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Thread: Dojo Dreams

  1. #1
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    Question Dojo Dreams

    Not sure if this is the best place for this question but here goes:

    Recently, I was downsized from my job and find myself with the time and the energy to start a martial arts school. Owning a school has always been my dream and I like the idea of adding value to students and my community. By leveraging my wifeís income, along with my sweat and blood, I feel I can make this work.

    Some back story: I began my training in 1987 in Tang Soo Do and by 1992 I had attained 1st degree black belt. I continued to train at that Dojang until 1994 when my wife and I moved from the area. I did not test any further. I trained solo and attended seminars as time permitted until 1999 when I began training in a Japanese style where I now wear a green belt. I have never lost my love for Tang Soo Do and have never stopped gaining insights from that training.

    So now to the questions:

    What do you think about an instructor opening a school, who although has trained for a long time, (and I will always consider myself a beginner) has not tested past Shodan?

    Considering that I might be able to travel to test with my old instructor, do you have any insights on how I might approach him? Iím not sure how he will react and Iím wondering if I should wait until Iíve already opened the school. Iíll have years before my students are ready to be promoted to black belt.

    If I decide not to approach my old instructor, what are the best and most legitimate ways of attaining advanced ranking while keeping true to my old training? Have you had any experience with instructors who would be comfortable with stylistic differences? And what about independent organizations, can they offer legitimate ranking and credibility?

    Thanks for any suggestions you may have!
    David Martino

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    Definitely contact your instructor and ask for his advice and assistance.

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    Thanks Mark.
    David Martino

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    what is it that you plan on teaching?
    if it is TSD then yes contact him or even another sensei who can get you back on track.

    if you want to teach generic martial arts and you feel qualified then go for it.

    best of luck.
    Ken

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    Thanks Ken.

    And yes, it was TSD I was considering.

    Thanks again,
    David Martino

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    KD Tiger

    For what my deeply devauled 2 cents may be worth.

    New students don't understand or have any real info about whose org is "legit" or not or why.
    Its after they get a bit of experience that they start asking question--and its at that point that you better have answers, and good ones.

    The best and worst thing about MA these days is that people usually have plenty of choices--so if your not a good fit for their needs (ok what they "think" are their needs) then they will usually cut their losses and run.

    If your just like everyone else, then there is no reason to train with you.

    Give you a good example, there is a really tough, really traditional karate school in my hometown--most of his students are LEO's, guys for from the local army base, and college guys--training is very tough, the classes are very realistic and he encourges cross-training, grappling, boxing etc.

    Guy makes some ok money, nothing to retire on but he does ok.

    Their is also a "family" style school, classes are ok, nothing special, the level of training is no-where near as rough or as exacting.
    Lots of little kids and mom and dad.
    The get a good workout, they learn some techniques--and for the standard of their gym and their national org, they are not bad.
    This guy however is rolling in dough--buys a new car every couple of years.

    Not saying that you have to choose one or the other--just that in general how you teach/train effect the size fo the school.

    My best advice is to start small, build you school before looking into renting space etc--don't take on too much debt to start with.

  7. #7
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    Thanks CXT.

    My Tang Soo Do school was similar to the traditional martial arts school you mention. My teacher wasn't in it for the money and I think many months he took a loss. Back then we were taught in a militaristic manner, hard training, no pads, get yelled at, and get hit if you drop your hands. New students would come in, get hit, and then never come back again. After five years, out of the hundreds of students who had come through the door we had like six people reach black belt.

    If I do this I want to find a balance between proper training and student retention. I want to earn a living but I don't want to give my students a false sense of security either. I'm beginning to read books on MA business management so I can look at all sides of this issue.

    To be sure I drum up some controversy here's another question: what does everyone think about the AIKIA as an independent MA organization? Does anyone have any experience with them? What do you think about testing for rank through this or similar organizations?
    David Martino

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    Quote Originally Posted by KD Tiger
    ...What do you think about testing for rank through this or similar organizations?
    Unless an organization is tightly integrated with your style/school/ryu/kwan/whatever-you-want-to-call-it then what is their claim to being recognized as authoritites? How would they be qualified to test and promote you in a system with which they aren't affiliated?

    Most of these "independent" organizations are just money-making schemes and diploma mills.

