wow! These guys are kicking butts and taking names and they are way beyond my aptitude and it humbles me. And that humbleness makes me come back and say, hey, I thought I was this, you know, bad ass – excuse my French. But I've got a lot of work to do.

So to me, it humbles me, because you know, I believe most of us, me included, we are driven by ego. Martial artists have big egos. So once we let go of egos, we will come back to earth and we will do what we need to do to prove ourselves. So I don't know if that answers your question, but that's my feeling for it.

GEORGE: I love it, I love it, that’s fantastic. So, Zulfi, there’s a lot of unconscious competence that I think I can't tap into and it’s hard for me to actually get those questions, because I think you’ve got so much knowledge over 45 years, that things are common knowledge to you, it might be hard to extract all that information from you. So let’s put it this way: if you had to start this journey from the beginning, what do you think you would do different, or which paths would you go on? What would you change?

ZULFI: Great question. I would get myself a mentor ASAP. A mentor, or a group of mentors, or I would, these times and days are not times and days of lone rangers. Those days are gone. You have to be part of a bigger mission, bigger vision, bigger purpose, bigger group, bigger entity than yourself. Because the student is more aware of what the martial art is and it represents and represents and can benefit now than 30 years ago.

30 years ago, as a lone ranger, I could have hundreds of students, but now as a lone ranger, I can not compete with a stronger group of people who are united and they have more strength than you. So I would utilize, see, a lot of this, where I’m at today, I did a lot on my own trial and error and failures, more failures than victories. And then, when I found some mentors, one of my great mentors is the great grandmaster Dr. Maung Gyi. He is 87 years old and he is the father of American Bando Association. He mentored me, guided me and that was a blessing to me. Plus, other mentors in other fields.

So you've got to get yourself somebody who you respect and you feel can share with you through experience. Anybody can read a book and say what's in the book, but the years of knowledge, the experience, cannot be replaced by what you read in a book, or what you buy in a $2.99 program. It has to be lived and they have to live through trial and error, through victory and failure and that's the mentor I would get immediately if I could find one. If I could have someone who… that's the first thing I would do.

Because when I came to America, my teacher was 10000 miles away. I learned through trial and error and I learned to get beaten up. I would go to these tournaments, which I had totally different, I came from a different background and I went to do Texas style point karate with groin kicks who I love and I got beaten up every weekend.

But I didn't give up, I kept going back and going back and going back, so I learned through real failure and then, you know, if I would have had a coach, mentor, teacher in the business, I would have been maybe ten steps ahead. You know? So that's what I would recommend everybody: to get yourself a group of great people, a mentor. Build a little sphere of influence, build your own inner circle of friends and mentors, of like-minded pursuit, or get somebody who you believe can guide you. That's what I would do.

GEORGE: Fantastic. Zulfi, I'm just looking at the time and we’re running close, I know you've got another appointment to get to. One question just behind this: at what point did you decide to start your own style and to start your own program?

ZULFI: The decision to start my style was when I was living in Pakistan and I saw a rich cultural heritage of martial arts in Pakistan, which comes from India, Pakistan and that region. And I was training in a foreign style Burmese style. And I trained in Japanese style, I trained in Korean style, I trained in Thai style. And as a young person, I loved it.

I still love training in every style, Brazilian, Thai, and Mongolian – every style. But I saw that there was really nothing which was representing the rich cultural martial arts of the region where I came from, on an international level. Plus, I saw a gap of modern approach in those martial arts.

So you know, some people are creative by nature, some people are practical by nature, so I feel that my personal creative invocation, creative longing made me realize that I needed something. Number one, to fulfil my needs in what I was getting through that system was great, still great, I still train with it.

But there was something I wanted to improve and enhance. And when I saw the other system, it was like pieces of a puzzle. So I was making my own puzzle with different pieces and putting my puzzle together. And one of the key reasons for putting the puzzle together was at that time, the national pride that I wanted, a system which could be internationally recognized, which hails from that region of the world.

