The Martial Arts Industry Association exists to help grow martial arts participation by helping school owners succeed. Many school owners are never exposed to the foundational business concepts necessary to run and grow a successful business. At MAIA, we can help fill that need, as we are made up of school owners who have walked in your shoes, know your struggles, and can help with strategies to elevate you from novice to a "blackbelt in business".
This time of year I always think of my late friend, Ron Lyle. If you know boxing, then you know of Ron Lyle. But I don’t know him from that perspective. I know him from a different perspective that perhaps no one else would have even paid attention to.
World Heavyweight Champion contender Ron Lyle just happened to grow up in the neighborhood where I teach my inner- city martial arts program in Denver, CO. I always wondered who the older black guy was in the back of the room watching me teach classes. He didn’t say anything. He just watched and would emulate my moves as if he was trying to remember them.
When I found out that it was Ron Lyle, who was also teaching the boxing program downstairs, it became a running joke of “who could beat up who” if we both got in the ring. He always smiled and said I would win.
Over the next few years, we would spend many hours during the center’s down time talking about a lot of life, past and...
This month, let’s discuss levity and its role in leadership and teams.
“Levity” is “cheerfulness” or “enjoyment.” As we work and try to manage successful businesses, it’s easy to lose sight of just having fun. Honestly, there are some days when we fight just to get out of bed.
However, there are always moments when some joyfulness and laughter can be found. Even when things seem hard or crazy, you have to be intentional in finding levity. Allow me to share a wild but true story.
In my previous column series, “Pop’s Pearls of Wisdom,” I stated that my parents owned liquor stores and then motels. One day, my dad and I were working the front desk at the motel when he received a call from a customer. The client complained that there was a rat in his room.
We were quite thorough about pest control and cleanliness. My dad was tired from several days of rowdy customers and the previous...
In 1974, Patrick Wrenn was invited by Elvis Presley, Elvis sidekick/bodyguard Red West and Bill “Superfoot” Wallace to help establish what has since been called “the greatest martial arts school of all time.” It’s the 4,300-square-foot, Memphis-based Tennessee Karate Institute (TKI). The original TKI only lasted four years, but, 39 years later, Wrenn has reopened it at its original location as part museum/part school.
Recipient of the Martial Arts Lifetime Achievement Award and Joe Lewis Eternal Warrior, the indomitable 10th-dan Wrenn has continued over the years to teach his Combative Arts despite continuous injuries and ill-health.
Herb Borkland: Where did you grow up, and what did yourdad do?
Patrick Wrenn: I was born in Massachusetts and grew up in Birmingham, Alabama. My father was a self-made, multimillionaire real-estate developer.
After college, I went into business for myself importing birds of prey, reptiles and saltwater...
I've been operating a martial arts school full-time for 40 years. I think I may have made every mistake that can be made in this business. The reason I’m still in business, I believe, is because I asked for help. I learned quickly that others before me had already found solutions. In this reality-based column, I’ll point out key mistakes I made in my business career, which are common errors among school owners, both large and small, throughout our industry. Then I’ll share the solutions I applied to overcome them.
In our early years in running a dojo as black belt instructors, we came to work, taught classes and tried hard to manage a business that was our sole source of income. As instructors and owners, we made student progress the priority in the school. While that’s a respectable and sensible idea, it left out a very important pillar of our growth.
I think, in those early years, we were missing a huge opportunity. We basically never showed...
As we exit the holiday season and enter the new year, the media is bombarding us about how the internet is seizing more and more sales from the standard brick-and-mortar businesses.
I am happy to say that my schools are somewhat internet-proof. A portion of our sales do compete with the internet: items like weapons, gear, uniforms, etc. But we have many ways to combat this.
For example, we offer the very best pricing, whenever possible, for purchasing products within the school. We cobrand anything and everything possible, and that becomes the “must-use” products for our students. We frequently offer new t-shirt designs for our student that are only available at the school. Most importantly, we program all product into our curriculum whenever possible.
