Tuesday, January 6, 2009

They All Go

The Tai Chi class that started out as two original students and four new students is down to three. We sat outside the classroom waiting for the previous class to exit. The two original students were wondering where the other new students have gone. I asked them if they guess which new students will continue. The senior student said "No, they all go".


I think about the people that pass through the dojo door. Numerous people sign up for lessons but the percentage of people who reach black belt is low. Not to mention Nidan and above. On a business level, a dojo owner wants students to stay for obvious reasons. As an instructor, you want students to stay in order to pass on the tradition and to share what you have learned. From a students prospective, people represent training opportunities.

What is it about martial arts that leads to attrition? In the case of my Tai Chi class, I believe teaching in a gym environment is part of the problem. Tai Chi is offered to the gym membership just as a step, spin or body pump class. People try out a Tai Chi class and are looking for a tough physical workout. After a Tai Chi class, I feel that my brain gets the work out. There is so much to learn. I need to re-examine how the body moves and how the joints function independently.

In our dojo, some people view karate as an activity that fits into a time slot. There are young students that pop in and out of the dojo depending on their soccer, basketball or baseball schedule. In our over-scheduled world, karate becomes the activity to do in the off season or for a summer. I think it is harder for adults. Family and employment must come first and often that leaves little time for martial arts. The best case for an adult is when the entire family trains together. Sometimes the decision not to train is a difficult one to make.

In regards to Tai Chi, I intend to be one of the people who stay. I believe that Tai Chi offers long term health and martial art benefits. I finally feel like I am part of the group and not just the new student.


Hack Shaft said...

I returned after being one of those who left back in my teens.

My daughter began first, then watching her in class struck a resonant chord in my soul that yearned to be a part of martial arts again.

That we're both involved keeps us both around.

Littlefair said...

I think one reason people don't stick at martial arts is because its too hard.

I don't mean that those who stick at it are superhuman but there is a contract with martial arts that I have and that is I will give a lot of effort and train continually and will then reap the rewards. Unfortunately I think people want a quick fix these days.

Need to eat? Buy a ready-meal. Can't do that with the Martial arts though-there are no quick fixes for the beginner.

I like this:

Bart- "Dad I gave up playing the guitar because it was too hard- I hope your not mad."
Homer- "Son, if something is too hard to do then it's not worth doing. Just put the guitar in the cupboard along with your short wave radio and karate oufit and we'll go inside and watch TV."
Bart- "What's on?"
Homer- "It doesn't matter."

Michele said...

Hack Shaft: Teenagers are so busy with school, sports, driving and looking for colleges. It is always our hope that the teens who stop will come back one day. It is great that you and your daughter practice together. I am still hoping that my daughter will one day be interested in karate.

Littlefair: I agree. Many new students do not realize the long term commitment involved. Gotta love the Simpsons. I wonder how many karate uniforms are tucked away in the back of people's closets.

Steven Smith said...

Tai Chi lost its martial edge in the same spirit of time slots; the vision shifted to getting health. But it's martial nature is where the fitness, health, and healing spring forth from, and it takes time.

My favorite part about a group of advanced students: new people learn faster in an environment of experts. It's like they absorb nuances of motions more quickly.

John Lyons-Sensei Universal Goju Karate School said...

I tell my students that they are embarking on a life long endeavor. I get the parents to understand early on that kids are trying to find themselves. I teach the parents that they are the ones who must keep the child focused. Yes they may go off to play soccer or baseball, but hey should always comeback. I tell pparents that at after the child has gotten thier fill they will comeback. I tell parents that after the kids have grown and the luster of "professional" sports has worn off they will always have thier martial arts. Grand Master said that "if everything is taken away you will always have your karate. No one can take that from you." Karate never leaves you. And ultimately, you never leave karate.

Wei said...

Yeah, I'm hoping I get some more physical therapy visits. My insurance only paid for 22 consecutive visits from July through December. It's definitely not enough to improve myself.

It's great that you finally feel like you belong to your Tai Chi class. My aunt does Tai Chi daily and it's so fascinating to watch her go through the movements. It'll be interesting to see the differences between Tai Chi and taekwon do.

Michele said...

Steven Smith: Thank you for your insight on the martial nature of Tai Chi. It is my hope that we will be taught the application of the movements not just the pattern. All in good time...

John Lyons: You make an excellent point regarding the importance of parental involvement. You are right "karate never leaves you". Even if a student passes through the dojo for a short time, they will carry what they have learned with them.

Wei: Your plan to go to the gym will help. You will feel stronger and see improvement with your knee.

Steve said...

We see a lot of attrition in BJJ. I think it's a lot easier to talk about training than to actually do it.

At the same time, as most of us have tried different things and ultimately found a passion for our respective martial art, it's not for everyone. My son tried BJJ and didn't like it, but he practices his drums diligently. His passion is for something else. I have no problem with that. :)

Michele said...

Steve: You make a good point "it's not for everyone".

My daughter has instant access to karate since my husband and I are both black belts. At this point in her life...she is not interested in karate and that is fine by us. Her interests are in science, art, drama, cooking and clothing design.

Anonymous said...

I have mixed feelings. My students drift away exactly as described, for Soccer, Hockey, football and baseball. When I was a kid, you could play all those sports in your neighborhood. Now, you have to be on a team, and the coach demands that you come to practice, while Karate is, as you say the off-season activity that will always take you back.

On one hand, I feel students benefit from whatever level they reach, but on the other, I get tired of putting great effort into white belts, often at the expense of the rest of the class, and having them drop. It's hard to train a kid for four or five years and then have them drop out when their hormones kick in.

Still figuring this one out. Thanks for your perspective.

S. Cohen
Korean Karate Academy, (Tang Soo Do)
Juneau, Alaska