Realities of Life: The Instructor

This post relates my personal experience as a martial arts instructor and how it is related to the facts of life – financially-wise.

It is difficult to differentiate if my position as a martial arts instructor should be categorized as an employee or a self-employed at first sight. In clear view, definitely not the “business owner” or “investor” quadrant. After checking a few quick guidelines from the relevant local authority, because I still report to someone overseeing the lessons without a wide range of control and paid on a fixed hourly basis, I would be closer to an employee than a self employed.

Here is my story:

(This post is meant to educate the general public on financial literacy and hence actual names will not be used. Any offence to any parties are completely unintended.)

I have been practising Karate for close to 10 years now and was awarded with a black belt by the grace of my Master. My senior was initially invited by our Chief Instructor, to teach at a local institution alongside due to lack of instructors. That same offer was made to me before, through the word of my senior but for personal reasons I turned it down at first. It then began with standing-in for my senior once because he had another event clashing with his lessons.

This time, face-to-face, I was offered the opportunity again. I hesitated. The money was good but I still had my hesitations from previous experiences. Times changed and I have to admit, I was temporarily cashflow tight at that point of time. Adjusting my sail to the wind, I accepted the offer and started sailing on this journey. The time was fairly decent. For twice a week, the one-hour timeslot was smack right in the middle of the afternoon at 3 PM.  There are advantages and disadvantages of course.

Clearly, the advantage is for that 1 hour, I was paid pretty well by ordinary people standards – although nowhere near that of a full-fledged self employed or business owner payroll. One of the disadvantage was, it took up mid-day time where it could be vital at times especially when I was managing 2 other businesses concurrently. As a highly independent and autonomous individual, I prefer taking matters into my own hands, which is also one of the key reasons why I could never put up in a job. In this case, we report to our Chief Instructor, who in return reports to the institution.


The chain of command complicates matters quite a bit. The more links in the chain, the more complex it gets. There are many lessons to be learnt here, but today I shall just focus on the money issue. You see, our Chief Instructor does not pay us directly. The hours that we clocked is invoiced at the end of the season, and the institution will issue the pay cheques to our individual billing address.

Technically speaking, it was supposed to take less than 2 weeks from the point of invoice submission. Previously, my Chief Instructor and another instructor (L) faced delayed cheques due to the inefficiency of local mail service.

Lesson #1: As employees, our pay is dependent on our pay master. (Granted, practically the same for all employees.)
Lesson #2: Our pay is also subjected to any external factors that is implicated into the payment process.

This time round, it is my turn and struck me as a major lesson to learn.

For 4 weeks, since the end of season, we have waited and waited for our pay cheques to appear in our mail box, but it did not turn up. The abnormality caused certain concerned and I contacted L to check with the institution. Her response was shocking. She only submitted the invoice a day prior to my enquiry. I was both furious at her and myself. Her, for being unethical, because for whatever reason she might come up with, I did not think it was valid at all. And furious at myself, for allowing myself to be subjected to such conditions.

Taste of an employee. You see, like I mentioned, the more links in the chain, the more implications it can get. In this case, L was responsible for submitting the invoice on our behalf, and hence whether we get our income is also somehow dependent on her.

Lesson #3: If someone else is involved with your money, then he / she becomes your pay master indirectly in a sense.
Lesson #4: If someone else is determining your income, you will NEVER have full control over your money.

Lesson #4 stands out to me the most. One of the key reasons why I got out of my job and started building businesses was the unwillingness to be subjected to another individual’s approval on:

  • How much I am worth
  • How much I am being paid
  • How much time do I spend at work
  • What I do with my time
  • How much time do I get off
  • Can I go on vacations

Which is also why, I can never understand how some individuals can put up with the pain for decades. I would really prefer a few short years of pain and hard work, so that I can enjoy for all my life. Not condemning anyone, just my personal opinion. With all due respect, the society and economy requires employees. This is just how the world system works.

Comparing to my business, my team and I have built a team of over 852 business partners in the world. Like a global franchise, you see, it doesn’t matter if I stop working for a month or two, the income still continues to flow in. In fact, the income increases whenever Faith and I go on a vacation.

And the best part? If there is someone that I do not want to work with, I can choose not to. Coming from a business person point of view, I believe a person has to have strong moral ethnics and business ethnics. Lacking of which, speaks clearly about the possible consequences if we were to partner up. In L’s case, maturity and integrity to at least inform us, responsibility and punctuality to execute her duty in accordance. It also reveals insights on time management and work management. Unfortunately, I still get to choose to work with her or not – that is to say, if I continue to stay and teach.

Quite a dilemma I would say, stay and teach quality lessons, right techniques to the younger generation? Or to leave because of my intolerance to such people?

We shall see.