Keeping your student records organized

I remember when I first started teaching and didn’t know if I’d be having new students that day or not. Because I started teaching at the local community center, they did the sign ups and I taught whoever came in.

The parents would then give me the receipts after they’d paid for class and I’d keep them in a folder, ordered by date. That was the extent of my record keeping.

I didn’t have a class enrollment form, and I rarely met many of the parents who dropped off their kids. I was free of responsibility and it was great!

Or so I thought…

What I soon realized was that I had no way of contacting my students because their contact information wasn’t present on the receipt, or if it was often it was illegible. This quickly became a nightmare when I had to cancel class, and had a whole bunch of uncontactable people. Worse yet – in an emergency there wasn’t an easy way (if at all) to get in contact with the family of an injured student.

And of course it was financially naive to trust students (particularly parents) to know if they’d paid for class or not – so I’d have students who were effectively training for free without my consent.

Trying to relay a message from child to parent and back about their financial situation, is kinda like speaking to an untrained dog – it’s one way communication. Sometimes you get a tilt of the head, a puzzled look and even some noise that sounds promising, but rarely does the proper action follow.

In short I was like many martial arts instructors who start out this way – disorganized. I was trying to do the best I could with what I had, but shortly realized there had to be a better way.

I needed to get organized.

I started using class enrolment forms to track student data. Like what rank they were, when they started, when they were due to test next, when they last paid for class, etc. I then kept it all in an excel spreadsheet, and for a while this worked ok. It was a far more effective system than what I had with the receipts in the folder.

Using this method I was able to keep good records for up to about 30 students, but after that it became challenging with the increasing numbers. There was a need to move to something that would work for a potentially unlimited number of students. That’s when I wrote the Dojo Organizer. (I now have over 450 student records available at the click of a mouse).

Why is it important to keep good records?

Good records mean you can contact your students quickly and easily…

Good records allow you to plan the financial state of your school…

Good records managed electronically save you time and frustration as you can perform time consuming tasks far more quickly – like printing grading certificates, emailing receipts, printing off a list of who is ready to test, etc.

Good records allow your club to grow – yes, it’s true. When you’re on top of things and aren’t losing students because of bad record keeping, you position yourself to grow your school faster.

All these things are difficult and time consuming to do when you’re not organized.

Think of being organized electronically, like a basket to carry your groceries. Without it you can manage a few things, but when the number of items exceeds what you can physically carry, the basket is a very handy tool.

Same goes for electronic record keeping.

Are you organized?

Toughing it out

On the weekend one of my 9 year old juniors was kicked in the face while sparring. His immediate reaction was to become instantly immobilized, clutch his face, and start crying.

I didn’t see the kick so I can’t validate how hard it hit him, but from his past reactions to pain (sorry, make that perceived pain) I leaned towards the side of “it wasn’t very hard”. There was no swelling, no mark and no blood.

In this instance like many before, I believe he was being overly dramatic, and seeking attention.

I took a quick look at it and said, “You’ll be ok. If this was a real fight you wouldn’t be able to stop and continue it later, so unless you’re really hurt badly and can’t continue, put your hands up and continue the fight.”

He sobbed and stood there in the same place making a mediocre attempt to raise his hands.

Clearly this wasn’t the reaction he wanted from me. He wanted me to console him some more, ask him if he’d like to take a seat, apply some ice and probably give him a hug for good measure.

Sorry, but that’s not going to happen.

With superficial injuries (and non-injuries) it’s extremely important as instructors that we don’t make them something they’re not. Martial arts (even for kids) is about toughening up mentally, emotionally and physically.

And every time a non injury is validated as an injury, the child (or adult) concerned is reinforced with, “it was a big deal”. This teaches students that next time they get hit, to subconsciously act the same way for reward (attention and coddling).

But when that reward ceases to be given, the behaviour will change.

After my student finished his fight I told him, “Good job. I’m proud of you for keeping your hands up and continuing the fight.”

This now became his reward (recognition for being tougher) and teaches him for the future, that’s what we do (complete what we begin).

Do you have any students who could toughen up a little?

Small Dojo Big Profits Review

Last week I told you about Mike Massie.

You may already have heard of him, but if not here’ a brief rundown.

Mike is known as the Martial Arts Business “Anti-Guru” and is the author of a somewhat controversial publication called “Small Dojo Big Profits”.

Controversial in that he exposes the real truths about how to set up and run a successful school, without ripping off your students. He shows you how to be successful in a small school (less than 2000 sq ft) and make a healthy living while working just a few hours per day, without turning your school into a McDojo.

