Hey Roy.
You obviously have passion and make a living teaching martial arts and I'm sure theres no other job that you would rather be doing?

I hope to one day open up my own school and I want to know what its like on a day to day basis being a martial arts instructor?

What are the pros and cons?
What is the secret to a succesful martial arts studio?

With Respect


There's a lot to owning a martial arts school than teaching martial arts. For starters, a person has to have the initiative, drive and discipline to succeed. Without the daily discipline of putting one foot infront of the other, it can be very easy to give up and quit teaching martial arts. Very often in this business, people close up shop after one to five years of teaching. So, if you really want to teach martial arts for a living, I suggest you do your homework and visit a ton of schools (outside of your living area) and talk with a ton of instructors and get the real deal on what it takes to be successful.

Of course, each person has to define success. For one person, it's making a lot of money. For another, it's developing a name for themselves within their community. For another, it's changing lives. For me, it was making a positive impact on people's lives.

So, if you still have the drive, I suggest you take a look at the costs of opening up your own studio. Take a look at the cost of renting space (industrial versus commercial), initial set up costs, equipment (mats, gloves, gis, heavy bags, etc..), advertising (yellow page ads, flyers, radio and TV stints, etc..), and miscellaneous (insurance, supplies, printing, paint, signage, tee-shirts, gis, belts, etc..). Over the course of seven years, I purchased $51,000 in equipment for my academy.

Next, I suggest you seriously consider how much this career will affect your personal life. For example, martial arts school primarily operate during the evening hours (Monday through Friday) and Saturday mornings. So, if your friends work Monday through Friday, 9-5pm, kiss most of your social life goodbye.

Next, you must understand as an martial arts instructor, you will wear many hats. Of course you will wear the instructor's hat. However, you will also wear the following hats:

  1. Marketing and advertising pro.

  2. Distribution pro.

  3. Janitorial pro.

  4. Referee (when students/instructors/parents feud among themselves).

  5. Counselor (when student come to talk with you).

  6. PBX pro (when your phone rings off the hook).

  7. Mommy (when students leave training gear, t-shirts and gis on the floor after class).

  8. Judge (when students want you to resolve a quarrel).

  9. Student (when students ask, "Why do we grab like that?" and you don't know the answer).

  10. Web pro (when you finally decide to make a professional website).

As you can see, teaching martial arts has a lot of responsibilites. Many think they will come into the business and teach (because that's what they think they are good at and that's all they want to do). But then when they find out a lot more is required of them, many give up!

So, think long and hard about teaching martial arts for a living. While it is a rewarding career, it's not cracked up to be what many say it is. There will be a lot of sacrifice involved. People will Monday morning quarterback you on many of the decisions you make. People will stab you in the back and smile doing it. However, for the lives that you change (for the positive) along the makes it all worth while!

I have been teaching martial arts full time since September of 1996. And while I have certainly had my fair share of heartaches and disappointments, I am also thrilled that I was able to be there for the people that needed a person like me in their life!

To sum it all up, I suggest you do your homework before opening up an academy. Read tons of books, interview hundreds of people and watch tens of hours of classes at other martial arts studios. Find out everything you can so you can make an informed decision about teaching martial arts for a living!


Roy Harris

"For me, it was making a positive impact on people's lives."

Great post Roy, but, to me, this is the most important thing to remember.

Most people believe that being a martial arts instructor is the same as being a pilates instructor, fitness instructor, aerobics instructor, or sculpting instructor. Achieving a high level of skill, or becoming certified, is synonymous with becoming an instructor.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

One of the most important functions of a martial arts instructor is to lead by example, not just in terms of skill, but in terms of character.

A martial arts instructor must be a moral compass to their students, because morality plays a major role in the study of martial arts. Studying how to use potentially deadly force is not child's play, and it is important for students to realize the responsibility that they have undertaken. It's not just about constant practice of martial skill, but also of the practitioner's character.

More than anyone, the student will look to their instructor for guidance in this matter. How an instructor addresses an issue, or discusses another style, their overall demeanor...these are things that someone who wants to become a martial arts instructor must consider, because they affect your students more than you might expect.

Being a martial arts instructor is a huge honor, but it is also a huge responsibility.

Awesome post Roy & 4 Ranges.

Sounds like drama throughout the years...Haters..etc...but i guess thats what makes the world go round....You've givin me a lot to think about and I will do more research and do my homework.

All I know that it beats sitting behind a desk all day typing on this forum. lol.

Now was far as marketing? How did you get most of your students? referrals? word of mouth? etc.???

There should always be a mix of flyers, word of mouth, yellow page ads and referrals. None of them can be counted on all of the time. So, it is best to use a mix of them and see which ones give you results this time around.

Also, you need to understand that marketing is an ongoing process. There are no quick answers or FOR SURE methods that work every time. Each method work at times, and they all fail at different times! So, you hit some homeruns every so often, and then you'll strike out a TON OF TIMES! The idea is to keep at it!


I'll keep swingin for the fences Roy..Thanks...


Here are a few books that helped me:

  1. "Never Eat Alone" by by Keith Ferrazzi and Tahl Raz.

  2. "Dig Your Well Before You're Thirsty" by Harvey MacKay

  3. "The Aladdin Factor" by Jack Canfield

Roy Harris

Going to Borders Now!

For marketing a school (or anything, really), there are programs available from 2 sources that will put you leaps and bounds ahead of your competition... Jay Abraham and Dan Kennedy.

Both have expensive programs available, but by looking on e-bay and around the web, you can usually find used versions. The material these guys teach is incredibly powerful. Each also have very low priced "entry level" books from around $20.... You can't go wrong by using their advice for direct, measurable marketing.

At least, that's my opinion as a marketing consultant to professional practices.


This is great advice. Most importantly, keep at it! Adds will need to be tweeked. Sometimes a little sometimes a lot. I do ads, special events, and a refferal program mainly and now it is working almost too well. But it was not this way at first!