I've operated a martial arts school full time for 45 years. I may have made every mistake that can be made in this business. The reason I'm still in business, I believe, is I asked for help. I learned quickly that others before me had already found solutions. In this column, I'll point out key mistakes I made in my career, which are common errors among school owners, both large and small, throughout our industry. And I'll share the solutions I used to overcome them.

Your "separation point" is the feature that sets training at your dojo apart from other activities for children, teens and adults in your community: Why martial arts and not soccer, lacrosse, ballet, etc.? Within the arts, your separation point is what differentiates yours from other martial arts schools. Why would someone want to train in taekwondo with you, for example, rather than at the academy down the road?

You should be able to answer these questions for your school. The ability to do so can help you formulate a plan to expand your business, including the launch of a social media campaign and the creation of an "elevator speech" that any member of your staff can be trained to deliver to prospects.

If you know your separation point, it doesn't matter how many martial arts schools are in your immediate area. It doesn't matter if most of the children in your area love soccer or hockey. It doesn't matter if there are dozens of barre studios or 24-hour gyms. What does matter is that you're able to offer something the other places don't — and that you can deliver a clear statement of those benefits to current and potential members.

When I was unsure of our separation points, I would spend two weeks doing surveys in person, on paper and by email. I asked all my students to tell me their story. I wanted to know why they chose us and why they stayed with us.

When I approached my members for the surveys, I told them I needed their help to develop a mission statement for our company. Most were honored to share their thoughts. Some of our parents were executives with vast experience in corporate strategy. They, in particular, were a great help when it came to formulating phrases to describe our services.

When I compiled the survey results, our separation point stood out clearly: Our members, almost to a person, saw us as a family-oriented business. They described how we treated each person as an individual, how we worked together to achieve team and individual goals, how clean we kept the facility and how we "customer-serviced" them to death. At our school, they felt like they were part of one big family — not just individuals who shared a hobby.

We narrowed down those thoughts and put them into a speech that all our staff members could memorize and use when talking with future students. We modeled our Facebook ads and our social media posts on those descriptions.

I've learned that although our students know all this and will tell other people about us, the new people in our community have no way of knowing who we are or what we offer. Unless we tell them, they won't know that we have the atmosphere and the instructors they're searching for in their martial arts quest.

When someone calls or emails us with a question, we've learned to shape our answers based on what our students have told us are our best qualities. We scripted those answers and trained our staff so they could easily slip those qualities into conversations with potential clients. In fact, our members were grateful to have answers to the standard questions.

For us, and for most martial arts school owners, it's easy to answer common questions like "How much do classes cost?" and "What are your hours?" What we now know is how to answer these questions while telling potential students much more about what we offer. After all, knowing the hours we're open and the location of our school doesn't tell them who we are.

We all know what makes us passionate about the martial arts. It's our job to convey that to each and every prospective student. Do you know who you are?

To contact Kathy Olevsky, send an email to kathy.olevsky@raleighkarate.com.

SUBSCRIBE TO BLACKBELT MAGAZINE TODAY!
Don't miss a single issue of the world largest magazine of martial arts.

To Master the Supreme Philosophy of Enshin Karate, Look to Musashi's Book of Five Rings for Guidance!

In the martial arts, we voluntarily subject ourselves to conflict in a training environment so we can transcend conflict in the real world. After all, we wouldn't knowingly train in a style that makes us weaker or worsens our position. The irony of all this is that we don't want to fight our opponent. We prefer to work with what an opponent gives us to turn the tide in our favor, to resolve the situation effectively and efficiently.The Japanese have a word for this: sabaki. It means to work with energy efficiently. When we train with the sabaki mindset, we receive our opponent's attack, almost as a gift. Doing so requires less physical effort and frees up our mental operating system so it can determine the most efficient solution to the conflict.In this essay, I will present a brief history of sabaki, as well as break down the sabaki method using Miyamoto Musashi's five elements

Keep Reading Show less

Enter our partner's current Sweepstakes. They are giving away a Grand Prize 'FKB Wardrobe'.

TAKE NOTICE!

FIVE KNUCKLE BULLET 'Wardrobe' Sweepstakes

Feeling Lucky? Enter our current Sweepstakes Now! We are giving away a Grand Prize 'FKB Wardrobe' which consists of our most popular sportswear items. Prize includes the following:

Keep Reading Show less

The Coronavirus Is Pummeling Our Community, But We Can Take a Punch — and We're Rallying for a Comeback!

As the world reels in response to COVID-19 and scrambles to take action to curb further spread of the coronavirus, it's never been more apparent that we live in dangerous times. Interestingly, if we look to ancient warrior wisdom, we can find some of the answers we need to battle the hidden enemy of today. One such key comes from a well-known Chinese principle that was famously repeated by Sun Tzu: "If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the results of 100 battles."

Keep Reading Show less

By tactical defense and combatives expert Tony Blauer

For 43 years I have been studying violence, fear, and aggression.

My main business is training law enforcement, military, first-responders, combat athletes, and more. Over the course of 40 years, I've interviewed hundreds of victims of violence.

Keep Reading Show less
Free Bruce Lee Guide
Have you ever wondered how Bruce Lee’s boxing influenced his jeet kune do techniques? Read all about it in this free guide.
Don’t miss a thing Subscribe to Our Newsletter