Following our last blog, we emphasised that martial arts remain an unregulated sporting activity in the United Kingdom, meaning anyone can readily purchase a black belt, a symbol of knowledge and proficiency, from a sports shop or online and potentially start teaching at a local school or community centre the very next day.
While achieving a black belt in a martial art is often seen as qualifying one to become an instructor, the question arises: does this preparation adequately equip individuals to deliver a structured curriculum to a continuously evolving group of students, with new members joining almost weekly? In contrast, consider football, where coaches must attain an FA coaching badge. This system offers coaches a structured learning pathway with progressive stages. Obtaining an FA Coaching Badge involves a comprehensive assessment process, encompassing theoretical assessments, the submission of a coached session for evaluation, and practical assessments.
However, martial arts differ significantly in this regard. Each martial arts style typically has its own governing body, and there are often splinter groups within these styles. Consequently, there is no standardised route to qualify as a martial arts coach. This fragmentation has given rise to websites like Bullshido and Exposing McDojo, which frequently expose subpar martial arts practices.
To assume the role of a martial arts club coach, one needs formal qualifications encompassing essential subjects such as Public Liability Insurance, Personal Accident coverage, Risk Assessments, and Lesson Planning. Comprehensive background checks (DBS checks) and related policies, including Safeguarding, are indispensable.
Continued Professional Development (CPD) plays a vital role in keeping these skills current, given the frequent change in regulations. Nonetheless, having a solid foundation is essential to apply CPD knowledge effectively.
In summary, this is a complex topic often debated over many years. To illustrate, consider the content of a recent advertisement by a martial arts franchise seeking new instructors—paraphrased here as, "If you possess some athletic ability and aspire to open your franchise, join our three-month instructor's course." In most martial arts, but specifically ours, students undergo rigorous training for four months to attain their first grade, followed by a five-year journey to earn a black belt before embarking on coaching qualifications with organisations like BMABA and CIMSPA.