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Simen Smestad
03-08-2002, 12:50 AM
We have a small Aikido dojo in Norway. Our teacher started it about two years ago. We have 25 members but only 5 or 6 show up at a regular basis. Our dojo is the only one in town so all though the town is very small, it should be room for expansion. We have tried flyers, telling all our friends and once talked about it on the radio. But people just don`t seem to be interrested.
Please give suggestions and comments.
Thank you!

03-08-2002, 01:58 AM
Unfortunately, in some countries, martial arts are not very popular. In Thailand, we have the same problem. I just came back from a trip to Italy, and I've been told at the dojo where I trained that they have the same problem as well.

However, my personal opinion is that trying to promote Aikido in a commercial way is not good for the art. I myself would avoid a dojo doing such marketing. I believe the only way to promote Aikido is by public demonstrations, interviews with local newspapers and magazines, and by word of mouth.

I believe it is better to focus on quality rather than quantity.


03-08-2002, 02:17 AM
Hallo Simen,

have you tried public demonstrations? ALthough many will agree that in cities with long-standing Aikido-Dojo histories demos are only somewhat to none effective in attracting new members, I would think in Aikido-wise undeveloped areas a demo would help spread the word. Some people just don't know what it's about, and might be too uncertain to be interested...

From my experience of training regularly in 6 dojos in Germany, England and the USA during the past years, I have found what I call the Aikdioka-to-inhabitants-ratio of a given area. Depending on whether (1)it's countryside or city, martial arts developed or not, (2) Aikido long been there or not, (3) which country we are talking of, I have so far calculated between 1000-3000 inhabitants per "potential Aikidoka". This might seem ridiculous, but I have yet to see a town with a better ratio. Please, anybody, prove me wrong, and I would be more than happy to learn more about it and try re-application in the town where I live and teach!

But I see one other issue. I AM perfectly happy with 6 people on the mat every night, as long as we are talking the same people every night. 6 changing per night out of 25 members seems very unstable. How many classes do you have per week? I have found that with this kind of showing-up, limiting the numnber of classes per week to 2 helps considerably!

I wish you great success with your dojo!
Olaf Schubert

Simen Smestad
03-08-2002, 03:00 AM
Thank you very much!
We have not had any public demonstrations. How do you set up a public demonstration? Should you invite the public to come to the dojo, or set it up outside in the park or a square or something? Your calculation of 1 aikidoka pr 1000-3000 inhabitants maches the situation in our town pretty good. It is about 30000 inhabitants and we have 25 registred members. We have only 2 classes pr week and that has never changed. It is the same 5-6 people who attains classes at a regular basis. We need more members to get money to pay the rent. Although we have 25 members only 11 have paid so far and the fee should have been paid in january. Our teacher is not sure that the club is going to exist after the summer, and that makes me so sad it hurts inside.

03-08-2002, 04:46 AM
Well, that certainly highlights a problem many dojos have, the late to non- payment of dues. Some folks just don't seem to realize that rent must be paid, electricity kept on, etc. until the doors close for good.:(

03-08-2002, 06:10 AM
)Originally posted by ca
Well, that certainly highlights a problem many dojos have, the late to non- payment of dues. Some folks just don't seem to realize that rent must be paid, electricity kept on, etc. until the doors close for good.:(

Hi Simen and all,

Yes, this is a big problem.
The Karate, Judo, kung-fu dojos can benefit of the sport results, important federation financial means, famous movies and actors (as bruce lee, Jet LI, Jackie Chan, and so on) publicity.

In Aikido, it is different. It is not a sport and so no medals for Aikidokas :D, and except the Steven Seagal's movies (which in my mind is not a good image of the Aikido :confused: ), Aikido is rarely showed.
I don't complain because I think it is not in the Aikido philosophy. I don't want that Aikido become as the Karate and Judo => a sport or an exhibition.

Unlucky, the Aikido's dojos have some difficulties for living. For us, we are the luck that our dojo is lent by the town (they build a new sports centre with a beautiful dojo inside :D). Of course we must share the dojo with others Martial arts and so we can't train as often as we want but it is very cost-effective. We have 25 registered people (most are children) and only 5 regular trainees. Have a private dojo is not viable with this.

Public demonstrations are a good mean for the Aikido promotion. Try to do it in your town party or if there is a judo or karate contest, ask them if you can perform a demonstration, if they have always a few of the martial art spirit, certainly they will accept (a Judo contest organizer asked us to perform an Aikido demonstration during a break, we accepted immediately).

Have you tried to share your dojo with others martial art instructors and so share the costs ?

Bye and Good luck.


03-08-2002, 08:08 AM
From the response you've received thus far, it's becoming evident that you should at least feel relieved that your group's situation is not unique - in other words, it's not something you're doing wrong, it's just the nature of training in a martial art such as Aikido. Nonetheless, the problem of continuation remains. The core group of six people who faithfully attend classes is your best asset right now. Here are a few suggestions I hope will help your group:

1. Rather than share space with another martial art that may not be philosophically compatible with Aikido, why not try to offer a yoga teacher reasonably priced space during the times your dojo is not being used? There may also be others in your area who are looking for inexpensive space to teach massage or other types of bodywork as well, or even meditation.

2. Discuss the problem within your core group and develop a plan to increase enrollment by having each person bring a new student from their acquaintances or family.

