For owners; those crazy people who come to your school

13 Sep

This time around, I’m writing a blog my fellow school owners will totally relate to. Many, I hope, will have a chuckle. It will be about the strange people who find their way into your schools, the strange things they say and do. I will start with a 100% completely TRUE STORY, word for word.


After 25 years in this industry, I am sad to report that I can now identify them as soon as they walk in my door. Case in point, yesterday someone walks in the front door. They don’t smile. They don’t introduce themselves. They don’t even look at you. You aren’t even sure WHAT they are looking at; they just stare randomly around your space.

ME: “Hi, how can we help you today?”

THEM: “I just came to check this out” (this, along with several other phrases, is one of the key warning signs that your time is about to be wasted BIG TIME!)

ME: “Have you been to our website?” (and I hand them a postcard with our web site address and our intro offer. I then hand them a class schedule)

They don’t respond. They don’t say “thank you”. They don’t ask you any other questions. They just walk out the door…. and I start to count… 1, 2, 3…..

They come back through the front door… “Can I ask you something”?

ME: “Sure!”

THEM: “How strong are the fighters”?

ME: “I don’t understand the question” (I didn’t, do you? What does that mean?)

THEM: “The fighters, the fighters here, how strong are they? How strong are they mentally and spiritually”? (I am almost exactly quoting them).

I again told him that I don’t understand the question but add that anyone who wants to fight has to train very hard and be in very good condition. Like a fly, or a bored house cat, they don’t respond, they just wander back out the front door….


Years ago, our elevator (which opened right into the old space) opened and out stepped a giant, muscular man with a straw “coolie” hat, a karate belt, and two machete stuck in the karate belt. For now, I’ll call him the Shogun of Harlem…. Well, I see the Shogun of Harlem, who announces as he steps off the elevator “I am Sato” (NOT made up!), and I think that this is going to be a fight. This is going to be a s–t storm.

Fortunately for me, my hing-dai Stephen Innocenzi jumps into action like Bugs Bunny.

Innocenzi: “Hi Mr Sato, my name’s Steve. Sit down. Let me tell you about our yellow belt program. For only $499 you get three months of unlimited training. For another $49 we can upgrade you to the black belt club. Of course, you have to buy the uniform and the school patch…..”

Stephen Innocenzi and The Shogun of Harlem

Mr. Sato stammers. He becomes physically uncomfortable… “I’m not sure I can make a commitment right now”…

Innocenzi: “You can always make a commitment to being a better you, so let me get that paperwork started”….

Mr. Sato: “I’d have to ask my wife, I’m not sure I have time. I’d need to think about it”. He gathers up his stuff, including his machete and gets back on the elevator. To this day, I bow to Innocenzi’s brilliance.

Adam Wakelin at the Cobra Kai

If you’ve been in the martial arts industry for any length of time, you have stories like this. There is something pathetically predictable about the bizarre behavior of human beings. Here are some of my other favorites.

1. The gear collector
They show up for a class and proceed to change into an assortment of t-shirts, fight shorts, uniforms, etc from a variety of different schools. They subsequently show absolutely NO SKILL in anything, confirming your suspicion they never have studied anything for any length of time.


2. The fortune cookie
No matter what you are teaching, no matter what is going on in class, they find the breath and time (since they aren’t actually working out) to quote, rather loudly, some meaningless fortune cookie quote which not only has nothing to do with anything, but which is meaningless regardless.

3. They make your brain hurt…
They do something that defies all logic. My most recent example, someone who signed up for our Muay Thai classes, then asked after the class why they didn’t learn a form…..

4. The European kickboxing/martial arts champion
They make a point of telling you when they first arrive how much vast experience they have, how they are a champion in some imaginary country like Latveria, and how they are already too advanced for the class you are about to teach. They then proceed to barely survive your warm up and demonstrate no skill even in the most basic technique.

Now go google Latveria ….

Authentic Lama Pai Kung Fu: The teachings of the late Chan Tai San
Buy it now at


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