Re: Beginners Retention Rates
First things first, I do not believe a respectible martial arts dojo should have a "high" retention rate of new students. Martial arts (and aikido) are not for everyone and many individuals cannot meet the physical, philosophical or emotional demands of training. Healthy aikido dojo should filter out those students that are/may be detrimental to the dojo - not because we want to kick people out of an exclusive club, but because we want to focus our energy on teaching those that possess the committment and ability to learn aikido. It's my job to pass along my instructor's teachings of aikido, not give some hobbiest a colored belt.
Aikido has filters to help instructors maintain a safe and progressive learning environment. On a rudimentary level, aikido has physical demands that filter unfit students. On a more complex level, aikido has philosophical and emotional demands that filter out even more students. These filters exist so that we [instructors] can rely on an external source of feedback to help point out problems with students. The students ultimately make the decision to stay or leave, but they witness the feedback first-hand. I think some dojo no longer use filters to restrict their student body, which makes the student body difficult to manage. I think it is important to keep these filters in place to prevent bad relationships from developing but sometimes dojo that use filters also make mistakes by either being too restrictive or not restrictive enough. To me, these filters is exist to manage student body and to exercise some control over the inflow of new students. I may look to alter my filters to accomodate a unique aspect of the dojo (location, average age, previous experience, etc.) if I feel that the dojo is not growing in a positive direction.
Groucho Marx once said, "I refuse to join any club that would have me as a member." Your dojo reflects upon you, your instructor and aikido as a martial art. Your standards, habits, and leadership as an instructor influence your student base and your dojo.