Biggest Issue When You Started A School

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martialartsnerd

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The whole selling it as a “way of life” gives me images of a cult when it comes to MA. There’s a bunch of BS about the arts and in the arts. Think Hollywood’s version of Shaolin monks, samurai, etc. I’m not a marketing guy at all, but I don’t think the “martial artist way of life” will conjure up similar images. I don’t think that’s what people are really after. And I don’t think the people who respond to that stuff are the people who a lot of dojo owners are after either.

While we’re on the subject of marketing...
Can dojos leave the pseudo Asian cultural stuff behind? I’m not talking about etiquette and terminology, I’m talking about cheesey 80s dragons, tigers, yin yangs, motifs, etc. If you’re Asian and this is actually how you’d decorate your studio back home, that’s one thing. If you’re doing it to look cool, I don’t know what to tell you other than please stop. The 80s are over. If you’re not Chinese and your studio looks like a Chinese take-out restaurant, there’s just something not right. If you’re not Japanese and you designed your school’s logos and the like to be “Japanese looking” you really need to rethink it.

If your certificates and the rest of your dojo look like this, it’s pretty hard to take you seriously
View attachment 21552

Sorry, I needed to get that off my chest.

Again, entirely possible that there's gaps in my knowledge to fill, and you've proven that there are. But at the same time, it's for that reason that I'm hell-bent on this, because martial arts, well, beyond self-defense and sport, anyway, has a philosophical and intellectual side to it that people would benefit from for sure. That's what I want to change with public perception. Also, yes, the pseudo-Asian cultural stuff does have to be left behind. Putting pics of the historical lineage of the style you practice is one thing. Crap-tier decorations are another.
 

dvcochran

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That's something I've noticed with the instructors I know personally who are in the garage-days phase. I would certainly love to figure out how to help them market to the older crowds so that they can give their attention there. Out of the three instructors I've gotten to know, one of them watered down his Taekwondo so as to attract a following of kids, and I also feel that this is because of how it's attracting uninformed consumers, another problem I want to solve with the marketing that I'm learning.
The person watering down his program is hurting all MA. I do not understand this. Especially in TKD which seems to be the initiator of kids classes. It doesn't matter how good your marketing is if your quality is poor. It will catch up with you.
 

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The whole selling it as a “way of life” gives me images of a cult when it comes to MA. There’s a bunch of BS about the arts and in the arts. Think Hollywood’s version of Shaolin monks, samurai, etc. I’m not a marketing guy at all, but I don’t think the “martial artist way of life” will conjure up similar images. I don’t think that’s what people are really after. And I don’t think the people who respond to that stuff are the people who a lot of dojo owners are after either.

While we’re on the subject of marketing...
Can dojos leave the pseudo Asian cultural stuff behind? I’m not talking about etiquette and terminology, I’m talking about cheesey 80s dragons, tigers, yin yangs, motifs, etc. If you’re Asian and this is actually how you’d decorate your studio back home, that’s one thing. If you’re doing it to look cool, I don’t know what to tell you other than please stop. The 80s are over. If you’re not Chinese and your studio looks like a Chinese take-out restaurant, there’s just something not right. If you’re not Japanese and you designed your school’s logos and the like to be “Japanese looking” you really need to rethink it.

If your certificates and the rest of your dojo look like this, it’s pretty hard to take you seriously
View attachment 21552

Sorry, I needed to get that off my chest.
There's definitely a line there somewhere that is best not to cross, but it's hard to identify it when it comes to the cultural hold-overs. Some of the cultural hold-overs feel "normal" to those who are used to them - just start with the traditional uniforms. I feel better training in a gi than anything else, just because it's what I've always trained in. I often wear hakama which serve very little functional purpose, but I prefer wearing one, and that's definitely near (and sometimes over) that line for other folks. I know some folks who train in kimono (usually yukata), and that feels over the line to me. Is it over the line to decorate your dojo like the one you trained in, because that's what feels like a training space to you? Carry that forward (someone trains in Japan, comes to the US and decorates their school similarly) a few generations, and you get someone who's not Japanese, never trained in Japan, but still has some distinctively (or, as often as not, erroneously) Japanese decorations.
 

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It's entirely possible I'm misinterpreting your intention here...

To me, it looks like the plan is to have an 'entry level' cheap plan for the pure hobbyist, with almost a sliding scale of increasing cost (and "special treatment") for those who are deemed more committed.

Maybe I'm odd, but I consider myself one of the most committed to learning and personal developing in my club.

What I don't have is an over abundance of cash.

