The Business of Doing Martial Arts Business

When I opened my school, I was young and green and very idealistic. Unlike many of you who teach for a living, I spent a few years working for commercial schools, learning the ropes from how to teach a larger class to sales pitches designed for martial arts students. I saw many things I liked, and saw many things I did not like–and formed a martial arts “business” system, based on my likes and dislikes.

Also, apart from my personal tastes, I adopted many things I disliked because it was necessary while omitting things I did like because they were counter-productive to running a successful school.

The martial arts teacher, if he is to be successful in being able to teach for a living, must be willing to do the same.

I am of the opinion that teachers must be full-time if they ever want to elevate their art and their ideas to develop fully and master themselves. Day jobs and worrying about bills are major distractions to the teacher and it affects their ability to give students their all. This prevents teachers from being able to see their ideas and philosophies manifest into actual skill in their students. I don’t care what you think:  When you are only devoting a few hours a week to your art, you will never be as good as you can be if you devoted a full day, every day, to your art. If you think so, you’re just fooling yourself. And you are cheating your students by trying to convince them that it can be done.

Rather than argue that point I’d like to move on. I’m sure most of you would rather be able to train the art full-time if money were not an issue. If you could train students pretty much the way you’d like to, and make a decent living while doing it–where do you think your personal skill in the art be in ten years?

There are many books on the subject of how to sign up new students, how to market, blah blah blah. But let’s talk about the business of running the business– not for the McDojo teacher, but the traditional hard-core teacher. This will be just a few generic tips and summarized descriptions, but I’d like to expound on them in detail a little later:

  • Do away with the “trial” lesson.  That’s right, I said it. “Try it free first”, aka the “Puppy Dog close” is not good for the traditional teacher. I have an idea…. Go to Harvard University, tell them you’re thinking of going to Harvard for law school, but Princeton has a pretty good deal. You’d like to take a free class for a day before making a decision. Sounds like an idiot, right? Harvard will call security and have you ejected. Apply, young man, and we’ll call you.  Why are teachers tap dancing for students? When you do a free trial lesson, you are basically trying to entertain the student in order to capture his interest and impress him, over that other school. Start off that way, and you won’t be doing class the way you want to teach. No, you will be teaching classes you think will excite the student and get him to come back and pay tuition another month. So trial lessons are like meeting the parents for the first time. Instead of learning what the student SHOULD learn on the first day, you have him swinging nunchucks, doing disarms, takedowns and chokes. While you know darn well he should be learning how to hold his guard and perform a proper pushup. One day won’t teach him what your school is all about. If it does, then your school is very shallow.
  • Don’t allow spectators. Your current students are paying for your attention. They are not paying to be martialturbation fodder for martial art voyeurs. You know just as well as I do, that 90% of the people walking through your door may have a slight interest in the art–hell they might even stand around and talk about it for two hours–but they have no intention of ever joining a school. A few folks may come through who are really looking for a school, and if your school is the one for them, they will understand that you giving your students 100% of your attention is more important than trying to do a sales pitch while paying students are there to receive service. It’s bad business, period. Schedule times outside of class to give both the student as well as the visitor all of your attention. Again, 5 minutes of watching a class won’t tell them what you’re all about.
  • Have someone else answer the phone–like your voice mail. I have heard the saying that you don’t want to miss sales calls during class. If you do that, they might just go and join another school. Well, if that student is so petty that he won’t leave a message and will join the first place who answers the phone–I don’t want him as a student. Some students are best suited for commercial dojos:  they don’t do their homework, they are gullible, they want convenience and comfort, and they are easily impressed. Not the kind of student the traditional teacher will even want to teach. When the phone rings, let it go to voice mail; you will spend valuable teaching time giving sales pitches to curious looky-loos.
  •  Lose the contract. Is that the only way you have to keep a student’s attention and commitment? Force him to stay? I know schools hurt when people quit; I have that problem too. But rather than bind a students’ hands to your dojo, why not find out why people quit and try to modify what you do to prevent that? More on this later–but often it has more to do with the student not feeling like the is progressing or he is not very comfortable in your school.
  • Make money off tuition. Seriously. Not “testing” fees. Not “association” fees. Not from equipment they don’t need. Not extra classes and seminars they need to advance. Just do it off tuition. I am not a fan of the “maximize each student’s value” crap I read about every month in the MA trade magazines. That is not just unethical, it makes you look money-hungry, regardless of how you spin it. I throw occasional seminars and workshops, and about half of them are free. I charge outside students, and provide the seminars to my own students either for a discount or free. And NEVER make one of these “extras” a required activity. Your students may or may not have the budget, but trying to dig deeper in their pockets will drive them out the door faster than a good deal! Please value this advice; it is one of the main things separating the McDojo from the traditional teacher.
  • Make money off tuition, too. Yup, make money. Charge what you’re worth, not what you think people will pay. Trust me, the martial arts is a recession-proof business. If people want it, they will find a way to pay for it. Charge less than you’re worth, and you will need more people to pay your own bills. And after all, most of you have put more time into learning your craft, more time than your dentist, your lawyer, your mechanic. Why are you charging less than minimum wage for your services? $60 a month? If a student trained 3 hours a week, you’re only getting paid 6 bucks an hour to teach him! Charge what is fair, and then make sure the value of your classes make it worth the money.
  • Don’t get into a price war. Okay, so Ronald McSensei is charging 60 bucks a month, and you charge 100. But he is also offering fluffy martial arts, he takes toddlers as students, he will slap a black belt on an 8 year old who can barely give a good history of the art he’s an “expert” in, he is charging $50 for an exam every other month, $350 for the black belt test…. Rather, be prepared to tell potential students why your school cost more. Ma’am what kind of car do you drive? Well do you realize you can drive an 88 Honda for a fraction of the cost of your 2009 Land Rover? She’ll get the picture.
  • Stop teaching kids. If that’s not your thing, it’s not your thing. You start that stuff, and before you know it, you too will be awarding black belts in 3 years (or less), throwing karate birthday parties, even putting on a clown outfit to entertain the kiddies. If you are a serious teacher offering adult martial arts, then be that guy. Nuff said.

