Blog | Innovative Martial Arts & Fitness | Winnipeg | Building Future Leaders

Kids and Business

Business is one of those things that is a really relevant and useful skill, but is so often neglected in childhood education.

Kids can greatly benefit from learning basic business skills, and operating micro-businesses.

Learning the value of money, and how it is made are valuable life lessons that will help a lot in the future.

A simple thing like a freezie or Lemonade stand might be the first things to come to mind when it comes to kids and businesses, but there are other options.  That said, let’s look at what skills are necessary for that sort of business.

Inventory, they need to purchase it and prepare it.  Understanding that they can take some amount of money, add value and create more money is a important thing that teaches self-worth.

It also requires a understanding of value.  In order to produce income they have to make sure their costs are lower then their price.

Inventory also costs money, which they may or may not have.  If not then it is a loan that might get them there.  Now a loan should have interest attached to it, as in the real world that’s how it works.  The other thing a loan does is teach long term thinking.  If they borrow $10 for supplies, generate $25, pay back $11 (10 + 10% interest) they have 14 left.  If they reinvest they will make more next time… if they spend it they are stuck paying interest again next time.

Or get creative, buy in at $10 for a equity stake where you get a piece of the profits, however they can buy that stake back later if they want.  Again, delaying spending the money “now” in order to generate more in the future

In addition to basic money skills comes customer service & sales.  Again, hugely valuable skills when they are old enough to enter the workplace and to be able to understand how the service industry works.  Kids are blasted with ads constantly, what happens when they start thinking about those ads, how they work and trying to create their own sign?  I’d encourage them to not just look at their own ads, but to start paying attention to the ads they see and what those ads are attempting to influence.

Does it need to be a food / beverage stand?  Of course not, kids have all sorts of options available to them depending on their age.  Other standard kids jobs like babysitting, yard care, shovelling, dog walking, window washing, car washing, etc. are all options.

But kids are also creative, maybe they can come up with something new?  If they are obsessed with spinners maybe they can make them and sell them?  Maybe they can sell old toys or flip garage sale finds on kijiji? Maybe they can create something entirely unique to them and do something with that?

The next thing to look at is persistency, consistency and adapting.  A one day stand might do a little money.  But if they commit to every Saturday from 11-1 or any other consistent schedule they might start finding repeat customers and referrals.  If they shovel a driveway once that’s good, but if they commit to every snowfall they can get regular customers.  Things build momentum in any business or really any job.  And if things really aren’t working… why? and what ideas do they have to fix it?

Academic education is only part of the picture when it comes to building the skills that a kid will need to crush it as an adult.  If they have a interest in money and business it is never to young to start learning.

btw – if you feel odd taking interest, royalties or renting out your rake and lawnmower to your own child keep in mind the reason, the goal is to teach about money and those sorts of things are important in how money actually works.  Feel free to put it away and give it too them later, or buy them something with it.

Skills Kids Will Need to Succeed in the Modern World

20 years ago math teachers where still telling kids they won’t always have a calculator on them…

Now I don’t even need to pull the phone out of my pocket to get Siri to solve basic math questions.  Not only that I also have in my pocket pretty much every piece of information I could ever want.

Information is no longer as valuable, because we all have access to it at all times.

This has had a huge effect on the way we conduct ourselves and how the businesses operates and what skills are valued in employees.

As a simple example, if you where going to make a big purchase 15 or more years ago you’d get most of your information from the salesperson.  That person is motivated to make the sale more then anything in a lot of cases and where really the one holding all the cards.  Nowadays you can pull up reviews, compare features, price compare and more on any product before even speaking with a person… or just order online and cut out sales people completely.

If you had a medical issue you relied solely on your doctor for information.  Now you can read studies, treatment options, get in touch with other people with the same issue, see lab results, etc.  All completely independently.

If you need to do some work around the home you can google the problem and pull up countless DIY videos and posts on plumbing, electrical, repair, construction, etc.

Information is available to everyone as easy as a 5 second search on a device we carry with us pretty much 24/7.

