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Thread: The next level

  1. #1
    ETinCYQX is offline
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    The next level

    Hi all.

    As some of you from the TKD forum probably know, I'm a 19 year old first dan running a Taekwondo dojang. I have NCCP certs, first aid certification, Kukkiwon dan rank, 13 years experience in Taekwondo and the school I am affiliated with is one of the most dominant schools both in competition and technique in the area. The main school is 4 hours away in a much bigger town. My school is in a town of around 10 000 that used to have a strong Taekwondo contingency in the late 90's but my immediate successor didn't have any more success than I do.

    My rent is very cheap and I make a little bit on top of what I pay in, I might clear 2 grand this year but that would be all. I don't care about money, I have a job and a career shaping up outside of the arts. However I have a small student base and I'd like to expand, take things up a few levels. I teach a kid's program and an adult program already, twice a week for each and a sparring class on Friday for both age groups. I have some competition, most significantly is another TKD school that doesn't associate with any org. The instructor there is quite a bit older than me, wears a bunch of stripes on his belt, all that stuff. His rates are $100 a month or so which to me is absurdly expensive considering his students can't compete in local tournaments, attend seminars, that kind of stuff. You have to be a member of our WTF federation to do that and I don't think it's possible for him to join while I am here. (NOT my doing nor my choice. I'm neutral on the issue, but I can see why some control over who shows up is a good idea.)

    The hands down biggest martial arts club in town is Judo. They are non-profit and rates are $80 per half year. The Judo guys are very very good friends of mine and actually I'm a Judo orange belt through them. They have probably fifty students.

    I charge a $100 down payment that covers the first month because my business agreement with my affiliation dictates that, and then I charge $65 a month. I do all kinds of special stuff, bring in experts for seminars before gradings, host tournaments, host AGM's, I treat my students very well.

    Some other quick notes.
    -My interest lies in the sport side, I try not to allow that to influence my students.
    -I use coaching techniques from sports generally rather than traditional martial arts teaching stuff; all based around sport science especially warm ups etc.
    -My parents are high ranking color belts, my sister is 1st geup and they help me teach a bit.
    -I obviously don't do my own gradings. The head instructor at the school I'm associated with does it all.

    I'm ninety percent sure I'm moving on in June or so, September at the latest. Someone else will likely take over my school as is, business in place and all. However I have a driving need to have success at this. In one measure I have, I have several gold medalists and the students I do have are loyal and happy to be there, but the commercial success eludes me.

    When I do move on it will be to study kinesiology at Memorial University. I'll keep up with Taekwondo and I'll probably even still teach out of another school, and eventually it's possible I'll make a career out of the martial arts, namely coaching Taekwondo. Who knows.

    Your advice will be followed with much gratitude.
    Kukkiwon Taekwondo
    Kodokan Judo

  2. #2
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    Re: The next level

    Your lament is common. It's difficult to make money teaching martial arts and especially difficult to have a successful school. At your age you are quite accomplished and I think the direction you are heading is a smart one for you.

    Most of us like you said are not in this for the money, it's a labor of love.

    I think students respond to older teachers often times, it isn't fair but it's true. The good and bad news is, you will get older.

    I have found in the past that schools in small towns often do better than schools in larger towns. I think at some point you become one of the things available to do! Cities have many different oppurtunities but small towns are limited. Sometimes the local martial arts school is the only act in town.

    Where it backfires is if you have a small town with several schools, such as yours. It might pay dividends to join forces with the other Tae Kwon Do school and share the wealth.

    You gain from his perceived age/experience/maturity and large student base. He gains from your legitimacy and affiliations. It could work if everybody can function without ego.

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  4. #3
    ETinCYQX is offline
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    Re: The next level

    While I do respect the instructor at the other school, I couldn't pair up with another KKW instructor, let alone an ITF-styled independent. I'm too much of a control freak for that.

    More importantly, and I'd consider it otherwise, my school is a subsidiary more or less. I couldn't and wouldn't do that with our relationship in place especially considering the man who I am affiliated with has been my teacher pretty much since 1997 when I started training Taekwondo and has become my main source of guidance and support in tkd.

    What irritates me is I know my program is better. Hell, I'm even cheaper. On paper this other school shouldn't be able to compete with me.
    Kukkiwon Taekwondo
    Kodokan Judo

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    Jason Striker II is offline
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    Re: The next level

    First, your are well organized, obviously know, and have thought carefully about, your business, and have a good and realistic attitude. All this is to your advantage - however, as Instructor remarked, it's a tough hustle teaching Martial Arts. In fact, what it amounts to is selling people a discipline - which most people run from like the plague.

    The only advice I can offer, which you probably already know, is that what money there is to be made in teaching MA is in 1) kids classes and 2) women's Tae-Bo style stuff. A lot of MA teachers are paying the rent with these kinds of classes nowadays.

