A toxic environment in your martial arts school can sometimes be hard to recognize. The inability to see what was right in front of your nose is simply denial, an emotional defense mechanism. At the beginning you saw the warning signs but you rationalize them away. After all, you are new, want to create a good impression and already idolize this instructor from watching their videos on youtube. This fellow human being is more than human to you –  he/she is divine.

Training in martial arts shouldn’t be about inflating your instructor’s ego and feeding their overwhelming need for power and respect.

Ask yourself – is your instructor truely helping you with your self-development or are you just another sheep in his/her flock of adoring fans?

Blind conformity seems to be the root of much anguish and regret in this world. Many wars and conflicts have been fought because people placed their blind trust in national leaders. Slavery, Nazism, racism, sexism, religious extremism, homophobia, cultism, organized crime, abusive relationships, workplace bullying and other forms of oppressive social institutions have always thrived on blind conformity. The Martial Arts industry is no different.

toxic environment | krav maga london apolakiAs a martial arts instructor I am often viewed by people as a “leader”. I am more of a guide. A guide that helps her students physically and mentally lead themselves on their own path. In my opinion, Instructor’s that “lead” their students are those that are teaching for the wrong reasons – to be followed blindly and without question, worshiped like a God, to be called “Master” and to be paid ridiculous amounts of money to be accepted as part of their cult…I mean club…

Not sure if you have found yourself in a martial arts toxic environment?

Toxic Environment Checker | 9 Signs How to Spot a Bad Martial Arts Club:

  1. Does your instructor tell you he/she is the best and all other instructors of the same style are teaching BS? (Even though your instructor has been studying and teaching the art probably half the many years as other, more well known and more well respected instructors in the industry).
  2. Does your instructor tell you that you can’t train with other instructors, even telling you if you do then you are out of the cult?…I mean club…
  3. Is your instructor ALWAYS right?
  4. Are you even ALLOWED to ask questions?
  5. Are you, other students, facebook fans and so on using excessive glorification and admiration towards your instructor to the point of virtual divinity?
  6. Does your instructor refer to themselves as “Master” on a regular basis, such as on their own facebook statuses?
  7. Do you find yourself paying more and more to keep his/her demands met? Master loves his/her fancy hotels, restaurants (even shopping trips in some cases I’ve heard) when he/she visits your school?
  8. Do most of the students in your club come from different martial arts styles? But I thought your instructor is the best in their style…surely that would mean most students would be migrants from other clubs of the same style no?…Well…it’s easier to claim point 1 on the ignorant isn’t it…
  9. Does your instructor tell you not to continue friendship/communication with those that leave or are kicked out of the club (usually for choosing not to follow point 2)?

Here is what I tell my trainee instructors and students at Apolaki Krav Maga & Dirty Boxing:

toxic environment | krav maga instructor londonUnless this instructor has trained with every single instructor of their style, then how can they possibly claim to be the best and everyone else is teaching BS? Especially when they probably haven’t even traveled much or even trained with the true Masters and Grand-Masters of these systems in the country of origin. There is ALWAYS someone better than you, no matter how many years you have been training.

NO-ONE has the right to tell you what you can and can’t train, and who you can and can’t train with. This is YOUR martial arts journey – not your instructor’s. The only person that should be controlling your training is YOU. Why do they do this? Because 1. He/She is scared you will discover what they are teaching isn’t that magical after all…Club ABC down the road teaches exactly the same thing shock horror! 2. You might learn something they don’t know.

You have the right to ask your instructor questions. This is your training, which YOU are paying for.  You are there to learn and grow. This requires asking questions and developing your understanding – just like any educational environment.