Bringing in 2017

2017 is quickly approaching and as with each new year this brings with it a rush of new potential clients looking for help in achieving their fitness, personal growth, and life goals.

This time of year can really set the pace for the rest of your 2017. Whether your academy will see real growth (in member numbers and gross income) or if you will continue to just get by.

I won’t lie.

Most Jiu Jitsu academies ignore the potential that the new year brings.

But I can assure you that other martial arts academies and the entire fitness industry are already preparing to take full advantage.

Think about this for one second.

People with cash in hand. Looking for a fun way to sweat and to release stress in a safe environment.

If this sounds like your academy why not help them and yourself?

From bring in the new year (2016):

“January is to the fitness and martial arts industries what black friday and cyber monday are to big retailers. If you’re not marketing your school for the influx of people looking to make good on their New Year’s Resolutions, then you’ll really miss out on the best time to grow your martial arts school.”

Systems

In 2016, I talked a lot about the importance of having systems in place. Specifically, in creating marketing systems to help you generate more leads. I plan on doing a quick review of that but I want you to think bigger picture.

You should have a system in place for everything!

There should be a system that you use in planning your classes.

A system for training new employees and instructors.

You should even have a system for how to clean your academy.

By implementing systems you make your business more efficient. Which means more time and energy for making money and doing what you love.

Examples of systems

Website

Your website is often the first experience a potential client will have with your business.

There should be a process by which visitors (new prospects) can go to your website. Leave you their contact information and you continue to market to them until they try out your services.

There are a few ways to set up a system for your academy that does exactly this but for now I will leave you with a simple checklist of things your website should contain.

  • Branded Items. Have your logo, image, and social media information available so that they know that you are a real business.
  • Contact Information. Phone and email so that interested prospects have a way of contacting you.
  • Schedule. Self explanatory.
  • Instructor information. Post about yourself, who you’re associated with, and of course your credentials.
  • Lead Generator. Have some way of collecting prospective clients contact information. At least a first and last name, a phone number, and an email address so that you can send them more information.
  • Address. Don’t underestimate the power location has in turning a prospect into a paying client. Place your address some where easily accessible and include a map and landmarks if possible.

Live Telephone Answering Service

It seems like common sense but you never know when a prospective client will call.

The worse thing you can do is let your telephone calls go to voicemail.

It’s like having an attractive girl text you late at night to see what you’re doing.

If you’re wide awake at that time and able to respond to her message. All is good.

But what if you happened to be really tired that night and end up sleeping through her message.

You can bet she’s going to be less interested the next time around!

That’s why you have to strike while the iron is hot.

With an automated telephone service, new prospects will call your number and speak to a virtual receptionist available 24/7 when you’re not able to get to the phone. This works really well because they can forward calls to your sales staff to close the deal, or they can collect the prospects contact information and even input their email address into your other systems.

Once you get a prospective student’s email or phone number you can gauge their level of interest and react accordingly. If they’re really gung ho, go right ahead and sign them up, but if they’re not quite ready to give your program a try, use email to build a relationship with them. Inform them of the benefits that you offer, tell them your history, offer them free guides and videos. Whatever it takes to build interest and eventual get them in your doors.

Lesson Plan for Fundamental/Beginners

Coming up with a lesson plan each week from scratch is really time consuming and it sucks.

I’m talking from experience here.

With more advanced classes you have more freedom in planning classes and working different concepts.

But when you’re dealing with with beginning students it’s best to stick with the basics and have a structured game plan.

At my academy we implement a system of lessons for our beginner (white belt) and intermediate level (blue belt) students. That’s designed to teach them the basics of Jiu Jitsu without overwhelming them.

If your academy is smaller and just starting out then it doesn’t make sense to divide your members up. But as you continue to grow and you have students at all levels. It will become increasingly harder to add brand new students to your (mixed) classes without the higher belts feeling like they have to slow down in order get the lower belts up to speed.

At that point, it becomes more effective for the newer students to work on techniques that are appropriate to their experience level (i.e. learning how to shrimp before learning heel hooks).