All that said, my ways of combating internet sales is not the topic of this article. Changing with the times and adjusting to the environment is.
Over the holidays, I went shopping at a...
Back in the 1970s and ‘80s, legendary fighter Jeff Smith pulled off a dual goal unprecedented back then and extremely rare even today. He became a world kickboxing champion while simultaneously mastering the martial arts school business! Furthermore, he pioneered savvy business techniques still practiced by current school owners. Read Smith’s extraordinary story and prepare to come away inspired!
By Herb Borkland
In the early 1960s, when Americans were first meeting the Beatles, Jhoon Rhee, the “Father of American Taekwondo,” owned four schools in Washington, D.C., Virginia and Maryland. He also regularly traveled around the country to a dozen taekwondo clubs, where he tested students trained by some of his black belts. One such club was located in Kingsville at Texas A&M University, where teenaged Jeff Smith’s mother worked and Jeff delivered daily newspapers.
“One day on my route, I noticed a sign for a karate...
It's almost the New Year, the time for resolutions. Grand expectations. Weight loss. Goal-setting. Making a change for the better and trying to stick with it for the next 365 days.
Then, the first week winds down and the confetti settles. Champagne gets flat. By this time, I can’t tell you how many Facebook posts I see saying things, “Can we just start this New Year over?” Or, “I need a re-do.” And, of course, the standard: “This is the worst year ever!”
Since we have such high expectations for the New Year, we get frazzled at the first thing that goes wrong. We tend to associate the first week of the New Year with how the rest of the year will go. We think, “Why does everything happen to me?”
Having expectations and setting goals is important and you should definitely do it. In fact, if you haven’t written out a list of the goals you want to accomplish, stop reading and do it now! We have all heard that you...
Dwight Trower has dedicated his time and skill to teaching kids and adults with Down Syndrome at his Family Martial Art Academy in St. Louis, MO. These special-needs martial artists never pay for a lesson. It's a labor of love for Trower that comes back tenfold with every kick and punch thrown by his students in this unique class.
By: Terry Wilson
Dwight Trower was in a trade school learning how to be an auto mechanic and, at the time, saw it as his clear-cut future. That is, until he took his first karate class. From that moment forward, he was propelled on a path that would eventually forever change his life and the lives of untold numbers of special-needs students.
“Even as a blue belt, I was an assistant teacher,” Trower says today. “My instructor told me that I had a gift for teaching, especially working with kids.
“With a class full of students, there were usually one or two of them that were on the autism spectrum or had Down syndrome. So,...
Bobby and Charlene Lawrence operate Utah's largest chain of karate schools — 19 locations teaching more than 2,200 active students. Their four children and 20 grandchildren have grown up in the martial arts business. Read how their fascinating, family-oriented approach has built a martial arts empire and influenced tens of thousands of students in the Beehive State.
By: Keith D. Yates
Once, Bobby Lawrence was a public school teacher, athletic coach and attorney. While he was busy working in the corporate world, his wife, Charlene, turned their martial arts hobby into a one-school business. Today, they run the largest chain of karate schools in the entire state of Utah, encompassing 19 different locations. They are all Bobby Lawrence Karate Schools, some of them licensed. But the husband-and-wife team, who’ve been in the martial arts business since the 1980s, oversee the chain’s operations.
And it isn’t just the two of them. Their sons and even...
Knoxville, Tennessee’s Barry Van Over went from the hills of Appalachia to the forefront of the 21st-century martial arts revolution. Franchising is his dynamic vision for the future of martial arts businesses.
By Keith D. Yates
While people have been practicing martial arts for thousands of years, the ancient disciplines have never been more popular than they are today. Statista is an online statistics, market research and business-intelligence portal that provides access to data from market and opinion research institutions. The last time the company conducted a survey, in 2016, into how many people practiced martial arts, it discovered that almost four million people, ages six and older, were practicing martial arts.
With more than 20,000 martial arts studios operating across the nation and the rise of martial arts in the mainstream, there is reason to believe that those numbers would be even higher today.
One of the reasons why martial arts is so...
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