Many of us who have been teaching martial arts for years have run enough belt promotions that we could do it in our sleep. When they become too routine though, are we really making those events the best they can be? Kyoshi Dave Kovar has always said “when you stop trying to get better, you stop being good.” Be creative. If you are always trying to improve you will show the parents and visiting family members how valuable and exciting your program is. Whatever style you teach, here are a few essential concepts that will help maximize the impact of your belt promotions:
By the time you approach the end of a curriculum cycle your students are working hard and almost ready for their new belts. This is when planning for a successful promotion should really start. The first thing to consider is how to have a packed house of raving fans in your school. Encourage students to invite at least two friends, or even more! Providing invitations for students to give to their classmates can make this part easy. A few days before the event, make sure the students are well prepared and understand what you expect from them. Also, make sure your instructors are clear on the procedures and their responsibilities. The final thing to consider before the promotion is how clean your school is. Imagine all your guests are seeing the school for the first time. Thoroughly clean, sanitize, and organize your school and you'll make a great impression on your guests.
Finally comes the big event. Remember that we're putting on a show and every good show is well planned. You want the crowd to be engaged and excited so make sure to fire them up with an enthusiastic greeting, dynamic music, a demo team performance, or whatever suits your martial arts school’s style and personality. If you don't have a demo team, get some of your high ranking stars to perform a routine. Huddle the students to talk about the values and benefits of martial arts. For example, you could discuss discipline, respect, courage, or ask the kids their favorite things about martial arts. Select students that you know will give an appropriate answer. If possible, quickly review the curriculum so the students are super confident beforehand. Once you've laid the groundwork you're ready to start the promotion.
Although this might be your 100th promotion, it's important to remember it’s their first and only time promoting to this new rank and to make it special for your students. Special doesn’t mean long though! Keep the promotion short and sweet, while making sure your students are smiling and sweating. You don’t need a lot of time to give them a great push and making it an important milestone. As long as you make it a big deal, everyone else will see it as a big deal too. Once the belts are awarded, address the audience and thank them for showing support to the school and students. Invite anyone who is interested to ask a staff member about starting classes themselves. This call to action should be short so it doesn't distract from the promoters, who are the stars of the day. Once the promotion is done, walk around and congratulate students, meet new visitors, and take some pictures with your students. To maintain a strong social media presence, take a group picture as well. When you have the chance, post a message online congratulating all the promoters and thanking the families again for their support. It's also helpful to have a quick meeting with your staff once it’s over to discuss the successes and challenges with the event while it's fresh in your mind.
While there are many ways to run a great promotion, a solid plan will maximize your results. Keep these objectives in mind: Bring in a packed house by inviting family and friends to come, recommit your students and parents to the program by putting on a great show, and encourage prospective students to try martial arts. Above all else, make it a special event for everyone in the school.
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