Two farmers set up a fruit stand side by side at a weekend farmers market in sunny south Florida. Both farmers were selling apples. On the beginning of the second day, farmer John told farmer Bob how great his business has been so far. Farmer Bob looked at him with a puzzled face and replied, “That’s weird. I have hardly sold anything.”  Farmer John replied back by saying, “Well, your apples really don’t look that good. Look how big, red, and juicy mine are. Yours are small and don’t look very appetizing.”

“How did you grow such amazing apples?” farmer Bob asked.

That’s what I do!” said farmer John. “You see, I have been growing apples for many years, I live and grow them in an area of Virginia that is known for the growth of amazing apples, and I happen to grow the best apples in that region. I have won many contests for growing the best apples.”

Where do you get your apples?” asked farmer John.

Farmer Bob let out a heavy sigh as he began his explanation, “I used to grow oranges, and I was really good at it. I also have won several contests for my oranges, but so many farmers grow oranges here in Florida that I thought I would try to grow and sell something different to stand out and create more sells. I heard there was really good money in the sale of apples.”

“So let me get this straight”, said farmer John, “You live in Florida, you are an expert at growing oranges, but you decided to grow apples. A crop that you aren’t familiar with, is not indigenous to this area, and you’re obviously not good at it. Just to try to stand out and make more money!  Apples and oranges are two very different fruits and have extremely different processes for effective growth. So, you are an orange guy, trying to be an apple guy. How is that working out for you?”

The martial arts industry can be very much like this story. Instead of different fruits to grow and sell, we have different styles and types of martial arts schools.  Traditional martial arts, family martial arts, realistic self-defense based, mixed martial arts, BJJ, and fitness martial arts are just some of the most common. And I have heard this similar story with martial arts school owners all across the country. They are experts at one style and type of school, but are easily lured away by a different style or program. They are tricked into becoming a different type of school with the promise of making more money because things aren’t going so well in their current business.  Maybe they are a traditional martial arts guy trying to be a fitness martial arts guy. Or they are a family martial arts guy trying to be a mixed martial arts guy. Just like farmer Bob, they have an identity crisis. They have forgotten who they are, what they are good at, and why they got into the martial arts industry in the first place, all for a different type of business that they don’t have the knowledge, expertise, or market to teach.

For example, I personally know an owner that has switched his school to every type of style and fad that has come along in hopes of finding the magic solution. He was a family karate school, then a BJJ school, then a Krav Maga school, and now he is a fitness kickboxing school, and he has never had any success at any of them. I remember one owner that combined all ages and skill levels of his karate school to one class late at night to make room for more Tae Bo classes. Tae Bo being the fad it was, when it died, so did his business.

In all the programs, styles, and types of martial arts schools I have mentioned above, there are some really great and successful studios that do big business and meet the needs of the general public in their area. However, you will find that their owners have been doing the same things for years and truly are experts. They have not jumped ship for the next fad, or to what they think others are doing to make more income. Just like farmer John, they have carefully crafted their product though passion and proven processes. Some owners need to step back and ask themselves, why did I get into the martial arts industry? What am I truly passionate about? What type of school do I really want operate? Then become the best that you can be! So what it is going to be, apples or oranges?