View Full Version : YMCA, Gyms and similar alternatives

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01-08-2003, 05:28 PM
The school I'm a part of has come under tremendous financial pressure. The pressure has always been there but the owner, having lost his job, can no longer support the school's losses. These losses are seemingly in the $1,500/mo and possibly range up to $2,000/mo. I have not seen the books, if there even are any, but the estimate seems probable. For many reasons this school has struggled and I can't remember the last time a new student visited. Some of these are fixable, some have been fixed, and others are going to be almost impossible to fix, but getting it up to speed in a couple of months, or even several, seems almost impossible.

My intention is to propose a retreat into alternative realms such as the Y or a fitness facility. That way, whomever teaches not only gets paid, the cash burn is reduced to zero.

My question to the group is:

those of you who have operated out of a facility like this, what sort of problems did you encounter? What sort of financial relationships did you work out? What things could you have done to make it easier and more beneficial for the students?

01-08-2003, 08:37 PM
Dear U.A.

We are with a Parks and Reacreation and for the most part, it has been a good relationship. For us, we are covered by their insurance because they offer the class and I teach it. The folks have been great to work with. They provide 2 program catalogs a year that goes out to all the residents, as well, we can send flyers to all the schools via the P&R. This is what grew our youth program.

The only problems we've had is the not having the ability to expand our hours and days. The facility we use is booked year around so we're tied in. But we've managed to hold special seminars and have worked out most things.

So for us, it has been a good relationship.

... Cheers ...

01-08-2003, 09:22 PM

Anonymous wrote:

"those of you who have operated out of a facility like this, what sort of problems did you encounter? What sort of financial relationships did you work out? What things could you have done to make it easier and more beneficial for the students?"

My partner and I opened two dojo at once, one in our home town and one in another not too far away. We hired a school gym/hall for both locations and paid by the hour. Main problem we had was tatami/mats. We had only( and still do)enough to cover about 4.5 sq.mtrs and we were not able to transport them from our home town to the other dojo. It really was not a problem afterall, as in the 2nd dojo we could use the school gym mats, and leave our own at the home town dojo.

We closed one dojo down(out of town)as it was costing more to hire than the club was bringing in.

However, our home dojo numbers increased so we had to add extra nights.

Some things we have to overcome:

Children and adults classes had to be together, which to start was ok as kids far out numbered adults, and it is good for adults to learn to be less rigid by working with the kids, although mostly they trained seperate.We now have a seperate adults class due to numbers (5!!!, gotta start somewhere)

Class times have to be quite exact, as other users sometimes have booked the hall after us although they are patient when we go over by 5 or 10 mins(which is usually the case)

Student issues:

Tatami/mat space is still an issue, classes average 25 regular students on a BAD day(kids and adults) so alot of ukemi is on the hard floor, beginners are allowed the mats. We are in the process of fundraising for jigsaw mats and applying for a grant.


We are not paid for instruction, and will never accept it, that's just us. All fees go to the club, we(club) pay bills as we go( hireage, advertising,web, cellotape to hold the mats in place etc etc etc)

It's coming up to our first anniversary, it has been a struggle, but we keep at it. The school now gives us priority with he hall, as it is a regular source of income for them. Our relationship with them was uneasy at first, they keep refering to us as karate though :straightf ,but have heard a few good comments on some of the kids, and really try hard to accomodate us.

that's about it, there are minor things too, just can't think of them at present.

Hope all works out ok for your school.



01-09-2003, 08:16 PM
My instructor used to hold his classes through the YMCA. The major problem was that he could not get students (I think he had four), since on top of the monthly membership fee that was required by the Y ($20US), there was a fee to take Aikido. I think it was something outrageous like $90 per month for one one-hour class a week (I'm not too sure. I wasn't training there at the time.)

Later, he opened a class up at the local community college, and it has been great. The costs are minimal ($85 for 10 weeks, 3 two-hour classes per week, and for students of the college it can be half that or free) and the college pays for new mats when needed, and my instructor doesn't pay any rent. On top of that, Sensei gets paid by the college to teach the class. He certainly doesn't get as much as the college is getting from students, but he still gets something to put in the jar toward getting our own space one day.

His original plan had been to hold classes at both the college and the Y, but once the Y found out that he was extending to another location, they dropped his class.

I would steer clear of the Y. Even rec centers, though cheaper, have their downsides (rigid scheduling, as someone mentioned). Try to find a college or university (preferably one that will open up to non-students). I think that's one of the best options for a tight budget.

Downsides of the college, however, are also present. When the college is closed, there is no class. (Last year there was no training for the entire month of January.) More recently, my instructor has talked to the people at the college and has been able to get us into the gym in between semesters. You may not have such luck.

Bon chance...

Sarah, who, despite the cost, would have loved to be around in those early days at the Y, where you show up for class and it's just you and Sensei...

01-10-2003, 07:19 AM

I've trained at a number of dojo in the US when I travel. Here are some things I've seen:

1) 3 dojo have permanent arrangements with churches. Two of these are churches where either sensei or students are church members there, the third I'm not sure about. In one case, they pay no fees at all for the space and have a really fine, permanent mat system in place. In the other two, the mats have to be stored when not in use, but they're easily moved and set up for class. You might try this solution, especially if someone in the dojo is a prominent member of his congregation and can exercise some influence. One place I train allows church members to train for free (but not test) and in return the church doesn't charge anything for using the space a few times a week.

