To the prospective gym owner…please read:
I’ve taught part time and full time since 2005 – I’d say I’m the hobbyist who made good. Competed a fair share throughout white and blue belts successfully, fading a bit starting at purple as I began transitioning into my role as an instructor.
I didn’t mind the change. I welcomed it as an opportunity to find joy in something larger than myself. I didn’t expect to change lives – I just wanted to play jiu-jitsu and share how much fun it was with others.
I’ve taught part-time most of the last 13 years. Always working a 9 to 5, teaching after work and on lunch breaks Monday through Friday. I’ve had a couple of location changes, 4 maxed out credit cards, and had several months in the red when I was starting out.
There’s been days I’ve been exhausted, and had to drag myself to the gym. Forced a smile to teach some kids how to upa. Bad days at the office that would’ve been perfectlyended with a beer instead of the X-Guard lesson I had planned.
Moments with my family…gone. I’ve missed my wife and daughter. A home cooked meal at a decent hour. Coaching at a tournament instead of being with them. Being too hurt to pick up your own child. Missing my daughter singing the Frozen soundtrack for the 312th time, date nights and Daddy/Daughter Dances. Thank God they love me.
The physical. I roll with all my students, even the Super-Sized ones. At 39 and a “Part-Time Professor” with 16 years on the mat, I’m starting to show some wear and tear. I don’t move like I used to and that gets painful from time to time – and the students stay the same age. Epsom salts, chiropractors, massages, surgeries, braces and tape – all in rotation it seems.
Emotionally it’s a roller coaster, questioning yourself all the time. How do I advertise? Does this look McDojoish? Weighing pros and cons, thinking risk vs reward. Until it’s dialed in, it’s shaky. There’s getting tapped by your students on occasion…and yeah, I’m not too proud to say it happens. Sure, it’s all part of our growth in the art, but it still stings a bit.
Your brain never turns off. Always thinking of a sweep, the private lesson you teach in the morning at 7am, hoping the studentsmade it home safe in bad weather. It’s posting on social media with a class picture. Remembering to order more tshirts and dealing with the broken toilet. Typing stuff like this at 11pm. Filing taxes.
Missing regular life. I have no idea who’s in the AFC and NFC Championship games. Passing on a Happy Hour invite to teach torreando passes. Looking like Ed Norton at the copy machine with gi-burn across your face. Coworkers knowing you around the office as “The Karate Guy.”
It sucks. And I love it.
Over the years, I’ve had the opportunity to work with men and women who fought professionally, had beautiful families, started successful business, sang on American Idol, fought for our country, became actors, sent rockets into space, and savedlives as first responders.
As Instructors, these are the moments we cherish. The moments where we see a tiny bit of ourselves in all of your accomplishments. To know that we touched yourlife in a positive way is what drives us, and it’s truly why we do what we do.
We pass the knowledge and lessons along with the obvious goal of developing good technique, but here’s what we really enjoy seeing students accomplish:
It’s watching someone lose weight and extend their life. It’s turning a bad day around for someone. Helping a shy kid come out of their shell during class. Watching families bond together on the mat.
I wrote this to warn those of you out there who have dreams of having your own academy one day. You’re in for the ride of your life, and please remember one thing:
Jiu-Jitsu is merely the soundtrack. At the end of the day, the relationships we forge will outlast the techniques, trophies and titles. You will hurt in every way imaginable, from physically to financially. You will wonder if it was all worth it…and the answer is yes.