Martial Arts Business. Instructions for Masters of the Art of Making Change

The work we do (and/or have the potential to do) as teachers of the martial arts. Unsolicited advice about business and career, from Tom Callos: 

We can be master change-makers (my/the new word for “warriors”). But we can’t be change-makers if we don’t own the language and actions of change-makers. This is why we don’t let others write our ad-copy or populate our info-websites and brochures with made-for-you sales content, images, sales jargon, and off-the-shelf curriculum. We’re not here for the purpose of sales and “elite wealth,” —we’re here to represent the idea of MASTERY. 

Mastery over negative emotions and action; mastery over the foolishness of thinking you are what you own or can afford; mastery over apathy; mastery over disconnection, prejudice, and ignorance; mastery over the pitfalls of a diet without discipline, of a body let go, of a mind left unused.

When the pursuit and practice of mastery drives your work, for real, sales jargon and formulaic sales junk smells like meat gone bad. 

The Transcendence of Your Brand Name (Style)
You are not Taekwondo (TKD), as TKD is a mess, a brand, a political quagmire, a useless, empty facade. TKD, like BJJ, like MMA, like Aikido, like whatever it is you call what you know and don’t know, is a CAR. It might be pretty, it probably has some value, but the car is not the journey; a car is made to take you on a journey. 

Advertising your style is 1% of your message. What you really know, what you really teach, what isn’t someone else’s work you’ve adopted, is what you do, what you have done, what you intend to do, and what you know ———AND, all of these things applied to those you work with (staff) and your students. Honestly my friends, my master-teacher friends, if you aren’t doing amazing things in the world, change-maker things —and if you aren’t inspiring people to take what you practice on the mat and put it to work in the world, then you aren’t doing your best work. For some, certainly, that’s enough; that’s all they can imagine or hope for. For some of us however, it’s not enough. It wasn’t enough for our heroes —and by way of their examples, it’s not enough for us. 

To work on your work is not a program you buy, it’s not a class you attend, it’s not a seminar or convention or reading thru the latest trade mag. It’s not your disconnecting, your inability to work on things you don’t yet understand, you inability to join and contribute. To work on your work is a concentrated, purposeful, uncomfortable, empowering DAILY PRACTICE. This is the approach I take in my work and consulting at 

It’s hard work, it makes you dig deep, it leaves you, at times, confused —but, like the practice of the martial arts, there is no way to master the work without showing up and practicing, mindfully, and with unrelenting focus.

Why I Love Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

Why I love Jiu-Jitsu: 

I love jiu-jitsu for the way it grounds you / me, literally. For the 40 some odd years I’ve practiced stand up arts, I’ve only, most often, had my feet on the ground. Jiu-jitsu, however, requires you to lay, roll, grind, slide, move, and otherwise get REALLY well acquainted with ground-to-body contact. It’s “getting grounded” —and in a way that connects, grounds, discharges, stabilizes, and allows me to appreciate what that brings to one’s life. 

I love jiu-jitsu for the body-to-body contact —as I’ve come to appreciate how much of it a jiu-jitsu player / wrestler has —and how very little most people live with. It makes giving a hug to someone a thing of ease and authenticity, as you’re not afraid or shy of contact. I don’t know if most jiu-jitsu practitioners think about it or would admit it, but embracing and rolling and struggling with other human beings is, in my opinion, therapeutic. We live in a world where so many keep their distance, so I fully and deeply appreciate what contact with others does for the brain, for one’s mental health, and for breaking down barriers to closeness and friendship. I am, I think, more “human” and compassionate from the practice. 

I love jiu-jitsu as it requires one to throw a good deal of their bullshit right out the window. In BJJ things get uber-real, uber-fast —and no stripes on the belt, no grandiose martial arts titles, no bank balance, and no ego’s going to help you when that big dude or that very talented little bastard of a fellow or that gal with twice your skill grabs you and then lays their vengeance upon you. 

I love BJJ for the influence that all of these men and women from South of the Border bring to the practice of the martial arts. I prefer “my friend,” to “yes, master.” We live in a world, says I, were we need a good deal less militarism —and lot more smiles, relaxation, and embraces. 

I love jiu-jitsu for the Japanese DNA it still contains. For the warrior spirit, for the damn push and pull of it, the give and take, the yin and yang. I love it for the philosophy you have to embrace to do this thing that is so hard and so rigorous and such a mix of pleasure and pain, comfort and discomfort. I love it, especially, for the way it affects one’s thinking about the struggle of life and relationships and everything done out of my gi and off the mat. 

I love Jiu-Jitsu because I have one son who is, presently, one of the best BJJ competitors on the planet. I have another who is also a world-class practitioner. For all the opportunities I missed to be wise, to be compassionate, to show tender loving care, to support, and to be or do all the things a parent might (or, most certainly will, later) regret, I know that thru the influence I had with both of them, early on, I have passed on something of great and enduring value. I know too that they will pass it on to others. For this, I am eternally grateful.