If I was presented with the option of carrying on with a slow paced hobbyist class of watered down training or a better class for extra money I know what I'd choose.

I'd walk.

The whole premise screams "black belt club" in the worst way.
What I know of the idea of high-price offerings (not uncommon among speakers to discuss this stuff) is that you have a low-price offering that meets the needs of a larger group. Then, you offer a lot of value in a higher-price offering to those who are interested in it. It'd be like that BB club, but if the BB club actually offered a lot of value. For speakers who teach, this often is something like a low-cost pre-produced package of information, templates, and recordings. That's paired with live coaching, which is (of course) more expensive, but offers a lot more value for the right folks. I'm not sure there's a good analogy in MA, but it's an interesting concept and worth having someone dig into to see if they can work something out that works well for students and instructors.
 

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The lower-tier offers wouldn't be watered down, they just wouldn't have the personal touches of the instructor themselves. If there's any one thing I DON'T want to do, it's water down any of the martial arts. As Bruce Lee wrote the Tao of JKD, I feel that other masters could do similar as a low-cost offering. It'd be something like a free book -> online training modules -> group classes -> personal training. It's entirely possible for those without the funds for personal training to achieve higher ranks. They just wouldn't be able to personally train with the teacher for lack of funding. It's a similar ideology behind the Gracies' Gracie Academy.
In a larger setting, it could even be the difference between classes led by the associate instructors, versus those routinely led by the chief instructor.
 

Gerry Seymour

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The person watering down his program is hurting all MA. I do not understand this. Especially in TKD which seems to be the initiator of kids classes. It doesn't matter how good your marketing is if your quality is poor. It will catch up with you.
I don't necessarily agree that a person watering down what they offer is hurting all of MA. It's possible, but it seems unlikely, unless they (and their poor results) become widely known and recognized as "normal" for MA. In fact, if the people buying from them really like the product (kids having fun, parents get kids who are being active and are out of their hair a few hours a week, etc.), then I'm not sure they're hurting anyone.
 

dvcochran

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Seems like a bad run-in with a high-ticket marketing agency of sorts. Although some posts here have demonstrated a need for what I do, given your angle, a marketing agency/consultant/etc. would just be an out-and-out bad fit. Understandable, given your experience. Mind telling me more about this bunch you ran into so that I can get a good feel for the pros and cons of what they were up to?
I see both people with experience and understandably new employees and owners who get overwhelmed and the blank page goes up. Instead of stepping back and looking at the big picture needs, they get fixated on an issue(s) of low value. For me, I see it most in VLS applications where there are a lot of moving parts. I have even see consulting engineers have consulting engineers mostly because of trust issues by the owner/end user.
In the MA startup scenario, I do think most of the failures come form instructors who are really good at their craft and think that is good enough because of stories like the Gracies. Like many of that era, it was the golden age of Martial Arts awareness and extremely popular for many reasons. This made school startups much easier. The simple fact is, if you do not start your school as a business if will fail. Of course, you must have an excellent service. Remember, it is a service, not a consumable product. You are providing a service, ala, a servant. You better have the heart for it.
 

JR 137

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There's definitely a line there somewhere that is best not to cross, but it's hard to identify it when it comes to the cultural hold-overs. Some of the cultural hold-overs feel "normal" to those who are used to them - just start with the traditional uniforms. I feel better training in a gi than anything else, just because it's what I've always trained in. I often wear hakama which serve very little functional purpose, but I prefer wearing one, and that's definitely near (and sometimes over) that line for other folks. I know some folks who train in kimono (usually yukata), and that feels over the line to me. Is it over the line to decorate your dojo like the one you trained in, because that's what feels like a training space to you? Carry that forward (someone trains in Japan, comes to the US and decorates their school similarly) a few generations, and you get someone who's not Japanese, never trained in Japan, but still has some distinctively (or, as often as not, erroneously) Japanese decorations.
There’s always a line. I’ve seen some pretty stupid stuff in person and in videos/pictures that left that line a marathon distance away.

My teacher has some Japanese stuff around the dojo, and a collection of calligraphy that keeps growing. It was all given to him by his teacher (Tadashi Nakamura), so it’s all good.

