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Michael Young
12-02-2003, 12:14 AM
Hello all,

This is my first post on the aikweb forums. I have been a "lurker" for quite a while. I have enjoyed many of the posts, and the great debates and information exchange I see. So, I am looking forward to finally "joining the fray" and posting some.
Myself and a few others have recently founded a new ASU affiliated dojo in San Antonio, Texas. Our head instructor is Craig Slack, he practiced under Saotome Sensei in DC, and has received his san-dan from him. We are very fortunate in starting our new dojo, in that we also have 3 dan ranked practioners/assistant instructors, and we have all had some experience in running the business side of a dojo before... I myself was treasurer for 4 years at my former dojo. We have set our dojo up as a non-profit organization in Texas and are working on getting 501(c) non-profit status with the IRS. All told, there are six of us that have started this endeavor.
We recently obtained space at a YMCA for use as our dojo...the YMCA staff has been really great in helping us get started, and allowing us to use the space for VERY little rent. While the space we are using is good for a start, we really don't want to stay at the YMCA for a long time. My feeling on it is that we just won't grow that much in the YMCA. The student base is very limited there, and it is in a pretty low income area of town (not that there is anything wrong with this, I truly believe in community outreach to economically challenged individuals).
The problem is that in order to grow we need to get our name out in the community and gain enough paying students to support ourselves. I've been around long enough to know the high cost of advertising, and/or renting a viable and visible space for a dojo. I've also been around in Aikido and martial arts world long enough to know about the high turnover rate in students...so my philosophy is you need to have a lot of people walking in the door in order to get a few people who will actually stick around. We have been at the YMCA for almost 3 months, and we have only had about 4 people join...all of whom have already quit coming. O.K. I'm finally getting to my point here;) Its a "catch-22"...we need students in order to afford a space of our own...but we need a visible space of our own in order to attract students. I would like to hear thoughts and input from others who have been involved in the start-up and initial growth of other dojos...

Suggestions for finding a good dojo space and how to finance it intially (Does anyone know of any low cost loans/funding for non-profits?...

Suggestions for "advertising" (low cost): getting our name out there to the community and just plain getting people to walk through our door...(I'm having a hard time persuading others to do demos, so far we have only put up posters at the YMCA and posted a web site: www.alamocityaikido.com )

Where do you think money would be better spent..on advertising or on rent at a "higher profile" location?

How about "beginners or introductory programs" to attract new members? How well do they work? (my old dojo never did this)

We obviously have limited manpower, so I want to be careful where we expend our energies.

Sorry about the long post, I'm looking forward to your input!


12-02-2003, 12:58 AM
'Think big - start small'.

I would think you should go for getting the students first, then you will have a larger array of people that can help fix up what ever place you find for you new dojo.

Being a non-profit organisation, you might be able to get someone to sponsor your advertising, or perhaps let you put in adds for a low price. However in my opinion advetising won't attract any long-term students.

BTW: decent web-site - but loose the dog-gif. It kind of sends the wrong message.... :D

Jeanne Shepard
12-02-2003, 06:42 AM
Our dojo is dealing with the fact that, even non profit dojos have to meet expense.

IMHO advertising is expensive and does't tend to pay for itself. Word of mouth gets you more for the effort.

A good resource is Nolo Press's Marketing without Advertising. They have a web page.


12-02-2003, 09:15 AM
When I was helping my old tai chi instructor start his school, we called the "Neighborhood" editor of the newspaper and they came and did a story and photoshoot for the paper--free, and generated interest.

I also called the local tv news station and they came and we had a spot on the 6:00 news "Local Interest" segment--free, and generated much interest.

I know that one of our local radio stations will run free ads for local non-profit events.

We also targeted other interest areas where people with even a passing interest in tai chi might be found; flyers in health food stores, massage/holistic therapy schools, physical therapists offices, etc. Put flyers up but put them where people interested in what you offer will see them.

Get in good with other martial artists in the area. We often refer people to other schools if they call us looking for karate or kickboxing etc. See if you can get other places to refer people to you. They may just not know you're there.

Also, check out this thread (http://www.aikiweb.com/forums/showthread.php?s=&threadid=2763). If I remember correctly it's chock-full-o' good ideas.