Eventually you will need to have a system in place that will help your beginner students learn the fundamental techniques of Jiu Jitsu and prepare them for more advance techniques/classes.

Again, developing systems creates less headaches and worry for you. Which means that you can focus you energy and attentions to other areas of your business.

Marketing Your Academy

You should be marketing your academy and your services year round. Especially during the first quarter of the year (January to March).

This time is great because people are actively seeking solutions to their health and fitness goals.

I know a lot of Jiu Jitsu academies have a negative view on marketing.

Why do you have to market your academy when you are the best in the city, or you have the best competitors, or the highest ranked students?

While this is all good. I can tell you right now that the average person off of the street or visitor to your website has no clue how good your academy is compared to the academy down the street.

They don’t care about how many tournaments you’ve won.

They don’t care about how many champions you’ve produce.

But I do know what they do care about.

They care about themselves and how your business can help them reach their goals!

“Our job is to connect to people, to interact with them in a way that leaves them better than we found them, more able to get where they’d like to go.” – Seth Godin

An easy way to get started is to research the local academies in your area.

Check out their websites.

See what they’re offering prospective clients to try out their programs.

Then use that information to create your own marketing strategy.

A strategy that will set your apart from all the rest.

“Think different” – Apple Computer, Inc.

Online Marketing
This is a fairly broad topic but it includes all of your online marketing efforts and social media, digital products, etc.

We talked about setting up your website earlier. Above all else, it should be informative and simple to use and share.

A few questions to help you get started

  • How is your social media presence? Are you posting new things about your academy and programs daily/weekly/infrequently?
  • Are there any videos of your classes, you teaching, interviews, etc?
  • Are your clients sharing your posts, pictures and other content?
  • What comes up when someone searches your name or your academy? How can you use that to promote your brand.

Direct Mail
I’m talking about good-old fashioned physical marketing tools such as flyers and mailers. It may seem old school but it’s still effective and relevant for a physical location. A well designed mailer, with a modest list depending on the population in your area could generate massive returns.

For example if you purchased a list of 10,000 lead addresses and only had 5%(0.05) of those leads contact your academy. That’s potentially 500 new clients.

Referrals
Your biggest resource and best ally is going to be your loyal clientele.

Do you have a system by which your clients can refer their friends, family members, and coworker’s?

A free trial pass.

A business card.

Even a brochure that your clients can give out would be a low investment -> high reward tool that you can easily implement.

Improving Your Academy

There are going to be a few days during the holidays when you’re academy will be less busy or even closed.

Why not take this time to make some minor (or even major) improvements in and around your academy?

Little touches like:

  • Deeply cleaning your entire academy
  • New coat of paint
  • New/different furniture in your reception area
  • New mats
  • Adding more fitness equipment
  • Wifi for members
  • Complementary body wash

Show that you value your current clients as well as helping you sell your brand to prospective clients.

There is no shortage of things that you can do that will help prepare your academy for the new year.

Having systems in places to help run your academy and focusing on those little touches that will set you apart from those other martial arts/fitness businesses in your area is a good step in the right direction.

The more value you give in terms of the programs you offer, the amenities, and instruction.

The easier it will be to market and sell your services.

This could be the difference between running your academy like a side hustle that barely covers your living expenses versus a business that can generate wealth for many years to come.

Giving and Receiving Feedback

During my last post I covered in detail the 7 different learning styles and how you can improve your retention of techniques by focusing more on your dominant learning style(s).

It seems a natural progression to move on from the topic of learning styles to feedback (giving and receiving it) and the role that it plays in your Jiu Jitsu game.

Getting feedback from training partners and instructors is an important aspect in the life of a martial artist. Feedback is how we correct holes in our games. Feedback is how we help our training partners get better. Feedback keeps us honest and humble.

I was teaching a three day seminar earlier this year and for some reason over the course of those few days I kept bringing up the importance of giving feedback. I didn’t think of it before hand, but you never know when insight will strike. Sometimes you just have to run with it.

But back on topic.

Giving feedback is a way of letting your partner know if their technique is good or if they are missing some key details and vice versa.

