I wrote to you previously about how your article on servitude hit the nail on the head with regard to my child's martial arts school. With the pressure to learn to teach (it will speed you through your belt ranks is the main reason they give) and the hours they wanted/expected out of them, I felt it important to explore this further. My one son had been focusing on getting his "teaching" rank in order to get into the instructor class, which promised more intense work outs, quicker advancement through the belt ranks, and the promise of personal training for full contact fighting (which is only done with instructors--kind of like the dangling carrot). After making it into the instructor class he discovered that it wasn't what he'd been led to believe, and more and more was asked of him. In fact, he was putting in over 16 hours a week teaching and attending instructor classes, with next to no time focusing on his own belt material. His grades in school suffered and we told the "master" that he would no longer be teaching. The "master" and "grandmaster" were obviously not pleased with this decision, but we told them his schoolwork was more important (jr. in high school). There has certainly been some repercussions as a result of this--he is no longer the "golden child" they used as the shining example of their school, and there is a less "friendly" atmosphere as a result.
After checking labor laws with regard to volunteerism in commercial businesses I found that it is illegal for any "for profit" business to use volunteers for any purpose that keeps them in business. In other words, if the school can't run classes without volunteer instructors/assistants/trainees, then they are in blatant violation of labor codes. I took it a step further and contacted the Department of Labor and spoke to a representative about this. As I explained to him the use of students as instructors (complete control over the running of classes), students as private instructors (one on one instruction with students--the school charges about $30 for each private lesson and the instructor is not paid) and students as teacher assistants, he said this most definitely is a violation of a couple of labor codes. The violation is compounded by the fact that many of these instructors and assistants are minors and further violates child labor laws. I asked if anyone from the Department of Labor had ever checked into this practice (in martial arts schools) and he wasn't aware of it. However, he was definitely interested in investigating this.
I've done some checking into how many martial arts schools are run, and a great many do exactly the same thing! In fact, I've found several websites that go so far as to speak of how students are given the opportunity to "give back" and "learn more" by volunteering as teacher assistants and instructors--they go so far as to say this would look great on a college application. More often than naught, giving back isn't for some non-profit business aspect of the martial arts school, but for the school itself and the owners.
Just wanted to let you know that your article really got me thinking--the martial arts school that my sons have attended all these years and I've recommended to so many isn't what I thought. It is a cult that really has no interest in making my sons black belts unless they "give back and give back and give more." I see things through a whole new light now, and see how much they expect and are given by so many of the students in hopes of attaining that black belt. In fact, a teen was recently awarded another belt rank (same level as my son's) even though he tested with a torn ACL and couldn't compare in physical ability as my son at his testing. It is now very obvious that there are exceptions made when it comes to belt advancement when the student in question gives countless hours to teaching. He knows the forms, but can't perform them at the level expected of all others, but hey, he works hard teaching for us. He can tell you how to do it, but don't ask him to demonstrate.
I'd be interested in your opinion about the violation of labor codes as you believe they apply to martial arts schools.
There are two issues here: the volunteerism issue, and an idiot instructor.
If done correctly, an instructor program can be useful to the student and the school, and be legal. The school I attend has an instructor program. Students wanting to become instructors may assist instructors in classes as often as they want to, and they are needed. This allows the students to see if instructing is what they really want to do, and allows the head instructor to see if the students have instructor potential.
Minor students who proceed in the instructor program may test locally to become trainee instructors. After a few years of experience and meeting national requirements, they may test nationally to become junior certified instructors. Once they are at least age 16, they may be hired as employees or they may teach occasionally in return for free tuition. Minor trainees are always under the direct supervision of an adult instructor. The head instructor talks to all parents regularly and minor students with disciplinary or school problems are counseled and, if they do not improve, they are either suspended until they improve, or they are dropped from training or the instructor program.
Adult students, age 18 and over, who proceed in the instructor program may test locally to become certified instructors. After a few years of experience and meeting national requirements, they may test nationally to become senior certified instructors. They may be hired as employees or they may teach occasionally in return for free tuition.Some students, whether in an instructor program or not, become obsessed with the martial arts to the point that other parts of their lives suffer. I have had students and readers who have questioned whether to pursue the martial arts, or an education. I tell them first to achieve the highest level of education they may attain, while keeping the martial arts as a sport or hobby, and then, if still interested in a martial arts career, they will be better prepared to pursue it. Very few are able to make a living in the martial arts; look at how many successful martial art schools there are in your city compared to any other types of businesses.
My primary problem with any instructor program is the same one I have with the rank structure. Minors should not be afforded the same benefits as adults. A minor student or instructor of any rank should always be subordinate to an adult of any rank. A minor instructor should never instruct students that are older than the instructor.
Any businesses, including martial arts schools, that violate labor laws, should be pursued by the agencies responsible for enforcement of the laws. Martial art schools have little to no local, state, or federal governing regulations except those that apply to any type of businesses. They do not have to be licensed as martial art schools, there are no governmental organizations charged with overseeing their operation, and there are no nationally recognized professional organizations that govern their ethics.
Regrettably, there are idiots, frauds, and even crooks in every profession, be they doctors, lawyers, professors, or even Presidents. Your son’s grandmaster and master (nuts seldom fall far from the tree) appear to be couple of the idiots in the martial arts profession.