COVID Onboarding Course


Due to Covid19 and our specific set of protocols that we set in place, accepting new members into the dojo is now a risky endeavor. However, a dojo becomes unsustainable if we cannot increase membership to make the space profitable, rather than just maintained as any asset not generating profit is a liability and threatens the ability of the dojo to survive emergency situations. This Covid onboarding course outline is a repurposing of the original LIA funnel course and seeks to address the barriers, both self imposed and general, we are currently facing in terms of growing the dojo. To be able to do this as safely with as minimal risk to all participants is our ultimate goal.

Barriers and Challenges:

  1. Our classes are closed groups, which means established groups cannot train with any other groups in the dojo, and only have the option to train during their set times.
  2. New members
    1. have high attrition rates/low commitment rates, so even if the class is full at the outset, attrition means a portion will drop out and then we can’t add new people into this group (who are all on the same page and familiar with the same instructor, while preventing cross group contamination.) This may render the group not worth running, compared to our full/near full capacity established groups.
    2. are not familiar with how the dojo normally operates, and therefore have even more difficulty adapting to our new Covid19 protocols.
    3. and their groups will require a new teacher, and we do not have enough teaching staff on hand to open more than 3 new groups at most.
    4. May not be able to commit to twice a week at the outset and probably do better with once a week—do we schedule the courses during what would eventually be their time slots? Or do we move that group to new time slots (which can cause attrition) when the next new covid group comes in. 
    5. will not currently be required to wear gi, but that may mean that they won’t know the proper way to dress, nor do we have the upsell of a free gi with the onboarding course.
    6. might find the current protocols too restrictive. Those unused to wearing masks will definitely find the first few classes difficult to handle until they become familiar with masks.
    7. will not be familiar with hand to hand Aikido due to the possibility that we may not move to hand to hand practice for the time being.
  3. Displaced Aikidoka from closed down dojos, should they wish to practice at our location, will have to also be onboarded to the Covid protocol before being allowed into the dojo. While they will be unfamiliar with our style and with our dojo layout/etiquette/Covid protocol, they DON’T need to be onboarded to general Aikido. Do I run a simultaneous 4 day (the number of days I found necessary from our current groups to familiarize and develop habit for the protocols) Covid Onboarding course for established Aikidoka if they find enough members for their group (Note: one of the issues with mixing people of different experiences is that new members are more likely to quit—one of the draws of an intro course is that no one feels less experienced than anyone else)? Or should they be required to go through the 8 week course with newcomers as well? The good thing is that they will not need an instructor from our dojo after the protocols have been taught (if they have a Shodan+) and will essentially be renters doing their own study group. Will not be testing them unless they specifically request to join our dojo as members, in which case an instructor from our dojo will also need to be available due to possible differences in expectations and styles. 
  4. Possible lockdowns again, which will disrupt the current courses, and brings the question of whether or not it’s ethical to allow people to train in an art where their progress will be constantly disrupted.
    1. What kind of informed consent about what to realistically expect out of training during Covid should be provided?
  5. Making sure all instructors are following protocol. Certain technology upgrades will be needed to ensure compliance since noncompliance can cause hefty fines. We had live stream cams already set up for security purposes and have been doing spot checks. A separate instructor’s responsibility form might have been/might be warranted.



