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How do you run a successful dojo? (one for the dojo leaders amongst you)

Author IanJ
#1 | Posted: 30 May 2008 01:35 
I'm a member of a small dojo, I also train at a couple of other small dojos and on the whole I notice there are not many students. Some clubs would seem to be more successful at gaining and maybe retaining students than others. What works for you with regard to gaining new students and keeping their interest once they join?

Iai seems to be for a small minority of the population in general so I have noticed quite a high dropout rate once people realise they are not going to be the next last samurai. Is this common in your experience?

How do you accommodate the different levels of student within the dojo, do you get the more senior students instructing more junior members in a rotation of sorts so that you can focus attention on the other more senior students or do you have some other method?

All comments and suggestion are most welcome. I figure this thread could help any potential new dojos to get started as well as helping any struggling dojos to keep going.

Author torashin
#2 | Posted: 22 Jul 2008 12:50 
Hi Ian

I think everyone seems to be having the same problem. Numbers appear to be down everywhere.

I don't think there is a magic solution, I think it's a matter of time and getting established in your area.

Try getting an editorial in the local rag or volunteering to give a demo at the local fair or something.

If you get something that really works out please let me know :-)



Author David
#3 | Posted: 18 Sep 2008 16:11 | Edited by: David 
I think the time of year is important. People are less likely to turn up when it's dark and raining (like now!), but are more likely when there is more daylight. (Although your right, we had a great deal of people sign up when the last samurai and kill bill came out! Then when they learn that we don't DO backflips, they left!

Author Hazumi
#4 | Posted: 24 Sep 2008 19:37 
First the right location. Not sure how you find that? Unless you target a specific age group or type.
And you need a lot of patience.
A bit of luck and often a little help from your friends.

Everyone wants and expects something different from you. So even if you have the ability to read and respond to someones expectations, when you have several students can you cater for the individual, well not in the early stages anyway. So someone will be dissapointed.
Besides that, if you try to please everyone are you being true to yourself. Can you give your best when you try to adapt to please them? Maybe some students feel insecure when an instructor is frequently changing his teaching method?
Havin said that I am sure that we have all seen sucesssfull Dojo run in very different styles, some very disiplined and others quite relaxed but they do attract a different type of person.
If you teach in your own character you will be more consistent and possibly more reasssuring giving them confidence in your ability to pass on knowledge?
I believe that the drop out rate in any sport is around 90% over about 2 years, so Iai or any other budo will suffer just the same. Just got to keep them coming somehow!
Finding the right location and people, convincing them that what you have to offer is worth the effort and having enough money to keep the dojo open until the class grows and stabilises must help.

How do you run a successful dojo? I haven't a clue realy.

Author torashin
#5 | Posted: 7 Oct 2008 08:41 
Hi All

In a recent email to my Jodo sensei Pascal Krieger sensei I mentioned about raising visibility and awareness of Jodo. His response puzzled me a little but made good sense. See below:

One little thing on which I tend to disagree, as a practitioner of classical Budo, I am not searching for coverage, I don't want to encourage people find about us. If you got my latest book, look at the S˘sho chapter, about the peach tree that doesn't say anything though, naturally, a path takes form under its branches. That is my vision of Kobudo, no publicity. If you are good, people who are sincerely in search for something serious will eventually find out, all the others will just ignore where you are.

Once you went to look for somebody, once you encouraged somebody to join your training, you are somehow responsible for making him happy. If he come on his own, you can require from him to just follow the rule. And if he/she doesn't like it, well, he/she came freely, he/she can go freely.

Gambatte Kudasai


Author chidokan
#6 | Posted: 21 Nov 2008 21:48 | Edited by: chidokan 
I have a different experience due to a massive turnout a couple of years ago.. I had 75+ turn up to a dojo that took 25 at most, so rotated the class with military precision, worked them to death, did really hard techniques, was rude and condescending to the class as a whole, all in order to get a class I could cope with. I kept this up for three weeks. After that I was left with 35 hard core students who came 3 nights a week and only left when their time was up at the university (some still come as they live locally). My class since that year has always been around the 15-20 mark when I have a small hall, 10 when I have a big hall. (work that one out...) People like a challenge, so if they are not feeling 'under pressure' I think they get bored. You should also encourage 'after hours' trips to the pub etc, so the students are friends.

Author Benet_
#7 | Posted: 8 Apr 2011 09:06 
I suppose you should firstly create right atmosphere, feeling of unity,raise interest doing hard at the same time. members of the club will involve new, but it happen with time

Author IanJ
#8 | Posted: 13 Aug 2012 12:49 
You should also encourage 'after hours' trips to the pub etc, so the students are friends.

This is a very good point Tim.

In the past I have had quite a large age difference between students. The younger ones who have come along usually have done so with a friend, unfortunately it often seems that only one of the two is actually interested and when the non-interested party no longer wishes to 'try it out' then you lose the one who was keen too unless they have made other friends within the dojo.

I think it's important for instructors and students to have a closer relationship than is often the case in modern dojo where people turn up, participate and then go home straight after training. With smaller groups there's really no excuse for this not to be the case. It was actually one of my students that encouraged a pub visit after training and I think it has helped a lot. If people have any issues they seem more at ease to raise them over a beer and in a less formal setting than the dojo. They also have chance to get to know each other and make new friends.

I don't agree with being rude or condescending toward people though. I've been training a long time and I'm very dedicated but I won't take unnecessary rudeness from people, I too would walk away...

Looking back I've probably lost some students by emulating other teachers when I first began instructing rather than doing things my way and from my own experience. I guess the transition from being a practitioner to an instructor isn't always easy and is another skill which we have to work at if we want to improve.

I also no longer encourage new people, as Torashin writes above, it never seems to work out. We have a website and various free listings online so people can find us if they should be inclined to look and that seems to work quite well.

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