The FESPAR model for learning martial and marketing techniques

At the dojo

When I teach the white belt class at the Boston Martial Arts Center, one of the models I use for ensuring that a class runs smoothly is called FESPAR, which stands for:

  • Form: learn the way the technique is supposed to look and work
  • Endurance: practice the technique with rapidity to condition muscles and nerves to move that way rapidly
  • Structure: put the form of the technique under duress to fix structural issues
  • Precision: practice the technique against a wide variety of targets to learn effective distances and timing
  • Agility: practice executing the technique with very narrow windows of opportunity
  • Reaction: practice the technique along with rapid decision making under pressure

For example, last night’s class looked at a basic step-through punch.

We started off doing the exercise in the air, ensuring that we understood the basic form.

We did speed drills to do as many as possible for endurance.

We used soft padded targets to apply pressure to the finishing form of the punch to figure out where our bones were out of alignment.

We hit padded targets being held in different positions, different heights, even in motion to improve precision.

We hit moving targets that were only available for two seconds in order to learn agility.

Finally, we learned to hit a target that was approaching us while our training partners shouted at us and walked towards us threateningly, to apply the basic technique under pressure.

What this model of learning does is showcase how a technique functions under all kinds of different conditions and gives a student the ability to prove that the technique works without the associated boredom that often accompanies spending 45 minutes on just one technique. The goal at the end of the class is to have a student who has increased skill and confidence in that particular technique.

When you’re learning any skill, having this kind of deep investigation into the skill is essential. For non-physical skills like learning web analytics or social media, the exercises would look different, but you can still see powerful parallels between the martial arts and your business and marketing skills. For example, let’s say you wanted to get better at using Facebook to drive business.

  • Form: learn the basic best practices for an effective Facebook post
  • Endurance: get good at crafting posts at high volume, generating content
  • Structure: A/B test the daylights out of your posts until you find the 4 or 5 recipes that work best with your audience
  • Precision: post on Facebook against a wide variety of personas to learn what resonates with them
  • Agility: learn to post in real-time, crafting messages that resonate in the moment
  • Reaction: learn to post and handle negative feedback and social media PR crises

The framework gives you a chance to learn how to use a simple Facebook post under a variety of contexts so that you gain proficiency at it.

The next time you have to teach yourself or someone else how to use a technique in such a way that they learn it and get practical value from it right away, try the FESPAR framework.


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What’s the best martial art? (a lesson for marketers)

Dayton Quest Center Hombu Dojo

I was recently asked what, in my opinion, the best martial art was. This is an incredibly common question, and it’s a question that often provokes vigorous, if sometimes juvenile, answers from the martial arts community.

The real answer is that martial arts instruction varies so wildly that the style of martial art you practice really and truly does not matter. There are some general goals you might be trying to achieve such as fitness, self-protection, or peace of mind that might lend themselves better to one art or another, but for the most part, most martial arts are good enough for someone to make progress towards any of those objectives, compared to a member of the general public.

What separates your choice of martial arts are the instructors of the schools near you, since very few people are going to be as odd as I was in relocating to another part of the country just to study with a particular teacher. The entire reason I moved to Boston years ago was to study with Mark Davis of the Boston Martial Arts Center. Since you probably won’t make similar choices, the answer to what the best martial art is for you is whoever’s the best instructor in your area that fits your needs.

I often compare martial arts instructors to chefs. A competent chef is versatile and knows food well enough that they can make a wide variety of dishes, even if they have a specialty. Certainly, a chef might struggle with a particular cuisine they’re unfamiliar with, but any chef worth their salt could knock out a plate of pasta or some scrambled eggs without blinking an eye, and in their specialty, they’re masters who can deliver an impressive experience for you, even if it’s a cuisine you didn’t intend to try that night.

Conversely, it doesn’t matter what cuisine you’re trying if the chef is unskilled. Food poisoning tastes the same. A burned dish tastes the same.

That’s how martial arts work. A good instructor is a good instructor. It doesn’t matter whether you’re talking about Shotokan karate or escrima or judo or ninjutsu. You’ll do better in a school with a good instructor than a bad one, no matter what the martial art is.

The same is true about marketing in many ways. A lot of people ask, “What’s the best social media platform? Is it Twitter? Facebook? What about Google+?” The reality is the same as the martial arts. A skilled marketer can get reasonably good results out of any of the social media platforms or marketing methods, even if it’s not their specialty. A skilled marketer’s basics, such as great content being sent to the right audiences, can work as well in email as it can on a blog, as well on Twitter as it does on Pinterest. Likewise, a bad marketer will get no results on any platform, no matter how shiny the object or how engaged the user base is.

The cuisine is irrelevant if the chef is terrible. The cuisine is largely irrelevant if the chef is great. Spend your time and focus on choosing a great chef, a great martial arts instructor, a great marketer.


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Sneaking through a networking event

PodCamp Boston 5

Here’s a fun exercise to try at your next in-person marketing event. The difficulty of this exercise scales with how centered on your product, service, or business you are, and its value scales inversely to that self-centeredness. The more you can lose yourself, the more you’ll gain from the exercise. This trick is also an outstanding one for folks who are more introverted and normally struggle at networking events.

See how long you can get through a networking event without giving out any substantial information at all. When asked common questions, use answers like, “Oh, the usual” and then immediately redirect the conversation back to the other person and get them talking about themselves, their work, and their company. Here’s how an example exchange might go:

Eventgoer: Hey, how’s it going?
You: Oh, the usual. What’s new with you?
Eventgoer: Pretty good. So what are you working on these days?
You: Same old stuff. What about you, what’s working for you these days? Are you still at…
Eventgoer: Yeah, I’ve got this project I’m working on right now on marketing metrics and… (conversation continues)

The marketer in you will be screaming inside your head, “TALK ABOUT HOW AWESOME WE ARE”. Resist that temptation strongly. Instead, work the room as a mirror of the people who are in it, asking questions, learning as much as you can, sharing other people’s stories as appropriate. At the end of the evening, see if you have come away with significantly more information and more contacts than you normally do from a networking event. More important, see what kinds of responses you get from people you talk to.

Why this works: people LOVE to talk about themselves and their companies, just as you (as a marketer) love to do the same. We tend to build more favorable opinions of people who listen to us, and we tend to want to keep talking to those people. If we can get out of our own way, the floodgates of information will open for us!

Give it a try!


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