How did you open your Dojo/Dojang?

Discussion in 'General Martial Arts Talk' started by dvcochran, Nov 12, 2018.

  1. WaterGal

    WaterGal Master of Arts

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    My partner and I started a school together, with him as the master instructor and me as the business manager/assistant instructor. He'd been teaching TKD part time on and off for at least 10 years at that point under different teachers, and I'd been teaching part time for about a year as well. Our teacher had been encouraging him to open a school for a while, and I came into some money and was like "hey, let's give it a try". (I'd taken some marketing classes in college and worked as a shift manager at a store, which did not prepare me nearly as well as I thought it would for starting a new business...)

    So, we got a bunch of terrible business advice from our teacher, made a totally unrealistic budget & business plan, formed an S-Corp, found a location, and finally signed a lease we didn't fully understand on a too-big spot in a shopping center. We ate a lot of ramen noodles for a long time, and did other work to keep a roof over our head. Eventually we 1) got better business advice from other people, 2) passed the 100 student mark and 3) were able to move into a smaller, cheaper location in a different shopping center. Finally, things got much easier, & we could actually pay ourselves something close to a living.
     
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  2. gpseymour

    gpseymour MT Moderator Staff Member

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    I've never seen a YMCA that wouldn't allow non-members. If they handle registration, they'll charge a higher rate for non-members. When I've handled it (some don't want to), I just had a set rate, since I can't really tell who's current on their dues with the Y.
     
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  3. gpseymour

    gpseymour MT Moderator Staff Member

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    I think that might have a lot of fairly common elements - including the bad advice from the instructor.
     
  4. Buka

    Buka Grandmaster

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    You would have loved my old dojo. Anytime any nearby school had to close or move or was looking for a new place I’d let them use my dojo in the off hours. For free. The only hitch was that myself or my students could take their class for free if we wanted. Then I would hand them a key.

    I also told them if any of my students were less than one hundred percent a lady or a gentleman I was to be informed immediately. That never happened.

    Over the years I had guys teaching their classes of Tai Chi, Kenpo, Tae-Kwon-Do, Japanese Jits, boxing and a few others.

    It was a win win for all of us.
     
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  5. Buka

    Buka Grandmaster

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    I made the mistake of asking out a student once. We dated for nine years. Then got married in 87. Been together since.

    And other than some close friends who trained there, and my assistants, nobody had any idea we were a couple.
     
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  6. gpseymour

    gpseymour MT Moderator Staff Member

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    Brother, that's my dream location.
     
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  7. gpseymour

    gpseymour MT Moderator Staff Member

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    That's one hell of a mistake, man.
     
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  8. dvcochran

    dvcochran Senior Master

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    Great attitude. When you in confident in what you do, you don't worry about the competition. I had a few higher rank students who would go with me to a Shotokan school. And the Shotokan instructor would come to the Dojang for senior belt classes. That was the only other school around so we freely shared time and energy. Good times.
     
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  9. Finlay

    Finlay Green Belt

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    First time round I ran a TKD dojang under my instructor in Scotland

    2nd time round I taught krav maga for someone else in Beijing and had a side class that i ran

    3rd time round I taught in the basement of my apartment block in indonesia

    4th time.... ready to go in Malaysia
     
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  10. Buka

    Buka Grandmaster

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    Wish I could "like" this and "awesome" it at the same time. Pretty damn interesting, that.

    I'd love to hear more.
     
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  11. Buka

    Buka Grandmaster

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    I wish I could chalk it up to confidence, but it was a lot more than that. I had some incredible niceties handed to me by the Martial Arts world. Oh, sure, there were some weird, prejudiced moments as well, some fricken crazy ones, too, but I was one lucky man. Mostly the right place at the right time type of thing.

    Kind of hard not to do likewise in return. And, yeah, Dvcochran, good times indeed. :)
     
    Last edited: Nov 14, 2018
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  12. Finlay

    Finlay Green Belt

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    Hello

    Thank you for your response to my post.

    I fear the story is not as interesting as it first appears.

    However,

    Here it is

    My Journey – part 2
     
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  13. hoshin1600

    hoshin1600 Senior Master

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    i started training in kempo as a young teen. monthly tuition covered 2 classes a week. i convinced the instructor to allow me to train 5 days a week and "just dont tell anyone else". the classes were separated by rank so there was a beginner white belt class. at about 6 months in i was promoted to the mid rank class. i then convinced the instructor to allow me to help out in the white belt class on top of going to my own classes and so began the journey. he taught me how to teach, how to have a voice and how to be a leader. i will never be able to thank him enough for that. years passed and i continued to teach first beginners then mid grades then advanced. my instructor who was a 2nd dan did not own the school and at some point he went his separate way from the owner who was a 5th dan. i then became the chief instructor by default. a few more years passed and i too decided it was best for me to move on. i had already been teaching outside the school doing private lessons. so i opened my own school on my own with no affiliation and without my instructors input. not long after i rented a space and signed a lease, i found there was a town blue law that restricted a certain class of business, which i fell under. (lesson: always talk to the town before signing a lease (especially the zoning board). so after my lease was up i closed up shop and went back to privates.

