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Old 01-15-2014, 04:57 PM   #1
James Sawers
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Question Aikido Dojo Recruitment...????

Every few years I do a little research into what is working in recruiting and maintaining aikido students. Over the years the dojos I train at have had (and currently have) recruitment issues. That is, how to attract new students and maintain the current ones.

Granted students come and go for a number of reasonable reasons, but beyond this natural attrition rate, what can be done to maintain students?

We have tried demos, yellow page adds (old stuff?), and, of course, we have our own websites.

Does anyone in the aikido community out there have any new/ different ways to attract students that they would like to share??

Thanks....

In good practice, Jim...
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Old 01-15-2014, 07:59 PM   #2
Stephen Nichol
Dojo: Aikilife, Canberra
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Re: Aikido Dojo Recruitment...????

Have you tried cookies?

Otherwise you could just ask people why they are interested in Aikido. From their answer you may be able to figure out how to structure 'some' of the classes to address the interests of the various people who share them.

When someone leaves or simply stops coming you can ask them what their reasons are. As you said for the majority it will other life situations but for those that leave for reasons with something to do with the dojo (or person(s) in it) specifically... well, having a sort of 'exit interview' can help answer some of the questions you have.

With that information you can decide what you can do and more importantly, if you want to and if it is worth whatever effort may be involved.

But trust me on the cookies.
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Old 01-15-2014, 10:40 PM   #3
danj
Dojo: Brisbane Aikido Republic
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Re: Aikido Dojo Recruitment...????

The exit interview is a great idea. Numerically with more people leaving that staying, if you can halve the rate of people leaving, as opposed to focussing on doubling the rate of people coming in the door...its likely to be a more successful strategy. Its kinda tough though to get the real reason people might be leaving sometimes though...e.g. people will rarely say 'your aikido sucks' but come up with something else instead.

Whatever the strategy I think the important basics have to be there such as
- a critical mass of students (maybe around 8 or so), fewer than than and the person leading the practice has to expend all the energy into creating life in the dojo
- practice twice a week seems to be the norm, usually with a gap between the days and avoiding fridays
- pictures of people enjoying them selves seems to manage expectation
- a teacher with a skill base perhaps some charisma and nothing too off putting

FWIW i looked at your website, and perhaps advertising short 'social contracts' (through requirement to enrole in a community college) may bring people in quite successfully, but can also create the expectation that because it will finish in xxx weeks then many have an implied permission/expectation (probably not the right word ) to move on and try something else afterwards rather than stay on ...least ways we found this with beginners courses

best,
dan

Brisbane Aikido Republic: AikiPhysics, Aikido Brisbane news,
ph 0413 001 844, 1593 Logan Rd, Mt.Gravatt, Brisbane, AUSTRALIA
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Old 01-16-2014, 12:27 AM   #4
Sojourner
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Re: Aikido Dojo Recruitment...????

Some see it as good, others as bad for Martial Arts in general, yet there is a strong increase in interest in marital arts because of the MMA UFC group.

My thoughts is that we can all learn from that, even if you may be someone who for reasons of non violence or whatever does not watch UFC. The people that become interested in it have very valid questions and we as Aikidoa should have the capacity to answer those questions. The days of a student learning in silence and submission are not the case any more, various questions will be asked about what works and what does not work and why is it necessary and so forth.

We need to be open to new ideas, such as training in street clothes in the carpark of the Dojo as our Krav Maga friends do, and for the same reasons "if" we are selling Aikido to the public as being for self defense. We also need to consider giving students training in closed spaces, such as subway trains or buses and so forth and showing people how their Aikido training will work well and potentially be one of the best MA's a person might study if they want to defend themselves and others in these types of situations.

I am not suggesting we change the content in anyway of Aikido, but I do feel that we need to be prepared to take it out of the dojo and into real modern situations if we want more people to choose this training.
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Old 01-16-2014, 06:41 AM   #5
allowedcloud
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Re: Aikido Dojo Recruitment...????

If I were you I would abandon any hope of getting student numbers back to where they were during your school's peak. The MMA/UFC craze has drastically changed what the average person expects from a martial art when they enter a dojo. Aikido and other traditional arts have been declining for years and I don't see this trend reversing.

