Here's the thing. No other martial arts school is my competition. I primarily teach teens and adults, so fitness classes are my competition. Extended work hours are my competition. Mountains of homework and college prep are my competition. If you teach kids, then little league is your competition. Soccer, football, dance, gymnastics, even video games. That is your competition.
Here's a great example. For those who don't know, I currently rent space from a Taekwondo school to teach my classes. I don't have anything to do with their program, but I do try to support them (considering if they close, I'm out of a space). Yesterday they attended a "Meet the Teacher" event at the local elementary school, as did three other local schools. While you can definitely sense the tension in the room between the school owners, everyone got their fair share of leads and sign ups. It's a school with 1,400 students currently enrolled. There's enough for everyone, without the need to belittle or bash the other schools.
Everyone talks about brotherhood, yet very few people truly embody it. As a community, we should be working together to promote the benefits of martial arts as a whole versus other "activities." We should be sharing information. We should be supporting each other. We should attending each other's events, seminars and testings. We should be striving to embody the same principles we instill in our students. How can you talk about humility and respect, and in the same breath completely degrade the school down the street? Chances are as an instructor, we live and work in the same community. I can't tell you how many times I've run into other instructors at the grocery store. How awkward would that be if you're with your family passing another instructor in Walmart and the two of you just glare at each other the whole time? Why not set the example and go over, shake their hand, and genuinely ask how their school is going (not because you want insider info but because you truly care)? You never know who's watching.
Am I saying you have to agree with everything they teach? No, of course not. We all have our own philosophies, experiences and training goals. We all teach different things and emphasize what we think is best. That is what makes us unique. But unique is not necessarily better. What we teach is for everyone, but not everyone is for what we teach. I'm a very self defense and combatives oriented school, with an emphasis on applying traditional Japanese warrior arts to the modern world. If someone came to me for classes and they were looking for sport martial arts or fitness-centric classes, I would be lying to them if I told them that's what I offer. Can I do it? Probably. But then I'm either taking away from every other student who trains with me that doesn't want that, or I'm selling the new student on a program they truly don't want. How does that benefit anyone? So when that happens, I usually refer them to another local school that can better meet their goals.
The martial arts community is suffering enough as we give way to the martial arts industry. The fitness club mentality is sweeping away the idea of the dojo as an institution for higher learning. Students have become members. Instructors have become coaches. Schools have become gyms. It's up to us to show the world that Budo itself has not died and been forgotten. As I said, what truly makes Budo the best endeavor one can possibly partake of is the fact that there is such a variety of schools and styles. No matter what you're looking for, you can find it. Mega schools, back yard dojo and everything between, it doesn't matter. We all serve a purpose, and that purpose is to share our information and the benefits of Budo with the next generation. Are you with me?