(Photo of Rickson Gracie and I courtesy of Fariborz Azhakh of

How to Teach Kids the Martial Arts, That is, How to Teach them to USE It All

When you teach the martial arts, whether it be Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Judo, Karate, Taekwondo, Aikido, or what have you —you stand a very good chance of teaching young people.

And when you teach young people, when you “put on the uniform” of the teacher, the leader, the “one who knows,” the one who gives directions, the one, for what ever period of time you’re given, is asked and/or expected to “teach the lessons,” I think it’s one big whopping whale of an opportunity to do some of the best work our particular, odd, left-of-center, often goofy, all too self-serious profession sets in front of us. 

And while teaching little Johnny and Sally how to punch people in the face, choke them, and or defend themselves from the same —might seem like the mission of the “martial arts” teacher — from my point of view it is not the most important work, not the work that really matters at that age, that might really bring about the change we have the potential to play a role in, or that might actually make these little people more powerful, participative, engaged, compassionate —and thus happier and more connected to that which it is best to be connected to. 

I treasure, however, the teacher, the smart, connected, awake teacher, who uses the martial arts, no, who uses the time they are gifted with to be an influencer, as a tool to provide experiences and viewpoints that speak of a better, more compassionate, less violent world. So Dan Rominski's canned food drive work —and the work so many of you do where you're creating these experiences of doing for others —I'd just like to point out the obvious: 

This is one of the jobs of the martial arts teacher/citizen. I’d like to suggest you get the (expletive deleted) into it. Embrace it. Take it to level 10. Do it better or as good as anyone in your town, in your sphere of friends and peers, maybe as good as anyone in the nation or the world. Why not? You have something better or more important to do?

The environment. We’re really doing a terrible job of teaching people how their actions, our actions, and consuming without thought, brings about chains of suffering. 

Food. My god, we’re letting food that isn’t really food at all, kill millions —and contribute a dead-fish string of consequences that’s like a disease in and of itself. 

Hyper-masculine fear inspired posturing and violence and the way the media constantly distorts, for gain, the female persona and image and what that’s doing to the values and actions of so many women —and men too, and the conflicts, and the disconnection we have, from their suffering, from the sense of our responsibility to others and the power of community engagement…

The worship of things. The buy-in that those advertised things, with their perfectly crafted pitches to our fears and lusts and selfishness and sense of entitlement —and what that means for the world. 

These things are at the core of the core of the core of what “self-defense” is, today, for real, on a global scale. So, to think globally and act locally —to use our period-of-influence to engage young people in acts of kindness, in the importance of little actions of good, compassion, care, connection —and what doing for others does for ourselves; this is our work. It is in my opinion.

Being and/or Pursuing Your Black Belt in the Martial Arts, by Tom Callos

What a black belt used to mean, matters less, far less, than what you make your black belt —or your quest to earn your black belt —mean today. 

(Some of) The Rules:

1. There’s no hurry. A black belt earned as fast as you can earn it isn't something to brag about, it's a statement of impatience, of confusion about the potential of the training to deeply and permanently empower you and those around you. Your black belt isn't fast food, it's the slow food movement, where the process of finding, preparing, and savoring your food, enjoying the company you're eating it with, and paying close attention to the details, the celebration of living it, is far more important than hurrying through it all. Join the slow belt movement. 

2. Being a “great martial artist” is nearly, if not completely, a monumental waste of your time. Being a martial artist is a very small slice of the pie of your potential; it is easy to be a great martial artist and/or to be a “master” of the martial arts, look how many of of them there are. The challenge isn’t to be a great martial artist, the hardest work is to be a connected, compassionate, engaged, forgiving, participative human being. You learn the martial arts so that you may take what you practice so diligently on the mats —and then apply it to things that genuinely matter in the world. 

3. The higher your rank, the greater your responsibility to lead —and to follow; to both respect tradition and to innovate, to hold onto and to let go of. The higher your rank, the more connected you should be; a peace-maker, a change-maker, a creator, a supporter, a fountain of enthusiasm and patience and drive. The higher your rank, the more you should feel the value, the deep spiritual value, of being engaged with others, with seeking out and solving problems, with joining forces to do, with many, what might never be done alone. The higher your rank the more you respect the novice, the process, the conflict, the hardships, and the simple pleasure of stepping on the mat, working on yourself, helping those around you, and finding meaning in the effort.


