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Risk Management in Your Martial Arts Studio

June 24, 2021

As a martial arts school owner, you make your community better – giving people a place to learn self-defense, get fit, gain confidence, and learn numerous other skills that will serve them well in life. When a student signs up, they are trusting you to not only provide them with quality training, but also to ensure that their training is carried out in a safe manner. Doing otherwise not only violates this trust, but could potentially have legal implications for you as the school owner. 

It can sound intimidating, but don’t let risk management overwhelm you! To take a weight off your shoulders, Kicksite has put together a list to assist you in performing a risk assessment at your school, as well as provide you with the resources you’ll need for your risk management library. Providing training in a safe manner not only fulfills your responsibility to your students, but also helps improve retention. After all, one of the leading reasons people quit training is because of injury or fear of injury! While the list below is far from all-encompassing, it’s a great first step to ensuring that your school stands out among competitors as the premier place to train.

 

1.) Safety Protocols

Let us say it again – good safety protocols will help you improve student retention. And whether spoken or not, fear of sparring is one of the most common reasons students drop out. Stop losing budding martial artists and begin applying these rules and regulations to your school.

    • First and foremost, all participants must be fully geared. This means headgear, a mouthguard, hand and foot pads, and groin protection…at a minimum!
    • Most sparring gear is intended only for controlled and light strikes. Always read and follow the manufacturer’s warnings, use, and care instructions for any and all gear that your school uses. And never forget – sparring activities must always be closely supervised by a qualified instructor.
    • Less is more – don’t overcrowd your mats! When too many students are packed closely together, mishaps are way more likely to happen. 
    • Do you have a concussion protocol in place in the event of a mishap? Well, it’s your lucky day because the CDC offers free online resources with their “Heads Up” program. This guide will help you and your instructors recognize, respond to, and minimize the risk of concussions and other brain injuries.
    • Don’t just throw students into combat on their first day! Your sparring curriculum should be structured to dispel a student’s anxiety by first equipping them with a “sparring IQ” before they ever put on that headgear. This typically includes the fundamentals of posture, movement, footwork, distance, timing, and blocking skills.
    • The Martial Arts Industry Association has made available its “Retention Based Sparring” program. This includes a complete 12-level sparring curriculum, instructor training in “best practices,” and its “PRIME” concept support materials (Practical, Responsible, Involved, Mindful, Effective). Check it out here!  

 

2.) Training Equipment

There is a wide variety of training equipment available for your school – from hand targets, to body shields, to heavy and free-standing bags. And while each can be an invaluable tool in training, they also can potentially present a liability if not properly used.

    • Training equipment is the same story as sparring gear. Always read and follow the manufacturer’s warnings, use, and care instructions for any equipment you utilize.
    • Make it a practice to regularly inspect your training equipment for wear and abuse. Defective equipment presents a hazard and should be taken out of use immediately. 
    • Your instructors should have a comprehensive knowledge of how to use all of the equipment in your school safely and effectively. Think about it this way – how many sprained or broken fingers have we all seen because someone failed to hold a target or shield properly? 
    • Once you welcome in a new student, the next step is teaching them about the proper use of each piece of equipment they’ll be interacting with. Make sure new students are properly supervised while using equipment in order to nip any unsafe practices in the bud from day one.

 

3.) Hydration

With the record-setting heat we’ve been experiencing this summer, this one is more important than ever. Keeping your students properly hydrated will not only boost their performance, but it will reduce their chances of injury.

 

4.) Cleaning and Sanitation

At Kicksite we talk a lot about the importance of keeping your facility in tip-top condition. So what’s the big deal? While a well-maintained facility will help with retention, it’s also an essential part of your risk management program.  

    • The first step of good housekeeping is making sure all exits are unobstructed and free of clutter.
    • Trips and falls are a leading cause of injury in many facilities. Ever heard the mantra, “A place for everything, and everything in its place”? It’s time to put that phrase in practice!

 

5.) Abuse

Sadly, abuse and molestation issues occur in many sports and physical activities, including the martial arts. 

    • Cardinal rule #1: Never allow yourself or an employee to be completely alone with a student! There is safety in numbers.
    • In 2018, Congress passed the Youth Safe Sports Act. With the enactment of this law, all businesses that teach, train, or work with youth are directly responsible for safeguarding children from abuse. Learn more here.

 

While we covered a lot of ground in the last 877 words, there’s only so much you can get to in a blog post. Consider this article as your stepping stone to understanding some of the most common risk management issues for the average martial arts school owner. Remember – knowledge is power!

Kicksite would like to thank Beth Block at Block Insurance and Michael Perri at the Martial Arts Industry Association for their contributions. Both are excellent sources of information and education on the subject of safety and risk management for your school – go give them a visit!