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Back to School, Back to the Dojo

maia Oct 11, 2021

by Frank Silverman


Summer’s reaching an end. The Virtual SuperShow is behind us. COVID, as I said in my previous column, is in the rearview mirror. What’s next? Back-to-school season! This is the best of the best of times for most martial arts schools.

As you know, columns are written prior to, sometimes months before, the release of each issue of a print magazine. It can be difficult to make sure all the information is exact and accurate when covering topics that are out of our control. As of the date this article is being written, not all schools have confirmed that they’ll resume fully in-person instruction. We don’t know yet how “normal” things will be through the winter months. What we do know — regardless of COVID and regardless of whether learning resumes in-person — is that the back-to-school season this year will be a great time for martial arts schools across the country.

It’s critical that you plan ahead for this busy season. In addition to figuring out a process for recruiting as many new members as possible, you also must take precautions to make sure you don’t lose your current students due to the influx of newcomers. This always has been something to take note of, but it’s even more important today.

The following are four essential recruiting tools for the season.


  • In-Person Presence

You need to be present at both public and private schools as much as possible. Meet the teachers, set up a booth at welcome-back events and take any opportunity that a school will give you to have access onsite. You need to be there.

  • Online Presence

If COVID taught us anything, it’s that a virtual connection is every bit as important as face-to-face contact. Having a fast-loading, easy-to-navigate website for your school is key. A Facebook page is mandatory. If you need help in this department, call MAIA, and we’ll steer you in the right direction.

  • Referral Program

You need to have a great referral program in place. Make sure all students know that a referral is the best compliment they can pay their instructor. Now more than ever, word of mouth goes a long way.

  • End-of-Summer Event

Finally, you need to get everyone back from summer and from COVID quarantining. If it’s safe where you live, host a back-to-school party for all your students at your dojo. Such an event is not just for kids, either — get your adult students in on the fun! Organize special activities to reintegrate people into your school’s culture. This will translate to improved retention as you continue to grow. It does no good to enroll 20 new members if you lose 21. Holding special events helps you avoid this.

As always, remember to stay in contact with all your students, old and young, new and longtime. Call or email them, send them messages on social media, and sit down with them in your waiting area or chat on the mat.

Bear in mind that your most important tool for retention has never changed, and that is teaching amazing classes. When classes are fun, challenging and high-quality, students don’t quit. So as we approach September, keep your eyes on the ball and make it a great back-to-school season.


To contact Frank Silverman, MAIA’s executive director, send an email to [email protected] Find him on Twitter and Facebook at @franksilverman.



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