Growth – August 6, 2014, Kim Taylor, Renshi, CI Sei Do Kai Guelph ON, Nanadan

People confuse organizations with arts, but there is a good reason for that. Large growth is easiest with a good organization.

A budo doesn’t need an organization, at least one beyond the dojo level. If there is a teacher and students, that’s enough to carry on and even to grow the art. An organization, on the other hand, does things a dojo just can’t. It spreads to other areas, it offers administration and advertising. In short, think franchise. A mom and pop corner store can thrive given the right location, service and selection of goods, but there’s a reason why there are so many shichijuichi (7-11) stores around. It’s got to do with bulk buying power, standardization and marketing.

If you’re inclined to say now that a dojo can spawn more dojo and thus grow without an organization, what have you just created? More than one dojo means some sort of administration of the multiple dojo. It’s now an organization, regardless of having a name or not.

A growing art tends to have a good organization behind it, or perhaps several of them. Look at your local karate school, it’s likely part of some sort of chain, your local teacher got his grade from somewhere. Lots of karate organizations, some better at some things, some at others.

What are some of the things a good organization provides?

Gradings. This is first and foremost the function of an organization. A single dojo has little reason to create formal grades, everyone knows where they stand in the pecking order so why bother? When you get lots of dojo spread out you start needing a system to keep track of who is where. But more importantly for growth, students like grades. Students want grades and they want the chance to grade often. They may claim differently, they may complain about the cost, but they grade regardless. A frequent and challenging grading system means more students.

Standardization within parameters. There is a trade-off between growth and quality, think lots of dojo with marginal instructors. Even if those instructors collapse under their own incompetance the students will remain and will likely be picked up by other dojo in the organization. After all, the students want to retain their place in the grading system. This is also why organizations looking to poach students will offer an equivalent or even higher grade for those who jump. Forcing a start from zero is not a good way to pick up students from other places. What about quality you say? A challenge grade can be offered rather than an automatic rank transfer if quality is a concern. See what level the jumper is at and give it, specifics of the style can always be picked up before the next grading.

The opposite to a group that gives too much away for growth is a group that never feels a student is good enough to go start a dojo. In that case the organization will be restricted to a very few dojo which will hold few students (even if each dojo is filled to maximum capacity, few dojo mean limited numbers students).

Advertising, support and training. Just like a franchised business will use its income from the members to advertise, so can budo organizations. The group’s existance in different areas and the cross-recognition of grades over many dojo is an incentive to new students and should never be underestimated. Organizations ought to be putting this out there.

Support for new dojo should be given by the organization, especially to areas where there is no representation. Something as simple as a few club weapons, some old mats or a couple months rent on a dojo space can help get a new area into the fold.

Training of students and instructors is critical to the growth of an organization and thus an art. Students love seeing senior instructors who come and tell them the same thing their sensei tells them. It gives them confidence in their teacher and it provides a boost to their training. A couple days of concentrated practice does more than months of dragging your butt out to an hour of class a week. Good organizations make sure they have senior instructors moving around their territory all the time, and when they do, standardization improves.

This implies an organization wants to expand of course, and the way to collapse it is easy. No support, no gradings and soon there will be no members. Who would bother paying for a membership in an organization that does nothing for you? The key is always the training with your own sensei and you can do that inside or outside of an organization because the two are separate.

Even if people often confuse the organization for the art.

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