Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Moving and the Martial Arts

My friend +Andrea Harkins recently announced she's making a big move, from Florida to Arizona.  As a result, she has to succession plan for her martial arts program (and it looks like she's got that well under control).

But she's going to have a big problem in her new city. Where is she going to train, and with whom?

I know this problem very, very well.  You see, I moved twice cross-country in about 18 months during the Great Recession, due to layoffs.  Each move required a lot of trial and error and searching to find people to train with.  It's a huge problem, y'all.

Another huge problem - no standard boxes for your martial arts equipment.

For some of us, it may be easier to find a place to train in a new city. You may train in a very popular style (taekwondo, BJJ, Shotokan Karate, etc.) so it's easy to find a school.  Or you might be like me and train in a relatively obscure style where it's hard to find a teacher or a person to train with.

In fact, when I moved to Texas, I found my teacher through pure luck. After a few months of studying a style that was fine but just wasn't what we wanted to do, we'd decided to commute to Memphis (about an 8 hour drive) and train our original teacher once a quarter since we couldn't find anyone teaching what we wanted to learn nearby (and the cost was about the same).

On literally our last weekend in that school, my teacher walked in the door and I was introduced to him.  I started training with him the following week, in November 2010.  I train with him still, years and years later.  As far as I know, he is the only person within 30 minutes teaching any variant of Modern Arnis.

I met him by CHANCEIf I'd been there an hour later, or earlier, or if I hadn't had to come bring Older Daughter in for her class on that day... I would never have met my teacher, probably.

The weird twist my story is that I'd reached out to my current teacher on the internet via Martial Talk (I didn't know his real name as he used a pseudonym on MT) a few months earlier but got no reply. He just didn't know how to get his private messages there, so we didn't connect then.  After we met him, I told my original teacher about the encounter, and he said, "Oh yeah!  I know him! I forgot he was there! I used to live two doors down from him!"

TWO.  DOORS.  DOWN. About a mile from where I was living, even!
That is a true story, y'all.
I wish Andrea the best of luck in her training in her new city. I hope she's as lucky with it as I was.

So what does this have to do with you, my friend?

GET BETTER AT INTERNETTING.

What do I mean by this?

Most of us are always looking for training partners, even if we aren't teaching.  If we are teaching, we want to find all the students we can find, right?  It is the rare martial artist that ISN'T looking for these things.

So be easy to find online.  It's going to be the first method people in the modern world use to find places to train.

Make sure if you have a physical location that you have claimed it on Google Maps and you've filled in all the contact information, including web site and/or email.

HAVE a web site and/or email.  You don't have to have a private domain, you can set up a free site on a site like Wix or Weebly or Blogger or Wordpress, even if you're just looking for training partners or you're offering private lessons. Put some good pictures on there, and use all the important keywords, including:
  • Martial Arts
  • Your style, and the larger "term" for it (for example, if you're doing a kind of karate, make sure you use the term KARATE as well as the "real" name of what you teach)
  • Your city, including nearby cities or towns that it's easy to commute from to train, usually within about 20 minutes travel.
Set up a social media channel - whichever one is easiest for you (Facebook and Instagram seem to be the most popular) - and keep it updated and active. It sucks to find a social media account for a martial arts school and not seeing updates for months or years, and you're not sure if they're around or not!

List yourself on dojo directory web sties.  A big one in North America is Dojos.info but there are others, including mobile apps.

If your style has some web sites or directories aimed at your specific community or organization - BE THERE, with correct contact information.

If there are places for people to send inquiries - check them often and respond to them quickly.

Every method I mentioned above is free. FREE! It only requires a little effort on your part.  It isn't terribly hard.  So get on it.

It is very possible, Mr. Obscure-Style-Guy-That-Can't-Find-Students-or-Training*Partners, that there are lots of people looking for you around you, but can't FIND you. 

I was one of those students. Andrea might be one of those students.  And believe me, you don't want to miss out on dedicated, hard-core martial arts students like us.