Education is needing changes to adapt to the changing world, but changes in education happen slower then changes in the real world when it comes to tech.  So the rest of the community needs to help out and make sure kids are ready for the new and changing demands that will help make them successful in life.

So what are the skills that are becoming more and more important?

Knowing the answer is less important, we all have the answers in our pocket.  What is important is knowing the right question.  Being able to identify problems and find the right questions to produce the answers. Creativity and problem finding lead to problem solving.  Whether it is on a sales floor, in a board room or inventing a new product the person that can ask the right questions is the one that will come up with the best solution.

Creativity.  It’s now been 10 years since Ken Robinsons talk entitled “Do Schools Kill Creativity” went viral and got a lot of people thinking about education in the modern world.  Creativity in a age of easy access to information, automation and rapidly changing landscapes the ability to change, adapt and find new solutions is more important then ever.  Massive businesses like Blockbuster Video can disappear in the blink of an eye as new technology and behaviours take over.

Sales… Now when I say sales I don’t mean just selling people a product or service for money.  Sales happens everywhere.  More so then ever now.  A doctor must sell you on the best treatment options, while competing against 5 other options you found online.  A boardroom is full of sales presentations on which direction a company should turn.  Experts are no longer experts just because they have the information, we all have the information, they need to be able to ask the right questions to get us to buy their solution.

Adaptability.  Chances are, no matter what you do, it’s changed in some significant ways as a position over the past 20 years.  Entire career choices have disappeared, new ones have appeared and virtually every mid to high level position has undergone massive changes in the way business is done.

Media. Something interesting has happened, I heard a stat the other day that said about 40% of adults now have some sort of side business.  Whether it is selling on etsy, online ventures, offering consulting services, involvement in a MLM or starting a full business.  The playing field has levelled out substantially for “the little guy” and starting a small or even side business has never been easier.  The reason is everyone now has the ability to be their own media company.  If your content and message is good, you can have a successful channel on any number of mainstream platforms.  Youtube is now bigger then the big networks, and you can get on free with the camera on your phone.

What’s interesting is that as technology becomes more and more involved in our day to day lives it is a lot of the “soft skills” that seem to be becoming more and more important.  Even in very academic disciplines… an accountant that has a strong camera presence or the ability to write simple and relevant blog posts will dominate in the market over perhaps a slightly more skilled accountant that lacks the ability to capture an audience and build a network and personal brand.

 

 

Let’s Talk Discipline…

The word Discipline comes from the latin word “Disciplina” meaning teaching or instruction.  In modern culture it is often used as a synonym for punishment though, and that is far less of a useful skill.

This draws a line between to meanings of the word.  Internal discipline and externally imposed discipline.

An example of externally imposed discipline would be military boot camp.  Discipline in that context is doing what you are told, when you are told and not asking questions.

This is different from internal discipline which can’t be learnt through having someone direct your actions and behaviours and using punishment to ensure compliance.

Internal discipline is learning to teach yourself, controlling your own behaviour and making the most of your own abilities.  It is a skill that is gained through freedom and making your own choices.

External discipline is, in my opinion, far more superficial.  Using punishment and strict direction can certainly give a strong impression of discipline, but in our current culture is that enough to set a person up for success?

Much of todays educational practices where designed with factory workers in mind during the industrial revolution.  In that context external discipline was desired to keep people doing repetitive work grinding through the week.

In the martial arts much of the current practices have roots in military training.  Japanese arts where used to prepare boys for service, most of the eastern styles where brought to the west by military personal.

If you want external discipline for your child, and kids in straight lines punching and kicking in sync… we aren’t where you should go.  That’s not what we do or value.

Our flavour of martial arts by its very nature requires thinking and creativity under pressure.  It requires adaptability and staying calm under pressure.

Confidence and self-discipline can only come from believing in yourself and your own ability to make choices and take action.  Those things require freedom and with too much external discipline freedom to make choices disappears and confidence and self-discipline are never learned.

Now I am not saying external discipline should be completely removed.  It definitely needs to be there at times, but the bigger lesson is choice.  A child should learn that they can’t run around screaming and making a mess in the store, but the lesson should be in empathy not fear of punishment.