Good luck,


12-02-2003, 09:18 AM
I don't know if this will help or not, but why not post some flyers at a local college? I understand that college students have breaks from school and only stick around for ~4 years, but this may give you a base revenue and help attract more permanent members . . .

12-02-2003, 09:42 AM
I started our dojo about 3 years ago. Luckily I was also working at the local university and managed to use their facilties. One possibility is to see if there are people who would be willing to support an aikido club at the local university/college (it is likely that there will have to be a student treasurer/chairperson or other, although the instructors need not be).

If it can become a student club (as long as external people are also allowed in) you may get very reduced or even free hall hire.

What was useful for recruitment, but not necessarily aikido training, was to run a 10 week course (tailor it to self-defence if you want, but make sure it really is self-defence which can be utilised within 10 weeks). This can be a one of charge for the 10 weeks, paid up front, and then when the course is running you can discuss continuing training, but as aikido.

Question I must ask is, why do you want to start a club? Are there no clubs around? If this is not the case - beware. In the first two years you'll feel you have given up aikido just to become an 'instructor'. It is very different instructing in an established club to starting a club. When I started there was only one other person who was cable of doing ukmei! Also, students are likely to see your group as a seperate, unattainable standard to reach, until lower grades establish.


P.S. I would also agree that most advertising is a waste of money. Some initial advertising through the sports centre/college/dojo/town hall/police stations/hospitals can help, but the only students that tend to stay are those that come by word of mouth. (thee majority of people want to learn some instant death touch type of thing).

12-02-2003, 09:47 AM
PPS you say you get the YMCA very cheap, and are a non profit organisation but people aren't coming because you are in a low income area. Are you charging too much? Although we maintain a small float, it is that SMALL. I knew a very popular non-profit club that started charging increasing amounts to develop a float and eventually work towards building their own dojo - students left rapidly as the cost went up. If you are non-profit, you should try and ensure that students really paying only for the hire of the hall and the insurance directly.

Also, can you get help from joining a local aikido affiliation? (I think maybe in the US this is more restrictive)

12-02-2003, 10:47 AM
Bronson has some good ideas. You might also take advantage of the upcoming movie with Tom Cruise and approach a local movie theater to do a demonstration during peak traffic times in their lobby if you have portable mats.

You have to throw a lot of students against the wall so to speak to get any to stick. If you are looking for a place to land you might try a school that has extra mat space or time and is Japanese oriented-a karate school is one idea. If you want your own, look for areas that are not in the bad side of town but cheap-wherehouses, large garage type buildings, little cost and easy maintenance. The closer you are to mainstream traffic the more your per square foot cost. You can start rustic and then as you build students have dojo parties to paint, repair, build etc.

12-02-2003, 11:05 AM
I started a dojo just over a year ago. The thread that Bronson noted was my query as how to get it off the ground. When I started, there was no one but me, and then my husband volunteered to be my guinea pig (he had never done aikido). Now we have 10 students total training. Only three students have joined and left, and all for rather legitimate reasons. Think I've been extremely lucky!

Almost all of my students have come in through the web page (via different search engines, including this terrific one) or through the phone book. I've tried demos, free classes, advertising in the newspaper, fliers, etc., and have had a minimum amount of sucess with this. My first real student (not hubby) came through an ad I tried in an alternative newspaper; he's still practicing almost a year later. One came in through a flyer, the others have been phone book or website.

Something that has worked really well in getting the word out about the dojo was installing an "information" box on the outside of the dojo. I put the dojo brochure in there for folks to take.

Read through the thread that Bronson noted, because the folks on this site gave me tremendous help and ideas!!

Good luck. You are a big leap ahead of me starting up a club with so much talent already. Try doing it without anyone; that was fun!

Larry Feldman
12-02-2003, 02:25 PM
Go find a 'Y' or Community Center in a better part of town.

12-02-2003, 02:37 PM
It took me 5 years to build a decent group at a fitness center before venturing out into the world! The fitness center charged a cheap rate for us to train there 4 1/2 hours per week. Once we had our group (myself & 4 other dans) and loyal following of about 10 more, we rented a warehouse, about 300 feet from a busy road. The rent is modest.

There is a community section in our local newspaper that will take almost any community interest stories. (TIP - don't make it look like advertising : disguise it as community news so that it makes the paper)

Next we added a yoga class to help pay the rent. It is really hard to pay the rent & utilities with only aikido students.