Because we haven’t put ourselves through all of this training, all these hours on the mat, talked all this talk about “the journey” and being “warriors” and about our “philosophy,” to be self-absorbed, superficial, disconnected, ego-maniacs. Because we haven’t done all of this training not to have it ground us, to have it really mean something more than just our ability to fight or perform handsome routines or make money in our schools. Because we have to be smart enough to look beyond the reward, the name of our style, our political affiliations, our desires to line our own nests, our petty conflicts, and our need to look and feel important and valuable. We haven’t done all of this training, dedicated all of this time, and put in all this practice to be any less than we’re capable of —and we’re capable of a lot, despite the fact that we so rarely see people take their practice to that place.

The Dumbing Down of The Martial Arts School. Martial Arts Business from Tom Callos

The Model was / is / has been this:

The path to wealth is found in running multiple schools. The model for the wealth building multiple school is to keep the expenses as low as possible, profit as high as possible. Staff the place as cheap as possible. Simplify the work to the point where the smallest crew, 1 or 2 people, can do everything. 

The result is a kind of curriculum that can be taught by someone with the least amount of experience. Insure this person has as tight a non-compete contract as is possible, as there’s an expected turn-over. Keep all extracurricular activities, tournaments and other events, in-house, to maximize profits. Design the curriculum to include required items for sale, make these retail items mandatory, require members to buy these items from the company. Maximize all profit centers. Design the curriculum so that the more interesting aspects of it require an upgrade of membership. Sell large membership contracts for cash, as turn-over is expected. 

Close the doors to all other organizations or people, build brand loyalty. Establish a test fee strategy to maximize testing as a profit center, require quotas. Award rank contingent on the recipients student body size and his or her ability to run multiple locations. Build a hierarchal, autocratic form of leadership, with the “grand” or “supreme” masters having complete authority over those underneath them. 

Systemize operations to the point where someone with the least amount of training can make sales and turn a noteworthy profit. Model McDonalds and other multi-location operations for their exacting operational specifications. Think profit or go home. 

One franchise of schools seeks to entice non-martial artists to buy into their chain of schools, offers 1 whole week of training at their corporate office, suggests the new “owners” hire hungry martial arts teachers (style doesn’t matter, just the need to teach the curriculum they’ve laid out) —and promises a noteworthy and convincing “return on investment.” They “brand” their approach to bully prevention or other aspects of curriculum, to try and legitimize the work. 

The disservice this has done to the martial arts community is due, in part, to the industry’s trade mags, billing companies, and associations profiling profit-mongers as visionaries and advocating their policies as sound and smart. Impressionable instructors have adopted many of the sales, marketing, and management strategies for their own businesses, thinking them smart. 

Easier curriculum that requires little or no training on the part of the teacher to pass on. Lower testing standards. 2 and 2.5 year black belts —and nobody even blinks an eye. Less, or nonexistent, substantive educational training for teachers / staff, except for sales training. Fifth, 6th, 7th, 8th, and even 9th dan black belts who are young, inexperienced, and honestly unqualified to represent the martial arts as senior members of our leadership. 

Every association decision contingent on its ability to be “monetized.” 

Now in fairness, organization and systemization are good things, unless they’re not. There is a balance to be struck. By over-systemizing and looking for profit above all other things, the martial arts industry has, in general, become a creatively-limited field of work. Real teacher training is the exception, rather than the rule. Isolationism, homogeneous curriculum, creeds, and methods abound, new ideas are looked upon with suspicion, unless they are obviously profitable, and hyperbole and inference of knowledge rule out over actual education and experience. 

By knowing and recognizing these things, we can avoid being sucked into idolizing school owners and/or methods that are heralded as “successes,” due mostly to quantity of ad space bought, the size of their billing account, or the quantity of retail items purchased. The pendulum of martial arts practices swung to the right in the 1990’s and thru the 2000’s —and everything went “the system.” Now we’re swinging back to the left, where innovation, individualism, experimentation, and authenticity rule the roost —and conformity, the Wal Mart / McDonalds mentality, the dumbing down of the curriculum and practices, goals and ambitions, and the corporate suit and tie attitude represents the opposite of real success.

Martial Arts Business. The Potential of The Martial Arts Teacher to Make Change - in the World

Master Teacher (of the Martial Arts) Direction Given, Unsolicited —and Only My Opinion, of Course:

If you are a martial artist, then what you do, for yourself and others, is a part of your practice. That’s a no-brainer, yes? Your actions speak. 

Beyond yourself, a part of the practice of the martial arts is our collaboration and cooperation with a partner, often many partners —and the way you / we work together can greatly / significantly increase the quality of our work, our practice. 

As a member of a school / group, how you behave, participate, support, and contribute, can add up to and/or become something bigger, more significant, and more powerful than what you can do or accomplish or stand for as an individual. Many can be what 1 or 2 cannot.

Beyond the school, is your connection to other individuals, partners, and schools —a network of people beyond the walls of your own school. And just as powerful and telling as the actions of the individual, the partnership, and the school-as-community, how and what you can do, could do, have the potential to do as 10 or 50 or 100 or 1000 schools, connected and doing what a group of that size might do, is a completely different animal —but no less important than the actions of an individual practitioner. 