Positive and Negative Feedback

There is no bad feedback. It’s only how receptive you are to the feedback and your reaction to it. Whether you will take it to heart and use it to improve your game or let it fall on deaf ears is up to you.

Positive Feedback – Affirming comments about past behavior. Pointing out strengths and praising them for it.

Negative Feedback – Corrective comments about past behavior. Pointing out where improvement is needed and suggesting things that they can do to change their performance.

Examples of feedback

Everyone in Jiu Jitsu has received feedback over the course of their training. Like when you are trying to master a cross choke but you haven’t quite gotten the move down so you change your grip and try the choke again.  But your partner doesn’t tap right away so you have to adjust your grip again and repeat until it works effectively.

Or when your partner is working a toreando pass but it’s missing some details so you have them do it on you until they are able to address the different ways that you were able to stave off their pass.

These are both forms of giving feedback and when I think about it this might be the best way to learn and to improve in Jiu Jitsu.

Feedback: information about reactions to a product, a person’s performance of a task, etc. which is used as a basis for improvement.

Giving feedback and being able to receive feedback is how you grow in Jiu Jitsu and I’m sure this holds true for other parts of your life as well.

Every time you step into your academy you are receiving feedback in some form or another.

Feedback from your instructor

When you are learning techniques you receive feedback from your instructor in the form of them leaving you alone if you are correctly performing the technique well or them giving you even more detailed instruction if you’ve mastered the move set. The flip side of this is when you are not performing the technique well. The instructor will spend more time going over the move again and will keep a closer eye on you throughout the class.

Feedback from your training partners

Jiu Jitsu is built on receiving feedback from your training partner and using that information to improve your technique.

If your move or attack is ineffective, your training partner is the first to let you know.

Then you are able to calibrate your technique for a better response. If not, you keep trying and reworking the key details of the move until it works.

If your move or technique is effective, your training partner will be the first person to let you know.

And you are able to move on to the next move, and when that move gives you trouble or is just a little bit off. You begin the process of calibrating all over again.

As much as we like to think of Jiu Jitsu as a solo art form. At its core it is a collective activity. Without the feedback from your training partners and them allowing you to practice your skills on their bodies there would be no Jiu Jitsu.

Feedback from tournaments

Tournaments are important because they are the fairest test of your techniques and abilities. You are given as equal footing as realistically possible. You are matched against same sized, similarly aged, similarly skilled opponents and set to compete.

Now if only all parts of life were that fair!

During a competition you receive so much feedback, all in real time. You try a move and if it is successful you are positively rewarded with a better position, points, a submission, or medal. If unsuccessful, you risk losing position, your opponent being rewarded points, getting submitted, or not receiving a medal.

Regardless of how you do. The experience from one tournament alone could be worth weeks or even months of regular training in your academy and there lies the value of understanding and effectively utilizing feedback. It’s literally a way of hacking your Jiu Jitsu so that you are able to progress even faster.

Open Communication

Before I started training full-time, I worked part-time as an educator for a well known athletic apparel brand. That means I got to help ladies pick out the perfect pair of stretchy pants while wearing my favorite Jiu Jitsu t-shirts and athletic apparel. Not a bad job really.

But one thing that was always emphasized was this idea of open communication. I’m sure my readers that are in the corporate world have heard of this term before while being exposed to team building exercises. But for those that aren’t as familiar with this term. Open communication is the free flow of information regardless of ability, seniority, or position.

Because we spent so much focus on open communication we became accustomed to giving and receiving feedback so that everyone on our staff was on the same page at all times.

In the academy this would mean instructors being able to openly communicate with students and students being able to communicate openly to the instructor and other students.

Open Communication

Training partners are encouraged to share their thoughts and concerns, both good and bad, without worry of retaliation from other students and/or instructors when feedback is negative.

What usually happens

What happens a lot with beginners and lower belts is that they often won’t give detailed feedback as they might not have the knowledge to identify when a move is not being applied correctly.

This also happens when you have a higher belt paired up with a lower belt, but the higher belt doesn’t do the technique properly.

