Do you want to start a martial arts school? If YES, here is a complete guide to starting a martial arts school business with NO money and no experience plus a sample martial arts school business plan template. Indeed starting a martial arts school is easier said than done but it can be a natural progression for someone whose martial arts practice spans their whole life.

Before you start this business, there are many things to think about and you need resources to make it possible. You have to note that not all martial arts teachers are in the business to make profit; a lot of them want to explore their passion, while having a business that is all about their ideals.

One of the very first things is to make sure of when starting this business is that the grueling lifestyle of entrepreneurship does not curb your passion for martial arts. The most important part of opening a successful martial arts school is writing a solid martial arts business plan. Is not just necessary but very essential that you create a roadmap of success, and it also helps in really uncovering things – such as what your intentions are, and whether your business is going to be viable.

It is true that most people write a business plan but not everyone writes a marketing plan. This is a very big business setback. A martial arts marketing plan will make clear who your prospective students are, how you will get them to join, and how to keep them coming back. Both the business plan and the marketing plan are not what you write and just forget: it is something that you go through every month or so, to make sure that you are on track.

You should also note that a martial arts school needs to make money to survive. There is a lot of returns on investment if you choose to start a martial arts school. This article is packed with loads of information that will help you. Read on to harness it.

18 Steps to Starting a Martial Arts School With No Money

1. Understand the Industry

Businesses in this industry run and operate as nonemployers that offer instruction in martial arts. These classes include karate, kendo, judo, jiu jitsu, krav maga, taekwondo, muay Thai and mixed martial arts, among others. Extensive research has shown that this industry’s growth was affected early in the current five-year period as the recession set in and the economy sagged.

But as the economic recovery took hold, rising per capita disposable income allowed consumers to increase spending on fitness, including martial arts instruction, supporting substantial revenue growth from 2012 onward. According to experts, the industry is expected to continue its growth, albeit at a slower rate over the next five years.

Indeed a robust economic recovery is expected to endow consumers with higher disposable income levels, giving them the opportunity to spend more money on martial arts instruction, particularly costly private lessons. Also the popularity of mixed martial arts will continue to drive demand for the industry.

Most businesses in this industry provide training to young people for recreational purposes. Therefore, capital costs are low as the facilities and major equipment used in training can essentially be acquired as they are needed. A lot of the larger industry operators are franchises, which means the operator pays an on-going fee or royalty payment to the corporation to use the brand’s name. As many of the larger companies are looking to expand, they market the opportunity to franchisees by outlining the costs involved depending on the size and scope of your planned operation.

2. Conduct Market Research and Feasibility Studies

  • Demographics and Psychographics

In the united states alone, around 18.1 million Americans participated in karate or some other form of martial art at least once in the past year. That includes 9.4 million adults, 5.5 million teenagers and 3.2 million kids. According to our research, 5 percent of adults say they participated in martial arts last year at least once, and a quarter of those (28 percent) say they do martial arts “every chance they get.” This number is split at 52% men and 48% women.

Also we believe that Asian American adults are no more likely to participate in martial arts than whites; 5 % of each group is involved in the sport. Even blacks are more likely than whites or Asians to engage in martial arts, with 7 % saying they have participated in the sport at least once in the past year.

While 25% of all teenage boys and 22% of teen girls  say they have participated in martial arts in the past year. Also 75 % of teens who practice karate say that they have also played golf in the past year, 74 % have skateboarded, 69 % have practiced yoga, and 41 % have gone downhill or cross-country skiing.

Also we have been able to note that teens who spar are even more likely to see their activities as beneficial to their overall health and social life as do their equally active peers. 67 % of teens who practice martial arts say, “Sports are a part of my social life,” and 77 %, say “Sports are important to keep healthy.” For those teens who participate in a sport other than karate, the figures are 59 % and 71 %, respectively.

Also an amazing 13 % of children aged 6 to 11 have participated in some kind of martial arts activity in the past year. With kids, boys are significantly more interested than girls:  61 % are boys, and only 39 % are girls. Also note that the likelihood that a child will partake in martial arts increases proportionately with the income of his or her parents. 15 % of kids whose parents earn $75,000 or more a year participate in martial arts, compared with 13 % of those whose parents make between $50,000 and $75,000.

Only 10 % of kids whose parents earn $50,000 or less participate in the sport. We have also found out that 21 % of youngsters who practice martial arts agree with the statement “I like to be the first to try new things,” compared with just 16 % of kids who don’t participate in martial arts. 58 % of children who participate in martial arts say they want to be famous, compared with 52 % of kids who do not. While adults who participate in martial arts are more likely than nonparticipants to say that they enjoy taking risks.

3. Decide Which Niche to Concentrate On

We believe that this business has strived in many areas because it is an on-going Business model, with new students searching greater discipline and martial arts knowledge with each business. This business is also attractive to parents because they like the discipline and self-defense capability that it provides for their child; while children, in turn, are excited to practice a variety of physical skills among their peers.

In this business, there are five distinct categories in the industry which can serve as a niche or you can choose to do all if you can. These are stand-up or striking styles, grappling styles, low impact styles, weapons based styles, and MMA (A Hybrid Sports Style).

Striking or Stand-Up Styles
  • Boxing
  • Karate
  • Krav Maga
  • Kung Fu
  • Kickboxing
  • Tae Kwon Do
Grappling or Ground Fighting Styles
  • Brazilian Jiu Jitsu
  • Russian Sambo
  • Shoot fighting
  • Wrestling
Throwing or Takedown Styles
  • Aikido
  • Judo
  • Hapkido
  • Shuai Jiao
Weapons Based Styles
  • Iaido
  • Kali
  • Kendo
Low Impact or Meditative Styles
  • Baguazhang
  • Tai Chi
  • Chi Gong based styles
MMA- A Hybrid Sports Style

This niche is most popular. In addition, it gives better revenue. This is mixed martial art.

The Level of Competition in the Industry

Martial arts as a sport is second only to golf in terms of number of new participants over the past decade. A martial arts school can be an expensive new business venture to set in motion, but we believe that the average cost now paid by a student per year for martial arts training is in excess of $600.

As long as the business can train 200 students per year, this would result in revenues exceeding $120,000, based on an average of $600 per year per student. Also apart from group training, one-on-one martial arts training is also becoming popular for the serious student who is prepared to pay $40 per hour or more for an intensive training session.

This business is not yet saturated as students are always on the lookout for new schools where they can gain new skills. The competition might be intense but innovation and proper marketing plans can be the key to break even in this business.

4. Know Your Major Competitors in the Industry

  • Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Academy
  • US martial arts Academy
  • The IMB Academy of Torrance
  • TangSooDo Korean Karate of Orlando
  • Grandmaster Hee IL Cho’s Tae Kwon Do Center
  • Aikido/Hapkido of Hendersonville
  • YuSool Korean Jujitsu and Hapkido Academy
  • American Dragon Martial Arts Academies San Saba
  • International Nisei Goju World Headquarters
Economic Analysis

We believe that this business is good for individuals who are passionate about martial arts and enjoy working with young people, as they will make up the majority of your clients. Also, while running your own martial arts school does allow you more flexible hours, to be profitable, you may be required to work into the early evening to accommodate those who can only train after work or school.

You also might consider working on weekends to better capitalize on your client’s free time. The standard business model for a martial arts school is to charge an annual membership fee and monthly fees for a set number of meetings per week. Additional meetings or private sessions are charged at an additional cost.

We also believe that a small scale martial arts school needs very little space; with 2,000 square feet or less, you can keep rent and utilities low while providing more individualized attention to students. While a large scale martial arts school may occupy a warehouse or large retail location and be able to accommodate almost twice as many students, but note that the rent and utilities will be commensurately higher and you must hire more instructors to both teach classes and provide the same sense of individualized attention.

Indeed it is possible for larger-staffed schools to serve more clients; an individual can reasonably serve upwards of 175 people in a week. But these are split into classes and they come in at different days and times, keeping you from becoming overwhelmed.

It is also important to state that martial arts schools are not seasonal in the strictest sense, but they gain the most students shortly after schools begin in the fall. A lot of these students will eventually drop out, and you will pick up more throughout the year. Also summer is typically a lull as students spend more time with friends and family and less time in the dojo.

