How to Open a Dojo


Dojo is the Japanese word for martial arts school. Opening a successful dojo requires the blending of centuries-old martial arts traditions with modern business survival techniques. Much of the appeal of martial arts is its mystical qualities. You must convince your customers that learning your secrets is worth paying for.

  • Find a location where you can differentiate yourself from your competition. If a dojo teaching the same style of martial arts is located within two miles, your dojo has little chance of success. You will compete for the same students, and they have a head start. Find an area where you are unique. A judo dojo could do quite well in a neighborhood full of taekwondo schools. Better yet, find an area with no martial arts schools at all.

  • Find a steady supply of new students. The martial arts dropout rate is as high as 75 percent in the first year. Fewer than 5 percent stay long enough to earn black belts. You must constantly replenish your flock. Locations near elementary schools work well since children are the most plentiful source of new students. Locations near parks and busy shopping malls are also effective.

  • Get the right equipment. Your dojo must project an image of martial arts mysticism to prospective students. Have an attractive display of colored belts, tournament trophies, instructor credentials, punching bags and clean mats. A display of martial arts weapons is a nice touch. All of this can be purchased from a martial arts supplier, or you can often get a good price on used equipment from another martial arts school that is upgrading.

  • Competitively price your memberships. The key is to get people to try your dojo, then get them hooked on your training. Low introductory rates are important. Undercutting your competitor's prices by 10 percent could be the deciding factor in your favor. Follow low introductory rates with incentives to sign long-term contracts. Price month-to-month rates the same as your competitors, but offer a 25 percent discount for a one-year contract. You can also create a black belt club with a multiyear contract that carries the student through his black belt test. Family plans can also encourage the parents to join in with the kids. Make it clear that there will be no refunds for any reason. If you offer refunds, it makes it easier for them to leave.

  • Demonstrate your skills to advertise your dojo. Perform demonstrations at schools and community events. Distribute coupons. Offer your students incentives to bring in their friends and siblings. This can be a special patch on their uniform or free training. The more aggressive you are, the more successful your dojo will be.

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  • Photo Credit Practising karate on the beach image by Jolanta Zastocki from
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