Taido Enrollment Notes

New students will not join Taido unless they believe it will provide something they want. We need to show people that Taido training is fun and beneficial.

Even if they want to learn Taido, new students can’t join unless they find a dojo close to their homes. Therefore, in order to appeal to as many potential students as possible, we must attempt to offer Taido practice in as many locations and times as possible.

All Taido students should be continually involved in one of three projects. They follow in order of priority, and no project ever ends.

  1. Project one: Every student in every existing dojo should be concerned with building the dojo. Perform demonstrations at every opportunity (festivals, holidays, weekends in the park, etc.). If you enjoy Taido, you will want to share it with your friends. Bring them to practice with you. Post flyers around your town.
  2. Project two: When a dojo has at least 20 members, it’s time to start a new branch. Find a gym in the next town and start practicing. Divide the teaching duties among the black belts in the club. The highest ranking instructor will divide his time between the association’s various dojo. Once a dojo is established, return to Project one and build the membership.
  3. Project three: When there are at least two dojo with around twenty members, it’s time to hold a competition. This can be an small, informal affair, but it is important. Students need practice competing, and it is a good chance to advertise to the community (see Project one).

Upon completing Project one, move to Project two. Upon completing Project two, return to Project one. This cycle never stops. When there are enough students in each dojo, move to Project three. Project three should contribute to Project one, which contributes to Project two. This makes Project three continually more exciting, and better at promoting Projects one and two.

This cycle is viral and has the potential for exponential growth.

19 thoughts on “Taido Enrollment Notes”

    1. Absolutely. We’ve all got to start somewhere, and building the club is everyone’s responsibility. I actually feel that getting the students involved in enrollment gives them a sense of leadership and ownership that tightens their connection and reduces attrition.

      I know you’ve got other priorities, but I have a feeling it won’t take too long before you’re organizing some local tourneys.

  1. I think this model is good in a general sense, and there are some things that need to be sorted out for it to work.

    Taido may be something You live, breath and think about all the time. But that goes for you and not necessarily everyone else. I am sure every one of us can think of something we only get involved in a just a little bit, and are happy with having it that way. If someone started demanding more we would quit. For some people that thing is Taido and I believe we have to understand and accept that.

    My point is that it is important not to force these activities on your students. Forcing tasks on them, or demanding that everyone gets involved can frighten and drive away some students who only want to go to practice for the exercice, and get involved just a little bit.

    So first of all i think you need to identify what kind of students you have, so you know who would love to work hard and eventually teach and start new clubs/compete/participate in demonstrations etc. Then you can encourage those students, without discouraging the others.

    As you say, we need to keep training fun and beneficial, and appeal to as many potential students as possible. Not scare away everyone who doesn’t want to participate in demonstrations or growing the dojo. This is probably the biggest challenge, identifying and then ask for the right thing from, and also give the right things back to each and every one of your students.

    I really do believe every student has something he/she wouldn’t mind to contribute with, but it has to come from them and you have to accept and be thankful for it however small or big it is.

    I hope i made some sense..

    1. Robert, you make a lot of good points.

      You’re right specifically that nobody should be forced into doing anything they don’t want to do. Even though I wrote that “all students” should be actively involved in the process of growth, their level and method of involvement is up to them. At the very least, they should be expected to welcome and support new students and help keep the dojo fun, safe, and positive. If that’s as far as they happen to be willing to contribute, it’s better than nothing.

      Yet, to give an extreme example, if a student ever told me “I don’t want the dojo to grow. I just want to practice, so leave me alone about everything else,” then I would be very happy to get rid of that student. Taido is supposed to teach cooperation, and such selfish attitudes don’t make the training fun for anyone.

      [As a further aside, it would be a different situation in a commercial dojo where students pay the instructor for lessons. In this case, the student buys a service, and all the teaching and promotion duties fall on the instructor.]

      As you wrote, knowing your students is key. This goes for most aspects of teaching. A great teacher teaches what’s best for the student, sometimes in ways that are subtle (i.e., the student may not understand what s/he is learning). Sometimes, the teacher and student may disagree about this, but it’s the teacher’s duty to negotiate such things skillfully and with integrity (selfish teachers are often found at the centers of cults).

      Creating a certain kind of culture is part of the task of leadership, and we should consciously create a pro-growth culture (sounds like fungus) in our dojo. That doesn’t mean that every student needs to hand out fliers. But every student does need to contribute to the atmosphere and culture. It can be difficult, but I believe it’s possible to help each member find the best way to contribute that makes them happy.

