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Thread: Thinking of opening up a dojo with 3 others in same town

  1. #1
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    Question Thinking of opening up a dojo with 3 others in same town

    I'm thinking of opening up an Aikido and Iaido dojo in a town (Western Massachusetts) with 3 Aikido dojos... I've done a little research, and the dojos all are associated with the NY Aikikai while I've studied Tomiki Ryu (under Bob Davis [Fugakukai]). Question is how can I make my dojo as successful as the others, since I also will be teaching Iaido? I have a few years before opening up the dojo because I want to be at least a Yondan in Aikido and Sandan/Yondan in Iaido, so I still have time to think things over. Any help/suggestions would be greatly appreciated!
    Luis Garza
    Sandan - Nippon Toho Iaido (Shuko Kai Intl.)
    Nidan - Geis Ryu Aikido (Fugakukai/Bob Davis)

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    Default Thinking of opening up a dojo with three others.

    Nothing wrong with planing long range.I would say most teachers on this forum started with a dream, then a plan and some taking a long time to achieve, myself included.
    I would say start by really learning your art. Then gain experience and rank, then study on how to teach it also.Think on this deeply!
    Start saving money. You will need it for rent and other related expenses,more the better. This applies even to a small dojo.Every dojo needs some training equipment or mats etc.
    Now assume you have gotten this far. Ask yourself why do I want to teach at all? Never mind the fact there are 3 schools here all ready. Teaching a classical art is not an easy road to go. It appeals only to a small portion of the martial arts population unlike Tae Kwon Do or Karate.There is often little or no monetary gain or fame. Just hard work. What do you have to offer the community that isn't already there? Are you really that dedicated? Where will the economy be then? Lots to think about.
    Now..we are figuring that you will have good aiki skills, but can reach iai students also.Thats a plus.
    Have you ever heard the phrase "location, location, location"? Are you planning to teach for fun, make a living? Ego? You can teach in your back yard if you want.If you seriously want to "pass on the art" rent a church hall or local recreation hall etc.This is an excellent way to teach affordably, especially when traditional dojo are for the most part not very large. Many of the finest dojo in the country are located in these structures.
    Some buy structures and rent out parts to pay the mortgage. Others build their own. These can be good investments.With 3 competitors near by,look for the next area where the town will expand. Buy land there while still cheaper than city property.Look around and do more research.
    You think at some point you may want to go full time? Compete with the other guys and be just AS successful? Thats like, not trying to win, just dont lose. Martial arts is about heiho(strategy) and Wining battles.Thats what business is today.Which brings us to the next battle...today a successful martial arts teacher is a good business man also. If they are not...they will join the thousands of dojo that closed last year ...
    When you open your doors you will have to advertise.Usually one gears their add campaigns for a 6 mile radius.You have a problem already.Others are too close.You are overlaping their area.You might want to move the dojo.
    Next, people with no knowledge of Aikido will not care what style you do or why its different at first. A kick is a kick, a punch is a punch to them.You promote the benefits of what you do and how over a period of time they will attain certain positive benefits.
    Now if you are only as successful as your competitors then you are satisfied...good.If you want to succeed and make a living you may have to add a womans self defence class once in a while, maybe bring in a karate teacher two nights a week to gain more funds.
    Making a living as a martial arts teacher or just following your "tao" to pass on the knowledge, is very challenging especially in a bad economy,with preocupation of video games,laziness, obesity and a general lack of self discipline and accountability.
    To some the arts are the same as any sport to others the "way" is almost a religion.However,when it all comes together,large or small there is nothing like it.
    Follow that dream, work hard and bring it to this reality...

    ..oh yeah,..my brother got a shodan in iaido from a dojo in Western Mass some years back.
    Phil Scudieri
    ZNBR
    www.delawarebudokan.net

  3. #3
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    Thanks for the response - I really appreciate your input. I initally want the dojo to be as successful as the other dojos in the area, but want to grow mine since I believe in the arts I'll be teaching. I'm the sempai in both Aikido and Iaido (different dojos/senseis), so I have experience helping out the instructors/students during classes. I've also been asked to teach both Aikido and Iaido before, especially Aikido, when the main instructors had to go on business trips, etc. Aside from that, I also taught an after school self defense class for two years at the HS where I've been teaching English for the last eight years.
    The main thing that's bothering me is the fact that I'll be the "new guy" in the neigborhood, and don't want to start a turf war with the other established dojos. I do think though that since my "style" of Aikido will be different and will draw students to my dojo once it's open. I've also been thinking of having "friendly" relations with the other schools, kind of like the "Friendship Demonstrations" the Aikikai, Iwama, and other dojos have had in Japan.
    Luis Garza
    Sandan - Nippon Toho Iaido (Shuko Kai Intl.)
    Nidan - Geis Ryu Aikido (Fugakukai/Bob Davis)

