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  • Private vs. Commercial Dojo
    Friends, I would appreciate your feedback. For the past 25 years, I have never had a commercial dojo. While in the military I taught on Air Force bases for a nominal fee for building rental. After I retired, I opened a small dojo in my home and class fees have always been donation.

    I've done it this way for several reasons, mainly because I wanted to teach folks who would not have the money for a commercial dojo and because I never wanted to water down my classes. The unique thing about having a dojo on your own property and not charging people is that you don't "owe" anybody a lesson. Furthermore, I have always been leery about depending on students to keep the doors open.

    Of course, the downside is that a lot of people who may want to come and train don't even know we exist despite our presence on the internet (youtube, facebook, website, Instagram).

    I am considering taking the initial steps to open a commercial school, to grow my dojo in ways I haven't considered before, e.g. teaching kids. We all know that martial arts training improves the society around us and positively impacts people's lives. I am very aware of the financial and time commitments of such an endeavor.

    I would like to hear from you about your experiences. Do you train in a private or commercial school? Do any of you do this for a living or supplement your income? If you teach in a commercial school, do you have to make things easier than you would like in order to keep your dojo full? I would appreciate any feedback you have. Thanks.
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      • 1
      Richie He is not my sensei, but I hold his words with much weight. When talking about going full-time commercial he said, "There is no money is real karate training. They do not care that you have a family or bills to pay. You will be the first thing they cut from the budget."

      We went onto say there are many good schools that have made it and pursue it if it is your dream. If you look online many schools sell DVD's, do camps, some run an after school day care.

      My brother and I looked into it more and the insurance is not that much. It is the time that is the killer. A good senpai is key too. Allows you to charm the parents and get them to sign up too.
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      Will - Black Belt Wiki For everyone teaching out of your home - How do you deal with the insurance issue?

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        Dave Magliano Hi Will. This is one of the main reasons I have not considered a commercial school until now. In my case after talking with my insurance company and a lawyer friend of ours, I found that we are covered under our home owners insurance provided this is not a business. Hence, there is a donation jar in the dojo but I never ask for money. It's a pretty grey area and I have never been convinced that I couldn't get sued. Therefore, I am very, very choosy about who trains here and why. Every student we ever had here was by word of mouth or referral despite our web presence.

        Over the past 13 years I have had many inquiries about teaching kids but it's just too risky and I've turned people away. Plus, it's not a business so I really don't have the extra time to teach kids which decreases my risk.

        Every prospective student must watch a class and have a personal interview with me. I want to know their background, why they want to do this, etc. I have them sign a waiver which signifies how this is a donation-based school, how we are not liable for injuries, etc. Part of the waiver specifies that a student must attend a minimum of two classes per week, cannot do any drugs or smoke and commit to getting into and staying in good shape. Failure to comply with our standards results in dismissal and yes, I have had to tell a couple of people to find another dojo for their own safety and ours.

        When we do have a new student, he will spend weeks doing very basic exercises without a partner but guidance from me...basic rolling, movement, etc. I want to see how much monotony a person is willing to endure before I let them touch another person...further decreasing my risk. I lose a lot of students at this stage.

        Long answer to a short question, but therein lies my dilemma. The guys who train here are committed to training and to each other. You have to want to be here. I would really like to share this with other people and have a larger impact, but I am afraid of losing the unique atmosphere we have. Money always changes things, even in rec centers or the YMCA.
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      Pasquale Albino I have been teaching from my home 23 years can't afford to have a building.
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      Frank Start off small, build up your Dojo one student at a time. When you have several dedicated students , then you and your dedicated instructors can move into a commercial setting. It is better to fail at a smaller level then to fail at a much larger level. I have bee training boxers out of my home for several years and have found that only 1 out of 100 kids or adults stick with it. I personally have not lost a dime from trading from my home.

      I wish you the best and I thank you for your dedication to future martial artists.