To be honest I’d been thinking of writing something very similar as it practically mirrors my experience in so many ways, but I’m now glad I don’t have to because your roadmap to a successful and financially stable martial arts school is here.

I want you to go to his site and check out what Mike’s got to offer you. It’s more than just an ebook. There’s over 200 pages of important material that any martial arts school owner (or anyone thinking about it) should have. He’s also including 30 days of e-mail support, and loads of forms, marketing ideas, drills and exercises for class, etc.

It’s a no-brainer.

If you’re at all serious about expanding your student base beyond 30 students and going full time, or if you’re looking for some new ways to improve your exsiting dojo, this is for you.

I gotta say I wish I had this information when I started my school 5 years ago. I made soooo many mistakes and through sheer dumb luck I landed on my feet. But after reading Mike’s Small Dojo Big Profits manual I now realize how badly things *could* have gone if I chose differently.

Some people say it’s too expensive and my response is this…

If you’re not willing to spend a little to get educated so you don’t lose $1000s in costly mistakes like so many people I know, or if you’re not willing to spend a little to get educated in setting up your business for success, then I’m sorry but chances are you’re going to fail.

Plan your work and work your plan.

Fail to plan and you plan to fail.

Click here now to see what it’s all about.


Clay Lady part 2

(So if you haven’t read last week’s installment, scroll down a little and start there… otherwise here’s the rest of the story…)

So as we pulled up at Clay Lady’s house for the 2nd time we noticed there was nowhere to park legally in the street. Every possible space next to the curb was taken, and the only place available was on the other side of the road in front of a fire hydrant.

(I know, I know… but we had no alternative)

I looked across the road at her house and noticed the triple garage with the door up. Inside was an absolute mess of odds and ends plus all of her “business” equipment – the kiln, drying racks, plus hundreds of other clay plates ready to be completed.

“What a frickin mess!”, I thought to myself. (What was that about “first impressions” again? They just got confirmed.)

Key Point: Don’t teach in a dump. Where you teach should be clean and tidy, and exlusively for that purpose while you’re there.

We knocked on the door and she stuck her head out yelling at her dog to “get back”, while at the same time muttering, “I’ll meet you in the garage”, and closed the door.


We wandered around to the front of the house, between the cars and up to the front of the garage. I could see literally hundreds of unfinished clay plates with tiny feet and hand prints, dates of birth, and kids names all over the place.

“Now, what did you want?”, she barked as she flung open the garage door.

Key Point: Building rapport with your customers is a HUGE key to them wanting to do business with you. So far on the rapport scale, Clay Lady was at a big fat zero.

“We thought what might be neat is to do put one of each of our hand prints with our daughter’s in the middle”, said Christina.

“No. That’s not going to work. They always break, because the plate will be too big”, Clay Lady said scornfully.

Then silence.

“Ok, so maybe just a foot and a hand print with Olivia’s date of birth”, I said.

“What shape do you want? Square, circle, star, or flower?”

“Circle would be good.”

“What color? Pink, light pink, purple, light purple, blue, light blue, yellow, red, green, light green or orange?”, she asked without showing us what any of those colors looked like.

Key Point: As you explain options to your customers have visual aids to help them make their decision, don’t just ask them a bunch of questions without explanation.

We decided on light purple with a couple of other options as far as the design went.

“Where you from?”, she asked me bluntly as she pointed her crooked finger at me. It reminded me of that scene from McBeth with the 3 witches.

“Originally Australia”, I replied.

“I have a 2nd cousin in New Zealand”, she said.

(Last time I checked Australia and New Zealand were 2 different places, but anyhow…)

“And she looks just like me… The thing was that my mom said to me, ‘Wait until you meet Carol – you won’t believe how similar you are… and I thought, ‘yeah sure’, but you know what when I finally did meet Carol it was the freakiest thing you could imagine… I thought I was standing in front of a mirror… blah, blah, blah…”, waffled the Clay Lady for the next 5 minutes solid.


As my eyes glazed over I couldn’t help but think of 12th grade physics class and how painful it was…

Key Point: Clay Lady violated one of the key points of doing business – talking about herself instead of serving the needs of her customers. She certainly wasn’t tuned in to her customer’s radio station – WIIFM (What’s In It For Me?)

When I woke from my slumber she said, “Ok bring your daughter over here and we’ll make the prints. Oh… and be prepared, she’s going to cry.”

