Running a Successful MA School

I wanted to get some input on how to start and run a martial arts school. What are some of the mistakes you made and some of the key principals you have that makes your business a success.

I've been training in some kind of martial art for about 10 years. For the last 5 1/2 I've been in Dallas with Carlos Machado. I've got a 2-3 year plan where I really want to focus on my training, get some things paid off, then move to open my own school.

While in College I helped a guy run a Hapkido School and I saw first hand what not to do. He opened a place in a strip mall with a big overhead in rent, had no other income except the school and supported a family with that. We did one bulk mailing of flyers but that was it for advertising. We started to get a few students from walk-ins but nothing close to what he needed to stay afloat.

My plan is to start on a shoe sting budget. I will either start a club at a local University or Community College, Fitness Center/Gym, or try to partner with an existing standup martial arts school. I will keep a day job until I can at least meet my mortgage payments. Then I can always do some odd jobs for extra money once I build my core student base up. Also, once the student base is built we can look for a different location if the original arrangement is no longer suitable.

As a mission statement I would really like to provide a training environment that promotes a healthy lifestyle with realistic training focussing on improving my students both physically and mentally.

With 60% of Amercians overweight and childhood obesity at an epedimic level I would like to run a successful childrens class. I think this is a big market for this as a lot of grappling schools don't target kids. This could also provide a huge amount of revenue. There are a lot of parents who won't spend time or money for themselves but don't mind investing the money in their children.

I think another successful business model is diversity. It seems some of the most successful schools offer a combination of gi, no-gi, wrestling, kickboxing, self defense, mma, pilates or yoga. This gives the student a wide variety of choices and can provide a well rounded combat athlete. I have found that a lot of times a BJJ coach will have students that are great kickboxers or wrestlers. You can usually work a deal with these guys to teach a class or two in exchange for free dues or private lessons.


A few other ideas I had:

Follow up with students: This is where I think you can make a big difference with your student retention rate. When I first started martial arts in College if I didn't show up for class the little Korean instructor would call and leave messages on my machine. More recently, my Muay Thai coach did the same thing. It really motivates you when you know that your instructor notices you are not there.

Using Senior Students as a "Mentoring System" - A lot of times it can be pretty intimidating to start something new. Especially if it's a combat sport. Guys that have been doing it forever can forget how intimidating walking into a room with a bunch of athletic guys you don't know who are going to try to choke and armbar. It's the instructors duty to make the new student at ease and eliminate the tension but sometimes the coach is just too busy to give the individual attention everyone needs. This is where senior students can help out a lot. For reduced rates or private lessons you could ask your senior students to mentor a group of new students. This establishes a bond for the new student. If they know someone in the class a develop a relationship they are more likely to return to class. This also helps the senior student by giving him the teaching skills he will need if he ever plans on opening a school. You could also pass on the resposibilty of the follow up call to the mentor if the new student doesn't show up.

I have a few other ideas but let's here what you guys have done with your own business.

Thanks in advance,

I run my program out of an already established school so I can't offer alot of advice. One thing I would recommend is picking up a copy of "Starting and Running a Successful Martial Art school" ( I think that title is right). It has how to create business plans and the like for people wanting to run independent MA schools.

I'll check on the title when I get home and post the correct one tonight

that would be it.

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