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rachmass
10-16-2002, 04:40 PM
Hi all!

Last night was the first class in my new club. It is a very small place with 400 square foot of mat space in a city that has no aikido (but aikido is available 15 minutes away in the next city). I put up posters all over town, and have a website http:www.raisinriveraikikai.com that is posted on AikiWeb, and have an ad starting in the local paper next week. No one has called yet on any of the posters, or through the website, and last night the only people who looked even remotely interested were several kids riding their bikes around town. My husband (who has not trained in aikido) valiantly agreed to be my guinea pig for classes and is my first student. Any suggestions on how to get folks to come and look? And if they do come and look, and there are only two of us on the mat, are there any suggestions to help draw interest.

Any suggestions on how to proceed are quite welcome.

best, Rachel

shihonage
10-16-2002, 05:01 PM
First 10 students get the first month free !

rachmass
10-16-2002, 05:05 PM
Thats a thought! Actually, I was planning on doing first class free, but this might be an idea. Just don't want to sound commercial (just want some warm bodies).

BC
10-16-2002, 05:10 PM
Have you put together a little flyer/handout or such? It can give prospective students something to take with them when they leave (ie, something tangible to remind them). Also, what about getting some of your friends from HVA to come out for a few classes, and maybe even a demo? Is there a small community newspaper/newsletter where you could place an announcement? Good luck!

P.S. - Looks like you need to update the address in the AikiWeb dojo search engine!

rachmass
10-16-2002, 05:51 PM
Hey Robert, thanks for the reply!

Yes, Rodger and the group is going to help with a demo in a few weeks (the weekend of the 9th), and that should help. I've got a tri-fold brochure with a bunch of information, plus I am in the process of getting a box up on the outside of the building to put the brochures in. I need to get a sign made still that can be seen from the road. Yes also to the newspaper, that starts next week.

How did you search on the aikiweb site? It should show up in a radius of Ann Arbor. I put in the actual physical address this afternoon, so it might not have gone through the system yet...

all the best,

Rachel

akiy
10-16-2002, 06:04 PM
I just processed your new dojo information, Rachel. It sometimes takes a bit of time for me to get to it...

http://www.aikiweb.com/search/dojo.html?id=3570

-- Jun

rachmass
10-16-2002, 06:07 PM
Hi Jun,

Thanks, there were no complaints, just responding to Robert.

I really appreciate all you do here to help disseminate information to the aikido world!

akiy
10-16-2002, 06:10 PM
Hi Rachel,

Oh, no complaint taken! I just wanted to let you know it's been processed.

As far as promoting your dojo goes, putting in an ad in your local yellow pages will probably help since that's probably where people will first look for a local dojo.

Maybe some flyers (with tear-away phone number and URL tabs) to hang in your local community centers, too?

-- Jun

rachmass
10-16-2002, 06:18 PM
Thanks again, yes, I should have an ad in the yellow pages coming up (actually, that is what started the rush to get an actual space; I had renewed my ad for my business and asked them when the deadline was for adding something new, and they told me it was the next day, so I went ahead and got a small line ad for the dojo-without actually having one!). And also, I have those tear-off tabs on all my flyers, already cut and waiting for the actual grab. Nothing happening yet!

What I am really most concerned with is when folks come to visit (notice the positive note on "when") that there is something there to see other than me and my husband practicing tenkan, irimi and rolling. My husband is being a great sport here!

Larry Feldman
10-16-2002, 06:32 PM
You need to 'get the word out' in the community as quickly as possible. See what you can do about getting the sign put up ASAP. You might consider a quick - disposable sign - or having the window painted, if you can't get the sign for awhile.

If there is a local paper, send them a 'press release' with the dojo opening notice, along with a short blurb about Aikido and your backround.

Distribute your flyers to the surrounding area - see if other merchants you support will post them for you. See if local apartment complexes will give them to residents, post in supermarkets. Go to the local police department and offer to teach them for a reduced rate. Post information at local community colleges.

Don't worry about small class size. It is really better for beginning students, they get a lot of individual attention - private lessons, for awhile anyway.

Be patient, it takes time.

rachmass
10-16-2002, 07:14 PM
Are you the same Larry Feldman on NPR, just by chance?

Thanks for all your advice. It is all very sound and I'll see what I can follow of it. The idea of getting the sign up right away is good (I have a window sign being made, but the banner sign got too expensive, but maybe I have to rethink that).

The patience thing is a definate, it is more the logistics of the small class viewing. Robert had the suggestion of the demo, which will be happening, and I think that will help. I'll take your suggestion and try and correlate a press release with the demo (now, where do I put the people who watch, we are only a 400 square foot mat!).

Don_Modesto
10-16-2002, 07:34 PM
FWIW, a friend of mine with a dojo swears the yellow pages were a waste of money. In the last two years, all of his leads have come from his web site. Have you a web presence?

Erik
10-16-2002, 09:29 PM
One thing I've seen which has consistently worked to bring at least a couple of students now and again is getting into the local rec department / community center. Set up a class through them, usually a couple of months, and usually less than regular rates. It should get a few people in the door.

On demos, we just did one at the local fair with 1000's of people in attendance. We, however, wind up in some off the beaten path section. I think 4 people saw our demo, one of which was my father, and one of the others turned to be Clint George's mother. They've sure never seen Aikido before. :rolleyes: I'm expecting a booming rise in enrollment after that one.

By the way, if you ever do a fair, have puppets or children around. The puppet show had a couple of hundred people watching it. The children's gymnastic's program which went right before us, on our mats, also rocked.

Bronson
10-16-2002, 10:55 PM
Hey Rachel,

We offer the local police dept. the family rate. The department can send as many people as it wants and it pays the maximum family rate.

Are there any other martial arts in the area? Is it possible to maybe get them to hang one of your flyers on their bulleting board in exchange for you doing the same? We've got flyers from most of the local schools that we'd recommend.

If you do a demo you could take some flyers that have a special stamp or something on them. If someone signs up for class with one of those flyers they could get a special deal. Maybe two for one for a month or something.

Rec centers, boys & girls club, big brothers/big sisters, boy/girl scouts, colleges, high schools, womens groups, etc. Send them all something to let them know you're around. One of the guys in my class does work with Big Brothers/Sisters and he says they keep a list of possible activities for them to do. Type up something specific for each organization. Let them know what aikido can do for their people that fits with what they are trying to do.

Like everyone else already said, be patient. I went through the same thing. When I first took over where I'm teaching now I often got "skunked". Eventually I got two students who really got into it. Eventually others came. Some stayed some went but now I've got a solid core group of about 12-13 people.

That's all I got right now. It'll all end up good. Hopefully one day I can make it over and see how you "hard" stylists do it ;)

Good luck,

Bronson

tedehara
10-17-2002, 12:42 AM
I asked on ki-info list (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/ki-info/):

What have you or those in your dojo, found an effective way to get new members? What is the biggest source of new students for your dojo?

rei took those responses and posted some

here (http://www.ki-society.org/dojo-promotion.html).

Schedule and promote some demos at the dojo. If you get spectators do the demo. If the only people who show up are your ukes, have a class.

Have an Grand Opening/Open House/Demo at the dojo. Give them milk and cookies or some type of food and make it a social thing. Invite family and friends.

Submit your URL to the big search engines and Yahoo. I believe you can get on Yahoo! for free by listing as a non-profit, educational group.

Edward
10-17-2002, 01:23 AM
Nothing is more discouraging and boring to new onlookers than to see an empty dojo. Lively trainings with good technical level of participants is the best way to attract new students. We usually achieved that in the past by asking a neighboring dojo to move their trainings to our dojo for about a month or so. It works miraculously well.

Greg Jennings
10-17-2002, 08:48 AM
To extend Edward's excellent idea...we've had a seminar at our dojo and put signs and flyers out inviting the public to come by, watch and take home a flyer. We're doing it again next month.

Another thing we've done that no one has mentioned is to slip dojo business cards in aikido books in local bookstores.

We sometimes schedule weapons work at local parks. It's good advertising and it helps develop poise in students.

Best Regards,

MaylandL
10-17-2002, 08:58 AM
Hello Rachel

I can't add anything to comments that already have been made. I just wanted to lend my support and say that demonstrations have work for us along with ads in the local community newspapers. One of the dojos that I train at is situated in a community facility run by the Police as part of their community policing program. They have other activities and some of the students of those activities also do aikido in addition to advertising all activities run by them. Just wanted to wish you the best of luck.

rachmass
10-17-2002, 08:59 AM
Thanks everybody for all the advice! I especially like the idea of slipping business cards into aikido books in town! what a great idea!!!!

paw
10-17-2002, 09:21 AM
no ideas to add, just wishing you the best of luck.

rachmass
10-17-2002, 09:26 AM
Thanks all of you. You folks are awesome in offering suggestions and support!

Rachel

DanielR
10-17-2002, 09:38 AM
...Are there any other martial arts in the area? Is it possible to maybe get them to hang one of your flyers on their bulleting board in exchange for you doing the same?
If I may expand this suggestion, maybe it would be even possible to arrange a joint demo/seminar with an established MA school in the area. I'm not sure there would be many that'd agree to expose their audience to a competitor, but I heard there were precedents...

SeiserL
10-17-2002, 09:45 AM
Get to the library and start reading about markerting for small businesses. Press releases are great. Get involved with local event and do demonstrations, expecially at the schools. Submit free article to the local papers on the benefits to educate your public. Be visible and be avaialble.

Until again,

Lynn

Hanna B
10-17-2002, 12:08 PM
If you are very few, this will scare some potential students away. A larger group attracts more people in and by itself. I run an extremely small university club, and I'm amazed at how often people who call me to ask questions want to know how many we are! I've learned not to try to conceal the fact that we are few, but to be proud of our little group.

If it turnes out that your marketing strategies do not give the results you expect so you will be running very small classes for a while, it is crucial not to appear disappointed over this. Once I showed my disappointed when half of the group disappeared at the same time. This was immediately mirrored in the students and the energy in the remaining group.

In my experience, those who do join a very small group and stay, those who think "wow, private lessons" rather than "not so many people here, can't be any good" are quality students, regardless how talented or untalented they are.

Larry Feldman:Be patient, it takes time.Yes.

What you definately want to avoid is going to class and there´s no students there. Students get ill, their children get ill, they have to work late and repair the car and attend their friends' birthday parties... so this can happen, even when you have a small but stable group. Maybe you'll consider giving only two or even one class a week, rather than spreading your students over three classes. Some students will come all the classes you have, but most won't. I would remain at few classes until the situation is really stable with the number of classes I have.

You can definately have good quality training with one or two students. Overteaching is an obvious danger, though. One needs the teacher's full attention some times, but also to rest from it and try on ones own.

I wish you luck

Hanna

Erik
10-17-2002, 01:20 PM
Some interesting points here.
What you definately want to avoid is going to class and there´s no students there. Students get ill, their children get ill, they have to work late and repair the car and attend their friends' birthday parties... so this can happen, even when you have a small but stable group.
This is the worst and is a double whammy. First, it's depressing to the teacher. I help out at a small dojo and this has happened to me a few times. It sucks your enthusiasm right out. Second, when no one shows up, you tend to go home early and so when someone does show up there's no one there. Finally, it's just harder to get an energetic and dynamic class going.
You can definately have good quality training with one or two students. Overteaching is an obvious danger, though. One needs the teacher's full attention some times, but also to rest from it and try on ones own.
One of the best arguments for larger classes. More students and the teachers attention gets spread out, hence, you don't get micromanaged so much.

In regards to other information. You might check out

http://www.napma.com

They are pretty material in their approach (I can hear the groans already) to the MA thing but I've found their magazines useful in making me think about stuff. Since you are now running a dojo I suspect you'll be hearing from them soon enough though.

Also, any of the major bookstores will have a ton of marketing books. I'm sure you could find something which would work for you.

Hanna B
10-17-2002, 03:24 PM
One of the best arguments for larger classes. More students and the teachers attention gets spread out, hence, you don't get micromanaged so much.Well, actually not. It's an argument for teaching small classes differently than you do big classes. Three or seven students can be taught nicely by the instructor showing the technique to the class, then training with one student and making a few excursions to other parts of the mat when needed. With one or two students, you train with them/him/her and make sure to make a difference between time for instruction and time for practise without so much correction.

Aim for bigger classes of course, but don't be nervous about small ones.

Hanna

Erik
10-17-2002, 05:49 PM
Well, actually not. It's an argument for teaching small classes differently than you do big classes. Three or seven students can be taught nicely by the instructor showing the technique to the class, then training with one student and making a few excursions to other parts of the mat when needed. With one or two students, you train with them/him/her and make sure to make a difference between time for instruction and time for practise without so much correction.

Aim for bigger classes of course, but don't be nervous about small ones.

Hanna
No disagreement but I've been around teachers who couldn't do that. It took larger classes.

Larry Feldman
10-17-2002, 06:21 PM
My classes are scheduled late in the evening 8:30-10PM. For awhile this has kept class size small. I used to hesitate to mention class size when speaking to prospective students, but most were more impressed with a small class, and the personal attention it afforded them. The other big advantage was that I got to work out with the class - something I miss now. So do not be hesitant in any way about starting small. My more advanced students long for the days...One even jokes about not being able to wait for the holiday season when everyone stops showing up so he can get some advanced practice.

I get limited action from the yellow pages, and use the number for a long message about the classes and a place for them to leave a message. My wife got tired of calls to the house. The web has been good for attracting people - and the price is right.

Sorry, not the Larry Feldman from NPR, there are a lot of imposters out there!

Duarh
10-18-2002, 01:19 AM
One even jokes about not being able to wait for the holiday season when everyone stops showing up so he can get some advanced practice.
:) now THIS sounds familiar. We have a rather immense beginner class (as many as 50 people show up at one time) and, even though our mat is laarge, there's still little space and the big class size means that what can be taught and how it can be taught is rather limited. So it's nice training in the summer, for instance, when only half the usual number of people turns up.

But I suppose you won't have THIS problem soon, Rachel ;) Good luck with getting your first students. Suggestions, suggestions. . .actually, i'd talk with friends and ask them to come/talk with their acquaintances and so on. IF you have enough acquaintances to make it work (that is, if you've been living around the place for a while), it may be a solution.

One thing I've observed here is that people who're traning already tend to attract their friends/family members/collegues as long as they see there's still mat space left - meaning, once you've got some students, the number will multiply. The beginner class size at our dojo jumped from 15-25 to 40-50 in a few weeks after we moved to a new and rather wider mat.

Again, good luck!

MaylandL
10-18-2002, 03:28 AM
...actually, i'd talk with friends and ask them to come/talk with their acquaintances and so on. ...

One thing I've observed here is that people who're traning already tend to attract their friends/family members/collegues ...
This how the membership at the dojo I train at increased when it started up about 8 years ago.

JPT
10-18-2002, 05:25 AM
Get a few of your old MA magazines & stick you ad inside, then donate them to anyplace where there is a waiting room, doctors, dentists, garages etc...

:triangle: :square: :circle:

rachmass
10-18-2002, 06:21 AM
Thanks again for all the suggestions!

Last night had my second class; my husband is going to get good at aikido, lots of personal attention. Now my almost 13-year old son wants to start doing aikido again, since his old mum has her own dojo. He trained for 4 years back between the ages of 4-8 and had an awesome center (could be due to being born into aikido?). Now I'll have two students, both family members. Maybe there will be some folks starting to look on Saturday morning, you never know.

I am taking you all up on your suggestions. I've got a sign going up today, and hopefully that will help too.

One thing I noticed last night, since we were actually doing some rolling around, is that 400 square feet is a very small mat space! I imagine that 10 folks would be the limit on this small mat, without some very serious line throws.

I'll keep you all up to date on how things progress.

Thanks for your suggestions again!

JJF
10-18-2002, 06:37 AM
I can't help thinking that it would be wonderful if an old saying could be rewritten into "when the teacher is ready - the students will appear", but alas it is not so.

How about contacting that dojo in the next town, maybe you could have some of them come practice with you now and then. It would give you a couple of good uke's to throw around and it would create that 'intense' atmosphere that makes your dojo more attractive. If you can build good relations it could be beneficial for boths parties, and if you classes don't collide with theirs it is actually an expansion of the possibilies in the area. Allso that would help to build your reputation.

Another idear could be to get in touch with local organisations and offer an 'Aikido introductory course'. Perhaps at a local college as an alternative to what they are currently offering in P.E.

Another possibility would be to host a seminar with a fairly highly graded sensei. That should be able to attract some students from out of town, and would stirr up some reactions in your local area.

Finally get some media coverage. Radio talk-shows, newspaper interviews and maybe writing an article for a magazine if you've got any experience in writing those things.

Hope these things help. Best of wishes on your quest

Ghost Fox
10-18-2002, 07:21 AM
Nothing to add, just wanted to thank you for sharing your experiences about opening up a new dojo. This is probably one of the best threads I've ever read. I'm learning a lot. Maybe in 10-15 years I'll open my own dojo.

Peace and Blessings.

rachmass
10-18-2002, 07:25 AM
Thank you Damion, I too thought it would be interesting to have an ongoing saga about the trails and tribulations of starting a small club. I hope that it is helpful to others, as it is certainly helpful to me to receive so much feedback and support from this wonderful aikido community.

All the best, Rachel

Ghost Fox
10-18-2002, 07:27 AM
I'm not much into organized religions, but maybe you could go around to churches (or your church??) and make an appeal about the loving nature of okay and stuff.

rachmass
10-18-2002, 02:55 PM
Thanks Ghost Fox, I think I'll stay away from that one. My husband, a long time zen practioner, is almost convinced to hold meditation sessions in the dojo. That would be my idea of a real family dojo!

davoravo
10-18-2002, 11:00 PM
I think you should definitely offer 1, preferably 2, free classes to beginners.

Get "affiliated" with a meditation or tai chi or feldinkrais or reiki etc group and share each others space and resources (and steal their students heh heh heh ... :D )

Posters and flyers will get highest effect at schools, universities/colleges, gyms and community or rec centres.

Are there other martial arts groups in town? Perhaps you could offer to show what you know or cross train (and steal their students heh heh heh ... :D )

Edward
10-18-2002, 11:01 PM
Some of the suggestions sound too commercial to me. If implemented, they will attract a certain kind of people. I myself would be attracted to a non-commercial dojo, and seeing flyers all over town would definitely be a turn off.

PS: Didn't mean any post in particular especially not David's since it seems we wrote simultaneously.

opherdonchin
10-19-2002, 01:04 PM
I like the idea of connecting to zen, yoga, or tai chi schools. Similarly, you can talk to 'wellness centers' at hospitals or in large corporations. Often they will subsidize activities that they recommend.

rachmass
10-28-2002, 12:34 PM
Hi everybody,

I just wanted to give an update to how things are going at my new dojo.

We've had two full weeks of classes now, and we had one visitor come and look. He seemed rather interested, in that he stayed and watched the entire class when he originally told me he would leave half way through. I think he won't be back though, as he is just getting ready to test for his shodan in hapkido, but hey, you never know! He was very nice though, and seemed to like what he saw. A very helpful student from my home dojo came to take ukemi for this class so that I had someone I could demonstrate with, and that really helped.

My two students are making very good progress, and I am really happy with their efforts! It is a delight to see progress.

I got accepted to run a community education program which will start in January, so hopefully this will add a whole new dimension to the practice, and hopefully many new students.

My husband and his sitting partner have agreed to run a zazen meditation group out of the dojo on Sunday mornings, and I am truly excited about this (they have even convinced me to join them).

Again, I will try to keep you up to date on the progress, and the trails and tribulations of starting a new dojo, right from scratch, without any experienced aikidoka (quite a challange).

All the best,

Rachel

:ai:

MaylandL
10-28-2002, 10:31 PM
Its wonderful to see that you are starting to get students. Its great news about the Community Program too.

I wish you all the best for the success of your dojo.

Happy training :)

btw...the website's great.

henry brown
11-01-2002, 03:56 PM
I think participating in a community program like a 'Y' is a one of the best ways to go. They do the advertising for you, and if the students like it, they will eventually show up at your dojo.

We have found that advertising in the yellow pages to be pretty cost inefficient. We do get a decent number of referrals through our web site. Test to make sure that you are easy to find via search engines if someone asks for 'aikido' and 'michigan' Use META name headers in your web document liberally. Make sure that your web page is easy to read, and has easily found contact info.

Starting a dojo is hard. The best way to make a small fortune in the martial arts is to start with a large one! Good luck!

Steven
11-01-2002, 05:52 PM
Hi Rachel,

I certainly can relate to your situation. For the first 2 months it was just me and my daughter. I think a lot of it had to do with the location. Being at the Community Center has made a big difference.

Continued success to you and your school.

... Steven
Hi everybody,

I just wanted to give an update to how things are going at my new dojo.

We've had two full weeks of classes now, and we had one visitor come and look. He seemed rather interested, in that he stayed and watched the entire class when he originally told me he would leave half way through. I think he won't be back though, as he is just getting ready to test for his shodan in hapkido, but hey, you never know! He was very nice though, and seemed to like what he saw. A very helpful student from my home dojo came to take ukemi for this class so that I had someone I could demonstrate with, and that really helped.

My two students are making very good progress, and I am really happy with their efforts! It is a delight to see progress.

I got accepted to run a community education program which will start in January, so hopefully this will add a whole new dimension to the practice, and hopefully many new students.

My husband and his sitting partner have agreed to run a zazen meditation group out of the dojo on Sunday mornings, and I am truly excited about this (they have even convinced me to join them).

Again, I will try to keep you up to date on the progress, and the trails and tribulations of starting a new dojo, right from scratch, without any experienced aikidoka (quite a challange).

All the best,

Rachel

:ai:

rachmass
11-01-2002, 06:03 PM
Thanks Steven,

I most certainly appreciate all the help you have rendered this past month, with the website information, and your own stories on starting a dojo from scratch.

I have virtually NO EXPOSURE at my location! At first I thought it was a good spot, but seeing how three weeks into this, only one person has poked their nose in the door (and I haven't even seen anyone looking through the big window), being at the back of a building by a municpal parking lot may not be the best place ;-)

All the best to you,

Rachel

Jonathan Lewis
11-01-2002, 10:38 PM
... being at the back of a building by a municpal parking lot may not be the best place ;-)
Hi Rachel,

If ordanances allow, you could try putting a simple sandwich-board sign in the more traveled/visable area of the property pointing to your dojo. Also, something that says prominently, "visitors welcome", with the class schedule might help. It is surprissing how many people just aren't sure it's OK to go on in. I havent read through every post so maybe you are doing those things already.

Best of luck and thanks for putting so much effort into it.

-JXL

Jonathan Lewis
11-01-2002, 10:40 PM
PS sooory abpoyt allllll the typoooooooooo's trhn g;nds, ;P

-JXL

Juan
11-12-2002, 09:30 PM
I don't know how they are doing things your way but, what I did was get information on price, schedule and contracts if any from the local MA schools in my area and just plain BEAT their deals. First of all I offer everyone one free week of training. Second I asked all of my friends to PLEASE come to class (on a determined day) to fill the mat and Third, I went after the KIDS...That is where the real money is. Make your Kid's schedule an easier to deal with one than the other MA schools, for example I scheduled my Kid's Class M-W 6 pm to 7 pm that way the parents don't have to kill themselves to get the kid to class if it is to early. Fourth, I called all my other MA friends (judo,karate, kung-fu ect. and offered them a discounted rate and taught Aikido for practitioners of other MA. More so I let them wear the rank from their art. Please feel free to email me with any questions. Oh yeah, I have the basic ad in the Yellow Pages, and it has already paid for itself 10 times over.

Dangus
11-13-2002, 09:04 AM
Another suggestion:

You are a woman, and as such, you'll have a bit of comfort level advantage with women students. Use that to your advantage. Recruit from the female masses, which are so often overlooked anyway in martial arts.

rachmass
11-13-2002, 09:48 AM
Thank you Dangus and Juan for your responses, I appreciate both of your comments.

It isn't my intention to have this club be a money making enterprise, I just would like it to pay even partly for itself so that I can continue to have it in operation. Right now it has just started, and is really limping along. I am exploring free introductory classes, but have to get a commitment from another experienced aikidoka to help out (I don't have anyone in my dojo who is ready for this yet), and I will be starting with the Community Education program in January.

I feel extreme uncomfort with a commercial type of enterprise (please bear in mind that I have my own business that I have been running sucessfully for over 10 years, so it is not a discomfort with business, just an aikido dojo run as such) and would like to keep it more in the line of a non-profit (once I get to the stage I can actually make it one).

Also, I don't have an affinity necessarily to either men or women as students/training partners. To me, people are people and I don't treat them any differently (of course, if someone is inexperienced and tentative, I will blend with what they need/give me). I do agree Dangus, that women might be drawn to a woman teacher, but so might men. I don't want to go out an market to one sex or the other. There are a lot of women teachers out there who kick butt (and I hope I am included in this population) and appeal to both sexes. I know of one very good teacher who draws many more men than she does women. I think there are far more men drawn to the martial arts than there are women, and I don't think that the sex of the teacher really matters in the end.

Thank you again for you comments, and keep them coming, they are helpful (even if this time I decided I don't want to run with them).

All the best,

Rachel

Creature_of_the_id
11-13-2002, 10:00 AM
I have found that in starting a new Dojo, not only is it difficult to initially get people to come (Location is everything, I feel), but a more important point is getting them to come back.

Humans are creatures of habit and routine, they become comfortable. If you can create an aikido 'habit' within them then you keep them.

There can be a few ways of doing this. Money is a big one... if they have paid for a certain amount of training in advance, then they are more likely to come back so as not to waste money.

You can set up a begginers 'course' in which they know they will gain something the next week... it could be that they get a technique ticked off in a list which leads to them gaining a novice certificate (or whatever.. some small achievement).

You could create a booklet or video, of which you have limited supply so that they have to come back to return it the next week.

The first few weeks of aikido can be frustrating and it is very easy for a student to just not turn up one week and you lose them.

So, if you have your advertising and location sorted. Next comes retaining students.

oh.. and also... the best way of getting more students is by word of mouth. We try to encourage that, so that, when a student introduces a new member they get a free month. If they bring 2 new students who join then they get 3 free months.

So... location and advertising initially bring in students. Then word of mouth brings in more... then you have to keep them. (if people start together then they are more likely to stay also)

Thanks for keeping us updated.

And if you come up with any ways of getting students into your dojo please share... always looking for ways to get and keep students.

rachmass
11-13-2002, 10:38 AM
Hi Kev,

Word of mouth seems to be the absolute best way to get anyone into the dojo. I have been trying, but without much sucess. I've tried flyers, ads in the paper, the website, small phone book ad...so far it isn't working. On the other hand, the dojo has only been open for one month, so it is hard to expect much at this point. I will most certainly share anything I do that works!!!! Everyone in this web community has been so helpful with suggestions and comments, and I most assuredly will give back what I can, especially with what I learn in starting a dojo, completely from scratch (the build it, they will come attitude).

formerjarhead
11-20-2002, 07:00 AM
Rachel,

I have a few questions and comments. I do not how you worded you flyer's but you may want to use word questions to get people to think about Aikido. Since you are in a bad location did you put a small map on the flyer's? I think the free classes idea was a good one because most people want to try something before they have to pay for it. Do you have any pictures from your old class or posters of anyone doing Aikido around for people to look at when they come? It's good that you have your husband and son in the class. People can see it's for adults and kids.

Stay with it! It may take time but like the movie said, " If you build it, they'll come." My sensei said when he first started our class he was by himself for almost 6 months. To pass time he would practice the basic movements. Then he got 1 student, then 5 and now we have between 25 to 35 each class.

Best of luck.

Formerjarhead

rachmass
11-20-2002, 08:03 AM
Hi Robert,

Thanks for the comments. I think the idea of a photo or something is good, however I don't have any pictures of me doing aikido, but do of plenty of other folks. I wonder if that matters?

We held a free class last night, and the senior student (30 years!) from my old dojo came to help out. Absolutely no one showed up, so we went out for beerwaza, which was fun. It is amazing that no one showed up, despite advertising it in the paper, and flyers all around town with "free" in big bold letters. He thought that maybe the town is the problem, as so far only two folks have come in to watch, and one was a hapikido guy and the other a yoshinkan practioner who just came to check out this dojo. Actually now it is just my husband training, as I had to boot out my son due to his lack of respect and how angry he was making my husband during class (nothing quite like a beligerent 13-year old to stir up trouble). He's welcome back when he gets the chip/boulder off his shoulder.

I am going to give this to at least the end of my lease, but if it continues that no one comes in to watch even, I think I'll have to locate to a different city, no matter how much I like this space.

Best,

Rachel

aikigreg
11-20-2002, 08:58 AM
I'm only sorry I'm nowhere close to your dojo. I'd love to get this kind of one-on-one attention :D

rachmass
11-20-2002, 09:03 AM
Me too Greg!

Please, if any of you folks are ever in the Ann Arbor/Detroit area, drop me a line and maybe come and train.

Rachel

akiy
11-20-2002, 09:38 AM
Hi Rachel,

How many people would you say live, say, within a 10 mile radius?

I'm wondering, as your friend said, if the "town" is the problem. I've heard some experienced teachers say that it's difficult to keep a dojo "alive" without about 100,000 people in the nearby vicinity...

Thoughts from experienced folks who have run a dojo on this?

-- Jun

Larry Feldman
11-20-2002, 09:44 AM
If the town is the problem, expand your marketing efforts to surrounding towns. I know you have gotten a lot of advice, but...

Have you started or tried the idea of a kids class? Getting adults to show up is sometimes harder than getting children to attend. Not sure if this is your interest or not.

rachmass
11-20-2002, 09:45 AM
Hi Jun,

In Ann Arbor, which is about 12 miles away, there are over 130,000 folks, however there are three well established aikido dojos. Saline is small, about 20,000 altogether. The surrounding areas might have another 20,000 folks. It is definately a smallish City, however a lot of folks who work in Ann Arbor live in Saline, and some of the downtown shops are really flourishing (restaurants, coffe shops, etc.).

I am beginning to think the city might be a problem, but I guess I'll know for sure after the Rec and Ed program comes out in January. If no one signs up from that, it will be pretty telling about the general interest in the City.

I was hoping that being an inexpensive dojo (due to having only three classes a week) could possibly draw folks from the Ann Arbor area who find the other dojos too expensive and are therefore not training. Cost doesn't seem to be a factor however.

One thought is that my website does not show up on Google, despite my submission of the url. I spent a couple of hours the other day submitting my url to a number of search engines, in hopes that it would increase my visibility. The Chief Instructor of my home dojo suggested something about embedded files being helpful, and I find nothing about them in FrontPage, other than really basic stuff (he said hidden embedded files with the words aikido and Michigan). Any suggestions out there from the knowledgeable web designing folks?

best,

Rachel

rachmass
11-20-2002, 09:50 AM
Hi Larry, your response came over after I sent the one to Jun. I've advertised mainly in Saline and in Ann Arbor. There are several other cities nearby (within a 15 mile radius) that I haven't really tried (I feel pretty uncomfortable going around putting up posters, as many shop owners are not happy if I ask them if I may put one up).

I really don't like teaching kids under the age of 12 aikido (I know there are a number of folks out there who disagree with me on this one), so I don't think that is really a viable alternative for me, unless I get some young gung-ho person who wants to tackle this.

take care, thanks for your response!

Creature_of_the_id
11-20-2002, 09:53 AM
Another thing to consider is the time of year. Very very few people join aikido in november and december (the worst recruitment months).

It picks back up again in january and february with the 'lose weight after christmas' kick, and the new years resolutions.

Easter is a good time to recruit also, but Spetember is by far the best time to recruit, which tends to spread over into early october then drop sharply in november.

We have found this in our association, and there was a recent aikiweb poll supporting this I think :)

So, I would say, give it time. You're advertising and flyers now may pay off in january. Keep at it and see what happens in the new year

Good luck!

rachmass
11-20-2002, 09:56 AM
Thanks Kev, thanks everyone who has been contributing advice!

All very much appreciated.

Yup, I'll sit tight, see how January goes. Keep the advice coming please, in particular now on how to get more exposure with my website (for free though-I've pretty much exhausted my resources).

best,

Rachel

Larry Feldman
11-20-2002, 09:59 AM
I understand your position on teaching kids. It is a different kind of teaching, I have late hours and the 3-4 kids that come to class are 11 or older and take the adult class.

You might try listing your dojo on the Aikido Journal site (www.aikidojournal.com), I know that ATM charges for their directory, not sure if teh web listing is free or not. Would also see if the local Saline (or Ann Arbor)business community has some kind of site that you can list on. Any luck with the local paper issuing a 'press release' for you?

rachmass
11-20-2002, 10:05 AM
Good idea Larry. I'll contact aikido journal and see if they have a charge. Saline charges for listings, although it is most likely worth my while to enlist in the Chamber of Commerce (eeeh, bite the bullet for more money). No luck with press releases even though I am spending my advertising dollars on the Saline paper. I tried to get them to make an announcement about a demo I held, and my phone calls and email went unanswered (they can't be that busy).

Thanks again,

Rachle

rachmass
11-20-2002, 10:09 AM
okay, either I am blind, or aikido journal does not have a dojo listings section. Did you possibly have Aikido Today in mind?

Larry Feldman
11-20-2002, 10:31 AM
Sorry about that, I think they did in the past but it could have just been the semianr listings (just had a seminar). ATM definately has a listing, both electronic and published.

Hang in there, the rec program should help generate your class. Is the dojo more convenient for any of the more experienced students from your 'home' dojo? Could they work out with you 1 day/week?

rachmass
11-20-2002, 11:08 AM
alas, would be nice to have some come and train. No, I am farther away for most folks. I do have one fellow who is coming to my saturday class which is held before the class at the other dojo (that way he can make two classes in one trip).

sigh

hanging in there, Rachel

SeiserL
11-20-2002, 11:44 AM
Please, if any of you folks are ever in the Ann Arbor/Detroit area, drop me a line and maybe come and train. Rachel
Greetings,

I was born and raised in Pontiac. My wife still has family back there. I did a seminar for my brothter-in-law's Issinrhyu Karate schhol last year in Rochester. When we head back again, I'll let you know.

Until again,

Lynn

rachmass
11-20-2002, 11:45 AM
Cool Dr. Seiser, I look forward to hearing from you when you come to town, just drop me a line. My email address is: rachmass@provide.net

best,

Rachel

Hanna B
11-20-2002, 01:37 PM
One thought is that my website does not show up on Google, despite my submission of the url. I spent a couple of hours the other day submitting my url to a number of search engines, in hopes that it would increase my visibility. The Chief Instructor of my home dojo suggested something about embedded files being helpful, and I find nothing about them in FrontPage, other than really basic stuff (he said hidden embedded files with the words aikido and Michigan).I'm a true novice in HTML, but I suppose that what he meant is to add keywords in the HTML head. Imitating and stealing technique is of value, right? Let's steal from sensei Akiyima. The HTML of this Aikiweb page includes

<META NAME="keywords" CONTENT="aikido, aiki, aikidoka, ki, martial, jo, bokken, ueshiba, morihei, aikiweb, akido, forums, aikicards">

You could include something similar in the head of your HTML file. The head is the descriptive part, which comes before the part where your text and images are. I do not know if Frontpage will show you the actual HTML but if not, just open the file with Notepad.

Just don't put it within another set of <>'s, otherwise I believe you can add this line anywhere in the head. I'm a HTML novice myself, so I figured that if I got it wrong, this way I would find out. :D

But anyway, I don't suppose that the search engines updates their indexes instantly. Which means, it might take some times before the search engines directs people to your page.

Hanna B
11-20-2002, 01:44 PM
Another thing to consider is the time of year. Very very few people join aikido in november and december (the worst recruitment months).

It picks back up again in january and february with the 'lose weight after christmas' kick, and the new years resolutions.Yes. Most people expect that courses of various kinds begin in January or after summer. It takes more guts to walk into a dojo in mid-term.

akiy
11-20-2002, 01:51 PM
Regarding HTML "Meta" tags, they're actually beginning to be deprecated these days in search engines. Google, for instance, doesn't really use them in their page rankings; rather, they take a look to see how many links go to a particular site from related sites...

