How To Create Community

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Creating a community within your school is trademarked a successful martial arts business. Anybody can teach someone to kick and punch. What separates a “great” martial arts school from a “good” one is the community that it creates. Professor Brannon Beliso, owner of One Martial Arts in San Francisco and Millbrae, California, offers you his personal insights and experiences to building a community that’ll make your school stand out from the rest

Defining Your Community:

To completely understand your school’s “community,” you must first define it and understand the culture of it. That culture is the reason why people want to be part of your school. It’s the feeling you instill in everybody who walks through your doors. It makes your school the only place people want to come to and the last place they wanton leave.

My first experience of culture came from being a student, growing up in my father’s martial arts school, which he has owned and operated since 1970. He believes great martial arts school should be tournament-oriented and, for this reason, people seek out his instruction. My father’s vision has created a legacy that has prospered forever four decades.

What I learned from growing up in this environment is what it takes to create community and build a lasting business. It’s based upon a clearly-defined vision filled with conviction, passion and integrity.

My Vision of Legacy:

When I opened my schools 19 years ago, I asked myself, “What kind of culture would create the community I envisioned? What legacy do I want to leave behind? “

The culture I wanted to create had to be based upon what I call “Customer Success.” I knew I had the potential to build a lasting community if everybody who walked through my doors felt successful. I believed most people would stay if they did and would only leave if they failed.

I envisioned a community for people to live their best life. It had to serve families and their children by providing a life-skills education through traditional martial arts training and values. It had to be that village they’d seek out to help raise their children to be their best at school, home, and in life.

The culture of community is the reason why people want to part of your school. It’s the feeling you instill in everybody who walk through doors. It makes your school the only place people want to come to and the last place that they want to leave.”

This vision would be my legacy. It would be the reason people invest in my community. They wouldn’t come to us just because we teach martial arts. People would come because the martial arts help them live their best life.

The Heart and Soul:

The heart and soul of our community is the martial arts instruction we offer. We have created a curriculum that is inspiring and challenging but achievable in terms of most people’s busy lives. Everything was documented from white belt to black, in both written form and DVD. Our goal was to give people the tools to be successful.

I developed a life-skills-education system called Kids Love Life Skills, to go hand-in-hand with our curriculum. This promoted our school as a community of traditional family values and character development. The life skills we teach support my vision that the martial arts help people live their best life.

We offer a 8:00 a.m. Saturday practice class for our families to train together. It’s always packed, even in the dead of winter. This class was inspired by growing up at my father’s school, which we lived above. My sisters and I were required to practice martial arts for 90 minutes upon waking up. Once we finished, we were allowed to eat breakfast. If you got up first and practiced, you had first dibs on a hot meal. If you slept in, you still had to practice and, afterward, were met by a cold meal if there was anything left at all. This class promotes the family environment I grew up with in the martial arts. It’s a personal example of the culture I strive to create.

Giving Back to Make Difference:

Every November, our core staff meets, locked down in an off-site conference room for about eight hours. One of the focal points of this meeting is to plan our entire calendar for the upcoming year.

We schedule a variety of workshops on meditation, life-skills education, stranger awareness, bully prevention, and women’s self-defense. They’re offered to our members and the general public free of charge.

My wife and I are big supporters of school fundraisers. We donate memberships, birthday parties and weeks of camps to over 50 different silent auctions and fundraisers. We sponsor a two little teams, a fun run, and purchase numerous ad spaces in programs at special events. We also donate our time and money to many of these events as well. Our support of these kinds of events position us as a business that cares and gives back to the community that we serve.

We support drives for the Girl Scouts, San Francisco Food Bank, Toys for Tots, and One Warm Coat. We’ve sponsored kick-a-thons for the St. Jude’s Cancer Research Center for Children. We believe these kinds of activities have the impact to make a difference.

It’s All About Family:

We host events for Easter, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Halloween, the Holidays, and a Family Fun Day for our students and their families.

I’m really proud of our Easter party. We take complimentary pictures off all our students and their siblings with the Easter Bunny. We print them while the kids are doing arts and crafts and hunting for eggs and give into them in a custom frame with our school logo.

We offer a free monthly Parent’s Night Out for all our members and the community at large. It is a great retention and lead generation event. We earn the trust of all the parents each time we care for their children. All these kinds of events are our way of saying thank you for making One Martial Arts the special community that it is.

Our Team: The Core of Our Community

Our team is the core of our community. We invest passionately into developing a strong relationship with them. I personally draw upon my experiences growing up in an ethnic family to reward them for doing a great job.

We offer a competitive pay structure and a pension plan to all of our staff. Some salaried team members also have vacation with pay, and medical compensation. We offer free memberships as a perk for all paid staff and their immediate family.

My wife and I host gatherings at our home for our staff and their families, featuring pay-per-view sporting events and meals we prepare ourselves.

On special occasions, I have offered my facility tour team to use for their graduations, baby showers, and birthday parties free of charge.

And we constantly surprising our staff with treats and by ordering in lunch at the school during shifts.

Service Above Self:

We take pride on being a business that’s built upon a genuine desire to serve. We believe that, if you give more than is asked of you, you will create a lasting community and a great business.

Parents once asked me to speak with their daughter, who was afraid of getting a surgical procedure. They believed I could help inspire her to have the courage to get it done. I did more than just speak with her. I was present in the hospital with the daughter at 6:30 a.m. just before she went into surgery. I also visited her several times after the procedure to offer support during the healing process.

I donate my time teaching life-skills education to the jail system, halfway homes, schools, businesses, and companies.

We even donated our facility for a bone-marrow stem-cell donor drive for a local women who was suffering from cancer.

Build It and They Will Come:

Do you remember that famous line from the movie, Field of Dreams? Kevin Costner’s character felt so passionately about what his father stood for and keeping his memory alive, that he built a baseball field on his farm. He did this against great odds, and people came by the thousands to experience the culture he had created.

For me, my school and the community we’ve created is my field of dreams. People come to the tune of 1,000 active students and a seven-figure annual gross. Purpose and systems drive our martial arts classes, life-skills education, and customer experience. We don’t have contracts, upgrades, or belt testing fees. What we do have is a community that we love and serve above ourselves.

Build your own field of dreams by clearly defining your vision and the culture you want to create. Give people a reason why they should want to be part of it. The martial arts instruction you offer is the heart and soul of your community. Develop a curriculum, rich in life skills, that promotes customer success and inspires people to live their best life.

Be a business that gives back. Fill your calendar with events that show your business has the impact to make a difference in the community you serve. Invest passionately in your staff because they’re the core of your community. Develop professional and lasting relationships by implementing reward systems and scheduled activities that demonstrate your appreciation for their hard work and efforts.

Above all, practice “Service about self.” It’ll offer you the potential to build a successful business and leave behind a legacy you can be proud of.

Brannon Beliso is the owner of One Martial Arts in San Francisco & Millbrae, CA. He is a successful school owner, Tedx speaker, creator of a life-skill system, a featured writer and dynamic speaker. He may be reached at (415)531-5318,

About the Author

Brannon Beliso

Dedicated to helping people live their best life