2) I trained one place that was a tenant of some kind at a gymnastics training/school. I've no idea what their arrangement was as far as costs and scheduling, but the spring floor was a ball to do ukemi on--firm, but what bounce!



01-10-2003, 12:02 PM
Thanks for the replies so far. The information has been helpful. Would be glad to hear more.

01-10-2003, 01:02 PM
I take Tai-Chi class at YMCA once a week.

I just want to confirm what Sarah Fowler told.

if you hold the classes through YMCA:


1) your students would have to pay

about $35 a year for basic membership, which only entitles them to sign up to the classes that offered by YMCA (and nothing else, technically they should not even use the showers, but since they need to use the dressing room to change they may be able to use showers)

2) 8 week class(1 hour per week) costs about $90

3) you would need to promote the class yourself, because most people who attend YMCA don't have interest in matrial arts... for many YMCA seems to be the place to socialize & hang out... they just lay down and watch TV;o)))

So even though some of the YMCA members can take free classes they are not very likely to sign up...

If you just rent the room from YMCA, then its a different story... your students will not have to sign up for basic membership with YMCA and you can charge them directly instead of going throu YMCA, but I am not sure if YMCA's rules allow to do that.

01-10-2003, 01:13 PM
If you are in need of students, this might help:


Not my approach, but I know those who use them, and it works!

Good luck.

01-14-2003, 02:01 PM
We used to have classes at the local Y and we had a pretty good relationship with them. For more current info talk to Mark Mueller (username: aikiwhat) on these forums. He has recently taken over as instructor at the local Y and is up on the latest info.

Some good points:

* We were covered under their insurance.

* Absolutely no overhead cost to instructors-just show up and teach.

* Locker rooms and showers available.

* Good student prices--I believe the local Y center is charging $37 for seven weeks @ two classes/week. That's for a non-Y memeber, it's cheaper if you already belong to the Y.

* Good support network with the other martial arts programs/instructors.

* The karate instructor at the Y has his accountant count all his time as a contribution. He writes off his mileage to and from the Y, two gi/year, and the cost of any student materials he gives out.

* Someone actually talked the Y into covering our yearly dojo affiliation fee.

Some bad points:

* Rigid scheduling--the lights went off at 9:30 so no staying after class.

* Getting mats. We ended up having a donate-a-mat program. The students, parents of students, other martial arts schools, or whoever bought and donated the mats to the Y. I believe it counted as a charitable contribution and could be written off. The Y was supplying us with mats but we wanted better ones so we took it into our own hands.

* The danger of the class being dropped due to lack of enrollment.

* Difficult to have "drop in" students or visitors.

Just some of the experiences I can think of right now. I'll post more if they pop into my head.

As for teaching at a college I have no personal experience with it but I have a friend who teaches tai chi at one and he seems to have a good relationship with them. The class is open to non-college students for a measley $15/month and college students get phys. ed. credit for it.


01-14-2003, 06:28 PM
As for teaching at a college I have no personal experience with it but I have a friend who teaches tai chi at one and he seems to have a good relationship with them. The class is open to non-college students for a measley $15/month and college students get phys. ed. credit for it.
My home town has two universities, each with its own sports facilities.

Theres a Kai Shin Kai club who train at the Sheffield Hallam University (http://www.shef.ac.uk/misc/rec/aikido/index.html), and their experience is generally pretty good. Access to non-students is fine, its a nice room - a good sized dance studio, there are locker rooms and showers, mats are provided and there's a cupboard to store weapons in. The downside is somewhat rigid scheduling, and the dojo is very occasionally unavailable during exam time. (They're a nice bunch, I try to train with them fairly regularly, though I've been neglecting them lately.)

The University of Sheffield, on the other hand, is unhelpful to say the least. Facilities are expensive for students and totally inaccessible to non-students. The way things are set up students would have to join the sports centre for an outrageous fee before even being allowed to sample a single class there. Consequently pretty much all of the MA clubs ignore the college facilities, and make other arrangements, a couple of them share our dojo with us.



01-15-2003, 02:26 AM
The University of Sheffield, on the other hand, is unhelpful to say the least.

I know how that can be. There are two universities here too. The one is a private liberal arts university that receives no government funding. This is the one my friend teaches tai chi at. The other is a public university and in the past few years they've really made it hard for student groups with a martial lean. I guess I misspoke myself in my previous post when I said that I had no experience with universities. While I've never taught aikido at one I was part of a student group that studied and practiced medieval/renaissance european combat. The school adopted a ridiculously stringent weapons policy. Basically no weapons. Period. The collegiate fencing club even had to move their practices off campus...they had a big fight with the school about that one. That's the reason our group left too. We just didn't want to deal with the hassle, it was easier to find another place to practice. The judo club was "asked to leave" and the iaido club is also no more. I believe they still offer "martial arts" as a phys. ed. elective but that may have gone away too, but probably not since the school makes money from it.

Now if somebody wanted to start an aikido club I think they would have a hard time of it. First off, no weapons training on campus. Technically if you lived on campus you couldn't even keep weapons in your room, or carry them through campus to an off campus site. Second, once the university found out that there was actuall physical contact between students coupled with the risk of injury you'd be out on your butt.

Sorry if I sound bitter...but I am :disgust:


p.s. The weapons policy also defined a weapon in several different ways. One being: Any object brandished in a threatening manner at another person or persons. So yes you could get kicked out of school for "brandishing" a spoon. In the meetings we had with the board they went on to state that the threat need not even be intended, only percieved. So if someone took the way you were holding your newly sharpened pencil as a threat and reported it you could be kicked out :confused: