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More Reflections of a Martial Arts School Owner

By Dave Kovar

Last time we discussed several important concepts for growing your program that have stood out to me on the now 41 years I’ve been blessed to be able to teach in the martial arts. We talked about knowing your market, enjoying and embracing working with children, and helping your new students to develop a love for martial arts. We will continue our discussion on how to grow your program this time by discussing a few more points.

Get them in the habit of coming to class

Most people that quit don’t quit because they hate class. Most people that quit simply quit before they ever really get in the habit of coming to class in the first place. That is why we should be relentless with our follow up with new students, so we can help them develop the right habits. Once they have established the habit of coming to class, it is a lot easier to keep them.

Scratch their itch

Most people have a specific reason for wanting to train in martial arts. That reason will inevitably change over time, but it is extremely important that we match our new student's expectation with results. If someone enrolled specifically for self-defense, make sure you are teaching them things that they find relevant to that end. If a parent is hoping that your program will help their child to develop better focus, make sure they see that child standing straight and tall and still for progressively longer periods of time.

It doesn't have to be easy, but it should be fun

As you read this, some of you might be conjuring up visions of too often repeated games of karate kick ball or Nerf gun wars, but that is not what I am referring to. With proper planning and a matching level of enthusiasm, any instructor can find a way to make even the hardest drills or the most basic skills enjoyable.

Set your new students up for success

Eventually, everyone training in martial arts is going to experience failure. That is an important part of the process. But if a student experiences failure too soon, especially if they already have a low self-image or lack confidence, they might call it quits before they start seeing the value to their training. Instead, do your best to set your new students up for success by setting realistic expectations and teaching them age and skill appropriate material.

Make them feel like they are part of the family

Do you want to keep students training for a long time? Make sure that they fit in. Make sure that they feel like they belong. Socialization and community are an important part of the human experience. Little things like calling your students by name, knowing their interests and hobbies, introducing them to other students, and generally taking a sincere interest in them is often the difference between a student training at your school for three weeks or training at your school for three years.

Fight like a challenger

“Once you stop trying to become better, you quit being good.” A challenger knows that to be a champion, they need to stay hungry, they need to train hard, and they need to always be learning. Our industry is full of school owners that used to be successful, but now are struggling to keep the doors open. Sure, there might be less interest for martial arts in their area now than in years past. There might be more competition in their area now than "back in the day". But they might also just not be staying relevant. They might also have just lost their edge and/ or their passion for their school.

Finally, stay mindful of the impact we can have on our students

It is not uncommon for instructors and school owners to forget or to lose sight of the impact that their program is having on their students and their community. When this happens, our livelihood can become less of a life's passion and more of just a job. It is important to remember that the human mind is easily influenced by anything spoken with conviction. When we are mindful of the positive impact our program is having on our community, it dramatically increases our power to influence. It supercharges every interaction we have with our current students and every interaction we have with our future students. In many cases, it can be the "X" faster between a successful school and a struggling one.

I hope you take the opportunity to reflect on these points as they relate to your school. I’ve found them to be an important part of maintaining my compass over the year. It’s my wish that they serve you as well as they’ve serve me.

Martial Arts School Owners!

Enroll More Students • Improve Your Retention • Increase Your Profit

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by Dave Kovar