Here at the frontier, the leaves fall like rain. Although my neighbors are all barbarians, and you, you are a thousand miles away, there are still two cups at my table.

Ten thousand flowers in spring, the moon in autumn, a cool breeze in summer, snow in winter. If your mind isn't clouded by unnecessary things, this is the best season of your life.

~ Wu-men ~

Monday, December 21, 2020

Martial Arts Business Success and Failure

The following is a guest-post by martial arts teacher and author, shifu Jonathan Bluestein. This article is a chapter taken from his book, ‘The Martial Arts Teacher 2’.

Opportunities Skip a Locked Garden
By Jonathan Bluestein

Why is it that some martial arts schools fail, and others succeed? People usually talk about business and money. But there is much more to it. In this article, I wish to present you with a point of view about martial arts business success and failure, which you would likely and read or hear about elsewhere.

The world is full of people who wonder: “Why is it that I never got my opportunities to do great things in my life and career?”. Honestly speaking, the answer is nearly always that such a person is himself to blame. How many people are in your neighbourhood? In your city? In your country? Even a tiny fraction of these people, associated with you as martial arts students or partners in business, could have made you rich, successful and perhaps even happier. But of these countless possibilities for action and interaction, one often manifests an amazingly small number of useful relationships. Why is that?    

Well theoretically, if you could appeal to more people, that would be a good start. This is where things get complicated. We want to remain authentic with our teachings, so there is only so much we are willing to change in who we are, in order to look and sound like what other people want. Indeed, at the extremes, those martial artists who sell their soul for a profit, are lowly and unworthy. But there is another way, a simpler way, to attract other people and opportunities. This can way can be pursued by means of changing one’s attitude, rather than one’s personality or behaviour. Changing our attitude can attract people to us on all walks of life. One proven technique for changing one’s attitude and attracting more people and possibilities, is adopting a mentality of abundance. Let us see how a good argument for this mentality of abundance was made in an ancient allegory, from the Book of Mencius.        

This scholar Mencius whom I mentioned just now, was a successor to Confucius, lived several generations after that great sage-scholar, and studied with his grandson. Like his forerunner, Mencius also traveled between the old Chinese kingdoms, and sought to teach and inspire morality among their rulers and citizens. His exploits and teachings are in part recorded in the Book of Mencius. The first two chapters of that book tell stories of the conversations Mencius had with various kings. In their conversations, the sovereigns look to make their kingdoms more efficient and profitable, and encounter novel and unusual suggestions from Mencius which they did not expect.

One king whose name is Xuan, is baffled as Mencius confirms to him, that another Ancient King by the name of Wen, had a park the size of 35 square kilometers. King Xuan finds something confusing about ancient King Wen’s garden. Mencius tells King Xuan, that albeit king Wen’s park being this large, no less than 35 square kilometers, the citizens of king Wen’s nation still thought of their king’s park as being ‘small’. King Xuan points out, that his own park is only 20 square kilometers, and still his people think it is ‘large’ – despite his park being smaller than that king Wen owned. King Xuan then inquires with Mencius, what could be the reason for this – that king Wen’s people considered their sovereign’s park as ‘small’ though it was large, while his (king Xuan’s) park was talked of as being ‘large’ while it was relatively smaller? After all, king Xuan would like his people to view him as a benevolent ruler, and not someone who lives too lavishly.   


Mencius has a simple and clear explanation for this. He tells king Xuan, that the park of king Wen was indeed large in size, but entry was allowed for those citizens who wanted to cut grass or gather fuel wood for their own use. Also hosted there openly were those who sought to catch pheasants and hares. Because king Wen willingly shared his park with the people, they thought of it as ‘small’ – as many were permitted entry and rights to its resources, or at least had the opportunity to claim such benefits.

But what about king Xuan’s park? When Mencius entered king Xuan’s kingdom, he was careful to find out what were the local customs, and what was forbidden. He learned that if someone was to hunt a deer in king Xuan’s park, that person would have been treated and punished like someone who had murdered a human being. Because king Xuan kept the park for himself, the people thought of it as ‘large’ – as it was reserved for the benefit of only a single individual and his family.

Thus far was the extended answer of Mencius to king Xuan. Now I shall elaborate more on this important message.

What King Xuan was lacking in, was the mentality of abundance. Instead of feeling that he had abundance, king Xuan suffered from a scarcity mindset. He felt as though, despite having this extensive green terrain under his control, that he did not possess enough, or that somehow by sharing the park he could lose it. He therefore acted like a miser with his resources. The result had been, that the people psychologically felt that his park was ‘large’, though it was physically smaller than that of a previous sovereign. It was also a lose-lose strategy, as he was left both anxious of the negative image of him this created among others, and unable to use the park he had for further growth. What is not stated but is hinted, is that this generated enemies and challenges for king Xuan, as the people must have been displeased by his miserly mannerisms. This is why he sought the advice of Mencius – for he knew that this was a sign of troubles to come. Further we should not neglect the observation, that had he shared his park in a similar fashion to king Wen, then not only that area would have been thought of as ‘small’, but the people also would naturally have been more inclined to wish that their King’s territory be expanded and for his power to grow, for it benefitted them as well.

As martial arts teachers and modern day individuals, we suffer from the exact same flaw which was the bane of king Xuan and others in his time, thousands of years ago. All too often, we feel we have to keep too much of our resources to ourselves. Here I wish for you to consider all of those things which are not material resources like money and real-estate, the latter perhaps more relevant for the wealthy. You have many other resources that you could share, like social connections, knowledge, love, food and ideas. You probably are a miser with these, too, compared with your potential for sharing. One of my most beneficial changes in life had come about, when I began to more openly share my social connections, knowledge and ideas with others, without fearing they may use them to undermine or supersede me.

Research has shown that among social mammals, the beta males constantly compete, while the alpha males are more generous and benevolent, on average and relative to the circumstances. Why? Because they have an abundance mentality. The majority of martial arts teachers whom I have encountered, who were both successful and worthy, displayed this alpha male quality of benevolence and generosity.   

A truly enlightened sovereign of his kingdom – one who has rulership not only in name but also in spirit, can find it in his power to allow others into his park, without fear of loss. When this is undertaken, and you are truly and genuinely set out to offer from your resources to the appropriate people in a thoughtful and appropriate manner, then suddenly the opportunities will present themselves. The right people will, in the process of months and years, discover that your park is open and inviting. Many of them will by these actions, appeal to you, and it would seem as if you have gone on an ever-growing ‘lucky streak’ in your life and career. But for this to happen, a park must be both cultivated, inviting and without unnecessary boundaries.


Jonathan Bluestein is best-selling author, martial arts teacher, and head of Blue Jade Martial Arts International. Check out his website for more information about his books and the martial arts taught by his organization:

You may also subscribe to Shifu Bluestein's youtube channel, which is regularly updated with rare and fascinating martial arts videos and lectures:

All rights of this article are reserved to Jonathan Bluestein © 2020. No part of this article may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission, in writing, from Jonathan Bluestein.

No comments: