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10-05-2004, 03:31 PM
Anyone got advice on setting up and running an aikido dojo? How do you get your students? Is it best to charge by the class or month? What is your target customer? What is the best way to advertise? Which location is best?
10-05-2004, 04:21 PM
Running a dojo is like running any business. To answer your questions though...a location that is visible to the general public, because a dojo wants exposure if it is going to be at all sucessful. The target customer is anyone and everyone except criminals, people of bad character, violent and aggresive people, and to some extent people that want to learn Aikido so they can use it, but not always. Charging by the month is best, but have a per class rate as well. In regards to how you get your students, it takes hard work, consistency, and persistance. A really good location will help but ads in the paper, special rates, incentives, public demonstrations, networking with area businesses etc. Get yourself out there and don't stop after you have a few students. Rent out the training space to pilates, yoga, or other martial arts teachers and get some crossover plus extra income. On paper running a dojo is very basic because you're offereing one service in exchange for a fixed amount of money, but finding loyal students and new students is very difficult.
10-05-2004, 04:33 PM
I've been operating a dojo for around 10 years now. One thing to keep in mind, and this will help to prevent discouragement and disappointment, is don't expect to get rich teaching aikido. In 10 years I've never been paid a salary. I teach so that I stay active in the aikido community and in our organization. So long as the monthly dues keep the doors open and the lights and heat on I'm happy. Feel free to private message me with any questions Darin.
10-05-2004, 05:52 PM
to follow up on what Mike said. if you end up breaking even, you are pretty damn lucky.
all your questions are affected by what you plan to do ?
full time ?
form a club meeting a 2-3 times a week ?
Also check out this thread...
there have been several others too including on the question of setting up a dojo in commercial space and on your property.
do a little digging on this site and you won't have to wait for replies.
10-05-2004, 07:09 PM
I would say the most important question to ask yourself is "Why do you want to open a dojo". This will lead into everything else, including what students you target, how much you charge, how you teach and how often you train.
I, with another instructor, opened our dojo 3 years ago solely because we found ourselves unable to train at the hombu dojo any more due to work and family commitments. We *needed* a place to train and students to train with and that kind of dictated our whole style of how much, to who, where and how often and what time.
One thing that we have been doing successfully is running a beginners course for 2 months, twice a week for a total 16 classes with an optional test at the end of it. We start the course every three months and sometimes merge it with the regular class but mostly not. We usually keep one or two students out of every course.
Oh...and we get lots of hits and inquiries from our website. That's probably an important part of advertising. We also advertise in a local foreigner (I live in Japan) community newsletter/paper/magazine.
With a couple of thoughts,
10-06-2004, 09:45 AM
ok...location is well covered in previous posts so other than saying its essential I'll leave it to that.
No-one has mentioned a plan.
What has worked for us is a very structured development process whereby we have regular classes at each kyu level to take students from beginner to dan grade in about 3 years.
This may not fit with everyones ideal but if you are going to survive you have to play the numbers game. Lots of gradings keeps the beginners focussed and gives them an additional driver for making that extra attempt to make training.
We have a policy that no-one trains without paying the membership fees up front. Having paid most think that they'll stick it out for a while to get their moneys worth. Covers any insurance issues too!
Again - I appreciate this is not ideal...in an ideal world you could just open a dojo and the world would thank you for it.
Sadly there are financial pressures so some compromise is called for.
Finally - look for alternative sources of revenue.
We have an uchi deschi programme. The deschis pay rent.
We have agreements with other groups who rent the premises.
We have agreements with property owners to get reduced rent in return for work done on surrounding property/land.
Oh - one other thing...listen to your students? what makes them come? what makes them leave? A suggestion box can unveil lots of issues which can lose good students if not addressed.
Sadly just practicing fantastic aikido is unlikely to be enough...as said in previous posts - you need to think like a businessman and have a continuous marketing strategy.
Better to be a McDojo than a failed dojo!
10-07-2004, 05:27 AM
Thanks guys. I used to have my own school before but it never really picked up due to a bad location. The new dojo is in a better location and cheaper but it isn't really a dojo.
I too believe that a dojo should be run like a business and the instructors should make some money for their time spent teaching. I like the idea of a structured development process, beginner courses and a suggestion box. One thing I noticed is that we tend to pick up students during spring and autumn then lose them over summer and winter.
How about running special classes like self defence courses for housewives, school groups and the disabled etc? It may be possible to get some contracts with local schools or sporting and government associations. I know one school in Perth that teaches aikido to dancers.
10-07-2004, 06:44 AM
Yep...all this diversity sounds good.
We've tried to forge links with as many areas of local community as possible. All helps especially if you have a chance of any grants and such like.
We've run summer schools for disadvantaged kids, courses for asian women and we even have the local chinese community doing lion dancing.
We don't always charge either - the lion dancers just did a demo to round off a course with a visiting instructor but it was a nice touch.
One thing the local Tae Kwon Do guys have done is run free courses for local railway employees (who frequently get hassled by joe public)...this got them some great publicity and presumably more students. I'd have thought local hospitals might also like some free tuition too.
Maybe a couple of weeks freebies to whet the appetite then slip them into normal aiki lessons?
just some thoughts..
10-07-2004, 07:11 AM
One tip I read regarding placing adverts in papers is to ask for it to be placed in the main Buy/Sell section, not the sports/activity section, this way there is more chance of people seeing it.
10-07-2004, 09:55 AM
We offer a course through the local university's "Experimental College" program, seven sessions for beginners. This means the university does publicity for us, which is a *huge* help. Most of the newcomers don't stay, but a few do. I think that without this program we would not attract enough beginners to survive--there are many dojo in Seattle and competition is quite fierce. (I met one of our Experimental College students at the supermarket yesterday, and found out that she didn't quit after all, but switched to a school nearer her home. It's good to hear she's still doing aikido, even if not with us.)
You will want to think about whether to offer kids' classes, which can be a good source of revenue but are a lot of work. I know one dojo which keeps afloat largely on the grounds of its very strong and well-attended teen program, but that seems to be even more work. In both cases, you need to quickly find enough students that the classes are a reasonable size; teens especially seem to be gregarious, and you need to reach a critical number of them quickly. This would probably mean a publicity blitz at the start.
Good luck with it!
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