Info for Martial Arts School Owners and Instructors

The Martial Arts Teachers’ Association (MATA) is a professional organization that helps martial arts school owners and instructors improve their teaching skills and grow their schools with proven marketing, management, and curriculum design.

Click JOIN MATA to learn more.

martial arts instructor association and curriculum

How to Become an Attractive Martial Arts School


white belt child kicks with instructor watching

Get Certified as a Martial Arts Instructor Online

MATA Martial Arts Instructor Certification Course

Module 21-The Proper Use of Student Instructors

by Scot Conway, Esquire

The $25,000 Volunteers

Excerpt from the Martial Arts Instructor Certification Course:

Using upper ranks to teach classes has been a long-standing martial arts tradition. But, is it legal?

A California instructor had his black belts teaching under-rank classes at his studio. In exchange, he no longer charged them tuition.

This continued until one fateful day when the owner and a black belt student had a disagreement.

The vindictive student contacted the California Labor Board and reported that his instructor had been employing assistants by requiring that they teach classes each week.

This can constitute an Employer – Worker relationship. The only thing missing was payment for the workers and the taxes the government would collect if they were being paid.

The State of California investigators concluded that the owner, over the years, had a total of 25 black belts teach classes.

They defined them as uncompensated employees, which is illegal under the laws of California, and fined the instructor $1,000 per incident.

The final bill: $25,000 for the volunteers.

Lesson: Know your state laws regarding utilizing assistant instructors.

Is Your School Attractive?

I’ve been fortunate enough to visit martial arts schools on three continents. As with anything, there is always a top, middle, and bottom third of success. I’ve been in schools that have not changed since they opened decades ago. I’ve been in schools that seemed as though they haven’t cleaned the school since they opened decades ago. I’ve also been in schools that were multi-stories high with a restaurant as part of the facility.

What I’ve learned is that the schools that continue to evolve and adjust grow while those who do not stagnate. To help you evaluate your school, I’ve broken this down to a number of categories that collectively make one school more attractive than another.

Before we dive in, let share an observation I’ve had for years. In every market, the most expensive school with contracts typically has the most students and income. Why? Because they are constantly evolving and improving. That doesn’t mean that they chase every shiny object, but they work on their teaching skills and their selling skills. Every aspect of the operation is part of a system that is usually in writing or video.

Here are some important areas that when optimized, make one school more attractive than another. We start with what you teach and how you teach it.

Your Martial Arts Curriculum

In designing your curriculum, it’s important that you take a step back and run everything you teach through a series of filters including, “Why am I teaching this?” “Is it necessary?” “What would happen if I stopped teaching it?” Attractive schools consistently review their curriculum and modify it as new information comes in. Just because an Asian in an Asian country decades ago did it this way doesn’t mean you have to do it that way. Design your curriculum to serve your students best interests, not the styles’ legacy.

See more on Curriculum Design

Professional Martial Arts Instructors

Everything starts with the interaction of the instructors and the students. The quality of that relationship will set the ceiling of potential for school growth. That’s why we have the MATA Certification program. This gives everyone a common understanding and language for becoming a professional instructor rather than simply repeating the same patterns and methods of previous instructors.

Martial Arts Uniforms

Adults, especially women, are sensitive to required attire and how it makes them look. The traditional karate is unflattering, to say the least. Some of you may be thinking, “Good. That teaches students to be humble.” The problem is that they have to be in class to learn these lessons and many women will not enroll because of the uniform. Many are also turned off by the prospect of being barefoot in class. 

Martial Arts School Logo

Most martial arts logos look either like a pesticide company or ancient hieroglyphics. The goal of a logo is to brand the school, not tell a history lesson. A good logo has one or two elements to it. That’s it. Think of the Apple logo. It used to have multi-colors like a rainbow. Today, it has one element, the gray apple. Most of the time, it doesn’t even have the name Apple on it. Think of your favorite sports team. Odds are their logo is simple but exciting. That is what you want for your school logo.

Martial Arts School Name

A good martial arts school name has one or two words followed by, “martial arts” “karate” or “kung fu.” Never use a specific style in the school name. It has no meaning to non-martial artists. Never use your name in the school name. It makes it harder to sell the school. If your area has a common reference like Tampa Bay, then Tampa Bay Martial Arts is a good name. Tampa Martial Arts confines the school to that cities’ identity which may make it less attractive to those who live outside the city and can create confusion if you want to open a branch school in another city.

Martial Arts School Website

Your website should reflect your school’s spirit, colors, and language. Have your site designed and built by a professional, not a friend of a friend or student. Make sure the images are NOT stock and that the students are smiling and enjoying themselves.

Understand that just having a website is not enough. You can have the best-looking school but if it’s out in the desert people will not find it. You have to invest in SEO so that people searching for martial arts will see your website on the first page of the search results.

Martial Arts School Condition

Your school must be clean and free of a barefoot stench. I always traded tuition for cleaning since that’s how I could afford classes myself. Whatever your system, be consistent.

Communication Skills

From answering questions to dealing with complaints, there is a communication skill for every situation. Learn them and rehearse them with your staff.

Martial Arts School Systems

Attractive schools stay attractive by recording everything in a system’s manual that is a combination of video and written steps. From how to order equipment to how to tell a student he didn’t pass his exam, everything is part of an established system.

Energy and Excitement

Attractive schools have a good energy. The instructors, including you, are in great shape and lead with a sincere smile. There is nothing less attractive than an obese instructor promising to get you in shape if you join. The easiest way to lose weight is not to “diet” but “decide.” Decide if this pizza at 10 pm after classes is worth the calories. Make it a habit to burn 300+ calories a day with exercise and keep your caloric intake under 2,200. You will begin to shrink.

You May Also Like…