    I know of some dedicated instructors who run their own schools who don't even claim rank. They simply tell their students of their backgrounds, and that they are independent and so have no "rank." The students watch a class and decide from that if it's what they want. No bogus sheepskins on the wall required. "John Smith has been practicing Korean and Japanese martial arts for X years, and holds a Black Belt in N. His classes at the Smith School of Martial Arts are a blend of blah-de-blah and nani-nani and give each student a well rounded experience in both traditional and modern methods."

    If you like the idea of teaching mixed martial arts based on your varied background, that seems like the best, most honest approach to me.

    On the other hand, I also know of teachers who run traditional dojo who have requested a high-ranking master in another town (or even another country) to oversee their schools. They travel to train with the master when possible, and bring him in when it's time to test their students. For a traditional school that is a good option, and something your TSD teacher might be willing to help you with.

    HTH.
    Yours in Budo,
    ---Brian---

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    Thanks Brian.


    Dave
    David Martino

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    There are at least a few books available about running a martial arts school. In some ways running a martial arts school is a relatively tricky business because you'll need insurance, a rental contract that says it's okay for you to have a roomfull of screaming people at all hours, and you'll need to carefully pick your location so that there's actually a market for martial arts in the first place.

    So, my big suggestion is that you head to a bookstore and look for books specifically on running a martial arts school, since it will cover these points I just mentioned in great detail.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by Wounded Ronin
    There are at least a few books available about running a martial arts school. In some ways running a martial arts school is a relatively tricky business because you'll need insurance, a rental contract that says it's okay for you to have a roomfull of screaming people at all hours, and you'll need to carefully pick your location so that there's actually a market for martial arts in the first place.

    So, my big suggestion is that you head to a bookstore and look for books specifically on running a martial arts school, since it will cover these points I just mentioned in great detail.
    Thanks for the response and the suggestion. I bought Starting and Running your own Martial Arts School by Karen Levitz Vactor and Susan Lynn Peterson, Ph.D. It has some great information for this future possibility.

    Thanks again.
    David Martino

  12. #12
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    I'd like to qualify this by saying I'm not an instructor, and I don't run a school.

    Quote Originally Posted by Brian Owens
    I know of some dedicated instructors who run their own schools who don't even claim rank. They simply tell their students of their backgrounds, and that they are independent and so have no "rank." The students watch a class and decide from that if it's what they want. No bogus sheepskins on the wall required. "John Smith has been practicing Korean and Japanese martial arts for X years, and holds a Black Belt in N. His classes at the Smith School of Martial Arts are a blend of blah-de-blah and nani-nani and give each student a well rounded experience in both traditional and modern methods."
    I fall into this category. My instructor gave up his wearing his rank 20 years ago, mostly in disgust (long story...). When I first arrived, he told me his background, I watched his karate, and I immediately knew that he was not pulling a fast one on me. He had a student from back when he used to wear rank (he was rokudan) and issue rank ask him for a teaching certificate so he could open his own school. My instructor refused to do so. He wrote a one sentence letter instead: "[so and so] trained with me from [X year] to [Y year]."

    I like my instructor's outlook in that your karate should speak for itself; and if I were to ever start teaching, I'd probably ask for a letter saying that I trained with him and then let my karate do the selling. Getting credentials is good (and probably necessary for legal reasons), but your "product", your TSD, should sell itself.

    You have chosen to teach, and I congratulate you for wanting to contribute something positive to your community. I would just be wary of attempting to make teaching karate a living. I have not seen any positive success stories of someone who made a good living teaching karate without a large degree of watering down and/or commercializing their karate; however, if you want to make a decent living at it if it is the sole focus of your energies you'll have to do one or both.

    The most successful instructors I've met (in terms of having a decent sized school, high quality, non-commercial karate and a fairly large number of dedicated students) have something else going for them on the side. Many are small business owners. Some examples of the instructors I've met are: an actupuncturist with his own practice, a multi-million dollar real estate investor, an owner of a chain of car washes, and an owner of a martial arts supply store.

    In summary, I'm begging you: let your TSD do the selling, don't go commercial, and start something on the side to lessen your depenedence on teaching.
    T.J. Garrett
    Okinawa, Japan

    The Chibana Project
    http://chibanaproject.blogspot.com

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