Pros and Cons of Commercial Schools

Can you teach a real martial art as a business?

This is a never-ending controversy. When I first heard of Karate, there were no schools at all. There was only the odd reference in the back in some magazines. The first to teach non-Asians was a club in Toronto, which was over 100 miles from me. When I was in grade four, I went to a boxing club for a while. I still love boxing and I watch when I can. Martial arts didn’t show up until I met someone from Toronto and he showed me some simple stuff. The first real teacher I met was Mas Tsuourka and he took me as a student. We drove 220 miles twice a week. The big difference then, from the schools I see as a rule now, is that back then, there were no guarantees. When, or even if, you were graded, you worked your butt off. Unlike now, you could not “buy” your rank. There were no signs with “$500 gets you a black belt” or little kids with inflated egos wearing a black belt. To give a child a black belt is to downgrade what we, the old timers, had to go through. It makes it into a joke because it’s been desecrated. This is not to say that teachers, who are paid, are misusing their skills for money or that some compensation for learning should not be applied. We are not in the old days in Asia where one was able to support a local teacher by providing a home, clothes, food and spending money. Even a non-profit club has bills to pay as well as the teacher. Also, in North America, most people do not appreciate a “gift”. This seems to be a cultural thing. Remember, however, I am only generalizing this attitude. In the old days in Asia, a teacher was supported by his students. This is not the same as running a school as a business. A non-profit club cannot function without funds and money in the bank, if it is to continue to provide facilities. The big thing is ethics. I do not believe you can teach commercially, the way that the large-scale schools do, if you teach a real martial art as it was intended to be taught. Students would quit due to the bruising and the hard work that entailed.
Pak Mei Pai