Fans vs. Clients: Quality over Quantity
Transitioning from teaching a combative form of self protection (Senshido from 1994 to roughly 2015ish) which primarily attracted 18-40-year-old males, to teaching pure and applied violence prevention and defense tactics has not only drastically reduced the number of “fans” I used to have, but significantly increased the number of actual paying clients.
We now charge what we’re worth as we teach such a unique and evidence-based curriculum, we’re now making in a year what we used to in 3-5 years and are teaching less hours leaving more time for research and development. At the end of the day, you can only charge people so much for learning how to tie people into a pretzel, kick em in the balls, punch them in the throat or knock them out. Almost every single self defense course in the fucking world is comprised of the instructor’s personal flavor from that list.
There’s no shortage of variations of kicking, punching, trapping and grappling taught under a myriad of different system and style names with little twists and turns here and there but at the end of the day, it’s all the same shit really; from your local strip mall krav maga school to a big name combatives dude at a workshop, you’re essentially learning the same hammer fists, you’re hitting the same pads, you’re doing the same stress inoculation drills with a twist here and there (some have gone as far as using live ammo and blades to be cooler and different, immaterial of how asinine it is) it’s the same knee to the balls, it’s the same arm bar.
As for fans, I define them in 3 separate categories.
Category 1: The Extreme Fan. People who train in martial arts and combative disciplines and teach or used to teach or want to eventually start teaching either under you or start their own system (like there aren’t enough fucking hybrid/mixed combatives/krav maga systems already, most doing pretty much the exact same shit under a different name). These types like everything you post, follow all your social media pages, share all of your work with praises, shits on anyone who has anything negative to say about you, buys everything you release before you even release it, shows up at every seminar and has to have that picture taken with you every time. They strictly swear by your work and no one else’s. I personally didn’t have many of these, a few here and there throughout the years but not a significant amount.
Category 2: The Everyone’s Fan. Same as above but this one is a certificate collector and needs to be certified by and have their picture taken and displayed with every “big name/famous individual” in the industry along with their certificates. They love everyone’s work; everyone is brilliant and awesome regardless of how diametrically opposed and categorically contradictory everyone they love’s work actually are. All seminars, workshops and instructor certification courses they attend are the best ever and they just happen to teach a blend of “the best of” everyone’s courses they attended. I used to have many, many of these types of fans but they have thankfully significantly reduced in the last decade.
Category 3: The Average Fan. Some train, some don’t. They’ve purchased a couple of things from you, and maybe attended a seminar once. They follow all your pages but rarely if ever take part in any discussions but are quick to send you private questions that would take a 3-hour lecture to answer and they get offended when you don’t give them the answer they want. They like and share some of your posts, generally the exciting ones that depict videos of violence, fights and the like but ignore most the educational/important ones. They’ll agree with most of what you spout but once in a while disagree for the sake of showing they’re not one of the 2 above-described fans and that they have their own minds.
Clients, the vast majority anyway, are people who have needs, fears and genuine concerns. They actually want the most accurate, factual and functional materials to avoid, prevent, de escalate and if absolutely necessary, defend against violence and abuse. They generally don’t care about certificates or having their picture taken with you and the vast majority never heard of you or any of the big names in the industry. You were either hired by a third party to teach/train/educate them or they came referenced or they found you in a search engine or came across one of your social media posts by accident, link or referral based on a specific need or concern. They are looking for education/information/training that will address their personal predicaments, not join a tribe, a cult or become the next John Wick like most “fans” in comparison.
My demographics instantly expanded from 18–40-year-old males to include pretty much everyone from families, corporations, public and private schools, females, elderly and more. These aren’t the types of people who follow, like and cling onto every word I say, most are too busy with their lives to be on social media anyway.
Skulls, combatants, brass knuckles, Spartan helmets, shields, crossbones, fists, knuckles, barbarians, knives etc. in what constitutes the vast majority of self defense, combatives, krav maga and martial arts in general’s logos, the rest comprised of a mish mash of triangles, yin yang symbols and circles with whatever flavor of Geoff Thompsons’s fence figure in the middle actually turn off most of the general population searching for genuine violence prevention and self defense courses. These types of systems and logos will predominantly attract 18–40-year-old males with post traumatic misdirected anger issues. Just take a look at a group shot of over 90% of any generic krav maga or combatives workshop and you will see that the vast majority in the picture are bald or bearded or goateed 18-40-year-old tattooed males in tight black t-shirts and some shade of cargo pants.