There was a guy in my area briefly. He claimed to teach some sort of Chinese kempo/Japanese jujitsu/and Filipino knife art blend. No mats, but he had this thick shag carpeting. Murals of dragons, tigers, those lamp looking things with the tassels hanging off them all over the place, a few bonsai trees, incense, and Asian flute music playing in the background. He walked around in a costume kimono (I’ve seen real ones) holding a bo for some reason unbeknownst to me. Not to sound the wrong way, but he wasn’t remotely Asian. No clue what his students were doing, but even with zero MA experience at the time, I can tell you it wasn’t good at all. He wasn’t around for very long. I still can’t drive by where he was without a flashback. Since then that place has been a tanning hut, a floral shop, and now a beef jerky store in the strip mall

That was the worst example by far, but I’ve seen elements of it in a lot of places. I’m pretty sure the majority of potential students don’t want that nonsense. Where applicable - wear a gi or similar uniform, put up your school’s kanji, a picture of your teacher or similar, perhaps something you bought or was given to you from the actual area your art comes from, and be done with it. Mr. Miyagi’s house and yard were nice. Don’t try to recreate it.

Last thing - I saw a guy online wearing Daniel-san’s headband and seemingly taking himself seriously. The YouTube comments said it all.
 

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There’s always a line. I’ve seen some pretty stupid stuff in person and in videos/pictures that left that line a marathon distance away.

My teacher has some Japanese stuff around the dojo, and a collection of calligraphy that keeps growing. It was all given to him by his teacher (Tadashi Nakamura), so it’s all good.

There was a guy in my area briefly. He claimed to teach some sort of Chinese kempo/Japanese jujitsu/and Filipino knife art blend. No mats, but he had this thick shag carpeting. Murals of dragons, tigers, those lamp looking things with the tassels hanging off them all over the place, a few bonsai trees, incense, and Asian flute music playing in the background. He walked around in a costume kimono (I’ve seen real ones) holding a bo for some reason unbeknownst to me. Not to sound the wrong way, but he wasn’t remotely Asian. No clue what his students were doing, but even with zero MA experience at the time, I can tell you it wasn’t good at all. He wasn’t around for very long. I still can’t drive by where he was without a flashback. Since then that place has been a tanning hut, a floral shop, and now a beef jerky store in the strip mall

That was the worst example by far, but I’ve seen elements of it in a lot of places. I’m pretty sure the majority of potential students don’t want that nonsense. Where applicable - wear a gi or similar uniform, put up your school’s kanji, a picture of your teacher or similar, perhaps something you bought or was given to you from the actual area your art comes from, and be done with it. Mr. Miyagi’s house and yard were nice. Don’t try to recreate it.

Last thing - I saw a guy online wearing Daniel-san’s headband and seemingly taking himself seriously. The YouTube comments said it all.
Yeah, there are definitely those who clearly have crossed that line. The vagueness of the line is probably best observed in a lot of Aikido dojos. It's my experience that a lot of them go for a Japanese theme, probably copied in part from what they've seen either at some Japanese Aikido dojo, or from someone who did the copying. There's a pretty consistent feel among most Aikido dojos. There's a significant variation within their "norm" - which probably ranges from what you describe, with the bits of Kanji and such, to something that looks like it's supposed to be in Japan, complete with "dojo sandals" at the door for all to use to get to the mat. But if you start from the "average" of that range, you'll find most of the schools cluster around that average, with a few outliers at each end - some that have almost no Japanese holdovers, and others that might have crossed that line.
 

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What I know of the idea of high-price offerings (not uncommon among speakers to discuss this stuff) is that you have a low-price offering that meets the needs of a larger group. Then, you offer a lot of value in a higher-price offering to those who are interested in it. It'd be like that BB club, but if the BB club actually offered a lot of value. For speakers who teach, this often is something like a low-cost pre-produced package of information, templates, and recordings. That's paired with live coaching, which is (of course) more expensive, but offers a lot more value for the right folks. I'm not sure there's a good analogy in MA, but it's an interesting concept and worth having someone dig into to see if they can work something out that works well for students and instructors.

In a larger setting, it could even be the difference between classes led by the associate instructors, versus those routinely led by the chief instructor.

I'm not discounting how it could work, but there's a bit of a problem and the analogy doesn't translate well.

A company can justify the one on one (or one on group) training because it adds value and can increase revenue - that's fine.

The issue is that the selection of "the right people" in an MA setting comes down to the size of their wallet.

Is an instructor really going to turn down someone who is not all that good, but is willing to pay a 200% (say) premium for the special classes?

What about the people who are vastly more capable but vastly less wealthy?

The first group would get the advantageous training and "special" coaching and not necessarily get that much better.

The second group would get bundled in with the kids who don't want to be there and the adults who just want a gentle social workout.

I'd get bundled in the second group, because with a couple of kids, a wife and a house to support there's a very limited budget for extra curricular activities for me.

I think a lot of people would be in the same boat tbh.