For those of you who consider themselves MASTER teachers —or who aspire to be master teachers, I put on the table the idea that if you don’t actively participate in linking our large network together, for the best of reasons, reasons far, far beyond commerce, beyond the preservation of “brand,” beyond the tournament ——-if you don’t play on an international level, then not only do you NOT help do what so many could do —in and for the world, but you miss all the lessons and learning and growth that come with seeking to make contribution on a national or global scale. 

And what are “the best of reasons” to unite?

The destruction of our natural environment —which threatens the well-being of the next generation —and the livability of our planet. 

Hate, prejudice, war, anger, misunderstanding, apathy, bullying, violence, and ignorance. We could be —must be —a player in the work of battling the destruction caused by fear on a scale that transcends what we, ourselves, as individuals believe and/or practice. Many could do what one cannot. 

Health, fitness, and the well-being of our processes for the production of food. In that the top 10 killers of men, women, and children on the planet don’t include “death by rear naked choke or side-kick,” but do relate to the consumption of food —and that we are the holders of the flame of preventive self-defense training, we could and should be advocates for mindful eating and mindful food production. 

Conspicuous consumption. While consumption might fuel our economy, only “living simply, so that others may simply live,” offers us the truly spiritual path. If others go without as we consume far more than what we really need, we are not connected —and thus contribute to suffering on a global scale. 

Education. In that children “defend themselves with their heads,” we could and should be significant proponents of equitable, affordable, and non prejudicial education for all. 

Yes, there are other reasons, of course. But the question is, here, are you engaged or disconnected? Are you participating and joining forces, or standing back, content with you and yours, but forgetting or ignoring the opportunities we have in the here and now —to be change-makers on a much, much larger scale?

Martial Arts Business. A Curriculum and Intent to Create Change Makers.


Virtually every day of the year I stand up at the front of my classroom, stand in the circle of my students and friends, and / or speak from my position as teacher / student / citizen ———and suggest that you, we, can make this work about something truly, genuinely, and authentically noble and important. 

More important than the trophy, than the color of our belts, than our bicep or waist size, than our billing service, association, or political org., than whether we can —or cannot —“handle” ourselves in a street fight, whether what we do came from this country or that one, this teacher or the other. 

I seek to produce CHANGE-MAKERS. And this is not a bullshit statement; it’s not something I throw out there to sound better, to create an illusion of value; it’s not like saying “I am a martial artist” —and then having that mean almost nothing of value, nothing that means much of anything on the worlds (or even a community’s) stage. 

You want your business to take off, to fly? You want to see your bank balance look like you’ve got your game on? You want to blow people away? It’s about VALUE my friend; it’s about doing what is valuable to people, to a community, the nation, and to the world. 

It’s not about the black belt. It’s not about the tournament. It’s not about fighting and violence and fear and isolation or inactivity or apathy or “the bottom line.” I feel like my teachers, every one of them, were teaching me how to use what I was learning, doing, to be a change-maker. In The 100. (—I urge, compel, coach, cry, cajole, shout, whisper, instruct, and drive members to think bigger, to act bigger, to do the hardest work, to transcend the dominant paradigm of the “industry,” and to MAKE THINGS HAPPEN. Grand things. Perfect things. Beautiful things. Meaningful things. 

In turn, I seek to inspire instructors to turn to their students and ask for the same. Why on Earth would we ask ourselves for anything but our best effort? 

I can’t make martial arts teachers do more with their art that what their brain can wrap around; more than what their intelligence allows; more than what their courage incites; more than what they believe is possible —————-but I can (and do) urge them on. I can seek to try and show them how it can be done. I can bring them examples of regular people, like them, like me, trying / doing extraordinary work.

Some of my peers in the industry work to help you get your gross up with birthday parties, clever websites, VIP passes, sleepovers, after school child care, school talks, and what have you. And while these might all be tools of the trade, they don’t inspire me to action the way solving problems does; the way getting a group of young people together and showing them exactly HOW they can use what they have to facilitate positive change in their own lives, in the lives of others, and in their communities.

If the members of the 100. aren’t solid-state, 100%, dynamic, focused, participative CHANGE MAKERS, of a sort more rare than not, then I’m not doing my job. If my students don’t understand, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that this IS NOT about the martial arts, not about the technique, but something far, far more valuable, then I am failing to get across the point. 

There was a time when I wanted money; a time when I wanted trophies; a time when I wanted superior technique; a time when I wanted a big school; a time when I wanted lots of things ——but now, now my only goal is to cultivate change-makers —in a world where we must change and adapt to thrive and survive and contribute.