For females in particular, especially those who had been previously victimized or knew someone close who had been, what is generally being portrayed in the self defense industry looks and sounds like nothing they have been through. There is little to nothing relatable in the self defense and martial arts industry to the vast majority of victims of violence and abuse. The reality is that roughly 90% of females worldwide experience violence and abuse at the hands of someone they know, roughly 60% of the time it's from an intimate partner, infatuated friend or an ex, 30% of the time from an immediate family member (in laws, brother, father, cousin, uncle, grandparent) and only 10% of the time from strangers.
Teaching pure and applied self-defence, however, isn’t cool. It doesn’t promote nor reflect fantasies of becoming John Wick or Jason Bourne. Learning self defense doesn’t make one a “badass” as it doesn’t carry the tough guy wannabe image with it. Not that there is anything wrong with training to become a badass fighter, toughen one’s self up, becoming skilled in combat arts and disciplines, as a matter of fact, I not only commend and recommend it to those who can and are able, I train my child this way along with the self defense education, I just don’t lie or pretend that the combative side is self defense for everyone when it is strictly limited to a small percentage of the general population, nor do I sell one as the other to the uninformed public.
In violence prevention and self defense, we educate people about things like trauma and its affects on both social and antisocial violence, as well as how it affects one’s reaction in a situation, as opposed to teaching people to hit fucking hard. We educate people on the various types of abuses such as emotional, psychological, religious, financial, domestic, vocational and the like as opposed to teaching another technique they will most likely never use in their lives. We teach about motives, antisocial personality disorders and types, behavioral, environmental and situational awareness as opposed to how to use a knife in street fights. Hardly glamourous, exciting or fantasy of becoming a “killing machine” tickler.
This transition also permitted me to expand both my research and knowledge base beyond what I could have imagined as once violence is truly understood, you can’t help but realise the vast majority of the critical answers and information one needs to prevent and defend against it cannot be found in the martial arts and generic self defense industry, immaterial of how big the big names were and still are. An ex-bouncer or cop’s or world champion fighter’s myopic view, understanding and experience with violence hardly translates to what an 11-year-old girl experiences suffering emotional, psychological and domestic abuse at the hands of a caregivers.
A krav maga or combatives expert knows nothing of what an elderly man who is being financially, psychologically and physically abused by their live in nephew deals with nor do they comprehend (based on everything they post on social media as their training methods and defense tactics) that roughly 90% of victims of violence worldwide knew/know their perpetrators and the physical attack comes in the form of an ambush with rarely, if ever, any opportunity of defending one’s self physically against. Yet post after post after post are defenses against attacks that rarely if ever happen in antisocial violence, let alone any violence at all be it social or antisocial for that matter.
Not to mention, 100% of social violent situations can be deescalated with proper education (see www.studyofviolence.com) and those that aren’t are avoidable and preventable, so at the end of the day, the vast majority of martial arts, self defense and combatives courses taught under the pretext of self protection worldwide only actually prepare the average civilian for roughly less than 5% of actual real-world violence be it social or antisocial in nature.
Most of these styles and systems modify reality to fit their impressive looking technical applications and personal physical skills but how many average domestically abused females worldwide ranging from 6 to 90 years old would ever be able to learn to hit as fucking hard as the likes of Lee Morrison or Geoff Thompson? Or find themselves in a bar fight? Honestly.
Knowing your client base, understanding the critical differences between martial arts, self defense, combatives, sports, violence, abuse and the like will actually help expand your client base and focus on a niche and avoid further confusion. Teach or learn whatever you like, just don’t lie to yourselves or your clients into thinking you’re learning and perfecting Tennis when you’re clearly learning or teaching Badminton and vice versa. People attending our Masterclasses have no illusion or impression that they will walk away becoming better cage fighters or accomplished “street fighters” because nowhere in our marketing do we also throw in the tag “Combatives” or “Martial Arts”. It was difficult to transition from teaching Senshido, a method of hand-to-hand combat and self defense to just pure and applied violence prevention and self defense and we lost many fans along the way, but we gained many more clients and contracts as we don’t lie or pretend to teach something we don’t. Be nice if everyone else did the same.