5. Decide Whether to Buy a Franchise or Start from Scratch

When planning to start a Martial Arts School Business, buying a franchise can be a viable alternative to starting your own business. Note that franchises offer the independence of a business ownership supported by the benefits of a big business network. In franchising, you don’t necessarily need business experience to run your business. Franchisors usually provide the training you need to operate their business model.

Reports have it that franchises have a higher rate of success than start-up businesses in the Martial Arts School Business. We also believe you may find it easier to gain finance for a franchise. It may cost less to buy a franchise than starting your own business of the same type. Franchises often have an established reputation and image, proven management and work practices, access to national advertising and on-going support.

Indeed franchising is seen by many as a simple way to go into business for the first time. But franchising is no guarantee of success and the same principles of good management – such as informed decision-making, hard work, time management, having enough money and serving your customers/members well – still apply.

6. Know the Possible Threats and Challenges You Will Face

Indeed starting a martial arts school can be the ultimate goal for many dedicated martial artists. Owning your own business – especially one revolving around your passion – can be extremely rewarding: you answer to no one and you share your practice with the world in a way you believe. But every business has its own challenges and threats, you just need to plan ahead and get ready to deal with them as they come. Problems you may encounter when starting a martial arts school business may include;

  • Finance
  • Choosing a niche
  • Registration and licensing
  • Developing your recruitment plan
  • Location
  • Marketing and equipment
  • Developing an entrepreneurship mind set

7. Choose the Most Suitable Legal Entity (LLC, C Corp, S Corp)

The earlier you understand that there are various legal requirements that you need to satisfy when starting your martial arts school legally the better for your business. They may not be much but you still need to fulfill them. It is very important that you check with your local city and county government to get the necessary licensing before you open your doors for business.

There are six legal entities available to entrepreneurs in the United States of America and they include; Sole Proprietorship, Limited Liability Company (LLC), Cooperative, C Corporation, Partnership and the S Corporation. But when trying to open a martial arts school these options are reduced to two – sole proprietorship and LLC. But no matter the size and concept you have for your business, note that the LLC is the best option for you.

LLC stands for Limited Liability Company. When a business is structured as an LLC, it becomes its own legal entity. Forming an LLC is the simplest way of structuring your business to provide personal liability protection. This means your personal assets are protected if your business is sued. The LLC is responsible for its own debts and lawsuits, not the owners. Its advantages may include;

  • Personal assets protection
  • Flexibility
  • Simplicity
  • Pass through taxation
  • Increase credibility
  • Access to Business loans

8. Choose a Catchy Business Name

  • City wide Jiu Jitsu
  • Age of wind Kung Fu
  • Clockwork taekwondo
  • Marcelo Academy of Jiu Jitsu
  • Silver Fox
  • Cutting Edge martial arts
  • Princeton Jiu Jitsu
  • All Star MMA & karate
  • South Jersey Martial Arts
  • Sleeping Arm Martial arts
  • Sakura
  • Elite Mixed Martial Arts
  • Revolution Jiu Jitsu
  • Houston School of martial a
  • Midtown MMA
  • Gracie Barra
  • Sky Dwellers Tae chi
  • Precision Jiu Jitsu
  • Master Jin Academy
  • Gold Team martial arts
  • Elements of fighting
  • Iron Dragon Martial Arts

9. Discuss with an Agent to Know the Best Insurance Policies for You

We all know that martial arts can be dangerous, even for the most advanced and experienced participants. When someone is just learning the ins-and-outs of the intricate movements martial arts requires, it is incredibly easy for accidents to happen and for participants to get hurt. To avoid issues and problems, you need to be protected with martial arts insurance.

  • Public liability insurance
  • Professional indemnity insurance
  • Business interruption insurance
  • Employer’s liability insurance
  • Contents insurance
  • Money and loss of license cover
  • Legal expense insurance
  • Natural peril insurance

10. Protect your Intellectual Property With Trademark, Copyrights, Patents

With little or no patent and copyright to protect in the Martial Arts business, what is left is the trademark. Keeping your trademark safe from infringement requires a consistent offense and a sturdy defense. Indeed protecting your trademark is like managing a winning sports team—you need both a good offense and a good defense.

