Self-Defense - Why Most Adults Drop Out of Martial Arts Classes by: Jeffrey M. Miller

Discussion in 'E-Zine Articles' started by Bob Hubbard, Nov 15, 2007.

  1. Bob Hubbard

    Bob Hubbard Darth Vindicatus Supporting Member

    Self-Defense - Why Most Adults Drop Out of Martial Arts Classes by: Jeffrey M. Miller

    The most surprising statistic that most karate and martial arts teachers discover is the one that tells them "why most of their adult students quit shortly after enrolling." In fact, the greatest percentage of adult dropouts from martial arts classes occurs within the first 100 days!

    This has sparked some groups to investigate the reasons behind this phenomena. Surveys have been conducted both in the United States as well as in Canada. Additional inquiries may also have been conducted in places like Europe and Australia as well.

    What the researchers found was, to them, incredible. They found that, by and large, the number one reason for adult students dropping out of their programs was... real-world self-defense training early on in their training!

    "How could this be?", was the question. The researchers were stunned. After all, they were martial arts teachers and they certainly taught self-defense as a part of their classes.

    How could these adults say that they weren't being taught real-world self-defense techniques?

    Perhaps, the problem was not that "self-defense techniques" were or were not being taught. Because, even after these studies were conducted and karate programs started to "import" third-party self-defense packages into their product offering, adult dropouts remained high.

    Maybe the problem was in perception. Maybe students just couldn't see how the "stylized" movements of a centuries-old system could be applicable against a street attack against a stiletto or 'Saturday Night Special'-wielding assailant.

    It's certain that students were not seeing and hearing what they thought they should in order to believe that they were getting what they needed to survive such an attack. Even if these students don't know what 'that thing' really looks like, their gut-level feeling was that, "this stuff isn't going to work."

    Maybe the problem - what adult students are looking for - is in something even more crucial to learning self-defense against violent attackers. And maybe this "thing" was easier to identify by novices than by trained instructors who had been indoctrinated into sport systems.
    Maybe what was lacking in all of these programs was something the real experts like to call...


    Regardless of the subject, it's fairly easy to see when someone has experience with the information they have, isn't it? I mean, experience in actually applying that information to produce viable, proven results. As the old saying goes, "those who can - do; and those who can't - teach."
    And, what adult students are looking for is someone who "can" AND "teaches" others how they can as well.

    Now, this isn't to say that most martial arts instructors don't know their arts and the techniques and skills that come with them. Most certainly do. And these people are very good at what they do.

    However; there is a huge difference between knowing how to 'perform' a skill - any skill - and being able to apply that skill in a particular context. And self-defense is no exception.

    No matter how hard they try, most martial arts and self-defense instructors will not be able to convince most adults that they know what they're talking about without the experience to back it up. Adult students are not children. They have seen far too much in there lives to let these less-than-able instructors slide.

    And with the new threat of terrorism being added to the ever-present concern with crime, most adults have no desire to learn martial arts for purely ascetic reasons. They want - no, they demand - and rightly so, that the person they place their trust in, not to mention their very lives, knows what he or she is doing.

    So, what's an instructor to do if he or she lacks actual real-world experience? Should they rush right out and get into a few fights? Should they go hang out in the seedier side of town and wait to be mugged, raped, or beaten?

    No, of course not. But, they can, like their students, go in search of real experts - people who have "been there" and who can help them learn what they need to know in order to help the people who come to them for this type of knowledge.

    Of course, this may require that they suck in their pride and get a check on the old ego. But, as everyone knows who has been in an actual violent confrontation with a dangerous attacker, you need to "check your ego at the door" if you're going to survive.

    Teaching self-protection skills to others is a huge responsibility. And one perhaps that's too great for a lot of people who are teaching for purely personal reasons.

    There is another option available, however; just in case the primary one is totally unacceptable. And that option is simply to...

    ...stop trying to teach self-defense if they're not qualified.

    By all means, an instructor can, and should, continue to teach his particular style of martial art. But he should stop trying to convince intelligent, grown adults, that he knows what he's talking about with regards to surviving a violent attack if he doesn't. He should remember that people are placing their lives in his hands every time he open's his mouth, or demonstrates a technique. I'm not sure whether or not many instructors have thought about this. But they should.

    After all, most martial arts instructors teach honesty as one of the major tenets and character traits of a black belt master and leader. Wouldn't this be the "honest" thing to do?

    The moral here is that, if a martial arts or karate teacher wishes to teach self-defense - if he or she wants to get and retain adult students looking for this type of training for the long-term, they really have no choice but to do what they must.

