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).

Build it and they will come?

In the famous baseball movie, Field of Dreams, Kevin Costner was convinced to “build it and they will come”. If you’ve never seen the movie he turns his farm into a baseball diamond to which the Chicago Black Sox come.

And while this Hollywood flick has a warm and fuzzy feel to it, what they didn’t tell you in that movie is that there is a HECK of a lot more to making something successful that will draw loads of people.

Building your dream is part of it, but if nobody knows you’re there, why will they come?

Smart martial arts school owners realize there are 3 parts to getting exposure.

These are:

1) Promote!

2) Promote!


3) Promote!

I’ve heard so many stories of great teachers opening their own full time school and then failing within a short time because they forgot to do 3 of the most important things.




You can have the best dojo in your area, but unless people know you’re there; and unless you’re constantly getting a flood of new traffic through your doors and onto the floor, you’re expenses are going to outweigh your profits. And when that happens even the best teachers are only prepared to subsidise their club for so long before they have to close their doors.

Each week I look to do something to increase the exposure of my karate school. This might be as simple as inviting someone new to try class (like a neighbor, or someone I meet during the day, etc), to doing a full scale joint venture promotion with another business in my area.

The point is to be proactive and not just to sit by the phone and wait for it to ring. Do something right now to increase the exposure of your martial arts school.

Stuck for ideas?

Here’s 3 for you…

1. Swap flyers with local businesses in your area. Preferably ones who have the types of customers you want for students. For example, a good business would be a gym or a dance studio, as these have active people who exercise. A bad business to trade flyers with would be an antique shop.

2. Network with friends of friends. Next time your at a bbq, birthday party, etc, be sure to hand out business cards and actively promote your business.

3. Set up your web site and be sure to put your web address on all of your marketing materials. This means your windows, flyers, cards, etc. Also sign up with Google Adwords. You can pay just a few cents per click to have highly targeted and local traffic sent to your site.

Of course you can always take a full page ad with the Yellow Pages that will cost you $1000’s but I can’t tell you how well that works, because I’ve never used them. I’ve always looked for low cost marketing alternatives which has grown my school from nothing to approx. 140 students in 5 years. Many of the ideas I use I got from Marco Mazzanti’s Early Learning System, which I absolutely swear by.

Funakoshi said, “Karate is like boiling water – you must continually add heat”.

It’s the same for your karate business.

– Jason

What’s your phone procedure?

When someone calls you for information, what do you tell them? Do you have a “template” or “script” that you use on the phone?

I noticed that each of my inquiry calls goes for about 7 minutes…

During this time here’s what I do:

# 1. Look at my mobile phone to see if it captured the incoming number or if it says “unknown caller” – this is THE most important step. (See step #9 for further explanation.)

# 2. Ask if they are calling about classes for themselves or their kids.

# 3. I then explain which class would be most suitable and tell them when the next class is.

# 4. At this point I invite the caller to try a free trial class, by saying something like, “I have a class for your 9 year old son tomorrow at 4.00pm . It’s a 45 minute class and it’s just for beginners like him. You’re welcome to come and try it at no charge and see if your son enjoys it. How does 4.00pm suit you?”

If they tell me that this time or day isn’t suitable, I’ll then say something like…”The next available class for him would be on Friday at 3.45pm . How does that suit you?”

If I still get a “we’ve got soccer on Friday at that time”, I’ll try one final time with “How about Monday?”

# 5. At this point if the caller can’t commit to coming down to try a free class then you’re going to have trouble getting them to sign up at all.


Simply because their schedule is too busy or it conflicts with your classes.

Or maybe they are just “flakey” and have difficulty committing. If they can’t hold an appointment for a free class, do you think they will be able to commit on a regular basis?

Either way it’s simply not going to work out. Cut your losses and move on…

NEVER put the student into a class that isn’t for beginners just so you can sign ’em up! It’ll kill your other class and people will see you as a pushover.
If the caller says, “Sure, tomorrow at 4.00pm sounds fine”, I’ll then ask them for a verbal commitment to training. I’ll say “Ok great, let me ‘pencil you in’ for tomorrow at 4.00. What was your name please? And your son’s name?”

Note: ‘Penciling someone in’ does 2 things.

Firstly it confirms to the caller that you’ve taken them seriously and have ‘registered’ them for the class – you’ve reserved a place just for them!

Secondly, they usually feel obligated to attend as they’ve given you a verbal confirmation. At this point I’ll then say, “There’s only a couple of places left in this particular class for new students – if you can’t make it for whatever reason, would you please call me and let me know?”

Again I’ve reinforced gently and professionally that they better be serious about this ‘karate thing’ and get themselves down to the club tomorrow at 4.00pm ! If they don’t, they’ll feel badly that they didn’t attend as there were limited places available – so guess what? 90%+ of callers don’t want to feel bad, so they keep their appointment.

#6. I ask them if they have the address of the club and then give them driving directions.

#7. I ask them how they heard about us. Another important point – take notice of where your leads come from! You want keep tabs on what’s working and what needs attention.

#8. Before I end the call, I thank them for their time and tell them “I’ll see you Wednesday at 4.00pm.”

#9. In step #1 I mentioned that I get the caller’s phone number from my mobile phone caller id. However if it’s an anonymous call, at this point I’ll ask the caller for their phone number “just in case” I need to call them before now and class.
This is critical!
You must capture the name and number of your leads so you can follow up with them! You will increase your student signups and student retention instantly by following up with people.
If they don’t show for whatever reason, you can call them back. Most people who miss an appointment feel badly about it and will reschedule with you if you call them. By calling them it also shows that you care – that you went out of your way to see why they didn’t show.
Of course when you call back, always take the voice of concern, not the voice of accusation!

When I call back I say something like, “Hi Anna, it’s Jason Stanley from the karate school. How are you? I just wanted to check in with you to see if everything is ok? I had your son Daniel booked in for a class yesterday at 4.00pm , but we missed you…”

At this point I SHUT UP!

I wait for them to answer…

Usually they apologise and reschedule.

Now, back to the checklist…

#10. From here I enter their details into an excel spreadsheet with the parent’s name, student’s name, age, phone number, the class they’ll be attending, time and date of the call and how they heard about us. This is a great way to stay focussed and and keep track of your prospects rather than simply scribling their name on a scrap piece of paper somewhere…

Well, there you have it – my phone procedure in a nutsehll.

3 Critical Points To Note!

  • You’ll notice with this simple script I’m leading the call. I’m directing the caller to exactly where I want them to go.

    If they interupt and ask about other stuff, I simply say, “There’s a few other things that I need to explain and show you about how the program works which I can’t do over the phone… so when you come down on Wednesday, please arrive about 10-15 minutes early so we’ll have a chance to meet and I can run through it with you.”

  • I never ask a closed-ended question (one that generates a YES/NO response). Instead of asking “Is Wednesday at 4.00pm a good time?”, I’ll say “How does Wednesday at 4.00pm suit you?”

    This encourages them to talk to you – the more the person talks to you, the more you can show them what a great person you are, how friendly you are, that you care and want to help them!

  • I don’t mention price.

    If they ask, I tell them I have classes starting at $20/4 classes but it really depends on what program they choose, etc. and that I’ll explain it all on Wednesday at 4.00pm.

Now for your homework. =)

Analyze what you say when someone calls you and compare it to my simple script here.

  • Are you making a friendly and professional impression?
  • Are you leading the conversation?
  • Are you giving them the information they want?
  • Are you sellling the benefits of your program?
  • Are you asking open-ended or closed-ended questions?
  • Are you penciling them in?
  • Are you capturing their phone number and name (and children’s names)?
  • Do you confirm the time with them and get a verbal agreement?
  • Do you find out where your caller heard about your school?
  • Do you give them driving directions?

I want to hear from you – please post your comments/questions/responses below by clicking on “comments”.

Have a great week!


– Jason

P.S. I’m going to be away next week from July 4-11 at the Kobe Osaka International World Cup in Moscow, Russia (Check out if you’re interested) so my next post won’t be until at least July 12.

Server Crash

Last week my email server crashed. =(

The good news is that it’s up and running again.

The bad news is that the list was wiped.

The good news is that you can resubscribe by visiting the home page.

The bad news is that if you didn’t make it to this page from the newsletter link, you’ll never know this…

The good news is that if you are here now, you know what to do. 😉

I always try to end on a good note.

Which reminds me of a story – do you know the story of the Chinese farmer and his son?

A Chinese farmer lived in a small village with his only son. He was a poor man and had only one horse to plough his fields. One day his horse broke free and escaped.

The village people came to him and said, “You poor man – you must be cursed. You only have one horse and now he’s gone! What will you do?”

The farmer replied, “How do you know this is curse? Perhaps it’s a blessing.”

The villagers looked at each other, shrugged their shoulders and left.

Later in the year, the horse returned with 25 of the finest stallions in the land. The villagers once again visited the farmer and exclaimed, “You are so blessed! Now you will be able to plough your land with ease!”

The farmer retorted, “How do you know this is a blessing? What if it’s a curse?” The villagers again looked at each other, shrugged their shoulders and left.

Then 2 weeks later when working the fields, the farmer’s son fell from a horse and was trampled.

The villagers heard the news and returned to offer their condolences, “You poor man, you truly must be cursed. Your only son is now confined to a chair and can no longer farm the land with you.”

The farmer responded, “Perhaps this is a blessing in disguise?”

The villagers, for the 3rd time, looked at each other puzzled and left.

Early the next year civil war broke out and all the able bodied men were called to fight. Of course the farmer’s son could not go…

Three months later a messenger came with the sad news that all the young men had been killed in battle. Of course the villagers returned once more…

I guess the lesson for today is this…

Stuff happens.

It’s how you look at it and how you react that determines your success or failure.

There’s never a perfect time to begin anything.

If you’re considering implementing something BIG for your school and you’re waiting for a better time to start – I’ll let you in on a secret…


There isn’t a better time!

You’ll always have something else going on, like your horse running away or returing with 25 others.

It doesn’t matter – stuff happens and will always happen.

It’s up to you.

For your karate school’s success!

– Jason

Are You Bonding?

Today I want to let you in on one of my little secrets for success.

It’s called bonding.

Now I’m sure you’ve heard this word before, but many instructors fail to bond with their students and worse yet, their student’s parents. They’re the ones who pay your bills right?

Here’s a little story to explain…

When I visited a club here in the USA a couple of years ago, I was shocked. I’d met a few of the junior students and said “hi” to their parents, but never was formally introduced by the sensei.

When I had a moment to speak with the sensei alone, I asked him, “What’s Steven’s father’s name?”

He responded with “I don’t know. I don’t remember… I barely remember the kids’ names. Which one is Steven again?”

I was shocked, as my parents always taught me to be courteous, to remember my “pleases” and “thankyous”, and always call people by their name.

From a business perspective, remembering students and parents names is critical. More people will deal with you (and be a valued student for much longer) when you “go the extra step”, by doing the little things that others don’t – like remembering their names and using them in conversation.

This is a key to student retention.

This is one way to build a remarkable reputation. A remarkable reputation in the true meaning that people will “remark” to their friends, colleagues and family about YOU.

Now if you have 30, 50, 100 or more students, you might think that remembering all your students’ names is difficult. I don’t believe it is, but it does take practice.

And of course you must be sincere.

I make it a habit every week to remember at least one more parent’s name – even the ones who I don’t see very often. I make it my business to know my students and their families. I like to know what the parents do for a living, where they live and about their personal lives.

I also speak with the younger brothers and sisters before class, ask them their names and start the bonding process with them.

As a result I’ve had plenty of younger brothers and sisters join my program and a heap of parents tell me things like, “When Daniel is older, he’ll be in your program too!”

And as a result of this bonding I’ve had parents help me in other ways too – like having the transmission of my ’65 Mustang completely rebuilt for $150 (usually upward of $1,200), having furniture donated to the club, and much more. One parent even took 3 weeks off work to help me construct my new dojo!

I never asked for any of this stuff either – but I gladly accept it when it comes around.

I do it because I like people and I’m genuinely interested. The byproduct is that my club is growing quickly and I’ve developed a great network of friends and terrific karate students.

How much bonding are you doing?

– Jason

How Do You Hook Them?

What’s your procedure when you have a new parent walk into your school wanting to put their kids in your class?

For most instructors they simply say “Here’s some information”, as they pass a dull, colorless and boring flyer to the prospective parent. Or they might simply say “We have class on Wednesday at 5.30pm.”

I see this all the time when visiting other instructor’s studios and now I know why they haven’t got as many students as they would like.

The person who walks into your club is INTERESTED! That’s why they are there. They WANT to sign up…. Or at least try a class!

These people are HOT leads and you need to do everything in your power to get them into your class, because as you know, once they try a class they more than likely will become students.

But by leaving it to chance… by giving them “information” and hoping they will return is a waste of your advertising dollars and energy.

The most critical step is to get their information!

I’ll say that again – the most critical step is to get your prospect’s information.

That way you can contact them again… and again…slowly building rapport and luring them to all the benefits of your karate school.

Here’s an easy way to do it.

First you need to have a “class registration” form handy with all the other promotional info that you give out. This form should ask for parent’s names, student’s names, address, phone etc.

Second, instead of just saying “Here’s some info, fill out this form so I can contact you again”, you need to ADD VALUE to your process. I probably wouldn’t fill out a class enrolment form for the next day with all my personal information if this was the approach and neither would you or your prospective students…

But if you do a quick “2 minute class” with your prospective student’s parents right there in reception it can make the world of difference.

For example, I grab a pair of focus mitts and TELL nicely (not ask) the prospective child to stand in front of me. You don’t want to give them any opportunity to say “NO” – that’s why you “tell nicely” instead of ask.

I then ask them, “Do you want to have some fun?”

It’s a bit of a rhetorical question of course – what sane kid doesn’t want to have fun? But it’s a good way to start the bonding process with your kids. And it causes them to answer you. In this case we don’t “tell them to have fun” – they confirm it with “yes!”.

Next I hold up the mitts and get them to hit them a few times and once we’re done (about 30-60 seconds later) I congratulate them with “Awesome job! Gimme 5!”

This again builds rapport, makes the kids feel great and the parents see first hand how you work with children.

I then ask the child “Did you have fun?”

Of course they say “Yes!”

Quite often they’ll then turn to their parent and say “Mom, I wanna do karate!”, at which point I kindly direct (not ask) the parent to fill out a class enrolment form and at the same time I book them in for a free class the next Wednesday.

If they don’t ask their parents about doing karate, I’ll then speak with the parent directly and say “Wow! They did a really great job. I think they’ll do well in the program. I’ve got a free class on Wednesday at 4.00pm that’s just for beginners just like your son. It’s a lot of fun.”

I then turn to the child and ask “Would you like to do a real karate class on Wednesday?”

Again, I’ve directed the conversation to the child, who in turn asks their parent. What parent will say “no” to a child that is so happy and feeling great after the 2 minute class?

If they don’t ask their parent, or just simply nod their head, I’ll say to them “Why don’t you ask your Mom if you can come along on Wednesday to try a real karate class?”

Again, the question comes from the child to the parent – not from you.

Then at this point we fill out the paper work and book them in for class as mentioned above.

Now the beauty of this system is that you have a written commitment from the parent and an excited child.

If the parent doesn’t bring the child back on Wednesday, the child will be nagging and asking when they are going to go to karate. Then when you follow up the next day by phone, the parent more than likely will apologize for missing class and reschedule a time to come in.

I think you’ll agree this little approach is far more powerful than simply saying “here’s some information” or “try a class”. It’s been a huge success for my club and can be for yours too!

To your karate school’s success!

– Jason