The Martial Arts Student Sales Funnel

From first contact to becoming an instructor, here are the MATA educational and applicable resources to maximize each step of the way.

Planning Your School

What Demographics are Best for a Martial Arts School? +

A lot has been written about which demographics are best for a martial arts school. In virtually every case, the answer has been presented as though all schools are the same, so the answer has been a “one size fits all” answer. If you know anything about me, it’s that I don’t believe in “one size fits all.”

The truth is that the best demographics for your school depend on what kind of school you are planning. You have to think through who your students are going to be, then study every resource in your area to find out their income, where they live, and how often they move.

Single-Family Homes 

These have always been touted as the best location for a school, and that may be correct, depending on the school. For kids-oriented, family-type martial arts schools, being nestled within a community of single-family homes with a few elementary schools may be ideal.

Elementary schools are packed (overpacked usually) with your target market, and they attract additional families to the area.

Multi-Family Homes 

Multi-family homes are condos, townhouses, and apartments. Who typically lives there? Young adults, that’s who. If your school offers adult-oriented mixed martial arts, self defense, kickboxing, fitness martial arts, sport, or just wants to pull more adults than kids, then you want to be in this kind of area. Bonus! What do multi-family home renters tend to do more

than single-family home owners? Move! This means there is always a stream of new potential students unloading their moving vans everyday.

Large High-Income Homes 

Because high-income families have large homes, there are far less of them in a given pull radius than single family or multi-family homes. Plus, wealthy kids have the resources to do almost any activity and often do. Your school may or may not be at the top of their list, even if they do join. Middle-and upper-middle-class students tend to focus on one activity.

What is a Good Size for My Martial Arts School? +

Determining a good size for your school depends on the area and the rent. Remember, you want to build a profitable school, not your ego. Other considerations for the size of your school are: What segment of the market are you going for?

Will you be able to schedule and support two classes per night, or five? If you only have two, you may need more room to fit all the stu¬dents into just two classes.

If you can support five classes a night, you will have smaller classes, which allows you to make a smaller space profitable much faster.

Kids take up less space than adults. It’s better to lease a smaller space that offers the opportunity to expand than take a double space and regret it later. Always look for a space that has an empty space next to it, which gives you two benefits:

1) It makes your space more negotiable. Empty spaces mean lost money to a landlord. Also, it’s harder to rent a strip of stores if some are empty. Traffic is the key, and empty spaces don’t create traffic.

Landlords are highly receptive to negotiation just to start filling some spaces. Keep in mind that the spaces may be empty for a reason. Make sure the space is in the right area and talk to all of the other stores in the plaza to see how the landlord is to work with and “how business is” at this site.

Also, if you can, track down who was in the space before. Ask them why they left and if they would rent there again.

2) It may provide you with a good expansion space when you are ready. The key is to include a clause that requires the landlord to give you first right of refusal at the same rent rate or lower as your current space. This way, if someone wants to rent the space, the landlord has to give you the chance to rent it first.

Sometimes, the landlord will receive an offer that is significantly higher than your rent, and he will be motivated to rent it to the new client rather than you despite the agreement.

In that case, you may be able to negotiate that you will allow him to rent the space, but only if he lowers your rent. If the numbers are right, he may be able to rent the space, lower your rent, and still come out ahead. Just make sure you won’t need to expand before your current lease expires.

At the top of the size for new schools, my experience indicates about 4,000 square feet gives a new school plenty of room for a large training area, an office, and some changing rooms.

On the other end of the spectrum, there are schools that do very well that have never expanded beyond 1,500 square feet. Any smaller than 1,500 square feet, and you may have to support a schedule with so many classes each day you will burn out quickly. Any larger than 4,000 square feet, your rent may strangle your cash flow.

Should I Buy or Lease? +

The basic rule of thumb is that, if you can buy for the same monthly price as your rent, it makes sense to buy.

Even if the mortgage payment is a little higher (less than 25 percent higher), the additional expense is offset by the tax advantages and wealth building that owning the building gives you. Even if you are leasing, it’s often a good idea to include an option to purchase the property.

Personally, I am debt adverse so entering into a mortgage for my business would be very uncomfortable for me. I would probably try to save as much as I could so I could purchase a building in full and then run the business rent free.

In the process of planning and starting up your school, few decisions will have as much impact on your prospects for success as choosing a good location and negotiating a favorable lease. Be careful not to get emotionally tied to any one location.

Keep running the numbers to keep you focused on the potential upside and downside throughout the process. Stay cool, and most of all, don’t forget to just ask.

If you end up selling your school, be sure you are not restricted from assigning that lease to the new owners at the same terms.

Also, you may want to sub-let the space for certain classes during off hours. For instance, you may want to sub-let the space to a yoga instructor from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., Monday to Friday, to offset your expenses and keep money flowing during down hours.

Make sure your lease allows you to assign and sub-let the lease if needed. This usually requires landlord approval, but make sure your lease allows the possibility and specifies it will not be at a higher rate.

