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On being a community-centered karate school

By Rochelle E. Brenner

I was invited to speak to the Partnership of Women Martial Artists (POWMA), a non-profit organization that holds an educational conference each year to empower women in martial arts. 

When Action Karate first started in 1994, I was in high school. At that time, it was rare to see a female martial arts instructor. If you did, she was often the spouse of a more prominent sensei. The co-founder of Action Karate is Master Jacque Razzi, a pioneer of women in martial arts who paved the way for people like myself to pursue this as a career and lifetime journey. A famous story in the Action organization is that another instructor asked her “Who is going to take martial arts from a woman?” It was a sincere question at the time. It’s now quite common and Action has many female leaders, champions, instructors and bosses. 

The reality is that the only way martial arts works is if a woman can logically and legitimately defend herself and perform the moves. Women have on the whole made martial arts more effective, creative and dynamic. In the same way women have improvised and innovated new ways to perform martial arts, they’ve also contributed to the business side of making it more accessible to more people. 

It’s an honor to be part of this conference. My speaking role is on getting more students without ads and

throwing a perfect punch. 

As I wrote the presentation, I wanted to preserve the advice on this blog as I encourage women to grow their influence and student base. It’s advice anyone can take. Often, the best way to get new students is not putting out Facebook ads or hiring someone to do your marketing. The best way is to be a community-centered karate school. Participate in everything there is to be a part of in your community and the students will come. Here are 10 ways to establish yourself as a community-centered karate studio.

  1. Take the lead with a non-profit and hold fundraisers. Action Karate supports the Action Scholarship Fund and holds an event each year called the Kick-a-thon to raise money to support the mission.

  2. Contribute to every PTA fundraiser within 5 miles. Every month, Action donates to organizations with important missions in the community. There are too many to list here, but there’s 30 Action Karate locations and each one donates to 5 to 6 places per month. That might be eggs for an Easter hunt, volunteers for a beautification project or a raffle item for a PTA. 

  3. Support local businesses. Shop around the karate school and recommend small businesses as much as possible, creating a vibrant mutually beneficial business environment.  Share local businesses on social media.

  4. Host a table at events and introduce yourself at the other tables. Everyone is there to make connections, meet cool people or find something to buy or be part of. 

  5. Schedule school programs. 

  6. Visit day cares. Offer to schedule a free program to give their teachers a break and create a good moment for the kids. After that, they may be open to sharing your guest pass or parents night out.

  7. Train sports teams.  With martial arts ranked as the 6th most difficult sport, many coaches appreciate the cross-training athletic skills martial arts athletes develop. Offer to do a training session for local sports teams to help build the confidence of their athletes.

  8. Team building events. Karate isn’t just for kids. A team building event sharing self-defense moves or a workout or even board breaking is a nice team activity, more memorable than a team lunch. 

  9. Get reviews from raving fans. The easiest way to get reviews is to simply ask and invite people to write reviews.

  10.  Buddy events. Statistics show the number one indicator of whether a martial arts student goes on to earn their black belt is whether they have a family member that is also training. It’s not demographics or finances or home life or school life: it’s having a family that supports and participates in your martial arts pursuit. In that way, buddy events are a great way to get their peers and family members and cousins supportive of interacting on the mat. 

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