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Traditional vs Contemporary Curriculum, What’s Best? The Answer – Both!

March 16, 2021

Curriculum – what you teach, how you teach it, and how you evaluate your student’s progress – is crucial to your school’s success. Good curriculum produces quality martial artists, creates high retention rates, and breeds happy clients that are sure to give your school the grand-slam of marketing: word-of-mouth advertising!


Okay, so we can all agree on those points, right? Well, we hate to be the bearers of bad news, but that’s just about where the agreement ends.

When it comes to curriculum style, debate among school owners runs rampant. Some are avid supporters of the traditional and untainted nature of the curriculum that they grew up on. Those that fall into this category believe that the methods used by their instructor, and perhaps generations of instructors before, should be steadfast and maintained in order to preserve the integrity of their style. 

On the other hand, some say that generational changes force us to rethink tradition and the training methods from previous generations. Instead of sticking to what we know, this group argues that martial arts educators must adapt curriculum in order to meet the needs and mindset of today’s students. 

So, which is right? Trick question…the answer is BOTH! 

Before you click away, give us a chance to explain.


In this article we’ll be taking a deeper dive into what today’s best curriculums encompass. The goal? To create quality martial artists your childhood instructor would look at and say, “well done”, all while filling your mats with students from today’s generation that will rave about your up-to-date teaching process.

Okay, we’re done monologuing. Here are 6 tips for combining traditional and contemporary curriculum for a teaching method that can stand the test of time:

1. Keep things interesting – It takes years to become a black belt. And even then, you don’t want your students to stop. The most well-designed curriculums make life-long training appealing so that your students hang around for their 2nd, 3rd, and 4th degree belts. What’s the secret? Don’t worry, it’s not rocket science – keep your classes fun and high-energy from white belt to black belt.


2. Take advantage of every minute – A quality curriculum recognizes the fact you only have students for a very limited time each week. Not to mention, the time for one-on-one interaction is even more limited. Your curriculum should maximize the use of that time through class structure and minimize downtime for everyone in the class. Remember our motto in the martial arts: “No one sits on the sidelines!”


3. Don’t forget, the martial arts are a balancing act – The best curriculums are all about balance. It’s possible for your curriculum to be tightly structured while still allowing freedom for variation at certain points. If your classes are getting a little too predictable, consider throwing in a new drill you saw at a friend’s school or include a fun game. Before you completely write off the idea, you should know that gamification is a proven way for learning. Remember playing flash card games in grade school? You were having so much fun that you didn’t even notice you were learning!


4. Follow a logical order – While it can be tempting to jump from skill to skill, it’s in everyone’s best interest that you teach your classes sequentially. This about it this way – you can’t take a calculus class before you’ve gotten the hang of multiplication! Ensuring that students transition from basic skills to advanced techniques through a series of well-thought-out progressions ultimately leads to the mastery of each skill requirement at testing time. 


5. Use your curriculum to disguise repetition – As Bruce Lee once infamously said, “I fear not the man who has practiced ten thousand kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick ten thousand times.” We’ve all heard it before and, as annoying it is to admit, it’s true! But keep in mind that though it’s repetition that makes us good at whatever we practice, repetition can quickly become the enemy of students. The only way to overcome this challenge is through “disguised repetition.”


6. Consistency, consistency, consistency (see what we did there?) – Even though all of your instructors may have mastered the concepts, techniques, and skills you implemented, it can still be difficult to maintain consistency when they begin to transfer that knowledge to students. A well-written curriculum will guide them so that no matter if a class is being run by a first-year instructor or a seasoned veteran, each student progresses to the next rank with the same knowledge and skill sets. 


“What am I going to teach tonight?” 

Doesn’t that sentence just make your stress levels skyrocket?

Instead of flying by the seat of your pants before every class, it’s time to utilize a quality curriculum plan. Do you, as the school owner, want to be tied to the floor forever? Let us answer that for you – no! Do you aspire to have multiple locations in the future? There is a reason the burgers and fries taste the same at every McDonald’s every time – there is a structure that ensures they will.

The big takeaway? Maintain your school’s traditional curriculum while expanding on it by adding something new and exciting that will grab today’s audience. Find a program that doesn’t detract from your core curriculum but will drive new students to your traditional program. 

If you’re looking for something fresh to spice up your curriculum, you’re in the right place. Did you know that the biggest craze right now is “ninja” training, driven by the popularity of the TV show American Ninja Warrior

Sounds great, huh? Here’s where things get tricky – as a busy school owner you don’t have the time to develop a new full-blown curriculum, let alone train instructors, do the marketing collateral, and organize all the other things needed to make a program successful. Heck, you may not even know how to train a ninja! Before you put yourself through the frustration and expense of trying to do it all yourself, let us introduce you to Ninja Trix.

Ninja Trix is a complete curriculum package designed to make your life easier and more productive. Ninja Trix has everything in place for you, including a 24-month curriculum, class plans, marketing materials, uniforms, and instructor training. Get started today!