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History of the Martial Arts Business
History of the Martial Arts Business
The Good Old Days – Never Were.
Maybe you like I, remember the “Good Old Days?”
Back when “true” martial arts training was the rule not the exception.
Where you had to really be “dedicated” and have incredible “perseverance” to learn the martial arts.
I remember my first or second lesson – oh, the joys of free-sparring as a white belt.
Now, I know that I'm dating myself a bit – but, this was before pads. The good old days of groin kicks – with a “baseball groin cup” – supporting leg sweeps on tile floors – and, well…. He was attacking me when I hit him in the face full power – not my fault!
It's an interesting commentary for those of us who have been training since the 1960's or 1970's. If you haven't been around that long just take my word for something – you had to be either really nuts or really stupid to continue training in the martial arts in the “good old days.”
When I think back to the things that I accepted as “normal” I am just absolutely amazed that any of us lived through it all.
I was speaking with Allan Steen a few months ago at a Jhoon Rhee Reunion event in Washington , D.C. I talked with him about his tournament in Dallas – which was one of my early tournament experiences. I remembered it like it was yesterday many great memories of that tournament. When I wasn't fighting in the Junior Brown-Black division – I was following Pat Worley around with my movie camera (remember when they were film cameras – that needed to be processed?) I filmed all of his fights and watched them over and over and over to master his style and methodologies.
Anyway – during my discussion with Steen – I laughingly recalled the rules – see this particular event was one of the early tournaments to use the Jhoon Rhee Saf-T-Pads. The rules went something like this – supporting leg sweeps were legal – you had 3 seconds once they hit the ground to score – head gear was not required – in fact – I'm not sure anyone had heard of the concept – and, the tournament was 100% on a concrete floor. Wait a minute, did I mention it was “full-contact” – if you knocked your opponent out you won (including, I might add if the floor knocked them out during a sweep.)
Allen laughed and then said – yeah, we had 42 ambulance calls that day!
You know – if I hadn't been so young and enthusiastic – I really would have rethought participating in an event like that – or, in the many other wacky things we did.
I remember one of my instructors Gran Moulder (a 2 nd Degree Black Belt at the time with the Jhoon Rhee Institute.) Now, I'm not saying that Gran was wound “too tight” but, he was one of those marines who enjoyed “ NAM ” a little too much. After 2 or 3 tours of crawling through the Viet Cong caves with a Bowie Knife – and, staking out bodies at night to set ambushes – the marines decided he probably shouldn't go back – and, sent him back to Tulsa to abuse me and my classmates.
I remember fondly the knife defense demonstrations we did back when I was 13 or 14. with that very same Bowie Knife. I would be the attacker and soon after the knife would come streaking past my testicles and then come slashing across my throat. Looking back – I'm not sure which one I cringe about more! These memories were brought back vividly several years ago while sitting with Jhoon Rhee and Linda Lee – another – old time martial artists was doing about the same knife defense demonstration and ended up slashing the throat of his assistant – that's right the “Good Old Days.”
Comparing now versus then – I am absolutely sure about a few things. First, If you were to watch the old films – or, to have been there to see the Champions of the 1960's or 1970's – the fighters today – can run rings about them – in any arena. Second, if you were to look at the average quality of a Black Belt back then – versus now – my Black Belts now are a lot better. If you were to compare student retention – well – out of all of the hundred's of students we had come and go through our schools in Tulsa – I was the only one from the time I started to ever get a Black Belt – everyone else dropped out - usually at Gold or Green Belt. Finally, I'm sure how I survived – but, I do know that the craziness – never helped anyone achieve Mastery at any higher level.
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About the Author :
Stephen Oliver began martial arts training in 1969 in Tulsa , Oklahoma at a branch school of the Jhoon Rhee Institute. He opened his first school in 1975. Later he moved to Washington , D.C. to work for the Jhoon Rhee Institute first as an instructor then as their youngest ever branch manager while earning an honor's degree in Economics at Georgetown University .
In 1983 he moved to the Denver Metropolitan area and opened 5 schools in 18 months with only $10,000 in capital. He went on to promote the Mile High Karate Classic NASKA World tour event and serve on NASKA's Board of Directors from 1989 to 1999 and to serve on EFC's Board of Director's from Inception until 2002.
In 1992 he went earned his Master's in Business Administration (MBA) from the University of Denver and went on to serve on their Venture and Entrepreneurship Advisory Board. He has also written several other books including: “How to Market Your Martial Arts School Using the Internet” and “Direct Response Marketing for Martial Arts Schools.”
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