    They, like every other information-based professional, are in business to provide a service. They must decide what that service is and whether or not it includes real-world self-protection against violent attackers who don't follow the rules of fairness and respect found in martial arts schools and karate tournaments.

    They should also know this... company, whether it's a furniture store or a martial art school, stays in-business very long if it can't give its customers what they want and need. Their clients and students may never tell them that they don't believe or trust them. But, rest assured that if they're not getting what they've paid for, they're gone.

    As a final thought, and one that I live by. What if, some day, "I" must depend on one of my students to protect me from a dangerous assailant for whatever reason. Wouldn't I want to make sure that what he or she learned was really going to work?

    I know I would!

    About The Author
    Jeffrey M. Miller is the founder of Warrior Concepts International, a Pennsylvania-based company specializing in helping private, law enforcement, and corporate clients to develop time-tested and proven self-protection and personal development skills that work in the real-world. He is the author of the highly acclaimed, educational video, "Danger Prevention Tactics: Protecting Yourself Like a Pro" which s available thru his site at: His latest book, titled, "The Karate-Myth", also available thru the web site at this address:, shows the reader why most martial arts and self-defense programs don't work and how to insure your safety in today's violent world. For additonal information about having this internationally-recognized expert as a guest or keynote speaker for your organization's next meeting, or to sponsor a seminar with Mr. Miller, you may contact him through his web site or by calling WCI in the U.S. and Canada, at (570) 988-2228.

  2. CincoTeros

    CincoTeros New Member

    I have also found out that if a class involves some type of pain (ex. full contact sparring, body conditioning) students in general will shy away from it. It seems people will take a martial arts class for self-defense but do not want to "break a fingernail" doing it....

    just my 2 cents.....
  3. scubamatt

    scubamatt New Member far in my experience, one of the biggest things that made people drop out was when there wasn't any real sparring/competition. The focus (in the beginning) was more on 'exercise' and 'getting in better shape' than on anything else. It felt like a sweatshop or an especially brutal weight loss/stretching class, not like 'learning to fight'. There wasn't much sense of achievement ("I learned how to do this and this, so far this month") for the newer students, and they lost their motivation.
  4. Carol

    Carol <font color = blue><b>Technical Administrator</b><

    Well...the article mentions that the greatest percentage of adults drop out within the first 100 days.

    Had I been asked to do body conditioning or full-contact sparring within my very first 100 days of MA training, I might have dropped out too. I wasn't ready to go there. I didn't have the mindset yet, didn't have the skillset, and didn't have the cardio-fitness to deal with that kind of pain.

    Personally, I think most MA schools do not give beginners the individual attention they (IMO) need. A fantastic foundation can be set in the first three months or so of training. Yes, I live in a perfect world ;)
  5. Combative Edge

    Combative Edge New Member

    I don't find this suprising at all. We live in a time where people don't want to work for anything. It is not just Martial Arts. Look how many fat people there are out there who can't stick to a diet and exercise because it involves some hard work.
  6. Kailat


    Self Defense and the Adult who wanna train

    First off there are many reasons why Adults do or do not wanna train.

    To express my thoughts on this topic I'll have to explain by my own personal experiences that i've encountered. Many reasons I see now day's is due to a few limited but truth experiences.

    1. Most adults either don't have the time. (family, work, etc..)
    2. If the adults have the time, they don't have the money. (dont work, or just barley make enough $ for extra training)
    a) so to over compensate for that.. Cause i have alot of great students who just don't have the money. I understand this field very well cause I tend to fall into this category myself from time to time. I do a pay as you want program. It works for me, maybe not for you! But I get enjoyment from just training and the comradre of those that enjoy it as well.
    3. LAZY NESS. Many adults are just that PURE LAZY!!!

    *(for children karate, taekwondo, etc... is a great program for after school etc. teaching discipline, self motivations, you know all the good stuff kids need)

    Going back to the early days, PRE MMA there was "Kickboxing"/Boxing TOUGHMAN and KING OF THE RING'S this is where most adults wanted to go and came to training for. Most of that was "Stand-Up" fisticuff fighting. It's all about the EGO

    Now a days its all about MMA/ BJJ / etc... so most adults are training in that field.

    A rare breed of us are into the edged weapons, impact weapons, and beating the bejeezus out of one another with fire hardened rattan sticks... It's a mere 1 in 10 adults who find this fascinating enough to look into it... 1 in 20 will explore it, and 1 in 50 or more will actually study it.

