At first glance, the recent resurgence in the popularity of martial arts-based fitness classes, like cardio kickboxing, might seem irrelevant to martial arts school owners. However, it actually represents a huge opportunity.
In 1998, one on the biggest trends in our industry, Tae Bo, began to take hold on the general public. This combination of taekwondo and boxing, created by retired national semi-contact karate champion Billy Blanks, rose to prominence as a genuine fitness phenomenon in North America. Because of its success, both Billy Blanks and Tae Bo became household names.
Tae Bo was the first martial arts-oriented fitness program to capture the interest of the mass market, in particular adult women. Within our industry, it soon spawned a number of “Cardio-Karate” or “Fitness Kickboxing” (among other names) programs that were adopted by martial arts school owners across the U.S. These spinoffs drew an unprecedented number of new fitness clients to those schools whose owners were savvy enough to offer them.
Today, martial arts fitness classes are on the rise again. Gyms and fitness clubs have begun to offer them in droves, but there’s no reason why you, as a martial arts school owner, shouldn’t also benefit from this trend.
You might be wondering, “Don’t all martial arts already help with fitness?” The answer is yes, of course – training in almost any martial art is great exercise. That’s why martial artists, especially those who compete, are in such good shape.
Non-martial artists noticed this, and wanted to get in good shape themselves. However, many people don’t like the idea of being punched, kicked, or choked out, so they stayed away from traditional martial arts.
The creators of the first martial arts-based fitness classes realized that these people were a potential market. Programs like Billy Blank’s Tae Bo, for example, used the movements of strikes (punches, kicks, knees, etc.), but removed the elements of partner training and sparring.
In the simplest terms, a martial-arts based fitness class is one that draws on the cardio and/or strength-training aspects of martial arts, but removes combat.
Adding a martial arts fitness class to your school is a great way for you to increase revenue. There are several ways you can add such a program, including:
Adding nutrition/healthy eating lessons to your current curriculum
License an existing program, such as Cage Fitness, for your gym
Create your own program
The second method is the most effective and safest for your school: in the Tae Bo era, a number of lawsuits were filed against martial arts school owners by clients who were injured during fitness workouts. Presumably, those instructors failed to consult a fitness expert first and merely stitched together a bunch of ill-suited techniques that led to injuries.
The good news is, you probably already have all the equipment you need to start a fitness program. At bare minimum, all you need is mat space and a qualified instructor.
If you have a sound system to play pump-up music during the workout, even better. The instructor will lead the class through a warmup, then a series of martial arts-styled moves, then a cool down.
Although you can hold equipment-free classes, it’s easy and beneficial to add equipment like bags. Not only do bags open up new exercises, they can make classes more exciting. Freestanding bags are perfect for this, since they are easy to move and can be pushed out of the way when not in use.
In an ideal cardio kickboxing or cardio boxing class, every participant should be able to work on his/her own bag. But, if you’re just starting a fitness program, you may not know exactly what your attendance will be. Instead of guessing how many bags you’ll need, start by having people partner up on a single bag. As more people join your class, you can invest in more bags.
You can also augment a bag-based martial arts fitness class with workout gear, such as resistance bands, kettlebells, jump ropes and so forth. Set up timed “stations” and have class participants rotate through each one.
For example, Station 1 could be pushups, Station 2 could be jump-roping, and Station 3 could be performing combos on a bag as the instructor calls them out. You can set up as many stations as you have equipment, room and time for.
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