Then of course the first group would get all uppity if they failed a test (or were refused a test) because they're paying extra...

Unless it's the same price but invitation only for advanced classes (for one example) I really can't see it working out well for reputations or MA as a whole.
 

pdg

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It'd be something like a free book -> online training modules -> group classes -> personal training. It's entirely possible for those without the funds for personal training to achieve higher ranks. They just wouldn't be able to personally train with the teacher

I just remembered this bit.

To put it bluntly, that's a crap idea.

So the person who reads the book can attain the same rank as someone who does 8 hours a week in class?

Or the person who watches the videos can?


Yeah right - then you'd be complaining about people holding undeserved and untested rank.

It's a balls idea.
 

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I'm not discounting how it could work, but there's a bit of a problem and the analogy doesn't translate well.

A company can justify the one on one (or one on group) training because it adds value and can increase revenue - that's fine.

The issue is that the selection of "the right people" in an MA setting comes down to the size of their wallet.

Is an instructor really going to turn down someone who is not all that good, but is willing to pay a 200% (say) premium for the special classes?

What about the people who are vastly more capable but vastly less wealthy?

The first group would get the advantageous training and "special" coaching and not necessarily get that much better.

The second group would get bundled in with the kids who don't want to be there and the adults who just want a gentle social workout.

I'd get bundled in the second group, because with a couple of kids, a wife and a house to support there's a very limited budget for extra curricular activities for me.

I think a lot of people would be in the same boat tbh.

Then of course the first group would get all uppity if they failed a test (or were refused a test) because they're paying extra...

Unless it's the same price but invitation only for advanced classes (for one example) I really can't see it working out well for reputations or MA as a whole.
I'm not discounting how it could work, but there's a bit of a problem and the analogy doesn't translate well.

A company can justify the one on one (or one on group) training because it adds value and can increase revenue - that's fine.

The issue is that the selection of "the right people" in an MA setting comes down to the size of their wallet.

Is an instructor really going to turn down someone who is not all that good, but is willing to pay a 200% (say) premium for the special classes?

What about the people who are vastly more capable but vastly less wealthy?

The first group would get the advantageous training and "special" coaching and not necessarily get that much better.

The second group would get bundled in with the kids who don't want to be there and the adults who just want a gentle social workout.

I'd get bundled in the second group, because with a couple of kids, a wife and a house to support there's a very limited budget for extra curricular activities for me.

I think a lot of people would be in the same boat tbh.

Then of course the first group would get all uppity if they failed a test (or were refused a test) because they're paying extra...

Unless it's the same price but invitation only for advanced classes (for one example) I really can't see it working out well for reputations or MA as a whole.
In concept, it's meant to work the other way around, for the most part. A coach doesn't usually have to turn down "wrong clients" - they market in a way that attracts the right ones to their best offerings. The "right people" are simply the ones who see the value and are (therefore) willing to pay the higher price...and have the money to do so. As you say, the analogy isn't perfect here, but I'm curious to see where the OP takes it as they're thinking it through more. It might not work in nearly the same way, but it's an interesting place to start. At worst, it'll lead nowhere and the OP (and anyone who follows the experiment) will learn something. At best (realistically) it might give a better way to draw the kinds of folks each instructor likes to work with and help some find a way to make a bit more money by providing more value.
 

Gerry Seymour

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I just remembered this bit.

To put it bluntly, that's a crap idea.

So the person who reads the book can attain the same rank as someone who does 8 hours a week in class?

Or the person who watches the videos can?


Yeah right - then you'd be complaining about people holding undeserved and untested rank.

It's a balls idea.
It looks to me like he's saying group classes is the alternate route to grading, not the books and videos. The way I read the concept is not to reduce what's already offered, but to find a way to offer more value to those who can afford to pay more and want more. A lot of instructors already do this, though more in theory than in fact: private lessons.
 

pdg

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The "right people" are simply the ones who see the value and are (therefore) willing to pay the higher price...and have the money to do so.

I can see the value of training with the lead instructor - I do so at least weekly.

But apparently I'm an unsuitable candidate for the model being discussed because I don't fulfill the second criteria.

It just smacks of exclusivity through expense, and quite honestly we all know the type of client that attracts...
 

Gerry Seymour

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I can see the value of training with the lead instructor - I do so at least weekly.

But apparently I'm an unsuitable candidate for the model being discussed because I don't fulfill the second criteria.