    Let's examine a typical traditional karate class.

    typically 1 hour classes 2 nights a week on average.
    they spend about 15 to 20 mins sometimes as much as a half an hour on stretching and warm up... that leaves on average about 35 to 40 mins left of class to either "spar", work techniques, kata, or self defense. And for the most part the self defesne is so 20yrs ago.. NON APPLICABLE in todays age.. I've seen it guys. I "an edged weapons instructor" walk into a local karate school, a teacher 4 or 5th degree black belt is telling his students to at first sight of a knife attack, to stop and take your shoes off and place them on your hands to deflect the knife" (GOOD defense if you already have your shoes on your hands) In most if not all cases you wont ever have that option.. I was like WHAT!?!?!?! okay..

    Many adults want a challenge.. if there are limited adults in one school and several in another with challenging students well they may come to the limited school for a minute.. And they may go to where they see a challenge at. I'd ask myself why is all the adults here and not there? Hmmm money, training, teacher, style? ? ?

    Here's what I offer and how my training is incorporated:

    We meet 1 day a week: SATURDAY'S (why? Because we usually always have Saturdays free, if they have something to do w/ family etc.. I encourage that over training all the time)
    We meet for on average 2 sometimes 3 hours that day: (Why? It makes up for lost time.. and we can get more accomplished in a full training day)

    We start early and go till were ready to leave: ( this way we all get a good work out, we cover alot of ground and leave satisfied)

    As for charge: I don't charge a set fee, they pay me sometimes $10, sometimes $20 or more and sometimes NOTHING!! or they will take me out to dinner, or one guy burns me training DVD he swaps off of ebay all day..LOL but in the end were all happy

    Initially upon first getting there we start with a 10 min warm up and stretch, we then all go for a one mile jog. (this was everyone's idea to help us all get in and or stay in shape.) Many this is all they can get throughout the week and others like myself I work out at the gym 3 to 5 nights a week so its no sweat for me) but its a good morale and energy booster..

    Then we start with ideas, and principles play with everyone's own opinion and theories and then I will ring in with what I feel is usually what we'd do in FMA or something.. My background is the most extensive there for the most case I have a few MMA guys and such so I am careful not to override thier opinions.. I just offer my opinions to thier suggestions... Just another way to look at it.

    then we do scenario training usually knife or stick and even empty hand stuff.. usually turns into full contact stand up to ground with whatever we have in hand when its all said and done.. Of course we stop and we evaluate everything on a scale of did it work? Could of worked better? etc...

    usually this is after an hour half or so... by this time the MMA guys are ready to go.. and leaves the last hour or so to the rest of us who want to soley focus on FMA things...

    As I said it usually is a great class.. its very unformal and we all leave happy.. just this week I had 2 calls on a few MMA guys who wanna come train this Sat and hopefully they will enjoy what I have to offer.. if not well they can go back to their own school or whatever..

    AGAIN guys this is just what I do and it is growing... many of us canot set and stand to study a complete system from 5 to 10 yrs and expect to stay with it these days as adults.. FAMILY moves us, Jobs moves us, teacehrs move, anything is possible this day and age... so i offer a come as you want and leave as you want program.. all i ask is EVERYONE LEAVE THIER EGO"s at the door and we all leave friends in the end... The fact that I work in law enforcement and have had experience in the ring, and however had my fare share of street fights growing up... Just the way times were for me and the crowd i ran with back then.. anyway many adults have never been in a real engaged fight, and they wanna know what works and what doesnt? Ive been there and done that.. also served in the first gulf war seen a little bit of combat so i have a general over all understanding of the combative and martial aspect. And alot of adults want that knowledge.. But i do have enough sense to know not to put all my eggs in one basket and know Billy the ass kicker is right out the door and we all need to be "AWARENESS" over SELF DEFENSE first and foremost.. I get the guys who wann know how to beat an MMA guy.. I say NikeJitsu always worked best for me.. LOL... run fast, run hard and run home...hahaha but we do explore that.. I have a few grapplers who help touch this with the guys who wanna know that. We cant always assume we can cut or shoot our way out of something... too many legal attachments with that.. I know, I know thats the kali way... when in doubt cut, stab, puncture, kill.... and thats great when its a life or death thing.. but how many life or death encounters does one really get into in a life time? for those who work in fields that puts them at that risk then thats where KILL, KILL, KILL without mercy mentality and blood makes the grass grow green mentality comes into play. : )
  7. R. Mike Snow

    R. Mike Snow Chiseled Edge

    Hi Cory,

    I find that you are correct on all accounts. Most of the people in this economically depressed area that want to train just do not have the money. I personally do not charge anything. I just ask that they pay the big thirty bucks a year to help with flight tickets for GM to come in, that they can give whenever they have it. The second thing I ask is just for them to save their money for the seminars and camps. So far it has worked out very well for me. Except for during the Winter months that is.