I have way more advice, but I’ve got to get to bed. Teaching a class at 7 a.m. tomorrow. Hold that thought, and we’ll talk more about it later.

Thanks for visiting my blog.

DO Something!

In my new location, I meet potential students all the time. I am next door to a very popular Chinese restaurant in South Sacramento, and since I am there all day most days, passers-by peek in to see what is going on. I’m sure that as a business owner, this happens to you as well.

I want you to listen well; what I am going to share with you will help you increase your enrollment–if you’re a martial arts teacher. I originally wanted to post this under “Martial Arts Philosophy”. But after thinking about who is to benefit from the article itself (and not who the article is about–it’s your job to pass the message on to the right people)–I decided to put it under “Business” instead. My sincere desire for this blog is more than just attracting business to my school. I want to see more FMA schools and traditional martial arts schools to be able to say that they stayed in business for two decades, just like a crummy old cranky Guro like me.

So, listen good.

Every man who enters your school, whether he expresses a true desire to study or not, is a potential student. If he says he wants to study or not, he could potentially use your services. If there was enough of an interest or curiosity that a man walks into a dojo, he has enough interest to need or want the martial arts. Perhaps he once studied the martial arts. Maybe he wanted to study the martial arts and procrastinated until he thought he was too old. He may have once been mugged or robbed. Every man has once experienced the burn of fear when he thought he might be attacked, or the threat of having to defend himself or his family. Most adult males would like to get into shape. All men want to feel that his family will look to him for protection–and very few men really, really feel like they can.

Let’s chew on that for a minute.




Yes, most men don’t feel adequate. So they avoid the bad neighborhoods and shady-looking characters. They move to the suburbs where they feel like their kids won’t get bullied, their wives won’t be accosted or gawked at blatantly. They pick up their children from school because they aren’t sure their children know how to defend themselves. They will pretend that they feel safe. But the truth is, they don’t. And denying that fact makes them ignore the reality that they don’t know how to defend themselves and they are too cowardly to learn how and arm themselves.

Yes, I said it. They are too cowardly to go and study. So they work out, thinking this will help. Much safer to build muscle on your own than go and do any serious training. They watch MMA hoping to pick up a few moves instead of going to a gym and really learn those moves. They walk into martial arts schools looking for lessons for their 4 year old boys, when their real desire is to ask if you accept fat ass middle aged yuppie men.

And here we arrive at my point. When that yuppie male is broken down on the side of the street waiting on AAA, and some trouble maker thugs approach. EVERY man’s wife will turn to him and say the words he fears hearing, because he knows he has no answer for it:

DO something.

That’s right, John–DO something. What’s so sad about this, is that John is just as scared as his wife. He is just as helpless as his wife. And he is just as dependent as his wife is for someone to “DO something”. Except for John, that someone is the police, a pedestrian or good Samaritan, or maybe fate or luck by hoping that this will never happen. John, unlike his wife, has an abstract helper–besides God Himself–he is relying on the right person to be there to protect him and his family because he hasn’t done anything to prepare for that day when his wife will call on him to protect him. If she goes hungry, he is blamed for not bringing home the (turkey) bacon. If she is cold, it’s his fault for not heating the home. When she is unloved, he is to blame for not showing his wife affection. Yet for some reason, most men bury their heads in the sand when it comes to protection. You can’t buy protection with money, and real protection is something that takes blood, sweat and tears to have.