Martial Arts Business: 1 Student, a Million Dollars in Revenue, and The Importance of Student Service and Tracking

Let’s say one student, a good one, is good for 2 students referrals a YEAR (that is, they recommend other people to the school, who actually join and participate). And let’s say you charge, for your lessons alone, $100 a month (my fee in 1994), and add to that a conservative estimate of $200 in income yearly for special events, equipment, etc. 

This makes one single student, income-wise, a provider of $1400 per year, alone. We might then, just for thinking, add the $1400 per year, times 2, for this students two referred members. 

1 member + 2 others = 3 x 1400 per year = $4200. 

With this thinking about school revenue and operating budget, every student gained is a potential $4200 a year, more or less, and every student LOST is a loss of at least $4200 per year. 

For the sake of argument, I’ll use these numbers to help you think thru the issues. 

20 students gained is a potential gain of $84,000 over a year (or so) of enrollment time. 20 students each month, for 12 months, then equals 1 million, 800 thousand $$. 

You lose thousands, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, and even millions of dollars of operating capital in your school ——and much of it is due to not understanding how to increase student service and focus for the purpose of retaining them as students (and for enough time to genuinely gain benefits from the training). 

You lose money because you fail to understand and implement systems and tools designed to catch drop-outs BEFORE they drop. You lose money due to a poorly understood or implemented set-up to your coaching, due to a failure of coaches to understand how to deal with attrition on the floor, before issues arise. 

On my seminar tour, info here: I will be coaching members in the ultimate attendance / retention system, which is inexpensive to implement —and works to help you micro-manage your student body. I’ll show you how to do it far, far beyond “adequate” or “good.” I’ll show you how to use it to better serve your students and increase your schools revenue dramatically, thru attention to detail, proper intent, delivery of promises, and straight up in-your-face honesty. 

I’m often shocked at how little smart money school owners spend on help; but then, I recognize they simply don’t know how much sloppy student tracking costs them; as if they knew, they’d be shocked into action. 

I also work on these issues, with school owners, teachers, and their staff members 365 days a year (a PRACTICE of the knowledge), at

Making more money in your school, making it a viable vehicle of damn fine stuff, isn’t, in my opinion, found in the implementation of the latest craze, but in attention to details and follow thru.

Martial Arts Business. Thinking Thru the Evolution of a School’s Consciousness

Martial Arts School Owner Advice, Unsolicited (of course): 

Maslow’s theory of the hierarchy of needs serves as a model for this viewpoint I’d like to give you; that there is a process of development of a school that most often begins with learning how to be a “real” business, one that has a functional plant/site, all the physical tools it needs, where there’s a plan for paying expenses required to operate the school, a system for spreading word of the school, and adequate management of resources ——you know, the same old things that make or break all businesses: The ABC’s of hanging a shingle, “running” a business, and balancing the numbers. 

One of my chief complaints with the “martial arts industry” as it is today, is how much of the material is about business basics —and chiefly, how many of the school owners I meet who are stuck there, still (after years) trying to figure out how to keep the numbers, how often and/or how to get new students (market), and how to use a day planner, answer phones, design ads, build a website on their own, you know….the basics that should be learned in, what? 2 years max? Some people I talk to have made these things their primary focus ——and thus, it’s always SURVIVAL time. 

Staff development, the ability to practice “management” — as in “getting things done thru the efforts of others.” 90% of the school owners I meet haven’t ever read even a single book or taken a course in staff development. Staff training ends up being nonexistent or painfully dysfunctional —and undeveloped, staff members are often performing and producing at a fraction of their potential —and feel under-paid, trapped, and as if they’re not evolving. 

Students; when you have good teachers —then 20, 50, 200, 400 students —or any number of people beyond the 1 to 5 people that might make up “the staff” of a school, you have a very new, very dynamic, very powerful machine —that is not what it was in the “basics” stage, that is not what a school is that has a strong owner and a good staff, you have a power-tool that can be managed in a way that creates something new, something far more dynamic and valuable with, than without. At this stage in a school’s potential development, the owner and staff need to join forces with the students to create something far beyond what the school was BEFORE the student body evolved to be a group that the school doesn’t just serve, but that becomes a part of what the school is, what it creates. 

The WORKING SCHOOL. The working school has the basics down —and understands that the basics have their place, but they are not “the school.” The basics are equivalent to getting up in the morning, showering, getting dressed, and going about the day. This is NOT what the school is, it’s what the school does, without much thought, so that it make go do things of a higher purpose. The WORKING SCHOOL is making money, managing people well, all systems are in place and it’s working. A WORKING SCHOOL is then an animal in and of itself, with powers, abilities, and resources to use for things beyond the processes that got the school to BE a working school. 

