One of the myths spread by martial art schools is that you cannot fully understand a martial art until you teach it; some schools even make it a requirement for black belt ranks. This belief is implied or taught from the first day a student starts training. Of course, the teaching time is “volunteered” so you are not paid for it. How many businesses do you know that require people work for years as apprentices for no pay so they may gain knowledge? As a volunteer, not only does the school not pay you a salary, there are no medical benefits, you are not eligible for workman’s compensation, there are no retirement benefits, no social security payments, and you are not paid overtime.
Servitude has been a part of the martial arts since they were formed. Early masters taught their arts as an avocation not a vocation, so they were not seeking to earn a living. If they broke-even, they were satisfied. This meant that everyone in the school was expected to help maintain the school and to help each other learn and train in the art. This attitude was, and still is, cultivated through the teachings of the martial arts. A good martial artist was not just one who could perform all the physical requirements of a martial art, he or she was also one who “understood” and participated in martial art servitude and passed this traditions on to new students. This was once a noble cause and it worked well for centuries; but then the martial arts came to the west and met capitalism.
Now martial art schools are businesses and must make a profit to stay in business, and, for full time school owners, enough profit for them to make a decent living. One way martial art schools accomplish this is to capitalize on the tradition of servitude in the martial arts. This original noble cause has been morphed into volunteerism where students are expected to volunteer their time, not to further the cause of the martial art, but to make the school more profitable. For students of small schools, volunteerism may still seem to be a noble cause, but for students of large schools, some of which are really mini-corporations, it is a rip-off.