The Algebra of Martial Arts Recruitment

I’ve been training in martial pursuits for my whole adult life and I am now facing a publicity problem.  What makes people want to join a martial arts club?

I understand the different sorts of drivers that bring people to a point where they wish to try a martial art, but what is it that makes them choose a particular art.  More specifically when presented with a choice of martial arts and with no preconception what do you have to say or show someone to make them choose a particular art?

I’ve spent the day helping at a University sports fair and I’m currently trying to put together something for a promotional DVD but what is it that puts people off and what draws them in?

Year’s ago I discovered whilst recruiting for my university Jiu Jitsu club that asking guys if they had considered trying a martial art and asking girls if they had considered learning some self defence gave a much better conversion rate than “do you want to learn Jiu Jitsu?”  However how does this translate into what people see?  I’ve watched people get bored watching karate do line work and I’ve seen people get really impressed by breaking boards.  I’ve seen jitsuka using swords and knives draw huge crowds and I’ve seen them dispersed by the demonstration of the same techniques too.  What is the magic formula and how can I apply it to a promotional DVD?

As might be expected different people respond to different things, but after some deliberation I’ve developed what I hope will be a winning formula.

1. Illustrate Experience in Three Stages

Show people that when they start they will learn simple effective techniques in a safe environment and show them how they will work with others of a similar level in a safe environment with an enthusiastic instructor.

Next show them what they will be doing within six months to a year or so and show them how much more confidence and complexity of technique can be achieved.

Finally show them what the experts who have been training for several years can actually do.  Make it dangerous and complicated but make it look really smooth.

It is important to manage people’s expectations appropriately by explaining how these three stages relate and the sorts of timescales represented by each.

2. Practical Start

Every beginner should leave a class with a good practical technique they can do well and that they could use in self defence.  Everything early on should be as practical as possible.  As students progress they can then explore the art side further.

3. Hollywood-ise It

Whilst play acting is probably best left to the professionals, think about why people watch something.  It is because they find it interesting and fascinating.  Whilst some people may be happy to watch a guy punch thin air or someone rolling around on the floor it may not be that engaging.  instead try and think of new and interesting or entertaining ways in which to demonstrate something.  Take a leaf from the Hollywood blockbusters and develop a plot or story to tell.  Engage people with the poetry of the movement and the excitement of the action by choreographing and planning everything out to begin with.  Maybe even consider setting some of it to a good thumping background track?

Hopefully these three observations might bring further growth and success to the clubs in which I’m involved.  I hope these might give you some ideas too.

Author: Stephen Millard

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