How to Open a Martial Arts School Part 2

This part two of my blog on how to open your own martial arts school.  For part one please visit here: How to Open a Martial Arts School Part 1

Trends

The latest fashionable trend in the martial arts is the MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) school.  The Brazilian’s (Brazilian Jiujitsu) are also en vogue to an extent although they more owned the 90’s to 2000’s (a very good run).  Trends come and go in the martial arts as with anything in life.  Chasing trends is historically a recipe for disaster.  In the 50’s you were packed if you had a Judo school.  In the 60’s all you had to do was put up a sign saying “karate lessons” and you were guaranteed classes of 30 or more.  In the 70s kung fu was king as a direct result of what people thought they saw in Bruce Lee movies.  In the 80s ninjutsu was the ultimate in combat.  Legitimate (or not) instructors could receive thousands of dollars plus expenses for a single seminar!  In the 80’s everyone was a ninjutsu master just as now every school claims to teach MMA.  In all fairness the term Mixed Martial Arts leaves itself to broad interpretation as that can mean literally any two arts combined.  Although we all know what one is actually looking for in an MMA school.  A cautionary tale on trend chasing comes from another business that deals in physicality: the gym franchise.  Gyms chase every trend there is and are always looking for what is new to offer.  Here is the rub.  Every single gym franchise has historically failed.  Remember Jack LaLane or Ballys?  Gone.  Every one of them is destined for the same end statistically.  Modeling ourselves after gyms is a recipe for disaster.  We are so much more than that and have far more to offer.

YMCA/YWCA/YJCA/JCC and Cultural Centers

Religious and Cultural based community centers are also a great place to start a class.  These organizations typically hire instructors as a contracted employee.  They tend to have multiple rooms to offer for classes; so, desirable time slots are often available.  Being a contracted employee means that you get paid the same if you have 5 or 50 students.  However your class still needs to be profitable for them to continue to offer it.  One note of caution to keep in mind is that should there be a political or ideological shift in such organizations they might decide your class doesn’t fall in line with their paradigm.  This happened to me once despite having a full class of students.

Pros: Same as community centers except you are typically hired as a contracted employee.

Cons: Same as community centers except that you can also be cancelled due to a change in direction of the center.

Garage

A garage school has actually been my favorite place to teach. You own it!  Or at least you legally live there and/or are renting it.  You are free to customize the space any way you choose.  You can set your own schedule and not have to worry about packing your space with students.  All profits go directly to you.  The downside to using a garage is typically a limitation in space should you desire a huge class.  Also, you might have to give up your car having a place to park indoors, especially if you place down mats.  This can be very inconvenient in areas that get way too hot or way too cold.  Climate control is also a related issue in an un-insulated garage.  Most are open to the weather blowing through the cracks of the garage door and sometimes even the walls themselves.  There is also the double edge sword of the fact that you are now working at home.  This is great for those who love the convenience of walking down the hall to meet students, however it is not so great for those who like privacy and might not want others to know where they live.

Pros: You work from home and can set your own schedule.  You can customize your space any way you see fit.

Cons: You work from home and lose privacy of your address.  Weather conditions.  Potential space limitations.

Brick and mortar

If you are interested in losing your life savings and credit, sign a lease for a storefront with no prior business experience other than being a martial arts teacher.  To be successful with a brick and mortar storefront school you have to have some level of business savvy.  You have to treat you business like a business first and a martial arts school second.  I’ve always said that I will never buy mats at retail price when all I have to do is look on craigslist to find them for pennies on the dollar from someone who opened their dream school and closed 3-6 months later.  Take business and sales classes before if going this route and business is unforgiving and making a living salary teaching martial arts is a hard road, especially if you have a family to feed.  The rewards are great if you pull it off but you have to do your homework.  It also helps to have a loyal following that will support your new effort.

Pros: If you are successful you will have the ability to run the school you always wanted to have.  You are in control and the potential for earning is the most out of other options.

Cons:  The biggest risk of all the choices.  You can lose everything overnight.  The seduction of owning this type of school can lead to bad financial choices.  You have to know how to run a business first.

This list just about covers it all.  If there is anything I’m missing please feel free to leave a comment.

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