How an Inadvertent Lack of Integrity is
Sabotaging Your Student Retention

Martial Arts Student Retention is important because it’s much less expensive to keep the students you have rather than spending time and money recruiting new students to replace the dropouts.

There are a number of reasons students drop out. We’ll ignore the obvious like moving away and focus on areas of retention that a martial arts school owner can help to control.


Before we dive into the 3 Best Retention Strategies for Martial Arts Schools in part 2, let’s address some common tactics that school owners may be using right now to keep their students.

What makes these tactics work or fail is the integrity of the delivery, process, and communications. These are common retention systems in place in many schools and they can work, but you have to be careful how you interpret, execute, and communicate when using them.

1. Martial Arts Student Survey Integrity

Student Surveys can be helpful, but they only work to the level of participation. 

Typically, your most enthused students will be happy to complete a survey. However, the borderline dropouts may not take the time to complete the survey. Odds are these are the students you really need to hear from.

With each drop in participation from 100%, the integrity of the survey drops as well. That doesn’t mean anyone is doing anything bad, it just means the information is not a real survey. It’s biased.

Your most enthused students love what you do and they are happy to tell you that in the survey.

Your less-enthused students are not as excited to take the time to complete the survey.

2. New Martial Arts Student 2-4-6 Call Integrity

Calling students 2-4 and 6-weeks after they join is a great idea. 

What is NOT a great idea is telling the parents that their child is doing GREAT in class when the parent knows full well the child is not. There is NO WAY that every student in your school is doing “awesome” in class. 

You are not leading from integrity when you gush. 

Instead, ask smart, sincere questions. Your mission is to get the parent or student to tell you the truth and for you to listen, not sugarcoat the situation. That is unprofessional.

Compare these two phrases. Which will give you more actionable information?

#1  “Hi, Mrs. Jones. Just wanted to check in and let you know that Joey is doing great in class and we’re proud to have him.”

#2 “I remember when you first brought Joey in. You said you wanted him to gain some confidence. What are you seeing on your end?”

If you were Mrs. Jones, which shows more concern? Which shows more interest? Which shows that you really care about her son Joey?

3. Praise Integrity

I was a guest at a belt exam. The senior instructor is a world-caliber black belt. One of the requirements for brown belt was to skip sidekick through two boards. Each child got three attempts.

The third child in line bounced off the boards once, twice, and then three times. He never broke a board, but the instructor said, “Awesome! High Five!” My jaw hit the floor.

False praise makes it a lot harder for you to get excellence out of a student because what is better than awesome? Why would they need to work any harder?

Next week, we’ll include a video of an instructor holding pads and fluffing up the kids with each technique.

In the meantime, learn how to teach like a professional with the MATA Certification Program.


When Combining Features and Benefits Gets Confusing

  1. “Hold the lunge punch out with your chin up.  This way you honor the art with good form.” (Is form more important than defense?)
  2. “Before you block, cross your arms and step forward. This way you can create power.” (Why does a block need power?)
  3. “When defending against multiple attackers, you want to stay on the outside and line them up so you’re only fighting one at a time. In kata though, you’re in the middle of an attack from six guys. And, if you get it wrong, you might not pass your belt exam.” This way you honor the art with good form. 

Your Assignment as an Intellectually Curious School Owner

Take another look at this list of benefits. Remove your sensei/master perspective and look at this with one goal in mind.

How can you provide these benefits in a more DIRECT, BAGGAGE-FREE, and EFFECTIVE process?

BENEFITS of most martial arts schools.

  • Fitness
  • Flexibility
  • Life Skills
  • Self-Defense
  • Sport
  • Friendship and Social