After reading some of the stories on here, I thought I'd share my own story and experiences from my very brief stint as a newly recruited 'GKR Trainee Instructor.'
Some years ago now, I was out of work and trying to figure out what I wanted to do in life, when I came across a recruitment advert to become a GKR Karate Instructor in my local jobs paper. The add stated something like 'trainee martial arts instructor required, full training, excellent competitive salary, comprehensive support network, GKR 50,000 trains students worldwide etc etc'….I was only aged 20 at time and admittedly fairly naive, so the ad grabbed me, hook, line and sinker, a bit like those 'Get ripped in 10 days' headlines you see on the front of Mens Health magazine. Well when you think about it, it actually sounds pretty good on paper, what could be better then learning martial arts, getting paid good money and becoming an instructor whilst running your own dojo in the process… it all sounds too good to be true and I soon found out that it was.
Immediately I phoned up the number and spoke to the area instructor / manager, who after a brief conversation, invited me to a local GKR Instructors Session, where I would be interviewed and all things would be explained, but most importantly I would taking my first steps towards becoming a fully qualified GKR Instructor. I did point out politely to the manager, that although I'd studied Jeet Kwon Do for a couple of years in my youth and more recently full contact Taekwondo to a higher level, I wasn't that experienced in martial arts and certainly no instructor. Apparently this didn't matter, I'd learn very quickly, using simple but effective techniques and I could be teaching classes in a matter of months. Well perfect I thought, I took the relevant details and confirmed I'd be there on time.
A couple of days later I turned up at a local leisure centre and was directed up to a large gymnasium area within the building. I recall there were around 15 - 20 students present, all with different coloured belts but quite a few black belts were in with the mix. I was then approached and greeted by one of the sensei's dressed in his full Gi attire, he immediately knew who I was and welcomed me, confirming he had been expecting me. Funny I thought, this wasn't the man I'd spoken with on the phone, this man was much younger, maybe only a couple of years older then me.
What basically followed was a hour long lesson, which included some front kicks, punches and a bit of none contact sparing, where I was asked to participate in at certain points. I must admit I wasn't really impressed with the session, it seemed very basic for an 'instructors class', however I kept an open mind and did my best to fit in. I got told off at one point for being too heavy handed, well I had trained full contact TKD with Kenny Walton 8th Dan, so found it all a bit airy fairy compared to that, however GKR is 'a family style' they say. After the session concluded, the same sensei that welcomed me, said I'd done really well and shown tremendous potential. The young sensei then invited me to visit the Area Instructors home to conclude the interview.
At this point I got an uneasy feeling, thinking its a bit odd to be invited to someones home for a job interview and I started to question whether this was a safe move, but I went along with it anyway, I still had the adverts 'job prospects' in mind and none of the other sensei's in the Leisure Centre had been murdered yet, so why would I….
Whilst being driven to the home, the young sensei began to tell me how rich, powerful and amazing the Area Instructor was and how with commitment and effort, one day he too would also be taking up this senior post having his own chain of dojos and instructors working for him making big £££££ whilst stressing that this could be me too. He continued to brag and boast about how the fact the Area Instructor could apparently take a punch to the stomach at full power by virtually any person on this planet Mike Tyson included and he wouldn't even flinch, many have tried and all have failed. He went on to speak about how the Area Instructor has a massive house and drives a rather nice sports car.
On arrival, the house was indeed a nice big detached country home and there was a 90's sports car parked in the drive way. I was lead into the lobby area and was immediately joined by some of the same bunch of other Trainee Instructors who I'd seen at the Leisure Centre. At this point, the feeling of strangeness was starting to grow and alarm bells started ringing in my head, but I was here now and I thought I better make the most of it.
The Area Instructor, welcomed me to his home and introduced the rest of the group to me. His appearance and demeanour reminded of the villain instructor from the Film 'Karate Kid', the 'sweep the leg' bloke. He was friendly but quite a presence at the same time. He stated that the Sensei who took the class today, had confirmed that I'd shown great potential and he was happy to welcome me as a Trainee Instructor. "Wow that was easy", I thought, no interview then. He then gave me a brief history of GKR and advised me to turn up at a residential location the next day, where I'd begin my paid employment or as I discovered later 'canvassing for commission'.
I remained at the house for a further 30 minutes, where I took the opportunity to chat to the other students, who told me about what they'd achieved in terms of signing up recent students and how much money they'd made each week, there was a definite sense of competition in terms of money making rather then the Karate itself. I also recall them mentioning that the area manager produces his own inspirational tapes that I would have the privilege of experiencing further down the line and they would enlighten me into greater things, but at this time I wasn't ready for them yet!!! One of the students also stated that either the Regional Manager drives a Lamborghini Diablo, so there was the potential to do very well financially with GKR, but I must start at the bottom and work my way up.
Quite a lot of people might have run a mile at this point, clicking on to the fact that it wasn't a proper fixed wage role, but unfortunately not me, against my better judgement I figured I give it a try and turned up at the designated residential location the following day. Once again I was greeted by the same young sensei from the leisure centre, who coincidentally was in company with the same group of young Trainee Instructors or depending on how you look at it 'commission canvassers'.
Next, I was paired up with one of the more experienced group members and taken around the local area, knocking door to door and saying something along the lines of "Good afternoon, I'm from your local karate club, were currently recruiting new members in the area, would you be interested in taking Karate Lessons ?".
As you can imagine most people said "no thanks" or didn't answer the doors, but a couple of people took that bait.
