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Kovar Systems
Student Retention Student Acquisition Business Tips

Reflections of a Martial Arts School Owner

By Dave Kovar

Every time I look in the mirror to comb my hair, I expect to see a 19 year old kid looking at me, instead, there is this old guy gazing back my way. When did that happen? Where did the time go? Then, after I recover from the shock of realizing that I am in middle age, I look back at my life and feel, for the most part, that it was time well spent. After all, I have been (and still am) living my dream. I never really had any other serious interests other than martial arts and that is what I have spent my life teaching and doing.

It's funny, but after 40 years of teaching, I still feel like a rookie. I hope I always do. A rookie is hungry for the challenge. A rookie knows he still has a lot to learn. A rookie has more questions than answers. With all that said, I have learned a lot about teaching and running a martial arts school since the 70's and I want to share some of my findings with the next generation of instructors here.  I am going to begin by focusing on what can make your children's program rock.

Know Your Market

Who is your ideal student? I can't answer that for you. It is up to you to decide. But if you want a rocking children's program, you have to embrace that market. You can't "settle" for teaching children because you aren't able to attract adults. At Kovar's Satori Academy, we are very clear about what we do. We teach children and their parents. That is our market. We don't try to be something else. Knowing this helps make important decisions in every aspect of our business.

Enjoy working with children

When I began my martial arts training in the early 70's, there were only a handful of children training in most schools. Instead, the student body was made up primarily of young adult males. As I pushed through the ranks, I begin to help out in class and in private lessons. By the time I was fifteen, I was the primary children's instructor at our school. I seemed to have a knack for it and I absolutely loved it.

Eventually I opened up my own location and my children's program began to flourish, or so I thought. Then, in the mid 80's a movie came out that changed everything. It was called "The Karate Kid”. You might've heard of it. (Wink) Following this movie I saw a flood of new parents embracing Martial Arts training for their children. Those school owners that enjoyed working with children and had a sense for how to do it thrived. Those that were faking it...not so much. The same rule still applies.

Help them develop a love for martial arts

When I teach instructor colleges, I often refer to what I call a "white belt moment ". That is a moment that every long-term martial artist has had, probably early in their training, when they thought "wow, I like this stuff.” I had my white belt moment during my first lesson. I was taught a defense technique against a two hand chest grab. I thought it was the coolest thing I had ever seen! I was instantly hooked. That was the moment I knew martial arts was really for me!

The sooner you can create a white belt moment with your young students, the better. You want them leaving their first few classes thinking, "That was fun! I like this. I think I'm going to be pretty good at this.”

On my own journey, keeping these points in mind: knowing specifically who my market is, embracing my love of working with kids, and focusing on creating white belt moments that spark a deep love for the martial arts journey, has helped my kids program profoundly over four decades and counting.

Martial Arts School Owners!

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by Dave Kovar