I’ve been doing a stupid amount of research about online tools for managing your dojo. This is a breakdown of 5 of the sites I’ve researched. I do have a personal preference, but I’ve tried to be as balanced as possible in my overview.

The Dojo Managerlink
This site is based on simplicity and ease of use. The design of the software makes it easy to use, and gives a desktop feel, very rarely do you see the page reloading itself to refresh the data, and many smooth effects make for fun eye candy. It includes many of the typical features, tracking student fees, events and testing, belt tracking, reporting, and basic lead/visitor tracking. There is also a mobile site for quick reference from any smart phone.

Printable invoices with a custom massage are there, and there’s a feature to allow integration with paypal.

The Dojo Manager is still in beta, and there have been many updates and changes in the last several months, and the developers are very engaged with the users. The site is free for 30 days after that ranges from $5 to $20 depending on the number of active students.

Overall, the site is well executed. There are currently not as many features as some of the other sites in this list, but you can’t beat the price. This would be my first choice for a school under 30 students, and if you like the usability and the features of the site, it could easily handle much larger schools. Once some marketing and auto-invoicing features are added, this would be my top pick overall.

Zen Plannerlink
Zen Planner seems to be focused around billing, with many features related to online billing and account tracking. There are also lead tracking, marketing features, and automated email reminders. One of the nice features of this site is the automatic creation of a school web page. It will not create a full web site for you school, but it is a great way to get started on the process, and also includes a page for online student payments.

The downside is that it starts at $55/month for up to 50 students and goes up to $120/month for 300 students. For a 300 student school $120/month may be worth it. But it seems difficult to justify $55 a month for a 10-20 student school.

Igo Karatelink
This site (as well as the remaining 2 sites), are membership management sites. So they are not specific to martial arts, but also provide general features to any site which tracks members. The upsitde to this is that it’s packed with features, the downside is there may be many features which you pay for but never use.

The interface feels a little “bubble gum” for lack of a better term. But it is truly packed with features.
Online payments, student fee and payment tracking, employee tracking, full POS system, attendance tracking with key-tags, members can register and pay for classes online. There are also many training options on the site for you and any staff you may have.

There are unfortunately two distinct downsides to this software. It’s not web based, so must be installed on a specific computer, and it’s $800. You can add other computers to your “network” for an additional $100. This is a one-time fee, so if you’re planning on paying $120 a month for another solution, you might find your self being able to actually save some money of you have a large school. And that saving may be significant over a few years.

This software is defiantly designed for Yoga studios or Gyms, which have many, many members, and a dedicated staff to manage the facility and members. But it’s got a great features list, and a one-time payment may be a great option for larger schools.

Mind-Body Online (MBO)link
This seems to be the “Cadillac” of membership management software. If there’s a feature you can think of.. I’d guess this site has it. There’s even a iPhone application for it. To some degree it’s the SalesForce.com of membership management. Scheduling seems to be a big focus, but online payments and transaction processing is all a part of the software. The interface is not the most intuitive, but I’m sure after spending a little time with it, it would be fine.

They have a nice demo area on the site, where you can play with, and use the software before you commit to buying it. The pricing for the system is based on the number of “professionals” you have as a part of your business. From the perspective of a martial arts studio, this means instructors. It starts at $39 for a single instructor, and goes up to $155 per month for 21-50 instructors. If you’ve got a school with 21-50 instructors, you can afford $155 per month. $39 per month is still a little steep for one instructor with 10-20 students. Although, this is a feature packed and very well designed site.

JackRabbit Dojolink
According to Google, this is the top result for “Dojo Management Software”. JackRabbit, MBO, and Igo seem to be a big dogs on the block, and honestly have a very similar feature set. JackRabbit specifically lists: student skills, class management, event tracking, instructor tracking, and reporting. I believe online payments are also a part of the tool and attendance tracking with a barcode reader is an interesting feature (barcode scanner is extra $, of course). The only thing I’m not a big fan of is the interface, it’s a bit difficult to use, and there’s a lot going on on each screen, again this may be simply a learning curve thing, and (of course) just my preference.

The cost is per students and starts at $45/month for 0-100 students up to $295/month for 3001-4000 students (yeah, at 4000 students, I’m not going to sweat $295/month)

I’d recommend The Dojo Manager for schools under 30 students, it seems to be the only one that is affordable for “young” schools. Online payments and the other features missing, aren’t something many school just starting would find valuable anyway. More than 30 students it’s time to shell out the big bucks for MBO. Although, The Dojo Manager is still in beta, and could very competitive with MBO, when released in the spring of 2011.