My wife Nancy and I bought a building for our school in October, 2005. For decades, I had dreamed of having my own school. My class schedules were being disrupted by the people I rented space from, and when we found an inexpensive building in downtown Bettendorf, we jumped at the chance to buy it. I never really expected to open a school while working full-time, and I braced for the additional drain on my time and energy.
The past year and 4 months has been an enlightening experience in many ways. Running a martial arts school takes a lot more time than I'm able to give it when putting in 55 hours a week for my primary full-time job (including commuting time). The drain on energy has been tremendous, not to mention the financial drain. Most months, Nancy and I have contributed hundreds of dollars out of the paychecks from our full-time jobs in order to pay the school's expenses. We haven't really minded, because this is a true labor of love. I've lost thousands of dollars every year I've taught except one. But there are other realities to consider.
To make a school grow, and to make it profitable, I would need to have children's classes. I would need more "soft" tai chi classes for seniors. I love seniors (AARP says I am one) but I don't love soft tai chi.
In order for a school to succeed, I would also need more time to give demonstrations, make appearances, and a larger training room to fit more students into the classes.
Owning a school has been educational, and it's helped me sort out what's really important to me.
What's important to me as a martial artist is not necessarily doing the things you need to do to have a "school."
And so Nancy and I are selling our building, and my teaching will evolve into the next phase. We've signed an agreement with a buyer and we'll probably close by March 15th.
I'm truly excited by the evolution. In China, most teachers don't have school buildings. They train in yards, alleys, parks--anywhere they can find the space. They teach serious students only--those who will practice and devote themselves to the arts. The teachers are known for their skill and the students they produce.
And that's the teacher I want to be. I will never stop teaching, and I'll never stop studying. But I'm redefining what it means to me to be a teacher.
The students who are enrolled in the school right now will be able to continue. I doubt that I'll rent space again. I'll teach small numbers of students, and the tai chi lessons will grow more intense and martial. I'll charge by the hour instead of the month, and I'll accept only serious students who practice outside of class. It will be an exclusive group, and whether I make money from the classes is not a concern.
This will allow me to continue my own progress and improve my own skills. My skills have improved through the teaching of classes, but my personal training time has vanished. I'll continue to make DVDs and I'll continue the website, although it will be scaled down a bit.
A school is not a building. A school is the spirit, the quality of the martial arts being practiced, the atmosphere of learning created by the teacher, and the friendship and camaraderie of the students. Starting after March 15, with the spring, lessons may be offered in the park in Bettendorf, at my home, in my backyard, wherever we want and wherever there is space.
Kung Fu Quad Cities will close, but the school will continue.