      For example, I used to have a student that was just very good at picking up new skills. He had no fear. He wasn’t interested in belts or social stuff or demonstrations (though I did make him take shinsa regardless). But he was inspiring, and that was his contribution to the club. In his case, it was enough. He helped us grow by just doing cool stuff and having a good time. It made training more fun for the rest of us. But if he had been a dick, I would have kicked his ass out the door in a heartbeat.

      Essentially, I believe the dojo exists to benefit two entities: the individual student, and the dojo as a whole. Anything you do as a leader in a group has to benefit the group and its members. (The dojo does NOT exist to benefit Taido or the Association – the Association exists to benefit the art and the art for the students and society.)

      Beginners especially should focus on training. White belts should receive more than they give to the club. But if we do our jobs right, they will eventually want to contribute in some form. That’s when we work together to find the roles that suit them best.


      you have to accept and be thankful for it however small or big it is.

      showing our gratitude for the contributions of our members is an extremely important and powerful habit for leaders to cultivate.

      A bunch of other ideas about “tribe building” can be found at: http://www.squidoo.com/tribebuilding

      1. Thank you for clarifying what i meant. You kind of nailed it..

        “[As a further aside, it would be a different situation in a commercial dojo where students pay the instructor for lessons. In this case, the student buys a service, and all the teaching and promotion duties fall on the instructor.]”

        I think communicating this can be problematic.
        In Sweden all taido clubs are non-profit, but there is still a fee for training since there are costs to running a dojo. This fee is, at least in most bigger cities, less then, but still not too far from what it would cost to go to a gym or train something where profit is a goal or part of one. This is true in the minds of many students, therefore it needs to be handled as a real issue. Many students will probably not see the difference right away, they are still paying after all. I don’t know how these things work in other countries, but communication is essential.

        I don’t know the best way to communicate and deal with this. I am just trying to identify obstacles that needs to be overcome in order to expand. I am all for trying to find and then share some kind of method that will work well for most dojos!

        Sorry if i sound like a hater ;) I am not!

        1. I thought about the club fees about five minutes after I wrote that.

          In Japan too, clubs are non-profit, yet fees can vary between about 2000 – 7000 yen (roughly $20 – $75 US) per month. It’s not always cheap.

          Personally, I’m not a big fan of non-profit. I think it encourages mediocrity and removes the incentive and personal responsibility that drives awesome performance. But I’m an American capitalist pig, and I understand that non-profit and bureaucracy and nobody having to take the blame are very popular in some countries…

          As a teacher, I feel that, if it costs so much to break even, I may as well make a profit and deliver better service.

          That said, you’re right that people DO pay, and they’re right to feel like they get a return on that investment. Perhaps the best thing to do is remind them that, since everyone pays, they are all equals. The simple fact that even the teachers are volunteers can help inspire the culture of contribution.

          I belong to an organization that admonishes its members to “lead from the front.” In all matters of growing a club, it falls on the leader to show the way and set the example.

          Sorry if i sound like a hater ;) I am not!

          No worries. This line of questioning is exactly what I need.

  2. Just a quick note on the entire non-profit thing; you should be wary of involving money. As it turns out, when money gets involved, motivation goes down (except if we’re talking about lots of money). The main factor is because when people get paid, they will see everything as a transaction; if someone would to receive 20 euros for a task, then he would make sure his efforts are worth 20 euros (but not a cent more). On the flip-side, people that pay have expectations of what their money buys them…

    … Anyway, to make a very long story short; think about the type of members you have in your club. And if you want to motivate; give them options that would benefit the dojo, make being offered such options an honour and praise praise praise all such efforts :)
    The result is usually a group with stronger bonds than before, and with a different (hopefully ‘better’) culture. As an example, I am a member of a student association in which nothing is a must, but lots of things are possible… and guess what? People volunteer to arrange activities, clean up, work at an event and use the money to realize large activity’s etc etc.

    Now I realize not everybody is interested in organizing a car-wash or barbecue in an effort to get some coin; but you only need a handful of people to pull something like this off and that’s totally worth it :)

    I’m rambling. Anyway, the reason why I bothered posting is because I wanted to advice people to go for free taido, or go for the same price as other budo’s (which in Holland usually comes down to 100 euros for every 3 months).

    1. As it turns out, when money gets involved, …

      I’m guessing you’ve never run a business. The flipside is that, with a free model:

      • you can’t hire staff
      • your volunteer staff will be “doing you a favor,” so you can’t hold them accountable to delivering quality
      • anyone can join or quit easily, with no investment or loss
      • we are psychologically predisposed to assume that free = without value
      • … or in some cases, free = there’s a catch

      I think it’s perfectly fair to charge a fee and let your students have expectations. I want my students to expect a lot of me, because I sure as hell expect a lot of them.

      Just to illustrate, Japan Taido Association is a non-profit org. We have one employee who runs the office. You can expect to receive replies to most emails within two weeks. Everyone else works as a volunteer. Teachers pay the association for the privilege of running a dojo. Judges pay for the privilege of traveling to tournaments all over the country. Zero educational materials are produced. The website gets updates once every few months. When we have ideas for projects that would make Taido better and help the org to grow, there is always such a hard time rounding up volunteers, because they know there will be no reward for their hard work (don’t get me wrong, lots of people want to do good stuff, but we have jobs and families, and you can’t compromise those without some sort of compensation).

      I think it’s good to have reasonable rates, but Taido is not a good charity. If you want to give your time and energy to something you believe in that makes a difference in the world and gives you a feeling of self worth, join the Red Cross.

      Doing something for free IMO is a good excuse to do it half-assed. If it fails, or if somebody doesn’t like it, you can say, “yeah, but it’s free.” Money is a contract, and it brings greater commitment to both sides of the relationship.

      Of course, like I wrote above, I’m an American capitalist pig. I’m used to watching money flow and seeing how it shapes things. There may be a time and place where a Utopian free Taido society could flourish, but from what I understand, Taido enrollment is only growing consistently in one country on the planet right now – the one where Taido is a business.

  3. “Doing something for free IMO is a good excuse to do it half-assed.”
    That’s my point; as it turns out it works the other way around :)
    Unless a significant amount of money is involved, people tend to work harder when they do something for free.

    Oh and something free does make it ‘without value’, as in ‘no labled value’. So this doesn’t make it good or bad. Cheap however does have a bad lable.

    And again, my student association (and many others in Leiden) can organize huge events because of volunteer work. The main point is to keep it fun, and have a system. That said, a business model is probably easier, because you can give an amount of money to certain people (instead of trying to give them an amount of ‘fun’), but I’m not convinced it will lead to better results. Motivation comes first… my 2 cents :)

    1. PS: I have a few years of experience as a board member and as chairman and I actually own a company (albeit a small one), so I know it can work. Although explaining why and how to do it this way might be difficult and vague, this volunteer / motivational / ‘fun’ based model can work.

    2. I agree mostly with what you’re saying. However, I’ve never said it’s impossible to do Taido for free. I’ve run a successful club for “free,” but I won’t be trying it again.

      My main point is that it doesn’t have to be either/or. It’s not as if, the second money changes hands, everything needs to be tallied and balanced in the ledger. You can charge money (which you’re already doing, because your national org, WTF, and Honin will require dues) and still have people be happy to be there. My argument is simple that, if you’re going to charge dues, you may as well charge extra and begin saving those funds for various things.

      Even in a commercial school, there can be a lot of volunteer effort that makes things work better for everyone. I don’t think money is the only viable reward or that everyone should get paid for everything. But if money is available, it’s easier to reward volunteers in non-monetary ways as well. You can throw a party without asking people to bring their own drinks, etc.

      You also can’t forget that doing things for free as a student is not the situation most teachers will be running a dojo under. Universities have a lot of “free” stuff that’s actually supported by fees and taxes. Students have a lot of time on their hands, but with a job and a family and responsibilities, I know a lot of adults would rather just pay a monthly fee than have to organize a car wash every time they need funds for events or whatever.

      Still, charging money does not preclude taking advantage of free resources. It also doesn’t mean you can’t have fun and build an org in which people are intrinsically motivated to volunteer and help out.

      So yeah, free is cool if it’s done right, but it can also be a cop out for people to do things with minimal effort (which breeds minimal results). My preference is to charge money so we have it when we need it.

      1. Well then I guess we do agree; because charging more money also motivates more than charging less (for both the student and the teacher).

        My company does mostly get paid (although not always), but that’s not really comparable; my main point is that students doing work for taido should do it for free because strangely, they will be more motivated than when they get offered a little sum of money. As for my company; like I said, it’s a very small business so 90% of the work has been done by me (although I must admit the other 10% has been done for free :P).

          1. This bit is the basis of my whole argument:

            Pay people enough to take the issue of money off the table

            Then we can be free to seek autonomy, mastery, and purpose.

  4. Guys; like I said – when money is involved, it becomes a different ball game. Yes, big rewards work better than little rewards, BUT (!), in most studies; NO REWARD worked just as well as the large reward!
    The exception would be if the large reward was a huge amount; otherwise no reward would work just as good (and quite often even better!).

    The point is that money, even the basic idea of money, primes people and changes their motivational drive which in turn means they expect more reward for a better performance. On the other side, offering no money does not prime people in to becoming capitalistic pigs, which means they will work hard without the reward.

    Strange, I know. Even more strange; give a small amount of candy would often work better as a reward than giving money. So again, you should be wary of using money as a reward unless you have a shitload to use.
    (on the other hand; asking money is a good idea; people paying to perform a budo will most likely enjoy that budo more than if it would be free; yay cognitive dissonance theory).

    Look, if you guys are interested I can show you some studies. I think I can still find a short piece in Science which really shows that impact of money on cooperative behavior and motivation.

    1. Amir, don’t take this the wrong way, but I really think you’re missing the point. Nobody is saying we should be paying students for everything they do. Nobody is saying that we have to pay teachers to motivate them to teach.

      I understand reward psychology, but I’m not talking about rewards. I’m talking about operating costs.

      I used to run a Taido club, and it was basically free. We paid a facilities fee and I took home something like $10 per student per semester. Running that club cost me thousands of dollars a year. Little tings like transportation, equipment, training trips, and gatherings took a shitload of cash out of my pocket.

      Not to mention the time I spent on club-related tasks behind the scenes (planning, negotiation with the university, negotiation with the association, tracking student progress, planning events, designing t-shirts, having the shirts printed and going to pick them up, ordering uniforms, designing the kanji embroidery and sending the uniforms off to have that done, cutting boards to break at demonstrations, setting up demonstrations, organizing camps, etc. )

      Students also had a lot of additional costs to worry about: uniforms, belt tests, transportation, camps, events, etc. When money got tight, Taido was easy to drop (and when somebody couldn’t pay, I ended up fronting the money from my own pocket).

      When I was strapped once, I considered closing up the club to make time for a second job.

      The point isn’t that I wanted monetary rewards for performing tasks. The point is that I spent a lot of effort on Taido, and it would have been really great if I could have done it without having to worry about how far into debt it was pushing me.

      Despite all that, the most important reason to charge money is this: paying for something means you make a commitment.

      In my business, we sell fitness information products, such as workout videos. We have lots of programs. We give some away for free. An interesting thing happens when you give away a program for free – everybody wants to “get” it, but very few actually follow through and DO it.

      But when people pay for a program, they almost always implement some portion of it for at least a certain duration.

      Money is a commitment. When you pay, you want to get your money’s worth. When you don’t pay, you don’t care.

      Of of the training programs we give away for free is incredibly good. We teach it to private clients for $50/hour. They get great results. When we give people a 30 minute video explaining it, most just watch the video and never actually try the routine. A few people do it once or twice.

      But when I charge $50 for a yoga program, people work it into their schedules and practice three times a week.

      It’s not because the yoga program is better. It’s better marketed, yes, but it’s not better information. Yet, people who pay, follow through more often than those who take something for free.

      I’ve taught Taido for free in two different countries (really free). It’s almost impossible to keep students. When they get busy, they skip class, because they haven’t had to make a commitment. When I teach for free, I feel like I have to beg students to show up for class.

      I’ve never had a problem with attrition when I make students pay a monthly membership fee. When I teach in dojo that charge money, the students are fanatic. Nakano’s dojo is one of the most expensive Taido dojo in Japan. Each student pays about $65/month. The dojo grows every month. Contrary to your assertions, they are a model of cooperation and camaraderie.

      That $65 is not a reward to anyone. It buys patches to put on uniforms. It buys drinks at bi-monthly outings. It buys dojo space and insurance. It buys other stuff too. And since nobody has to worry about how much everything is going to cost all the time, participation in events is ridiculously high.

      I’m not suggesting we use money as a reward to anyone. I’m suggesting the club charge money because it makes things work better.

      You can cite as many studies as you want, but I can tell you for a fact that the clubs that charge the most are growing while the clubs that charge the least are struggling.

  5. Ah ok; I thought you wanted to use money to motivate students (as in paying them as if they were employees when they help out with tasks) :P

    1. No. Not students for regular tasks.

      However, I do believe in paying staff (because I’ve been unpaid staff before, and it blows…). If a student takes on a regular assignment doing office work or whatever, there’s nothing wrong with setting a salary as long as it’s understood that the staff relationship is separate from the student relationship.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *