As a Budoka, it is fascinating to watch the shift in dynamic of the martial arts industry as it faces collapse and frankly, I'm not too upset over it. For centuries, martial arts have been handed down through families and clans as life-saving skills of war meant to protect the ones you love. It is in this spirit that I run my dojo. We are purposely small and intimate, allowing us the opportunity to develop bonds that transcend the four walls of our commercial space. I don't just accept everyone with a credit card, but rather only those who will benefit the school as much as we'll benefit them. These bonds allow us the foundation of trust and mutual respect to push the limits of our training and experience with one another, the benefits of which are exponential. All of this is in stark contrast to the cultural norm we see today...
But as our modern world begins to falter, I believe we are teetering on the brink of total collapse. As resources start to become scarce and people grow desperate, the need to defend your home and family on a regular basis becomes a very real possibility. When that happens, it'll be clear who spent their training hours doing XMA and who spent it fighting. The ones who get their food and supplies stolen from them first will be those who spend their days preaching that "martial arts is more than physical skills" instead of practicing. The martial arts absolutely have overwhelming benefits above and beyond what's practiced on the mat, including the now essential ability to think clearly and remain calm in highly stressful situations, but it is through hard training those benefits are realized. Without the practical physical aspect, you might as well go to church for the same lessons on how to be a better person.
Another paradigm shift we're getting to watch unfold is the transition to virtual classes. Since the time of VHS, martial artists have been threatening those who offer remote training with fire and brimstone. However, now that many schools are forced closed by government action, those who condemned online training just a few weeks ago are now setting up webcams and going live, bragging how they still retain 20-30 "members" by doing so (the same schools who boasted an enrollment of 200+ just last month). Oh, how the mighty have fallen!
The truth is that the dedicated students will find a way to continue their instruction and support their school, just as the dedicated instructors will find a way to make sure their students have access to training. Countless schools will close their doors as the number of paying customers continue to dwindle, but the instructors who have built a culture in their dojo built upon the foundation of respect and loyalty will thrive. One viable option currently allowed by all "Stay At Home Orders" is outdoor recreation and exercise in groups of 10 or less, but I guarantee most practitioners won't last long in that setting. After all, mats are hard to come by at the local park and most customers don't see the value in paying the same tuition as they would for a "state of the art facility." But we won't talk about how most school owners need to pad the value of their program with such amenities as it couldn't stand on the quality of training alone.
Unfortunately so many school owners are accustomed to needing large numbers to survive, and I believe the coming years will signal the much-needed death of the mega schools flooding our industry in favor of intimate training groups dedicated to a deeper level of study and united by a common purpose. They are the ones who will meet up on weekends at the local park or at someone's home to continue training. They are the ones who will continue paying their tuition even if they can't make it to class because of a quarantine. They are the ones who go with you into battle. Though we're still in the beginning stages of this new world, I have experienced firsthand the support and dedication from my students needed for us to continue moving forward in our shared journey of Budo and I am honored they choose to stand by my side through this, and I have to believe it is due to the culture we have built together as well as my dedication to them! Too many instructors demand undying loyalty of their students but fail to reciprocate. Everyone talks about wanting a return to the "old school." Here is your chance. As long as I have one student willing to learn, I will do everything in my power to teach them... And if you wouldn't, then every post about martial arts being "your life" has been a lie.