View Full Version : what about when you first started?

30th May 2003, 09:11
Lately I have been drawn more and more to opening my own school. And when I started thinking about it i realized that there is going to be a frist day, and a frist week, and month! Its funny but in all the schools i have ever trained in, i just joined in the flow of things, i never saw a beging! So I was wondering how many of you have stories about when you first opend a school, or if you were someones first student. It seems like it would be a real pain to have NO senpi! I mean all my teachers have relied on me and my senpi heavily to help with new people, and answer questions, and demonstrate techniques, what would teachers do with out upper leavel students?! well just a curiosity.


Andy Watson
30th May 2003, 13:21
My sensei initially opened his dojo to train for himself, not to teach others. Gradually others joined him and now he has a rather packed out dojo. And he's not even in this country running it.


30th May 2003, 14:16
you have to do it all, even the janitor part!!!

I remember when it was to slow I gave free one month memberships to create some interest and at least look busy. I thought someone would keep it up.

Not one of the freebies signed on!

Still going strong ten yrs later,

31st May 2003, 04:57
This was not my first Dojo but it was the first one I opened when I moved to New Zealand. This will give you an idea of how to start and what it felt like


31st May 2003, 06:07
WARNING - The following link is photo intensive, only click if you are on highspeed or have time to kill. These show the progression of the dojo build, although they are not up to current day.

We learned all sorts of 'fun' things in the building process...such as NOT to drill holes in carpet.

It has been really amazing watching the school grow so far. Many many many things I never thought about when I decided to start this. We are finally at a point where we have a handful of helpers and that is making a tremendous difference in the way things work.

Be prepared to give up a lot to get it going and definitely understand that just because you build it, they may not come right away ;)


Julian Gerhart
31st May 2003, 06:50
i was not around at the time of my dojo's conception but from what i hear several of the sempai followed my sensei from her old dojo. at the risk of causing tention and drama you might talk to a few senior and mid level students in your dojo about accompanying you as you start a new school.

1st June 2003, 19:28
I was the first real student my instructor ever had. When I joined the class, there were only two other people besides the instructor; a black belt and a brown belt, all of whom had trained together from the beginning. My instructor took on the responsibility of the Tae Kwon do school, when his instructor decided he no longer wanted to show up for class.
So I was my instructorís first student. Unfortunately, this was not a pleasant experience for me. Not to say I did not learn a lot about Tae kwon do, but I was the guinea pig. Basically, my instructor would test out his own anger and for loss of a better word, his "ego" on me, because I was not as fast with my kicks or punches, and because I could not do my forms as well as the brown belt in class could.
About a year or so into my training, other people began to join. And I watched how my instructor treated them differently than I was treated when I was a beginner. Now everyone is different, and learns differently, but I would see my peers making the same mistakes I had made, and they were not tripped over and over again, they were not shoved against the wall, instructor screaming in their face, they were not screamed at, and talked down to.
I was the first student he ever taught from white to black belt. And I look back at the experience, as a learning, but sad time. I can't say that it was a waste of time, because I met some wonderful people, and I learned so much, but sometimes being someone's very first student, makes it that much harder. I can explain more, that complicates the situation in another post... but thatís all for now


3rd June 2003, 11:38
Hey Oni,

Great dojo you have there! How long did it take to build from the beginning? I also noticed that you have a naginata on the wall, which style is it you do?

But I'm not so sure about the big neon sign at the front though. Just my 2p.


3rd June 2003, 17:41

Its not neon, just a standard backlit sign. From start to finish took about a month and a half I guess. It was primarily just myself, my wife, two of my students, and a good friend that put up the walls you see in the back.

The art is called To-Shin Do and is what Stephen K. Hayes has derived from his training with Hatsumi sensei of the Bujinkan.

If you are interested more info can be found here:


Phil Farmer
4th June 2003, 14:30

There are other options for opening a school. While I am impressed by the two dojo that are described on this thread, sometimes the place you live or your financial circumstances don't allow for the developement of a nice facility right away. A place to look is at local YMCA programs, local dance and gymnastic studios (gymnastics are especially nice if you need mats to fall on)and community recreations centers. Also, local community colleges. Sometimes you can go through college or university continuing education department.