I'm sure the San Antonio Express has a community information section. Try that. Lots of luck. I'll look you guys up next time I'm in San Antonio.

Michael Young
12-02-2003, 02:59 PM
Thanks for all the replies so far, I am enjoying reading them. Rather than respond to each one individually, I decided to wait for a few to come in, so I'll address several of the questions and comments here.

I was afraid my original post would get way too long if I wrote everything I wanted to in it, and I wanted to see if there was enough interest in the post to get some good replies...looks like that's happennig...so here goes:
Question I must ask is, why do you want to start a club? Are there no clubs around?

This question is a little bit complicated and I really didn't want to get too much into why we have started a new dojo in San Antonio, as I was afraid it might start a whole topic of conversation I didn't really want to delve into. But, I'll give some background, and it may help to lead into some of the other topics anyway.

Yes, there are other Aikido dojos in San Antonio. I started my Aikido practice here over 9 years ago at one of them, and practiced there for about 7 years. This is the dojo that myself and the some of the others who started our new dojo came from. I believe that gratefullness for past instructors and respect for each other is a very big part of Aikido (and life in general), so I don't want to get too much into the reasons for the split: this isn't a forum for complaint about others. There were many reasons why we chose to leave, and it was a difficult and heart-wrenching decision to do so. But ultimately, I believe it was the right thing of us to do, both for ourselves and the dojo involved. During my years at the other dojo, myself and the others who left, had a lot of experience with the business and "political" aspects of the dojo. I saw a lot of what I thought was the "right" and "wrong" way to run things and treat people, and hopefully learned (and am still learning) from those experiences. This continuing process is another reason I wanted to start this thread. I was highly involved in advertising and finances before at the old dojo...it's probalbly why I was put "in charge of" it here (our organization is set up with a board of officers in charge of the business aspects, and I am the president) I guess it could just be that they made president because of my brilliant personality, rakish good looks, and enormous experience at running multi-million dollar corporations...hahahahah ;)

I must say that I agree with what most of you have said so far, mainly, that advertising is a waste of time. I guess I should have clarified it a bit with the word "promotion" or something instead of advertising. In my experience, usually the only advertising that we Aikido dojos can afford is not worth the trouble (there being a couple of exceptions I'll get to) and the other things, such as TV, major newspaper and radio ads, are far beyond the budgets of most dojos. The only exeptions I can think of are the web and the yellow pages (I'll leave out word of mouth for now). I think the reason these work though, is quite simple...people are already seeking out Aikido (or a martial art). They are actively searching for it. Now, how do you effectively and ecomnomically reach the "others"...the ones who may show an interest, or will at least give it a try, but just haven't been exposed yet. A lot (most) of these people are just going to try it for a while and quit...I hate to say it, but economically we all need those people as well in order to keep operating, and who knows when one of them will stay for the long haul. How do you do all of this also without using all of your members talent and energy focused on it? After all, we need to find time to train of course! This leads to the next point...

If you want your own, look for areas that are not in the bad side of town but cheap-wherehouses, large garage type buildings, little cost and easy maintenance. The closer you are to mainstream traffic the more your per square foot cost.

Aha, here it the crux of one of my big questions with advertising and getting a space (I figured somebody would mention it, thanks John;)) At our old dojo, we had to undergo a move to a new space...basically a new landlord had come in and was jacking up the rent so high we had to move. So the search began for a new space. The old space was exactly what was described above. We ended up narrowing it down to two spaces...one the same kind of wharehouse space that was cheaper, and the other a space on a major thouroughfare that was more expensive and needed more work to get it to "dojo" condition. The decision as to which space to move into was very devisive and caused a lot of hard feelings between many members (no, this was not why we left the old dojo, this happened about 4 years ago)I think people really let their egos get involved in the whole process rather than looking at what was best for the dojo. Anyway, the wharehouse space was eventually decided upon, and it was a struggle to meet the rent because many members quit after the move, plus more members were needed because the rent was still higher than the old place. After quite a few years of barely making it and working in the red, it is now working out for them economically. The problem with it was, in order to get enough new members to pay for the new space (it was a stretch back then) a lot of money and effort was put into advertising, and most of it was wasted..very few people ever walked in the door because of anything besides the yellow pages, the web, or word of mouth. Certainly not enough to make up for the money and energy spent, I know because I was there and involved in it all. So the question becomes, with all of the money and effort spent at advertising, would it have made more sense to spend it on leasing the more expensive and high profile space? Would you get enough students joining to start paying for the space quickly? I see lots of little for-profit Karate, Tae Kwon Do, etc., dojos around town in expensive strip centers who seem to be making it. Any experience with this kind of thing out there? Anybody practice in a dojo that is on a major road that either does or doesn't attract membership enough to make the cost worthwhile?
PPS you say you get the YMCA very cheap, and are a non profit organisation but people aren't coming because you are in a low income area. Are you charging too much?...If you are non-profit, you should try and ensure that students really paying only for the hire of the hall and the insurance directly.

We are only charging $35 per month! That's pretty cheap...we also "scholarship" people who can't afford it, and even say so in our brochures and web site (although I am a little leary that some people may take advantage of it, and we are in the process of coming up with some kind of policy and application for a "scholarship" program) Right now all we want to do is pay off our mats. The YMCA is not charging us a set rent, only taking a portion of each students dues...very generous of them.
Something that has worked really well in getting the word out about the dojo was installing an "information" box on the outside of the dojo. I put the dojo brochure in there for folks to take

I really like that idea Rachel, thank you. I think I will approach the YMCA with a request to do something like that. Right now we are using a raquetball court at the YMCA as our dojo space and it is all the way in back of the building (I'm sure this is another part of our problem with visibility and attraction). We do leave some brochures out, but something outside the actual YMCA may be a better idea...I'll work on it. BTW I read your post a while back about your dojo start-up, and greatly enjoyed it (I completely forgot about your information box thing, I will make it a point to read through the post again). All of the helpful responses are what prompted me to start this thread...hope it isn't too redundant. Next time I'm up in Michigan, I'll try to make it by and practice (I have relatives in St. Clair, MI) I'm very glad (and encouraged) to hear that you are doing well, especially with your unusually high student retention...continued good luck!!
I started our dojo about 3 years ago. Luckily I was also working at the local university and managed to use their facilties. One possibility is to see if there are people who would be willing to support an aikido club at the local university/college (it is likely that there will have to be a student treasurer/chairperson or other, although the instructors need not be).

We have definitely considered this possibillity. There are two major universities nearby the YMCA, and we are going to put up flyers and posters there after the new year. Making a move to one of them is something we are considering if the YMCA doesn't take off. We are going to give it a few months here though. How many students do you have after 3 years of being at the university? Do you get a lot of students from off campus too?

Whew, this grew into a huge post...keep the suggestions and observations coming, and thanks for the great contribution so far!


12-02-2003, 03:13 PM
I don't have much to add other than to endorse the beginners course strategy. Not so long after I started, the senior instructor at our dojo left and many of the advanced students that had been coming in to take instruction from him drifted away as a result, leaving the two new sensei with a dojo that was starting to flounder. A "six week beginners course" for a set fee solved the problem. It was really just a standard sunday class but the fact it was advertised as a beginners course made people much more comfortable about coming. Many who did are still training and formed the nucleus of the new dojo which is now flourishing (we're running out of space)

12-02-2003, 04:39 PM
The beginners course is a good idea as well. You might also consider getting on the college staff, teaching an extension class, or starting a satellite club at the colleges to draw students from. If you have several yudansha, this is a way for them to get their feet wet teaching. You'll get a lot of people passing through but some will stick-it's a numbers game. Location can be important but if the rent is so high for high traffic visibility then you go out of business if it does not bring in the needed students. Good luck.

12-02-2003, 07:15 PM
I started a dojo just over a year ago.
Hi Rachel;

We just passed the one year mark too. Party this Saturday.

Aside from my assistant all my current students were not there the first few months but they came and stayed because of the students that were already there. I also used marital harmony to get some warm bodies.

Our dojo has undergone a few transformations but is now at the point where senior students can help the beginners which still trickle in. I can say that the dojo has found its legs. I was told that keeping a dojo running for a year is almost as big an accomplishment as starting one (mustual back slapping).

