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".
by Christopher Rappold
If you had been told in January of this year that our world was about to shut down, would you have believed it? For most of us, the onset of COVID-19 was surreal, almost like watching a far-fetched movie plot unfolding in real time. And as with all unwelcome surprises, no one wants to go through it again. That said, I do want to make sure that our (literal) 20/20 hindsight results in the correct insights that will leave us better prepared for whatever else the future brings.
Because this column focuses on retention, my observations will target four key takeaways. The lessons to be learned — or relearned — from this pandemic are critical to sustained martial arts student retention and success.
1 Building strong relationships is a high-value activity.
To get through any kind of crisis requires more than just your efforts. It takes the collective support of friends, family, team...
by Kathy Olevsky
In the martial arts industry, we constantly have to reinvent ourselves to stay relevant. For example, many years ago, my husband and I ran a very traditional karate school. In the mid-1980s, the two of us moved into cross-training in other styles, but we kept it a secret from most students. We didn’t want to muddy our message, which was that we were a regular karate school.
What we learned is that offering multiple styles in one dojo can be a game-changer. That happened when we transitioned from teaching karate exclusively to offering instruction in karate, kendo, iaido, judo, jujitsu and a variety of weapons. Instead of it becoming confusing to the general public, it became enticing. Students liked the fact that we offered them more choices.
Similarly, we never could have predicted what happened to our world with the COVID-19 pandemic. All of a sudden, we had to transition from physical entities to online businesses. Not surprisingly, the martial arts...
MASuccess brainstormed with five prominent martial arts instructors to obtain their best advice for their peers during this global pandemic. Here is what they offered.
Immediately Start Teaching Your Art Online
Sometimes it’s best to begin with the end in mind. Do you want to help your students and families during the COVID-19 pandemic? Do you want to support your local schools, businesses and communities? Do you want to provide leadership during this a time of uncertainty? I’m guessing that you will answer yes to all these questions.
Now more than ever, people need to feel connected, and many of them need you to continue to serve as their instructor and their leader. Likewise, communities need leaders to provide certainty and security. Again, they need you to continue to be a martial arts leader to provide stability and structure. To do that, you’ll need to rely on technology, perhaps to a degree you never have. The good news is, it’s not that...
by Beth A. Block
The next time you’re in your school, set aside five minutes for a tour of the space. Look at everything: the entryway, guest area, office, bathrooms and floor. Try to see it all through the eyes of someone who’s never been inside your building before. Take some notes on what you see. When you’re done, come back and pick this column up again.
OK, ready? Check your notes. Do they include the need to clean the entryway floors? Did you see a leaky faucet in the bathroom? A leak in a ceiling tile? An exposed sharp counter edge? Did you notice whether plug protectors are in the unused electrical outlets? Are there support pillars from the floor to ceiling? Where are they located, and are they padded?
During my years in martial arts studios, I’ve seen students and guests get hurt in many ways. One incident involved a studio that had a 15-year-old fall into a steel support pole. This student was participating in the adult class. On this...
By Michelle Hodnett
Project Dojo is a nonprofit community outreach program in Pueblo, Colorado, that works with at-risk children. Through the power of martial arts, Project Dojo seeks to inspire and motivate kids within a safe environment, while continuing to teach the traditions of martial arts. This is the story of Project Dojo co-founder Michelle Hodnett’s experiences in her martial arts journey.
The Century Foldaway Speed Bag Platform & Leather Speed Bag is an excellent tool to build hand-eye coordination as well as speed and endurance. Speed bag training beneficial to all ages and all levels of martial artists, for several reasons:
All of these things will benefit...
by Kurt Klingenmeyer, MAIA Consultant
Over the past year, I’ve had the incredible experience of working with many growing martial arts schools via MAIA’s Small School Forum. It’s a dedicated Facebook group for school owners with 80 or fewer students. The forum provides tools and advice to help them develop their schools.
One of the most frequently asked questions is, “How do I grow my martial arts school with only a small budget?” The following are five proven ways to do that.
This is an old-school form of marketing, but it always delivers results. Visit 10 local businesses that are community owned and tell the owners that you have students and families who may be interested in them. Ask if they have any business materials you could place at the front desk in your dojo.
If they have materials to share, ask if they can reciprocate by allowing you to leave a lead box on their counter. On the outside of the box, feature an enticing...
by Chris Rappold
It is always exciting to enroll new students. In most cases, it’s a fresh start with no history, only the promise of a bright martial arts future. The students enter your school and take their first class, receive their first promotions and win their first trophies. Everything is new and exciting.
Through continued hard work — both yours and the students’ — they continue to advance. At first, you may have just one advanced student, but in what seems like no time, you have a class full of brown and black belts. It’s a dream come true.
Then, without warning, one of those advanced students, perhaps even one you had mentally tagged as an assistant instructor, discontinues training. You feel like you got punched in the stomach. Why would the person suddenly stop training? Isn’t this what he or she always wanted? Why would the student come so far, only to quit? These questions and others race through your mind.
by Richard Blaine
Many martial artists dream of earning a living doing what they love. But when that dream meets the harsh reality of running a business, it can feel like being woken with a bucket of ice water to the face. Declining enrollments, departing students, the never-ending search for quality staff members, and turning just enough of a profit to pay bills and eat, then repeating this process month after grueling month — these things can turn that dream into a nightmare.
Yet a few school owners are running businesses that not only survive but also succeed beyond all expectations. At the top of that list of success stories is Premier Martial Arts.
With more than 100 schools in the United States, as well as branches in Canada and Great Britain, PMA stands as one of the world’s largest and most successful chains of franchised martial arts schools. And in a market saturated with everything from cardio-kickboxing gyms to Brazilian jiu-jitsu academies, every PMA...
by Kathy Olevsky
I’ve operated a martial arts school full time for 45 years. I may have made every mistake that can be made in this business. The reason I’m still in business, I believe, is I asked for help. I learned quickly that others before me had already found solutions. In this column, I’ll point out key mistakes I made in my career, which are common errors among school owners, both large and small, throughout our industry. And I’ll share the solutions I used to overcome them.
Over the years, I have realized the importance of balancing the addition of new things with the maintenance of tradition and integrity. In my school’s karate program, we adhere to the same high standards as we always have. The black belt of today is the same as the black belt of many years ago. However, many of our students also partake in our yoga-stretch class, our cardio-fitness class, and our judo and jujitsu classes.
In this industry, it’s essential...
by Justin Lee Ford
Shoshin is a word one encounters in the traditional Japanese martial arts, as well as in Buddhism. It doesn’t refer to a technique or form; rather, it’s a general concept. Translated, it means “beginner’s mind.” The term is used to remind practitioners to keep an open mind akin to that of a beginner in any endeavor.
In the martial arts, having a beginner’s mind can foster humility and make you receptive to new ideas. In the business of martial arts, having a beginner’s mind can help you connect with new students and retain current students.
How so? When you, as a martial arts instructor, remind yourself of what it’s like to start learning a new physical pursuit, you better connect with white belts. This is because there are many things newcomers don’t know but you take for granted. Adopting a beginner’s mind reacquaints you with their stage of training, and it aids you when it’s time to...
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