The next generation. What does that really mean? So much of our time is spent reinforcing the things we know; that feel comfortable. Rarely do we take the time to realize the need for change, let alone actively work towards that change.
One of the biggest challenges all martial arts faces today is the lack of 18-30-year-olds stepping onto the mat for the first time and sticking with it in the long term.
Gone are the days when we had the benefits of the golden age of Hong Kong cinema and action heroes with martial arts backgrounds on the silver screen. Nothing culturally draws our western minds positively to the idea of stepping onto a mat and experiencing joint locks, pins, throws, punches, grabs, etc... repeatedly in the hopes of gaining skill.
Put COVID on top of that and it's no surprise that so many martial arts schools are struggling or only barely surviving (in many cases because the owner is paying all those missing dues).
So what can we do? How can we change so that the core of what we teach (regardless of style or affiliation) isn't lost while more young people feel that passion we all felt and continue to feel?
There are definitely many ways and approaches and most likely, more than one at a time will have to be implemented, but here's one our dojo has enacted:
$15 a month dues for adult program students ages 17-28.
The theory is that there are many people who would love to step on the mat for the first time, but they're just getting their careers off the ground, or don't make enough money to afford full dues - especially for the 18-22 yr olds who are still in college. Having to decide between joining a martial art and eating or paying rent shouldn't be the reality our young people find themselves living.
There are more things to be done beyond the financial, but it's important to remember that we are building a "family" at our dojo and families don't just include those who can afford it.
See you on the mat,