Mike - you are not starting from absolute scratch so count your blessings. I only have one bit of advice which has been told to me by a number of successful dojo-chos. Of course you pay attention and take care of your newbies but your primary concern are your regular students. If your training is good your dojo will grow and opprotunities for expansion will present themselves.

PS I personally never liked beginners courses - hate them now. I'ld much rather balance the needs of beginners and advanced in one class.

12-02-2003, 07:21 PM
Hey Peter,

congratulations on hitting the one year mark! Hope your dojo continues to grow and thrive.

I'll be hoisting one for you on Saturday!


12-02-2003, 07:35 PM
PS I personally never liked beginners courses - hate them now. I'ld much rather balance the needs of beginners and advanced in one class.
I agree. In fact one of the things that I've always liked about aikido is that we don't seperate the beginners from the advanced students in general practice, like say Karate sometimes does.

My point though, is that alot of people get nervous about showing up as a newbie at a dojo. They'll feel out of place, don't know how to act, what's expected of them etc. By simply advertising a regular class as a beginners class (without really changing the material, and certainly not discouraging regular students from attending - quite the opposite in fact) people are more likely to front up. Because they thing they won't be the only newbies there (particularly if you market it as a course - say six weeks).

And that's all it is, a tool to make people more comfortable about coming through the door, maybe coupled with an introductory price.

Michael Young
12-02-2003, 10:45 PM
Mike - you are not starting from absolute scratch so count your blessings.

Amen to that! We are very fortunate to have a good core group to start with, and hopefully it can only go up from here.
I only have one bit of advice which has been told to me by a number of successful dojo-chos. Of course you pay attention and take care of your newbies but your primary concern are your regular students. If your training is good your dojo will grow and opprotunities for expansion will present themselves.

This is the attiude of our head instructor, and I wholeheartedly support it. We are very fortunate to have him and his training is top-notch. I'm just looking or the "opprotunites for expansion" :D since I think its part of my responsibility to do so...and the feedback I'm getting from this forum posting is one of those opportunities I think, keep the comments rolling!
I don't have much to add other than to endorse the beginners course strategy.

I personally never liked beginners courses - hate them now. I'ld much rather balance the needs of beginners and advanced in one class.

AHA...we have had this same debate on many occasions and I have heard many good reasons given on both sides of it. I agree with Michael Fooks, when he talked about the "out of place" and "intimidation factor" that many newbies experience. I think this is one of the big reasons we loose a lot of people in Aikido at the outset(of course that's another topic that has been addressed in other threads.) I also see the problem of devoting entire classes to only beginners that may not stick it out. We have been talking about doing some kind of beginner introduction program, as suggested, with a set fee and set dates. I like the solution of just tagging it along with the regular class, like Fooks suggested, giving new people a sense of having something special and comfortable for them, while at the same time still teaching to the whole "constituency". Its good to know people have had success doing this (I intend to get everybody at the dojo to see this forum thread so I'll have some fuel for my suggestions, at least we can see that it has had success elsewhere, and we don't have to make decisions in a vacuum)


12-03-2003, 12:09 AM
well forgive me if some one has suggested this already,

i skipped down when read your post iin the since of urgency.

our school found its'self on the brink of distruction, when the space on loan to us was revoked due to a marriage dispute.

in a truely aiki fashion, two days before i commented to a local city official that a certain public buiding was un used and asked what it would take to facilitated my aikido program there. three weeks later i had a key and still only pay 20% of what due i recieve.

the place needed work but it was in a park across from my home, thus COMMUNITY ACTION+AIKI +PERSERVERANCE= new dojo w/ little cost and never advertizing.

try meditation as an advert,

it worked for me.

we maintained and are groing from 3 to ten only by doing aikido, not by doing business.

i feel that ueshiba helped by way of the ALMIGHTY but i refrain in fear of upsetting any zealous atheist or such.

sometimes simple faith a perservireance (spelled wrong) can be the aiki you need.

try your municipal recreation program first!

best of aiki!

Michael Young
12-03-2003, 10:04 AM
Thanks for your response Bob. It is good that what you are doing is working for you on a dojo and personal level. Don't worry, no slamming anyone for their spiritual beliefs...everybody gets different things out of Aikido, that's part of its beauty and fascination, and why it is truly an art. My response to your post, however:
COMMUNITY ACTION+AIKI +PERSERVERANCE= new dojo w/ little cost and never advertizing.