    Anyway, good luck, and keep punching!
    Karate begins and ends with Respect.

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  7. #5
    Zenjael is offline Banned User
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    Re: The next level

    I recommend that if you intend to leave the area, you pass the baton, and not hold it longer than necessary, you will hurt them unnecessarily. When the teacher leaves, it should be in a way which will leave the students with the least pain possible. I know one master who retired and left 300 people crying in a room together. I hope that will not be your case.

    Teaching stretches across space and time, you despite our age, we will find that those we have taught may remain in contact with us the rest of our life. We are responsible, in part, for whatever martial artist they come.

    The baton you hold is a respectable, and important one... but if you intend to leave, you should not act with a state of mind of permanence.

    I hope, once you find a permanent place you reopen the doors of your school. I dream of the day once I leave the military, and opening my own dojo. I hope to tie it together as a non-profit buddhism locale because we have no temples in the area outside of DC which dont operate outside of houses, and not their own independent temples.

    I envy you, and the success you have found in teaching. I hope that you continue to.
    More importantly, and I'd consider it otherwise, my school is a subsidiary more or less. I couldn't and wouldn't do that with our relationship in place especially considering the man who I am affiliated with has been my teacher pretty much since 1997 when I started training Taekwondo and has become my main source of guidance and support in tkd.
    I contract under an organization utilizing an after-school program epistemology, combined with a central school where we all meet, and loathe it. Though I love teaching, doing so once a week is not teaching, and most students are dipping their toes in the water. It is... disenheartening when one teaches at one location, who in the first half of the year has double the student count in one location, while retaining complete headcount, while in another location only 3 students returned.

    I am leaving the organization, believing when I joined it would be an opportunity in the difficult economy to both teach and make money as a student. Being forced to teach in what I would consider a mcdojo format, does not appeal to me. Learning legitimate American Kempo has made it worthwhile; but teaching in this fashion is disrespectful I feel to the art.

    This experience has taught me that that if I want to teach, I should do so independently. I have yet to figure out how to raise the money I estimate I'll need to create what I want, but I am certain I will find a means, just as you will to teach wherever you end up. Some people are meant to do, those who are pure, teach. I find you to be that. I do not intend to open my doors to a school until after my military training. Though I enjoy teaching, I have found a comfortable place to practice with others. I have found a peace in showing others what I know when they ask, rather than actively going to a location to teach. I have found the people I am most likely to retain come to me, and that they actively communicate with me about what they are learning. Those are good students.

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    jks9199 is offline Cause of War & Destroyer of Civilization


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    Re: The next level

    Epistemology.

    Using the proper words, the right way, is kind of important. Especially as an almost-bachelor's degree holder, studying a writing intensive field.
    It is well that war is so terrible -- lest we should grow too fond of it. Robert E. Lee

    The four truths: Assaults happen closer, faster, more suddenly, and with more power than most people believe.Rory Miller, Meditations on Violence

    Voting against incumbents until we get a Congress that will actually do its job.


    Opinions expressed or statements made are mine and mine alone. They do not reflect official statements of my employer. Nothing said should be construed as providing any sort of legal guidance, and is at best a statement of general principles. Consult an attorney in your local area for legal guidance.

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    ETinCYQX is offline
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    Re: The next level

    Thanks for the advice ZenJael.

    As far as passing the baton, I've been clear since day 1 that I was only here for a year so my students know the score. Won't make it any easier. However, I'll stay as involved as I can from 400km away. I only hope my students think highly enough of me to miss me when I'm gone
    Kukkiwon Taekwondo
    Kodokan Judo

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    Gwai Lo Dan is offline
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    Re: The next level

    Quote Originally Posted by ETinCYQX View Post
    What irritates me is I know my program is better. Hell, I'm even cheaper. On paper this other school shouldn't be able to compete with me.
    You are only a 1st Dan, while the other guy is a much higher Dan. That means TO MOST PEOPLE that he is better and therefore more expensive.

    That's one of my pet peeves by the way, that people judge based on the number of stripes, and not how good the martial artist may be as a practitioner or teacher.

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    Re: The next level

    Quote Originally Posted by Gwai Lo Dan View Post
    You are only a 1st Dan, while the other guy is a much higher Dan. That means TO MOST PEOPLE that he is better and therefore more expensive.

    That's one of my pet peeves by the way, that people judge based on the number of stripes, and not how good the martial artist may be as a practitioner or teacher.
    I suspect this guy did whatever he was going to do a long time ago, but I agree that people will pay more to learn from a master than a 1st dan. I don't see that as unfair, though. Some people can be really good teachers as 1st dans, but a master is generally going to know a lot more and be a lot more experienced. Also, unless they're regularly training with a master themselves, you're going to get to a point after a couple years where they don't have anything more to teach you.

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