August 20

Why Terrible Self-Defence Instructors Thrive (And Make So Much Money)


You spent years training and perfecting your craft.

You are the real deal, the best of the best and what you teach works.

Yet when the doors to the class open you are not greeted by a tidal wave of students wanting to learn from you.

Instead, you cross your fingers, hoping that the people you texted will turn up.

You hope that John finished work on time and you pray that Susan managed to get her Mum to have the kids so that she will come to class.

Then after delivering your magic to a few dedicated students, you collect the training fees and realise that this month you will have to put in some of your own cash to pay the rent.

You are happy though, you are teaching, and that is what matters.

But then it happens.

You drive past another local school, and the car park is full.

You tell yourself that perhaps there is another event going on, and then you see the children all come out wearing their Martial Arts uniforms.

You spot the top of the range Van with the school’s advert on the side, and you watch as adults make their way into train.

Your heart sinks into the pit of your stomach.

‘How?’ you ask yourself.

‘How are they doing so well when I know what they teach is worthless?’

In this article, I will explain exactly why terrible Martial Arts and Self Defence instructors are so busy, why their arts spread and what you can do about it.


Let’s do this.

The 4 Reasons Why Bad Martial Arts Thrive

There are 4 key components as to why terrible instructors thrive.

1. Input

2. Story

3. Feedback

4. Transaction

Let’s go through each one.


As humans, we gain input throughout our life. For example, we know that we have what are called mirror neurons in our brain that supports how we learn.

We absorb a lot of information throughout our lives, and as children, we are exposed to violence through film and TV.

We are fed a diet of Power Rangers and Ninja Turtles.

I am willing to bet you grew up with the Karate Kid and Bruce Lee as your heroes.

The thing is, 99% of us have never been exposed to real violence and as such the only way we think of it is through the TV.

We know deep down that this is not real, but this is what goes into our brains.

It is the story we tell ourselves about what a highly skilled fighter looks like and what happens when someone of high skill fights.

This is our yard stick, and this leads to the creation of our own story


The story we tell ourselves is important.

It is how we make sense of the world.

When a person decides to train in Martial Arts and self-defence, they will ‘shop around’.

They are looking for the system that matches their world view, and this is where a key divide happens.

There will be a few people who have been victims of attacks, they have stepped into the real world of violence, and as such, they will be forever looking for a solution that matches what they experienced.

However, these people are in the minority.

The vast majority of people are looking to become heroes of their own story, and as such, they are looking for the very thing they aspire to.

They want to be a Power Ranger, they want to be Jason Bourne, they want to be the hero that can will the tournament and defeat the bullies.

They want to be able to fight 6 men and walk away unharmed.

These people are looking for the system that provides this.

And yes there are schools that exist and thrive on providing this false hood.


You touch the hot radiator and feel pain, so you do not touch it again.

This is feedback.

You train a Martial Art and never face defeat, a punch, a hard blow, a throw or any serious resistance.

You have never received feedback.

The result is that you believe you can defeat anything, your false confidence thrives in line with your belief.

You are so confident that you recruit others to your cause; ‘come and train here, it is amazing.’

Then there is of course ‘false feedback’. This is the greatest of illusions.

The instructor invents drills, pressure tests that feel real but in truth they require compliance.

The students make the techniques work because they are engaged in a fantasy together.


When we pay for anything, it changes things.

The very act of payment causes the relationship to alter.

Because if we pay for Martial Arts or Self Defence lessons, we are saying we believe in the teachings.

And the longer we pay, the greater the belief.

It would psychologically kill us to turn around after three years of training and paying for lessons and say that the system is false.

The Combination And Solution

When these four components are met, a terrible martial art or instructor can thrive.

Their student ranks will grow and this in itself becomes social proof.

We associate numbers with quality.

We eat at the restaurant that has more people in and not at the one which is empty.

It is sad but true.

So how can we change this?

The tools are around us, and they are free.

We need to create content.

The good instructors need to vlog, create live video, blog and show their craft.

They need to market by documenting their training.

Open up and show what the real looks like.

By doing this, we force the students to ask a question;

“Why do they look so different?”

Through asking better quality questions, we will receive better quality answers.

We must share our knowledge and turn on the lights for those that are still in the shadows of fake training.

Blog, vlog, live video and photos are the tools to create change.

When the potential student shops around they will see you, they will be able to see what you teach and how and then they will be faced with a decision.

That decision will be simple ‘train for reality or train for television’.

The sad truth is that most of the best instructors are failing to give them a choice.

Without a choice, they will always go to the solution that fits their story.

Share your craft





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  1. Great points!
    Im new to martial arts/50 yr old male….Im learning and training RAT it is real world/brutal and not sexy….

    Maybe it is a false sense of security….But after 4 months of limited practice I believe I would survive most one on one attacks. Im looking forward to reading/learning from you in the states.
    Keep on teaching!!!

    Tucson, AZ

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