    i then started training in Aikido and Zen. after a few years my instructor and i decided i would begin teaching karate in a time slot before the Aikido class. this particular dojo was a charitable organization due to its Zen affiliation and was a Not For Profit Corporation. i was voted in by the members and became the Corporation President. This dojo was affiliated with Aikido Association of America and the head of the organization (Fumio Toyoda) asked me to open a dojo. so under the guidance of my instructor we opened a satellite dojo a few towns over in a fitness center. bad luck struck again and at some point the fitness center owner went bankrupt and abandoned the property. i mean literally abandoned it. i showed up to teach, the lights were out and there were fitness members there looting the place saying the owner had told them the place is in foreclosure and help themselves to what ever is in the fridge. well some members had paid a life time membership and figured the equipment was open game for the money they lost.

    at some point after that i started training in Uechi ryu karate on opposite nights from my Aikido nights. i used to visit a lot of dojos at random and either watch or participate in classes. i called it my musha shugyo training. at that time many schools didnt have a very open mind about random people from other styles showing up at their door. one of the schools i visited was a Uechi school and i could tell immediately the owner/ instructor was the real deal. i signed up and got my tail whooped for many months but things worked out and i stayed. it was like he would beat me down but the dog wouldnt go away, i kept showing up. i was either stupid or persistent....still not sure which. years and years passed and my girl friend (who was also a black belt in the same school) was on my case about me opening my own dojo. i talked to my instructor about it and he had no problem with it and was very supportive. i had to go sit and have a meeting with the head of the organization. he is a real business man (his highest enrolement was about 1000 students) and i might have been a little naive and he asked all kinds of questions that would have been answered by a business plan if i had had one, which i didnt . (lesson: put together a business plan..it will help organize your thoughts and reveal some pit falls) . i took some loans and found a place which i really couldnt afford and signed a lease without checking zoning laws ...again....but this time it turned out ok. it was a battle with the city about occupancy permits but the land lord worked it out for me. everything was great for a time....until the toilets started over flowing because we were on a septic tank too small for a business (and the land lord lived above the school, with his business in an other section of the property) then rain and snow water was running under the doors because of poor outside drainage... not to mention the water dripping from my ceiling because the land lord had a hot tub upstairs in his apartment. i moved to a new location. (lesson: even if you move 3 minutes down the road your gonna lose some students but you will gain a few) i was pressed for a location that was close to my old one so i picked a spot in a strip mall but the feeling of the space just wasnt the same. some people may call me crazy but i fully believe objects and spaces have KI or an energy. every space has a feel to it. (lesson: when renting a space pay attention to the vibe or feel of the space) the one i rented didnt really have the feeling i needed for a dojo.
    then life through me a curve and i got a "divorce " from my girl and my home finances started to tumble without her. (lesson: your significant other can and will make or break your business. they may say they are all in but most often they are not) i closed up shop and took what students wanted to continue with me back to my instructors dojo. i taught there for some years before moving on. during many of those years i began working with law enforcement instructors. had the chance to meet and learn from many great people...Rory miller, Dave Young and Tony Blauer to name drop a few. after a few conversations with a few people in that field, i decided this was the path i wanted to go and i was given the confidence to go and do my own thing from a Uechi mentor who is also an international defense tactics instructor. as a side note on that i never got into law enforcement. turns out the state i live in has an age restriction that i was older than. But i have been developing a combatives program for civilians that i am quite happy with along with my own flavor of karate that i could teach if i ever open a dojo, but the plan on that right now it to pass it down to my boys.
     
    Last edited: Nov 16, 2018
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  14. dvcochran

    dvcochran Senior Master

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    Good post. Just curious, over a course of how many years did your journey happen? Speaks to the perseverance aspect.
     
  15. hoshin1600

    hoshin1600 Senior Master

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    35 years so far... not counting the time spent training as a kid. i didnt and usually dont count that time because it wasnt that long and i dont remember much. i figure when i was a teen training with adults was when i really began studying.
     
    Last edited: Nov 17, 2018
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  16. JR 137

    JR 137 Senior Master

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    I love the part about the foreclosed gym where the landlord said to help themselves to whatever’s left in the fridge. Classic. After the fact, of course.
     
  17. Balrog

    Balrog Master of Arts

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    I transferred into the school as a colored belt. When my instructor's job moved him, I was the second highest ranking Black Belt in the school. The highest rank bought the school and ran it for two years, until his kids started getting involved in other activities. I bought it from him in 1994 and have been the chief instructor since then.
     
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