Sat, Dec 3, 6 – 10 pm6 – 9 pm
- Art Show: 5 Years of Sensei Jordan’s Artwork
- Wine and Light Refreshment
- Silent Auction & Raffles
- Interactive Activities
- Live music from Strangely & Shay
- Karate & Kickboxing Demos
More details in the Facebook event.
I dug through our photo archives to put together this tour through the history of the dojo with my reflections about each year. It really puts into perspective how much this business has changed in a relatively short time. I deeply appreciate all of the students who have been a part of this journey, without you I’d just be a guy standing in an empty room.
2011 Fighting Chance Seattle began with an investment of $500, I bought one set of Thai pads, paid for insurance, and took a CPR class. I had about $8 leftover. I taught the first class on Oct 6, 2011, there were two students, one never came back. If you look in the mirror you’ll see the red concrete wall was still a rock wall. We shared the classroom space with trainers from Outrageously Fit, reserving our class times and paying hourly. On Saturdays I would teach a late morning class and then rush across town to tend bar for twelve hours at the Bottleneck Lounge. This image was from our very first photo shoot.
2012 Our first full year in operation, we started with two students and grew to nine by December. The rock wall was removed, leaving the red concrete wall that is the backdrop to so many of our photos. Our room was separated from the back training area of Outrageously Fit with a curtain. The floor was so cold in the winters we had to train in front of the space heaters to keep our toes from going numb. For most of the year I taught just one student. It was very challenging for new people to come into an empty space with no equipment and not just walk right back out the door. The students of this era were early adopters, people who saw the vision for what I was trying to create and embraced our start-up phase.
2013 In January we got our puzzle-mat floor! So luxurious! So decadent! We also split the classes for the first time into all-levels kickboxing and a karate-influenced belt program. By the end of the year we had thirty adult students and I had launched the teen martial arts program. This was also the year that I launched our highly-successful Self-Defense for Women workshop series. I left the Bottleneck to teach Monday night classes and was now bartending brunch shifts on Sunday and Monday at Seatown Seabar in Pike Place Market, I quit that job a few months later to live my dream of being fully self-employed.
2014 Year three began with selling a stake in the dojo to a silent partner. This allowed me to make a major investment in high-end equipment as well as to lease the entire classroom from Outrageously Fit. We extended the back wall and added a door, repainted, and for the first time, the dojo was fully ours. Up until this point, the dojo had one heavy bag and four sets of Thai pads, we would borrow dumbbells from Outrageously Fit for our workouts. All of the exercise and martial arts equipment the dojo has now was purchased with this major investment.
This was also the first time we lost a big batch of students and teaching assistants who had trained with me for years. It really bummed me out. I talked to my teacher, Master Galli, his advice: “Focus on what you have, not what you lost.” And that is how I’ve tried to run the space ever since. In a big city, people have busy lives and multiple commitments, not everyone is going to train for decades. I learned that training was about meeting people where they are and giving them what they need at that stage. I also realized that as a business changes and grows, not everyone will grow in the same direction.
This was also the year we launched Kickboxing Ryoku, an innovative method for teaching kickboxing using the principles of karate. The dojo grew to almost sixty teen and adult students.
2015 As the dojo continued to grow, my capacity to teach and run the business was stretched to the limits. At one point in 2014 I was teaching 15 classes and 4 private lessons a week. I needed help. I took on an operating partner in 2015, trained new teaching assistants, and hired our first employees. If I thought turning a passion and a $500 investment into a full-time business was a challenge, it was eye-opening to realize that creating a sustainable, systemic business is much, much harder.
This was a year for hard lessons and hurt feelings. The next stage of our growth involved creating our first code of ethics and documenting our community values, as well as creating boundaries to help instructors and teaching assistants separate the training space from their personal lives. I realized that protecting the integrity of the space and the safety of our community had to be an active process that included continued training, education, and the communication skills to work through and process feelings with others.
In spite of these challenges, the dojo was on a waiting list for most of the year and we split our teen program into two age groups to meet demand. And Tayler had her first fight!
2016 We opened the year by knocking down a wall and expanding into the back classroom of Outrageously Fit, doubling our training space. We came together as a dojo to do a massive clean-up and organization project to integrate the back room into the overall training space. The process of defining who we are as a dojo and creating an intentional community continued with workshops on compassionate communication and a rules meeting. Enrollment dipped throughout the beginning of the year as we rebranded and clarified our marketing message to focus on finding students who believe in and support our values.
This was a year where the leadership in the dojo rose to the challenge of continued growth and training, both as martial artists and as leaders, senior students rose up to model behavior and reinforce our intentions. I became a certified introductory instructor under Iain Abernethy. Tayler earned her brown belt and became a full instructor in our Kickboxing Ryoku and Self-Defense for Women programs. Rachal earned her red belt and leveled up to Assistant Instructor in our Teen Martial Arts program. I had my first fight, Tayler her second on the same night.
We rebooted our Teen program, focusing the classes around the development tools our students need to transition from school to life. We had our original batch of teen students from 2013 and 2014 graduate into the adult classes and transition into teaching assistant roles in their former classes through our leadership program. And, finally, we hosted Iain Abernethy for a sold-out seminar, our first time bringing in an outside instructor.
Photo by Sabreen Lakhani
What really hits me when reading through this is the speed and intensity of the transformations this dojo underwent. It took us time to find our voice, to develop our space and programs. The process was hard, exciting, fun, rewarding, and all of the feels. Again, I’m appreciative of everyone who was a part of it. I look forward to continuing our story in 2017. Thank you for your support!