As a recent poll (http://www.aikiweb.com/polls/results.html?poll_id=138) here showed, though, the most "effective" manner in which people heard about their first aikido school is "word of mouth." Developing such, of course, takes more time than other "traditional" methods of advertising.

Just asking a newspaper or such to "write an article" on your dojo probably won't amount to much as they usually have enough stories. Perhaps better would be to send them a properly formatted press release regarding something "newsworthy" (like a demonstration); that way, they pretty much have most of the article written as they can quote a lot of what you've already written.

Anyone have any other thoughts on how to advertise your dojo?

-- Jun

SeiserL
11-21-2002, 10:59 AM
... the most "effective" manner in which people heard about their first aikido school is "word of mouth." Developing such, of course, takes more time than other "traditional" methods of advertising.
IMHO, "word of mouth" is always been the best means to get referral. You have to create you own buzz by being visible, available, and credible. Define what is you market niche, who do you want as students. Where are they and what are they doing? Be there too.

So you may have to look at are you positioning your school were its convenient for you or for them? Is there a market where you are located? If so, target them. If not, relocate.

I agree with your own press releases or even submit a regular guest column to local small community and school papers that apply the Aiki principles to nonviolent conflict prevention, management, and resolution.

Go to the library and read on marketing for small businesses. A wealth of information is there.

But, like Aikido, it takes time. Be patient.

Until again,

Lynn

rachmass
11-21-2002, 03:59 PM
Thanks again folks,

Word of mouth is definately the way to go, only problem for me is that anyone I know who has any interest in aikido is training at my old dojo, and I do not under any circumstances want to go trying to get these folks! I've been trying to put in hints to the CI there that maybe he might want to send some timid newbies my direction, as my dojo might be the perfect place for them to start, but even this is pushing it a bit. I've been talking it up with my friends, none of whom have the slightest bit of interest in aikido. My husband seems a little embarassed to spread the word at work, so that one doesn't fly. I try to bring it up in casual conversations when I'm out inspecting houses, but that hasn't gone over real well either. Any other suggestions for word of mouth? How do you compete with your friend? I don't want to do that. I think that I would appeal to a certain segment that he would not appeal to, but they aren't hearing about me through him (I think that folks who are just starting out and might need a bit more nurturing would feel better at the intimate setting of my dojo than his larger and more intimidating setting).

Yes, like aikido, it does take time. But, unfortunately, if it takes me as long to establish a dojo as it did for me to "get it" with aikido, I'll be an old lady before this dojo has wings of its own.

Patiently,

Rachel

Dangus
11-24-2002, 02:15 AM
Hey, if you really want a totally fresh market with no Aikido competition, the Waterloo/Cedar Falls area desperately needs a dojo. The closest one to this area is 75 miles away. If you do choose to relocate, that wouldn't be a bad choice.

rachmass
11-24-2002, 09:16 AM
Iowa, sounds inviting (actually, I think Dar Williams has a great song about Iowa).

:blush:

Dangus
11-24-2002, 02:26 PM
Corn is cheap here, so is bacon. How anyone can live elsewhere is just unreal ;)

opherdonchin
11-24-2002, 03:50 PM
I was just in Iowa Cita (which, I think, is less than 75 miles from Cedar Falls) and trained for an evening in a lovely dojo run by a woman named Diana Harris. They even have a home page (http://www.uiowa.edu/~aikido/index.html).

Jeff Tibbetts
11-24-2002, 07:19 PM
speaking of Iowa, our dojo is in Cedar Rapids, a half hour from Iowa City and an hour from Cedar Fallsİ Diana Harris is great, I'm still new to Aikido but I had the pleasure of her instruction when she did a guest appearance, and she's coming back next week I believeİ My instructor was a student in Iowa City before starting our dojo, and he has a great relationship with those guys, they mix it up a little as they're so closeİ My point is that we both benefit from good relations, and we get to see a different Sensei once in a while to mix things upİ Our Sensei also has an affiliation with a dojo in Madison, WI, but I'm not sure how that worksİ I know he went there for something a little while backİ Anyway try out more connections with other dojos, or even other artsİ I think the mood should not be that they think you're going to "steal" their students but that there are more options for places and times to trainİ Maybe even a split rate with another dojoİ I think I might be willing to do a split thing, as I have a night open with no class, I might pay a few bucks more to go to Iowa City that night or somethingİ Just a thoughtİ Best of luck to you!

Dangus
11-25-2002, 12:41 AM
Even the Northern end of Cedar Rapids is 65 miles from Cedar Falls, and Iowa City is 85-90 away, even if you consider Coralville to be inside Iowa City.

rachmass
12-17-2002, 07:04 PM
tonight I had my first visitor to the dojo who was looking to train. I did a free class and he signed up! Cause for celebration! Hopefully this will be the start of something great, wish me luck.

Rachel

Kat.C
12-17-2002, 09:13 PM
Congratulations Rachel, and goodluck! Perhaps your new student will encourage some of his friends to come and join.

PeterR
12-17-2002, 09:42 PM
Hi Rachel;

You and me are in the same boat at the moment although this is my second time around. First day in Quebec I had 20 on the mat, first day in Himeji I had 8. In both cases I planned on losing half of them and growing from there - and in both cases that is exactly what's happening. So you ask - how did you manage to get so many? Work - the great untapped resource. I understand keeping work and play separate but you know there are a lot of people that know you whether by sight or actual conversation and they will support you because of that. Even if they find Aikido is not for them they may run into someone who is.

Make a web site (a simple one is very easy - please see mine as an example).

Submit it to as many search engines as possible - google must be on the list.

Get the web site listed on Aikidofaq and Aikiweb - I've actually had inquires based on both. I also suggest http://www.aikido-world.com/

Further - does your town have a home page. Himeji does - I've asked to be listed. Does your organization have a home page - ask them to link to you.

Journalists - the bane of mankind do have uses. When my wife opened a ballet group in Tsukuba there was a short filler article done and the next day she had 85 students. Took two days for her to recover from the shock.

Yellow pages are also a good source although I've never used them. Mainly because I was unsure of how pernament my club was.

Fliers - I don't think anybody pays attention to them. Not worth the effort. Your students will probably come from people already looking for a martial art if not Aikido specifically - what you need to do is put the information out where they can find it.

PeterR
12-17-2002, 10:01 PM
Me again - I realize that you probably have done most of what I mentioned (ie. I saw the web page).

MaylandL
12-17-2002, 11:54 PM
tonight I had my first visitor to the dojo who was looking to train. I did a free class and he signed up! Cause for celebration! Hopefully this will be the start of something great, wish me luck.

...
Congratulations and all the best of luck. Our dojo will be doing a freebie class and demonstration in April next year to publicise the activities of the dojo and get some new members in the new year. In the meantime, we are having break over Christmas and starting up in January. All the best for the Christmas and New Year (commonly known as the "silly season" in Aussie") to you, and your friends and family.

PeterR
12-18-2002, 12:05 AM
I was looking some more on your web page and I wonder - does a listing of dojo rules come across to anyone else as a little off-putting.

I reallize the importance of the correct atmosphere and how ettiquet is condusive to that - but considering the sparcity of other information it seems to have too much place. I think the web site would be far better served by listing benefits rather than rules. No one starts Aikido for the restrictions. Just a feeling and too much time on my hands.

rachmass
12-18-2002, 03:44 AM
Thanks folks,

Mr. Rehse, your thoughts about an etiqutte page are good, I've never thought of that, and was trying to make my site interesting. Maybe it is a good idea to get rid of it.

Any thoughts from the rest of you?

Rachel

MaylandL
12-18-2002, 08:00 AM
Its conceivable that some may find an etiquette page a little off putting and I do take Mr Rehse point. I OTOH was fine with it. I remember when I first started out in martial arts training I had someone "show me the ropes" about dojo etiquette and I make it a point to ask about it when I go visiting other aikido dojos.

Perhaps a short paragraph on the page explaining the purpose of these "rules" eg to promote a joyous and productive training atmosphere, for safety etc might help put all of the "rules" in context.

Just a thought. All the best for training :)

rachmass
12-18-2002, 08:05 AM
Thanks Mayland,

I took it off my website as I think Mr. Rehse did have a good point, and will make it available to students (or just hand it to them) when they sign up (note the optimism in my voice). I had a note from my teacher telling me to be patient and to trust in myself, and to remind me how long it had taken him to have a good core of students. I am just very happy that someone tried the class, found it worthwhile, and signed up!

Best to you Mayland on the upcoming freebie class. I hope it works out well.

Happy Holidays to all!

Karen Wolek
12-18-2002, 10:05 AM
Congratulations, Rachel! I'm so excited for you! :)

About the rules....I know you already removed them, but here's my POV. I just started Aikido in October and I'm always afraid I'm going to break a rule or not bow at the right time. Being a shy and kind of anxious individual, it helps me to go to my dojo's webpage and make sure I'm ok. Sensei also hands out the handbook when you sign up, so I have access to the info online and offline, which is cool.

