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rachmass 10-16-2002 03:40 PM

New club/no students
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 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 04:01 PM

First 10 students get the first month free !

rachmass 10-16-2002 04:05 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 04:10 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 04:51 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,


akiy 10-16-2002 05:04 PM

I just processed your new dojo information, Rachel. It sometimes takes a bit of time for me to get to it...

-- Jun

rachmass 10-16-2002 05:07 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 05:10 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 05:18 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 05:32 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 06:14 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 06:34 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 08:29 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 09:55 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,


tedehara 10-16-2002 11:42 PM

I asked on ki-info list:

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


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 12:23 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 07:48 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 07:58 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 07:59 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 08:21 AM

no ideas to add, just wishing you the best of luck.

rachmass 10-17-2002 08:26 AM

Thanks all of you. You folks are awesome in offering suggestions and support!


DanielR 10-17-2002 08:38 AM


Bronson wrote:
...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 08:45 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,


Hanna B 10-17-2002 11:08 AM

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.

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


Erik 10-17-2002 12:20 PM

Some interesting points here.

Hanna Björk (Hanna B) wrote:
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

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.

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