Instead of desperately trying stupid marketing gimmiks and/or watering down the training to attract students, look for ways to maintain the dojo with a much smaller student population - maybe 20 max. If that means finding cheaper space - or better yet, no permanent space at all, then so be it.

The good news is that with a smaller more dedicated core student body, you have the opportunity to teach more in depth material, and to give more hands on attention to each student, raising the technical level of the school. So I think, in the end, everyone who stays will benefit.

Sorry, but (at least in the US) Aikido as a mass-market enterprise is on life support.
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Old 01-16-2014, 07:54 AM   #6
lbb
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Re: Aikido Dojo Recruitment...????

I think Stephen and Daniel have the right idea. The key to attracting new students and retaining existing ones (even for just a second class) lies in understanding why they came in the door and what they were looking for. Are a lot of those reasons and goals silly? Sure, but that's only because they don't know what aikido is about. What you can do is look for the underlying reasons, the essence behind it. I think that people who stay, stay because the dojo serves that underlying reason, which is the real reason they came in the first place. It just doesn't do so in the way that they anticipated. So you need to understand their real reasons, and more importantly, get them to understand them (and how the dojo meets them).
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Old 01-16-2014, 01:07 PM   #7
ken king
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Re: Aikido Dojo Recruitment...????

Seems all too common, we are experiencing the same issues. General lack of interest...people only seem to want to pound each other in the face.

Every day, life is training, every day, budo is life
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Old 01-16-2014, 03:39 PM   #8
James Sawers
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Re: Aikido Dojo Recruitment...????

Stephen: When you asked, have I tried "cookies", I presume you are not talking about a nice chocolate chip? (Or, perhaps you are......??)...........If so, I would have to talk to some of my more computer savvy folks on their use. Did you have something specific in mind for their use?
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Old 01-16-2014, 04:39 PM   #9
Janet Rosen
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Re: Aikido Dojo Recruitment...????

Yes, cookies, as in cookies. Haven't you ever taken a big fall late in the day on a seminar, hit the mat, sighed and wished somebody would bring you milk and cookies and let you take a nap like nursery school? :-) After weeks of threatening, last year I actually DID bring milk and cookies to my Low Impact class....

Janet Rosen
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"peace will enter when hate is gone"--percy mayfield
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Old 01-16-2014, 04:55 PM   #10
hughrbeyer
Dojo: Shobu Aikido of Boston
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Re: Aikido Dojo Recruitment...????

No kidding. If you want to build a community, provide food.

Evolution doesn't prove God doesn't exist, any more than hammers prove carpenters don't exist.
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Old 01-16-2014, 05:51 PM   #11
James Sawers
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Re: Aikido Dojo Recruitment...????

Well, I am helping to teach our new 50+ aikido class......mmmmm, cookies.......perhaps they might enjoy that........Myself, I usually crave a beer after class, but I'm open to suggestions, that's why I'm asking, after all....
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Old 01-16-2014, 10:19 PM   #12
Stephen Nichol
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Re: Aikido Dojo Recruitment...????

Quote:
James Sawers wrote: View Post
Stephen: When you asked, have I tried "cookies", I presume you are not talking about a nice chocolate chip? (Or, perhaps you are......??)...........If so, I would have to talk to some of my more computer savvy folks on their use. Did you have something specific in mind for their use?
I was indeed referring to the food variety.

Our club has dinners, lunches, 'tea' during and or after seminars/gradings and some classes and even the birthday for certain members when the occasion warrants it. Essentially we foster a greater social life building community that people can take part in if they like or opt out of.

Because it is routine the members all chip in with helping set up, clean up after. Some will offer to cater the event. We are especially lucky enough to have an owner of a chain of Japanese restaurants who's son trains at the dojo so he will cater some of the meals for a good deal. All of this fosters that 'club' feeling that some people look for beyond just 'show up for training'. For those that just like to train and go home.. well, that is always there.

