From behind a desk to in front of a Do Jang
By Ms Christine Young-Jasberg Chief Instructor Hwa Rang Academy,
Co-Founder The MAA, New Zealand
How cool is it to put martial arts instructor under occupation on your departure card? That’s what I do now. It’s just been over three years since I took the plunge to make teaching Taekwon-Do my full time profession.
I have always approached instructing in a professional manner, even though it is a hobby, sports or past time for many of us instructors.
I had qualified as a chartered accountant in 1996 and that career took me around the world. I loved my job in this sector. I had a successful, fun and fulfilling career in Oxford and London. After ten years in England, I decided to move back to New Zealand and settle in Tauranga for a better work / life balance.
In Tauranga, I found time to take up other sports and pursue my love of the martial arts. My husband from Moldova and I started the Hwa Rang Taekwon-Do clubs in Tauranga. I enjoyed teaching, and I liked teaching big classes. These gave me lots of energy and I loved motivating lots of students.
My biggest classes were at the local intermediate school where there were over 50 students signed up for after school lessons. These were full on. Among the students in the first class I ever took in New Zealand was a Ms Kara Timmer, who has since gone on to become junior and senior world champion at multi disciplines.
After 6 years teaching from local school halls, students and the Hwa Rang club were doing well, students were having good success at reaching the ranks of black belt and competing internationally.
I always had big dreams to have a permanent facility where it could be called a centre of excellence. I wanted somewhere we could share more, and teach more than just the grading syllabus of ITF Taekwon-do. I wanted to explore fitness and enable students to really reach their full potential in TKD whether it be teaching, competing or just trick kicking.
There is always someone who inspires us to take the next step. In New Zealand it was a wonderful gentleman called Mr Jon Matsuoka. This Hawaiian born, American Kiwi spent a few years looking for and finally setting up a 600sqm Taekwon-do facility, that he called the mancave. This was the catalyst for me. In 2013 I teamed up with my now business partner, Scott Coburn, who was a student of mine, a dad of two of my students and all round mad martial arts visionary to start the Martial Arts Academy.
We wanted to make our centre a first class facility, and we invested time and grit to achieve that. Over 1,000 people attended our official opening day on October 14th 2013.
For the first year I kept my security blanket of a day job by staying on as a consultant at the chartered accountancy firm that I had been working for, though on a very part time basis.
I was instructing about 18 hours a week, which is quite a heavy instructing workload, teaching all level of classes.
After 3.5 years of tweaking our recipe for running a full time centre, which is a balance between great instructing, good administration, and ongoing marketing, both my business partner and I are now ‘full time’ at the Academy.
We treat instructing like a profession. We give a professional service in a professional environment. We are passionate about what we teach, how we teach it and we care about our students. It is very much like being a doctor, a lawyer, a chartered accountant. We have ongoing professional development amongst our instructor team, and have ongoing job training to ensure our teaching standards are the highest possible. Students can and will vote with their feet.
We are now teaching and reaching more people in the Bay than if I had remained a hobbyist operating in a community hall. Our students get to enjoy a purposefully kitted out training facility and access to more instructors. It’s not just me. We very much operate as a team at TMAA.
Scott and I have always wanted to make martial arts instructing as much of a valid career choice as personal trainer, life coach, doctor, counsellor, or fire fighter. After all, that’s what instructor’s already do.
When I was in London I trained amongst many ‘professional Taekwon-Do’ instructors, and the magic number of students to teach to turn ‘professional’ and give up your day job was 200. This is a good rule of thumb.
I believe, with the strength of the ITF organisations around the world give the foundational support and a high level of trust and brand goodwill from the public. All a new instructor needs is the passion to teach. Being a martial arts instructor is very much a career option. A new dawn has arisen in New Zealand which has been slow on the uptake behind UK, USA and Australia to operate full time academies that provides the income source for the instructor.
Often when I talk to other hobby instructors I get some common FAQ s around what it takes to “turn professional”.
- How much could I expect to earn with 200 students?
When compared to earning a salary as a chartered accountant and now martial arts instructor, I am roughly earning the same hourly rate. So, though my salary is about the same, other perks are I get to train whenever I want and going to seminars and overseas events like the recent Arnold Classic in Melbourne becomes a business expense. I am also following my passion of continuing learning and finding time to practice other martial arts and count that as work time.
- How much time do I need to spend on teaching?
You will need to treat it like your full time job initially, so expect to do a 40 hour week. How much time you allocate between teaching, administration and marketing is up to you and what other resources you have at your disposal. I initially spent about one third of my time on each of those main functions.
- Do I have to increase my club fees? And If I do would some students leave?
When we reach the rank of 4th dan, Sabum-nim, we have spent at least 10 years learning and upskilling in the art of Taekwon-Do. It took me 3 years at university and 3 years work experience to qualify as a chartered accountant. I was then able to charge big bucks for my skills and services. We need to put a value on our skills and experience as martial arts instructors commensurate with our investment and value. The best guide to a new instructor is to charge what you feel in your heart you are worth. Then you are aligning your values with what you are giving to your students. You will not feel guilty about charging for training.
If you feel that means increasing your fees, then if some students leave purely on the financial reason, they were not aligned with your values. The exit survey from our itkd leaving surveys show that a very small minority of students leave a club for financial reasons.
- Should I rent a permanent facility?
This is a good question and depends on your current student numbers and whether you have some capital to invest in a permanent facility. Having a permanent venue will ultimately lead to faster success and higher student numbers, as you are able to offer more class times and thus teach more students. Thus the answer is really not should I but when is the right time to commit to a facility. I am very happy to share my experience of starting the Martial Arts Academy from a business owner and instructor perspective. Just private message me.
There is no time like the present to do what you think you should have done years ago.
Author: Ms Christine Young
Profile: Mrs Christine Young-Jasberg is a 6th Dan ITF instructor, former England and UK international competitor, former New Zealand Team Coach, High Performance Advisor of ITKD NZ and current International Umpire. In her professional career she was a qualified barrister and solicitor and a chartered accountant. She held roles as Group Financial Controller and Finance Director in various companies in Oxford and London England. She returned to New Zealand in 2006 for a better work life balance, settling in the growing city of Tauranga, New Zealand. In 2013 she opened a full time martial arts academy with co-founder Scott Coburn. The Martial Arts Academy is a bespoke 560sqm full time martial arts training centre that teaches 6 different martial arts. TMAA has students ranging in age from 5years to 70years+