Out of the Dojo and Into the World. A working school, with an evolved owner, staff, and senior body of students, represents an eco-system that has in its sphere of influence 100’s or even 1000’s of people connected to people in the school, that are not IN the school, but nevertheless capable of being affected by the work of the school. A school that works and is evolved makes REAL contribution, goes after real problems in the community, it’s members step off the mat —and into the fabric of the community, using the work of the school as it’s foundation and fuel tank. This level of development isn’t a marketing ploy, it’s a fully evolved organization that has the ability, the wherewithal, and the understanding / wisdom to recognize and actualize itself —in the community, as a member of the community, and something far beyond “a business.” 

A school that can’t master the basics is destined to get stuck there, in a “Groundhog Day” of reliving the same experience over and over. A teacher with a vision of social engagement, who doesn’t keep her numbers and use them to better manage her time, is destined to struggle. 

This piece is written, for me, as I work thru the argument of why school owners need to THINK WRONG (thank you JB) about the present dominant paradigm of the martial arts industry. So many schools and teachers are stuck at the bottom of the pyramid (as product and services are sold there, they’re abundant, they make school owners good customers), while the higher levels require the people in the school to create, to engage non-business elements of a working school, and making products and services for sale for this level of school is far more challenging, far more complex. 

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Your Martial Arts Teaching Heroes — or Community Heroes —or Hero Heroes. This is the Business of Teaching the Martial Arts (Beyond Technique)

My (Martial Arts) Teaching Heroes. How to Help Those Who Make a Difference in Your Community.

I just wrote the piece, link above, on It’s about my growing list of martial arts teaching heroes. 

Reading is self-defense…a new project we’re working on. 

Reading is self-defense…a new project we’re working on. 

Bully Prevention Advocacy, One Component, a Tool, to Make Your Work (Martial Arts Teachers) Stronger. For Free, from Tom Callos and Friends

Here it is all you folks who want to protect your own kids —or other kids, from hyper-bullying (I believe I might have just coined that) —-hyper-bullying isn’t teasing or the stuff that can be dismissed because it’s fleeting, mild, and not so very injurious for those involved; sort of like a series of bad jokes being told in short order. 

Hyper-bullying is like meeting a demon; it rides you, it seeks to make you miserable, you can’t seem to escape it, and it feels like its dragging you to hell.

Perhaps it is hyper-bullying that’s connected to the cases we so often read about where a child takes his or her own life. Oh sure, there can I imagine be all sorts of other things going on in a child’s life that adds and increases the pain, like marital discord, health issues, the death or illness of someone they count on or love; but for some kids, from what I understand, their giving up on life comes from some sort of hyper-bullying initiated by one or more people —-and the child ends up feeling like there’s no other course of action, no other source of relief, other than suicide. 

I don’t think we can stop that from happening, but what we can do is put out the word that if someone, anyone, is being bullied, big or small, and they need someone to advocate for them, someone who won’t take “no” for an answer, someone who, when needed, will go the distance to make sure everything that can be done IS done, that’s you, me, that’s the martial arts teacher. 

We’re not afraid to confront people, when it’s confronting that’s required. We won’t just go away, when going away is not the thing to do. We have the courage and chutzpah to stand up and call the teacher, visit the principle, call the mayor, go to the school board, alert the media, talk to those involved; we can kick ass on hyper-bullying, even when everyone else seems to feel they’ve done everything they can. We don’t quit, we won’t sit by and watch, we won’t tolerate a sloppy situation, and we won’t let someone else’s child suffer a demon or hyper-bullying any more than we’d let someone harass, scare, and/or abuse us —or our loved ones. 

That’s ADVOCACY. We can and will ADVOCATE for anyone who needs it. With the martial arts teacher who understands what this means, what it means to have someone on your side, it means that you / we can say, “There IS something that CAN BE DONE. Don’t ever feel like you can’t get away or find relief from bullying, like it’s never going to end, that there’s no way out but death.”

As a bully education advocate, you take a silent (or not so silent) pledge to be intolerant of bullies, to rally every force and resource at your command to solve bullying issues, when you can, when you’re called upon, and/or when you see something that needs to be done. 

We / I don’t want to read about yet another child who turns to suicide for relief from a bully or bullies. Get out their in your community and open both of your doors, every door, and BE an advocate who stands for the idea that YOU WILL not tolerate hyper-bullying and you WILL, with everything you’ve got, work on behalf of the child, boy or girl, who feels like they’re in a hopeless situation. 

YOU CAN BE / ARE THE HOPE — because you’re not afraid of anything —and you know how to make things happen, even in what feels like the most holpless of situations. That’s how I think about “advocacy.” 

Maybe you won’t be able to do anything. But for damn sure, we’re not going to sit by and do nothing. Be an advocate someone can turn to for hyper-help, when it seems like there is no escaping the abuse of the bully., part of a martial-arts-industry-wide effort to be a vital part of the village that helps young people be —and stay —safe and protected.

