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The Many Hats Of The Martial Arts Coach

When I think about the many hats we can wind up wearing as an owner of a martial arts school it can be quite overwhelming.  When you first open an Academy you know you’re in for a long and bumpy road, but from my own experience I can honestly say that I wasn’t prepared for the true scope of this business.  Everyone is quick to drop comments like, ‘You’re living the dream’ or ‘You’ve got the best job in the world’; and whilst there is a great deal of truth to this, keeping this dream job alive is a constant juggle of roles and responsibilities.  Here’s a little insight into how I see the role of the martial arts school owner from my journey so far.

Since I started the martial arts I have always considered myself to be a good student and a good competitor, an average teammate, and a decent martial artist.  Not great in any of these areas, but above average in most.  After opening our Academy at Flow Martial Arts Coolangatta, and having been open for just over 1 1/2 years, my assessment of myself in these areas has definitely changed, and I am realising my place in the martial arts is greatly changing.  And here’s how so….

I was a late starter in the martial arts.  My first real taste for the martial arts was late in highschool where I trained in the Brazilian martial art of Capoeira for 2 years.  After this it wasn’t again until I was 23 that I would be re-introduced to the martial arts by my then friend and security boss.  Muay Thai was my next pursuit, then to MMA, and finally Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.  By the time I started Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu at almost 26 I knew I had a lot of catching-up to do.   I was determined from the get-go to catch-up on missed time, and in my mind at the time, what better way to do this than train as much as possible and compete as much as possible.  This simple plan proved to be quite successful for me, and so it should’ve, it is very much commonsensical.  And just like most things, the more I immersed myself in it the more it started to consume my thoughts, my actions, and my lifestyle.  I found I was constantly thinking of Jiu-Jitsu; the strategy, technique, and training.  I was constantly watching videos, talking about Jiu-Jitsu, reading about Jiu-Jitsu, it had become an all consuming passion.  And it is funny where passion can take you.

Now here I sit writing this blog for our martial arts school and I am realising how very much my role in the martial arts has changed.  Whereas not so long ago I saw myself primarily as a student and competitor, now I see myself primarily as a teacher/coach, business owner, competitor, and student, pretty much in that order.  This is not necessarily the ideal order, but it is the honest order.

The teaching role has come easy to me.  I thoroughly enjoy it, I enjoy the challenges of conveying a message and seeing that message realised, and most of all I enjoy seeing the progress in our students.  The role of business owner is always exciting, and always challenging.  I’d say I’m a blue belt at business now, and this is a long path of development in itself.  The competitive role has become much more challenging.  Finding time to train properly and focus on myself has become much harder.  The students and the academy must come first, but nevertheless my opinion of a good coach/teacher has always been of one that leads from the front so I will keep competing regardless of the challenges it poses.  The role of student has become progressively more difficult also.  Finding the time to keep my own learning alive can be challenging as the learning of our students must always come first.  But that’s what stupidly early morning sessions with good friends are all about.  And finally, the most difficult role for me has been that of the coach.  Teaching and coaching are two completely different roles.  I had considered the role of coach to be my weakest point up until recent.  I had tremendous difficulty trying to coach our students at tournaments and compete in the same tournament.  I found I was too focused on myself on the day and would let the emotions of my matches interfere with my ability as a coach.  Thankfully there are two of us, and Paulo was great at taking the coaching responsibility.  Just recently however, I feel like I have finally come into my own as a coach, and it required me to step back as a competitor on that day and truly give myself 100% to our students.  I have never yelled so much in my life, hahaha.  It is always hard to watch as your peers step onto the mats and compete when you feel that you should be there competing against them, however, the gratification of seeing your students succeed can be even more rewarding.

Where am I going with this thread?  I guess I just want everyone to know that in most instances your martial arts teachers/coaches are giving it their all.  It is not an easy pursuit, and the juggling of so many roles can often see some things overlooked, but more-often-than-not the coach/teacher is spreading themselves as best as possible for the betterment of their students and academy.  I sure know I am.  Sure there are failures along the way, but just like in the martial arts it is the persistent learning from, and coming back from failures that can be our greatest teacher. Whilst it may look like an easy job to the outsider it is quite the contrary, but for me, just like in Jiu-Jitsu, it is the biggest challenges that also see the greatest rewards.  So I am excited to see what the future holds, and excited to grow into these many hats that I have somehow found myself wearing.




Thanks for reading and happy rolling,


Ryann Creary

Co-owner at Flow Martial Arts


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