We all know how crucial belt testing is to your students and your business. Students need to know they are progressing in their training or your retention will drop drastically. But how do you do belt testing virtually?
We hosted an incredible Live Seminar with Industry Expert Master Tony Kook streaming at April 8th, 7PM EST. Master Kook is a successful school owner with 4 schools and over 1200 students. He is an industry expert with over 30 years experience and a sought after Speaker for the Martial Arts industry specializing in “Small School Success”. You can see the whole live stream in the video above. The most important point is that you should be doing virtual testing. Without it your students won’t be getting the feeling of making progress that they need and you’ll lose out on retention.
Don’t have time to watch the whole seminar? Don’t worry we got you covered. Below we have a summary of all the most important points from the talk. But we highly recommend you watch the entire stream to get Master Tony Kook’s masterful wording. Because it’s not just what you say, but how you say it. We’d like to offer a sincere thank you to Master Tony Kook for gifting us his wisdom on this crucial topic.
Pre Talk: A Look at Our Industry
Talking to a lot of club owners. Everyone is closed down but its amazing to see the creativity in a lot of club owners are doing. A lot of people are using Zoom. A lot of club owners are really making use of the online classes and doing more creative things. We are going to be adding story time with the Master as part of our online curriculum. And mat chats. Some schools are bringing in other Masters from across the country to teach a class. Some instructors are adding in their natural talents like singing and dancing. Students are looking forward to their ability to connect. It’s the highlight of their day.
Virtual Belt Testing
Why It's Important to Do Virtual Testing
It’s paramount for our retention right now.
What are the Keys to Retention?
- Students have fun.
- It's about building relationships and having a sense of progress. Online helps us stay connected and lets our students know we are thinking of them. We also want them not to feel stale and that they can be progressing while they are at home.
If you are not open till June 1st what are you going to do with those students waiting for a belt test. Some of those kids haven’t had one for more than two or three months already. You can’t make them wait. You need to reconsider from a retention stand point because its very important.
Belt Test Scenarios
We hashed out three different scenarios. We will do white belts, green belts, brown belts all the way up. You need to do a minumum amount of classes before you are qualified and you know your curriculum you qualify for tests. We are tracking attendance at our online classes. Breaking it down into groups of 10. Ten people test with the instructor. We run through the whole curriculum, they show us their basic movements, all their kicks, all their poomse, all their philosophy then there is a physical portion like push ups. The only thing that will be difficult online is board breaking.
Challenges of Online Boardbreaking
We struggled back and forth on the board breaking from a risk management angle. If the parent holds it incorrectly and they don’t break it, and the kids hurt themselves that will be negative. So what we decided to do for all the kids who are testing, we are mailing them the board with the belt and make a memento of this. We will mail the package to them and while we are doing the test we make the board breaking optional. We will ask the parent if they give their permission to board break. If not we do it when they come back. We do a nice ceremony for everyone when they pass. Make it feel special.
Testing Fees: Do I Charge the Full Price?
We are charging full testing fees. The reason for that is I anticipated we would be closed for two to three months. I took the initiative to reduce tuition by 50%. We made it accessible to everyone. We have families who have 2 or 3 students training that’s a lot of money. We charge per household. If you have a brother or sister you are only paying one flat fee per family. We make it financially accessible to everyone. We want to retain as many students as possible during this time. Because we are giving them a substantial tuition discount, we are giving it as the full price of our belt testing. We don’t want to devalue the process. There is a perceived value and we don’t want to set up a precedent if we have another shut down. So we are doing full testing fees. We do everything we do in a real test. But we do it at home through video.
You can custom make your own testing procedure to make it intimate and valuable to your students. For smaller clubs you might want to do online privates. If you divide 40 by 20 or 30. minutes of private tests. That’s one week of testing. If you are a medium sized category they’ve tasked their instructors to do the youth, their senior instructors to do the youth intermediate, we do the teens and adults.
Whatever your testing requirements are you have your students do a short video, where they go through it all and you can grade them on it, is another option. The thing I like about the prerecorded is you give them the format it’s like homework. You get all the time in the world and then you can submit the polished product. You give your students the chance to redo their kicks. I know a lot of club owners who are doing it.
I know some club owners who are doing a combination. They are doing a video where they do a, b and c of their qualification actions. Then in the group testing everyone does d.
Distribution of Boards and Belts
You can schedule the pick up time with different parents so there is proper social distancing for picking up the belts and boards. If you have a small school you can take the initiative and go drop off the boards at your students house. We are going to be using Fedex overnight delivery because we are a larger school.
Virtual Belt: An Interim Step Some School Owners are Taking
You earn a virtual belt, but when you come back we do an in person belt ceremony. Which encourages your students to come back for the real deal at their dojang.
Not currently doing any Blackbelt testing. We are going week by week and our plans change. Currently we have made the decision to postpone our Black Belt testing. We have let all our students know that we have postponed the Blackbelt tests until the summer. Since its such an important ceremony we want to give them the best experience. We are offering special blackkbelt classes in our online schedule but we want to provide the best experience to our students. Because they'll remember getting their Blackbelts for the rest of their lives.
You need to maintain your connection with your students. What I am doing is not the only way to do it. I hope by the end of this we give club owners some extra ideas that can be catered to their needs.
Different Schools, Different Belt Testing
This will be different based on your small, medium and large schools.
Last week I was on a group call with the most successful club owners in the US. Anywhere from 1000-3000 students. Some said their testing fees would remain the some. Some Masters they aren’t charging anything because testing is free and their main concern was retention. Some said they would do a nominal fee. Even the most successful club owners are taking different approaches. The main goal is to keep students going and progressing.