So once you have a full dojo, you might want to put it back on. Not for prospective students, since I can see how that MIGHT be off-putting, but for your current ones.

BTW, this is the URL for the dojo I attend, in case you wanted to take a look: www.kingstonaikido.com

Congrats again and I hope you get lotsa students really soon! :)

Karen :)

rachmass
12-18-2002, 10:45 AM
Thanks Karen,

Really appreciate your input about the etiquette page, and maybe I'll put together a "members" page or something where the general public doesn't have access to it (once of course I have a few more members!).

Checked out the website, thanks for the url! Hopefully we will meet at some seminar, as we are in the same organization, so it is likely our paths will cross. Look forward to it.

Rachel

aikigreg
12-18-2002, 01:32 PM
Hi Rachel;

In both cases I planned on losing half of them and growing from there
Here's hoping Rachel doesn't lose half of her one student! :p ;)

Bronson
12-18-2002, 07:25 PM
Way to go Rachel!

One or two enthusiastic students is all it takes to start it growing. Our club was in the same situation when we started. Then a couple of guys signed up and have been enthusiastic and ongoing ever since. Other people show up get sucked in by the feeling and the energy created by the couple of people who are already there and the next thing you know you've got 15-20 people on the mat :)

I hope this all works out beyond your wildest expectations.

Bronson

rachmass
12-18-2002, 07:55 PM
Thanks Greg, Thanks Bronson!

Yup, it should help to have more than two folks on the mat in terms of energy and all. The fellow who signed up is a really big beefy guy. I guess he liked that a woman half his size was able to take his balance and toss him around.

Now, just wish me luck when the Rec and Ed program starts in January....

Thank all of you who have offered so much support over the past few months. I hope to bring you nothing but good news over the next few months (or hopefully, years).

Rachel

tedehara
12-21-2002, 01:42 AM
Rachel,

Found something you'll be interested in. This book (http://www.tuttlepublishing.com/title.cgi?title_id=2475) just came out. It's the only book I've seen on the subject. Although it's written by karate types, a dojo is a dojo and a dojo is also a business.

fullerfury
12-23-2002, 10:21 AM
Rachel...

Don't lose hope...Remember that achieving mastery in Aikido should not be thought of as the ultimate goal, but rather enjoyed and savoured during the journey towards mastery, even during the peaks and valleys along the way. Perhaps you can continue to keep this in mind as you struggle through this initial hiccup, although it certainly sounds as if you arleady have a very good perspective on this.

I too am starting a dojo(under construction) and am anticipating the pain of attracting new membership.

Do you have a business card with class schedule. You never know when you get to make a lasting first impression on someone outside of the dojo. A small piece of literature for a perspective new student can be a great reminder for him/her to visit the school.

Good luck...this thread has given me great ideas.

rachmass
12-23-2002, 12:07 PM
Thanks Garrett,

Hope is not lost. Achieving mastery in aikido is ellusive and is not a particular goal of mine. My goals in aikido are basically to continue to practice with an open heart and an open mind, and with good spirit always! I know things will work out eventually for the dojo, whether it is at this spot or at another. Confidence is increasing, but I have way too much experience to feel like I will ever master this art!

Best wishes for your dojo! I hope that you will succeed on your venture. Hopefully you have a few students to start with, as it is the starting from scratch part that is difficult. Now that I have more than one student, I can actually see what they are doing (when there is only one, you can feel it, but it is hard to see some of what they are doing, and it is hard to show them too!) and they can see me, so when I demonstrate a technique I also take ukemi. It is so much better having more than one student on the mat!

Best wishes, Happy Holidays to everyone!

Rachel

Bronson
01-22-2003, 02:48 PM
Just had another way to possibly get some more students fall into our lap the other day. The local Public Broadcasting Station called and asked if we would donate time at the dojo to be given as a gift during their next pledge drive. Since we are all a big bunch of nerds and like Public Television sensei is donating six, one month "gift certificates" to them. We'll see how it works out.

Bronson

Kelly Allen
01-26-2003, 05:18 AM
I have read this thread from beginning to end with great intrest. I am a junior member at a very small Dojo (only me and another deshi). We recently had to others but lost them for one reason or another. My Sensie also only holds 3 classes a week, only 2 of which I can attend due to the shift I work. It is a beautiful Dojo and can probably handle 15 students at a time. The loss of half the deshi, I think, has had an affect on my sensie. I would like personally to train more than twice a week, but the only way my wife would let that happen is if I could involve the kids some how. I am considering asking my sensie if I could use the Dojo on a night that he doesn't to have a kids class. More of an Aikido play time. You know, make up some games which incorperate basic Aikido technics. Maybe this is something you could do to attract new students.

David Shevitz
01-26-2003, 10:17 AM
I have learned a lot from reading this thread! My club is just over a year old. Although it started slow (first 6 months had less than 5 students) we now have about 25 enjoying practice. (Just goes to show the value of patience, I suppose!)

I think the idea of a "members only" page is interesting. I did this on my Web site (www.kokikaisilverfirs.com, if you want to look). I created a "resources page" which has a lot of info I thought might intimidate new students. Interestingly enough, a lot of my current students like it, because they have an online resource for their questions. And I have had many new students come to me after their first class to say: "I noticed the members only section--can I have access?"

I think its an idea worth looking into--but I would recommend you see what sort of scripting programs your Web hosting service provides.

Best Regards,

David Shevitz

creinig
01-26-2003, 12:38 PM
Just read this and thought I'd add my EUR 0.02. Hopefully the info is still helpful after all that time..
One thought is that my website does not show up on Google, despite my submission of the url. I spent a couple of hours the other day submitting my url to a number of search engines, in hopes that it would increase my visibility. The Chief Instructor of my home dojo suggested something about embedded files being helpful, and I find nothing about them in FrontPage, other than really basic stuff (he said hidden embedded files with the words aikido and Michigan).
About inserting invisible text and stuff: Don't !!

Search engines are beginning to use "cheating filters" which look for exactly that kind of thing. So it's a really good way to ensure you will not appear on google.

What really matters for google rating is:

(1) Being linked to from many other websites. The more popular these sites are the better. So having other dojos, aikido websites, the website of your head organization etc link to you is important.

(2) Having relevant text on your pages. That means text of the kind people would actually read ;) Also, interested people will most likely search for "Aikido" plus "Michigan" or the name of one of the towns in the area, so these words should appear as well. That can be done by (a) more texts about aikido in general, plus (b) a good "how to get here" description (including e.g. "If you come from Town X, you'll enter Saline from the east; proceed to ..."), plus (c) mentioning (e.g. linking to) friendly dojos in surrounding towns.

Note: The more interesting stuff you have on the website the more people will link to you, so writing up articlea about aikido in general, about your experiences in running a dojo, about the suggestions you got here (!) etc will help as well. Don't underestimate that :)

rachmass
01-26-2003, 12:52 PM
Hey folks, thanks for the renewed interest and comments on this thread, I think I'll try all your suggestions.

I am in the process, as I write of editing some mpeg images that we just shot yesterday to put on the website too. That might make the site more interesting.

FYI, I am linked to AikiWeb, the USAF website (of course), and several different dojos, plus the FAQ's dojo search. Any other suggestions out there for where else to link to (I'll ask some of other folks to link to me as well).

all the best, and thanks again for all the input.

Rachel

PeterR
01-26-2003, 10:35 PM
In my little dojo starting adventure the initial bleed of dragged along friends seems to be over and I am gaining new members here and there. I hope this trend continues.

One of the new students is a shodan in something called Aiki Kempo - very heavy Karate orientation. Him I want to keep. Solid body but moves well. So anyway, while the students are changing I'm upstairs paying the rent alongside another club instructor -very tough looking guy, shaved head, cauliflower ears. Having a little bit of trouble explaining what I do to this guy, he knows of Daito-ryu, knows of Aikikai but well my Japanese was failing. No problem though, at this point my Japanese students wander over. Well it turns out that my new student is his student and both were how shall we say it - very surprised. I am far too pretty to fight a challenge match thank you but my student went off to talk to his sensei. I respectfully made my exit. The student came again, his sensei declared that we will help each other (not sure what that means) and all seems well. Ever had one of those life flashing before your eyes moments?[/QUOTE]

MattRice
01-30-2003, 01:43 PM
cauliflower ears - 'nuff said

Erik
01-30-2003, 03:04 PM
About inserting invisible text and stuff: Don't !!
Agree completely.

Rachel, Google can also take awhile to get to your site. These guys get tons of submissions so it's not a submit and you are there, it takes a bit of time.

On marketing in general. I've given this a lot of thought recently and I'm convinced that most of us do it completely wrong. I'm not even sure it's entirely a marketing issue anymore. I think it's also a PR issue. I guess I'm sort of repeating Peter here but it would be logical to write up a press release and submit it to the local newspaper in regards to a new business opening up. I see these all the time and it's many thousand eyeballs. Play up the women in martial arts aspect and I bet you could get play. I also saw an article on a 47 year old woman getting her black belt in TKD. No biggie to us but the local rag found it newsworthy. PR is good and seldom utilized from what I've seen.

