Seeking advice from club and school owners

Discussion in 'General Martial Arts Talk' started by Aiki Lee, Sep 8, 2012.

  1. Aiki Lee

    Aiki Lee Master of Arts

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    Hey all,

    I'm in the process of opening up a small training club at a location I found in my hometown. I will be under the direct supervision of my current dojo and will continue to train there as often as possible (once a week at the very least!). For those of you who have opened clubs or schools before, I am curious if any of you could offer to tell me some of your experiences you had when starting so that I could either pick up some good ideas I havent thought of or avoid potential pitfalls.

    Any contributions are appreciated :asian:
     
  2. oaktree

    oaktree Master of Arts

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    My experience with clubs is people tend to come more and put more work into their studies if they are paying.
    I use to have a club for free and people participated but no one practiced at home. As soon as I started asking for a donation of what ever they felt the class
    was worth they started to put more time in practicing and I knew I wasn't just wasting theirs and my time.

    It takes a lot of patience you will get some people who no matter how hard or how many different ways you explain it they won't get it or maybe one day after a year they get it.

    That is all I can say on the two things that stick out the most in my experience.
     
  3. Aiki Lee

    Aiki Lee Master of Arts

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    Oh. I'm definitely going to charge them. Not only because they need the pay the membership to the Banzenkan, but because I need additional income as my current job pays for nothing.
    Oaktree, how did build your clientele?
     
  4. Danny T

    Danny T Senior Master

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    People come to the martial arts for many different reasons. Their goals for the most part will not be the same as yours. Though you cannot be all things for all people if you provide high quality instruction and training in a manner that will meet a majority of their goals you will be sucessful. If you train only in a manner that meets your goals or the goals of the few you will struggle. Keep your actions in tune to meeting the goals of others. All the best to you.

    Danny T
     
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  5. oaktree

    oaktree Master of Arts

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    Building up students is hard and keeping them is hard too.
    Sometimes they leave unabruptly and it makes you
    Wonder if it was something you did. At least when I first
    Started out not having enough experience similar self discoveries
    Start to come. Advertising really helps. Meetup.com didn't bring
    To many students,Craigslist brought an OK amount of interest.
    Flyers worked the best and public bulletins like at grocery stores.
    As far as websites and other methods of advertising I dont know
    I will say TV ads for some reason always come off as cheesy.
     
  6. Black/Red Block

    Black/Red Block Yellow Belt

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    It’s a hard slog, you’ll be tested so many times. A Martial Artist doesn’t really begin to learn their chosen style until they begin to teach it.

    I started with a "beginners" course at a local school, it was 12 Kids and I have 1 who is going for Black Belt left. But the students come and go, predonimently around 4th Kyu Green in my style, Purple in most other styles, i think because there is a big step up from then to get Brown 3rd Kyu. you will find they'll develop their own little click groups, black belts in one Kyu grades in another.

    I would recommend making sure you have a lesson plan, but be aware it may need to change slightly depending on who attends the classes.

    I would highly recommend getting these books

    The Complete Martial Arts Instructor - James Lee-Barron

    Martial Arts Instruction: Applying Educational Theory and Communication Techniques
    Lawrence A. Kane
    Martial Arts Instructor's Desk Reference: A Complete Guide to Martial Arts Administration
    Sang H. Kim

    Also look at
    http://www.24fightingchickens.com/category/instructor-training/

    It’s got quite a bit of useful information that you could use.

    Remember do not Yell at your students, you’re not in the Army. Speak to them with respect and you will earn their respect.

    I always find that bringing the new students to the front line seniors at the back is good as they get the chance to see the correct application of the techniques rather than out of it in the back struggling to see what was taught. The seniors SHOULD already know how to do the specified techniques already

    As you have your Parent Instructor assisting you, they will definitely be there to answer any questions that you have to ask/answer.

    Oh an 1 more point, if a student asks you a question and you don’t know the answer – DON’T make it up, say you will have to check and get back to them next lesson (but make your you definitely get back to them next lesson) never make promises to students you can’t keep

    Good Luck my friend

    OSU
     
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  7. jasonbrinn

    jasonbrinn Purple Belt

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    Congratulations!

    It is going to be hard, but you can do it.

    Some of the main keys to getting your business going is understanding the who, the why, the where and the when;

    1. Who is the best target for your services (meaning demographics here, who wants what you got, how many of them are around and can they afford what you need).

    2. Why do the people who want your service want it? Are they young men looking for a challenge and self respect? Are they women looking for self esteem and security? Are they older people looking for peace and physical upkeep? Knowing this is crucial and should dictate the theme, atmosphere and workings in and outside of the club to be successful.

    3. Where do "your clients" live and how accessible and easy is your location for them?

    4. When is the best time for the most of "your clients" to take classes and can you accommodate this?


    These 4 alone should get you going, along with knowing that in the "business" of martial arts the PERSON is more important than anything else (including what you are teaching).


    I have a consulting company for martial arts businesses and if you are interested I am willing to help you FREE of charge. Just contact me directly if you would like to - jasonbrinn@gmail.com


    Best wishes,


    Jason Brinn
     
  8. Sensei Payne

    Sensei Payne Black Belt

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    My question is, should you already have a student base before opening a Karate School, or should you build it, they will come?
     
  9. Aiki Lee

    Aiki Lee Master of Arts

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    And that's one of the issues for me. I assistant teach at my current dojo so I'm experienced with teaching and have people who seek me for private lessons, but I'm not about to steal students from my instructor. So now I gotta start from scratch. The plus side is that I'm working out a deal with the landlord who won't charge me rent but will instead take a percentage off of whatever I bring in. So until I have a clientele, I won't be paying for anything. My teacher has even agreed to donate his old equipment for me.
     
  10. rlobrecht

    rlobrecht Brown Belt

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    Make sure this contract has an end date, or a cap at whatever the rent would have been normally. If things take off for you, this could get expensive.
     
  11. jasonbrinn

    jasonbrinn Purple Belt

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    I think the idea of the question might have been, why not teach at a park, or Y or something until you build a student base large enough to justify a commercial location. This isn't the end all of ideas but it is a sound one.

    Not saying it can't be done on a shoestring budget but it is VERY hard to build anything without some kind of advertising budget.
     
  12. Aiki Lee

    Aiki Lee Master of Arts

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    The park district already has someone. I used to teach at the YMCA with my dad, and he's still there. I don't want to take students from my dad or step on his toes.
     
  13. jasonbrinn

    jasonbrinn Purple Belt

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    While I applaud your efforts as long as you are not specifically marketing @ them it shouldn't matter. If your school offers something that there people are looking for then they could learn from that. At least its you and not someone else of less character. At some point you will get students from people you like, its ok. In fact diversity and competition in the market is really good and healthy. It keeps people honest and supports the clients.
     
  14. mib2112

    mib2112 Yellow Belt

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    I have been doing some 10 week Introduction courses for local grade schools, free of charge for the Schools and students. Go over basics of defending yourself from bullies, learn some forms / Kata. It's an easy way to get some new students lined up, send home fliers with them as the course nears an end offering regular classes, maybe with a discount for the first month or a free uniform with a 3 month contract.
     
  15. Mark Lynn

    Mark Lynn Master Black Belt

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    Himura

    First off congrats on branching out on your own to teach, it is a big step, but it can be very rewarding.

    That said I believe you need to really ask yourself
    1) What are your goals for teaching,
    2) Who do you want to attract or teach
    3) Are you planning on doing this to supplement your income? Or just to collect dues and make ends meet?
    4) What do you want to teach?

    All of these questions will help you better focus on the task at hand.

    Also I would do the following
    1) Find a supplier for training equipment, uniforms etc. etc. Get a tax ID number (DBA) so you can set up a wholesale account.
    2) Educate yourself on running a martial arts business, there is a lot of good info with the martial art consultants orgs out there. However it helps to first know the answers to the top 4 questions before seeking any advice from consultants. Jason offered you his services for free (that's a good start).
    3) Be careful of opening up a commercial space without really knowing what you are doing, even if the landlord is working with you.