  • Choose a strong mark
  • Use it or lose it
  • Beware the Escalator Fate
  • Police your mark
  • Enforce your mark

11. Get the Necessary Professional Certification

  • Martial Arts Fitness Instruction Certification
  • Martial Arts Fitness instructor certification
  • Karate and Martial Arts Instructor Certification
  • Karate instructor certification
  • System and rank certification
  • Certified Mixed Martial Arts Conditioning Coach
  • Kickboxing Instructor Certification

12. Get the Necessary Legal Documents You Need to Operate

Managing a martial arts studio does not need any special licensing beyond the standard business license and liability insurance associated with starting and maintaining any other business. Insurance is particularly important because making students sign waivers is not an absolute guarantee against liability issues.

13. Raise the Needed Startup Capital

A lot of entrepreneurs only consider one or two choices when they choose financing options for launching their martial arts school: their personal savings and bank loans. But you should know that there are many other options to consider such as borrowing from a private investor, government grants, and using your personal credit. Each of these methods has its pros and cons; it is up to you to decide which will best suit your resources, needs and goals. Ways to raise funds to start your business may include;

  • Debt finance
  • Equity
  • Grants
  • Supply chain finance (e.g. credit from suppliers)
  • Crowdfunding
  • Social investment
  • Venture capital & business angels
  • Financing by family and friends
  • Loan finance

14. Choose a Suitable Location for your Business

Getting the perfect location for a martial arts school is a major factor in its success. Have it in mind that each type of location has its advantages and disadvantages, which is why you need to weigh the pros and cons of each to determine what is most important for your own situation. For instance, high-traffic areas will attract more people, but they come with higher rents; while lower-rent areas are not as easily accessible to students.

This is why we advise that as someone who is just starting out in the martial arts school; it is better off keeping rent costs low and spending the extra money on other areas of the business. Also, other factors to take into account when looking for a facility to house the martial arts school are safety and size. It is also important to make sure the studio is located in a safe area, as it is difficult to attract new students to a dojo that is in a dangerous part of town. Other things to consider may include;

  • Size and layout of the premises
  • Structure and appearance, both internally and externally
  • Any special structural requirements, such as high ceilings
  • Facilities and comfort for employees and students – including lighting and toilets
  • Utilities, such as power and drainage, and any special requirements – for example, 3-phase electricity
  • Permission, including planning permission to use the premises for a Martial Arts Institute
  • Access and parking space – for deliveries or students
  • Whether you need the flexibility to alter or expand the premises
  • Your long-term business plans
  • Continuing maintenance and repairs
  • Building and contents insurance
  • Initial purchase costs, including legal costs such as solicitor’s fees and professional fees for surveyors
  • Initial alterations, fitting out and decoration
  • Transport links and parking – good public transport links and local parking facilities make it easier for members and students who don’t live within walking distance

15. Hire Employees for your Technical and Manpower Needs

Indeed you do not need any formal education to run a martial arts school, but you can supplement your existing knowledge by pursuing a Bachelor’s Degree in Martial Arts or a related field. Also you should consider getting to formally study Business Management or Marketing in order to help run and/or promote your business. It is worth it to become a member of the United States Martial Arts Association in order to become part of a network that can provide guidance and support, especially as you are getting started.

Also depending on the style of martial arts you practice, you will need different sorts of equipment, but you can purchase more equipment as your school grows, but you need to build a good foundation early on so that you can attract quality students.

We advise that you create a comprehensive list of all equipment that you would have if money was not an issue and then prioritize the list. Doing so will reveal the order of how you should purchase your equipment, while keeping in mind the return on investment. Some of the basic equipment you will need to start your business includes:

  • Mats to keep students safe while they train (prices range from $150-$300 for individual quality mats)
  • A ring to facilitate one-on-one sparring (basic rings can be as cheap as $100 but require additional matting)
  • Training equipment specific to your martial art, such as target pads for Taekwondo or strike shields for practicing kicks. Some martial arts may require a speed bag for students’ use during practice (kick pads are approximately $13, strike shields are $37, and speed bags are $35)
  • Students require uniforms, though you should make them order their own (prices vary; Taekwondo uniforms for example are approximately $30)
  • Sparring gloves and sparring foot protectors tailored to your martial art (sparring gloves are $40 per pair and foot protectors are $22 per pair)
  • Taekwondo and other martial arts may require head guards, shin pads, and body armour (head shields are $40, shin pads are $30, and basic chest protectors are $40)
  • Make sure you have an easily-accessible first-aid kit (basic kits are $30, though you may want to pay more for more options)
The Service Delivery Process of the Business

It is very important to state that the primary activity of a martial arts school is to offer different martial arts sessions to different groups throughout the day. We believe that these activities are typically split by age and by martial art (if the school is able to teach more than one), with additional time on certain days for private lessons.