Let me say it again: Most men are afraid to prepare themselves for self-protection and arming themselves to protect loved ones. ALL men really want to prepare themselves. When they walk into your gym, they are secretly hoping that there is an affordable, SAFE, easy, pain-free way to get this protection.

Now you and I both know that “affordable” is up to perception. But safe, easy and pain-free? Feel free to laugh out loud… But regardless of the risks, it is a man’s DUTY to protect his family, and anything that happens to that family if he fails to arm himself will be his fault. Not only will he feel guilty, but his wife and children will no longer look at him as a man–because he cannot provide one of the most basic things a man should be giving his family. The community won’t even accept him as a man. How can he be respected when his family must look elsewhere for protection? It’s a terrible place to be, but for some reason most men are there. So when trouble arrives, he will just be a victim and his family will be victimized.

Unless, of course, he understands how important this skill is and how it is relevant to his role as head of the household. And that’s where you come in.

So, Mr. Visitor–if you go home, and your family are bound and gagged, and there are 3 thugs in your home looking for cash–are you prepared to do something about it? (Don’t let that dude leave your dojo until you two have had that talk) I’ll leave the rest up to you.

Thanks for visiting my blog.

thekuntawman on the Commercial Dojo

That’s *commercial* dojo to you, mister. Not “McDojo”. There is a difference.

I have noticed, among traditional martial artists, that many construe commercial success as “selling out ” in the martial arts. Not only is this untrue, it is unfair to the sincere martial artist, as well as bordering jealousy and being unrealistic. Many of our counterparts have figured out the formula to success without comprimising the purity of the art, and we should give them credit for doing so. I don’t believe that charging money is bad in the martial arts, and I don’t believe that one should have to charge such a small fee for lessons you would need an army to put food on the table.

I have had several debates with my own close friends in the art, who prefer to teach out of community centers and backyards and hole-in-the-wall schools. These are passionate, pure martial arts enthusiasts who turn their nose up at any sensei, sifu or guro in the community center. Reading the little comments I make on this blog here and there, you would think that I’m the same way but that’s not true.

Many of our successful brothers and sisters have made a good living teaching quality martial arts. Just off the top of my head, Dennis Brown, Willie Bam Johnson (and student of Brown’s), Anthony Goh, Chuck Norris, Benny the Jet Urquidez, the entire Gracie family, Cung Le… Some of these men have made millions of dollars while maintaining a high standard of skill in their schools. I think it’s worth seeing what they do to be successful.

But another article. Today, I would like to offer some suggestions that you may find helpful for your school. These are “commercial” as well as “traditional” practices, and they will help you improve your school’s operation as well as keep the integrity of the art. Now, let me qualify this by saying that I am presenting my opinion–and in no way am I passing judgment on any of you. You know how some of you martial artists are so easily offended:

  • Drop the free class/trial. I consider this a flawed tool for recruitment, as it really doesn’t give the student an idea of what goes on in a martial arts class. When you do free trials, you end up trying to entertain students with neat tricks and exercises to make them feel like they are in a Shaolin movie. You wait until they sign them up to do the all-so-necessary-but-painful-and-boring footwork training and conditioning exercises. Or, because of retention and “buyer’s remorse”, you may skip doing so altogether. It’s just a bad idea. Can you attend one day of class at a university to “see if you like it”? Hell no. You either want to do it or you don’t. And if you like it you stay, if you don’t, you drop out at the end of the semester. If a student isn’t sure if they are going to like it, tell them that they aren’t supposed to like a class if it’s done right. But if they want to find out what training is like in your school, try it for a month and they will get the gist of it in 5-7 classes. You do something different each day, and one day won’t encompass everything.
  • Another reason I don’t like free classes, my classes are a monthly curriculum. They can only join at the beginning of the month, or I end up cheating my students while I accalamate a new guy to the training. If a student joins in the middle of the month, we will do a few private classes to get them caught up. You want your school to be taken seriously, and lookie-loos distract students, you and detract from the focus in the class.
  • Don’t allow visitors to the class. I need concentration during class time, and spectators are a distraction. Can you walk into Harvard University and watch a Law class in progress? Who put our martial arts schools on display anyway? This is a traditional program, and we do not entertain visitors the way the more commercial schools do. You may make an appointment to discuss our program, but as a rule–I give my students my full attention by not recruiting while they are paying me to teach them.
  • Rather than charge by the month, why not charge by the course? A course being 3-6 months?
  • How about charging by the class?
  • Separate your general martial arts students from your fighters. I have seen some schools offer a basics class, where they drill punches, kicks and other skills; a conditioning class; a sparring class; and a forms class. This way, students can pick and choose according to their tastes, and you aren’t scaring away the guys who just want to lose weight and not fight, nor are you turning off the guys who want to fight and not do forms.
  • Have a real age cut-off. I don’t accept students younger than 10 in my kids class, and my adult class is exactly that:  an adult class.
  • Are you in an area with a lot of immigrant Hispanics? How about a class offered in Spanish, where you mix English and Spanish terminology, to help newcomers and their children ease into the language?
  • “Homework Club” for kids. I have long thought about this myself. There are many latch-key kids in my neighborhood who come home to drug dealers and drunks and TV and gangsta wannabes. I don’t want a day care license, but if my place is a safe place, and I can have my student come to the school to hang out instead of the streets, why not? Make it $50 a week for the school to be open to kids to come in, train, get a snack, and do their homework. Just a suggestion.
  • Offer one-on-one fitness training during the day, while there are no classes going on. I charge $35 a session, and its better than getting a day job.
  • Drop the uniform, and make it optional. Some students in this economy can barely afford the tuition. We use our uniforms for tournaments. I have school shirts, and student can train in whatever’s comfortable. As my slogan says, this ain’t your little brother’s karate school.
  • While you’re at it, drop the corny creeds that no one really cares about too. This ain’t citizenship class, it’s martial arts. And your students aren’t 6 years old.
  • Encourage competition among your students. I allow trash-talking, because it lends to confidence. As the saying goes, don’t let your mouth write a check that your ass can’t cash. Allow a little aggression to enter the dojo, and your students will get that confidence they are paying you for. Plus, it will make them have to back it up, and learn to deal with antagonism. Makes the dojo more self-defense-oriented.

