Flood Your Martial Arts School with Instructors

In Dr. John Maxwell’s book, “The 5 Levels of Leadership”, he mentions when you are at the top
of your organization, “Level 5”, it is important to think about “succession” and “your legacy.”
These are key concepts if you truly want your life’s work to continue after you are gone. Most
of us want to be remembered and hope we have left a positive mark on the world. We would
be honored for someone to continue our vision and keep our legacy going for generations to
But what about today? How about someone you can trust to carry on your vision and even
enhance it by doing the work with you and for you today? Someone who can step in and “be
you” to your students while you take time for personal growth and development. You could
take a day, a week, or a month off and know classes, and the business would still run smoothly.
As Martial Arts Instructors and Business Owners, we have all experienced burnout. The creative
well has gone dry, and we just need some time away to relax and rejuvenate or to study and
learn something new for ourselves. None of that is possible without having a quality staff or
team to keep things going strong while you do the things you need to or simply want to.
Replicating yourself does not happen overnight, however. Just like planning anything in life,
preparing your successor or “right-hand man,” if you will, takes forethought, strategy, and
planning. Even if you already have this person or group of people, you should always be on the
lookout for the up-and-coming. Creating bench-strength. Creating the next generation of
kids pyramid in class
In life, we think of the next generation often as those who will be here when we are gone. As a
Martial Arts Instructor and school owner, I think of generations of students in terms of 4-6
years. A few years to train, time to learn how to lead and teach, and then putting to use the
skills they have learned to pay it forward. This may be as a class assistant once a week or a full-
time instructor at your academy.
So, how do we do this properly, and how do we make sure the cycle stays on course to fill your
school with instructors? Here are five things you must do to build your dream team of leaders.
     1. Always be on the lookout for those who show desire and who are teachable.
         a. I believe leadership can be taught, and those” natural born leaders” are rare.
     2. Have a system to grow.
         a. Make sure you have a well-organized path to lead people through. A
checklist of accomplishments to work through the process of becoming an
         b. My plan starts at age 12. So, any 12-year-old who shows promise is invited to
join the instructor training program. If they follow through, I will have them
through high school and possibly beyond as seasoned instructors.
     3. Offer training. The plan should include training classes.
         a. I go into this in detail in my instructor training course.
     4. Be willing to delegate and trust the process.
     5. Teach your seasoned leaders to be mentors to the next generation.
kids seminar
Now, you see, you can systematically build that dream team of leaders you have been wanting
and, I am sure, needing.
Your team of leaders and instructors need you to be their visionary. As leaders, we want to not
only teach others how to be good team players but also teach them how to be good team
leaders. When we work with others in either capacity, we want to be a source of support. Give
people the opportunity to step up and lead. Remember, replacing ourselves with strong leaders
who share our vision and can carry it out is the ultimate level of leadership development.
One lesson I teach my students is that they don’t always have to be the strongest member of
the team, but they should always strive to not be the weakest. Even if your skillset does not yet
match the others, your positive attitude and willingness to help can exceed expectations. You
may even surprise yourself by doing things you never thought possible alone.
At my academy in Johnson City, TN, I have an amazing team of leaders that I work with that
includes members at all levels. None is less important than another. Every action, no matter
how small it may seem, has an effect on the team. Knowing that they are the “I” in team helps
them understand this. Their actions matter.
I teach others to take their role on the team enthusiastically and focus on the good they can
bring to the situation and outcome. This works from the top down, as well. If you are a
seasoned and strong team leader, make sure everyone feels empowered and useful. Provide
tools that will help bring people forward and make them understand their value.
Remember, without all of your team members doing their best, the mission will not be nearly
as successful or enjoyable. Learn to delegate as a leader and see what skills your members can
really bring to the group. It is always a wonderful thing to learn something new and unexpected
about the people you work with.
I accomplish the goal of teaching teamwork through many activities that require different
people taking the lead. The activities I use are outlined in my complete instructor training
program, Martial Arts Pros. I always ask my strong leaders if they were able to step back and let
others do the job of being the leader. It’s surprising how hard it can be to be a follower! I find
that by teaching students at an early age how to lead and follow, being a team player becomes
a natural part of their actions in any situation. They develop a team member mentality and
recognize how important their role is, whether big or small. By the time they are ready to
instruct on the floor as older teens, I have a confident new member to add to the dream team.

Lastly, it is important to realize that sometimes helping the team succeed is letting the leader
lead, and you be there as a support. This takes time to learn as well. For me, letting a new
instructor take over a class is often difficult. It can be hard to watch them make mistakes.

However, if I don’t allow my up-and-coming team members to grow, I run the risk of losing
them. I have to remind myself to be the support person on the team at this point and let them
learn. I am there to offer advice or to be a sounding board. My job is to help them learn to do it
on their own, not do it for them. More times than not, they have made me a very proud
instructor and a leader of this ever-growing and evolving dream team. How is it going at your
academy? Are you letting those leaders lead? If not, start supporting their growth and see how
they surprise you.
*To order the full Instructor Training course with a year of teaching curriculum and 52 weekly
lessons, including videos for your class and instructors, please email me at or call 423.773.3953. We also have a weekly support Zoom call to
help guide you through the process of flooding your school with instructors!

Enjoy the Journey!
Master Amanda Olson-Illescas