I’m Not Gonna Pay a Lot for that Dojo!

Striking Thoughts posted this article with the same title. But I’m going to change the subject, slightly–although I’m “borrowing” the title.

As a martial arts business owner, you have to decide what type of business owner you want to be. I was once told by a commercial dojo (dare I say it–“McDojo” owner) and *certified* FMA Guro (disgusting) owner:  Maurice, you get into this business to make great fighters or to make money. It is impossible to do both. I completely disagree, and this statement alone lowered my opinion of this man to the bottom of the barrel for martial arts teachers, although he had once been a friendly acquaintance. I say this, because you can get into this business to make money, just to teach the art, to teach the best version of this art as you can, or just to preserve the art. I also believe that there is room in every martial arts community to do a little of everything, and each teacher must first decide which position he will take in his local community:

  • top fighter
  • top fighting teacher
  • most well-liked teacher
  • most visible teacher
  • most wealthy teacher
  • most respected teacher

Is it possible to be somewhere in the middle? Yes. Is it possible to be a combination of several of these positions? Yes! Is it possible to be none of the above? Unfortunately, yes.

I was once told by Moe Rites, a former boxing teacher of mine, that fighters must strive to be the best at whatever they are good at. And if you did not strive to be the best, you were either not a fighter at all or you were wasting your time. There is no use in doing something if you did not strive to be the best at it. The sad thing is that most martial arts teachers today are satisfied just being a teacher, or just being one of the masses–even frowning on those who were attempting to be the best.

While I’m at it, let me share something with you I heard at the Palmer Park gym:  If you are not attempting to be a champion, you are attempting to be a loser. Teachers and martial artists alike have this misconception that the goal of the martial arts is to make you a better man. But my question is, better than what? Or better than whom? Better than you were yesterday? Better than the next guy? How do you gauge your ranking? You need to have someone to compare yourself to, in order to improve… otherwise, you are just fooling yourself into thinking that you are somehow “improving”. It’s a fallacy that the martial artist must be “humble” and not compare himself to others; fighting, my friends, is all about comparison. When we are fighting, we are attempting to be better than the next guy, whoever the “next” guy is.

So, that being said, assuming that 99% of the martial arts community (or 90, whatever) is just existing–sitting in place, spinning their wheels–does it make sense that the few schools who are working to improve and improve and improve will somehow offer better instruction, better training and technique, produce better fighters and better skilled students?

You tell me.

And if that’s true, that as a teacher and business owner, you are offering what is a better product…. why are you charging less than or the same as the next guy???

As a teacher, you can appreciate better martial arts. But most of the guys walking through your doors probably don’t understand the difference between good martial arts and bad martial arts. And if something is a superior product, it only makes sense that the better product costs more. Let the inferior teachers fight for the bargain shoppers, right?

So my point is this–potential students enter martial arts schools to be educated. You tell them about your style, your prices, your program. But you should also educate them on the decision they are about to make. Not to bash other teachers, but to educate them on the program, how you’re different, and what the benefit will be to them if they join a program like yours–compared to the next guy. And ultimately, you will have to justify the price you charge.

You may not have the nicest facility. You may not have the youngest, most athletic students. You may not have the most trophies in your window. You may not have the cutest uniforms. Those are things important to the newbie, only when they lack the information they need to choose a school. But once they know, the decision becomes easy. It isn’t about whose sales pitch has been proven effective in the big gyms or dojos. It isn’t about overcoming objections and closing techniques. It isn’t about charisma and looking good and smelling good. If the old crusty master with a thick accent and the great fighting skills can sign up students despite double the tuition of the McDojos, I know you can do it. It’s just a matter of building a sense of value in the minds of the potential student.

Price high, then justify. That’s the saying of salesmen of high end products. Use it.

So when a guy says, “I’m not going to pay a lot for that Dojo!”, it’s because he doesn’t think very highly of that Dojo. And my question to you is, if Bruce Lee were alive today, would he be offering one month free and six months half-price tuitions? I don’t think so. You and I would both be paying three, four times the going rate just to train with him. Now, all you have to do, as a teacher and business owner is ask yourself, “Am I offering the best training available?” If so, then price yourself accordingly. If not, then perhaps you have some self-educating and self-reflection to do.

And finally, if you aren’t offering the best martial arts training available, perhaps you should be getting into another business.

Thanks for visiting my blog.