It just smacks of exclusivity through expense, and quite honestly we all know the type of client that attracts...
Exclusivity through expense is part of business. If a restaurant has 1,000 people showing up for dinner, and can seat 100, they aren't charging what they could, and are cheating themselves. They could serve themselves (and their customers) better by either raising prices or getting a bigger place where they can serve more. The latter is hard to do. In principle, a rightly priced product or service only draws slightly more demand than the supply. You can't serve everyone, so you figure out how to serve who you want to serve. Some folks have a mission to reach folks who can't afford much, so they price to suit those folks (and I know some folks who willingly lose money to do this). Others need to make enough money to keep the program open, or they can't serve anyone. Again, the idea isn't to push folks out of what they get now, but to figure out how to both offer something lower-cost to reach a wider audience (which a lot of folks do with books, videos, seminars, etc.) and how to offer something more to those willing and able to pay more for it.

Mind you, this is one model. It won't fit every instructor, by a long shot, and that's a good thing. I wouldn't be one of the high-paying clients, either. Only for a brief period of my career did I have enough disposable income for that sort of thing.
 

Jaeimseu

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I can see the value of training with the lead instructor - I do so at least weekly.

But apparently I'm an unsuitable candidate for the model being discussed because I don't fulfill the second criteria.

It just smacks of exclusivity through expense, and quite honestly we all know the type of client that attracts...

I don’t know about that. It’s all perceived value. If a client thinks the service is more valuable than the cost, they’ll find the money. People buy stuff all the time that they don’t need and “can’t afford.” If the perceived value is high enough, people will re-prioritize their spending in most, though not necessarily all, cases.


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
 

Andrew Green

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Exactly. Martial arts is a lifestyle rather than a simple hobby. It's something I feel that gets lost in a lot of the marketing when they try to attract the masses. Something I wish to solve.

No, it's a lifestyle for me, and a handful of others. For most it's a fun hobby. If you want to market only to "lifestyle" sorts of practitioners you'll likely have a empty school.
 

dvcochran

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I don't necessarily agree that a person watering down what they offer is hurting all of MA. It's possible, but it seems unlikely, unless they (and their poor results) become widely known and recognized as "normal" for MA. In fact, if the people buying from them really like the product (kids having fun, parents get kids who are being active and are out of their hair a few hours a week, etc.), then I'm not sure they're hurting anyone.
The "perception is reality" diatribe. Maybe there has been enough saturation that it isn't as apparent as it was in years past but the reputation, bad or otherwise, usually made it to our school in one way or another. The preceded reputation of MA was one of my bigger battles when I introduced our public school program. I suppose if, as an owner/instructor you are able to isolate yourself it is true but aren't you missing out on a lot? Honestly, I do not even know how to water down my MA or why I would want to. We are to lift up, not water down. IMHO
 
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martialartsnerd

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No, it's a lifestyle for me, and a handful of others. For most it's a fun hobby. If you want to market only to "lifestyle" sorts of practitioners you'll likely have a empty school.

That's true as of this moment. Trying to change that is my mission in life, but right now, I'm starting from scratch, with a few connections and a thorough lack of sanity. In that case, how would I alter the public's perception of martial arts AND drum up qualified leads for instructors simultaneously so that the instructors get the following they deserve and the public quits treating the martial arts like some neat extracurricular to tack on to a transcript? Or would a better idea be, as gpseymour and I discussed privately, to emphasize community building instead?
 

pdg

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In principle, a rightly priced product or service only draws slightly more demand than the supply.

This bit first...

Do you know any MA school - anywhere - that is full, let alone has demand enough to outstrip supply?

Exclusivity through expense is part of business. If a restaurant has 1,000 people showing up for dinner, and can seat 100, they aren't charging what they could, and are cheating themselves. They could serve themselves (and their customers) better by either raising prices or getting a bigger place where they can serve more. The latter is hard to do.

This is really where the analogy absolutely falls flat.

You know what places get full? Good and well priced restaurants, doctors, cinemas - places where you either need to go or where you can enjoy yourself with no effort.

You know what places never get full? Gyms, tennis clubs, MA schools...

The guy on here who teaches in a YMCA hosted school (embarrassingly, I can't remember his name) - I never remember him saying it gets too busy to run. They charge a nominal fee ($30-40 / month iirc) and I recall him mentioning discounts for the financially challenged.

So, even running as an effectively free service, demand doesn't outstrip supply.

I bet he could give away milk and cookies and still not be over subscribed.



I honestly think you could charge whatever you want (from 0 to whatever) and still have around the same size client base. The fee would in no way determine the 'quality' of student.



Edit: the fee wouldn't determine the quality of the instructor either btw, jus' sayin' ;)
 
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