Again, most lower belts won’t speak up out of respect for the hierarchy of rank. Allowing the higher belt to continue practicing the move improperly.

When you have an academy built on open communication it is much easier for students to give feedback without worry of unsettling their training partners or more senior students. This feedback will only make your training partners, students, and your academy better.

But this change has to come from the top from instructors and the heads of the academy.

Giving Feedback

Everyone can give feedback. In fact every time a training partner performs a technique on you is an opportunity for you to give them feedback.

Yes! That move worked well.

No! Try repositioning your body to your side.

When giving feedback there are a few tips that will help you NOT come off as an asshole or a know-it-all.

  • Timing of Feedback
  • Balanced Feedback
  • Be Specific

Timing of feedback – It’s best to give feedback in real time or during a period when it’s relevant (like immediately after class) versus waiting a full day or longer when it’s less helpful.

Example. Coaching during a match.

Balanced Feedback – Balance both positive and negative feedback. I like to lead with something that the person does well before moving on to areas where they can improve upon.

Specificity – Be specific about the move or detail they should focus on that way they will know exactly what they should be working on.

Being Receptive

Jiu Jitsu is one of the most effective martial arts in the world due to the level of feedback that we absorb throughout our training. Between our training partners, instructors, rolling and getting tapped or doing the tapping. We receive so much information.

Being receptive to feedback is an important part of Jiu Jitsu because it is the only way that you will be able to improve.

Receiving Feedback

  • Actively listen. Respond and remember what is being said.
  • Say thanks. Regardless of whether the feedback is useful or not.
  • Evaluate feedback. Think about how you can effectively apply the feedback to grow your Jiu Jitsu game.

It’s telling that many of best competitors and instructors are also some of the most receptive to feedback. There is only so much time in which you can train. Why not utilize the knowledge and insight gained from your training partners to better yourself?

“Employ your time in improving yourself by other men’s writings, so that you shall gain easily what others have labored hard for.”

-Socrates

Seeking Feedback

As you get to a higher level of training, I think you will be more proactive in seeking feedback.

Every roll will be a chance for you to collect more data. You try a technique and if it works then good. If not, you use that feedback to improve your technique or your timing or whatever until it does work.

There is no secret to success on the mats but the first step to improving, and this is what separates those who click with Jiu Jitsu on a higher level from those who have a lot of trouble picking up techniques, is all in actively (as opposed to passively) seeking feedback.

The best way to receive feedback is to ask for it.

Ask open ended questions such as:

“I’m having trouble in this specific position. What can I do to improve my chances of getting past it?”

“How can I get this sweep to work if my opponent does this to counter?”

By asking open ended questions you allow the responder to give you a useful, detailed response that you will be able to put into action.

Conclusion

You will always be receiving and giving feedback whether you are aware of it or not.

When you first start training the majority of the feedback that you will receive will come from your training partners and your instructor(s).

But you have to be open to it no matter the source.

Be it your rivals.

Lower belts.

Higher belts.

You want to find balance when giving feedback. Balance both the positive and negative. Of course troubleshoot what needs to be worked on but make sure not overlook the good stuff as well.

At the end of the day the feedback will be there in your training and in your interactions with your training partners and instructors. Though it’s up to you in how receptive you are to it and how you are able to frame it and use it to improve.

Remembering Techniques

I recently had a blue belt training partner approach me after class one day. He asked me how was I able to remember all of the moves that the instructor taught.

That day in class we covered one major position. But many different complex options that we could utilize depending on our opponent’s reactions.

I offered him a few suggestions that help me personally.

But I didn’t think much of it. Looking back a lot of the students (from blue belt all the way up to black belt) seemed to struggle stringing together the techniques.

As much as I like to think that I have a great memory and am a Jiu Jitsu wiz. There are times when I’m slow to pick up a move or the technique doesn’t seem to “click” at first.   

Starting Out

When you first begin training in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu everything is new to you.

Even if you have a background in other sports or martial arts. Jiu Jitsu is unlike anything else out there.

Take for instance the simple act of shrimping. The concept of moving on the ground sounds easy enough. Actual doing it is hard.

