Finding Students..

Discussion on the three big Chinese internals, Yiquan, Bajiquan, Piguazhang and other similar styles.

Re: Finding Students..

Postby Peacedog on Wed Jun 20, 2018 5:42 am

Keep in mind that you are advertising to a niche audience.

The good news is that this is easier to do today than it has ever been.

I would also advise looking closely at how BK Frantzis, Tom Bisio and Mantak Chia advertise. Regardless of the quality of their instruction and reputation in the community, they have all been very successful finding students and teaching similar material. Since sword work is a significant part of what you are doing look up Scott Rodell. He is probably the leading Chinese swordsmanship guy in the US and has put together a small Chinese sword fighting league.

The book, video and seminar combination seems to be the most workable combination for making a living. Forming a local practice group seems to work from a perspective of having practice partners and generally covers costs. Unless you want to teach kids and sell frequent promotion belts making money at anything other than MMA is going to be difficult.

And as others have mentioned here, look into the whole multimedia approach (Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, etc.). As a very good photographer and someone who is fairly photogenic, you can leverage these mediums more effectively than most. And make that an hour a day investment of your time.

If you are going to teach regular classes and seminars, come to terms early on that 90% of the people there are simply participating as a form of entertainment and won't practice outside of class/improve much. Maybe 1 in 10 will make any real effort. The rest of the people pay your bills though.
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Re: Finding Students..

Postby middleway on Wed Jun 20, 2018 6:21 am

I think martial arts can be taught online though, so long as they are technique-based. I'm thinking mainly of BJJ here - Marcelo, Art of Jiujitsu, Keenan Online, BJJ Library, Gracie Combatives, etc, all give you access to the techniques (and the little details) of how these world class people do Jiujitsu... and I think they all do a good job.

I think it works in jiujitsu because people are normally already going to a class, with access to training partners, so they can watch a video, then try to actually do it the next day.

Yeh good point.

I personally think that resources like those you mention are only viable if you have access to a class and training partners, and preferably a good coach. I signed up to a few of those sites at white belt but really only kept coming back to the solo Gymnastica videos. Funnily enough at blue belt i revisted Marcellos site and got a good few new insights, once the basic knowlege was there and i had good questions i needed answering.
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Re: Finding Students..

Postby Bill on Wed Jun 20, 2018 8:18 am

How about starting a class at your local YMCA or Boys and Girls Club of America?
After a few years you would then have a good base to open a school of your own.
This is what young instructors would do back in the 70's.
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Re: Finding Students..

Postby LaoDan on Wed Jun 20, 2018 11:41 am

Taijiquan, at least in the West, is primarily viewed as a health art (and one that is not too difficult/demanding to practice) rather than a martial art, and the students that a typical TJQ class attracts would probably view it is this light (e.g., good for general health, or for specific conditions like balance [preventing falls in the elderly], arthritis [e.g. Paul Lam’s Sun style book], etc.). Very few would be looking for training in Chinese sword, or other weapons, although some may be willing to learn weapons forms as a bit of variety to add to their weaponless practice. Actual sparring with weapons would be a difficult sell to most prospective students. There is even a big drop off in interest when a class on something as simple as cooperative or semi-cooperative push-hands is offered.

The psychology of most prospective students appears to be that they are looking for something that is relatively easy but still can improve their health. They want something that they can feel good about. Sparring with weapons is a completely different matter! Both the sparring component and the weapons component are likely to put off most of the typical TJQ crowd.

While few MA instructors are psychologists, psychology comes into play when regarding students; attracting, retaining, advancing... Someone recently posted the “Dunning-Kruger” effect on RSF, and I think that it illustrates this situation quite well. Note the “Program Termination Zone” in the following representation of the effect:

I feel that most Taijiquan instruction falls into the initial phase of the graph (the slope up “Mount Stupid”), and most students, and many “teachers”, tend to stay there. Students following along with solo forms and Qigong exercises allow those participants to think that they understand the art without anything to challenge their belief in their abilities. As soon as they begin interactive work, they immediately come face to face with their inability to actual use the art’s principles, and thus their lack of practical understanding. This starts them down the slope leading to the “Valley of Despair”. If they do not have some other motivating factor, like testing/advancement goals, the expectation of having to defend themselves, feeling how skilled their teacher is and having a desire to also gain those skills, etc., then they are unlikely to want to engage in those potentially humbling endeavors.

Most RSF members likely have gone through the phase of wondering why they are still so bad after X numbers of year’s worth of training; why we still suck at this art! Most TJQ practitioners (and many teachers), however, do not appear to have ever approached this place in their training. It seems like you (Maarten) may be asking how one can get those students who are either already well past the peak of “Mount Stupid” or those who are willing to pursue something that does not quickly lead them into feeling good about themselves. I do not know what to suggest, but I would love to hear thoughts from others on this forum.

If one already has a long term relationship with students (from beginner forms classes, for example), then some may be willing to try more difficult things because they trust their teacher and want to follow the teacher’s interests. Some on RSF have posted replies that mention the possibility of picking up MMA students, and it seems to me that MMA students may potentially be looking for an edge over their competitors, and therefore have a willingness to try something different. This seems like it has potential, although I do not know of too many venues where sword fighting may lead practitioners to want to try something different like Chinese swordsmanship.

Anyway, please keep us informed about any strategies that you find to work in attracting students to your classes. For your interests, it seems like there would need to be much more than simply getting your name out in the area, but I am no expert, and have little experience in advertising, so I am probably wrong.
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Re: Finding Students..

Postby marvin8 on Wed Jun 20, 2018 11:49 am

(Don't have this. Available on torrent. You can PM, if you have questions.)

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Last edited by marvin8 on Wed Jun 20, 2018 11:57 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Finding Students..

Postby GrahamB on Wed Jun 20, 2018 12:04 pm

Nice Post Dan.

Marteen - saw this nice promo video:
"People in this country have had enough of experts" - Michael Gove, 2016
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Re: Finding Students..

Postby Tom on Wed Jun 20, 2018 12:21 pm

johnwang wrote:
MaartenSFS wrote:how do you determine your hourly rate?

When I told my daughter that I only charge $15 per hour, she told me that she charges at least $150 per hour for her pole dancing instruction.



I think I would opt to pay $150 an hour to learn how to spin around a pole rather than $15 an hour to get thrown by you. 8-)
Experience is a hard teacher because she gives the test first, the lesson afterward.

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Re: Finding Students..

Postby Greg J on Wed Jun 20, 2018 7:59 pm

Hi Maarten,

You've gotten some good advice already. One thing you might think of doing (since you are in a University town) is to connect with the Chinese Student Association (or equivalent) and see if you can get the required number of students to form a Shanzhaiquan Club/ RSO (Registered Student Organization). At the University where I live I believe you need at least four current students, with one being willing to serve as president, in order to become an RSO. You as the teacher won't get any money, but you will get a space to train, a budget to purchase equipment, and a "stream" of students - some of whom will want to train more with you at your gym/ park/ backyard. With some of these students you may also form a small "fight team" to compete in regional events.

Finally, the people I know who teach and train full time all have robust kids programs. I've never seen a successful school that did not have one. So you might want to start thinking about opportunities to start up a kids program (park district/ YMCA). Once that is up and running, you can think about moving into your own space.

Good luck and keep us posted!

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Re: Finding Students..

Postby cgtomash on Wed Jun 20, 2018 10:28 pm

I have been teaching for a good number of years, and have tried different ways to attract new students. At present, I am teaching a class at a local swimming pool facility. They have a nice large activity room with hardwood floor and mirrors and use of a kitchen (we make Chinese tea for our breaks). The class is twice a week for 2 hours each class. Currently I have 15 students, several with me for over 10 years.

The classes at the swimming pool are run by the facility. They pay me 80% of the student fees, so I don’t have to worry about getting enough students to pay rent. I have been in this space for over 10 years. The Swimming Pool is also run by a good sized community center, which sends out brochures to the neighborhood (and on-line) with all the programs that are offered. Some of the students hear about the class through these brochures.

Also, I feel it is important to have a website for your teaching as well as a Facebook page dedicated to your teaching. My website is one of the first to show up on a local search of tai Chi classes in my city on Google. I get a lot of inquiries about classes through my website. People will also search on Facebook. If you have a Facebook page, then you can do local advertising of your teaching with Facebook. I have had good success with this and it has not been that expensive.

In the past, I have put a small ad in local weekly newspapers. I have also made brochures and posted them at local martial arts stores, libraries, coffee shops, community bulletin boards. Presently, I probably have the most success with the brochures the community center sends out, the website, and Facebook.

I hope this helps!
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Re: Finding Students..

Postby fuga on Wed Jun 20, 2018 10:37 pm

Greg J wrote:Finally, the people I know who teach and train full time all have robust kids programs. I've never seen a successful school that did not have one. So you might want to start thinking about opportunities to start up a kids program (park district/ YMCA). Once that is up and running, you can think about moving into your own space.

Several people have mentioned this.

All the successful schools in my area make this a major focus - from kungfu to bjj.

Make this the backbone of your school. Parents will spend money more willingly on their kids especially if you frame it in terms of what the parents want for their kids: discipline, confidence, physical fitness, coordination, and fun. - Get the first book in my fantasy series for free.
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Re: Finding Students..

Postby Trick on Thu Jun 21, 2018 2:06 am

Bao wrote:Flyers around schools and colleges? I’ve got a few people showing up that simple way.

Also consider SEO for your homepage, optimize it for searches with Kung Fu and your city’s name. Everyone who is interested in something searches the internet for info. So targeting people who are already interested in your “products” is the best way to go.

Yeah, I too thought of flyers then I thought that's maybe too "Stone Age" nowadays, but that's how it was done and it worked 8-)
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Re: Finding Students..

Postby MaartenSFS on Thu Jun 21, 2018 9:59 am

Wow, thanks to all of you for your support. There are so many good suggestions in there I don't know where to start. I feel like checking out the community centre is a great idea. They have a big Facebook group. Perhaps I do need a dedicated Facebook page. I'll definitely check out the YMCA, as I used to teach there, but I'd like to focus on getting students to the classes that I'll offer at the Taekwondo school first, as I won't be charged anything for using a really good training space there!

I'm definitely considering the Vimeo thing, although doing seminars would probably be more beneficial to students. Perhaps a combination of both? I'll have to wait until I find a stable day job to really start with that, though..

I really like that Dunning-Kruger Effect graph. That makes a lot of sense to me. Don't think of my art as Taijiquan, though. I am not teaching it in that format at all. Classes are more like those for combat sports. Warm-ups/foundation training, solo drills, partner drills, sparring/fencing, Q&A. There is no room for delusion, as you get to try everything that you've learned in sparring/fencing and see for yourself where you stand. If you don't train enough and suck I'll tell you that (in a polite manner, of course). I encourage my students to set goals, both short and long-term, and achieve them systematically. I've set up the system to be streamlined and easy to digest, with enough depth to entertain for many years to come. To advance to the next rank, which are five ancient military ranks, one has to prove their understanding of the content by using it in combat. I will hold in-door competitions frequently for fun and a bit of extra pressure-testing.

I will probably miss out on a lot of students this way, but I will also attract some athletes or other types of people that I wouldn't have otherwise. I can't even imagine teaching kids all the time. I don't believe in it. I'd rather just teach it on the side if it came to that..

Posting flyers at the university and/or starting a club there is a really good idea. I plan to try to get some cross-cultural exchange going as well, between the Chinese and other populations.

Guy Tomash, your pool place sounds amazing! You are very fortunate indeed, sir!

I was hoping to open a sort of Chinese culture centre with Chinese lessons and tea during the breaks, but I feel like that would be more successful and interesting to do in China or at least somewhere where there are a lot more Chinese, like a Chinatown. My wife isn't very interested in teaching and most would probably rather learn from a Chinese than a white bloke, so this will probably remain a part-time thing for at least the first several years.

Regarding that Ma Family Tongbei Kung Fu promo video, I can't say that I'm a fan (of the video). It's well-edited and the production is high, but it shows literally nothing about the skill of the instructors or students with its quick-cut edits. The fake punching sounds didn't help, either... I will consider to make a fencing highlights reel with music when I get enough students together and they have learned a bit. I think that that will put out the vibe that I would want when searching for a martial arts school. Then again, I'm not a New Age hippie.. :P On their channel there is another eight second clip that looks similar to what we are doing, so I'm not saying that their art is bad, I just don't like those videos because they are fancy but don't tell me what is actually taught and trained. The video also shows forested mountains and deep blue skies, things not typically found in Guangzhou...

Anyways, I'd like to thank each and every one of you again, as you have helped me a great deal. It will take me some time to get things started and see what works [for me] or not, but I'll keep you updated.
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Re: Finding Students..

Postby Tatanka on Thu Jun 21, 2018 12:46 pm

johnwang wrote:You may have to open a commercial school. I spend 6 months in California every year. When I'm in California, I even have hard time to find sparring/wrestling partner. I even put ad in local gym that I'll pay $20 for anybody who is willing to spar/wrestle with me for 15 rounds.

Geez, i'd happily spar/ wrestle for free anytime you're in california!
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Re: Finding Students..

Postby johnwang on Thu Jun 21, 2018 1:23 pm

Tatanka wrote:Geez, i'd happily spar/ wrestle for free anytime you're in california!

Do you live near by Pismo Beach (or San Luis Obispo)?
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Re: Finding Students..

Postby Tatanka on Fri Jun 22, 2018 8:55 am

johnwang wrote:
Tatanka wrote:Geez, i'd happily spar/ wrestle for free anytime you're in california!

Do you live near by Pismo Beach (or San Luis Obispo)?

I'm in San Diego.
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