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    Luis it is always great to hear fellow martial artists who want to engage in propagating the arts. Phil definitely gave you some wonderful advice in his post. Much wisdom in his words. There are various ways to break into teaching, sometimes at a nominal cost to you. I first started my teaching career as a result of my Sensei and I starting a program for high-risk youth for the local school district.. My Sensei taught Judo and Jujitsu regularly at the local YMCA as well. We dedicated our time and our effort to helping these young people who could not afford martial instruction. This program remained in existence for approximately 20 years. As a result of this we were able to propagate our art in the town which we live. With Sensei's blessing I then ventured out and started teaching Judo and Jujitsu at my Tae Kwon Do instructors school, per his request. This turned out to be a good collaboration and I learned more about dojo management and marketing for a successful dojo. I now have a dojo my own and a satellite dojo in a neighboring town. One of the things that I have learned is that many times people will come to train on the arm of a trusted friend. I have created a sense of family which I take very seriously in the dojo. I acquired my location after much research all over the town and was very blessed to find a corner location with substantial traffic exposure at lots of windows so that people can see. I have approximately 1000 ft. of matted area for training and a small living quarters on the backside of the dojo for my two Uchi Deshi's. The decor is very Japanese in nature but was done on a shoestring budget. My landlord and I have a wonderful relationship. I have been there 5 yrs and he has not raised the rent on me. Truly this is more the exception rather than the norm. I don't do much advertising but engage in community exposure such as demonstrations at the mall or other community functions. I teach multiple disciplines at my school which is an extra added advantage to some of the other schools that only offer one discipline. I offer Judo, Jujutsu, Aikido (Aikikai Mainline) and some mixed martial arts training.even though I possess a 5th dan in Tae Kwon Do I chose not to teach that art out of respect for my Tae Kwon Do instructor who blessed me with great teaching and mentoring over the years. Besides my true love resides in Judo, Jujitsu and Aikido.
    I have surrounded myself with a team of wonderful Black Belts that have been with me for years. We have similar teaching philosophies which emphasize the following: always respect your students and treat them how you want to be treated, request excellence from all, children and adults alike. Always remember that your students are also consumers and must be treated as such. Keep your Dojo clean always. Have good dojo management software to help you keep track of your financials and other vital data. I have used jackrabbit dojo for many years and have absolutely no complaints. It is highly efficient for billing, tracking classes, student attendance and a host of other wonderful database tools. I bring in other Master instructors (usually my Instructors) every couple of months to do seminars on the various arts that are taught at the dojo. This is very helpful for revenue and students getting good quality instruction from other Shihans in the art. Remember that no matter how much you advertise if you do not provide quality instruction student retention will become a very serious issue. I have seen this happen with other martial arts instructors who have fallen flat on their face in my area. My dojo's provide for good supplemental income to my day job as a counselor. I am looking to use this for my retirement income. I can think of no better way of spending latter part of my years then teaching martial arts on a full-time basis. Sorry for the long rant (icould go on and on) but hope this helps a little. " I will always have a plan, it may not be a perfect plan but I will always have a plan". Good luck !
    Rick Torres, Dojo Cho
    Integrity Defensive Arts
    Victoria, Texas
    www.ksrjujitsu.com
    [/B]

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    Thanks for the advice! I've been looking into a few dojo software options, but am still undecided. Good to hear 1st hand positive info about Jackrabbit Dojo. When I first started thinking of opening a dojo, I had originally intended to teach martial arts exclusively, but have back tracked since then. I've taught HS English for 14 years, and will probably supplement my income by starting up my dojo. When/where that happens is still up for grabs since I want to move from McAllen, TX back to the N.E., but my wife doesn't want to move because her entire family lives incredibly close by.
    At any rate, I'll hopefully be in a place to start up my dojo within the next three years.
    Luis Garza
    Sandan - Nippon Toho Iaido (Shuko Kai Intl.)
    Nidan - Geis Ryu Aikido (Fugakukai/Bob Davis)

  6. #6
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    Default Thinking of opening a dojo

    Hello
    You say you are worried about being the new guy in town.Why? If your product is good; have confidence in what you do.People will come if you have what they want.Friendship Demos are a good idea. I would not worry about "turf" wars. Just open a great dojo. It seems like your heart is still in it.

    Phil Scudieri
    ZNSBR
    www.delawarebudokan.net

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