Martial Arts Instructor Christopher Gray Is Changing Lives And An Entire Industry

If one out of ten people who embarked on a journey actually made it to their destination, would you call that success?

To many people, 10% would seem to be quite low, no matter what the journey. But for years, this has been the standard for martial arts students who make the coveted level of “black belt.”

And Connecticut martial arts instructor Christopher Gray seeks to change this.

“Achieving a black belt has a profound impact on a student’s life,” says Gray, owner of Villari’s Martial Arts Center in Newington, CT. “So how is it that after all these years, with instructors getting better and better, that we still have these low success rates?”

Worldwide, over 100 million people participate in martial arts, in many different forms. Young children oftentimes will practice arts such as Tae Kwon Do or Karate, while teens and adults may be involved in Mixed Martial Arts or Kickboxing Programs. People will get involved in martial arts for many different reasons.

“A lot of people get involved in karate on a whim, to have fun, and realize the benefits as they go along,” explains Gray. “But many parents come in with a purpose or goal in mind, like, their kids needs focus, or their child is shy, and they’ve heard that martial arts can help them.”

So with such benefits to a child or an adult, why would anyone want to stop?

Gray explains that communications are oftentimes the culprit. “There are a lot of ways to keep them involved and excited about the next level. But I think the hardest thing is the communications that are involved. On top of great classes, you have to be great at communicating. You have to have parent-teacher conferences where you check in. If there is a problem you have to nip it in the bud and address the problem right away. You can’t wait for two months to go by, and deal with problems immediately as you sense them.”

So what is the solution to keep people from quitting such a beneficial activity?

“Great curriculum, great communication, and getting parents involved in the concept of making the black belt. As an instructor, as long as you are always looking at your business as a service-based school, and you’re trying to help somebody, you’ll keep them involved.”

One of the ways Gray keeps his students getting the benefits of martial arts is with a program called, “My Path to Black Belt.” This program lets students and families use photos and progress markers to commemorate milestones in a student’s journey towards black belt.

“Martial Arts is great for teaching goal-setting. And it’s easy for the instructor to see. But what “My Path to Black Belt” does, is it takes that goal, that image that a parent or a student might have of becoming a black belt, and they can see it. They can see the pictures, and the step-by-step processes in their hands. It’s on their coffee table every single day and two or three times a month they get a chance to add something to that book. Every time they put a picture or diploma in the book, they’re re-addressing that visual image of the goal of black belt. It’s right there in the book.”

While Gray has been pleased with the results at his own martial arts school, he looks forward to helping an entire industry get better, one student at a time. And it takes communications and reminding.

“The most important aspect of retention is keeping the vision strong. We can continue to remind them and there’s a much higher chance that they will get to their goals, of making Black Belt.”

Christopher Gray is a children’s development expert and owner of Villari’s Martial Arts Center in Newington, CT. For more information, visit his websites at:, and

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