And then, I wanted to give back to that part of the world a more modern approach to what was going on in the other parts of the world where I was traveling, to Hong Kong, the Philippines, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Nepal, India, when I was living in Pakistan and I was accumulating this information and putting my pieces together and that was done on a selfish basis and it grew into a wonderful system called Bushi Ban. And my students loved it and it became a, we call it a supra, multi-dimensional system.

It was not a linear system, like Taekwondo might be linear, just kicks, but Bushi ban, in those days, before MMA, we were – and I'm not taking any credit, but we were incorporating wrestling with Muay Thai. We were incorporating karate with point karate, with kickboxing and we were incorporating Pakistani wrestling with point karate, takedowns. We were incorporating Naban, Burmese Naban with Taekwondo.

So it was evolving into what is MMA now, it was kind of evolving in that manner and it was becoming a multidimensional system and what I used to call it, I used to say, this is the tradition of the future. Traditional martial arts are the future, one day, people will adapt this martial art because it has the past and the future combined together in a multidimensional way and we used to say, you know, modern practices, traditional wisdom, and ancient wisdom, compiled together.

Of course, inspired by the late great Bruce Lee's thinking, as a child, as a young person I was reading that, and my own personal longing. So Bushi Ban became born, was born. And it keeps evolving because I'm still evolving. I’m the founder, I'm the creator and I’m still evolving and my goal is to keep bringing that evolution and innovation and creation into my students’ lives, wherever they are.

GEORGE: I love that, awesome. Master Zulfi, it’s been awesome speaking to you and I'm looking forward to meeting you in San Diego this year, so depending on when you're watching this video. So that's 26th to 28th I believe in San Diego at The Main Event. And Master Zulfi, where else can people find out more about you and your networking and everything that you have going on?

ZULFI: I would love to connect with people, I love people and I'm honoured when somebody calls me, I like to share. So if anybody who's hearing this, give me a shout out. You can email me at masterzulfi@gmail.com, or bushiban-hq@juno.com.

And if you don't mind, if I can plug in, put a plugin for an event we’re doing in Thailand, I've been hosting what we call the World Martial Arts Summit for the past two years and it’s in conjunction with the Thai martial arts games and Thai festival, which starts on the 12th of March this year and goes to the 18th of March. So in the World Martial Arts Summit, which I run that aspect, we have a sports karate tournament, we have a grappling tournament, No Gi grappling tournament.

We have a mastermind, where people like Fred DePalma, you know, Ken Pankiewicz, Hakan Manav, myself, Master Kazi Qais, Master Jeff Barley… many, many prominent martial artists from all over the world, from the USA, from India, from Australia, from the UK, from Thailand, from Malaysia, from Pakistan, from Bangladesh – many, many countries, they'll be there and we’ll be brainstorming and different martial arts business development, that's a mastermind.

We also have the Asia-Pacific Martial Arts Hall of Fame. It’s an organization to which we want to recognize top performers from Asia-Pacific region. So I would love to hear from anybody who would like to go to the event and you can log onto www.worldmartialartssummit.com and I’ll be in Bangkok Thailand on the 7th of March, till the 19th of March.

Then, there's another event I will be teaching, I'm the keynote speaker at the EFC, UK EFC event, which is, I think 20th and the 21st of April, that's in UK England. And then I’ll be at the MA1st Kyoshi Fred DePalma’s event in San Diego right after that. So, love to shake hands with all of you, love to see you there and looking forward to sharing our information with you all.

GEORGE: Fantastic. Master Zulfi, I’ll have all those links in the transcript of this interview as well. It’s been great to connect with you, all the way to the other side of the world and looking forward to meeting you in person.

ZULFI: Yes sir, my pleasure. Thank you, George, pleasure meeting you and I look forward to meeting you in person as well.

GEORGE: Thank you, speak soon.

ZULFI: Bye.

GEORGE: Cheers.

 

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