Some other minor thoughts. Rachel, have you ever looked at your school on the days when you aren't there? Does it look like it's open for business? Or does it look dark and closed like an empty building? Most businesses have something in the windows or lighting which at least say's "hello, someone is home." Dojos often end up looking like they are "for rent" when no one is home. Do you have any posters in the windows? What about a list of class times on the door with tear-away tabs listing a phone number?

One thing I also want to implement is an ongoing video which runs in the window and shows clips of aikido over and over so someone walking by can see the art when no one is there. If it's good enough for dentists, it's good enough for Aikidoists.

I've got more but that is enough for now.

rachmass
01-30-2003, 04:13 PM
Hi Erik,

Thank you for your advice; as always you have very sound ideas. Yes, the dojo does appear vacant during the days that I don't teach, and yes, I do have fliers up on the outside with tear-away tabs with website and phone number. I've tried getting a yoga or pilates person to come in and take the space during the days that I don't teach, but no one has been interested in doing that (can you believe that????).

One thing I have not tried is to get an article or something written. I did ask the local newspaper to run a small article about a demo I had for the grand opening, and they didn't find it newsworthy.

I like your idea about a video running in the window, although, that costs $$$$. I did put some videos into my website, and I hope that helps a bit.

On a further note, it has now been three months since the dojo has opened, and I don't think there have been more than three visitors to the dojo to check it out. I have had only one phone call, and several email inquiries, but nothing has panned out. The lease is up in April, so until then, I'll keep plugging away, but then I have some serious decisions to make as to whether to continue with this or not.

Thank you again for all your help, and to all of you out there who have given suggestions over the past few months.

Rachel

Erik
01-30-2003, 05:08 PM
Well, if nothing else they are thoughts.

My scanner is broken, sigh, or I'd forward an article I came across on marketing MA schools. Quite good, but alas, my scanner........very sad.......must lament.....can't scan article or anything else....very bad.

You know, if things don't turn around, you could go to the local adult education center or find a gym and restart that way. You would actually have a positive cash flow (can't write get paid lest I burn in aikido hell) and if things really took off then you could revisit the whole dojo process only this time with a handful of students out the gate.

I'm in the process of talking to a couple of places and they both seem open to having aikido.

rachmass
01-30-2003, 05:44 PM
Actually, I tried the adult ed and YMCA thing for a couple of years (tried to get into it that is), but they are already chock up with aikido throughout the area!

Thanks Erik, please, when your scanner is fixed, send me the article.

best,

Rachel

Abasan
01-31-2003, 02:49 AM
Rachel, there was this pizza company... and it did this strange thing. They turned up at an office one day during lunch time with around 20 pizzas. No one ordered them, but by the end of lunchtime, all 20 pizzas were sold. Then after a week, they began to do something like 30-40 pizzas per building.

Instead of waiting for walk in customers and calls... why don't you go to institutions: private and public, and offer aikido courses?

Schools, hospitals, peer groups and business makes excellant opportunites given their diverse free times and interests.

crashtestuke
01-31-2003, 01:45 PM
<other good ideas snipped>

One thing I have not tried is to get an article or something written. I did ask the local newspaper to run a small article about a demo I had for the grand opening, and they didn't find it newsworthy.
Delurking to add in a bit here:

When you're working with a local paper, the thing to do to actually get an article is to write a press release, that in essence pretty much writes the article for them. You're not opening a new wing of the local hospital, axe-murdering Cleveland, or proposing a toxic waste management facility next to a day care center (what they're used to writing about), so you need to take a proactive role in getting press.

Keep your press release fairly short (one page would be best). Include quotes from yourself and other aiki folk (get their permission, of course) on Aikido, your teahcing experience and philosophy and the particulars of class times, locations, upcoming demos, etc. Offer photos. Use an angle (women in Aikido, promoting alternative ways of resolving conflict, learn to fly (briefly), etc.) to hook folks in.

It's not a guarantee (and if something does get published chances are it will bear a disturbing resemblance to what you originally wrote), but it will increase your chances greatly.

Good luck--I may have some samples at home I can email if you'd like. They're not Aiki-related, but the general structure could help.

--Christia

Kelly Allen
02-02-2003, 01:16 AM
Sorry Rachel I know this is not in relation to the thread but I seen Christias Last name and I had to mention that I grew up in a small town called Mulvihill that apparently was named after someone called Mulvey. Any relation (Just Kidding).

Dave Porter
02-16-2003, 09:07 AM
Hi Rachel,

I've only recently come to this Message board, and to Aikido. I've been training for a month now and My son and I were actually at the very first class in the new Dojo. I've seen alot of ideas from the Marketing side, but I wanted to add some things from the "Prespective student side" if I may.

First you have on your webpage, Free classes, but only for first time students. How come? I've read were you have said your area is chock full of Aikido already, so it feels...Odd to me. I bounced around between many different schools before I settled on the one I'm in. I trained in Karate for 2 years in Tulsa and I moved due to my job. I had difficulty finding a Sensei that I both respected, and could learn from. It may be alienating to people who for whatever reason or another, left Aikido and would look to come back to training.

Second, This is a big one for me. I WILL NOT train with Kids. I just cant do it. I was injured severly by a 14 year old while training Ju Jitsu. Now I only train with adults (and Kids that I know personally and trusty implicitly.) The lack of seperate classes may put off parents of little ones as well. I have 3 kids from the ages of 10 and down, and I wouldn't want them training in adult classes.

Lastly, I went to your website, and it's really nice. The first thing I saw wasthe photos on the home page. It's great to show technique, but to a first time Martial artist. it may look like Holy Cow!!! Im going to get slammed if I do this. You may also want to add something about the current "Popular" people in Aikido...I.E. Sensei Segal. I've been telling the people I work with about the new Dojo and Aikido, and usually the first Question is "Whats Aikido?" To which I can reply...The obvious answer, its what Steven Segal uses.

Just some thoughts. Please bear in mind that I'm new to Aikido, and I hope I'm not out of line for the things I've suggested. Thanks. ~Dave Porter~

rachmass
02-16-2003, 09:45 AM
Hi Dave,

Thank you for your thoughtful response, and to raising a couple of questions/points, that I had not considered. To answer your first question on 1st time aikidoka only; well, that is just to follow suit of my old dojo! Haven't given it a whole lot of thought. I might not have the most attractive dojo though to folks who have trained before, as there are only beginners there and not much of the slamming around that a lot of folks like (contrary to my videos). The second point about the videos, was that I thought these were quite mild techniques, and just showed a really good uke (my friend Shawn, thank you Shawn!), but my sister-in-law did say that it frightened her to see the techiques. So, I will reconsider both the videos (although I rather like them), and the free class to new aikidoka only.

Again, thanks for your input.

Rachel

rachmass
04-09-2003, 10:57 AM
Hi all,

Just wanted to give you an update on how things are going on this new dojo venture (for those who had been following this dead-thread). I've now got four students, plus my friend Shawn who comes up from Toledo a couple of times per month. While things have definately been slow, it does appear to be picking up, and it is exciting to see this. One student even attended his first seminar this past weekend, after only having been on the mat 8 times before!

It is still very difficult to teach when you have no one to demonstrate properly with. Shawn is my life-saver on this one, and my son is also getting pretty darn good at taking ukemi.

As far as the space goes, I've found a couple folks who now are sharing (keep fingers crossed that this continues) my dojo for teaching both Yoga and Pilates, and we are doing some joint advertising. I am also trying another free class this coming Saturday, and hopefully that will bring in some more viewers. The biggest problem I am still having is being visable to the public, but at least 40% of the people who have come by to watch have joined (but that means that I've only had a few people come in).

Hopefully the next time I give you all an update, things will have gotten even busier on the mat, with more folks joining. Wish me luck!

Also, I know there were some folks following this thread and contributing, who were also in the throws of starting a dojo or club, and I'd love to hear how things are going on their end.

All the best,

Rachel

PeterR
04-09-2003, 07:55 PM
Also, I know there were some folks following this thread and contributing, who were also in the throws of starting a dojo or club, and I'd love to hear how things are going on their end.
Slowly Rachel - ever so slowly. Our numbers are about the same as yours with about six people on the mat each time. We've had up to ten people on the mat but the core is smaller.

You have Shaun I have Omonishi. As I mentioned he was team captain of one of the strongest Shiai teams in Japan. He takes fantastic ukemi and also is invaluable when I introduce technique. I demo at full speed with him, then we switch and he describes what's happening in Japanese, and then I emphasize a few points in Jenglish. Best part, every time someone new comes in we can impress the hell out of them.

My people keep telling me that advertisements and websites are really not that important. It really is word of mouth. If you have a core, and you do, it will grow.

Bronson
04-09-2003, 08:17 PM
It really is word of mouth. If you have a core, and you do, it will grow.

I'd have to agree with this. While we do get inquiries from the website, the largest number of people who actually come to class for any length of time are brought by one of the other students or at least know one of the other students.

The second largest group would be from the website.

Third largest from the sign out front.

Hardly anybody from the phonebook.

Bronson

ian
04-10-2003, 06:29 AM
I think the people who enjoy aikido are often those who would not think of taking up martial arts. My club fluctuates, but I have found now that I'm more interested in quality than quantity and really enjoy the sessions when there are very few (as long as they are moderately good).

fullerfury
04-10-2003, 10:43 AM
Hi Rachel...

