In the early months of NAPMA, my art director Scott Kelby and I created a black-and-white ad of a student throwing a great jump side kick under a great headline, “Kids Don’t Seem to Mind Our Summer School.” The ad was a big hit. Schools reported 40 to 60 phone calls, more than they had ever received. Some members, though, wanted to cancel because they didn’t do that technique. Others complained because they wore white uniforms, but the kid in the ad was in a black and grey gi. This is a classic example of Black Belt Eyes.

Black Belt Eyes are natural and good. I have them to this day. It’s just important that we be aware of when they might be getting in the way of what we are trying to accomplish, which is to attract and keep students.

Black Belt Eyes illustrate how the Core Dynamics are reflected in what we do. In most cases, Black Belt Eyes are based upon false assumptions. For instance, with the jump side kick ad, the guys who canceled may have feared that a mom would bring the ad in and say, “I want to enroll my child, but first show me this kick.” Or, “Do you have that uniform in white, like this ad?” Of course, that never happens, but we are so deeply connected to our systems that our Black Belt Eyes often get in the way of our more useful Market Eyes. Black Belt Eyes assumed people would see they wore a different color uniform or wouldn’t recognize the technique. Market Eyes are the eyes of your potential students, who don’t know a jump side kick from a jumping jack.

When Black Belt Eyes see an ad with a jump side kick, they are drawn to the most important aspect of the ad for black belts. It’s not the headline, the copy, or the offer. Black Belt Eyes will check to make sure the kid has his foot bladed and the other foot is tucked. That’s not a bad thing. It reflects your standards as a black belt. But if you choose not to run that ad because you don’t do jump kicks, then your Black Belt Eyes may have cost you 40 to 60 phone calls which should have converted to 20 to 30 new students.

Black Belt Eyes work against you when you assume that a person with little or no martial arts experience will feel the same about it as you do.

A Black Belt Eyes ad will have someone getting kicked in the head. The owner knows that one of life’s simple pleasures is wrapping your foot around someone’s head with a hook or round kick. The readers, however, with their Market Eyes, may translate that image into what will happen to them at that school. They can’t even imagine getting their leg up that high, so they are not identifying with the kicker.

Black Belt Eyes tell the market what it needs instead of listening to the market and giving it what it wants. Black Belt Eyes show that we care about what we do. They are not bad, but you have to be aware of them. Most of all, recognize when they get in your way.

Our Black Belt Eyes lead us to believe that our students will be good because they know more, but again, more is not better. Better is better. Fewer requirements make better students and aid retention, because students who feel they are doing well are happy students and stay in the school. Competence leads to confidence.

Just remember that Market Eyes pay the bills. The next time your spouse or significant other makes the suggestion that tying students together with a belt and having them spar may not be a good move, take a deep breath, listen, and say, “Thank you. Good point.”

Widely recognized as the man who revolutionized the martial arts industry, John Graden launched organizations such as NAPMA (National Association of Professional Martial Artists), ACMA (American Council on Martial Arts), and MATA (Martial Arts Teachers Association). Graden also introduced the first trade magazine for the martial arts business, Martial Arts Professional.

John Graden’s latest book, The Truth about the Martial Arts Business looks into key strategies involved in launching a martial arts business and includes Graden’s own experience as a student, a leader and a business owner.

Graden is the author of six books including The Truth about the Martial Arts Business, The Impostor Syndrome: How to Replace Self-Doubt with Self-Confidence and Train Your Brain for Success, Mr. Graden has been profiled by hundreds of international publications including over 20 magazine cover stories and a comprehensive profile in the Wall Street Journal.

Presentations include: The Impostor Syndrome, Black Belt Leadership, The Secret to Self Confidence, and How to Create a Life Instead of Making a Living, John has taught his proven and unique principles of success to thousands of people on three continents since 1987.

From keynote presentations for thousands to one-on-one coaching sessions, John Graden is a dynamic speaker, teacher, and media personality who brings passion and entertainment to his presentations. </p

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