I remember being a white belt and seeing my instructor show a technique (multiple times and with lots of details) and by the time it took to walk back to my partner and practice the move. I would completely blank out.

When you start doing Jiu Jitsu, it’s very much like learning to swim all over again.

You’re uncoordinated. Swore all over from using muscles that you didn’t even know you had, and a lot of it doesn’t make sense.

It doesn’t help that most people’s interaction with the ground is limited to rolling around on their bed or getting off of the ground when they happen to slip and fall.

Even if you do understand the concepts behind the moves. That doesn’t mean that your body is physically prepared to turn your understanding into action.

You will see this a lot when someone takes time off of training. They will know exactly what moves to perform but their timing will be way off. Their body literally cannot keep up with their mind.

Experience

A lot of remembering techniques comes from experience.

Experience seeing the movements being done over and over.

The experience of trying the move and having it not work. Then having to troubleshoot the move.

Find Your Learning Style(s)

For new and more seasoned students, I think it’s important for you to understand how you learn best.

Jiu Jitsu is an introspective art form. I know many people use Jiu Jitsu as a cathartic release. A way of relieving strong emotions and stress. But if you really want to improve you will need to put a lot of thought into your practice. There’s no other way.

“The best advice that John Danaher gave me is to continually have intentionality in jiu-jitsu; in the immediate term, intentionality of movement, every grip, every set up must have a clear purpose. In the longer term to always have focused goals for your skill.”

-Ottavia Bourdain

The 7 Jiu Jitsu Learning Styles


Visual (spatial):

  • You prefer using pictures, images, and spatial understanding.
  • Visual learners learn by watching the technique being performed.
  • They are also great at visualizing moves and outcomes in their mind.

Aural (auditory-musical):

  • You prefer using sound and music.
  • Aural learners learn best when there is sound and music.
  • You will often find that they hum or sing songs while training.

Verbal (linguistic):

  • You prefer using words, both in speech and writing.
  • Verbal learners work best when being told detailed instructions on how to perform a technique or action.
  • The more details the better. Often seen carrying around a Jiu Jitsu journal to write down new moves.

Physical (kinesthetic):

  • You prefer using your body, hands and sense of touch.
  • Physical learners think while moving their bodies.
  • They might have trouble picking up a move just from watching it. But will get it down once they get a chance to perform the technique.

Logical (mathematical):

  • You prefer using logic, reasoning and systems.
  • Logical learners work best when taught through the use of concepts and systems. They are the go to when it comes to solving problems and figuring out different positions.
  • Logical learners love examples and connecting techniques to other movements.

Social (interpersonal):

  • You prefer to learn in groups or with other people.
  • Social learns work best by bouncing thoughts off of their training partners and listening to their feedback. The more group energy the better.
  • Social learners enjoy open mats and taking private lessons.

Solitary (intrapersonal):

  • You prefer to work alone and use self-study.
  • Solitary learners will often learn through self study of videos and online training programs.
  • Solitary learners enjoy working independently and figuring out different positions and techniques on their own.

Great Instructors

The best instructors are able to teach to multiple styles of learning all at once. They are able to find a way for every student to understand the techniques that they show.

Student of Jiu Jitsu

As a student of Jiu Jitsu it is your job to understand the way you learn best.

In the ideal world your instructor would be able to cater to your learning style but due to class size and time limits this isn’t always possible.

Regardless, as you progress in your study of Jiu Jitsu. You instructor will go from holding your hand and walking you through techniques to becoming more of mentor.

Conclusion

A lot of the confusion in learning techniques (and remembering them) is that you don’t utilize your dominant style(s) of learning.

There are lots of exercises and tools that you can use:

  • Visualizing yourself performing the techniques.
  • Filming moves
  • Keeping a Jiu Jitsu journal
  • Watching the technique being done multiple times
  • Having your instructor physically place you in the right position

There are no shortages of tools that you can use to help yourself retain techniques and moves. But I think the most important step is the first step. You have to make a conscious decision to improve and a conscious effort to take the action.