Three (or so) Pieces of no Bullshit Advice for Martial Arts School Owners, Whether They Want it or Not, from Tom Callos of

Sensible, no Bullshit Advice for School Owners, Whether They Want it or Not, from Tom Callos of No. 1

Do not send students to collection for unpaid tuition for untaught lessons. This is something the evolved master teacher never does, ever, period. Be smart enough to create programs that allow the school to collect the income it needs to thrive, but without chasing people, harassing them, because you weren’t resourceful enough to keep them coming, despite the well known obstacles (there are always obstacles). 

Create pricing programs that serve the diverse economic range of parents and other people in your community. Keep students and make them happy and able to pay with individual and high quality service. Offer one class a week free to all children, use it to train your up and coming teachers and to activate volunteers who’d be into helping kids who are quite possibly in an economic situation where they might never get to take lessons under a high quality teacher. Create a one-day-per-week pricing program, so that you may appeal to students / parents who are on a tight budget and/or who are pressed for time. You’re a teacher, so teach and serve. Create short term courses that allow students to see if you are smart and capable enough to assist them in breaking thru all the reasons people don’t stay the course of their training. If you keep them, they will pay (to support your school).


Sensible, no Bullshit Advice for School Owners, Whether They Want it or Not, from Tom Callos of No. 2

Do not engage in manipulative, hidden, or dishonest / questionable pricing practices. Do not hold back curriculum to entice people to up-grade their program. Do not host events that are a ruse for membership sales and up-grade efforts. Do not hide your prices on the phone or in your school’s information. Do not build a model for business that requires you to get and spend tomorrow’s income for today’s expenses. 

Be completely and absolutely transparent in all of your pricing and financial issues at your school. The burden isn’t to try and hide your pricing until you can justify the value of your lessons, it’s to price your programs so that people get a chance to see what you’re worth, for real, and then to charge enough to each student that it makes perfect sense for the school’s budget. DO build a school that is known for it’s up-front, nothing hidden, completely honest and transparent business practices. DO speak out, as an activist in your community, about pricing policies in the MA community that create win-lose situations with students, practices that put the burden of obligation on the student, not the school’s teaching staff. Do adjust your pricing so that everyone in your community with an interest can have access to lessons they can afford. Do learn to live on the money you make this month, versus spending tomorrow’s money for today’s expenses.


Sensible, no Bullshit Advice for School Owners, Whether They Want it or Not, from Tom Callos of No. 3

Do not build your school’s identity and sales approach based on the words, images, and concepts that everyone else uses. Do NOT sell your services with slogans borrowed or bought or stolen or modeled from the work of others —or that are “standard” in the industry. Do not offer or advertise “benefits” of membership at your school that are unjustified, un-researched, and that you actually know little or nothing about. Do not put staff members on the floor with the inference they are teaching some benefit, without having spent adequate time training them and/or exploring how they’re to “teach” any particular benefit —and what the language and practices of these benefits are. In other words, don’t advertise you teach bully prevention, for example, when you or your team of instructors have not invested even a single term paper’s worth of thought and energy into actual study of the subject; when you and/or your team haven’t read a single book on the subject, have published no opinions on it, have not attended a single conference or seminar or viable course of instruction, don’t know who the experts are, or what research has been done. Don’t sell what you don’t know, don’t research, and don’t actually train your staff in. Don’t teach things that you don’t have even a single teaching aid to teach —or teach things that under the scrutiny of a real expert, would embarrass you for your lack of research and actual knowledge.

Take every benefit you claim to teach and adopt a self-imposed immersion into the subject of at least 60 hours of research and training; in that 60 hours (10 min a day for a year = 60 hours), carefully document and post the what, why, who, when, and where of the training on your school’s website or blog. Curate content you’re studying and/or using to train your team. And most importantly, create a PROJECT-BASED PORTFOLIO of how you’re taking the concepts you claim to teach and DOING something with them. Show how these ideas manifest themselves in hands-on experiences with you, your team, and your students. Build an EVIDENCE-BASED sales program that doesn’t simply talk-the-talk of your benefits, but shows, documents, and records how what you teach becomes a practice, logged and noted. Take the benefits you claim to impart and show more rock-solid evidence that you know exactly how to create the benefit in a tangible, hard-evidence based way. Show more actual proof that you OWN these concepts than anyone within 100 miles of you and your school. 

If you teach “Respect” then show us, show your community, exactly what that means, what it becomes. If you claim to teach bully prevention or self-defense, show what that means, what it becomes, and how it’s translating into actions, behaviors, community outreach programs, and education that comes from you and travels thru your teaching team, into your students, and outward from there into tangible, measurable off-the-mat evidence. 