For those that like 'hit people in the face' well, that's their thing and they can go do that some place that makes them happy. I am all for people training in whatever makes them happy. To be very specific, if a person came to the dojo expecting to be like Seagal sensei in 3 months, I would explain how that is not going to happen training with us and they may find what they are looking for some place else (though it is Sensei's decision on such matters to refuse someone to train with us, not mine). I do mention to them that we do have cookies... and sometimes they come back after checking other places out because we have cookies and those places did not.
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Old 01-17-2014, 09:24 AM   #13
lbb
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Re: Aikido Dojo Recruitment...????

There are also "cookies" as in tracking cookies, which can be used to follow people who have visited your site and target ads at them, but that's a whole level of nutty you probably don't want to get into. I know I don't, and I have to (for my job).
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Old 01-29-2014, 06:02 PM   #14
James Sawers
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Re: Aikido Dojo Recruitment...????

Quote:
Janet Rosen wrote: View Post
Yes, cookies, as in cookies. Haven't you ever taken a big fall late in the day on a seminar, hit the mat, sighed and wished somebody would bring you milk and cookies and let you take a nap like nursery school? :-) After weeks of threatening, last year I actually DID bring milk and cookies to my Low Impact class....
Janet, actually, no.....but I have wished for a latte.....at a Starbucks, or the local equivalent.....Our dojos do have regular times for "community" get-togethers, and, at one, a group of us usually go out after class for coffee and such. At the other dojo I attend, we sometimes go out for "burger and beer" after class.

I guess these things help build that community some have mentioned, though not everyone can or will attend.

Anyway, thanks for the food for thought (couldn't resist!).....Any other ideas out there??
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Old 01-30-2014, 04:59 AM   #15
Richard Vader
 
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Re: Aikido Dojo Recruitment...????

still would be very careful by offering young kids cookies... Especially if you are a middle aged man driving a van. You could be called upon to explain your recruitment methods at a local precinct!

Disclaimer: all stated above has the potential of being complete nonsense
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Old 01-30-2014, 04:23 PM   #16
James Sawers
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Re: Aikido Dojo Recruitment...????

Quote:
Richard Vader wrote: View Post
still would be very careful by offering young kids cookies... Especially if you are a middle aged man driving a van. You could be called upon to explain your recruitment methods at a local precinct!
Yes, thanks...........I'll be sure to wear my gi and hakima to prove my honest credentials......!!!
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Old 01-31-2014, 02:12 AM   #17
Eva Antonia
Dojo: CERIA
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Re: Aikido Dojo Recruitment...????

Hello,

here in Belgium I think the situation is not comparable; we have a dojo around every corner (four in a 10 minutes biking distance for me, the nearest one being the one where I train), lots of high graded teachers and five or six shihans, several high class seminars every week-end, so our limiting factor is not the lack of interest but the fact that Belgium only has 10 million inhabitants, 1/1000 th of which doing aikido. AND we are subsidised, and most teachers are teaching completely pro bono. So everything's happy go lucky here.

But when comparing to Turkey, the situation is different. Universities subsidise sports on the campus, but for the non-student population there is near to nothing. Teachers are often professionals having to make a living off it, and dojo space is extremely expensive. So for a Turkish teacher it is quite a challenge.

The dojo where I go during the summer vacations is very successful in these difficult circumstances. When I went there first, the teacher was 2nd dan, and they tought in the sports facility of Istanbul Technical University. Now he is 4th dan, has his own very large and well equipped dojo, and he has maybe one thousand registered pupils, 200 - 300 of which being active and regular.

But the guy really invests 16 hours of his day, 7 days a week to get there. His first classes are at 06.30 in the morning; I went there some time out of sheer masochism - and there are always people liking to be thrown around for an hour before going to work. Last classes are at 21.30, and in between there are lots of other classes. He went to learn kendo and jodo in order to provide better weapons training, he regularly goes to Japan for his own training, and he also does a lot for marketing.

There is a very active Internet site (www.aikimode.com, if you want to look there for inspiration, even if it is in Turkish), with lots of videos and teaching material available, the dojo has a facebook group with regularly updated content, a twitter account and whatever else social media may require. Obviously, there are also dojo meals, special events etc., and since the business is growing so big, he started having technical assistants and a secretary.

