Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Special Spring Offer: Free Uniform

With the economy being so bad right now, I know that many people are trying to be careful with money. As a result, people are delaying coming in to take up Jiu-jitsu since it does require a bit of a financial commitment to start training with us. To make it easier, I've decided to offer to give a free uniform to new students until May 15.

I don't usually go for these types of offers since they smack of the tactics used by McDojos. Many dojos offer 4 months training for only $99 to start or offer a free uniform with your first month of training or something like this. A lot of people are willing to try it out because of the low-start up cost, but then the dojos jack up the price once the offer is finished. And of course, they don't necessarily tell you up front what the costs will be after the offer is over.

Despite the association with the McDojo sales strategy, I understand that we're in a recession right now and I do want to make it easier for new people to sign up.

And by the way, the free uniforms offered for these deals are usually cheaply made and paper thin. They wear down fast and soon need to be replaced. The free uniform I'll be giving to new students this spring is a good quality medium thickness uniform that retails at $65.

Anyway, if you know anyone who is looking to learn self-defense and is looking to take up a martial art (like Jiu-jitsu) in the Vancouver area this spring. Let them know about our offer.


Patrick Parker said...

That's a pretty darn good offer! I wish I didn't live 2800 miles from you because I'd love to come get some learning from you...

Anonymous said...

It seems you know your way around marketing aswell as the martial-arts. It’s certainly a good offer and a good tactic to attract newcomers. Of course I do not know you personally and never had the pleasure of training with you but from what I’ve gathered looking around this site and talking to you I’m pretty sure you’re a legit sensei and not a cheap fraud (cheap metaphorically, not literally). In our dojo it’s only possible to pay either for a full year or per lesson: this promotes financial clarity and my sensei doesn’t charge extra for belt-testing. As a beginner you get two free try-out lessons (gi non-obligatory) so you’ll get a clear idea of what you’re getting yourself into. Of course buying a gi after signing-up is a necessity since it’s part of the tradition and very useful for throwing, chokes, groundwork… but other than that there are no extra costs as such. If you want to buy wooden practice-weapons or boxing-gloves you can but they’re available for practice in the dojo too.

I think having to pay for belt-testing is an outrage and some martial-art schools are indeed run like businesses and shady ones too. I’ve even heard of one school were you have to pay an annual fee just to KEEP YOUR BELT, can you believe that? Now I have nothing against teachers making money aslong as they meet certain standards (they put alot of energy into it and they carry a great deal of responsibility) and don’t overcharge but this is ridiculous. Once you earn a certain belt it’s yours and it shouldn’t be taken away from you for any reason. Instructor-status is another matter completely: if you want to be a teacher and legitimise yourself by claiming alliance to a certain organisation it’s only logical they oblige you to train with them on a regular basis and regularly test you to see if your skills are still up to par but otherwise it’s just a cheap way of extracting money from people. Hidden costs are another big problem, aswell as inferior skills in an instructor. Too bad it’s quite impossible to see this when you’re only a beginner.

Another thing I absolutely loathe is dojo's that only cater to the rich: this shows these sensei/teachers care more about money than anything else and this is selling the Way. Everybody should have the right to learn proper self-defence and legitimate martial-arts and not just those with money.



Lori O'Connell said...

Hello again, Zara. I have never heard of a dojo that actually charged people a fee to keep their belt in good standing. That's nuts!

I know you disagree with charging for belt tests, but I myself charge a nominal fee for testing, basically enough to cover the costs of the belt, certificate, plus the additional time the dojo must be booked for the student's grading and pre-grading. The belt test fee is the same for all levels. But I know what you mean. At some dojos the fee gets higher and higher as students go up the ranks and I agree that this mentality kind of discourages progress.

I've always tried to maintain a balance in my dojo and not to become jaded or profit-oriented in mentality. I love what I do and I don't want it to ever become tainted in that way.

Anonymous said...

What you do in your dojo is your business although I don’t really see the benefit of certificates, at least not for anything under black belt. In my old dojo when you just started training they gave you a little booklet that was used to record your progress (signed and dated after each succesful belt-testing by sensei), aswell as serving as proof of insurance and to record attendance to seminars. The belt you bought of course: he just cut the lenght needed from a band of coloured cloth (served just fine) so it was very cheap. Belt-testing was done in front of sensei only up to green belt (while the others were training). From blue belt on testing was public (during a regular training-session) and this was deemed worthwhile for other students too since they could learn from it and get a good idea of what an exam looked like (plus it’s interesting to see how you’d react under stress), private testing in front of the black-belts was only done at the shodan-test.

I’ve never heard of pre-grading tests, I know you wrote about this in another post so I’m not going into that in too much detail here but if I had to pay for that I’d decline and just take my chances on the real exam. If you practiced hard and your sensei thinks it’s time for the test (he’s seen you train so he’ll have a pretty good idea of your progress) you’ll most likely succeed, why then do a pre-grading test? In reality there are no second chances either and for a test you’d at least know what was expected of you.


Lori O'Connell said...

The purpose of pre-gradings is to ensure that the student has learned all the required material for the belt. My Sensei has always said (and this is especially true at the lower belt levels), "If the student hasn't learned, the teacher hasn't taught." There are always a few gaps and this is the best way to ensure that they get filled before gradings.

We clearly have different philosophies on the matter, but all I can say is that my students have always appreciated our grading process (pre-gradings included) and have never had a problem with the very minimal charge for gradings. I suppose that because my tuition fees are already significantly below average for what I offer (I try to make it affordable), they don't think it out of line.

In other words, it all balances out in the end. You really have to look at a dojo's entire pricing strategy before you can judge it fairly.