    Lastly on teaching
    1) Be your own person, teach your way. You don't have to be a carbon copy or a mini me of your father (or your head instructor), be yourself. Likewise though make sure you have things really thought out on how to teach, and who you are teaching.
    2) Invest in your program by getting more training equipment, instructional DVDs on teaching where you might be weak (like if you plan to teach kids, but are most comfortable or experienced teaching adults) anything like that you can use to help you teach and retain students I believe is a good investment.
    3) Develop lesson plans that make sense and help you keep your students on track, instead of teaching by the seat of your pants.
    4) Keep stats on your classes and look at them to see where you might be having problems, when students are quitting and why etc. etc. Don't gather the info and then not look at it.

    Start out doing things right and it can be a easier transition if you want to go full time sometime down the line. Start out wrong and it will be a game of catch up and a big headache (it can still be rewarding, but it is more stressful, I speak from experience)
     
  16. Mark Lynn

    Mark Lynn Master Black Belt

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    OK you asked for our experiences

    My first teaching job was at college for the intermural sports dept teaching TKD as a brown belt. I taught adults 2 hr classes 2-3 nights a week. Had a great time. Then taught at a YMCA (aboout 15 years ago) and had kids classes who I tried to teach like adults. I had about 7 students who stayed with me (over 3 years), I ran off a bunch though. I then changed too many things (due to a move at work) and lost them all. Lesson here is that people don't like change, (even parents and kids).

    Fast forward to 5 years ago when I started teaching at a Rec. Center (where I'm still at) where I took over a program that was small but up and running. Again to much change and ran off all of the students, however I became my own person and started teaching how I wanted. I made a choice to be the best teacher than I could for kids and for my adults, but I re educated myself, and re looked at my system to see how to do things better. I re invested in myself and my program getting more equipment, more instructional DVDs for ideas on drills games for kids classes etc. etc. educating myself on running a martial art business, and I raised my prices $20.00 a month. Now my classes are actually doing good (better then ever, and the Rec. works well with me because I have grown the program far surpassing the old program. We just tested our first group of three students for 1st black all of whom have been with me for 4 1/2-5 years, and I have a good group of brown belts with two more slated for testing for 1st black next Spring. I work full time (at my day job) and teach about 16 hours over 4 nights and Saturday every week.

    Do I do all that I recommended for Himura to do? No, I don't. I don't keep stats like I should, I don't use lesson plans although I should (and I have some 80 plans laid out). Because of my work and teaching schedule I let some things slide by and old habits are hard to break. Plus my lesson plans were designed to be implemented with some curriculum changes (and I've semi learned my lesson about students and change over the years). However I need to make some changes like keeping stats and implementing the lesson plans, I just have to develop that habit and confidence. The down side to growing my business is the strain it puts on me physically, emotionally, and on my family while working full time (plus OT) at my day job and teaching about every night during the week. It is a killer grind on you.

    I have planned for years and built my business with the goal of teaching full time, and due to my parent company's woes, that business opportunity might be coming about next year (YEEHAH!!!!). Being where I am at now, looking at losing my main income, being older middle aged (to old and to settled to chase jobs across the country in my career field), I look back now and wish I would already have those skills that I need to go to teach full time (record keeping and such). However knowing from the beginning what I wanted to do (teach FT) and working towards that goal (even if I never went for it) I am way ahead than a lot of my co-workers, who are now facing layoffs and uprooting their families etc. etc.

    I've grown my program because I enjoy teaching, way more than I have ever enjoyed my day job. I started out teaching like my instructor taught me (as an adult) which was fine for college students but not for kids. Then when I went to the Rec. Center I tried to be like the instructor before me (who was great with kids), over time though I learned to be my own person, I am way more relaxed with my kids (students) than I believe my sensei is with his students, at the same time I am more strict or demanding of my students than the former instructor was of his students. I'm probably a lot more crazier as well.

    Anyway that's my experience. Have fun teaching. I know I will.
     
  17. Aiki Lee

    Aiki Lee Master of Arts

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    1. My goals for teaching are to spread the influence of the Banzenkan across the midwest. Basically to grow the organization. Personally, martial arts have helped me overcome a lot of fear and self-defeating tendencies. I wish to do the same for other people.
    2. I would rather teach only adults at this point and perhaps teenagers. Younger students would need to be evaluated for maturity before I would make that exception. The reasons for this are mostly because the room I'm using has exercise equipment in it and I don't want kids screwing around with it and hurting themselves.
    3. I need supplemental income and would eventually like to teach MAs professionally full time. Getting another part time job would interfere with my own training.
    4. I will teaching Banzenkan aiki ninjutsu with emphasis on RBSD.
     
