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Kovar Systems
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School Talk Fundamentals for Martial Arts School Owners

By Tim Leard

What is a School Talk?

A “School Talk” refers to a presentation regarding the values and benefits of martial arts, done for a classroom at a school (usually an elementary school). Often, one or more of your students will be in the classroom, as mutual students are the most common point of connection between martial arts instructors and school teachers. It can be thought of as a kind of “Show and Tell.”

School Talks are an important piece of building relationships with local schools, and demonstrating that the martial arts academy is a valuable part of your community. It can also be a source of motivation and encouragement for your students who participate and are highlighted or recognized. It’s also rewarding in and of itself to know that you are making a positive impact in the lives of children in your community.

It is important to remember that it is a relationship, much more than a marketing opportunity. Your first priority is to bring value to the school, the teacher(s) and faculty, and the students. Communicate that it is a partnership, with the intention to reinforce the character development, safety lessons, and goals of the teacher for their class.

Keep in mind that most teachers and school principals are very protective of their students.  If they don’t know what you’re going to tell their kids, they’re taking a risk by letting you speak.  A little reassurance - explaining that your goals are the same - goes a long way. Don’t allow your personal desires to take priority over the school’s needs. Your relationship will be short lived if you come across as pushy or that you are only there to promote your business.

What to do…

On the day of the event, be sure you are prepared and punctual. Allow 30 minutes for the presentation, but plan on being at the school 15 minutes early. You will likely need a few minutes to check in with the school office and then find the classroom you’ll be presenting in. Be sure to have any props or materials you’ll likely need, and always come dressed in your martial arts uniform.

Always start by introducing yourself and sincerely thanking the teacher for inviting you in to their classroom and allowing you to speak. Recognize and highlight any of your martial arts students that happen to be in the audience. Establishing a few focus anchors early will be of great help in maintaining the group’s attention. Sometimes a lighthearted joke can soften them up and begin to build some rapport.

The bulk of your presentation should focus on storytelling and asking leading questions to engage the students and get them to think. Explain how the topic is related to martial arts and why it’s important. Discuss how it is linked to success in martial arts, and ultimately in life.

The range of possible topics is incredibly vast. Any of the Huddle Discussions and topics from your martial arts program will work. Ideally, you have had a chance to ask the teacher if there are any particular topics they’d like to see presented and have discussed with them what they’ll be. In absence of a clear direction, the topics of Focus, Discipline, and Courtesy are universal, easily applied to school, and always make a good impression.

You may or may not want to actually present a physical demonstration of martial arts, depending on the topic, the age group, the desires of the teacher, and the rules and policies of the school. The younger the group, the less needful a demonstration will be. While it can add some excitement, and make your visit more memorable, it’s not always necessary. If you do a demonstration keep it short and sweet, and focus on less violent techniques. The biggest concern of teachers is that their students are going to “play karate” at recess.  Consider performing a kata, demonstrating light mitt-work, showing a soft wrist grab escape, or breaking a board, rather than performing some hardcore self-defense move on an opponent. And it’s always a good idea to explain that martial arts moves are only for self-defense and aren’t appropriate for the playground.

And remember that it doesn’t have to be you doing the demonstration. Having your own students help with a demo, or even coaching the teacher through a board break can be even more exciting and memorable to the classroom.

As you conclude your presentation, be sure to thank the teacher again, and compliment the group on their participation, effort, and/or attitude. Make sure the teacher knows your willingness to help out again in the future and that they can contact you again at any time.

In Summary:

  • Focus on bringing value to the classroom and building the relationship
  • Be prepared, be punctual, and look the part
  • Use storytelling, examples, and questions to drive the topic home
  • Consider carefully if a physical demo is necessary, and what it might include
  • Sincerely thank the teacher before and after, and pre-frame the continued relationship

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by Tim Leard