All commercial Taekwondo instructors know that children are where the money is. You cannot have a successful Taekwondo business without children, lots of children. They love to train and beg their parents to take them to class, they want to go to tournaments, camps, clinics, etc, and they buy lots of Taekwondo equipment and accessories. Children get fewer injuries and, when they do, they heal quickly. Children tend to stay as students for many years, and they where most of a school's instructor trainees come from. Therefore, most commercial instructors have an extensive advertising program to reach children, such as demonstrations in malls, ads, school visits, bring a friend to class, etc.
However, children grow up, start dating, start college, and move on to other aspects of their lives. This means there is a dearth of wisdom and experience in many Taekwondo schools. To feel this void, instructors need adult students. They have a lot of expertise in many areas that may be useful to the school, such as carpenters, electricians, doctors, etc. and most are willing to help the school in these areas. They have the wisdom and experience to guide younger students. They are stable in their lives so they are not moving locations as much and are not trying to "find themselves."
However, adults have different needs than those of younger students and, if these needs are no fulfilled, they will quit or find a school that does fulfill their needs. Therefore, instructors must be aware of the needs of adult students and seek to fulfill these needs to attract, and keep, adult students in the schools.
Children accept anything you tell them. They knew nothing about Taekwondo until you became their instructor, so they are similar to little "clones" of the instructor. Adults have a lot of knowledge about a lot of things, especially about life in general. They are not as accepting of everything the instructor says; they want to know why and why not. They want to be stimulated. Most are not satisfied being mindless robots that perform the same techniques over-and-over on command for no apparent reason, and usually no reason is provided.
Most young adults have active lives with a lot of things happening. They multi-task daily, both at their jobs and in their lives, so, to get the most out of their time, they want to multi-task at Taekwondo class. They want to learn Taekwondo, get an aerobic workout, built strength, learn self-defense, get fit, meet new friends, and socialize with the friends.
Traditional Taekwondo is boring. Stretch, drill, practice forms, spar, go home. After a few years of this, even a monk would get bored. If you have the patience of Job, you will become an expert technician, but you would also become a mindless robot, repeating the same thing over and over. Young adults need to be stimulated and challenged. Oh, there are always the mindless few, but they are few. You cannot build a business catering to the few; you must appeal to the masses.
People are attracted to leaders. To attract students, you must be a leader in your martial arts community, or at least create that illusion. Take out front-page ads in community newspapers and in the Yellow Pages. Pay to have a pre-move advertisement at local movie theaters. Project yourself as the best martial arts instructor in the community. If you do everything small, you will be perceived as small.
To attract adults, advertise to adults. Instead of having advertisements showing you performing a spectacular kick or helping a child, show photos of trim, fit adults performing ordinary techniques. Show techniques that an average adult could do with training. Show a lot of tight, firm skin. If ask a group of adults how many of them want to become black belts, few will answer yes. However, if you ask the same group how many want to become trimmer, fitter, and healthier, most would answer yes. So, to attract adults, offer them what they want.
Visit other successful schools and see what they are doing to attract adults and build their businesses. Take what you learn and adapt it to your school. Adapt your adult training methods to fit what adults want and are capable of doing. Average adults cannot do high kicks or jump spin kicks, so stress low kicks and use more hand techniques. Do not attempt to force adults to try something at which they will probably. Instead, motivate them to do what they can do. Adopt techniques from other arts. This may not please Taekwondo purists, but it will put food on the table for your family.
To attract all types of students, specialize your classes. Teach special classes that concentrate on specific areas, such as forms, self-defense, weapons, sparring, etc., so that students who are interested in these areas may maintain their interest. Teach classes for different belts levels, such as white/yellow belts, color belts, and black belts. Then students may train at the intensity required of their belt level.
Use no-cancel contracts. People tend to keep training when they have to pay for the classes, even if they do not attend.
To attract adult students:
- Offer cardio classes.
- Offer self-defense classes.
- Offer classes for older adults.
- Classes should have an educational value. Each student should leave class having learned something new.
- When each class should ends, students should be glad they came
Shaw, S. (2004). Steve Doyon and the Art of Attracting Adult Student. [Online]. Available: http://www.maaskanexpert.com/magazine/view_detail.asp?article_id=172