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5 Strategies to Grow Your School Without Spending Money

by Kurt Klingenmeyer, MAIA Consultant


As the Small School Specialist for the Martial Arts Industry Association, my job is to help school owners make the transition from part-time instructor to full-time business owner. Key to that transition is recruiting more students. Although the task can seem daunting or even impossible, especially during the era of COVID, there are some strategies that will help you reach this goal without spending your hard-earned dollars on advertising. Listed below are five.


Buddy Days

The first strategy provides a great opportunity for your current students to share their passion with their friends. When those friends — adults and youths, alike — are brought to class, have them engage in themed drills with the person who invited them. Those can include self-defense drills, focus-mitt speed challenges, partner drills — anything that has the newcomer punching, kicking or grappling with his or her buddy is a win. Collect the first timer’s info during check-in and invite the person to become a regular student.

Cost: $0


Event Booths

This strategy might not have been possible during the past summer because of the coronavirus, but by the summer of 2021, people will be anxious to get out and have fun — which means festivals will be happening everywhere. For that reason, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to set up a booth to promote your school.

My advice is to keep it simple. Less equals more. Have a table but push it back against the wall. Make sure the experience of stopping at your booth is interactive. For example, stand in front of your table next to a Century BOB that’s sporting a T-shirt that says, “Punch Me 20 Times in 10 Seconds and Win 2 Free Weeks of Karate.” When someone wins, schedule his or her first class to coincide with a special event — perhaps a bully workshop or a Stranger Danger course. At the special event, give the person a choice: Take those two free weeks of karate or enroll that day at a discounted rate.

Cost: $0



The biggest compliment a student can give you is to tell others about you. It’s the student’s way of saying that he or she believes in you, in what you teach and in your martial arts school. Unfortunately, you may not know exactly how to ask your students to do this. Here’s the easiest way to get 50-plus referrals a month:

When a student enrolls, include a piece of paper that explains your referral-rewards program. At the bottom of the page, leave five blank lines for contact information. Explain that you’ll give five of the new student’s friends two free weeks of training. While the student fills out the form, you should get out a uniform or gather the equipment that’s needed for class. This will give the student and/or the parent a little time to come up with the names.

Cost: $0


Parents, Spouses and Siblings

Family members are almost always overlooked. To remedy this, simply walk up to the parent, spouse, or brother or sister of a student and invite the person to join your adult class for a month as your special guest — no strings attached. You could even provide a free uniform.

After the family member has trained for a couple of weeks, ask how things are going. Present an opportunity to enroll on the spot at a special VIP price.

Cost: $0 (well, maybe a free uniform)


Self-Defense Workshops

Such sessions offer you a great way to give back to your community. Holding a self-defense workshop shows that you are the area’s leading expert on personal protection while putting you in front of potential new students.

That’s why I recommend hosting a free 90-minute self-defense workshop at your school. Invite parents, local schoolteachers, employees at neighboring businesses, members of relevant Facebook groups and the news media. At the end of the workshop, give everyone an opportunity to enroll.

Cost: $0


If you implement these strategies every month, you’ll see your student base grow consistently. If you have questions or would like more details on any of the recruitment methods I mentioned, reach out to me directly. The entire MAIA team is here to help you make your martial arts dreams a reality.


To contact Kurt Klingenmeyer, send an email to [email protected]. Or call the Martial Arts Industry Association at (866) 626-6226.

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