Nor does punishment need to go entirely, missing out on something for being disruptive is a lesson as well.  But the lesson can be you missed out because your choices caused other people to miss out when you where being disruptive.

So for us “discipline” is not about command and control alone.  It is a teaching empathy, thinking under pressure and other behaviours that lead a person to be successful in life.

 

 

The biggest change in the martial arts in the last 15 years…


I suspect a lot of people will think it’s the growth of the UFC and MMA.  Or maybe the re-emergence of grappling based systems, but that’s really not it.

The biggest change in the martial arts is the same change that has happened in almost everything… the internet.

What the internet has done has given accountability to businesses and taken power from the instructors and given it to the students / clients.

If we teach you a technique poorly you’ll find out, there are countless videos online showing every possible technique from every possible perspective and variation.  Instructors are no longer the guardians of hard to find knowledge.  It’s all gone public, our role has shifted to curators, organizers and coaches.

If we treat our customers poorly they won’t just tell 5 close friends… they will tell 500 or even 5000 online.  Students have access to a lot more information from a lot more sources then they ever did in the past.  15 years ago the only real information you where likely to find about any business would be stuff coming from that business.

The internet has really helped the martial arts, and every other sort of business by forcing everyone to up their game.  Businesses are no longer the ones holding all the cards and everything spreads faster and farther.

We are not the right school for everyone, no one is.  Which is another thing business can’t get away with anymore.  If you aren’t the right fit for our school we don’t want you here, it does neither of us any good.  The great thing about the martial arts is the huge variety in both what gets done and how it gets taught.  We’d rather recommend a place that is a good fit then have you here and unhappy.  Signing up people on long term memberships that are not a good fit in a time of information spreading fast hurts businesses more then the gain from keeping them on a contract.

That’s the biggest change to the martial arts as I see it.  Now the power has switched from instructors and owners and a buyer beware environment to clients and students having a lot more information from a lot more sources and business not being able to hold all the cards.

our goal is to get ahead of the curve, be the best we can at what we do and offer the best service and value we can.  We are quite happy with the way the world has changed and taken the “buyer beware” aspect of doing business doen

Innovating Membership Fees

Times have changed, and we are changing with them.

15 years ago if you wanted to start martial arts you pulled out the yellow pages or found a print ad in a local paper and called for information.  Now, by the time people call us they have generally been through our website, know our schedule, know our fees, seen videos of us, read reviews from others about us and have most of that information already.

15 years ago standard practice in the martial arts and other businesses with similar models was to not talk about price at all until you came in and tried it… this doesn’t work so well with the current state of information.

Worse was the practice of disguising fees.  There would be a monthly fee… and once you agreed to that you get told about the mandatory equipment package, and after that the required testing fees every 2-3 months.

There where a lot of reasons schools started these practices.  It lets you get a commitment on a lower price before adding in all the extra costs.  Sort of like buying a car… you agree on a price then you get all sorts of extra fees, or a cell phone contract that ends up with all sorts of extra monthly and activation fees.

Another reason was 3rd party billing companies where very common, and they operate on a percentage of fees collected.  So any extra fees didn’t lose that percentage.  It also made family discounts different as those fees did not get a discounted rate.

We’ve never done testing fees, it might make our monthly rate a little higher then if we did, but overall costs and monthly budgetting are more important in our eyes.

But we’ve taken it one step farther now, and developed a all-inclusive fee structure!

This makes monthly budgetting super simple.  All equipment is provided to you, as yours as you need it.  If it wears out or is outgrown, we replace it.  No hidden fees. No surprise costs.  Your monthly fee is your monthly fee.  If you have 3 kids in our program and they all hit growth spurts at the same time your monthly cost doesn’t spike that month to replace everything.

We also have no term contracts.  You don’t have to commit to a year or any set length.  We operate on simple ongoing memberships with a straight 30-days notice to cancel at any time.  Simple, easy and no surprises :)

The biggest complaints we hear from parents about kids activities of all sorts are long commitments and extra fees.  Whether they are outfits and event fees in dance, testing & equipment in martial arts or all the extra costs of sports like hockey.  We’ve done away with all of them, everything.  What you see is what you pay, every month.

