This article deals with one of the most common phenomena in the martial arts and self-defense field, a phenomena in which instructors abandoning their instructors to open a nearby club competing with the instructor who educated and tought them, and doing so in an unfriendly and unethical manner, causing sorrow to all parts involve, especially the students who suffers a tear in their family and sometimes get caught in the fight. This article will explore this phenomena and eventually will offer solutions.
Golden cage is indeed golden, but it's still a cage… This metaphor reflects the complex relationship between a club owner and an instructor working in his club under his supervision. The senior instructor raised the instructor sometimes since he was only a young practitioner and made him the instructor he is.
This relationship puts the junior instructor in a complicated situation, like the 'golden cage'; On one hand it's golden since he gets support, knowledge, and guidance throughout the years, but on the other hand, it’s a cage because at some point the instructor wants to spread his wings and fly solo, but the golden cage beholds him.
In many cases we witness a process in which a normal healthy relationship between instructor and student, which is base on admiration and respect, slips to a non-healthy connection based on forced power and control over the student. A young student must endure this control and can't break free because he needs his instructor's support to progress.
I know instructors, that still remember how proud they felt when they asked to step in and instruct when a senior instructor had to miss a class. Only after they grew up they realized how wrong they were thinking that it was not only their talent put them in that position, but rather pure misuse of their young naïve and enthusiastic towards Krav-Maga.
They realize they spent hours over hours of teaching for free, while the senior instructors were absent and making money over their free labor. I want to believe that such occurrences happens mostly based on true value and respect of the student, and as a way to expand their experience, but sometimes it's not, and the bitter taste of that realization is there to be remembered till they sometime do the same to their own students.
Having said that, I feel fortunate to have known a lot of instructors that their ethics and values lead them to treat their students with the utmost respect and pay fairly for their services when required.
My personal experience as a child practitioner and climbing up the ranks to become an instructor and later the position I hold today, left me with great awareness to the thin line between asking your student a favor, and to misuse him by asking for services he is not obligated to give. I try to educate and pass the ethics every opportunity I get.
My advice to the instructors on the paying side is this: always suggest payment; if your student decline, it is his choice and you are not to be blamed in exploiting him, and if he accepts, it means that they believe he should be paid and it’s a good thing to maintain a relationship in which no one feels used.
I think that paying someone for their labor, money that he fairly earned, is much easier than feeling obligated by knowing that you are in debt and can be asked for favors that can backfires later on, when a person you owe asking to collect in ways you are not comfortable with. Its much easier to just write a check.
I have a very good friend in India who is also my student for many years now, and he explained me one of the major issues in India, that is the beggars who are spread by the thousands all over the country. As he puts it, the relationship between a beggar and passer-by is actually a business transaction: the beggar floods the passer-by with guilt for being luckier than him, and the passer-by "buys" his clear conscience with some coins and feels great again.
The thing is, that as innocent as this little story sounds, it created a major problem in India, that according to my friend the only way to fight it is by educating the public to avoid beggars, which India does massively by campaigning against baggers in every possible media.
It's not easy to ask people to act against their feelings or against what feels right to them, but it is a necessary process if you want to deal with a greater problem then the individuals themselves.
Same applies when dealing with the topic of the "golden cage" we need to approach the problem, understands its roots, and decide how to fix it by education and awareness. We need to remember that we are not acting in a vacuum or in the microcosms of our club; our actions have consequence as we set an example for all the others around us, which is acute when you are senior, and people tend to follow your lead. To change the world, one must start by changing himself.
So why do instructors leave their clubs?
The question should be why they stay; as in every other aspect of life the young generation pushes forward to move and upgrade their position, and today even more than in the past, people swich jobs frequently, kids leave their home and parents in a young age, and young instructors open their own clubs.
This is the human nature. Young students want to follow their instructor's footsteps, and establish a club like the one they grew up in. So why should this natural process become ugly, full of anger and hate?
The reason lays with the 'golden cage' effect. The junior instructor is conflicted over leaving his club, just like every adolescence feels conflicted, and tends to rebel against their parents and blaming everything on them, to make the seperation from the 'nest' they grew up in, easier. It is a way of justification that make the process easier on them.
This brings us to the final question – how can we avoid it?
Blocking our students ways from becoming instructors is not the way. Sending them to C.I.C is the only way to grow unless you want to teach 24/7 which is hard and make a life not worth living and eventually will push the student to leave, which brings us to the same outcome.
Contracts are efficient in setting expectations, but never blocked anyone who felt trapped. And I'm sure you are all familiar with plenty of examples from the past. Contracts are not working even from a legal point of view, there are limitation on territory, periods and occupation and cannot hold forever.
The one and only solution is to turn the 'golden cage' into a 'golden home'.
It takes two to tango as the saying goes, so I will try to offer a solution to both sides: The club owner must initiate a dialogue with the junior instructor to set the expectation straight and tell him that "the cage is open". to offer him the freedom he craves and to set his mind that he can go any time once he finishes his yearly teaching.
In many cases that is all a young instructor needs in order to feel safe, and to eliminate any negative feeling towards his instructor. Set him free and if he stays, he is yours forever.
Senior instructors must let their junior instructors knows and feel safe and secure in their job, that they are welcome to stay, but if they like to become a partner of sorts, it is also an option that will be open for them in the future. open horizon for the future if you may.
Creating affiliate location, was, is and always will be the best option to expend our businesses. For the junior instructors I would suggest: do not rush to count the number of students in your instructor's club, and conclude by this basic math that your club owner is making a lot of money. It is a common childish mistake, since you don’t really know his costs. PR expenses, taxes, salary, rent, insurance, equipment and many more are invisible to you, but sometimes the reality of the club's balance sheet is far from what you might believe.
Don’t think that starting a business is a 'walk in the park'.
Creating a business plan, marketing plan are not as easy and cheap as you may think. You need the experience and reputation to start your own business, and it is much safer and smart to do it from within our IKMF family and with your club owner's support and love. Together you can do much more.
IKMF is based upon the young spirit, as well as the seniority and wisdom of the more experienced ones. therefore, I am writing this article, to remind you that the sum is greater then its parts, and solving those inner conflicts wisely will serve you all in the future.
For both sides I would suggest: Do not burn bridges you might need one day.
Learn from IKMF history and avoid mistakes of the past. And for starters I will offer you a story that you probably heard and can learn a lot from;
We had a senior instructor among us that stated that "IKMF is finished" and his new organization is the only future. Years went by, and this instructor and his organization crashed. The ones followed him are disappointed. with no future or a place to go.
Other left last year with false accusation just to lose their status and appreciation in the Krav maga world and became irrelevant. All those instructors that left in an ugly manner, claimed that it wasn’t personal only business decision. But even if it's just business, it’s bad business, because smart businessmen know how to 'walk in the neighborhood' without disrespecting and stepping over others who lives there. Being rude and acting unloyalty reflects mainly on your character, then on the one you are sending your poison arrows at.
In our 'neighborhood', we are sweating and training together on the mat. when we grow together and trust our partner with our body, we do take things personal and we never to forget that it's not a passing client, but a person who are family of sorts. This fact should be always on your mind while making decisions – the choices you make will affect the family and eventually come back to haunt you.
On the other hand, we have some amazing instructors, supporting their students to become successful instructors as partners all over the world. Instructors from both sides of the cage must not take nothing for granted. not the investment of the club owner in his instructor, and not the young instructor teaching for free.
Let me finish with one last request to any IKMF instructor, whether your'e on this side or the other side of the cage, you are always welcome to consult with me. I'm always here with open heart and a good advice to offer, to give you the help and support you need, and I promise you that your secret is safe with me.