Your Dojo Is a Reflection of You

Are you well organized or messy?

How are your relationships with your family and other people?

What’s your general outlook on life? Are you a “glass is half full” or “half empty” kind of person?

These character traits are reflected in your dojo from the way you sound on the phone to how you teach your students.

To paraphrase one of my mentors Dan Lok, “If your business sucks at getting customers, you suck at marketing! Your business is a reflection of you.”

Let’s bring this concept to the dojo…

If you suck at marketing you’ll have a hard time getting new students. If you suck at teaching then the skill sets of your students will be mediocre at best. If you suck at customer service and communication your dojo most probably has a hard time with student retention.

Your dojo is a reflection of you.

It’s pretty simple once you realize this correllation.

So what’s the solution? How do you improve your dojo?

Easy. Upgrade your skills.

Just as you require your students to upgrade their skills to reach the next level, so must you!

Want to increase the overall quality of  your students? Become a better communicator. Learn how to teach.

Need more students? Become a better marketer. Study sales and marketing.

Need to improve your customer service?  Upgrade your communication skills.

Having a hard time getting paid? Systematize and automate.

Constantly forgetting dates and events? Use a calendar. Get organized.

I’ve never seen a great dojo run by a sensei who hasn’t mastered these skills. But I’ve seen plenty of dojos fail because these skills haven’t been mastered.

The concept is simple. Your dojo is a reflection of you. If you want to see improvements, first upgrade your skills.

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Look after your customers or they’ll vote with their feet

For the last 12 months I’ve been having my gi dry-cleaned.


You have your gi dry-cleaned? 

Stop the madness!

Sorry, but I hate ironing.




So when I discovered that I could have my gi dry-cleaned instead of  having to wrestle with it myself, it was a no-brainer.

So I made my way to the dry-cleaners, close by my dojo.

From the depths of his shop beyond the steaming iron, emerged a wiry 50-something Korean man with his name “Kim” embroidered into his pale blue shirt.

“Hello”, I said.

He grunted, as if he was too afraid to smile in case his face might crack.

“Can you dry clean this for me please?”, I asked as I passed my gi across the counter.

“Tuesday”, he said.

“Today’s Thursday. Is there any chance I can get it earlier than that?”, I asked.

“Tuesday”, he repeated.

I took a breath and tried to forget that the sign out front read, “One hour dry cleaning”.

“How much will that be?”, I asked.

Kim picked up my gi and then punched some keys on his computer.


I took another deep breath, while thoughts of highway robbery crossed my mind.


Kim passed me the ticket, and I walked out.

— Fast forward to the following Tuesday —

As I pulled up to the dry-cleaners, disgruntled Kim put out his cigarette and walked in the side door to meet me at the counter.

“Hi, how are you?”, I asked.

Kim walked by me and pushed a button. With an electric buzz, suddenly a rack of suits, dresses and shirts started revolving.

Kim pulled my gi from the rack and hung it on the bar at the front desk.

Holy smokes. Was that my gi?? Wow! Looked brand new. Bright white and beautifully pressed.

“$12.50”, he grunted.

“Hey, you did a really nice job”, I complimented him. “It looks great! Thank you so much!”

“$12.50”, he said again.

As I paid Kim I said, “I have a lot of students and plenty of my own uniforms that require dry-cleaning. I can bring you a lot of business.”

“It har work!”, he grunted in his thick Korean accent.

“Alright then… I guess I’ll see you later… Kimbo”,  I thought to myself.

As I pulled my gi from the bar I notice the coat hanger slogan that read, “We love our customers”.


Really, Kimbo? You LOVE your customers? You sure have a funny way of showing it. In fact you remind me a little bit of the “Soup Nazi” from Seinfeld.

Anyhow, I took my gi to Kim for the next 12 months, and each time he’d scowl as he saw me coming. Then, he’d continually complain about the business I was giving him.

I couldn’t help but think, “Dude, if you don’t like what you do, stop doing it. Or if you don’t want my business that’s ok. I’ll go elsewhere”.

And that’s exactly what I did. I found another dry-cleaner right across the road who gives me next day service with a smile and charges one third of the price. I had three heavy-weight gis laundered and pressed for $17.50.

Now here’s the thing. If Kim had lived up to his coat-hanger slogan and given me better customer service, I would be happy overpaying him to dry-clean my gi and could have referred more business to him.

But he didn’t.

So what the heck has this got to do with teaching karate?


Look after your students. Greet them with a smile. Return their phone calls. Answer their emails. Praise them. Get to know them. Go the extra step. Give a little more. It’s not that difficult.

Don’t be a Soup Nazi. You’re not the only martial arts school in your town.

You see people would rather pay a little extra to feel special. But if you don’t back it up with quality customer service, you’ll be left wondering why your students voted with their feet.

If you’ve ever bought something from me, you know I will always do my best to provide you with great customer service. I’ll answer your emails and return your phone calls promptly. And if you have any questions at any time you know I’m here to help. Customer service is exactly that… service. Without service, customers (and students) dwindle.

Who do you need to call today? What tasks do you have that you’ve been delaying? What student of yours needs some extra encouragement?

Make sure you do something each day to provide great customer service…



5 Things to do Over Summer

Summer can be a notoriously rough time for many dojos, particularly in the United States. So many students take off on vacation leaving many karate instructors wondering how they’ll make ends meet, and how they’ll prevent more students from quitting since class attendances are already down. It’s can be a worrisome time for many a sensei.

Today I wanted to share with you 5 things you can do over summer that will:

  • increase morale
  • increase friendships
  • increase student enrollments
  • and be a lot of fun

Each of these things below are EASY to organize and are low maintenance. Plus the rewards to you and your students will be lasting. So grab your calendar and pencil in each of these over the next 2 months.

Let’s get started.

1. Karate Beach Day

You’ve seen the photos… heck, maybe you’re even in them. Just go to Google and type “karate at the beach” and click on images.This is a fun event you can organize for your students, adults and kids… so long as you live within an hour or so of the coast. If you live in the center of the country, like Kansas then you’re up the proverbial creek without a paddle. If that’s the case you’ll have to organize a mountain day instead… ooops, my bad.That’s not gonna work in Kansas either.

The point is, organize a special day for your students to do some training in an environment that’s different to what’s usual for you. Make everyone arrive EARLY like 7 or 8 am and organize a training session for 90 minutes or so, in the sand and water. Then once you’re done people can enjoy the day in a social environment free of karate.

2. Karate Movie Night

This is a fun experience for kids to enjoy themselves outside of karate. Pick a movie that’s on at your local cinema that’s suitable for your audience and go as a group. In some smaller towns you might even be able to get a private screening. Talk to your local movie theater and organize it. This kind of thing works really well when marital art movies like “The Karate Kid” and “Kung Fu Panda” are showing, but any kids movie works fine too….

3. Bring a Parent Day

*** Pay attention to this one ***. While this is a fun opportunity to increase family bonds, this is also a great way to recruit more adult students. One of the problems in today’s world is that many people are confused as to what “karate” actually is. There is so much misinformation thanks to MMA and knucklehead commentators who’ve never actually studied or practiced the original art. Very few adults in the 18 – 35 year old age group want to practice traditional karate – instead they “want to do MMA“.

Use the Bring-a-Parent day to educate parents as to what karate really is. Let them experience for themselves how to move, hit and evade – teach them the technically correct way to do it. If you do a good job, give them a good workout (but not too hard), you’ll increase the bond between parent and child and have a few express interest in becoming adult students. I suspect you have several parents right now who’ve thought about taking karate, but for whatever reason haven’t pursued it. This is your opportunity to give them the nudge they need…

4. Bowling Night

Last year I hosted 2 bowling outings. One for my adult class and one for my instructors. This is a great way to form friendships, and have a laugh at each other in a social environment. Book a couple of lanes at your local bowling center and just do it! You can offer a prize to the winner (say a private lesson, a small trophy, etc) and make it a fun evening by having students who throw a gutter ball do 5 pushups, or if someone gets a “turkey” then everyone else gets 5 pushups!

5. UFC Night

Whether or not you personally like or watch the UFC, I can almost guarantee your adult students will have an interest so long as they can relate to the  fighters. For us karate-ka look to see when fighters like Lyoto Machida, GSP, Stephen Thompson, etc are up next. Other great strikers like Anderson Silva and Junior Dos Santos while not karate-ka have great footwork and technique that your students will enjoy and be able to relate to.  Host a UFC night at your place at a sports bar, or even at one of your student’s houses, where you can all watch the fights together. Nothing bonds people like a common interest.

So there you have it – 5 things to do over summer to increase the friendships, boost morale and keep people training in your dojo.

What other things can you think of? (post ’em below and please share on your favorite social network).