What NOT to Do: Live 1-on-1 Testing, Not Testing
I know of some club owners that are trying to do live one on ones. You are putting your student at risk. Your putting yourself at risk. Your risking damaging your own reputation. You can’t be meeting people during this time. Another clear no no is that we have anticipate we are going to go into July or into September and not doing belt testing. I think that’s a clear no no. If you have students who haven’t tested in three months, that another three months. You have to do something. You can even give it as a virtual pre test. Creative ideas are coming up. Online training is going very well. But if you are just doing the same thing over and over again the novelty is going to wear off and attrition is going to skyrocket.
After three or four weeks kids are going to go and find stuff on Youtube if you aren't giving them the interaction they need. If you are keeping it curriculum specific, now you are giving them incentive to practice on their own. Not just doing the live training. You are keeping them engaged. If you are not doing online testing that would be a no no.
What you can’t do on just Youtube is the direct one on one. With Peloton they are successful because they are providing them with metrics. They have live and pre-recorded. They will urge to push harder. That’s why they are so successful. Progress is being measured as well. Which is what testing is.
Communicate your plan to your parents. Even just communicate that you are working on a plan for testing.
The more club owners communicate with their parents, the more likely they are to come back to you. Because you maintained the relationship. There is no such thing as over communication.
Parent Involvement During the Testing
Part of my friend's testing program is a parent evaluation. Has your son or daughter been showing the principles of Taekwondo at home? Have they been up to date with school work and they submit that with their testing application? This makes them responsible for their behavior at home. He has the parents complete that part and before each belt tests they need to obtain stripes before they can test. Once they get their virtual stripes they can do their test. When they pass, he’ll arrange a time for parents to pick up the belts.
We are inviting our parents to the live (online) test. Asking parents to help them tie the belt. If they are adults, have their spouses do it. Make it fun.
Some schools are letting people borrow the 20/20 Armor vest, they get their kids to measure their power on the vest. Basic reaction for reaction, power and a stamina one.
You Can Learn from Everyone
I hope people take away from this because of the whole idea of virtual testing. It’s not something to be worried about it. Don’t think of quality control. This is a once in a life time opportunity for many people. For many people it’s the first time doing it and it’s going to be fun. I want people to walk away thinking I can do this. The important thing is you put together a plan and execute. I’m continuously learning about it everyday. I’m learning something new everyday. I see what people are doing at other schools and think I could implement it in my clubs. If you have questions or ideas please post it on the 20/20 Facebook group and we'll get back to you. Let's have a dialogue. We are all here for each other so we have this industry when we come back.
Deeper Insight on Promotions
Each of our belts we don’t wing it. Students come to promotion tests knowing exactly what is expected of them. Maybe you are a club that doesn’t have that, is you could announce when you are doing, you say white to greenbelt these are the requirements. You tell them what it’s going to be in a simple format. Nothing different. The only difference is that we are doing it through TV online platform with option to board breaking.
Do You Fail Students During Online Testing?
We do fail. We praise what they can do. We know that with a little more practice we know that you will be able to do it. We look forward to pass you. Because I know that you aren’t the type of person who would want to accept an award when you hadn’t earned it. You don’t cut them down. You offer them good words of encouragement. Thats what we do with in person live testing. We try to get them as prepared as possible and many tests everyone passes.
It’s going to be awkward failing kids on a virtual test but you want to prepare them for the test so they can accomplish their goals. Make it clear you believe in them and are proud of them for doing as well as they did. Then offer to reschedule the test.
How Do You Address Sparring?
You obviously can't do real sparring. You get students to do their kicking combinations. Each class has kicking combination they are responsible for. When we do sparring they do that against each other. So what you can do here, is you could add in an imaginary opponent. I want to see good footwork, good focus, good speed. It’s like non contact sparring. It’s like step sparring. Obviously there is no real contact with no other person.
You can also make sparring requirement as a final element when you return. Then after that you get your blue belt. Especially if you are a spar heavy school. It gives them motivation to stay. You are keeping them engaged. I can’t stress that enough. You can’t just send someone online tools. You need some form of interactive platform. You need to give them progress reports. They need to get feedback.
Pay It Forward Retention Strategy
Someone told me that they were doing something called paying it forward. If you pay for two months with online training, when we come back to live training your getting two months for free. And throwing in a free summer camp. The money in that alone makes it all worth it for the parents to stay on. Ask questions all the time.
Obvious Things You Should Do
Most of us are very good at inspiring students before and after a test. We are good at powerful words of encouragement. 100% of our students after the test are so pumped up. Use that same principle with the online test. Deliver the same message you would with a live in person test. Give a pre-test speech and a post test speech and offer them words of encouragement and excitement. Now they can’t wait to get back onto the live training. Really use the online platform to offer good words to parents and students. Telling them to thank their parents for giving them the chance to train and use martial arts in all the platforms they can use it in their lives.
The thing we have to focus on is retaining our students. If you have one hundred students you need to come up with strategies to keep all of those students. If you’re hiding over 60 percent you are doing a great job. Now you need to shoot for 80 students. Much easier to keep students than to create one. Now you are thinking of attracting new students, you have to reach out to students who have cancelled or on hold. We have asked people for their support. What can we do to support you? Some people aren’t going to have the money. So you can offer them a special deal to get the kids back onto training and that helps you retain one more student. There are some clubs who are doing well, who are hitting 70 to 80, some even 90. If that’s you amazing I’d encourage you to help out others on how they can do that. I think that’s critical right now. Trying to retain as many students as possible. Reach out to students to see where they are at. Work something out with them so they can come back.
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We have also been working tirelessly on our own solution to your problems with retention due to shutdown. We agree with Master Tony. Nothing is more important than giving your students metrics to measure their progress. But not just at belt testing time. Learn how training at home with 2020 Armor can keep your students passion for martial arts going during this difficult time and radically decrease attrition.
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