I own a martial arts school that’s the oldest continuous martial arts academy in Ohio. At The Mayfield Academy of Self-Defense we specialize in just what the name says—self-defense. We teach children, men and women. We have quite a diverse group of students at The Academy but I never really thought about just how diverse, until recently. It started when one night, after class, some of the students gathered at a local bar across the street.
Between light-hearted banter and beers, someone in the group wanted to snap some pictures so we all bunched together and smiled for the camera. The pics were up on social media the next day. And that’s when I noticed it.
When I stared at the pic, I realized the vast differences between the people in the group. There was a COO (Chief Operating Officer) of two hospitals and next to him stood a Waste Collector. And next to him a Chief of Police. Then, there was an attorney who at the time was the head of a company based in India. And next to him was a frozen food worker from a local grocery store and close at hand was a city road-crew worker. Going further down the pic there was a financial planner, police sergeant and then a cook from a nursing home who was standing next to a landscaper. I was in the middle of the pic, sitting down, and the camera showed a relaxed content on my face.
That picture got me really thinking about how different they all were and yet, how well they got along. That doesn’t seem to happen so often in life, does it? The rich hate the poor, the poor hate the rich, doctors look down on mere mortals and on and on, right? But here, it did happen. Does happen. It’s as if they’re all from the same social, educational, and monetary group. But they aren’t. And our students who were not in the picture that night, are just as divergent. A surgeon, dentist, engineer, veterinarian, nurse, accountant, businessman and the list goes on. Male, female, black, white, Asian; from a doctorate degree in chemistry to just barely getting a high school diploma. And they not only get along but they also help each other when needed. And I’ve never seen anyone look down on someone.
Why is this group of students and teachers like this? Well, I feel pretty strongly that I know the reasons. When I took over the business after my father died I told the chief instructor, Dan, that I had some steadfast rules I wanted everyone to abide by. They were simple and few. The first one was that there would be no ego in the dojo. And some would think that could be a hard task to make work given the sometimes macho part of self-defense and the martial arts. But I’ve been around the martial arts and the macho part of the world all of my life and I knew that ego wasn’t needed for someone to be a bad-ass (a good right-cross or choke is better) and too much ego can cause problems. Another rule was to always remember that the main mission or goal for us was to make the students better. Not to make us feel better, superior or cool but our mission was strictly to make the students rock. Every day when we walked into the school, that would be our main goal. And finally and perhaps the most important rule was that there would be no disrespect by any staff member to any student. There was never to be snide comments or any form of disrespect or looking down on a student, no matter how poor their techniques might have been. It would not be tolerated. Going hand-in-hand with this rule, students also wouldn’t be allowed to disrespect teachers or fellow students. It would be the job of teachers to make these rules clear to everyone and for everyone to abide by them.
The chief instructor, Danny, an experienced martial artist knew the martial arts world as well as a blind man knows his own room and he understood the soundness of the rules. With him on board they were easy to implement and now they’re almost unspoken cornerstones of the school. Our organization is similar to that of a family that gets along well and has the best interests of each other at heart. Disrespect is not accepted. Respect is given freely and loudly and it becomes contagious throughout the student body. Students know management is all about content and could care less who or what they are outside of the school. Furthermore, that the staff helps everyone with all of their power. That everyone is equal in their eyes. They see gusto, enthusiasm and excellence coming to fruition in classes and in turn pass it along to others themselves. One big circle if you will, with not an iota of snobbery or ego. A group that has each other’s back no matter who or what they are.
How about quality? Sure, they may get along like two peas in a pod but are they any good at our style of martial art? The students at Mayfield Academy are at least as good as they’ve ever been and even better than some of yesteryear.
It doesn’t seem very difficult to me in what the ways are that help people get along and excel. Honesty. Respect. Commitment. But that may sound corny and it may sound like a con. But it’s not. It’s actually the cornerstone of it all. Light a fire under that way of leadership and see what happens.
Steve's a three-time survivor of violence in his youth and was an award winning police officer being the recipient of the 'J. Edgar Hoover Foundation' award for Fidelity, Bravery, and Integrity. Steve was SWAT trained by the FBI, FBI Hostage Rescue Team, and the LAPD.
For several years, Steve also did radio political and current event commentary and taught college Criminal Justice. He is the former host of the long running 'The Kovacs Perspective' Internet radio talk show.
Presently, Steve is the owner and Managing Director of one of the oldest martial art schools in Ohio, 'The Mayfield Academy of Self-Defense'.
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