Just a few ideas. When I’ve had a chance to really get my thoughts together, I will write up a part II. Thanks for visiting my blog!

The “Other” Kid

Also known as “One Reason Why Your Kid Needs Martial Arts, Part II”

Anyone remember the first article?

I made myself a note to write about the “other kid”. In case you didn’t catch the clip (go back and watch it!) closely enough, at the end of the altercation between the boy who body slammed the bully the other boys approached as if they were going to fight him. But something not many people noticed. A girl walked over and got between Casey Heynes and the approaching boy. She’s the “other” hero in the clip, but it appears no one noticed.

How many of us watch an injustice occur and do nothing? I doubt many of you have actually done nothing. The reason for this is that if you are reading this blog, you are a martial artist. We are not the kind of men and women who will do “nothing”, therefore we are the “other” guy in someone else’s altercation. In my entire life, I have only pulled a weapon on a few occasions and the first time I pulled a knife with the intention to use it was at the Baltimore Inner Harbor when I was with some students and a man was being beaten on the sidewalk. I wanted to walk away. (Yes, I was guilty of minding my own business) We didn’t know if those guys had a gun or not, and then getting involved with an altercation is scary stuff. But the young woman who was with him begged some passers-by to help, and I couldn’t do nothing. So I pulled my knife, and without a fight–the guys stopped. Thinking the knife did the trick when I turned to look at the guy, I saw that my students had run across the street behind me. Good work guys.

But what is it that makes people do nothing? Fear. And two things usually help you overcome fear–self-preservation, and fear of not doing anything. Often, for the untrained man, even those things will fail to empower him to fight back or assist, even when the person being hurt is himself or a loved one. Training then, helps you face that fear and do something. Lack of training intensifies your fear, and this is what makes victims and witnesses to victimization. I have broken up fights on several occasions when the fights are “fair” fights, that’s the easy part. The hard part has been to break up fights where they weren’t fair fights, and I regret to say that I have failed to do it more than I have gotten involved. This is a demon I fought against as a young man, and I have done it more lately than I did when I was in my prime. It is something to think about in your training–and in your own level of courage. One thing to fight when transgressed, but what if you encountered a stranger? And you know nothing about it? You don’t know if the man being beaten has done something to warrant his beating. You don’t know if the beating will result in the victim’s death. You don’t know if you will feel the torment of guilt if you don’t involve yourself and something worse happens.

Tell you what I’d done in recent years. I watched, and when the altercation looks like it had run long enough, and the combatants have had their fill. I step forward and assure the winner of the fight, “You got him, he’s had enough. Don’t go to jail over it.”  It works. You stop the fight from going on, you’ve reassured the winner that he’s accomplished what he set out to do, and you did it without being confrontational and was able to calm the guy down. Plus it gives you a chance to be nosy and find out what happened. But most of all, you know that you’ve stopped the beating from becoming fatal. Some may criticize this because it isn’t soon enough, but to each his own…

