Steve Butts, owner of three Martial Arts America schools in the general Pensacola, FL, area, has found a niche in what is often an oversaturated marketplace. By combining gymnastics and a mix of martial arts styles, Butts has kids flipping, tumbling, punching and kicking by the hundreds into his Ninja Nation program.
With more than 30 year’s experience under his 6th-degree black belt in moo duk kwon taekwondo, Steve Butts was quick to recognize an opportunity. He integrated a gymnastics program into his already successful martial arts curriculum.
“I noticed a lot of kids doing gymnastics in their forms, but they were mostly self-taught,” Butts says. “Their mechanics were not sound, which wasn’t safe for the student. Being safe and teaching gymnastics properly was very important to me. So, we built out our school to include trampolines and spring floors. We started teaching gymnastics in our school under the supervision of professional gymnastics instructors. In our school, students are learning the fundamentals of gymnastics in a safe environment.”
Butts says the gymnastics instructors began working with his demo team and the students chasing the NASKA tournament circuit. The tumbling added a new dimension to his schools open forms demonstrations. Plus, he says, the kids loved the gymnastics. Everything grew from there.
“We live in a very small town,” he explains. “We’ve got between 9,000 to 12,000 people in our communities. Once the word got out that we were doing gymnastics, we started getting phone calls. I saw the interest and integrated tumbling classes, which branched out into a full-on “Flippin’ Out” gymnastics program.”
Always the innovator, Butts is constantly thinking about what his next move will be. How can something that’s already good be made better? Butts is an avid believer in kaizen, the Japanese practice of continuous improvement. With that mindset, he’s working on a licensing concept that will make a Ninja Nation program a reality for school owners around the country. Creating a formula that works for the average school owner’s space and budget was the first item Butts addressed.
“I realize that we have an in-ground trampoline setup that may be unavailable for some schools. So we came up with a system that would allow a school owner to run the program with a minimal investment in equipment.”
“We also understand that space may be an issue for some schools,” Butts adds. “We have two schools with 11,000 square feet and one school with 6,500. To work in a smaller space, we integrated various blocks and hurdles that make up the obstacle course. With the technology we have now, these blocks and hurdles are easy to acquire and cost effective.
“The setup is really simple, too. Just roll out the mat and the obstacles attach with velcro. School owners can set up different challenging courses for the kids in no time. It’s fun for the kids and a great add-on program for any school owner.”
Butts has also developed a Ninja Nation Birthday Party, which he says is a slam-dunk for school owners, too. He says it’s easy to run and has become a very simple feeder to his nightly Ninja Nation program.
Butts plans to do a full-on launch of his Ninja Nation Licensing program at the 2018 Martial Arts SuperShow in Las Vegas in July.
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