  1. Improve retention for the onboarding course so that each closed COVID onboarding group is worth running. This means that:
    1. Managing expectations must be top priority. The more prepared and understood what will be expected during this course, the stronger the retention rate will be since noncommitted potential customers will not even sign up. Contrary to my previous wide casting net funnel program (since funnels are meant to funnel from a wide audience into committed memberships), for the COVID onboarding course, we WANT to weed out those who are most likely to leave due to scarcity of resources. 
    2. We must develop a tighter niche marketing plan to bring in more new members who will be most likely to commit. Out of our 10 new students from our first funnel course, 9 returned during reopening. This means we need to hit a specific set of motivators and recognize those signals when they have been triggered or missed.
    3. Hit that sweet spot of not being so overwhelming physically and mentally, but also challenging enough that it makes them eager to come to the next class.
    4. A majority retention rate. We have 6 spots not including the instructors so 4 students retained will be my KPI (Key Performance Indicator) for how well the overall course has done what it set out to do.
  2. New students to be fully onboarded to dojo safety protocols and etiquette by the end of the course so that when they are handed off to the next instructor, they can seamlessly begin practice. The signal I am looking for will be when students, without being prompted, confidently walk to their spaces and move through the protocols of entering and exiting and cleaning the mat without being unsure of themselves. The only times they should be confused… is during class.
  3. Eventually, when our groups open again, for new members to feel comfortable and confident enough to move between groups. This may not/never happen, depending on the situation.
  4. Somehow prevent clique formation, which is a very real risk with closed groups. This creates friction and also creates a secondary moment of disruption when dojo fully opens (possible attrition due to discomfort of mixing), which is related to goal number 3.


Class Structure for New members

  1. 2 instructors, 6 students max.
  2. 8 week course, once a week. $75. If they choose to sign up after, free gi with first month’s sign up.
  3. 3 solo classes, 3 paired weapons classes, 2 hand to hand practice (kotegaeshi and sumi otoshi being the least risky as far as how close one gets to someone else’s face, providing backfalls and forward roll as well) OR 2 solo classes, 6 paired weapons classes. Hand to hand class is only meant to introduce, as we may not move to H2H for the remainder of the year.
  4. Instructor should not be touching anyone for corrections, nor moving out of their assigned box. I will be teaching protocols, but the other instructor who will eventually lead this class should be the one who actually teaches the class. This means these instructors need to be aware of the curriculum of the course.
  5. Classes:
    1. Class 1
    2. Class 2
    3. Class 3
    4. Class 4
    5. Class 5
    6. Class 6
    7. Class 7
    8. Class 8


Class Structure for Entering Aikidoka

  1. 1 instructor, 7 students max.
  2. 4 week course, once a week. $50.
  3. Pure Covid19 onboarding course, running through what we expect for each phase of our reopening so in the event we need to go back to a previous phase, they are familiar with it.
  4. Classes
    1. Class 1
    2. Class 2
    3. Class 3
    4. Class 4



  1. Testing protocols during COVID
    1. Do we modify test requirements? How do we make sure people are up to par for hand to hand requirements given our current limitations?
    2. We can’t do a dojo wide event, so during each groups regular class time? 
    3. Or each tester and their uke (from their own groups) come in one at a time to the dojo, testing panel are behind clear barriers from the rest of the dojo and each other, tester and uke demos and then cleans, waits for the next group to come in.
  2. Once a month dojo wide classes held with head instructor in order to provide standardization
    1. How to prevent cross group contamination
    2. Avoid having head instructor contract COVID
  3. A dedicated closed group solo socially distanced and masked Aikido class that stays in our phase 2 (solo training) or phase 3 (paired weapons) regardless of where our our dojo is in terms of phase for members who don’t feel comfortable moving to H2H but do feel comfortable with more socially distanced phases.


Marketing Plan

  1. 2 Sign Up Pages
    1. For New Members Without Previous Aikido Training
    2. For New Members With Previous Aikido Training
  2. Both pages should have the class formats/schedules, dojo Covid protocols and member responsibility expectations, waiver forms, and application forms that must be filled out before it drops them into a payment page. Plus disclaimers about what will happen if lockdown occurs again in the middle of the courses.
  3. Both pages should have a highlight of what safety features/protocols are provided. See Legion San Diego (Keenan Cornelius’ Covid19 Course)
  4. Due to limitations on space, should both pages require a nonrefundable/refundable (Or refundable if requested before x amount of time?) deposit, and should a waitlist be formed (?) 
  5. Automatic email after payment will send out the Covid protocol expectations again, about the dojo, meet the instructors, more about the expectations, what they should have with them, video walkthrough, where to buy weapons if they want to purchase their own. 
  6. Would a teleconference “meet and greet” the night before the class is set to start be prudent?