In my case, I have my school at the local community recreation center here in our small town. I would agree with one of the people who responded, people who don't have to pay, rarely hang around long. There is something about putting your money on the line that makes you want to skip drinks after work and go train. There is a limit though, put the price too high and you lose students. Starting your own school is tough, because the first thing that suffers is your own training. You have so many new students, you never get to work on your own development. Our style has a clinic almost every month and a week long camp where we can keep working on our own needs.

Good luck and maybe let folks here know what happens. There are a lot of people out here who can be very supportive. Please, one thing though, if you have a website for your school, don't become a Grand master or Soke right away. Oh, and it's okay not to be 10th Dan. People will still come if you are a good teacher who cares about martial arts and your students.

Phil Farmer

4th June 2003, 16:41
Mr. Farmer is RIGHT ON with his post. I would add existing martial art schools to the list as well. I had a good but unsuccessful venture with a karate school to offer my jujutsu program. The unsuccessful part wasn't really the fault of anyone involved, it just wasn't a good time for the business (it was/is a pretty new school).

My sensei's sensei teaches within a well-established martial arts school owned and operated by another individual. That school offers (I believe) Karate, Jujutsu, Iaido, and Kendo. The owner teaches only Karate (but, that is also where the bulk of the revenue comes from).

I now teach with another instructor in a community center. We pay $25 to rent a nice sized space for 2 hours. We simply pass that cost on to whoever attends that night's class and pay the rent as we go. It's worked out really well now for about 3 months. As we build a student base, we'll move toward paying rent and collecting dues on a monthly basis. Obviously, the students like having the incentive to bring a friend (or two!) because the more people we have, the lower the cost for everyone. We plan to move to a monthly arrangement in a few months (hopefully!) and put a lower limit on monthly dues of $25/person for the simple reason that, as stated before, if they don't pay for it, they don't value it. If we find a surplus in revenue, there are always mats to buy, equipment we need, seminars to host, etc., etc. Neither the other instructor nor myself wish to make a profit from the venture. Not a great arrangement if teaching martial arts is what someone wants to do for a living, but it works great for those of us who work other jobs and teach as well.

I'd love to own my own building for teaching martial arts someday. Maybe when I retire from my profession.... In the meantime, the community center has worked out wonderfully for us. There's even a good amount of exposure, since there is lots of traffic through the building for other programs held there.

As for teaching without senior students to lean on as an instructor...it's hard to say right now because there are two instructors in the school now. When I was on my own, so to speak, the only problem, really, was that I had to cancel class if I couldn't make it for some reason. Other than that, running class was fine. And I wouldn't say it is a bad thing for your training, either. Teaching anything is the best way to really learn it.


4th June 2003, 17:48
I certainly agree with Phil as well. The way I chose to go in some ways is a bit 'crazy' ;) If it were not for the salary and the freedom I have at my day job I would not have been able to do what I did. I also found someone that believed in what I wanted to do enough to loan me a bit of startup money. That and a pretty hefty tax return allowed me to get started.

Truthfully I tried the approach that Phil suggested first, but I had difficulty finding places that would rent me space here in Phoenix. There are so many things going on that times are extremely limited. I was offered time on waiting lists, but I was too impatient for that. I even considered starting things up in my two car garage at first, but feared that city codes might not allow it to go on for very long. If you can find a community center, dance studio, martial arts studio, etc that is willing to give you a few blocks to get started it will make it all that much easier if you eventually decide to start a full time facility as you will have more students and most likely more of a name.

I personally disagree to a point about your own training suffering. While it does on some levels (can't run out on any weekend I want to go to seminars) I am constantly working towards refining what I teach to my students, and how I teach it. I learn things almost every class...having more students gives more opportunities for 'things' to come up as well. What has worked great for years on many, may not work on that 'new guy' in the same manner.

Anyway...which ever path you decide to pursue...good luck and keep us informed!

14th June 2003, 04:32
In all honesty I'm not clear what your question(s) are and therefore don't know if they have been answered. My two cents are as follows, forgive me if they are off base.

It sounds like you are being drawn to teach, if so that is wonderful, but do you have anyone to take the role of student? Everything else is, in my opinion, unimportant.

If you have someone willing to learn and you know the basics well enough to teach that is all that is important. Share your knowledge.

14th June 2003, 19:26
it's ok Hinodebuddha,

I think everyone else got what I was asking, and have done a great job in disscussing it.
thanx for all the wonderful replys, i have got something out of it.

by all means keep them comming!

Chris Hein