Back to my topic, few people will involve themselves in an altercation that is not close enough. The martial artist–excuse me, the warrior–should have one extra factor helping him overcome the fear (or “hesitation”, call it what you want), and that is duty. If we have the ability to stop a man from being hurt unnecessarily, we should act on it. Imagine how you would feel, as the witness to a fight or beating, doing nothing, and then discover that the man being beaten was a father who was just minding his own business and going to work? Well, a good friend of mine had this experience. His brother-in-law was beaten, but not robbed, by a group of thrill-seeking teens while walking home from work in Southern Maryland. He ran while being beaten and chased, and finally a woman blew her horn from her vehicle and the boys ran off. This man–in his 40s with a teenaged boy himself–is a good man. He is raising three young children and a teenaged step son, on two jobs so that his wife can stay home with the children. He had lost his home and had to swallow his pride to live with his mother-in-law. His second job was a weekend job at a fast food restaurant, where he was mistreated by his uneducated, immature and young manager–but he endured it to take care of his family. He is a gentle man who had never been in a fight in his life. His pride was hurt, and who knows what emotional or psychological issues he may suffer today as a result of the humiliation? Would you have done something to help? Of course, which of us wouldn’t? But when the altercation happened, no one knew this about him. All they see is a middle aged, pudgy man being chased and beaten by young punks, and no one helped.

Well, one guy did, but in my opinion–he helped himself.

While licking his wounds, he was approached by a witness offering to give a statement to the police. The man then handed him a card for his business, offering discount Tae Kwon Do lessons. Excuse me??

Yes, a martial artist saw it, and then did nothing but seize an opportunity to try and recruit a student. I’ll let you ponder on that one.

We must train ourselves and prepare ourselves to do what is right, even if the idea of fighting for someone else frightens us. What’s the use if we don’t use it? There is a saying about blessings: that often we are not blessed with gifts to be used by us, but to share with others. Perhaps we were led to the martial arts–not because we may become victims, but so that no one around us would become victims? Ponder over that one as well…

So, the girl in the video was the real hero, along with Casey Heynes. She was unlikely a martial artist. And she was a girl. Yet she still got between those bullies and the victim, as if to say, “no you won’t–not today.” Without a doubt, other children saw Casey Heynes being bullied. Sadly, the only two people who raised a finger to do something besides himself were two girls–his sister, and the little girl in the video.

Mrs. Mom, Mr. Dad–your child taking martial arts lessons keeps more than himself/herself safe. It gives your child the courage to protect his siblings and the other children around him. To act when most others won’t. Let your kid train with me–even for just one year–and he will never be a victim or the do-nothing-witness to a victim, again.

Thanks for visiting my blog. For your entertainment, I found this commercial on Youtube, that addresses school bullying. Hope you like it!



One Reason Why Your Kid Needs Martial Arts

If you teach kids, I want you to save this article, print it, and read it until you have my bullet points memorize. Then I want you to watch the video at the end of this article and understand why I write what I write, and why you are so important to your community. Then after that, think of a way to add something similar to your school’s website.

By the way, I decided to put this article under the “Business” section of the blog, because this message will make a huge difference in your school’s bottom line–as well as it may give you some new purpose or mission in your martial art career’s life.

Bullying Can KILL Your Child

Whether your child is the victim or the prey, or just a bystander, bullying can get your kid killed.

Parents often don’t know that their children are being bullied or are bullying other children until it’s too late. Kids have come home with injuries they hide from their parents, but the psychological scars never heal. Grades plummet, their attendance suffers, their self-esteem drops to a horrible low, they contemplate suicide. Sometimes, your children never tell you because they are afraid that you will be disappointed in them. Your child might have even come home and hinted that they were being bullied and you failed to protect them. What do you tell them?

  • “Man up”
  • It’s just teasing.
  • They’re jealous of you. Ignore it.
  • Tell a teacher.
  • Stand up for yourself.
  • Sticks and stones may break your bones, but…

Do you know what all this means? It means, “I don’t know what to do, so it’s your problem.”

Perhaps you didn’t mean to send that message, but that’s the message they got. And the truth is, you probably don’t know what to do about it. But you’re not supposed to, Mr. Mom/Ms. Dad–that’s my area of expertise. The good news, however, is that you’re here. This is what we can do about it…

Kids have brought knives to school to deal with bullies. Children fantasize about killing their tormentors often, because to some children–this is the only way they believe it will stop. They are channeling their frustration and anger, and the adults apparently can’t or won’t stop them. Let the bullying continue until the victim acts out, by refusing to do schoolwork, or disobeying teachers and parents (the same ones who won’t help them)–and no one will care that the child is being bullied. Look at some of the school shootings, and you can see how the failure of teachers, school administrators and parents can explode into multiple lives ruined.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, you have the kids who just want out. They run away, they run into the arms of deviant adults who will pretend to care about them–or bad kids–or they run to alcohol and drugs to try and fit in. Worst of all, out of the 280,000 children that were attacked in American schools last year, thousands have committed suicide (also known as “bullycide”). There is no exact figure, because quite often, the kids don’t say why they do it.