Check out our website for full details :)

How games can teach behaviour

Games are a important part of learning at any age, but especially with kids they are the most natural and effective method of learning all sorts of skills from physical to mental to social.

We use games in our classes to teach behaviours, as well as skills and I want to take a minute to look at a couple examples of how this works.

First up: “The Ball Game” as the preschoolers call it.

One of our 5-7 year olds helping out with a game of ball tag in the preschool class

The game is pretty simple, we use some big exercise balls and throw them at the kids, the kids have to run away and dodge the balls. If a ball touches them they freeze until rescued by another child. This can be through use of a technique (generally a takedown) shooting under the legs, helping them up from a seated position, etc.

The balls are big, bouncy, and while they can occasionally knock the kid off their feet don’t really hurt at all. Making it fun and safe.

But what are they learning?

There is the more obvious, they are running and exercising. They are learning basic tactics to run and zig zag, to predict collisions as they try to avoid the ball without running into it. Awareness of their surroundings, etc. They are also learning to fall (especially when they are using takedowns), get bumped and keep playing because… well… they are having fun doing so.

But the more important lessons of the game for young kids aren’t as obvious because we often take them for granted as adults.

Being able to resist the urge to run around when everyone else is running around and remain frozen is a skill that for a preschooler takes some practice. They are natural copy-cats who like to run… so when everyone else is running and they are to remain frozen their is a strong lesson in self-control going on.

The second really important lesson is learning to notice the other kids and when they need help, and then helping them. Preschoolers naturally love to help… but at the same time tend to view the world in a very self-centred sort of way for those years.

For the second example: Shield Sumo!

Shield Sumo at Summer Camp

This one gets used with all ages, and is a safe way to teach some really fundamental principles when it comes to wrestling. The basic idea is two opponents get a shield each, they win if the other person steps out of the ring or falls down. This is a game that goes great at all sorts of events and we often use in birthday parties as it is really easy to get started and a lot of fun to do.

But apart from simply smashing each other with shields it isolates some really important strategy and tactics.

When a stronger / bigger child is pushing into them they learn to snap back out of the way, making the pushing child fall / lunge forward. When someone attempts to smash them they learn to pivot. Pushing, pulling, pivoting & shoving are the keys to off balancing when it comes to takedowns and throws, and the game represents a simplified way to isolate and practice those elements in a very safe and very beginner friendly way.

 

Help Us Crush the Competition!

But first, let me tell you who my competition is…

It’s not some other martial arts school in the area, and we’ve had a couple open up in the past few years.

It’s not other sorts of gyms and sports.

It’s far larger then any of those…

We compete against bullies, that break down the confidence and self-esteem in kids that we are trying to build up.

We compete against Junk food companies, that makes our community over weight and lazy when we are trying to keep it fit and healthy.

We compete against big chain gyms that charge people for access and then let them fade away, paying for a membership they never use.

We compete against video games, that keep kids seated when they should be active.

We compete against a aged culture that says girls should look pretty and not be strong and fighters.

We compete against the diet industry that sells shakes, wraps and other “miracle” products that prevent people from doing things that actually make a difference.

We compete against a educational system originally designed to train workers rather then leaders.

So help us crush our competition, it’s not other sports or other martial arts schools. Those are our allies and we are fighting the same battle.

Martial Arts Culture pt 7 – Why So Serious?

I’ll be honest, we are goof balls.

Yup, it’s true, if you are looking for the stereotype of everyone always lined up yelling, looking serious and angry and appearing to be a military drill practice in funny pyjamas… well, that’s not us.

Study after study shows that both kids and adults learn best when they are having fun. They pay attention best when they are entertained. Even when serious topics are being discussed on a platform like ted.com, the most successful and impactful presentations and speeches often involve humour.

Kids tv figured this out years ago, hosts and actors are silly, fun and highly animated.

The truth is I’ve seen / heard so many martial arts instructors complain about teaching younger groups. They don’t like it, the kids won’t stay focused, they lack attention spans, etc. Yet for us all our staff love working with the younger groups and we see amazing results with them.