  18. Chris Parker

    Chris Parker Grandmaster

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    Hi Lee,

    Cool. It's always good to have a clear idea of your aims and goals when heading into something like teaching... however I would hasten to add that it's equally important, if not more so, that you recognize that the ideals you have for training, your reasons and so forth, honestly don't have much place in what you're offering your students. They'll be coming to you for their own reasons, so wanting to give the same benefits you've received, when the student's aren't necessarily looking for such things, can be a recipe for frustration and disappointment.

    Additionally, looking to spread the art, or grow the organization, I would recommend you reconsider. It's a goal that is removed from your own development, as well as removed from your ability to control. Especially if all you're really doing is running a satellite school of your main one. I'd ask more in particular, what do you get out of teaching? When all's said and done, there's really only two reasons that lead to success and longevity in teaching, I'm just curious as to whether or not they've featured in your plans yet.

    Cool. My reasons for teaching only adults is that, well, I'm teaching them things like how to fight with a knife... or break bones with staff weapons. I'm just not about to give that to kids.... and I'm also not about to change what it is I teach just to accomadate a parent with a kid who saw the latest karate-kid movie....

    I wish you all the best with that. It's not an easy thing to achieve, especially if you're not teaching kids, or using a full time center. Personally, I'd love to as well... but it's not exactly feasible with my current approach. Oh, well, maybe when I win the lottery....

    Out of interest, what is your experience with RBSD? I haven't seen anything listed in any of the Banzenkan websites or descriptions.... is it part of your methods there?
     
  19. Aiki Lee

    Aiki Lee Master of Arts

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    I recognize that people will come to MA for a variety of different reasons. I feel I could accomodate any reason people wanted to come to training for with the exception of competition. Most peoplewho have joined my dojo were looking for self-defense or just a simple outlet to try something new.
    About spreading the art and the organization. I feel that since there is something of value I have a duty to share it. I truly believe MA training has the potential to change lives, and I want to be a part of changing people's lives (one of the reasons I work in the social work field as well).
    Basically right now I only have to replace $400 a month so I don't need many students.
    Reality based self defense is one of our main priorities in the banzenkan. Conflict resolution, situational awareness, and a basic understanding of laws regarding self defense, assault, and battery are important for us to go over. The importance of generating adrenaline to fake the stress of a real confrontation is vital to sucess at the upper kyu level when a larger focus is placed on making things more ...uncomfortable. There's more but I'm not sure exactly if your looking for anymore of an answer than that.
     
  20. Chris Parker

    Chris Parker Grandmaster

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    Hi Lee,

    This might sound odd, but I'd advise not thinking about accommodating students at all. That's not what you're there for. There's a big difference between understanding what their aims are, and skewing what you teach towards that... I personally have no interest in accommodating anyone, though. As soon as I start thinking along those lines, the very thing that I'm teaching starts to get lost. I have no problem sending potential, former, even currently training students to other teachers or arts, if what they're after conflicts with what I offer.

    In the end, it's far better to have a clear understanding of what you're offering, rather than allowing the students to dictate, even to a degree. How things are taught can be based on the student group, but what is taught is another matter.

    Okay. I'd still be cautious about such motivations, as it can be quite a fair amount of unfair pressure on yourself (whether you realize it or not... if it works, you're not getting the benefit in any way, and if it doesn't, you've "failed in your duty", and have to commit seppuku...).

    As I said, there really are only two reasons that I've come across that work for any form of longevity in teaching... otherwise it's very easy to get burned out, or crushed under the weight of such heady responsibility, especially when such responsibility only exists in your mind.

    Ha, you're in a better position than me, then, my friend...

    Okay, that's part of it, but not the major aspect. For one thing, RBSD rarely has such a long-term methodology. I'd suggest that you're probably closer to us in that respect, which is more RBSD-influenced self defence methodology... but before going any further, I'd be wanting to see more of what your curriculum is in this regards. Bear in mind, of course, this isn't a judgement at all, just curiousness about the terminology being used.
     

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