Before I begin, I want to first say that I’m willing to give you the benefit of the doubt on a number of things. For example, I’m more than happy to assume that you are, in fact, a skilled practitioner of some sort of martial art. I may not know what that martial art is–and you might have just made it up yourself. But I’m okay with assuming that you put in some considerable time learning what you now know. I’m also willing to assume that you’re genuinely interested in improving the lives of other people through martial arts training. I don’t even have a problem with the fact that this interest may run parallel to your interest in making money–a dojo is a business, after all. You have bills to pay just as anyone else does. I’m not even going to give you a hard time about some of your fees–when I built my dojo, I looked at retail locations. I know how expensive they are, so I would expect your prices to reflect that reality. In short, I want you to know that I’m not looking down on you. I respect you, and I appreciate the situation you’re in.
So if I can respect you, how about you showing some respect for yourself? Or, if you can’t do that, how about your students?
When you throw a big neon sign over your door, what are you saying about yourself? The sign itself might be okay–but when it’s bright green and uses a font that makes all the letters look like lightning? What’s all that about? You might as well stick an inflatable gorilla outside your door. Are you a martial artist, or a used car salesman?
When I go online to look at your web site, can you PLEASE at least state what style of martial art you study? Don’t tell me, or your potential students, that you teach a “blend of karate, tae kwon do, kung-fu, aikido” and so on. That sort of laundry list of martial arts just gives the impression that you really have nothing to teach–you’re just throwing a bunch of names out there and hope something sticks with your potential customer.
And speaking of customers–is that what they are? I know that you’re likely to scoff at me here, but I don’t have customers. Our dojo has students. We have members. And I count myself as one of them. Yes, we frequently have people who come to the dojo who assume they are paying me (as chief instructor) for a service. But even these folks quickly realize that we are, at our very core, a club. We are not a blackbelt factory, where anyone gets a blackbelt because they’ve paid for it. We are a dojo–where anyone can get a blackbelt because they put in the time and the effort to EARN it.
Let’s talk some more about payments. As I said before, I respect that your rates may be high in order to pay for your highly-visible location. But why don’t you tell us your fees up front? Why do you only tell me what your latest beginner’s special is? I’ve learned the hard way that when you don’t see the fees of a martial arts club, it’s for one very simple reason: the fees are high. In some cases, VERY high. So what you’re trying to do is hook people in, and then hit them with the fees. I remember a parent telling me that one of their kids was asked to test for a new rank. The fee? $500! There was the test fee, the new uniform fee, the new board fee, and so on. If you’re not comfortable with the fees you’re charging, then maybe you’re charging too much..
Finally, trust your skills. If you have to put that your school is a part of some major organization and, when I look up that organization, I find that its SOLE PURPOSE is to create martial arts schools, I admit that I have some concern. Are you a dojo? Or a franchise? I’m afraid you must be the latter if you need some major organization to start your school. And if that organization is your ONLY martial arts experience, then I’m afraid all my previous statements about respecting your abilities go out the window. You are not a martial arts instructor, my friend. You are a charlatan, plain and simple.. Stop now before you delude your students into thinking they are learning something of value.
In the end, it’s your call. You know as well as I do that most parents and most people don’t know what a martial art is. They see a place that claims to teach a martial art of some sort, and they walk in trusting us that we know what we’re doing. In a way, we’re similar to auto mechanics. Most people don’t know how their cars work, so when they go to get them fixed or upgraded, they trust that the mechanic is doing their job. If that mechanic decides to pad the bill, or claim they know how to do work when they don’t, well, their customer won’t know until it’s probably too late. You know as well as I do that the people who walk through your door are, more often than not, going to take you at your word. Don’t you think you owe it to them to know what you’re talking about?
Thanks for your time.