Parents – What Martial Arts Instructor’s Want You to Know

I came across an article written by a friend of mine, American Kenpo expert Rich Hale, about what we as instructors wish parents of our students would learn.  He hit the nail on the head and it inspired me to write an article myself on the subject and, of course, share his article.  It made me chuckle a bit, because it is so true.  Although I haven’t faced every single point he made, I’ve faced 90 percent of them.  In fact, I still face some of them to this day. I’ve been teaching martial arts since 1998.  I didn’t start teaching children avidly until 2005 when I opened commercially as a studio.


When teaching children you have the task of dealing with the children’s parents.  Throughout my several years as an instructor I’ve dealt with every kind of parent you can imagine – those who think I am a babysitter and just drop their kids off every single class; those who think their child should get special treatment; those who have no clue about martial arts, but still feel the need to try to tell me how to do my job; those who complain behind my back because their child hasn’t gotten a stripe in a couple months; those who think their child is ready to test for his next belt when the child is nowhere near ready; those who constantly compare their child to the other kids in the class and feel their child is better and should have a higher belt; those who think just because their child has been a student longer than another child that their child should automatically have a higher belt rank; those who have unrealistic expectations for their child and don’t realize that the reason their child has a low self-esteem and no confidence is because of the way they (the parents) treat them; those who are paranoid and think that we are holding their child back or feel that we should be babying their child; those who think their child is a perfect angel; those who don’t give their child enough credit; and more.


On the flip side, I have also dealt with great parents – those who trust in me and let me do my job; those who genuinely care about their child’s progress; those who want the child to EARN the stripes and belts; those who care more about the benefits their child is receiving rather than the stripes and belts; those who get involved and watch the classes so that they can parallel what I am teaching; those who sign up their child for the special seminars with guest instructors at our school; those who get their child private lessons so the child can excel and reach his/her full potential; those who come to me with questions and concerns rather than talking behind my back; those who keep me informed of what is going on with the child’s life outside of the martial arts studio; and more.


One thing I always try to get across to the parents of my students is that the child’s progress has to do with what we call the “triad to success.”  This is a pyramid, which obviously has three points.  We need all three points to make the triad of success.  Each point represents people:  the top point is the student; the second point represents the parents; the third point is the teachers (instructors).  If the student, parents and instructors are not all on the same page, the child will not reach his/her full potential. I have found many times that either the child or the parents are not fulfilling the role that I need them to fulfill.  The blocks of the pyramid consist of (starting from the top): gratitude, consistency, self-control, individuality, balance, coachability, preparedness, compassion, intentness, attentiveness, participation, commitment, flexibility, enthusiasm and encouragement.


Personally, there should be times where the parent drops the child off for class.  This gives the child some independence.  It should be at least a 50/50 split, however, where the parents are sitting in during class at least 50 percent of the time.  I’ve had parents wonder why their child isn’t advancing as quickly as they feel he should.  If those parents would sit in class and watch their child from an objective point of view, they would realize that the child is not putting forth the effort needed for advancement.  I am not one of those instructors’ who promotes people just because they are showing up to class and making a monthly payment.  I have standards and my school is not a belt factory like most schools.  I don’t believe in brainwashing students.  I’m real and I’m an honest teacher, and sometimes the truth hurts.  If you are not bending your knees you don’t deserve a blue belt.  If you aren’t keeping your hands up, you are no brown belt. I have seen several black belts in the martial arts world who look worse than some of my yellow belts. I’m not bragging, I am just reminding people that if you want belts in my school you EARN them.


Here is the article written by Rich Hale:







Going the potty is every kids way of getting out of something they don’t want to do. It’s your job to see to it they go before class, so we can take this excuse for lazy behavior off the table.


If you would take the time to learn how to tie a belt, you could help teach your child. We can spend a few minutes teaching an interested parent how to tie a belt or we can spend ten minutes a day, every day, trying to teach a class full of five year olds.


Every time you ask us when your child is going to get his next belt, instead of asking how your child is progressing, we wonder where your values are.


Spending all your time on a smart phone may help the time pass, but does little to show support for your child’s education.


Your child may be a junior black belt, but that doesn’t mean he can defend himself against an adult. If you’re not afraid of him neither is your average kidnapper, child molester, or murderer.


When we tell your children they’re doing great or fantastic, don’t let it go to your head. It’s a motivation tool we use to build your child’s self esteem. It doesn’t mean he’s ready for a promotion.


Just because your friends child received a black belt in a year and a half, doesn’t mean he’s a real black belt. Countless schools promote children based on how long the parents are willing to go without a promotion – not the kids.


Punishing your children by taking away karate is like taking away their vitamins because they didn’t finish their dinner.