It sounds as if the membership is coming along quite nicely. You have four members and growing...I think the toughest part is getting that first handful to commit and show up consistently so you are not showing up to teach to an empty house.

The dojo I am opening is still under construction, but I have gotten about 8 inquiries due to the web precense. http://aikidosuimei.com I am planning an open house as soon as construction is complete and am inviting members from a sister dojo where I currently train...with class to be led by my teacher.

I hope I can get a 40% success rate on membership from those who have expressed interest as you have. But as they say...if you build it they will come...so no worries here.

rachmass
04-10-2003, 11:37 AM
Hello Peter, Bronson, Ian and Garrett,

Thanks for contributing to this thread! It is very good to hear other's experiences in starting up a dojo, and I particularly like to hear about those who do it from scratch, as it really is a different bird altogether. I think that all of us find aikido immensely fulfilling and worthwhile, and that is why we do it, and want to spread it, even though the journey can be very difficult.

Garrett, liked your website! Are you actually building a dojo? Is it at your home? Wow!

best,

Rachel

fullerfury
04-10-2003, 11:49 AM
Yep...I have been struggling for years to find ways to get to the dojo on a more regular basis...I have 5 kids... 3 daughters aged 1,2,3...so it is difficult for me to skip away more than 2 to 3 nights a week to train...so...I am building the dojo on the house...

rachmass
04-10-2003, 12:03 PM
wonderful, please let me know how that works! In particular, I wonder about liability, as well as the issues regarding zoning and visability. This is something that I would like to do too, but am a total worrywort when it comes to liability issues...

thanks for sharing.

John Boswell
04-10-2003, 12:49 PM
Rachel,

Hi. I saw your thread when you first started it and then again today. I'm glad to hear things are picking up a bit. Slow but steady is a good thing. ;)

Couple things I wanted to suggest (in case I may have missed it earlier in the threat) :

1) Sandwich Board Sign - Do you have one of these? It'd be real easy to make, two peices of plywood hinged together with a chain froming the crosslink of the A to brace it. These are really good to put ANYWHERE to get visiblity, plus they are portable and can be moved around and also brought in at night.

2) Survey - Make up a simple survey asking people important information such as: when is their best/worst time to train, reasons they are interested/not interested, do they know aikidoka and who that is (could get them in maybe?)

Basically, feel them out and find reason, times to get them in. Also might offer a discount or incentive for bringing in friends to try out Aikido.

You've probably thought of most of this, but wanted to bring it up. I wish you the best and hope continued success finds you!

GOOD LUCK !!

rachmass
04-10-2003, 12:54 PM
Thanks John,

The sandwich board thing has been explored, but don't have any place to put it (legally). The survey is a good idea, and I hadn't thought of it!

Thanks also for the well wishes. If wishes were horses, then beggers would ride (one of my dads favorite quotes), and with all the great well wishes I've had on this thread, I'd be riding a beautiful thoroughbread. It will improve (what is the saying; I think I can, I think I can, I think I can...., or "you can do it, if you put your mind to it", obviously got kids).

best to all, and thanks always for the good wishes, Rachel

John Boswell
04-10-2003, 01:01 PM
One of my favorite sayings is one I modified to be more TRUE:
Good things come to those who Persist !
The original saying say 'to those who wait', but I have no patience for patience. ;)

rachmass
04-10-2003, 01:02 PM
I like that one John; actually got a fortune cookie a couple of days ago that alluded to the same thing!

JJF
04-11-2003, 02:37 AM
Yep...I have been struggling for years to find ways to get to the dojo on a more regular basis...I have 5 kids... 3 daughters aged 1,2,3...so it is difficult for me to skip away more than 2 to 3 nights a week to train...so...I am building the dojo on the house...
So the pictures. I looks very nice. It's pretty much exactly what I want to do some day, but it's really expensive to build a dojo around these parts. Also it's really hard to find a nice place with that kind of view which is close to work AND close to a potential number of students. Oh year - and I ought to get a LOT bette before I open a dojo :)

fullerfury
04-11-2003, 06:41 AM
Ahhh the dojo was free...but somehow my mortgage payment went up by 30%

JJF
04-11-2003, 07:23 AM
Ahhh the dojo was free...but somehow my mortgage payment went up by 30%
.... which would pretty much crush my allready crumbling financial situation. I hardly think my wife would agree that a dojo is a better usage of square meters than an extra bathroom, a hothouse or perhaps a hobby room for her sewing machine..... However it does make a lovely guest-room (except they have to be up and out before morning-iaido :D

Good luck on the project

rachmass
04-11-2003, 07:27 AM
Actually Garrett, your post (and beautiful dojo) set me thinking about the cost of buying some land, building a house, and building a dojo. It is higher than our current housing cost, but is definately worth considering further (unfortunately, land in our area costs a small fortune). What did you do about zoning restrictions? Did you check with the governing bodies beforehand, or do you run the dojo in such a way that specific zoning wasn't necessary? You can write me back privately if you wish at rachmass@provide.net

thanks in advance,

Rachel

Kelly Allen
04-13-2003, 02:11 AM
Rachel If your thinking about buying land to build house and Dojo. Why not build a very larg 4 season gazibo that can double as a dojo. a 30x30 gazibo would make an excellent dojo. Just make sure you don't fill it with lawn furnature that is hard to move out of the way all the time. You can have room for 10 ppl to throw each other around, then after class it would be available for those family BBQs. Because its a Gazibo the city can't bug you about having a building of business in an area zoned residential.

Just a thought.

John Boswell
04-14-2003, 01:19 PM
Kelly, that's a good idea with the gazebo, but there is also parking to consider. And when you get 5 to 10 cars parked in front/back of your house, the neighbors WILL notice... and thus zoning is still a consideration. :(

Its a bummer, the gazebo has possibilities, but parking is a factor to seriously consider.

Rachel, being in real estate right now I know land cost is very prohibitive. You might want to look around for a "fixer-upper" of some kind. Many people have taken over abandoned buildings and done wonders with them or just demo old stuff and start over on that land.

Whenever you DO start looking around... consider ALL options. You'd be surprised the ideas that can come to mind with a little imagination... and a good gazebo. ;)

Good luck!

rachmass
04-14-2003, 01:30 PM
Hi John,

yes, you make good points. I've been active in our real estate market (an appraiser) for close to 19 years now, so I know how expensive the land is. The cost to fix something up is prohibitive here due to land prices. Also, I was thinking that the only way to really make it viable is to have it on a semi-busy to busy road, and therefore not something that would be nice for building a house. Of course, if a house on a busy stretch of road, with proper zoning came up for sale, the least expensive part of it would be building the dojo! Yikes, I think I'll just keep renting for the moment, but Garretts dojo did look soooo very nice!

best!

Rachel

Kelly Allen
04-25-2003, 04:28 AM
How can the city zone for parking spots? It's not uncommon for me to have enough guests at my place to warrent 5 to 10 cars parked out front, and they're ususally there for more than two hours. If any one asks, your entertaining friends. If they ask why they're all in white uniforms just tell them it's a pajama party. :p

George S. Ledyard
05-05-2003, 09:58 AM
Hi Kev,

Word of mouth seems to be the absolute best way to get anyone into the dojo. I have been trying, but without much sucess. I've tried flyers, ads in the paper, the website, small phone book ad...so far it isn't working. On the other hand, the dojo has only been open for one month, so it is hard to expect much at this point. I will most certainly share anything I do that works!!!! Everyone in this web community has been so helpful with suggestions and comments, and I most assuredly will give back what I can, especially with what I learn in starting a dojo, completely from scratch (the build it, they will come attitude).
A month is just way too short. This is a long term effort. We found that the average person who came in to our dojo , if he had seen Aikido before, had done so two yaers or so earlier. That meant that the demos we were doing gad no immediate effect. In fact, given how people move around these days, it was ususally someone else's demo that they had seen. So doing demos are a long trem solution.

The web should be strong for most dojos but you have to make sure that people see the site. Do a search on the internet under Search Engines. There are whole sites about how saech engines rank their sites. A few tips are:

get your keywords into your meta tags; make sure you use those keywords in the first paragraph of the text on your main pages; if you have hyperlinks that are graphics make sure that you also put a text link because the web spiders will not follow a graphic link; if your website uses frames, make sure that all of your links appear on each main page because the web spiders don't deal with frames and won't go through your site. It is best to avoid frames if possible;many search engines give you preference if you have lots of links to other related sites; many search engines give you prefernce if there are many sites that link to you, so submit your site to as many of the meta sites like Aikiweb, Aikido Journal, Aikido Today magazine, and as many of the general martial arts meta sites as you have patience for. Manually submit your site to the major search engines.

These are just a few of the tricks to get your site recognized by the engines and given a decent position. Once again, the results of these efforts are not immediate. It takes esveral months for these things to start having an effect. You can check it out by doing your own searches usuing what you think would be the keywords that a propsective student who knew nothing might use to find you. See if you show up in the fisrt page or two of search results. If you are in a small city where there isn't too much competition you should be on the first page of the search resuults or something is wrong somehwhere.