One child losing his life to this behavior is too much.

I am not trying to say martial arts is the cure to this, but martial arts is the cure.

  • Martial arts will give kids a means to defend themselves. Maybe you can’t go into the school and wring that boy’s neck who is pushing your son, but your son can certainly push back himself. But he needs to feel confident that he can do it. I will teach him how, and give him the tools.
  • Fighting in school is often not fighting–a lot of it is self-defense. You wouldn’t go into a job without the proper training, why would you send your school into the jungles of school life to defend himself without the tools?
  • Many girls lose their virginity to boys who force themselves on them. Do you really want your daughter to not have a way to protect herself? Surely, you are not in such denial that you believe the police will protect your daughters 24 hours a day? Don’t fool yourself, please, at the expense of not wanting to spend $70 a month. Few girls will come home and say, “Mom, this cute boy at school is telling me every day he wants to have sex with me.” Especially when all the other kids are doing it (so they think). Martial arts helps kids stand alone with confidence, in whatever stance they happen to stand.
  • Kids are abducted, they are beaten, they are mentally bullied by their peers. You wouldn’t leave your cars unlocked outside, unattended, would you? Why send your kids into this horrible world unable to protect themselves?
  • Martial arts restores a kid’s self esteem, it gives them something to feel good about. It makes them stronger so they can excel at other sports. It helps them sleep better at night. It makes their bodies require less sleep to function. It allows them to relieve stress and focus better in school. It gives them friends with like interests that WON’T bully them. No other activity does this, not even Sunday school.
  • Martial arts combats obesity. Obesity causes your kids to have health problems. Such health problems as cholesterol, thyroid disorder, diabetes, heart problems. Diabetes is even deadlier than bullying. You know this. Do something about it!

Parents, you love your children. Protect them. Let us help. It’s so much more than belts and uniforms and trophies. Don’t wait until your child comes home with an injury or a bruised spirit before you decide to do something about it. Makes as much sense as buying car insurance AFTER an accident. Protect your child, and I can help.

Now, watch this video. Thanks for visiting my blog:

In case it doesn’t show up, here is the link:

UPDATE:  The original video I uploaded was missing so the one above was not what I originally posted. HERE is the video.

Is Your Website Working?

Well, is it?

Are you finding that your school’s website is invaluable in producing the results you wanted when you made it? Some of us have websites to attract new students. Some of us just want to share information. Some of us just want to post “lookitme!” sites. Some are trying to sell merchandise. Regardless of the reason you built your site, there has to come a point when you assess whether you are wasting space on the highway, time and money.

As martial arts teachers, most likely we built our sites to attract new students. So reflect on the last month. Who has been in looking for lessons? How did they find you?

Uh, I sure hope you have been asking everyone who inquires how they heard about you.

Do you have a ledger book recording the names, phone numbers, mailing addresses and details of every person who inquired into your school? If not, please get a copy of my book, Making a Living with Your Backyard/Garage/Community Center Dojo. Even if you have a school, this book has valuable rules for increasing your enrollment. I may not be the smartest guy in class, but one thing I do know is how to run a school and increase enrollment. Make sure you plop down the measly $7 bucks and invest in something that will make a difference… Anyway, every school should have at least two places to go to glance at potential students:  one, in a book–and the other, in a folder in your email.

If you find that that visitors to your school are finding you more through walk-ins or ads, but not your school’s website, then you might consider overhauling your website. The first place people look to find anything these days is the internet, and if your website does not bring at least inquiries you need to change a few things.

I would like to offer some advice about what works for school websites and what doesn’t work. Some of these things might upset you a little; you know how we martial artists like our things-we-do-because-our-teachers-did-it stuff. Anyway, let’s get right to it:

  • Remember the purpose of the school website:  to get people to come in a consider joining your school. The website is not supposed to sell the membership (unless you have a way to actually sign up and pay online). Therefore, make sure that the language on your site serves that purpose. No one cares if your or your teacher is the Grandpoobah Grandmaster with 12 degrees and is a world-champion in the latest hot dog eating contest. The student wants to know if you are qualified to teach, what he will learn, how much it will cost, and if your school will make him better than the next guy’s (or at least be more interesting) school.
  • History section. It is helpful, but not necessary, to give a history of the art you teach. Education is good, and a teacher who educates the student is seen as more knowledgeable. Some sites simply sound like they want your money. But if you give something they don’t know, and it’s interesting–students will paint a picture in their mind of the art’s rich history every time they think of you. Like I said, it’s not necessary, however. What is necessary is your history. Students need to know who you are, where you come from, and what you’ve accomplished. Without it, you are just another business. This puts value in the student’s mind. Tell them who you learned from, where you’ve been, what you’ve done. Another thing you might add is a history of the school–your school. This creates interest and, again, promotes value. Tell a story, and it sets you apart from the other guys. If your story is more interesting, you become unforgettable and more interesting to potential students.
  • Give a curriculum or at least tell them what they’re in store for. I’m not talking about the usual “self-defense, weapons, forms” stuff that every school out there tells you. I want you to look at what your school has to offer that the other guys don’t have–what you do that’s unique–and what you do best. This piques interest, and again, it creates value. A good tip would be to describe, in detail, key points of learning in your school. One of the interesting things I’ve seen my classmates do is to list “vital Jow Ga forms”:  Subduing Small Tiger, Subduing Big Tiger, Double Headed Staff, Tiger and Leopard Fist, Five Animals Fist, Iron Arrow, Double Sabers, Tiger Tail Broadsword… and then give a description of what each form does for you. You could also do a history of those forms. For example, if you teach Tae Kwon Do, don’t just list the forms and general requirements, get specific:  Chon Ji — meaning Heaven and Earth. Foundation form of TKD that builds basic footwork and teaches how to move and strike, and how to move and block, simultaneously >> Dan Gun — named after Dan Gun, the monk who founded the state of Korea. This form teaches the student how to generate power by the rising and falling of the stance, while moving, and using the weight of the body to multiply the amount of force behind a punch. This is much better than No Belt–Chon Ji >> White Belt–Dan Gun…  Students often wonder when looking at schools, “what am I going to be learning?” Answer that question for them. Few schools are.
  • Keep in mind that students also want to know what is their benefit. They don’t care about the titles and bragging stuff. If you tell them who your Grandmaster is, make sure to make it relevant to the student. Why is it beneficial to have a Great Grandma Guro for a Grandmaster? If you claim that your version of the art is the “original” or “authentic” version of what you teach, answer the question of why it makes a difference. Too many teachers use the site as a means to brag and make themselves look good in print–TOO many. Don’t be one of them. Tell the students of your accomplishments, but make it relevant to them. Promise them that if they study with you, they will be stronger, more skilled, and better prepared to defend themselves (or whatever else you specialize in). And then tell them why that is, and how you are different from the “other guys”.
  • One thing to remember is that most visitors to your site will not know much about the martial arts. We are sometimes so used to talking shop with other martial artists, we forget that most people don’t know what a Guro is, what a drill is, a form, or a Dojo. Keep your use of specialized jargon simple, or make sure to explain them, either in (parenthesis) or a legend or a description within the text. We don’t want to confuse our potential students.
  • A good tip is also to outline how your classes will run. I have a “Training Method” section of my website. In this section, I give my philosophy of training and how it differs to what most schools do. I have seen some schools break down what learning will be like at each level of their training and how long it will take. Again, stress education, and make it relevant.
  • Answer frequently asked questions. Sometimes, not knowing the answer to certain questions will prevent students from making the call. No one wants to be hard sold on a program, especially if they have no interest in that program. The idea is to answer as many questions as possible so that the student will know if he’s interested. This section shouldn’t be cluttered with too much information, however. Keep it short and simple, and answer the important questions.
  • Pricing. I have had good and bad experience with pricing. One thing is that it sorts out the people who can’t afford it or won’t pay for it. Yet on the other hand it does not give you the opportunity to justify your price in person and address concerns that would make a visitor to your site move on to the next. I have heard some teachers say that is brings students in ready to sign up, having been convinced ahead of time–since price is often the deciding factor. You will have to decide what works for you. If you charge a lower price, by all means, post it. But if not, you may consider saying something simple like “pricing depends on the program you choose…”
  • Add a form to capture information. I have a mailing list/guestlist on my site, so when visitors view my site, they are invited to leave their information so that I could add them to our newsletter, which comes out once a month. Usually it’s just generic information about the school, but frequently I do a blast that includes some short-term offer if they sign up by the end of the month. We also hold events that I invite potential students to attend, and the form is extremely valuable. You should consult with a webmaster to find out how to add one. They are a great tool to have on a website.

I hope you find this information useful, and–once you make some changes–see results. Again, if you don’t have a copy of my books, get them! Thanks for visiting my blog.

Note to Self: Be On Time!

Had an experience that was so eye-opening, that I had to text myself a note. See, I was driving down the street a few weeks ago and decided to stop at a store for a soda. (Random thekuntawman fact:  I love 7-Up, not much of a cola fan)  So I made a U-turn and pull into the shopping center to go to the store, and when I get out–what do I see? A martial arts school. A big, nice one. You know, the kind with the padded floors, wall-to-wall mirrors… a franchise. Except this one had a group of students hanging outside (it was around lunchtime), waiting for the instructor. What a travesty.

