11.03.2008

WHY OPEN A SCHOOL?

I've received several e-mails asking me about the process of opening my own academy and thought I'd share a set of questions given to me by those who've already done it themselves. Not to say that I've got it all figured out but I found that in the beginning I didn't know all the answers and had to take time to think about it. If you're not clear about what your goals are and what you stand for, how do you expect others to follow and support your project? -Luke

COMMUNITY

IS THERE A DEMAND FOR A NEW SCHOOL IN YOUR AREA?

How large an area are we talking about and how many schools are already established? Are we talking about just one other school or are there like four other schools in your city? What's the distance between schools that makes your school a more convenient location for that part of town? Back in NYC, there are 3 Starbucks within viewing distance from each other, each a single block apart.


WHAT CAN YOU OFFER THAT IS DIFFERENT FROM OTHER SCHOOLS?

How is your spot going to differ from the schools that are already established. Space? Price? Instruction? Vibe? Affiliation?


WHAT IS YOUR GOAL AND MOTIVATION?

What are you interests in opening a new school? Money? Demand? Difference in school of thought? None in your area? No body likes you at their gym, JK?


WILL THE NEW SCHOOL ADD TO THE COMMUNITY?

With a larger body of practitioners, the larger and broader the competition spectrum can be. Would this be part of your goal and point of participation in the community? Again this reflects back to whether there is a demand for the new school.

HOW CAN YOU WORK TO COOPERATE WITH OTHER TEAMS TO MAINTAIN POSITIVE RELATIONSHIPS?

How can you work with the existing teams to help each other and maintain positive relationships? How do the teams there support each other in the events put on the for the local scene. Does everyone show their support at the local tournaments?


BUSINESS

HOW WILL YOU SECURE A LOCATION?

A jiu-jitsu family needs a home and consistency in location is a big part of that. How will your facilities/space supply the current demand and will things have to change as your school grows? How do provide a space that is both conveniently located and not too close to other schools?


WITH NO EXISTING STUDENTS, HOW WILL YOU PAY RENT + UTILITIES?

Do you have enough start-up capital to cover the expenses before you can host paying students?

HOW WILL YOU PROVIDE STABILITY FOR THE STUDENTS?
Will you be there in person at the scheduled time so that students can always expect someone to be there to help them. How well can you keep to the promised schedule? Also what are you doing to help promote enough students to be there to help each other with training?

INSTRUCTION
HOW WILL YOU SECURE A QUALIFIED INSTRUCTOR? SALARY?
BJJ aint' cheap and neither is instruction. What are your options locally and how might this effect the interest at you school? It's not mandatory that you have a black-belt but what else can you offer so that qualified instruction is there from time to time if not full time?

HOW WILL THE CLASSES BE LEAD IF NO INSTRUCTOR?
What are your options? DVD night?

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Congratulations on focusing on traditional gi-based Brazilian jiu jitsu, instead of offering BJJ classes as an adjunct to another martial art or as part of an MMA curriculum.

I know you don't like to blow your own horn, but this is a first in Bangkok, right? Maybe even in Thailand....

The class schedule for your academy looks straight out of a typical academy here in the States.

That's good and I hope you offer Cross Fit (which is great conditioning to supplement BJJ) and/or BJJ-based self-defense classes, before branching out in other directions like muy thai and MMA classes.

The latter tend to change the tone of an academy and the type of students it attracts.

BJJ-based self-defense, on the other hand, often provides an entry point for students and business people who wouldn't otherwise take the time to understand BJJ and why it is so much fun.

For the same reason I think it's better to focus on gi instead of on no-gi classes. As much as I love no-gi, submission grappling tends to favor explosive athleticism over a more studied, technical game. Using the gi makes jiu jitsu accessible to a broader entry level audience. It also offers an alternative to judo players who wouldn't mind an occasionally slower paced game.

I'm glad to see you are offering beginners classes, though I think there is a lot to be said for calling them "beginners/basics" classes instead, and a lot to be said for inviting all students to attend regardless of experience level - whether as a refresher, to fill in some gaps in fundamentals, or to meet and help the newbies.

Presumably you would make sure the blue belts are actually helping the newbies to learn during any beginning sparring, and not just smashing them.

It sounds like you have a more than sufficient roster of instructors for now.

But don't forget that a new academy needs leadership as well as instruction.

Leadership doesn't necessarily dictate the lesson-plan - it's probably best to let the guest instructors find their own way in that regard - but it should set a good tone for the academy.

For example, is the tone in class positive or negative? Sometimes this can be subtle, for example the difference between "don't let him mount you!" and "frame your elbow to knee so he can't mount!"

Any instructor who barks out details to an aggressor in one match needs to take the time to bark out details to the defender on another occasion, so all students feel they are getting tips and support.

So no politics, huh? Wait until the day you have a black belt instructor to whom you defer on the mat, who doesn't want to defer to your business judgment, as academy owner, off the mat. It's not easy to keep instructors on salary or per class payment plan that is sustainable for both the academy and the instructor. There are probably more fights in BJJ over money issues - dividing a relatively small pot equitably - than over any other issue.

I don't know if you will, or will want to, remain "unaffiliated" for long.

There may be a lot of pressure (or temptation) to affiliate with another academy/instructor/association, say, with Mike Fowler in Guam (isn't he close enough to fly in once in a while?), or with New Breed out of Philippines/Cali, or with Axis out of Japan, etc. - with whoever is already in SE Asia already, and can commit to flying intraregionally on a regular basis to instruct, offer seminars, and provide promotions.

It's probably a better idea to wait patiently until someone settles in BKK and wants a place to train - or to earn your own black belt. If you don't have an aggressive training plan for purple, brown, and black, then you aren't as committed to BJJ as you are...to this blog!

In terms of "DVD night" I think that is a great idea. Try it out small scale and see how it works. Maybe the instructors should get together and see how it works before bringing gen pop in.

But all in all, good luck to you. Nana closes, BJJ opens. All's right with the world.

Jem said...

don't worry, the blues don't smash people at the academy. We are a nice bunch. Why don't you come down and see when you're around :)

And Luke is very much dedicated to BJJ as much as this blog! In fact, this blog wouldn't exisit in its form if it weren't for the dedication to BJJ (physically, that is!!) so all is cool.

I think we've got a good thing going here in Thailand. There are enough high belts as well to help out with direction and all.

Anonymous said...

Actually I'm hoping to come out in February, financing permitting, to have a BJJ vacation. That hotel where the academy is located is very comfortable and easy going, and I love Thai food.

Also good training partners are hard to find, so I welcome the invitation to train with you guys.

Jem said...

Yeah,we have great training partners :) and we know where to go for all the good Thai food too!
PERFECTION!! lol
training = eat more!!