My Book: Make a Living with Backyard Dojo

24 07 2014

Let’s change the topic for a second. I’m assuming that the average reader of this page is a traditional Kung Fu teacher who does not run a commercial kwoon/dojo. You don’t want to be an alternative day care center. You don’t want to sell rank every three months. You don’t want to water down classes to keep everyone’s interest. Your Sifu taught you form, Lion Dance, fighting, even how to teach–but he didn’t teach you how to make money with Kung Fu did he?

Of course not. Our Sifus did this for love of the art and propogation of the system, and chances are pretty good that you did too. However, you have to have money to make keep the school (and ultimately the system) going, right? There are plenty of books, courses and seminars to teach the McDojo owner how to run his business–but about about you? The traditional, hard core, Sifu? There isn’t much. Perhaps you don’t even own a school. You’re enrollment is small. You don’t have $499 to plunk down on a Guerilla Marketing course. What is a Sifu to do?

Well… I’ve written a small book, which my editor calls a “mini-book” because it’s only 22 pages long. I wrote it for the Masters of small, independant martial arts schools who would like to feed their families with their schools. These are not men who want hundreds of students and million-dollar high-tech dojos. They are true to tradition, in both skill and business practice, and the most they want is to open a humble commercial location that pays the bills and puts food on the table and their kids through college.

I have invested thousands of dollars trying to learn the business side of the martial arts. I’ve been talked into offering a belt system, utilizing contracts, teaching in day care centers (seriously), teaching seminars on tour, even opening satellite classes across the country. I have taught in the middle east, in central america, as well as in sober living homes. All this, in pursuit of wanting nothing more than to afford teaching the real art to my most dedicated students while these other ventures paid my bills. My ultimate goal back then was to offer my training for free. I learned a lot about business, and learned a lot about how I can market and run my business without doing what everyone else does.

Anyway, the one thing I noticed was that I could not find business information that was directed at a guy like me–who teaches full contact; who uses profanity in my classes; who yells at students; who has ex-cons and gang bangers in my classes; a man whose students (including children) leave the school bruised, banged up, bloodied, and sometimes in need of stitches. Yes, I have insurance. Yes, I pay taxes. And yes, there is a market for my type of martial arts. I have a website, I’m in the Yellow Pages, occasionally I am on the radio and on cable TV, and I don’t promise good grades.

I have seen many good friends and good martial artists who have closed shop because they did not have the business tools to stay in business. One of the painful reminders of this, was a fear years ago, when I had refused several students of a friend’s dojo who attempted to join when they saw the writing on the wall. 6 months later, they were there after his school closed, and then he stopped teaching out of his garage. I’ll say this here, and some of those students read this blog, but I thought as traditional Karate teachers in Sacramento go, he was absolutely the best… even better than me.

So I wrote this book for you guys. The guy who surfs the net looking for ways to keep his school going while his wife urges him to “get a real job”. The guy (who, like I once was) working for minimum wage on a graveyard shift job in order to keep a school. The guy (like I was) who used money from tournament winnings to pay bills because his enrollment was too low to pay rent and eat.

I was asked to make it at least 40 pages, but I had a message to give, and it came out to 22 pages. Sorry Mike! I didn’t want to fluff it up or pad with filler just to make it seem “worth the money”… I know people who teach their martial arts that way. You’ll find that the other books I write will be the same way: short, to the point, but full of good, useful information. And I am not some young, wet-behind-the-ears MBA who knows nothing about what the real business world is like. Just like I am not some 50-something millionaire Karate clown trying to convince you that you’re not legit unless you’re selling belt exams and birthday parties.

If you want to really put bread on the table with good, quality martial arts, this book is for you. Look at our “Offerings” page off the main page, and you’ll see ordering information there. Please, leave comments or at least email me to give me feedback after you’ve read it!

Thank you for visiting the DC Jow Ga Federation.

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The Kung Fu Bum, Redefined (Made in China) pt II

18 07 2014

This article is a continuation of this article. When you get a chance, go back a read it, I’m sure you will find it educational.

The Kung Fu Bum is not an outdated lifestyle, as many school owners will claim. It is not useless or foolish. I was taught this as a young man with a school of my own. I rubbed elbows with some martial arts millionaires as well as small school owners like me who were making a pretty good living. I found one thing in common with all of them that I just couldn’t swallow:  They made excuses for the mediocrity of their students and would blame it on the times.

Can you feed yourself with your martial arts? I can.

Most people walking through the door don’t have the discipline needed to train the way we used to.

A system needs representatives to exist. There are many GREAT Kung Fu men with no students.

I disagree terribly.

If you aren’t willing to miss a meal for Kung Fu, you don’t deserve to say you’ve Mastered it. No more than a man who says he loves a child, but is unwilling to work at McDonald’s or miss a meal to feed him. Kung Fu must be sacrificed for to achieve the higher levels, and many teachers were unwilling to sacrifice to learn it. As a result, they have little more to offer students besides certificates, forms, and the chance to dress up in “Chinese” clothing and drop names and philosophy. There are levels of understanding in the martial arts and the problem is that many who do the Chinese Martial Arts have their priorities in the wrong place, and we are speaking out of place.

You have Forms guys trying to talk like fighters.

You have traditionalists who put down fighters.