      • 1
      Brian Milligan Just dont run a baby sitting class under the guise of a martial arts study.
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      Pasquale Albino I teach from my home I charge a fee you have to. I am covered by Amerian Jujitsu Assoc. I sign up members with them, and it covers liability. I had a commercial dojo it is expensive and you do have to water down you system.
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        Dave Magliano Hi Pasquale. I teach out of my garage as well. Thought about adding on to the house (private entrance and no garage door) but that's expensive too. How long have you taught from home?
      • 1
      John Graden Why do you want to open a school? Will this be a full time job or a hobby?

      What do you want your students to get out of the training?

      How would shine the spotlight on the student rather than yourself or your student?

      What is your experience as a teacher?

      You do not have to make easier. You just to have system.

      John Graden
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        Dave Magliano Hello John. Thank you for your input. You have given me some important aspects to consider.
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        Will - Black Belt Wiki John

        Welcome to the wiki community. Based on your experience, what is the biggest mistake made by new martial arts schools? What is the biggest cause for failure early on?

        Also thanks for all of the great martial arts videos that you have done over the years!

        Black Belt Wiki
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          Dave Magliano Hello John. The simple answer to your question is too big too soon. This is one of the reasons I have kept my dojo at the house except for a short period where we moved to a performance gym (but they went too big too soon) and closed. The most successful schools I've seen are large non-profits and kid factories. Both choices I'm not very fond of. And thank you for your feedback on our videos.
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      Christopher Adamchek Hi Dave
      This is a really big thing

      From my experience i train both private and commercial school. The commercial school would die in a heartbeat if we didnt have kids classes. In our area karate is very much so an after school activity kids often give up, and take summers off, which can be heartbreaking for someone who loves to see their students grow. As for my private school where i teach most of my students for free it has been slow due to the mentality of area where the quality isnt good unless you a spending alot of money which somewhat affects our commercial school.

      while i was in college i was working part time at kohls and working part time with our karate school through an outreach program where i was teaching (paid) in public schools for after school programs. Now that i am working full time in a lab i no longer teach with the outreach program and volunteer my time teaching at my teachers commercial school and my own private school. Soon, in a few years i would like to open up my own comercial school.

      I do have to make things a bit easier in the commercial school but its nothing to be overly worried about. it just takes some getting used to, to balance things out. but if you intend on this being number one priority and living off of it, there are more engaging and watering down things you have to do to keep the dojo more full. I would say the answer is just steep each student longer, but parrents dont like that. so the real balance is engagement building.

      I like the idea of not "owing" people lessons and if you are leery of depending on students to keep the doors open maybe commercial isnt the best way to go. or like [242184,Guillaume Chan] mentioned being non profit, might be a better balance for your dojo.
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        Dave Magliano Hi Christopher, thanks for your feedback. Opening a kids program would be a huge step for me, not something I'm sure I'm ready to do. The only kids I've ever taught were my own two sons and their friends when they all hit the teen years. But I was really hard on them. Easy to do when you teach from home and don't charge a fee.
      • 1
      Will - Black Belt Wiki Dave

      Definitely look into inundating your town (and any town within a 10 mile radius) with Google Adword ads. You should not only target martial arts-related keywords (i.e. Karate) but also things like summer camp, kids activities, etc.

      In our neck of the woods, many schools survive due to their younger students (as mom & dad look at martial arts schools as a fun way to occupy their child's time after school as well as learn some self-defense skills). Many of these schools could not survive on only adult students (as there is too few interested adults and adult classes are limited as adults are generally only available after working hours).

      • 1
      Guillaume Chan Hi ! The Krav Maga school where I train is a registered as a non-profit organisation. The teachers are not paid, they teach as volunteers. The school fees are only used to pay the building, the equipment, the insurance etc. At the end of the year, the money left in the bank in partly used as a working capital.

      This allows to keep affordable school fees and teachers really motivated by their passion.
      • 1
      Will - Black Belt Wiki Congratulations Dave!

      Great questions. [171786,Christopher Adamchek] can probably give a lot of advice on these topics.


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