And it is also a question of personality. As a student, you see that the teacher really likes his work, and also that he likes his students. Over the time, a sort of friendship relationship develops between teacher and students, and the atmosphere is quite relaxed and friendly, with the level of aikido still being very good.

I still prefer our Belgian non profit approach, even if we have less classes and shabbier dojos, but I think in a non-welfare state the aikimode dojo is the most successful and attractive one I have seen.

Best regards,

Eva
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Old 01-31-2014, 02:56 AM   #18
Riai Maori
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Re: Aikido Dojo Recruitment...????

Hello, Our 20 year old club promotes "ADULTS BEGINNER COURSES" which encourage beginners to take one of our customised beginners' courses, which will take you from basics to yellow belt (6Kyu), and provide a solid foundation for joining our adult classes cost: $130 (NZ$) for 24 lessons. (2 classes weekly). All the best.
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Old 05-15-2014, 02:13 PM   #19
James Sawers
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Re: Aikido Dojo Recruitment...????

As no one has contributed to this post for a while, I'll let it rest. I just want to thank everyone that posted for their suggestions and help. I came away with some ideas. I'll try and put these together and report back to my dojos.

Again, thanks.......In good practice.....Jim
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Old 05-15-2014, 02:31 PM   #20
lbb
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Re: Aikido Dojo Recruitment...????

Hi Jim,

We've had a spate of new people lately. They cite three things:

1. Visibility -- literally. We've got a nice lot that happens to be visible from a busy intersection where traffic backs up, and we've done a lot to make the place look nice. We've had a number of people say, "I was passing or it caught my eye" or "I saw the garden and I wanted to find out more".

2. Web search. This is mostly for people who have trained before and are new to the area. They find our website and sometimes find us on Youtube.

3. Word of mouth (another kind of visibility, I guess). Students wearing dojo t-shirts get asked about the dojo, it comes up in conversation ("What are you doing tonight?" "I'm going to the dojo." "Really? What's that?"), kids come to the kids' program because their parents have friends with kids in the program, etc. Having cards we can hand out helps too.
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Old 05-15-2014, 03:13 PM   #21
Phil Van Treese
Dojo: Tampa Judo and Aikido Dojo, Tampa, Fl
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Re: Aikido Dojo Recruitment...????

Recruit students???? If they are interested, or at least curious, they'll come by. It always helps that the sensei has charisma. Ask my 37 students.
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Old 05-15-2014, 03:37 PM   #22
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Re: Aikido Dojo Recruitment...????

Quote:
Phil Van Treese wrote: View Post
Ask my 37 students.
Are you lamenting or bragging?

Nagababa

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Old 05-15-2014, 03:43 PM   #23
James Sawers
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Cool Re: Aikido Dojo Recruitment...????

Quote:
Szczepan Janczuk wrote: View Post
Are you lamenting or bragging?
I assume Phil was just stating the obvious.......

Thanks, Mary. Good ideas!
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Old 05-15-2014, 04:29 PM   #24
Edgecrusher
 
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Re: Aikido Dojo Recruitment...????

Never assume, he is an old ball breaker. Trust me, he has put me through the ringer on too many times. I am one of the 37.
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Old 05-15-2014, 04:30 PM   #25
Shadowfax
 
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Re: Aikido Dojo Recruitment...????

Quote:
Janet Rosen wrote: View Post
Yes, cookies, as in cookies. Haven't you ever taken a big fall late in the day on a seminar, hit the mat, sighed and wished somebody would bring you milk and cookies and let you take a nap like nursery school? :-) After weeks of threatening, last year I actually DID bring milk and cookies to my Low Impact class....
I used to bring cookies tothe dojo for everyone who atteded class on radom Thursday nights. It was popular with existing students but didn't get them to train more regularly or bring in any new ones. Of course that was't really the goAl ayway. We jsut had a lot of leftover cookies on Wednessdays, at my old job.

We have had a little sucess getting people to start by offering a 6 week "beginers course" at a discounted rate. We would have members hang flyers anyplace they thought they could to attract iterest. It seems to work well for the February/March sessio but ot so well for April/May. But we are a college town. Getting them to stay however is a whole other challange.
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