We have Lion Dancers disguising what they do as “Martial Arts”, when it’s only “Martial-like” Arts.

You have Chinese style McDojos dressed up as traditional Kwoons and pretending to be one. Many go so far as to invite emissaries from China and take frequent trips to rub elbow with “the Chinese” in the hopes that what they do looks more credible.

(Don’t get hurt or offended, please. This was only meant to define the roles of various types of Sifu.) I could go on.

We have Sifus who consider Chinese Chinese arts good, and non-Chinese Chinese arts okay–regardless of skill level.

We have students who will only study in a school if it’s dressed up to look like an MMA gym.

We have students who will only study in a school if it looks like the set to a David Carridine sit-com (sorry, bad joke)

And here, we arrive at my point. The true Kung Fu lifestyle is not a thing of the past, nor is it something that can only exist in China. Good Kung Fu should be strived and sacrificed for–regardless of who you pay to get it from. The Kung Fu Bum is actually not a bum at all. On occasion, a Kung Fu Man (which is what I call him) has been able to navigate this economy to find his place, professionally, as a Kung Fu expert. In the days of old, Kung Fu men became soldiers, security men, body guards, taught soldiers and police. Today, the process is more complex, but this is still the option for a Kung Fu man besides simply opening a school. Or a Kung Fu man who does open a school would just have to figure out the formula to success using his art–without watering it down, as many claim you must. Once you learn the art, develop the skill, you must then find a way to transform that art into a marketable, sustaining form of income. This, in turn, will allow you to spend more of your time in a Sei Ping Ma and in front of a punching bag–rather than a desk–and continue to see where the potential of your Kung Fu skill will take you. Kung Fu need not be a burden, and it is as valid a path as any academic endeavor. Should you pursue Kung Fu the right way, even those called Martial Arts “Masters” will admire your skill, rather than your wallet or reputation.

I have some suggestions. Stay tuned. In the meantime, please see our “Offerings” page and donate $19 to receive a copy of my mini-book “Make a Living with Your Backyard/Garage/Community Center Dojo”.

Thank you for visiting the DC Jow Ga Federation.





The Kung Fu Bum, Redefined (Made in China)

18 07 2014

In my archives, I have a booklet entitled, “Stuff I’d Like You to Know”, which was given to any new Jow Ga student I took during the 90s and early 2000s. In those days, my school was a Filipino Martial Arts school, and I only taught Jow Ga privately. In the booklet, I introduce my new students to the life upon which they are about to embark–as this is not a class, I tell them… it is a lifestyle.

In it, I have a section about the Kung Fu Bum:  A man, who, while perhaps highly skilled in Kung Fu, is a loser in life because he defined himself by the martial arts and neither completed his formal academic education nor pursued a successful career. This is a man who foregoes study in college to study martial arts, who often attends classes free because his Sifu sees him as a great protegè although he cannot pay tuition. We all know them; often they are vagrants who still live with family or parents–but when it’s demo time or sparring time, even his class mates who are doctors and lawyers envy him. I was a Kung Fu bum, but I found a little financial stability by opening a school. Few of us martial arts bums do, however–so I did my best to persuade my students not to follow in my footsteps and choose life over martial arts.

Boy, was I wrong.

Kung Fu, it turns out, is a way of life. Not all paths lead to financial prosperity, and that’s okay. Not everyone measures himself by homeownership or what kind of car is in his driveway. If this art is to flourish and prosper, someone will have the carry the torch of the Masters before us and undertake the burden of a Kung Fu gatekeeper. All of this, in spite of the fact that some of us will sleep in our gyms and have to skip a meal when it’s tuition time. I may draw criticism from many of my own brothers by saying this, but when you are gone from this Earth, styles will mostly be remembered by the heroes who represented this art as a Tiger in the jungle–not by the many smaller animals who sat as prey in his presence. This is not to say that those of us who have many students are insignificant or less credible as Kung Fu men. There is room for all types of martial artists in this community, and there is room for all degrees of knowledge and skill on a system’s family tree… There is a role for everyone in every system, including the Kung Fu Bum.

Like it or not, martial arts must be trained daily and full time to reach its potential. I have a Si Hing who is criticized by other Si Hing for talking some of the younger generation to forego college for martial arts. I have my opinion about his approach and his motive, but I am also thankful that he introduced me to this idea, as many have done the martial arts for years and have never known the feeling of being dominant over most others in their presence. There are many Kung Fu men who are simply called a “Master” because they have many years in the system and have many students and grand students. Yet there are still some men (many unnamed and largely unknown) whose skill shadows those Masters, and they serve as role models to those who knew them. Some of your Si Gung and Si Jo were such men. They died penniless. They were not famous. But they possessed skill that most in the martial arts have never witnessed in person or in the media, and the stories told about them as myth were, in fact, true. We didn’t get these martial arts greats by some guy practicing a few hours a week after work. These men developed such a level of skill because they didn’t have a traditional career; to them, the martial arts was not a hobby, not a job, not a business–it was a calling.

When your Master said that you would be lucky to have 2 great students in your life time, he wasn’t speaking of “good” martial arts students… he was talking about the Kung Fu Bum. Or, as you will one day call him:  A Master whom you would hope to one day be as skilled as.

Thank you for visiting the DC Jow Ga Federation.