When the going gets tough…

I opened the back door to take out the trash…

And there he was…

Homeless drunk guy (HDG) was curled in the fetal position lying right across the entrance to dojo.

(Our reception is at the back of the building – strange I know, but it’s a long story for another time.)


“Hey buddy!”, I said as I gently tapped him with my foot.

No response.

“Yo, bro!”, I shouted as I nudged him a little harder.

No response.

“Dude!”, I yelled. “Hey man, wake up!”

Still no response.

I carefully reached down and shook his arm and repeated myself.



Then it hit me like a ton of bricks… “Is this guy dead?”

Yikes! I hope not.

What am I going to do if he is dead? A thousand thoughts rushed through my mind like traffic on a Los Angeles freeway.

a) Call the cops?
b) Roll him into the bushes and pretend I never saw him?
c) Carefully remove his skin, polish it and make him into a guitar case?


I crouched down and looked a little closer. As I saw his chest rise a fall with his breath I then smelt the waft of stale alcohol. Thank goodness he was just passed out.

So I went back inside the dojo, grabbed a cup of water and yes, you guessed it…


Right in the face.

HDG woke up, opened his eyes and looked at me.

“Hey man, you can’t lie here. I’ve got people coming in this way. I need you to move on please”, I asked nicely.

HDG’s eyes flickered and closed, as his mind left on the ferry to dream land once again.

“Hey bro, wake up!”, I shouted, “You can’t stay here. I need you to move otherwise I’ve got to call the cops and I really don’t want to do that. Please move on.”

“Got any change?”, asked HDG.

“No man, I don’t have any. Please find somewhere else to lie”, I asked.

HDG slowly stood up, took 4 steps sideways into the wall of the dojo, bounced off of it and stumbled down the stairs into the parking lot with his finger in his ear. I assume he way trying to get the water out of it.

As HDG wandered off I heard him ask some of my students who were arriving for class, “Got any change?”

They avoided him and he moved on, wandering back and forth looking for anyone who might throw him a quarter.

Hmmmm, I thought. Sad for anyone to get to that level in life.

Here was another human being at rock bottom, sleeping on the concrete in the afternoon heat, and for whatever reason had given up on life. Perhaps he suffered a great misfortune? Or perhaps his goals in life were ruined by the bottle? Maybe he blames his upbringing? His parents, his last boss? Who knows?

The point is he’d clearly lost his way. Something had become too tough in life, and he quit.

And as sad as that might be, he is not blameless. Consciously or not, he played a role in creating his current situation, now relying on the change of others to feed his addiction and null the pain of his troubled life.

You and I are also not blameless for our situations, no matter how similar or different. We’ve both played a role in where we’re at physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually and financially. And as martial artists (through our disciplined approach to life, our never give up attitude, and our heightened self awareness) we should have enough self understanding that if we’re not happy with something, ultimately we are the ONLY ones who can make the decision to CHANGE what we don’t like and set sail for a destination that we do WANT.

Sure, it can be hard. It can be extremely challenging to achieve our goals, big or small. But when we lose faith in ourselves and we quit there is only one certain outcome – we’ll never achieve them.

Next time you’re down on your luck; when the chips are stacked against you and your dojo isn’t going as well as you hoped; when you lose a bunch of students or a valuable instructor, and you feel like quitting; think of this story of our homeless friend and ask yourself if you’re going to quit too? Or will you find a way (or die trying) to better your situation?

Remember as Vince Lombardi once said, “Winners never quit and quitters never win.”

Your thoughts? Post ’em below!

~ Jason

Killer Marketing Secret with Example

People often ask me what kind of marketing I do for my dojo. 

“Do you drop flyers on windshields?”

“I hear demonstrations are a great way to get new students, do you do that?”

“What about yellow pages, do use them?”

The answer is a resounding no. None of the above.

Have I used these types of things? Sure, I’ve tried all kinds of things and I’ve paid attention to what works  and what doesn’t. And at the end of the day I focus on those things that DO work, and let others do the things that don’t.

This is KEY to having a successful full time dojo.

KILLER TIP: In fact I track not only what marketing sources get most students, but know which sources produce the longest serving students and focus on those methods.

And you know I’m probably the world’s laziest marketer. In fact my marketing is sometimes downright pathetic, yet my dojo continues to grow from strength to strength.

So what do I do?

Well I have 4 rules when it comes to marketing:

1) I like it to be inexpensive, free if possible.
2) I like other people to do the work for me.
3) I don’t like to put in too much continued effort – I like to set things up once and let them take care of themselves.
4) It’s got to get good results.

So recently when I won the WEKAF Stickfighting World Championship I thought, how can I use this in my marketing to promote my school?

Well here’s what I did:

1) I wrote a short press release (30 minutes work)
2) I sent it to 3 local papers
3) The editor of the biggest of the three papers called me for an interview (20 minutes) and I sent him a photo
3) The story ran in this morning’s paper and also on their web site.

So this fits my 4 criteria above:

1) It was free to do
2) The editor did most of the work
3) The article is now out there in today’s paper, and also on The Press Enterprise web site, which can be linked to forever
4) Past experience tells me that this article will get in front of 10’s of thousands of people, create word of mouth and great exposure for our dojo.

If you’d like to read the article here it is…


Now is this the only way I market?

No of course not.

You’ve got to have multiple streams that bring you traffic and make your phone ring consistently. But this is one example of an excellent way to get exposure for you and your school. I hope you can use it as an example for yours – unless you’re one of my competitors… =)

Well, that’s rather inconvenient…

She stood outside the dojo peering in watching the class in progress.

As I instructed my juniors I saw her then read the information on the front door including the training schedule and the sign that blatantly asks people to use the other door to enter and to follow the signs. It’s really quite obvious, and not too challenging.

Of course she ignored the sign and opened the front door and stepped directly onto the tatami, interrupting my class with, “Sorry, can I get some information?”

“Sure… please come around back to the reception. Just follow the signs.” I responded.

“Around back? Huh?”

“Yes, just follow the signs.” I signaled.

Perplexed by the complexity of my request, she closed the door and then quizzically reread the sign as if I’d asked her to do something absurd.

After a few minutes when there was a point during class I was able to leave the floor to attend to my new best friend’s inquiry. She requested some information about our classes, times and prices for her kids (aged 13 and 15) – you know, the usual stuff.

Since according to her that her 13 year old was as tall as me at 6′, I suggested he would be in our adult class (15 and up) with his elder brother.

“But he’s only 13!” she exclaimed.

“Yes, but you just told me he’s as big as me. If that’s the case it would be better for him to be in the adult class, otherwise he’ll be working with 8 year olds 2 feet shorter than him,” I explained. “But it’s up to you, he’s welcome to train with the younger group if you prefer.”

“Well, when are the class times?” she barked.

I gave her the class times for the afternoon junior class, at which point she complained, “That doesn’t work for me.”

“Ok, well that takes care of that,” I said, “He’d have to be in the adult program with his brother at 7pm.”

“Well those times don’t work either. Don’t you have something else?”, she demanded.

Ok… now she was getting on my nerves. “No I don’t. The rest of the afternoon is taken up by other classes for younger kids and other junior classes. For your kids, the only times I have for their skill level and age are the times I gave you.”

“Well how much is it anyway?” she asked.

Now irritated by her demeanor I responded, “The price doesn’t really matter now if you can’t bring your kids to class at those times, does it? But to satisfy your curiosity the price is $99/month per student. Sorry I can’t help you…”

“Well no, those times work fine,” she said. “I’ll ask my boys if they want to do it and get back to you…”

What the heck? That’s when I realized it was a matter of convenience for her.

It was inconvenient for her to follow the signs and use the correct door to enter the dojo. It was easier to just open the front door and interrupt class.

Then it was emotionally inconvenient for her to bring her younger boy to the adult class. Seems to me like her 6′ tall “little baby” wasn’t quite ready for that in her mind. But then it was also inconvenient to bring him to the junior class at the earlier times for whatever reason. It would just be EASIER to bring him whenever SHE wanted.

Finally when I stopped trying to help her figure out what would work best, things immediately became convenient for her. She decided that since perhaps she wasn’t going to get it all her way, she might have to compromise her incredibly hectic lifestyle to give her kids something worthwhile, even if it was rather inconvenient!

Forgive my cynicism, but can you imagine how high maintenance this lady would be as a customer, if she’s this difficult as a prospect? These are exactly the types of selfish people I don’t want at my club. People who think the rules don’t apply to them, that they’re above everyone else and will get their own way every time.

And unfortunately when I first started out with my full time dojo I bent over backwards to try to please everyone, and wound up with a bunch of students and families just like that, who drove me nuts.

(Get this – if a student ordered a uniform on Tuesday, I thought it imperative he have it Wednesday. I would drive 30 minutes one-way to my supplier to pick up one uniform and have it for them the next day. Whatever profit I potentially would make was pretty much chewed up by gas money!)

Thankfully I came to my senses, fired those families who ticked me off (that was fun!) and recruited those deserving of my time and attention. Now I’m fortunate to have a wonderful group of students and families who support each other and the club.

If there is one thing I can share with you it’s this:  Think of each new student as  a friend you’re welcoming into your own home. How long would you allow them to visit if they wanted to enter through the back door, climb all over your furniture and argue with you at every opportunity? You wouldn’t put up with that would you? So why enroll families at your dojo who display this type of behavior?