Note that part of having a successful business is knowing what not to do. Learning from other people’s mistakes will save you lots of time you do not have and frustration that you do not need. Outlined below are few pitfalls you should avoid, they include;

  • Being “closed for business” – building a business needs time and effort. To truly grow a student body, be present at the facility, even when classes are not in session.
  • Not having lunchtime class – It is important to have a noontime class that caters to workers who are trying to get a lesson in during the workday. Although the class might not be heavily attended at first, eventually it will be filled.
  • Not starting class on time – Be respectful of you students’ time. They will appreciate that you value them.
  • Having a large ego – Even if you were the best student at the dojo where you learned, your students need an instructor, not an Alpha dog.
  • Not caring about aesthetics – People make judgments on businesses based on their looks first. Make a good impression.
  • Not having a website – In the 21st century, every business needs to have a web presence. It is a form of advertising for your business.
  • Not having a marketing program – Continually marketing the studio will continually bring in new students.
  • Not knowing what your students do for a living – Your students can potentially be perfect advertising for you. Know what they do for a living and use them as a connection to new students when and where it is appropriate.
  • Not continuing your education – Even teachers need to be students. Letting your students know you are keeping up on new techniques will give them confidence they are receiving top-notch training and education.

16. Write a Marketing Plan Packed with ideas & Strategies

You need to understand that no martial arts school can exist without students. The best way to gain a student body to a new dojo is to advertise. There are several ways to advertise depending on the size of your budget and the intended audience. But before you kick off your advertising campaign, you need to consider the following factors:

  • Budget
  • Audience
  • Marketing channels/media
  • Types of promotions that will be offered
  • Public relations
  • Special events
  • Appearances

You need to understand that a lot goes into the advertising process that it can be overwhelming. If you are not comfortable with the advertising process then you might want to consult with a marketing company or public relations firm for guidance. Although there is a cost connected with those services, the resulting new students will offset the money that is spent.

17. Develop Iron-clad Competitive Strategies to Help You Win

A lot of martial arts business owners are looking for the one magic bullet that will bring in droves of new martial arts students to their business. You need to know there are ways to generate a whole lot of students at one time and at the same time bench your competitors. Your martial arts business in better off if you implement as many marketing strategies as possible to get new students. They may include;

  • Newspaper Advertising
  • Website
  • Blog
  • Video Marketing
  • Search Engine Marketing
  • Pay-Per-Click Marketing
  • Social Networking Sites
  • Email Marketing
  • Creative Direct Mail
  • Networking
  • Publicity
  • Community Outreach/Special Guest Programs
  • Speaking at Events
  • Contributing Writer to a Publication
  • Author of Book
  • Tele-Marketing
  • Endorsement from Local Celebrity
  • In House Events
  • Free Seminars
  • Birthday Parties
  • Booth Space
  • Demos
  • Door to door fliers
  • Lawn Signs
  • Car Magnets
  • Newsletter to Current & Past Students
  • Mobile App for your current students

18. Develop Strategies to Boost Brand Awareness and Create a Corporate Identity

Having a dominant brand affinity is one of the best ways to improve profits and reduce overhead. The more you are able to handle the business yourself, the less you will need to spend on employees, marketers and other factors. Note that the nature of the business means that more clients will always lead to an uptick in monthly payments, but be mindful of whether you will make a sufficiently higher overall profit by expanding your business and increasing your other costs. Ways to boost your brand awareness may include;

  • Hold an event
  • Exhibit yourself
  • Sponsor something
  • Organise an experiential stunt
  • Take to social media
  • Launch a PR campaign
  • Invest in promotional merchandise