Is Resistance A Good Thing?

Have you ever experienced this?

You make a seemingly insignificant change in your martial art school operations… maybe it’s a small change in your schedule, or you change the fee structure, or you change your hours, or you hire a new instructor to help you out with the class load.

Regardless of what it is you’ve changed, you suddenly are on the receiving end of a ton of resistance from your students. All at once, it seems like everyone is complaining and your students on the verge of mutiny…

Resistance Is A Common Occurrence In Businesses Like Ours

Sometimes it may feel like you're getting resistance from out of nowhere but you should view it as a positive thing

Sometimes it may feel like you're getting resistance from out of nowhere, but you should view it as a positive thing.

I see this often with the people I provide online business coaching to on my member site. They start off following some of my advice, notice some growth in their school, and then they start implementing the ideas and advice they get from me left and right.

Before long their school is growing at a much more rapid pace. Out of necessity, they find themselves in the position of having to change some policies here and there to accommodate the growth. And that’s when it happens…

Suddenly, the grumblers and complainers show up. If you run a school, I’m sure you know the type. They are the first and loudest to complain about everything, no matter how good your overall customer service and actual classroom instruction may be at the time.

Now, there’s a reason why we’re more likely to hear this sort of grumbling and complaining directly. In businesses like ours (including martial arts schools, gymnastics centers, personal training facilities, boot camps, dance schools, and so on) we tend to develop our business relationships with our clients on a very personal level.

That’s not to say you should get personal with every single client; on the contrary, the more professional (yet friendly) you keep your business relationship, the less likely you are to be on the brunt of this type of abuse from your clients when you have to alter your policies.

Enter The High-Maintenance Client…

Even so, there is a certain type of client that seems to suck the life out of a school. These are what I call “high-maintenance students.” They’re sort of like driving an old British sports car – you do derive some benefit from the experience, but the frequent problems that constantly require your attention make it almost not worth the trouble.

They tend to be only a small percentage of your enrollment, but they can take up the bulk of your time and energy… if you allow it.

In previous articles I’ve discussed how these types are a cancer in your school, and how it may be your best policy to find a polite way to fire these types of clients (read The 4-Hour Work Week by sometime MMA practitioner and full-time globe hopper Tim Ferriss for more on this topic).

However, what I’d like to discuss with you today is that when this happens, it is a good thing – a very good thing. Let me explain what I mean…

Here’s The Paradigm Shift: Resistance Is A Sign Of Good Things To Come!

That’s right… think about it a second and it’s not all that hard to reach that conclusion. Here’s the breakdown:

  1. Complaints are a result of Resistance
  2. Resistance comes from Fear
  3. Fear comes from Change
  4. Change is a (necessary) result of Growth

And, growth means your school is showing definite signs of health. This must mean that, when you meet with resistance, it’s a good thing – because good things are happening in your school!

Look, people are always going to complain and grumble when things change. It’s a fact of being in business, so get used to it. And, you know what I’ve found about this? When you simply reply with, “That’s our policy… now, is there something else I can help you with?” in a very matter-of-fact, unapologetic manner it tends to squash it in short order.

Sure, some of those people will leave; but then again, that’s the nature of the business, too. Students leave all the time for all sorts of reasons, most of which have nothing to do with being disgruntled. So, if a few grouchy students leave of their own accord – well, that just means the issue resolved itself, right?

And chances are good that those students will be replaced by others who don’t complain about every little policy change you make… which is yet another positive thing.

You see, resistance really is a good thing.


  1. Jeff on October 27, 2009 at 9:21 am

    Great article. This is exactly spot on from what I have experienced. I had to grow a backbone to stand up to my whining students. It was tough but something I definitely had to do.

  2. Mike Massie on October 27, 2009 at 12:36 pm

    Funny story about how I finally changed my thinking on this…

    In my first school, we had an open floor plan that was great for allowing parents to see what their kids were learning, but really not ideal for safety reasons.

    So, I put up a kneewall to separate the training area from the guest area. No big deal, or so I thought…

    Next thing I know, I have parents calling me complaining about not being able to see their kids, blah, blah, blah (now, for those of you who don’t know, a kneewall is a “half wall” – this one was about 3.5 feet high, so all anyone had to do was stand up to observe class).

    I was young, inexperienced, and freaking out. “Oh crap, what if they quit?”

    As it so happens, one of the moms who was doing the most complaining ended up putting it all in perspective for me.

    She comes to me and says, “Mr. Massie, I have to apologize. I was griping to my husband about ‘that stupid wall’ and he just turned and looked at me and said, ‘It’s his school – he can do whatever he wants with it. Stop complaining.’ So, I’m sorry, he was absolutely right.”

    I thanked her and thought about it for a while after she left. Now, it bears mentioning that the dad trained at a very traditional kung fu school that I had referred him to, and also that these were about the nicest people you’d ever want to meet.

    I finally concluded that yes, it was my school, and yes, I could do whatever the heck I wanted with it. It seems obvious what the common sense answer was, but when you care about your students, you can let your emotions get in the way of making sound day-to-day business decisions.

    And, as it turns out, putting up that wall improved our classes tremendously. In the next two locations I taught in, I actually built a wall to separate the guest area from the classroom. Wouldn’t you know that no one complained? Probably because they’d never really had it any other way. :)

  3. Jason Stanley on November 3, 2009 at 2:02 pm

    Hey Mike,

    Great article.

    I’m sure you’re familiar with the saying, “What you focus on expands”. When I first realized this it was a light bulb moment for me…

    I realized that the more I talked and thought about high maintenance people, the more I’d attract them. I imprisoned myself with servicing and keeping them happy, but I wasn’t – and that’s a crappy way to run a business. It’s supposed to be fun!

    As soon as I changed my focus to helping the ones who deserved my attention, the high maintenance people moved on (probably to look for some other sucker!), and I started seeing more positive people drawn to the club (did I mention I was a LOT happier?).

    Changes are necessary for growth as you say, and the ones who resist and complain probably aren’t worth your time. If they want to act like spoiled brats then some other parent can take care of them.

    I remember something Joe Vitale wrote – to paraphrase – “People glorify the past, complain about the present and fear the future.”

    Unfortunately for many people this is true…

    – Jason

  4. Mike Massie on November 3, 2009 at 3:34 pm


    Agreed – thanks for chiming in with that, Jason.

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