But we make a point to bring people on as instructors that are fun, animated, will be silly and play with the kids at their level. The most successful young kids instructor I’ve met started out in a Mickey Mouse costume at Disney… Getting results, real results, requires fun in our opinion :)

A taking the back drill turns into a pony ride…?

Was confidence / bullying a problem last school year?

The school year is over, and unfortunately for many kids that means relief, a break from problems with other kids.

It might be easy to take this time and breath a sigh of relief for the 2-months break, but September will come all too fast for kids that have had problems with bullies and confidence at school.

With this break from the things that drag kids confidence down in school it is the perfect time to build it up.

For the next 2-months there is a opportunity for all the kids that experienced confidence and bullying issues to take 10 steps forward, without being dragged 9 steps back.

Think about it, if you had a leaky roof that was causing you problems and you knew that you had 2-months of dry weather ahead would you breath a sigh of relief and ignore the issue until the next rain, or take the opportunity to patch the roof up (which is much easier to do when it’s not raining)?

It is far easier to deal with things when they are not in a problem state then when you are dealing with everything head on at the same time.

So if your child had problems last year in school, now is the best time to get them involved in something that will help them address those issues before having to go back to them. Martial arts is one that I feel very strongly for and have seen make a world of difference for many kids, but it’s not the only option. There are so many great camps, leadership building activities and other options available to kids that there is something for everyone.

That said keep the issue in mind when looking for a solution. If the issue is social (confidence, bullying, group behaviour, etc) the solution needs to be social as well. A child with trouble interacting with peers is not going to solve that through individual activities where they do not have to interact with peers.

Getting kids to do what they need to: Yes Patterns and No Patterns

As a continuation of the previous article here is another useful trick on getting kids to do what they need to.

Everyone that has worked with young kids has seen first hand how powerful “yes” and “no” patterns, especially “no” patterns can be.  This is when the child becomes set in a mindset where they refuse… well… everything and every answer is “no”.

It’s like a car that is stuck in reverse, every time you hit the gas you go backwards, regardless of where you want to go or where you try to steer.

If you know a child you can get a feel for the sorts of things that lock them in that “no” mindset sometimes, and this can help work them through it.

The trick is to first get them in a “yes” mindset, before hitting the potential obstacle.  Once that momentum is going it is easier to keep going then to start at the obstacle.  Think of it as getting through a snow drift, if you start at the drift and try to go you’re going to get stuck, but if you get some momentum going first you have a much better chance of crashing through it.

In class what does that look like?  Well, a simple example is how we start every preschool class.  We sit down, ask them how they are doing and what they’ve been doing. First we listen to them, then they will be more open to listening to us.  Next we start with something simple that every preschooler loves to do… we run.  If our warmups started with something hard like frog jumps it would be a lot harder to get them going.  So instead its something easy, something fun, and something they will want to do.

How might this translate to the home?

Find the things that are sources of resistance at home, and look for the elements of it that don’t meet resistance and start with those.  If bedtime is a trouble spot instead of starting with brushing teeth, try starting with picking out a bed time story,  then picking out PJ’s, then once a little momentum is built it is brush teeth so that we can read the story.

Build that “yes” momentum through fun things and choice, then use it to carry through to the pieces of resistance.

And if they do get stuck in a “no” mindset trying to push forward is not likely the solution.  It’s just like that snow drift, once you are stuck, you’re stuck.  Trying to go forward when it isn’t working just digs you in deeper.  You have to back up, reset, and try again.

This sometimes just means taking a break, letting them have a few mins to reset and then going at it different.  It can also mean changing focus to something completely different and unrelated until you get back in a positive mindset and then taking another approach.

Kids are really not so different from adults, although in some ways a little simpler.  If they have decided “no” and put themselves in that mindset forcing a change too it is taking away their sense of choice.  They sometimes get “stuck” a little more though, so if one thing is a “no” everything can become a “no” until they are able to reset a little.

More jedi mind tricks to follow, so keep watching our Facebook page or our blog :)