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Thursday, July 19, 2012

Styles vs. Franchises

A lot of people treat martial arts styles like they are franchises.

In The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don't Work and What to Do About It, Michael Gerber identifies some of the things that make franchises so successful. A lot of it is about providing a consistent experience; every time you walk into a Starbucks, you know what to expect from that Starbucks. The chairs, the music, the's always the same. The baristas will all speak the same bizarre Starbuck-speak, even if they don't speak English. But I digress.

When people speak about martial arts styles, or write about them, they often do some in the same way. "Muay Thai guys train like this" or "In all Aikido schools, you must do that."

The problem is that it's not true. Martial arts styles aren't franchises (though some martial arts schools have franchises); not all schools train the same way. There are at least half a dozen schools in Boston that teach (or purport to teach) Muay Thai. We don't all train or teach the same way. Hell, even at Sityodtong, not all of the coaches teach the same way. We all teach very similar things, but we each bring our own personality and way of explaining things to the table. (I'm the coach who uses big words, for the record)

If you evaluate martial arts with the same filter you would a franchise, you're potentially missing out. You may know for sure that you don't like Starbucks, but you might be surprised to discover how much you like the local Tae Kwon Do, Judo, or Muay Thai coach. The labels just aren't really helpful.


Neil Bednar said...

Then again, if you go into Starbucks looking to buy a cheeseburger and fies, I'd say you are definitely in the wrong place. In that sense, coffee is a meaningful tag. You can also get coffee at McDonalds, though it is not offered in the variety as it is at Starbucks.

Jake said...

If a Starbucks owner decides after years of experience that he believes that cheeseburgers and fries are an important food item, he can't add it to his menu.

If a martial arts instructor decides that he wants to radically alter his training methods without changing what he calls his training, there's nothing that stops him.

It's an imperfect analogy, as are many. :-)