Funny, from the topic heading I thought this thread was about beginners retaining the stuff they're taught.
Guy Stevens wrote:
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.
This is a good point. At my old dojo we noticed that the students who tended to stay felt they had some personal connection to one (or more) of the regularly attending senior students. This connection would arise spontaneously -- usually if they got along personally or if the beginner were particularly enthusiastic or talented.
So we instituted a mentor system where every new student was assigned to a senior student. The senior was responsible for the new student, to look after and mark their progress and generally connect with them and keep them interested. It worked reasonably well and seemed to the unscientific observer to helping retention rates, but it had the problem that a mentor and a junior may be mismatched and may have been stifling spontaneous connections. Unfortunately the policy wasn't well received by all the seniors and didn't last long enough to get good data.
But what did come out of that was a similar policy where for every kyu grade, a junior has to find a senior student (at least 3 ranks higher) to sponsor them for the test. The senior helps the junior prepare for the test and takes some responsibility if the junior isn't up to par (and can suggest to the junior if they think they're not ready). We found that this created some bonds between the juniors and seniors while allowing them to arise naturally and, again unscientifically, seams to help retention. And students coming up the ranks would routinely choose the same senior for sponsorship which basically created the mentorship we were looking for in the first place.