The WT school next door: Mönchengladbach

Axel Jonsthövel has run his own school in Mönchengladbach for 10 years.

In 1993, at the age of 20, I attended the opening demonstration of a WingTsun school in my home town of Kaarst.
This was followed by the usual trial session and a training contract, and I have been learning WingTsun without interruption ever since.
For me WingTsun is the best and most rewarding means of further personal development. In addition to my still undiminished interest in the fighting aspects, WingTsun is increasingly the framework for the entire structure of my life. All its aspects can be transferred from the physical to the mental level, and I continue to grow with every problem and difficulty I encounter.
In 1997 I opened my first school in Mönchengladbach, but after four years we were obliged to look for new premises as the landlord needed the building for himself. Since then we have had premises that provide a pleasant atmosphere for all aspects of learning and teaching.
In our first location we were spoiled by the easily visible frontage of the school, which lay directly by a major road.
I only really noticed how many enquiries were mainly due to this when that means of advertising was practically no longer available in the new school.
The search for new premises proved to be long and difficult, as I had much clearer ideas than the first time. The location must not be too far from the city centre, it must be possible to put design elements on the frontage and the floor plan had to allow the right divisions between a training area, changing rooms and a bar area without a great deal of conversion work. And not least, WingTsun requires enough wall space for a wooden dummy, wall bags, posters with forms etc...

Our present school is located around 1 kilometre or twelve minute’s walk from the main station, i.e. the city centre. Buses stop directly outside, where visitors will find an advertising sign. Unfortunately the school and building itself are only accessible via a semi-hidden street closed to traffic.
Mönchengladbach is divided into two large areas, one of which is my catchment area and has a population of around 150 000.
At present roughly one hundred students train at our school, of which 40% are children and young people aged between 5 and 16.
Over the years I have tried many things in order to attract new students: press advertisements, copy advertising, editorial reports in newspapers, posters and flyers, demonstrations in the football stadium and cinema, large signage on buses, advertisements in "pizza flyers", open days and of course an Internet site.
In my experience, expensive advertising space works least well. It really costs a great deal, and I have never received a corresponding response.
Advertising with a large number of flyers shows a reasonable response, as do posters, though it involves quite an effort to get these seen by potential students.
Open days vary in attendance from year to year, but I do not find them worthwhile considering the effort involved.
The same applies to public appearances, demonstrations and events.
In my view, working together with schools and other public institutions such as the college of further education are good for the school’s image and all-important reputation, though this can only be established over a longer period. For this reason I have spent 9 years working with primary and secondary schools, offering self-defence courses as part of open-day programmes. We are also in the 4th semestre of a course at the college of further education. Some of the participants, if only a few, stay with us.
The Internet site is increasingly important, but administering it oneself requires a great deal of know-how.
This year I will produce a short but professional advertising spot which will appear in the cinema 5 times per day from the autumn. Let’s see what this brings...

I divide my training into two parts:
Firstly my own instruction from my teacher, Sifu Edel, though it takes me seven hours to get there and back, and can only do this every two weeks or so. I also practice the programmes I have learned with my two training partners and friends.
Secondly, I regard the classes I hold myself, i.e. an average of 2-3 sessions per day, as practice for the all-important basis and a fundamental step for a complete absorption and understanding of our martial art. When I explain things, I have at least as many eye-opening insights as when I am being taught.
My goals for the future: I have very much left the concept of goal-oriented learning behind me. I am not bursting to discover what still awaits me (or maybe not).
I am aware that my grade is more important to many people I come into contact with than it is to me.
Naturally I am striving to achieve mastery (by which I do not mean a specific grade), but I try to do justice to every step on the way.

Axel Jonsthövel, 3rd TG WT