Reject 90 to 100% of the kinds of sales rhetoric and marketing tools that anyone with absolutely NO experience, someone who simply buys a program or box from someone else, could do. It may take you some time to turn from a school of talk to a school or rock-solid evidence-based benefits, but it’s something that a lesser school, someone or a group with less commitment and intellect would/could never do. 

Distinguish your school and services with real stories, with actual evidence, and not just marketing hyperbole or inferred benefits.

The Evolution of the Martial Arts Teacher —and the Role of The Martial Arts School in Today’s World

There is a small but growing movement in the international martial arts community to transcend the dominant paradigm of the martial arts "industry" and make the work something far, far beyond the sale, the up-sell, the course, the trophy, and/or the bottom line. 

There is a small but growing movement in the international martial arts community that has grown intolerant of the pitch, the dumbing down and homogenization of the processes for mass consumption and easy marketability. 

There is a small but growing movement in the international martial arts community to make the martial art something more than a show of strength and skill, more than a personal journey, something more than a hobby or pastime or sport. To connect the dots between empowerment and purpose in the practice —and taking those ideas off the mat and into the world, this is where we are headed. 

The environment. The top 10 killers of men, women, and children in the world. The quality of our food supply. The misuse of our resources. The exploitation and trafficking of women. The insanity of rampant and meaningless consumerism. The degradation of our forests and the oceans. Hyper masculine fear-based behavior. 

We are not here simply to become good —or great —martial artists, but to become great human beings, citizen-teachers who teach beyond the mat, who engage the issues and fight for people and things that can’t fight for themselves. 

This is how I’m thinking, today, June 23, 2014
Tom Callos

Martial Arts Business: Facebook is My On-Line Notepad

This morning I used Facebook, as I do just about 365 days a year, to make notes in my “journal” about things, people, and sometimes about places, that light my inner-fire. For this, I thank Facebook. 


Jack Dempsey, the great boxer who lived and worked around Reno. A print by my artist friend Frank Benefield, who made our last Ultimate Black Belt Test print, from his new series of link-cut prints that include Picasso, O’Keefe, Ali, Matisse, Margritte, Kahlo, and Booker T. Washington. You GO Frank. Beautiful stuff!

The people in our lives!

One of the people in my life, a student of mine who started taking lessons at my academy when he was 6 (or thereabouts) —and who has become a real live example of the concept “Out of the dojo and into the world” (thank youSeane Corn), is Brian Williams —— and his martial arts teacher masterpiece is his non-profit 

Without a lot of fanfare, Brian and his team work 24/7 to engage what might very well be the ultimate form of self-defense: Kindness. 

Running a non-profit is no easy job —and deciding you absolutely must make a difference in the world is even tougher, so Brian, you have my respect. Brian’s preparing to launch an on-line store with t-shirts and items that reflect the message of THINK KINDNESS —and that will help support his efforts in the world. You GO Brian —I intend to wear some of these to adequately represent!

Mike Valentine and Karen Valentine came with their children to spend the night at the Callos house. Mike brought along Austin Kleon’s book “SHOW YOUR WORK” —which is full of ideas I pretty much live for. 

This “learn - teach” symbol containing 2 words and two arrows, is just the coolest, is it not? This is the practice. Thanks Mike and Karen, Milo and Levi!

At I have a page called “My Teaching Heroes” ——it’s made up of some of my martial arts friends and peers who are, in my opinion, doing the most amazing work. 

It’s my pledge that, whenever possible, to help these people —-people who so readily help so many others.

One of the most simple, yet profound, ways to teach self-defense to young people, is to remind them that the people they “hang out” with can have the most profound positive (or not so positive) affect on their thinking, motivations, and outlook.

I made this list to gather up those I want to hang out with —so that I may keep my head on straight about the kind of martial arts teacher I want to be: Connected, of service, working on behalf of others. 

It’s a small thing, to make a list of people and post it on the web; nevertheless, it’s part of a pledge I’ve made to focus on service over commerce —and to support and encourage those who take action in the world on behalf of others.

The catalyst, for the most part, came from the day I heard GrandmasterJhoon Rhee say, “If a picture is worth a 1000 words, then an action is worth a 1000 pictures.” BOOM, my career took shape! 

Here’s to all of you action-takers and change-makers! My heroes.


First, let me turn you on to the idea of GIFT ECONOMICS, described perfectly on this page from my friend Kazu Haga's website:

I would encourage all martial arts teachers to offer one class, one day a week, for kids, that is based on a Gift Economics model. This way, we can serve those who might otherwise not have access to quality martial arts instruction —-and it’s the perfect class to train up and coming teachers —and to provide a community service component to the lives of people who love to help others. 

Also, Kazu is leading a two day workshop in Oakland, CA. “Intro to Kingian Nonviolence,” on July 19 / 20. Details here:

See Kazu doing his thing —and hear about by checking out this CBS Sunday Morning news piece, here: