Chances are, you have had your share of students quit after they received their black belt. I know that we have. If you are looking for ways to minimize this from happening in the future, here are some ideas that you can put to work.
1) Emphasize to them that a black belt is NOT the finish line.
If you ask brand-new martial artists how long they want to train, the most common answer you’ll hear is, “Until I earn my black belt.” While this is an admiral goal for a novice, you need to gradually dispel the myth that a black belt is the finish line. Earning one’s first black belt is a huge milestone. It is a rite of passage and an achievement to celebrate. But it isn’t the end of the journey. You and your staff would be wise to adopt the attitude that martial arts is a lifelong activity for all your students. Clearly, students who are working their way toward their first black belt need to focus on that goal. They need to see it and they need to want it. And for a while, they might not be able to see any farther. But as they get closer, you’ll want to help them see that there is a whole new world of exciting training that begins when they earn their black belt.
2) The changes that follow getting a black belt have to be real.
If your black belt curriculum is just more of the same things they learned on their way up, they won’t stick around long. Take a long, hard look at what you’re teaching your black belt students. Is it exciting? Is it challenging? Is it fun? Students approaching their black belt should look forward to the exciting material they’ll get to learn after they’ve earned their black belt. And the closer they get, the more clearly they should be able to see the great stuff that’s waiting for them.
3) Paint the picture and tell the story.
Here’s what one of our senior instructors tells his students who are approaching their black belt: “I can’t wait for you to start in our black belt class. You’re going to love it! Earning your black belt is like getting your pilot’s license. And when you get into the black belt class, you can take that plane out and really fly!” This is just one way to paint the picture. Earning a black belt is hard. It takes years of dedicated work. If someone is going to continue on beyond that, they need to have something exciting to look forward to. So, the class really has to be great and you have to get them excited about all the new things they’ll get to do when they get there.
4) Give them more responsibility.
As students get closer to earning their black belt, get them involved with students at earlier belt ranks. Have them help out in beginner and intermediate classes. When you do this, they feel an even stronger connection with your school. And they almost always feel great when they see younger students looking up to them.
5) Give them more freedom.
As your students train beyond black belt, work with them to choose a few things to master at a high level. It’s important that they feel like they have a choice of what they’ll focus on. This will vary depending on the style you teach, but every style offers advanced material that will keep students challenged. And if they’re really motivated to learn something, they’ll stay for as long as that motivation remains. If they love coming to class, if they love the exciting material they’re learning, if they feel like they’re an integral part of the school, if your school is their favorite place to be, and if they have positive relationships with their instructor and their fellow students, they’ll never want to quit.
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