A short and simple feedback will do

One of the most common things I hear from parents in the dojo is that they don`t really know if their child is making true progress. And because of this, many get disappointed, anxious, and even frustrated. This is perfectly understandable if we take into account that most parents are not karatekas and that in many cases the parents cannot stay to watch their child during the class.

How-To-Build-A-Solid-Parent-Teacher-RelationshipThe question is: what can we do? The answer is pretty simple, inform the parents periodically of their child`s progress, strengths and weaknesses, just as a regular school does. That`s it.

I´m a firm believer that the feedback in Karate is generally too slow. A parent’s key performance indicators (KPI) is the belt test and a competition. The time between belts varies from style to style, but in most cases is between 3 to 9 months. This is way too long!

Now, I`m not saying that we should speed up the tests or competitions, I`m just saying that communicating with the parents is fundamental for a child`s education. The Instructor can be many things, but one of them is definitely not a magician. If a child is not behaving properly, or has a special condition, or maybe even has a low self esteem, these things should be addressed beyond the dojo, and the only way we can achieve that is by working as a team with the parents.

Parents are used to this system because schools generally work this way. That means that this is the bar we should be comparing ourselves with. A short and simple feedback will have a huge impact in the service that is being provided, and in the long run it will add a very strong value to the dojo.

Whenever you start hearing from a mother or father that their child is not participating in an activity because they were not aware of it or the information was sent too late, then that raises a red flag. A dojo needs happy parents, because a happy parent will participate more actively in their child`s martial arts education.

This type of customer service is not seen often in martials arts schools, so differentiate yourself. Dare to give a better service by improving the feedback!

Don’t plan your failure!

Sounds harsh, but that´s exactly what happens when you don´t plan at all. Planning the year for a dojo is very important because once the routine starts rolling, sometimes it´s difficult to gain perspective and slow down.

Remember that there are 2 key stakeholders; the students and the parents. If you want to have a successful dojo, you should please both of them and give them as much information as possible. When I say information, I mean dates basically.

The students should know the dates well in advance so they can get prepared for the following activities:

  • International Competitions
  • National Competitions
  • Local Competitions
  • Exams and belt test
  • Regular Training
  • Specific Training
  • Physical Training
  • Seminars
  • Special Activities

Many people often ask me, why should we give them all this information? The answer is simple, each family has its own reality and they also need to organize themselves. So if you want that student to attend to all your activities, then give them the information with as much time as possible.

Having that said, parents as a stakeholder is almost self-explanatory.  Parents are the ones that pay for their children afterschool activities and sports. They also should know what is the big picture, when are the payments due, etc.

Whenever you start hearing from a mother or father that their child is not participating in an activity because they were not aware of it or the information was sent too late, then that raises a red flag.

By the way, if you are an instructor that teach in several dojos, then planning your year is mandatory. No ifs ands or buts.

Just as schools have their calendar, a dojo should have one.

So get to work!


Key processes for a successful dojo management

How can a Dojo be classified as successful? Is it the medals it wins in a competition? The Instructor´s credentials? How about the number of students it has? Or is it the number of full capacity classes it has during a week? It´s not a simple question, however from a strictly business point of view, a Dojo is successful when it is financially sustainable.

Many Karate instructors often fear approaching a Dojo from a business point of view because they think it might damage their reputation or have a negative impact in the Karate community. However, I believe that, like anything in life, a Dojo needs a balance between the technical side and the business/management side.

In Venezuela there´s a common saying: “Amor con hambre no dura”, that means that a love relationship will not last very long if there´s hunger. That principle or saying is perfectly applicable to a Karate Dojo, or at least it´s essence. I have seen and heard of many great instructors and top level competitors who own a Dojo but their expectations with the project have not been fulfilled. In many cases the cashflow is too slow, in others is the communications difficulties with the parents, now and then the initial investment was too high, or at times is the marketing and social media invest that is out of control,  but in most cases it´s just simply lack of proper management tools.

As a Karate Instructor for over a decade now and a dojo owner myself, I´ve identified 5 key processes that have helped not only to reach a breakeven point very fast but also to enjoy performing in both sides of the tatami.

This is not a recipe, but rather key questions you need to ask yourself and your team periodically. From my experience, this answers pave the way to a roadmap that will take you from where you are to where you want to be.

  1. Training: this is the technical side, or what happens on the tatami. From a business point of view, this is your product. Key questions: Who´s your target? Is it children under 12 years old? Are they teenagers? Seniors? What are they looking for: self-defense, conditioning, competition? How many classes do you have during a weekday? Weekend? Is the Instructor following a program? Is the Instructor capable of managing small-medium-large classes?
  2. Marketing: If you don´t sell your product, who will? A strategic marketing plan is the secret not only to differentiate yourself from other martial arts, but it´s the way to capture new students and keep the cycle going. In all dojos, students come and go, however it´s recommended to use simple and low cost marketing mediums such as social media to create brand awareness and if successful enough, create the necessity. Key questions: How much are you willing to invest monthly? How much does a new student cost? Do you have a graphic designer? Do you know anything about social media or publicity?
  3. Fundraising: it doesn´t matter if you own one dojo or ten dojos, fundraising is very important in order to reach big goals. Dreams come in many sizes: sometimes is a tournament you want to participate in, or maybe a seminar. Every so often is the construction of an office or to bring a top level competitor to the dojo. In any case, when you don´t have the funds, you should knock on some doors. Key questions: Who´s doors are you knocking? What do you plan to show to that potential sponsor for that important event; a letter? Presentation? Nothing at all? Are there any benefits or incentives for that sponsor? What´s the exposure that they will have? Is their support tax deductible? Can you make an alliance with this company/person?
  4. Administration: This is without a doubt the core process of the dojo management. Without a clear, objective, but above all a well-organized administration, you might as well be the lost son of Bruce Lee, but your dojo is not going to be successful. Key Questions: Are your students paying on time? Do you charge late fees? Do you sell suits, shirts and protection? How often? Are you paying a just salary to the Instructor? Is he/she happy? How many dropouts do you have per month? Do you have a profit at the end of the month? Do you have any reserves for an emergency?
  5. CRM (Customer Relation Management): Who pays the classes? The parents. Then in that case, your parents are as important as your students. You need and should have them both happy. They need attention and above all, they need to be informed. This is not an easy task, but you should be aware that in many cases the parents don´t understand the dynamics of the Karate world. Key questions: How often do you have a meeting with the parents? Do you send them emails or text them frequently? Birthday gifts? Christmas party? Do they feel you care? Are you building a community? Do they have fun?


Managing a Dojo could be a very complex task, or as I like to put it, a series of small well- defined simple tasks. It´s your choice. When I opened my first Dojo I did not have the answers to all these questions, but I followed a well-known advice: I asked for help. Guess what? It´s OK.

Keep training, keep managing, and I will be further developing each process in future articles.