Great, I thought.

I had visions of Olivia’s tiny smoldering feet being pressed onto hot iron and the smell of burning flesh.

I held my daughter and she pressed her left foot into the clay.

Clay Lady seemed disappointed that Olivia didn’t cry.

“Ok. Let’s do her hand now. She’ll definitely cry this time.”

When Olivia didn’t cry the second time, clearly Clay Lady was surprised.

“Ok, you’re all done”, muttered Clay Lady as we paid her.

“What happens now?”, I asked.

“I’ll give you a call in 6-8 weeks and you can come and pick it up. It might be 10 weeks, it might be 3. I really don’t know. It just depends.”

Wow. Did she just say up to 10 weeks?

Key Point: Don’t be vague. Customers want to know exactly what they’re getting and when they’ll be getting it. This was a great example of poor customer service.

No wonder this woman had to *move her business* to her house. With everything we’d experienced so far, I was surprised she actually had any business at all.


The sad thing is that she was totally oblivious to how she *ran her business*. If you or I did these types of things with our karate schools, we’d be closing the doors faster than you could say “yame!”.

Interestingly though, there are loads of martial arts schools out there who constantly violate basic business and customer service principles. Many instructors are very good technically at what they do but have little business experience and mediocre communication skills.

Don’t be one of them, or you might find yourself teaching in your garage, yelling at your dog while trying to conduct class.

Instead, get educated in the basics of structuring your business, marketing, customer service and of course always look for ways to improve your karate teaching skills.

Until next time… beware of the Clay Lady.

– Jason

What we learned from the Clay Lady…

As you might know I have a baby daughter, Olivia. She’s now 4 1/2 months old and last weekend my wife Christina and I went to have Olivia’s feet and hand prints set in clay, which will be fired in a kiln and made into a plate. I’m sure you know the type of thing I mean.

This was our 2nd attempt to make it to the “Clay Lady”.

The first time we went to see her, we called up the shop and got a voice recording that this was the *old number* and they’d changed address. We took down the new address, noted the store hours and drove 25 minutes to their new shop…

But hang on a second… when we got there the *new address* looked remarkably like a private house.


So I asked Christina, “Are you sure the address is correct?”

Christina jumped out of the car and rang the door bell.

The cleaning lady answered, as best she could in broken English.

After a few minutes Christina established that it was in fact the correct address, just that Clay Lady wasn’t *at work* despite their phone message saying otherwise.

IMPORTANT POINT: First impressions are everything. I thought we were going to a business, not a house.

Secondly, it was completely unprofessional for her not to be there as her phone message said she would be. Maybe something came up, I don’t know, so I’ll give her the benefit of the doubt.

Thirdly, never have your cleaning crew be your first point of contact with your prospective customers (or in our case as martial arts instructors, our students!).

We drove back home a little frustrated… and later that day Christina called again to speak with the mysterious Clay Lady.

This time Clay Lady answered the phone and told her that they’d just moved their business to their house and now we would have to make an appointment to see her. Ok, so that’s what we did.

So Christina made the appointment and we were all set to see her last Saturday at noon. On Friday Clay Lady called and told us she was sorry but would have to reschedule because she wanted to go see her father on Saturday, and did Sunday work?

We told her that our weekend was already all booked up (which it was) , and that we would just call her some other time that suited both of us.

She then frantically tried to reschedule again… “What about first thing Saturday morning? It should only take about 20 minutes.”

“Sorry we have a class from 9-10am, we can’t do it then. The earliest we could get there is about 10:30am given that we live 25 minutes away…”

“What about 8:30am?”, Clay Lady asked.

Now I don’t know about you but this was a perfect case of “I’m not listening to you”.

IMPORTANT POINT: Listen to your prospects and customers! They’re the ones who keep you in business!

So I said, “C’mon Clay Lady, do the math… If we arrived at 8:30 am, and the appointment is going to take 20 minutes, that would give us only 10 minutes to get back for our 9:00am class. Unless you’ve got a time machine or some kind of space/time portal we can use, it’s not going to work now, IS IT?”

Actually that’s what I thought, not what I said.

“Sorry that’s not going to work,” we told her.

“Well I suppose we could do it at 10:30am then.”, she said dejectedly.

“Great, we’ll see you then.”

IMPORTANT POINT: Never treat your prospective students the way Clay Lady treated us, where it seemed that it was a hassle to bother her and give her business!

Stay tuned… part 2 of this story is coming next week…

– Jason