Devine intervention aside (no offense) Where is the community action in just practicing and never reaching out to the community at large? For example: if our goal is to give our community an opportunity to experience the benefits of what Aikido can do for them, how are they supposed to get that oppportunity if no one is aware of us, or even what Aikido is? Is advertising considered "community action"...I think it can, depending on its goal. I also think doing things like demonstrations are a good idea as part of our responsibility to show "the community Aikido (of course, you may have to advertise the fact that you are going to do a demo, too:)) I hope I'm not giving the wrong idea in this post about why I'm interested in attracting new students. There are both self interested and altruistic reasons in it. I think Aikido training greatly improves when you have more people practicing. Training with the same partners over and over again can begin to bring a little too much "comfort" into your training. Having varying body types and personalities to practice with can greatly improve your "aiki". I'm not interested in attracting new students for the sake of "business" or money or having the biggest dojo around. I also don't want to compromise ideals or training just for the sake of growth itself...but I believe there is a middle ground that has to be found, and some effort needs to be put forth for growth as an integral part of our training (both individually and for the group). Our goal in Aikido should be to improve ourselves and one of the best ways to do that is through correct interaction with our fellow human beings. This whole thing reminds me of a little "parable" I remember hearing when I was a child in Sunday school;

One day there was a great flood, and a man was in his house and there was a knock upon his door. When he opened the door there was a man standing knee deep in rising water.

"Hurry you need to leave!" the man said, "the flood is rising and will soon wash you away, I have a truck outside large enough to drive through the water!"

"No" replied the man in the house "I have faith, and God will let no harm come to me!"

Shaking his head and frowning the man outside moved along.

Later, the man in the house had to climb onto the roof of his house as the flood waters rose. Along came the other man in a boat and called out to man on the roof "Hurry, jump into my boat before the flood carries you away!"

"No" refused the man on the roof "I have faith, and God will save me!"

So, shaking his head and frowning the man in the boat moved along.

A while later a helicopter comes flying by, and again the same man that was in the boat and driving the truck is flying the helicopter. He lowers a rope and and calls out to the man on the roof.

"Hurry and climb into the helicopter, before the flood carries you away!"

"No," again replied the man on the roof "I told you before, I have faith and Goad will save me!"

Shaking his head and frowning the man in the helicopter moved along.

Well, of course as time goes by the flood waters rise, and tragically the man on the roof was swept away and drowned. He finds himself at the gates to heaven, and calls out to God. "God, why did you never help me as the flood waters rose!?" The gates to heaven open, and there is the man who drove the truck, and rowed the boat, and flew the helicopter. Shaking his head and frowning he says "My son, no less than three times did I try to save you"


12-04-2003, 12:50 AM
:rolleyes: :p oK


ups caps on?

any way, it is not about any spirituality, it is about aiki.

all aikido i have ever come in contact with focused on MOVING FORWARD, meditation is also an integral part (i cant spell) of aikido. i did not say GOD DID it, but you do reap what you sow, as far as community action is concerned,,, well before stould an empty building, at night kids would congrgate to do drugs, even in the nice area it is in, now at night we constantly see people of an ulterior nature comming up and seeing this group and turning around and leaving. all nice like, just by BEING we are a positive influence.

as far as advertising, i target te free stuff, like a web page, free that i created for all martial arts styles in the area to use, and of course i include our school in the mix, those who want us will seek us out.

i may have sounded sureal, but that is the way it happened, i still only have an operating budget of around 2500$ a year and only lost 300$ this year, not bad if you ask me for what i got out of it. it is a phlisophical maxim in aikido to blend with your environment and i see now that i does work. aikido is more that a set of martial techniques, yeah i wont get rich but i am having the time of my life.

to see go to


we are the

Golden light aikido center

Michael Young
12-04-2003, 07:43 PM
Sorry about that "BILL" big mistake on my part to mess up your name...sometimes my fingers type faster than my mind can think. After reading your post and re-reading mine, I think I may have come across kind of preachy. That wasn't my intention, and I apologize if it sounded condescending. I meant it when I said I am glad that your dojo is doing well and growing... It seems everybody has a different perspective on just how to make a dojo grow (both in numbers and in spirit). That's very true even within the small number of poeple in the dojo I'm part of, and it is another reason I started this thread. I wanted to get different perspectives and opinions. Truly, thank you for you input.


