As time goes on...

Bill Mattocks

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Just saw a comment in an old thread, and it's a great one. I had previously mentioned that in my dojo, we have a very high attrition rate. New students just don't stick around. The students I started with when I was 46 years old are all gone now, and I'm 62.

I used to think that in terms of running a business, this was a bad thing. I knew our dojo was run as a labor of love by our sensei, but I still had the idea that one of the goals was to attract and keep students.

But as time goes by, I realize it's not. At least not for the adult students.

90% or more, I'd guess, quit within a month. Most don't come back after the first couple of classes.

We don't beat them up or work them to death or terrify them. We're welcoming and friendly. Literally anyone can join and be part of our dojo. We've waived fees, given away uniforms, even bought one young man a bicycle when his was stolen so he could keep coming. We're traditional, but mostly informal. We have no contracts, and our monthly fees are very low. We don't charge for testing. We dont have mandatory attendance at seminars or tournaments. It doesn't matter, most still leave.

But now I begin to see, I think, that it was never about 'keeping students.' It's about teaching karate. The choice to learn isn't ours to make, it's the student's. If they choose to stay, we'll teach them.

And we're good. Our higher dan ranks (I exclude myself) are legit bad@sses. All of our blackbelts, even me, can bloody well fight. If that's the goal, we're the genuine article.

We're a tight-knit family, with an adult long-term core of about 20 or so. We do get new long-term adult students, maybe every couple of years a new one joins. A few have gotten old and infirm such that they no longer train, but they're still part of the family. Young, middle-aged, older, every race, culture and religion, we're a motley assortment of characters.

Running a business can't work like this. It's not sustainable. But this isn't a business. It's a Dojo. The goal is karate, but students have to choose to receive it. The choices to stay or go are equally good, there's no judgment.

One thing I know. Whether a new student walks through the door or not, we will be there, training. Come in, we'll teach you. Don't come in, that's OK too.
 

Gyakuto

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I thought the martial arts had a particularly high attrition rate but I think its no different for other new endeavours. The public just dont think they have the time or the grit to continue. But I think thats a good thing since the less committed weed themselves leaving those with the right stuff with whom one can spend time and effort.

I recently took up campanology and all Ive done is pull on a rope for the last four weeks. Despite the encouraging teachers I have to grit my teeth to force myself to walk to that cold, ancient bell tower - I think I developed that determination through martial arts. The organist want to teach me how to play their wonderful instrument too
 

Gyakuto

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most people don't realize that martial arts training doesnt have a finish line.
I think thats a very great difference between East and West. Ive been reading the excellent The Way of Salt by Ash Warren in which he compares Western and Eastern learning styles with you observation in mind. But I think we impose our own finish lines into the martial arts: black belt, regional/national champion, break 8 boards etc We have a different mindset to our Eastern brothers 仄
 

Yokozuna514

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interesting topic. I think the best places to train are like the one you describe. A good dojo to me would be like Cheers a place where everyone knows your name. Sure most of your time is spent training instead of sitting on a barstool drinking adult bevies but u think you get my point.
My ideal place would be filled with knowledgeable characters that made up the fabric of which we train and pass on valuable information to the next generation of students.

Personally I like to encourage the parents of the kids to join and try a class or two. Most do not stay for the long haul. I met a chap yesterday in the gym who came up to me to say hello. He wanted to know if I recognized him from the dojo. I had taught his son 5 years ago and he was one of those parents that took me up on the offer to try an adult class. As soon as he described the situation I remembered him immediately. Although he said he couldnt walk properly for a week after the class he understood completely what his kid was going through and decided he should probably not be so vocal when encouraging his son to keep up.

His son has since slimmed down quite a bit and the father is now on his own journey to an active lifestyle which is great. Neither of them are with the dojo but hes threatened to think about coming back with his son now that they are both in shape.

Instead of telling him that the dojo is a place he can do just that I left the door open in hopes that they do come back and can restart their journey with our community.
 

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