10 Reason people leave a martial arts school

by | Jun 16, 2018 | Environment

In the three plus decades that I have had the opportunity to explore the world of martial arts. I have noticed a trend that many are familiar with. The student attrition rate is huge, to put it mildly. Most larger schools have the resources to separate beginning classes from the advanced classes. But for smaller schools with less resources, such as time, space, equipment, and instructors, this is a problem. For every current student of a year or more, there are between 80 to 99 who have left.

This means that the advanced students who are spending a good amount of money each month to learn, are held back in order to bring the new students up to speed. This has got to have an affect on the fighting readiness of the more experienced students being held back for theses reasons. This can lead to boredom and frustration for many and be a catalyst for their departure.

Though there will always be extenuating circumstances resulting in a students departure, a school administrator does have enough  control of the school environment to enticed students to stay. People tend to make time and be willing to sacrifice in order to partake in things they enjoy. Keeping this in mind, the following are 10 reasons students leave a martial arts school.

  1. Multi-level classes
  2. Not learning anything new.
  3. Not understanding the relevance of what they are learning. IE; the why.
  4. Not having a clear understanding of the schools vision and direction.
  5. Nothing changes in the school or lessons such as equipment,or decor.
  6. Lack of social events or functions
  7. Lack of merchandise to purchase
  8. Atmosphere that is not inviting
  9. Loss of faith in the staff
  10. The price

I speak from experience. These are issues I myself have been frustrated with while attending other schools  These are possible solutions in reference to the above numbered issues.

1. Multi-level classes: How does a school offer an environment that keeps their more advanced students learning, growing, and thrivings while offering their beginning students an environment where they can learn the basics and not be overwhelmed with more advanced techniques?  There are several options for those running small schools and lack the resources to expand.

  • The first option might be to choose an experienced student you can rely upon to assist with new students on one side of the  class while the instructor teaches the more advanced students on the other, assuming there are no other rooms available. This would be in exchange of partial or full fees the assistant normally pays to attend the school.
  • The second might be to offer them an instructor position in exchange for their tuition fees. These classes would be taught either in different rooms or at different times than the advanced classes.
  • The third is more old school. Offer an apprenticeship. Free long term training in exchange for their assistance in helping around the school as an instructor or whatever else you may need. They will be groomed to care for the master as he/she ages and to take over the school upon his/her departure. This could be a single apprenticeship or multiple apprenticeships.

2.  Not learning anything new.  A lazy teacher has bored students. Reach deep within the well. Continuing education for the teachers and instructors is crucial. You cannot teach what you do not learn.

3.   Not understanding the relevance of what they are learning. IE; the why. When a teacher does not give context, doubt will fill that void, as to relevancy of a topic. Explain why something is done a certain way and it will be easier for them to remember and relate.

4.  Not having a clear understanding of the schools vision and direction: People like to feel they are a part of something, but in order to do so, they must know what that something is. Give your students a 1, 5, and 10 year projection of what the teacher wants  to accomplish, what is needed to accomplish it and how it will benefit them. This will motivate the student and keep the teacher focused.

5.   Nothing changes in the school or lessons such as equipment,or decor: If the school looks and operates as it did 10 years ago, it indicates stagnation. This will bore and frustrate students and hurt staff morale.

6.  Lack of social events or functions: When building a tribe or community, it is important to have non-training events that encourage positive social interaction. This will bond the students with each other and the school.

7. Lack of merchandise to purchase: Having merchandise for students to purchase will not only increase sales but offers the students ways to support the school and advance their training. It also adds more depth and enhances the appearance of the school.

8. Atmosphere that is not inviting: This could involve cleanliness of both fellow students and the facility, social acceptance, comfort  level, safety such as a dark parking lot, and security of personal belongings. This would include having a way to secure personal belonging such as lockers. The school should have an atmosphere of trust and comradery. .

9.  Loss of faith in the staff: This could be do to staff partying at the school or showing up intoxicated, teacher hurting the students physically or emotionally, inconsistent class schedule, and not being open to new ideas. Image is everything. Professionalism is very important.

10. The price: Sell to the masses, eat with the classes. In other words, keep your price affordable to the general public. Someone making minimum wage should be able to afford to train.


Outside of home, the school should be a favorite place to be.