12-05-2003, 01:48 AM

IN AIKI,:circle:

Michael Young
01-09-2004, 08:22 PM
Hello again,

I don't mean to dredge up an old topic, but just wanted to put an update here. Our dojo has found a space on a major thoroughfare here in the middle of town that looks very promising. The landlord seems great, and the rent, though high for us, is very good for the area. Right now we are not going to have enough members to support it (we'll be digging into our own pockets for a while), but it is facing a road with at least 25,000 cars driving past per day, and it will have a large sign up in front. Will this attract the membership we need? Will enough people walk in the door to make it worthwhile? Stay tuned:cool: ! The whole debate about low rent/low visibility= slower growth than high rent/high enough visibility to make it cost effective, is about to be renderd academic for us in the coming months. I'll post an update in the future.



01-10-2004, 11:48 AM
since every now and then there's always a thread on dojo set-up, I'll share something of when my sensei and I tried to open a dojo

I followed him ever since I started at my uni in 97, coz his first dojo opening at the uni coincides with my enrollment.

After training for 3 years, I realized that I don't relish the idea of travelling twice a week to my uni ( it's a half-hour ride ). So me and my brother looked around my neighbourhood and found a nice family club (fitness, aerobic, swimming, etc etc)

Before the deal is struck, the management and my sensei agreed to open a stand, in front of the club to gauge member interest level. Me and my brother manned the stand every evening for a week, and we had the entire getup - the standing banner, the aikido books and a videoplayer playing my sensei's prized aikido video collection continously. (the only thing missing is wearing gi, we discussed it but dismissed the idea ^_^)

Most people would pass us with curious look, but many would look at the video, and some of them asked questions. We collect names, signatures and phone numbers from interested people, and at the end of the week we called each of them up to inform them of an upcoming demonstration at the dojo. ( we use the aerobic room for that )

The result: over 60 signatures ( which we showed to the club manager to acquire his agreement ) and 20+ people appeared to watch the demonstration and we had 6 people signing up for practice on the first day.

So basically, I think opening a stand for a period of time to generate interest for a demo will most definitely pay off. As long as it is held in a location where many people WALKS by.

I imagine if we opened a stand at the nearby mall, we'd get hundreds of signatures for a week. As it is, I've managed to continue training near home AND work.

hope this post will help someone.

Michael Young
01-10-2004, 12:25 PM
That is a very original idea you had about the stand, one I've never heard of or considered before. It sounds like a great way to get people in for a demo or something, and it would only take an afternoon or two of time...hmmm we might give that one a try. In our experience demo's not only generate interest and students, but if you "charge" a $5.00 "donation" its works as a good fundraiser too, particularly if you are set up as a non-profit organization. We actually had people giving us larger donations as well. All we ever did to promote them before was put up flyers at local book stores, resteraunts etc. We do have a lot of foot traffic going past this new space as well as drive by...there are lots of little walk in shops and good sidewalks on the street. So maybe we'll give the little stand a go there and at a local mall or someting...thanks Maresa. BTW what videos did you play? Between all of us here at our dojo we've got a pretty good collection, maybe we could find some of the same ones you used to peak interest.



01-11-2004, 07:35 AM
Hi I'm pretty new to the aikiweb and to teaching aikido. I started my dojo in my home about 2 years ago. I was lucky that I have a good friend who was willing to train with me alone and help find new students. We now have 7 full time students.

One of the things I have done that helps out the most is I started a yahoo group for my dojo. We have made alot of contacts and most of our full time students came from the yahoo group. The only trick to it is that you can't make the group as an advertisment and post class prices or yahoo will cut you off. We are truley a non-profit organization as we give the classes for free. Since we train out of my home/dojo we have very little cost in running it. So we didn't have a problem with yahoo cutting our group off. If you start a group on yahoo you could start it as a discussion group for your school and throw in your location contact numbers, email address ect...

The group keeps up with the number of people who have joined and unsubscribed from the group.