    I also have to admit that in general the laziness factor is a big part too. Brian Rideout was telling me acouple years ago that he read a study stating that Southern IL and IN as well as Western Kentucky, is the most obese and ill healthed area in our nation. So with the not so energetic people I fucus on the "Contradas" in detail. Telling everyone that it is like Tui-shou(Tai Chi pushing hands). It starts out soft and slow then only gets as fast and hard as you want it to.

    For the MMA type guys that want to learn Dumog and add Philippine empty hand to their box of tricks. We throw each other around a bit and I throw in acouple of limb destructions to prove it's real. Then tell them they have to learn the knife first, because the empty hand and knife is the same. This knd of helps to bring the the motivated and not so motivated together a little bit.

    The people I have not been able to keep are the "belt pragrammed" people from the commercialized schools. After you grab them, sweep them to the ground, stop their kicks and slapt them around a bit. Even though they are always the one's initiating that level of contact. They still won't admit what they are doing is misleading them. Unfortunately I am sure that they BJJ school here in town is going through the same scenario. The people that do stick around from different styles of MA's travel from out of town to train. The internet forums and the web site has helped a great deal. I wish I would have jumped on the digital band wgon even sooner. So if anyone has any suggestions about dealing with tunnel vision, I am all ears......

    Another unfortunate thing I have noticed is that the very few highly trained, motivated and telented practitioners that reside in this area just have their hands full with nightmarish schedules. I see them now and then. But that can't be helped, so I don'tstress on it too much.

    God Bless, Mike
  8. Kailat


    Training and so on

    MIKE S.

    Sir you and I are on the same level it seems. I am in the Eastern to Central region of the state of INDIANA. Most around here either commute daily to and from INDY, Fort Wayne or somewhere in between. I myself commute out of town to work as well. But it does play a significant role on those wth other commitments to thier times to train. I've ran into it myself, on many occassions. Seems like evry single time I plan on attending something be it a workshop, seminar or soemthing unless I have ample enough time to prepare for it I get shafted with an overdue bill, flattire, work calls me in-or I am scheduled that weekend, or my last nightmarish incident on the day of GT Gaje's seminar in INDY I had all planned on attending I woke up to my tires being slashed and my brand new car at the time been spraypainted from one end to the other from an irate ex-girlfriend.. Boy i could of killed her that day if she was near me..

    But you know these things do happen.. and all I can say is "there's always next year, let's hope nothing crazy comes up then" LOL.. So when my peers, students whatever call me and say something come up. Believe me.. I can attest to it... HOpefully alot of that stuff is behind me now...But at the time I was going through some women issues..LOL

    But for the economy in Muncie area.. IT's horrible, for the cost to run a commercial school, IT WOULD NEVER PAY no one in this town can keep one open for more than a year or too.. Not that successful this day and age.. its cheaper and much more convenient to rent or train in a free location. Alot of the schools around here are hiding out in Fitness Gyms, YMCA, Boys & Girls clubs, PAL Clubs (where were at) and other public facilities. After all thats what these places were built for!! May's well use them. Only thing is you have to adhere to thier rules..I had to stop using the YMCA cause thier program would not allow weapons of any sort into the building.. so we could not train w/ stick and knife I was like well kinda thats what were all about.. so this won't work....LOL....

    We have 2 MMA programs in Muncie, one is at the PAL club and they are slowly comeing to train w/ us. And the other is a few meat heads at a local fitness gym/karate school.... not very well liked in town.. The owner has caused alot of garbage at local events... but he does run one of the more successfull Karate dojo in town.. GO figure...LOL
  9. arnisador

    arnisador Active Member

    My ears are burning. I left work at 6:30PM again tonight, then had to drive my son somewhere. But it's been too long for us!
  10. R. Mike Snow

    R. Mike Snow Chiseled Edge

    Hey Cory,

    Great to hear from you so soon, you make it sound like we live on the same street with that much in common. LOL I tried to hold GT Nene's first Midwest seminar at South Vigo High School six or seven years ago and they turned me down due to the "violence nature" but then allowed a TKD tournament to be held in the junior high schools 2 miles away belonging to the same school corporation. Even though everyone had to drive an extra 7 or 8 miles from their motels to get to the seminar everything worked out really well. We had practitioners from 7 different states. So it went from a nighmare to a success with only 3 of the 36 people attending from here in Terre Haute. "Quite sad insn't it." But I did get the meet some great people, "The Infamous Arnisador", Brian Rideout and Jeff Westfall.

    As for teaching in a commercial school, that's not a bad idea. I have had a couple of offers in the past. I think I will take up on it when the weather break. All I need out of it is the gas money to drive from here to Brazil. I have a group of 14 people here, but I have not ever been able to get then all together at one time.

    Another thing that blows my mind is that not a sigle person from the moderately sized Philippine community here in Terre Haute is interested in FMA's. At least none that I know of any way.

    I know what you mean about the attitue toward the stick and knife too. When I wasin Virginia Beach with GT Nene to assist with the opening of the new FMA Acedemy and new Philippine Cultural Center I found out the FMA's are taght in the school system. Fat chance here man. Even though empty hand is our major, you can't teach Panggamut and Dumog in our system without being proficient with the knife. So that throws that out the window for teaching in the school system here. Oh well, SULONG(always forward)!

    God Bless, Mike
  11. R. Mike Snow

    R. Mike Snow Chiseled Edge

    LOL, what ever made you think I was speaking of you Arnisador?

    If some stranger walk up to your door after it warms up, with a Kampilan, don't shoot! It will just be me..........

    You better make it to the last day of the gathering though. There will be a huge authentic Philippine feast! Last time I ate so much PUTO I could not breath............. Besides, I get tired of being the only one that gets slammed repeatedly on the concrete........

    God Bless, Mike
  12. arnisador

    arnisador Active Member

    You know I'll be there! Mr. Tortal has always been very generous with sharing his knowledge. Plus, I like him!
  13. Kailat



    Yes, I too have alot of the same problem. I used to teach TKD when I lived in Fort Wayne in the public elementary schools. It was a great success. I then later returned home to the Muncie area thought I could do something of the same here. (To my great surprise the school board turned me down). This even came with awesome credentials and a very well written recommendation from the Fort Wayne community school dir.

    So in turn I began studying my original Karate system (since that was all that was here in this town) and began to slowly open the floor and eyes to FMA within the students and teachers. I was involved in 3 or so diff Karate schools. It was a pretty decent turn out at first, But it began cutting out the point that we were then studying FMA more so than KARATE and my Sensei said " we got to get back on focus w/ Karate" LOL so we moved an extra hour at the dojo. Well that extra hour was enough to cut out 2/3 of the students. Due to it was "late" 8pm-9pm some had kids they needed to get ready for school the next day, or get ready for work etc.. dinner you know that story! So was only stuck w/ 2 students for about the past 2 years. But then we decided that the extra hour would be better spent doing family things and we moved to Saturday mornings when everyone had more time to get up work out and spend a couple of hours working out. And the great thing is it don't cut into all SAT so we still have time to do other things if we need to.. Most of the time we ran from 10am to Noon so that gave plenty of time for Sat errands. It's been a pretty steady time frame so far.

    I remember you contacting me a few years back MIKE per GM Tortal and I was all trying to push that seminar here.. I was all for it, ALL the feedback I got was " NO MONEY" / " NO TIME" and I didn't want to make the 4 hour drive to Terre Haute myself.. So i passed as well...

    : (

    One of my best students that has been with me for quite some time just moved to South Carolina (job related) and he was one who done alot of things with me and helped support me alot. Now he's stuck in SC w/ noone to train with and thinking of startng his own group... I wish him luck

    Well hang in there.. U know how us Hoosiers are?

    BE well

  14. R. Mike Snow

    R. Mike Snow Chiseled Edge

    Halo muli m'aginoo'!

    Don't sweat it Cory, you hit the nail right on the head again when it comes to the money. If it were not for all the help from great people like Keith & Vicki Wetoskey, Brian Rideout and Jeff Westfall. Things just would not have taken off so well for us here in Indiana. Since they are so well known and well liked around the Midwest and have so many contacts, they were able to pull so many people in for us from all over. So again, if I had to rely on the local community here, we would have gone no where fast.

    Tell ya what Cory, we are working out the schedule for GM Nene right now and he will be staying here in Terre Haute with me off and on for six months or so this year. Let's keep in touch and we can work out some time where we can meet. We head to Indy constantly to attend church services while GM is here. Maybe we can all meet for dinner up on the NE side some evening. That way you can meet GM and we can meet as well. You won't be out anything but a little bit of time. But don't be surprised if GM wants to jump out side and start training in the middle of the parking lot or find some empty lot close by right after dinner though. LOL He does stuff like that constantly. He's just addicted to training and teaching.

    Yup Arnisador, you missed some awesome food last time man. LOL GM kept saying, " where is my wrestler, where is Dr. Dumogero?" I like that name so much I think I am going to address you that way from now on.......LOL

    God Bless & Sulong Brothers! Mike
  15. Kailat



    MOST DEFENITLY, Keep me informed....I'd love to do that...

    Thanks again


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