The Value of My Private Lessons
Since I began teaching martial arts and self-defense lessons (on the roof of a Holiday Inn Hotel in San Diego, California) back in the summer of 1987, I have taught thousands of private lessons – in the U.S. as well as 20+ countries. Each lesson was unique because each individual wanted or needed something different.
In this article, I would like to give you a glimpse into how I try to provide value in the lessons I teach.
First, I try to provide value to my clients by making a concerted effort to care for their individual needs.
Experience has taught me that different clients have different needs – even though they may ask for the same things. Here are some examples:
1. Some clients need to participate in the teaching process in order to gain the most value out of the lesson. So, I let them talk and “participate” for as long as they need. Surprisingly, some clients talk for 20-30 minutes of the lesson. And then afterwards, they exclaim how great a lesson it was!
2. Some clients need their questions answered in a clear and concise manner. I give them succinct answers to their very precise and well-thought-out questions. Here is an example of two questions at opposite ends of the spectrum:
QUESTION ONE: “Professor Harris, how do I escape from the bottom of the front mount position? I am having a lot of problems in this area!”
My answer to this question will be a bit longer (probably 4-5 minutes) because the student has asked a very general question.
QUESTION TWO: “Professor Harris, how do I escape from the bottom of the front mount position when the opponent has his feet hooked under my back, his chest is pressing downward and into my chest, his left forearm is hugging my neck, his left shoulder is pressing into the right side of my face, his head is pressing into the left side of my face and his right arm is straight-out to the side for base? I am a new blue belt and am having a lot of problems with the experienced brown belts who do this to me!”
My answer to this question will be short and to the point (less than 60 seconds) because the student has asked a very specific question.
3. Some clients seek an in-depth understanding of the material I present. For example, I have had several clients focus on one thing in a two-hour-long private lesson. I can remember one client who focused on the details and training methods of the basic under the leg guard pass in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. I remember another client who focused on the punch-cut (and its variations) from Kalis Ilustrisimo for two hours.
4. Some clients request to spar with me so they can either test their current skill level or feel the rush of adrenaline they get when they spar with their instructor.
NOTE: When I spar with clients, I do so at four (4) different levels. These four levels challenge the clients by allowing them to struggle AND experience success. This way, my clients get the best experience! Now, there are two additional level of sparring I have developed but I don’t use them very often.
5. Some clients ask technical questions, while others ask conceptual/instructor type questions. Here is an example of a technical kind of question: “When my opponent is in the high mount position in Jiu Jitsu where their knees are high into my armpits and their belly is pushing down on my face, how do I escape this position?” Here is an example of a conceptual/instructor kind of question: “What kinds of things do you recommend to help me with students at the bottom and top of the attitude/personality scale? In other words, how can I take my aggressive students and turn them down a little so they don’t injure other students so often? And, how do I take the softer, more passive, students and turn them up so they can hold their own against those who are equally skilled?”
6. And, some clients just want to talk. I have had lessons where clients have paid me to just listen to them. Some have talked for thirty to forty minutes. Others have talked for sixty to seventy minutes. And some have talked for hours. As a matter of fact, one client talked for a little over eight hours. What do I do when my clients want to talk? I don’t say a word or give any advice – unless of course, they ask me for input. Instead, I just listen!
Do you see the extra value provided by having an instructor care for the needs of the client?
Second, I make the effort to provide more value to my clients by giving them a little more than what they paid for. For example, a client who pays for an hour-long private lesson will usually receive a minimum of 65 to 70 minutes of instruction from me – sometimes more. Now, this is not always the case as there are days when I have to teach another private lesson in a different part of town and need to leave very soon after the lesson. However, I do try to give my clients a little more than what they pay for by spending extra time with them.
Why is this important? Well, we can lose money and earn more of it later. We can lose a car and buy another one at a later time. But we can never get back the time we have spent or invested into others. So, time is our most precious and important commodity. That’s why I try to give clients a bit more of my time!
NOTE: What if during the extra time spent with the client he or she learns how to protect their neck from injury? And what if they never injure their neck again as a result of the extra five minutes spent? Can you put a price tag on that extra five minutes? Could the extra five minutes be viewed as “priceless”?
Do you see the extra value provided by spending a few extra minutes with the client?
Third, I make the effort to provide great value to my clients by giving them techniques and elements of training they will need for safety and longevity. For example, when I teach Brazilian Jiu Jitsu private lessons I will often times teach clients how to properly position themselves BEFORE they begin to execute a technique. A good example of this is when I teach clients how to perform the basic under the leg guard pass. While teaching this technique, I will also show them the details of how to prevent being caught in an arm lock or triangle choke by staying centered and not turning the corner (i.e. turning the corner is unnecessary and leads to unnecessary injuries). And while the details of this technique might seem insignificant at first, their use will significantly reduce the frequency and severity of neck and elbow injuries.
So (for my older Brazilian Jiu Jitsu clients – those of you between the ages of 40 and 70) what price tag/value would you place on never (or rarely ever) tapping to a triangle choke or armlock ever again (or any time in the next two to three decades)? Or, what price tag/value could you assign to never having a sore (or injured) neck or elbow – ever again?
Let me put this in another context:
Police officers and military personnel looking for realistic empty-hand training for the violent encounters you will face in your environments: What value would you give to a realistic form of training where boxing gloves and hard punches are employed in the training but yet there was never any risk of injury? I know some of you think this is not possible, but it is. You just haven’t been taught how to do this yet!
Do you see the importance and value of an emphasis on safety and longevity in realistic, empty-hand, training?
Fourth, I make the effort to provide great value by customizing what I teach to my clients. Here are a handful of examples:
1. Female Brazilian Jiu Jitsu clients have asked me to teach them how to spar more effectively with larger, stronger males.
2. Older Brazilian Jiu Jitsu clients (ages 50 to 70) have asked me to teach them how to significantly reduce the frequency and severity of injuries when sparring with younger, stronger, more athletic and aggressive training partners.
3. Smaller police officers, deputies, and agents have asked me to teach them how to train more efficiently to control and handcuff resistive/assaultive suspects.
4. Military officers (Captains and Majors) have asked me to show them how to provide realistic training to the troops but also minimizes injuries so that missions will not be aborted.
5. Female realtors have asked me to provide them with realistic solutions for showing homes to potential clients in the evening hours.
6. Visual/physical/hearing impaired clients have asked me to provide them with solutions for their unique challenges.
Are you starting to see the value in extra-time, reduced injuries, an emphasis on longevity, and customized training? I hope so. And, I hope this helps you understand why my clients keep returning each week or month for more lessons.
If you’d like to experience these things for yourself, send me an email and let’s get training!
Copyright © 2015 Roy Harris. All Rights Reserved.