There are some other ways to get your name out in yahoo that are free. Your profile for one allows you to post links in it. If you can get all your students to post your link in their profiles that helps too. Join all the yahoo interests like aikido, judo, karate, etc... check out my profile and group at yahoo for some more ideas.

Best Regards

William Gibson

01-11-2004, 06:45 PM
You don't have to post prices - you just have to get the phone call. I use geocites and most of my inquires come from there. A properly designed web site including meta tags, and submitting to search engines like google is very important from getting the message out there.

You do a search for Himeji Aikido - my site pops up first. That should also happen with your dojo.

01-11-2004, 06:47 PM
Video? Embukai videos, the ones showing many participants and spectators gets more interest. Or maybe... Seagal's "the Path beyond thought"

I used Yoshinkan Aikido's 32nd birthday video most often because there's more variated embukais there like Kids, Females, Tanto-dori, Katas and general demonstration.

a suggestion for the stand: Wind is bad, Sun is bad and extra Chairs are gooood...


As for donations, we started without renting the space. So we didn't think it would be necessary to ask for it.

The club hired my sensei for a montlhy fixed fee, the space and mats are provided. Students pays their montly fee directly to the club.

This method works pretty well so far, although maintaining good relation with the management is necessary as well.

I think new yudanshas can opt for this method, as it didn't require too much starting capital.

Michael Young
05-31-2004, 11:01 PM
Its been a while since I dragged this thread up, so what the heck, here is an update on things for anyone interested:

As I stated on the 9th of January, we got a lease at a place on a major thoroughfare in town with a decent (though high for us at the time) rent. It has been a lot of work and expense, but we finally have the space about 90% (hmm maybe more like 80%) finished out. We've now have 1,000 sq ft of mat space and a nice big sign on the road. Has it worked?...so far we are up to 17 adult members, and we just started a kids program about a month ago...nine kids so far. We didn't have a sign until 1 week ago, and things were a big mess in the space up until 3 weeks ago with the build out and all. Since we put the large sign out last week (and I do mean large.. 2 of them facing both sides of the road, each 4ftx8ft and 34ft up in the air on a post) we have gained 5 new members. Of the members who have joined since the beginning, we have only lost 1. We also lost one of our founding members, but that was because of a job offer out of state. BTW we started with only 8 members when we moved into this space. I would say since putting up the signs and finishing the space out, we get an average of 2 to 3 people per night walking in and checking us out. Our goal was to reach 20 members by the end of the year, looks like we will be surpassing that much sooner than we thought :D . I will be taking some new pictures soon and posting them on our website if anyone is interested.


05-31-2004, 11:25 PM
Congratulations on the new dojo. I can only think of a couple of things:

Get affiliated with a university club. You'll get steady students, fresh commers, event opporunities, and people with time on their hands who are usually happy to help out w/ fliers. My old karate club did plenty of events, charity, parties, etc. We also did the self-defense seminars for freshmen (that was a pretty big boost), and wiggled our way into making karate classes for PE credits.

Make a webpage and update it.

get in the yellowpages.


Sell shirts (worked great in my University's karate and kickboxing clubs)

good luck

Jorge Garcia
06-01-2004, 04:03 AM
Congratulations Mike,
You were instrumental in helping us get our program started with the "advice" you gave me. It all worked out fine. I saw Joe Rangel at the last seminar in SA and we had a nice talk. I hope to be in touch with you all later.
Best wishes,

06-01-2004, 05:34 AM
does anyone know of a Shodan starting up a dojo. Is this disrespectful in any way? This may be indirectly related to the point of the thread, so please advise if anyone has heard of this. The little venture capitalist in me would like to know. Thank you and take care. ps-this could include a shodan running shop/owning the property etc,.. while having higher ranks show the ropes/chief instruct etc.thanks for responses. daniel.

06-01-2004, 06:52 AM
does anyone know of a Shodan starting up a dojo. Is this disrespectful in any way?

I open the doors on my new class in a new location tonight. Whilst this is a new venture being mostly taught by me, the class retains a direct link with my original dojo (where I still teach the kids weekly and a monthly senior slot), and students will be encouraged to participate in all classes.

I don`t think there is anything disrespectful in this, in fact we have been "pushed" into it by our chief instructor (5th Dan) as a means of expanding the club and giving the dan grades more opportunity to teach and develop.