After identifying your 'potential bitters', you make an appointment to come back and visit them later in the day, bringing with you a folder containing information illustrating how great GKR really is and giving them an amazing once in a life time value for money deal, which is rapidly followed by getting them to pay up a fee on the spot to register with the club and become a member. I think there were a couple of pricing options, one a Special life time membership deal which has various perks, and the other cheaper option is a straight up registration fee allowing the person to participate in their first lesson.
It is very much a, there and then, seal the deal type scenario, where you the seller pocket a portion of the registration money and the rest goes to the area manager, who obviously takes a percentage of the lesson fee's for each instructor. At this stage, you pocket the biggest whack for your salary, I believe it is around £20 in your pocket and the other £5 goes to the area manager, but I am going back 10 years or so, its probably changed considerably.
Anyway this is how you make your living as GKR Trainee Instructor, the more people you sign up, the more money you will earn and so you take your place at the bottom of a very large pyramid, containing trainee instructors / commission canvassers, qualified instructors, senior instructors, area instructors, regional instructors and so on. So in essence the whole idea of being a Paid GKR Trainee Karate Instructor, is that you start off earning a few quid here and there through canvassing and earning commissions and then work your way up until you are the big fish controlling your own empire of canvassing trainees and qualified instructors, raking in the big bucks for you from lesson fee's, gradings, merchandise and commissions. I noted that one of the GKR Instructors on this thread, compared the pyramid setup of GKR to the Army, however there is a massive difference between a fixed salary organisation, whether it be government or private, as apposed to a commission based sales franchise like GKR, that operates through door to door selling.
Anyway the sales pitch itself, certainly does put the pressure on the individual and makes it very hard for someone to say no and walk way. From what I saw and experienced, the potential bitters are most certainly put on the spot and asked to hand over their money there and then, whilst being dazzled about how good joining GKR will be for them, or maybe their son, or possibly the whole family. There is no trial lesson and it is not even considered or suggested that someone can have a refund of the membership fee's if the class doesn't suit them, the 'primary teaching is' the more people you get to join the club, the bigger your own commission and wage' and this is heavily pushed. Don't get me wrong, I'm sure many many people love the Karate and have no regrets joining up, however I'm equally sure there is a large section of people who loose out through the pressured sales techniques which GKR uses.
I also noticed that most trainee instructor would hone in on whatever snippet of info the potential new member gives away during the sales conversation, blatantly using this to their advantage in the sales pitch. For example they will prise out of the person a few bits of personal info and then reiterate stuff like, "GKR will be good for your health, GKR will teach you self defensive, its a dangerous society we live in, GKR will teach your son discipline and control, GKR will help cure your bad back, GKR will sort out various life's problems, GKR will help you loose weight and get fit, GKR is the answer!!"..... Basically they will find some reason why you must join and you must join NOW under the Special reduced price!!!!, telling you what you want to hear. Again I know people benefit in many ways from Martial Arts, but certain sales tactics are over egged to get people to join.
We'll the long and short of it is, I ended up signing up a father and his son for a lifetime membership on my very first attempt, they paid me my commission, but the whole selling process just didn't sit right to me, I felt like some shady dealer doing some sort of dodgy deal to make a quick buck and this was done following the exact 'proven to work' process I'd been shown by my peers. To make things worse I checked back with the same father / son a few weeks later and they hadn't actually attended one lesson with them admitting they thought it was a good idea at the time of the first visit but that Karate probably wasn't really for them. My more experienced colleague who was with me at the time, did encourage them to attend a lesson, focusing on the benefits of Karate, but they did not seem like they ever would ever commit and it was from this point that my own guilty conscience started to eat away at me, telling me that this was not an honest profession and the dream job depicted in the initial advert was quickly diminishing in my mind. Yes you can make good money canvassing, but if you are like me and have strong moral values and a conscience to do what is right, you might be best avoiding GKR as a profession. On the flip side, I think actual qualified instructors who are passionate about GKR Karate would be ideal to sell their own craft, but it does seem to be the little fish and newbies at the bottom of the scale who are given the selling role. My further concern is the safety of going round random community areas and knocking on peoples doors, you never know who will answer and be on the other side, certainly some of the females doing this for GKR seemed quite vulnerable.
Finally, 3 - 4 weeks later after realising that the job role wasn't at all as described and now knowing the whole company operated on a sales / pyramid setup, I phoned the original Area Instructor and confirmed I wouldn't be coming back in again. He tried to pursued me to stay but reluctantly accepted my reasons to leave.
During my brief time with the GKR, I also took a journey to one of the regional seminars, some distance away from where I live. This was apparently hosted by some of top GKR sensei's in the country. However I was really astonished to discover that there was a lot of show boating going on, some obvious chest puffing and machoism type stuff about who is better. There was an air of unprofessionalism about the whole event. If you've ever watched the movie, The Foot Fist Way - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7JQVul-k7Bc
the main character Fred Simmons reminds me of some of the GKR Instructors I encountered. Obviously they were not as over the top as Fred is depicted, but some had very visible character and behavioural traits that remind me of him in this film.
To close this rather long post, I have read through the whole thread and I am pleased to see some very positive examples of GKR Karate, from both instructors and a number of happy members. GKR Karate is clearly a credible martial art which a lot of people enjoy and commit too. Perhaps my personal experiences could be simply put down to being an unfortunate set of events, but there are other posts on here which echo similar situations to my own and even a few GKR instructors have posted that they are quite discerning and unhappy about the companies business practices. A lot of what I saw did make me question the Pyramid scheme / 'sell to earn your commission' business approach, this sales technique doesn't seem to fit well with the ethics and values that most martial arts teach, but maybe things have evolved since my experience and perhaps better business practice is now being followed. I also agree with some posts that there are far more effective forms of self defensive and strictly none contact training probably doesn't stand up to the test, in a real life confrontational situation.