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How to Become an Attractive Martial Arts School

by | Instructor Certification and Training

Setting Expectations for Martial Arts Students Upfront

Authority is highly influenced by emotion.

While your staff and students may intellectually understand that you are the boss and master instructor, they have to feel it, not think it.

It’s the emotional connection that anchors your authority on a deep level.

If there is one powerful moment in your role as a professional martial arts instructor, it’s in the enrollment conference.

While the parents may see you as the master black belt, they usually don’t have an authoritative reverence at this early stage.

The enrollment conference is a seminal moment for you to establish your authority and gain the respect and gratitude of the family you’re dealing with.

Presenting the programs and their cost to parents can be tense at times. Some parents want to negotiate. Others might object to the agreement. Some want a safety net in case their child wants to quit.

While it’s important that you are prepared to overcome any objections, it’s when the bottom line is signed and the initial investment is completed that you have a critical window to demonstrate your authority.

Many owners complete the transaction and gush with statements like, “Awesome. It’s great to have you on board. Johnny, you did an awesome job tonight. High five! Thanks Mrs. Jones it’s great to have Johnny as part of our family. Let me know if I can help with anything.”


Who has the role of authority here? Mrs. Jones and her credit card. That was a missed opportunity.

Let’s try again. You would adjust this script to the age and circumstance, but here is an authority template for the enrollment conference.

Mom has just enrolled Johnny into the program.

You, “Johnny. You want to learn Empower Kickboxing, right?”

“Yes sir.”

“Good. I want you to understand that your mom just enrolled you into a six month program. You are going to learn a lot of great skills and lessons. It’s going to be fun and sometimes it’s going to be hard. That’s the good part because that means you’re learning. So you have to pay attention and practice at home 20-minutes a day when you don’t have class.

Are you going to work hard and practice?”

“Yes sir.”

“I’m glad. Your classes are Monday and Wednesday at 5pm. When are your classes?”

“Monday and Wednesday at 5pm.”

“Good. You’re a smart guy. That means that you have to be ready to come to class by 4:30 on Monday and Wednesdays so that you’re not late. Will you do that?”

“Yes sir.”

“No matter what you are doing, you will be ready by 4:30, right?”

“Yes sir.”

“Good. The first lesson is integrity. Integrity means that you do what you say you are going to do. You keep your promises. You promise to work hard and be ready for class, right?”

“Yes sir.”

“No matter what you’re doing. Right?”

“Yes sir.”

“Great. We’re going to be so proud of you. Your mom just enrolled you, so please turn to her and say, ‘Thank you mom.”

“Thank you mom.”

“Alright. When someone does something good for you, you always say thank you. That’s called gratitude. What’s it called?”


“Correct. So you’ve learned two important lessons today. Integrity and gratitude. What does integrity mean?

“Keeping your promises.”

“Yes. What does gratitude mean?”

“Saying thank you.”

“You got it! You are going to do great, I can tell already.”

“Remember, your class is…”

“Monday and Wednesday at 5pm.”

“When will you be ready to come to class?”


“You have a good head on your shoulders Johnny. You’re going to be good at this.”

“Because you’ve showed your mom gratitude and you’re going to keep your promises, here is a school t-shirt for you to wear. Every time you put it on, I want you to think of integrity and gratitude. Will you do that?”

“Yes sir.”

“I just gave you a shirt. How do you show gratitude?”

“Thank you sir.”

As taught in the MATA Certification program, it’s also a good idea to let mom know that it’s important that she control what Johnny is doing around 4:30 which is the agreed upon to be ready for class.

If Johnny is playing with his friends or deep in a video game, it’s going to be harder to get him to get ready than if he is cleaning his bedroom or something he’d like to leave to go to class.

Keep in mind that mom is watching this happen before her eyes. What have you done to establish your authority?

  1. You’ve provided her with a language pattern that both her and Johnny understand. This is huge.
  2. You’ve given mom the “integrity” framework to deal with any reluctance to go to class.
  3. You’ve provided her with a strategy to engage Johnny in less fun activities so that going to class is an easy decision.
  4. You’ve laid out when Johnny should get ready for class without complaint.
  5. Before her eyes, you taught her son important lessons with real world examples. No doubt, your authority sky-rocketed in her eyes and in her heart.

Look for places where you can make these kinds of strong emotional connections.

Demonstrate true authority and leadership. That will last much longer than a trite, shallow compliments like “Awesome! Good job.”

This will help your students to understand how and why they are training with the best school.

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.

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