Between a dinner that wound up being more work than I thought, and finally getting to put in some work on an overdue writing project, I never got around to hunting down more locations last night. …And maybe a smidge of getting caught up in the US election results had something to do with that. Leftovers tonight, so I might be able to make up for that.

Wednesday sure has come up fast this week. The part time job seems to be hitting the christmas buying rush a week early, and things are a bit swamped. I’ll be doing full time starting next week, until the rush ends. It kind of sucks, but it’s a good busy job with great people. If I wasn’t committed to my writing, I’d love being there full time. C’est la vie. In any case, my list of non-writing projects is just about to crest if I don’t put some work into it. My goal priority is to get as location ASAP and start classes. My urgent priority is some paperwork, and catching up with existing students. One of them has recently cracked through into being ready for the good stuff, and now needs some intense drilling. Another is just about to break through, and needs more core movement work. Drill programs and workouts need to be planned for one (maybe 4-5 hrs prep time for a 45 minute session), the other just needs a few more hours of exploration…maybe a few select bouts to nail down the final direction. Work work work.

In my free time, I’ll start thinking about branding for the new school. A small practice doesn’t really need it, but it’s fun, so why not? And just about every other martial art school out there sucks at it. Seriously. I mean…damn, have you looked at your websites lately? Ilkka gets a pass here, as Marozzo.com looks fantastic. Academie Duello’s is pretty good too, but has some navigation issues…I suspect they’ve already been working on that. I’m not going to point out the bad examples, but if you haven’t updated in six months, you’re a bad example. The look of your website should reflect a consistent image, and serve a purpose. Boxwrestlefence is spare, but that’s because it exists to serve up writing. White background, black text, regular layout. Enough pictures to make it interesting. AD and Marozzo.com place more emphasis on the graphic elements, so they have dark backgrounds and light text…which kills your eyes if you have to read more than a paragraph, but makes the images pop. So if I opt to make a new website for the new school, it will probably have a dark background and feature more photos. I can only write so much…

Colour choice is important. What we did with the original Scatha Combat Guild website was to spend a few hours cruising the web for photos that reflected our theme of the school. Courtney then took all those photos and collaged them together, and picked a few dominant colours that seemed to be common in every image. She then used those colours with her art-school know-how, and created a palette of five colours for us to stick to. Any time we needed a colour or contrast in the website, we stuck with the palette. Photos could even be toned to fit within it. Consistency gives an impression of professionalism. Check out Adobe’s Kuler website for some examples of how this works. Lots of software out there to help you with it.

Theme…spend some time figuring out exactly what it is you want to do. Have a vision for yourself. Be precise. How do you want to spend class time? What do you want a student’s experience to be like? What do you want people to think of your school? What value does a student get out of being part of your school, and how do you deliver that value? Make up a SWOT (Strengths/Weaknesses/Opportunity/Threats) list for yourself…and anyone running a familiar business in the area. Learn from their strengths and weaknesses! Most importantly, use the SWOT analysis to craft a statement, a thematic message, for what you are trying to do with your classes. Burn that message into your skull and never forget it. Use that message to build up your website and marketing materials. Be consistent. Written materials, colour and image choice, layout, everything should carry that message.

It’s tempting, when you put all this information together, to get super confident and competitive. Avoid that. Being confident doesn’t mean immediately trying to win at everything. Western martial arts is still a tiny, tiny field, and we grow more now by cooperating, not competing. Use your confidence and imagery to craft a message that helps you grow, and gives a hand up to everyone else at the same time. It’s not hard to do. Just review all your messages a little and make sure you aren’t giving out subtle (or obvious) digs to other groups. ANY other group. Even the weenie larpers, gamers, sport fencers, or other groups you think you need to sound better than. A good strong message that supports the art without putting anyone down makes you look more like a leader instead of a whiner. And frankly, we have way to many whiners in the WMA world right now. Leave the schoolkids scrapping for playground dominance behind, and join the adult world.

It’s also tempting to use that confidence to get over-excited and all explainy. Don’t. Please. Kill the lectures, don’t bother posting long explanations of obscure techniques. Those are great for fellow wonks, but death to the average person. All of you are guilty of posting video’s that violate this. Obey the hollywood rule…get to the good stuff as fast as possible. Never, never…really, never…start a video with a wall of text and an explanation of what you are about to see. Start with action. Use the power of moving pictures to tell your story, to explain. Save the lectures for the classroom, for forum posts, or papers in obscure journals. If you mean to teach, then put up an online teaching website and fill that sucker up. Constant uploads. Commit to that vision…but please, text in the surrounding website, not in the video. Don’t waste bandwidth. Worse, don’t waste my attention. I only have so much…