3. Begin looking for a public park to move classes to in case you do have to move out of the dojo. You can even schedule a special class once or twice a month to try it out first. This will also give you more exposure. Often people will be attracted to training because they like the way the group interacts or the way the martial art looks. Even if you don't get new students from this, at least you can continue to use the park in case you do need to close the dojo.

4. Avoid "commercializing" your advertising. Generally I've found that it only attracts people with a different mindset anyway which in turn disrupts the good atmosphere you have all worked so hard to establish.

With a martial art that emphasizes a more spiritual or philosophical approach such as Aikido or the martial art I train in, it's difficult to counteract the general public's perception about martial arts. Most people equate martial arts with karate and nothing more. Seek out "non-traditional" martial arts students, i.e. people who would be turned off by karate, but who would appreciate the finer points of Aikido. I'd like to know if any of these suggestions work for you. I wish your group success. Whatever you do, don't allow your group to disband!
janet dtantirojanarat

03-08-2002, 09:10 AM
Kodomo - Kids!

If you do not have it already, you can try with children classes.

You have to build from the base.. so kids classes are a great way to build a base of members.

Treat them right and they will stay for ever!
=) or at least until they move out into the big world...

Parents joining the club is sometimes the result of having kids classes.


03-08-2002, 09:35 AM

When I moved out west (Wyoming, USA) and wanted to share Aikido with the folks on base (I'm in the U. S. Air Force), I went to the Youth Center to get info on what I needed to do. At the same time, another instructor began teaching a different martial arts class (Kempo).

To create interest in the Aikido class, I held a question/answer/demo session for all those interested in joining the class. The Kempo instructor did something similar.

Two weeks later when classes began, I had four students in my children's class, and four adults in my adult's class. The Kempo instructor had approximately 12 children and 8 adults. So, was the Kempo demo better than my demo? Absolutely not, the reason for the difference in student enrollment had nothing to do with the question/answer/demo session. The difference had everything to do with the martial arts name.

You can ask almost anybody what Karate is and he/she will more than likely know what it is and be able to tell you some stuff about it. Ask someone what Aikido is and he/she will probably give you a funny look. The Kempo instructor marketed the class as Kempo Karate classes, which most folks could figure out. I only marketed my classes as Aikido. The diffence in enrollment was simply a matter of common knowledge.

A year later though, I have approximately 10 regular students, with more signing up each month (of course, the Kempo class has nearly triple what I have). Word of mouth advertising has worked pretty good. Asking a current student to bring a friend or relative is a great idea! In time, your classes will grow; I hope for your dojos sake, your enrollment will grow before you must close for good.

03-08-2002, 11:52 AM
try the next bigger event in town where several groups show their stuff. I don't know about your town in Norway, but in Germany we have town celebrations, sports fairs, or sometimes people from various martial arts get together and do a budo show (on the rare side, though).
Or an open-door-day in the dojo (Saturday or Sunday) with demos, talks, BBQ, fun for kids, etc.

On untimely payments - yes, I do know this problem, especially from my years in the US (nothing against you guys over there!). Here in Germany, every dojo I know works with dojo contracts, with the members in effect either allowing bank draft or setting up regular-payment-schedules at their bank (just as most people here pay their rents). Think about it, when this is common in Norway in normal life, why not in the Aikido dojo?!

Ohh, one other suggestion: Do you guys (your Sensei) own homes? If so, if the property is big enough, would a small addition to it be useful as a dojo (or a bigger room that's already there)? We have 32 sqmeters of mat in our dojo, works fine with up to 8-10 people, and solves the rent-issue...

Hope that helps...

Choku Tsuki
03-08-2002, 12:02 PM
I tried this. Can't say it worked. Maybe if you can do a variation on this.

I made a bunch of book marks on avery business card label stock (#8376 http://www.avery.com/products/add_to_cart.jsp?upc=7278208376&catalog_code=WEB01) with an interesting quote and graphic on one side, and the schedule, location, web site url, e-mail address and lineage on the other (I think the template for #8376 is built into Word).

I stuck them in general info and aikido books in 5 or so local bookstores.

And never heard from anyone. Sigh.


03-12-2002, 02:00 AM
We have a simple banner outside the dojo - all it says is "AIKIDO". Most newbies either come along because they've seen the sign or because they know someone who is a member of the club. Hmmm...networking...tell your friends why you love aikido!

We also had a recent influx of beginners after some of our members out on a dance performance based ont he similarities and dissimilarities between aikido and dance (http://www.pica.org.au/artist01/KompanyKido.html)

In a smallish place, I'd suggest seeing if you can get one of the local / community papers to do an article, with a picture.

Good luck, Fiona.

Hanna B
03-12-2002, 11:42 AM
Originally posted by Kai
If you do not have it already, you can try with children classes.

You have to build from the base.. so kids classes are a great way to build a base of members.

Treat them right and they will stay for ever!
=) or at least until they move out into the big world...

Parents joining the club is sometimes the result of having kids classes.

Hello Kai. I don't agree it's a possibility to build the dojo's adult population from the kids. Maybe that was your intention with the continuation of the sentence...

Children practise, have fun, and leave when they get older. Those who stay are the exceptions. Yes, I know a few, but they are panned from hundreds of aikido kids... in getting money to the rent children's classes are useful, and as a long run spin-off effect the art gets more well-known in the community.