OK, this is a long story, so I'll bullet list it here. I'm doing this to partially get people's advice, and to partially organize my thoughts on the subject. Here goes;
- Started training over 10 years ago under sensei A
- Sensei A was a very good teacher
- Sensei A was not good at marketing dojo, thus we moved a lot
- Sensei A stopped teaching and moved
- We bacame a satelite dojo for sensei B
- Sensei B also great teacher (one of the best actually), very highly ranked, nice guy
- Sensei B also not good at business side of things
- Sensei B travels a lot to earn enough through seminars
- Because of seminar schedule, dojo (main and satelite) sufers from poor attendance and usually barely squeaks by on the bills
- I took a job closer to main dojo because Sensei B is there more (at satelite once a week)
- Head students at dojo (mostly case with satelite, but a little at main) don't want to be involved in business, so nothing gets done to promote or build programs
- Yesterday satelite dojo closed because gym we rented closed
- We now have no money, no leads, and very little leadership
* To have Sensei B around more to gain more training
* To be able to promote dojo(s) properly in order to sustain both the dojo, and Sensei B
Any ideas? Aware of any grants? Approaches?
Boring background details:
Started practicing Aikido back in the summer of 1999 in Iowa. In 2002 I moved to Wisconsin to attend graduate school, while working full time. I also continued training with a very fledgling satellite dojo. It was a college campus club that had started the previous school year, but had halted over the summer. When I arrived and started practicing in the fall I was the ranking student. Our head instructor drove up from Chicago to teach class. Now that is a bit of a drive, so he was coming up once a week.
- I wanted to practice more often, so I started leading a second class (with Sensei's approval).
- 9 months after I started, we lost our training area. I found a new location and worked out a favorable agreement that allowed us to continue training.
- Membership fell off significantly because we were no longer a free student club and a fee was introduced. So I designed a flyer and distributed them all over the local area, and gave them to the 3 other members to distribute.
- I wanted to practice more often, so I started leading 2 classes a week (with Sensei's approval).
- 3 months after we moved, we lost our training area. I found another location and worked out another manageable agreement.
- 1-1/2 year into our new location, they installed a hardwood floor in the training room. Our parent dojo has loaned us their demo mats. I organized the membership because we had to clean off the mildew.
We are now approaching our 3rd year at our present location. The membership is getting involved more and more with dojo functions.
We now have, from Chicago, our head instructor and 4 assistant instructors sharing teaching duties on Wednesdays. We have another instructor who lives in the area teaching Mondays. I still lead a class on Sundays, and we are finalizing details for an outdoor Friday class over the summer months. Our training area is moving over from a 750 sqft room to a 3000 sqft room addition.
So the point of my rambling post is this: the dojo truly is as strong as it's membership. If the membership involvement is lagging, the senior people should be the example for becoming involved. If you want enthusiasm from the membership, be the example for that enthusiasm. If leadership is weak, lead by example (ie - do what needs to be done without being asked). If you want to train more, get your Sensei's permission to lead a class. If you want help promoting the dojo, ask the members for help promoting the dojo (with your Sensei's permission).
Most importantly, keep training. Things aren't great, keep training. No formal place to train, meet outside informally with those willing and keep training. Frustrated with lulls and drop-offs in the dojo, don't let it stop you from training because, to pull out a gem, "life has its ups and downs." It might take awhile, but people will respond to your perseverance.
(If you would like more tangible help, I can send you our promotional material so you have a starting point to work from. If my Sensei doesn't have any objections, I would even be willing to discuss, over the phone or e-mail, past deals I worked out with various training locations.)
I hope this helps.