School Owners/How to KEEP Students

I agree with JGO.  I think there is a huge growth potential for self defense type classes ( I think similar to the Krav Maga classes I have seen) where you teach some techniques and conditioning type drills.  I wouldn't promote these people with jiujitsu rank and wouldn't have them wear a gi but regular workout clothes.  This will open up your business to non-hardcore people without watering down your jiujitsu program. 

I could talk about this issue for hours, but I will sum it up in one sentence.

Focus less on the sportive aspects of jiu-jitsu, and focus more on the self-defense aspects of jiu-jitsu.

Great thread and lots of good ideas. I run a jkd school and I had never used contracts because I didn't like the idea of it. Well, about 3 months ago I started using this company: and it has worked out great. I don't have to worry about dues and I get a nice direct deposit once a month. I'm only doing month to month contracts with 30 day written notice to quit. The other great thing about this is that even if students miss class I still get paid which is better than before when some of them basically paid me when they felt like it. Marco

JGO...Actually, we have just added a BJJ Beginner class AND a BJJ Self-Defense class. We recommend ALL beginners to take those two classes (and a mixed class if they like). The Beg. class has NO sparring and uses sequences to teach basic moves. The self defense class is strictly old scholl GJJ street self defense.

MarcoH...It has made our job 100% much easier.

Your going to see a difference now, the fundamentals class at my school (self defense and basic jiu-jitsu) is PACKED everyclass and we have a huge mat.

I'd say contracts are a good idea because it's tough to try and be a friendly instructor, but still have to chase your students down to get paid for your work (i think it's insanely disrespectful to not pay).

Btw, i don't know martial arts retention, but i do know that in MMORPG games for example, the number one thing that keeps people around is the community. The game may be boring at times, it may have bugs, but if you have a nice group of people, you'll want to keep coming to keep social ties. I think the same concept can be used on many businesses. Maybe having some out of class activities where everyone at the school is invited, video night, trip to paintball, BBQ, just something fun and friendly where everyone can meet up and get to know each other outside of training.

Now i don't know if this works for Martial arts, but i DO know that a big factor in where i chose to train was because i really liked the atmosphere and could really feel everyone was friends there and wanted to be a part of it.

I'm a lawyer, so contracts are important to me for several reasons. It is a way to limit your liabilty for injury and to insure your income monthly.

This has been a great thread. I thank Angelo for running it up!


Lots of good ideas! Phil Hurst, Victory Jiu-Jitsu in Morristown, TN mails a monthly newsletter. Guys who are out for a while get the BJJ bug again when the newsletter shows up in the mail.

"Maybe having some out of class activities where everyone at the school is invited, video night, trip to paintball, BBQ, just something fun and friendly where everyone can meet up and get to know each other outside of training."

Hey, I was going to say that! I've been in martial arts for years, and only recently in BJJ (like last night), but the MA schools I've seen that retain students get them involved in the community of their sport/art as well the training aspect. It's an extended family, not just a bunch of people who get together & train. Also, if you need some good PR, you might get a free mention in the paper if you have a school charity volunteer day (clean a local park, volunteer for HFH, whatever).

One of the cooler things I've seen is an Aikido school under Roy Suenaka - every year, they rent a bunch of cabins in N. Ga. for a long weekend and the students & instructors from all the different schools go & train, test, have a big feast (Roy S. cooks a Hawaiian Luau type feast), and just hangs out & gets to know each other.


Here are some ways to keep students:

  1. Don't allow cliques in class
  2. Don't play favorites
  3. Someone already mentioned this, use different people during the technique phase of class.
  4. Ensure that your best students don't team up during the drill phase of class
  5. Of course, some will grasp technique quicker, yet still ensure others understand the move
  6. Offer discounted rates for students that bring in others.
  7. Don't talk about students progress negatively to other students.
  8. Don't discuss politics,race, or religion in class.
  9. Don't show favortism when students are rolling.
  10. Remember, that not all students want to win UFC, PRIDE, OR K-1. Some are there just to get in shape and for self-defense.
  11. Stay in contact with your students (email, preferred)
  12. Break the monotony of class (technique, drill, roll).
  13. Last but not least, stay professional, yet have a personal (human) side.

Just a few of my ideas.

Akil Aabid

I have many other ways

"8. Don't discuss politics,race, or religion in class. "

Damn straight. I've seen that violated before, and it just left everyone around feeling uncomfortable. Nothing good will come of it.

I would also add - start your classes on time, even if it means having a senior student start it. Remember, these people are paying for a service - if they're paying for an hour of class, they should get an hour of class, not 45 minutes.

  1. Get your students on a mailing list. This way they can stay in touch. Nothing was worse when I went to class when I was getting back from a layoff and the doors were closed and I found out they were closed for whatever the reason on that day.

  2. Make it a family and treat it like a family. Every student, you had better greet him and memorize his name. Make that person's day for coming in. That person may have had a crappy work day and spent the time to come to class and nothing is better than making that person feel like he's treating himself to his personal hobby/time.

  3. Always make drills inclusive. You can always have a beginner used a demonstration dummy. Nothing is worse when students go to class and they're the outsider trying to break into the established club. Some are super social animals and it won't be a problem but it's natural even with me to just talk to my buddies because we don't see each every day.

  4. Teach a different variant or technique/counter to one student when they're drilling. This makes the person feel special and that you are noticing that one counter may help them. I notice very few students ask the instructor alot to cover over. I think it's great practice to go over and say "Please show me so I can see if you're on the money." Then analyze what they're doing wrong or right and perhaps add a variant technique.

  5. I do believe in promotions because it allows people to see acknowledged progress.


For student retention:

  1. Use a billing company...this shows students that this is your business and not a hobby

  2. School functions such as a UFC night, school photos, etc.

  3. The number one thing that you can do is promotions. The reason TMA schools are so successful is due to giving stripes and belts every 6 weeks. Students don't want to be left behind, so they attend regularly. They also do the "Black Belt Club".

I do both #1 and 2.....#3 is the one I don't do. I haven't figured out how to do that and not turn into a McDojo.




Five Reasons Students Become Unhappy Or Disenchanted
1. Didn’t Get What They Were Promised
When you make promises regarding what a student will learn and benefit from, exceed their expectations. Unfortunately, in our business, many of us make promises we don’t intend to keep.

For instance, you tell a student they are going to learn self-defense, but spend the first year on material that has nothing to do with self-defense. You say you’re going to teach self-discipline, but start and finish classes late demonstrating you don’t have any discipline yourself.

A key to success is always under-promise and over-deliver.

  1. Someone Was Rude Or Arrogant Just because someone is a white belt or an under-rank doesn’t mean they are not as important as you. You simply have a skill they seek. They in turn may have expertise in other areas you don’t. That doesn’t make them any better than you either.

“ All men are created equal,” is a saying that doesn’t to everyone but martial artists. If, as we promise, the martial arts are based upon respect and courtesy, then we will be the shining examples of those virtues. Respect is a two-way road.

Too often, black belts are like the big kid in the locker room who is arrogant and demanding because he knows he can beat up all the other kids. You have to check your attitude and monitor the tone of your voice. Ask someone you trust if you come off as short or arrogant when talking to students.

I have been accused of, “not suffering fools easily.” This is my area of weakness and I work on it all the time. I am also not a real outgoing person. If I’m in a room and everyone knows me and I don’t know anyone, I’m accused of being aloof and arrogant for not making more of an effort to shake hands and saying hi to everyone. I’m getting better at it. Even though I know that if no one in the room knew me and I didn’t know them, no one would care or even notice. So, why should it be any different with me? Because if that’s how people feel, then there is nothing I can do to change that. I have to change.

  1. No One Took The Extra Time To Help Them When a student is having a tough time with a technique, don’t assume they will go home and practice it. Especially if it is a child. If you don’t take the time to help them right after class, then the technique may not get better. This leads to frustration, which leads to drop out. If you can’t do it, train your leadership team to seek the struggling student and then work with them for ten minutes after class.

Invest ten minutes in a student and you’ll receive years of attendance from that student.

  1. No One Listened To Them. You have to tune up your listening skills. The odd thing about this is that it is actually pretty difficult to catch yourself, “not listening.” In a given night at your school, you may have dozens or more conversations with different people.

Unless you are consciously monitoring your active listening skills as described above, you will be doing what has been natural to you for a long time. Because, not listening well is natural, it doesn’t really stand out to you unless you look for it.

  1. A Staff Member Projected A Can’t Do Attitude. Train your staff that if one of them is asked a question, he takes ownership of the question and gets it answered. Instead of saying, “I can’t do that” or “I don’t know.” Teach them to say, “I’ll find out and get back to you within xx hours.”

Also, if a student calls and asks for you or someone else on your staff, rather than the receptionist saying, “He’s in class, may I take a message?” teach them to say, “He’s in class, is there anything I can help you with?”

Often the purpose of the call is something very simple that the receptionist can handle, like, “What time is the seminar on Saturday?” This gives the caller what they want quickly and portrays your school as a positive, can-do organization.

Failure to make yourself and your team fully aware and committed to preventing these five common, easy to fix mistakes, will translate into a struggling school.



I took the advice of Lloyd Irvin. He said " If you want to run your school like a hobby it will pay you like a hobby. If you run it like a business it will pay you like a business." Or something close to that. I started running it more professionally and like a business and in return have had a huge growth in retention and 94 new bjj students since June!

Basically what Alvis was just saying was always be professional. I have a very good staff now and