Making a living as an artist is usually a long and difficult path and the martial arts are no exception. In my opinion it’s one of the most difficult “artistic” ways to make a living.
This is why:
When a talented painter, writer, musician etc. creates a work he puts it out for people to buy/experience. Once someone sees, hears, or even tastes this work of art they can usually buy it and it becomes theirs. For a small, or large fee they can experience the culmination of all the artists work.
On the other hand when someone sees a skilled martial artist and they want to “own” that skill, they are unable to buy it. What they can buy is instruction from the teacher. In one case you pay your money and you have the art, however it isn’t truly yours. Just like your favorite sports team winning isn’t really your win.
With martial arts you truly own the art because you ‘become’ the artist. This takes work, time, discipline, humility; everything that it takes to be an artist. It’s no surprise that many successful martial arts schools have poor quality students. It’s much easier to tell people they have skill than for them to actually earn it.
Essentially, no matter how much you pay your teacher you can not buy martial arts skill. But you can earn it. And this is why this is the greatest art to own. It is yours everywhere you go. It can not be lost, or sold or misplaced. As my first teacher once told me: “Kung Fu is the most fair thing in the world. You get out of it exactly what you put into it.” So, martial artists may not be successful, or famous, but the art that we sell will be the most precious piece our customers will ever own.