What? You mean that didn’t seem awkward to you?

Well, this is a sin that I violate myself. Students should never arrive to a school, for a scheduled class, that is closed. Never. You know what time classes are. So let’s say class begins at 11:00. You get there at 10:55. You have to get dressed, pick up a little, talk to the new visitor, check the voicemail, make small talk with the students–and begin class around 11:25. Sound familiar? Yeah, well it sounds awfully familiar to me too, because I use to do this all the time. It is safe to say that an instructor should not plan anything personal or business within an hour of class time. This is your job, and what happens if you are late habitually on the job?

Yup, you get to experience the wonderful pleasures of looking for new work.

Back to my story, I greet the students, go into the store next door and when I come out they are still waiting. Curiously, I walk next door to peek inside. “Advanced class?” I ask. “Mixed”, they say. One guy is Advanced (Brown Belter), then a smattering of Yellow and White belt students. Because they are a semi-Chinese style, I suggest that the Brown Belter should get his younger brothers warmed up while they wait. After all, class is wherever you happen to be–even in the parking lot. Good advertising for Sifu, I suggest. Wait. Am I a martial artist, they ask? Boy am I. I introduce myself while they take shoes off to start practicing, and the Brown Belter shows me a piece of his form. Apparently, he’d heard of me and the fact that I had practiced Wing Chun in my youth (my favorite cousin is a Wing Chun Sifu). He had been a member of my friend’s WC school years earlier and wanted to show me the two versions of Chum Kiu he knew. After that, he requested to see my form. I give him my philosophy about doing demonstrations to strangers–a huge violation in the TCMAs–and direct him to this blog. I also inform him that there is some footage of me demoing kung fu forms on youtube when I was 14… Google me, I tell him. And then I big them a good day and get in my car and leave.

End of story? I thought so. But not quite. See, the students look up my school and are impressed with my background. They look up the youtube clip and liked what they saw. Conversations led to more conversations, which led to other conversations with classmates who have been to my school, and the next thing you know I get a phone call from a young man two steps away from the Black Belt telling me that I am “the real deal”.

Do you see where this is leading? I was merely making conversation with a few people like I normally do, shamelessly plugging my blog and giving my opinion. But the friendly encounter backfired and now I have students looking at my school in a more positive light than their own. All because some Sifu left his students out in the Sun because his Walmart/McDonald’s/Panda Express run was more important. Tell you what; I’m not a forms guy, but had I demoed a form for them, they would swear I was Jet Li. (not that I’m good at it, but I am certainly more convincing than a Kenpo guy pretending to be Chinese style)  Your school is a business. But it is also a home. And you wouldn’t leave your children outside the doors to your home, and your students are no different. If the Sifu had other commitments that would make him “normally” late, he should give a copy of the key to Brown Belter and have him warm up the students or teach basics till Sifu arrives. Sends a much more positive message. But don’t fret young people; we all do it. It’s just not a practice we should be partaking. Had I been a hostile Sifu, it would have been bad. Had I been a teacher who steals students, it would have been bad. If I were a back-biting Sifu, it would have been bad. Let this be a learning experience, because it was one for me. Like I said, all appearances of being hypocritical aside, *I* violate this rule. But no more.

I’d also like to share a few more related rules:

  • Teachers of a style should avoid lengthy conversations with another teacher’s students, if that teacher is not around. Especially–avoid disagreements.
  • When encountering advanced students of another style, it is okay to treat them as junior teachers. I teach my advanced students to treat other teachers as equals. They’ve put in the time, after all.
  • Never demonstrate for students of another style unless you are in the setting for such a thing. It can be misconstrued as showing off if you do.
  • It is not a good idea to criticize another teacher to his students. I have seen lifelong friends become enemies after violation of this rule. I sometimes compliment a student’s teacher (even when I don’t mean to) out of politeness. Yes, it is a violation of thekuntawman image, but sometimes I’m an old softie.
  • Don’t offer instruction to students. I would even go so far as to say don’t accept students under obligation (like a contract) to another teacher. I certainly do not violate this. If a student does not have any loyalty the other teacher can count on, would I want him? Not me.
  • Teachers, arrive early so you can unwind and get the school and yourself ready for the arrival of your students. They are–after all–customers. You want their experience with you to be positive, focused and not rushed at all.
  • Instruct your advanced students to take over as “Sifu” if you are not around. This will help prepare them for leadership.
  • Keep yourself skilled enough that they are not calling another teacher “the real deal”. They will always meet other teachers, but if they don’t believe their teacher can take almost anyone, something’s wrong. Check that.

Please take this article as just a suggestion, not a criticism. The purpose of this blog is to share information. Thanks for visiting my blog.