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Old 03-25-2006, 04:33 PM   #10
gstevens's Avatar
Dojo: Aikido Of San Leandro
Location: Alameda
Join Date: Dec 2003
Posts: 47
Re: Beginners Retention Rates

This is a complex question, and one that I have been pondering for a while now.

I only have a limited amount of experices to draw on, but according to our Dojo's stastics, I am in the 5% or so of students that continue training after 2 years. (Don't quote me on that I will look it up on Tuesday where it is posted on the wall and tell you what it is for sure).

There are different sets of people in the dojo,
For some it is one of the basics of life, something akin to breathing or eating. Others it is an activity that makes them feel better, better able to deal with the world and their own emotions. To some it is just exercise, others primarly a community or lifestyle enclave somewhere to be the social animal that we are.

There is a lot of retention of brand new people that depends on their connecting to someone in the Dojo, and being able to see their own improvement in their techniques, right off the bat. The feeling that they have learned something new, been able to change their way of moving connecting or thinking in the first few classes. The Idea and realization of Budo as an art, or a way of life comes much later if at all for some people.

The people in the dojo are the people that need to make the connections to the new people to strike up conversations, to be friendly and open to having a community and relationships. If all you are at the Dojo for is to train physically your dojo probably is not going to attract or keep beginers. This does not need to be a huge thing, just little stuff, and being patient of new people on the mat.

How many of you of advanced belts feel compeled to bow into a person on their first night? How many of you inwardly grimace after the demonstration if the person next to you is a white belt, or unranked person? If you are grimacing inside, you are grimacing for that first contact too. You know that you can feel it in your training partners, even though they are new they can feel it too.

Some people are not going to stay, they didn't realize till they started doing aikido how little they like others in the personal space. They didn't realize that it would involve people touching them and grabbing them. Others are looking for a magic bullet to life, safety, self defense, whatever. Since there are no magic bullets, they are going to try for a while and move on.

The idea of a college level class on part of a campus seems to me to be a very hard one. There are time commitments pulling everyone in all directions, keeping students in such an enviroment would seem to me to be difficult. The larger the class to begin with the more people there are to network and compare experiences with generally that will help retention, the fewer the people, the more others are likely to look for these connections elsewhere.

What brings people in the door is rarely what keeps them on the mat.

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