Martial Arts School Lease Negotiation Tactics +

Negotiation Tactics

Prepare for the Negotiations

Unless you know the current leasing conditions in your area, it’s a good idea to get some expert help. Invest $100 for a commercial real estate attorney and/or commercial real estate broker known as a tenant rep. Their job is to help you get the best deal possible.

Landlords typically have their own attorneys, so it’s smart to put your own team together. Tenant brokers can help you find a good location as well as offer ideas, insights, and experience on the current market, rental rates, and other conditions that may work in your favor.

Once a potential location is found, the rep can help you and the landlord come to terms on the key points of the lease.

Defer to Higher Authority

This charade has been done to death in the car business. You make an offer to the salesman, and he says, “OK. I’ll take it to my manager.” The manager is the higher authority. It’s the good cop, bad cop scenario.

The salesman role is the good cop. He wants to find out what you like and see how emotionally attached you or your spouse are to the car. He will take that information back to the manager, the bad cop.

You can be sure the salesman is not saying, “They are a nice couple, and this is a fair price offer.” What he and the manager are doing is figuring how to get the highest price possible. The salesman comes back with a smile and a counter offer.

When you are negotiating a lease, be the good cop. Tell the seller you have to run everything by your people or your association. This gives you time to figure out your next move and keeps any emotional attachment out of the game.

It also works to remind the salesperson that you are not the final decision maker and that the deal could get shot down at any moment by the association or your business partners.

The Flinch

Learn to physically react to any price. It takes some acting and some practice, but it’s actually kind of fun and boy, does it pay well.

Ask someone what the widget costs. Whatever they say, your response is, “What? You’re kidding me! That’s twice as much as I expected.” Often, that’s all it takes.

The guy will drop his price or throw in something extra. At the worst, he knows you are “sensitive” to price.

Warning: Tell your spouse what is going to happen. Once I flinched at a price, and my girlfriend at the time said, “I got so nervous when you did that. I could never do that.” I had to explain it was all an act. Practice your flinch.

Be Negative

It’s never a good idea to walk into a space and say out loud, “This is perfect! We can put the changing rooms here, the pro shop here. This is ideal for my office….” By doing so, you expose your emotional attachment to the property. I am a very positive person, so let me say this: I am positive you want to be negative, or at least neutral, when negotiating a lease or even viewing a space.

Simply walk around, take some notes, do a rough floor plan of the shape, and tell the salesperson, “Gee, I don’t know. This could be a lot of work.” A good salesperson will start asking you questions then.

Be sure to convey a very neutral position. “I guess I could make it work, but it’s not going to be easy.”

I said don’t show emotion while looking at a space. Actually, you can do a little play-acting and show some negative emotion. It’s an extended flinch.

Communicate to the salesperson that if she wants you to go ahead with this, it’s going to take some work on her part, starting with price and terms. Don’t make it easy for her and hard for yourself; you’re the one who has to make the monthly rent payments.

The martial arts industry is haunted with the ghosts of good schools that had everything going for them but ended up posting a “For Lease” sign in their window and closing their doors.

One of the most common failures is a poorly negotiated lease that straps the owner with an exorbitant rent. A bad lease deal is not just high rent, either. Your start-up costs and your ability to expand can be drastically affected when you have a bad lease.

Signing a lease is like going into business partnership with a location and landlord for a period of time. Partnerships are seldom easy. Our goal is to help you turn this partner into a friend and not a foe of your future.

All leases have a basic framework that outlines how long you will occupy the space and how much it will cost you to stay there.

Beyond that, there is a wide spectrum of lease structure. Don’t think just because a term or condition is in the landlord’s lease that it is carved in stone.

Virtually every aspect of that lease is negotiable, and we’ve talked to many school owners who have received concessions they never thought possible by using our strategies. But they would never have received them – and you won’t either – unless you just ask.

Walk Away Power

This is the most important aspect of negotiation. You must convey to the salesperson that you are perfectly willing not to purchase, and you will walk out unless you get a good deal.

Without this, any decent negotiator will hold his position, because it’s clear you are going to buy anyway. In the car business, if the frustrated buyer storms out of the sales office to get in his car and go home, the salesman will chase him down.

I even had one salesman step between my car and me to keep me from opening the door. I had to either laugh or choke him out.

Either way, the deal always gets better at that point. If they let you go, the deal was as good as it was going to get that day.

Either way, never get emotionally attached to a potential purchase. Even if you do, don’t show it.

Match Your Martial Arts School with Your Location +

For a hard-core kickboxing gym, it would not make sense to rent a space in the middle of a neighborhood of kids and elementary schools.

Conversely, for a family-oriented martial arts program with an emphasis on children, you wouldn’t want to be in the downtown district.

Match your school with the demographics of the area. Before signing a lease, learn as much as possible about tenant history and why the other operations failed or moved.

Speak with the current tenants about their experience with the landlord and the area. What is the make-up of the typical customer?

Find out if any new building or road construction is planned that might affect your school’s growth.

When researching a location, get demographic information on the area from your broker or the Chamber of Commerce.

Know your Pull Radius and your Potential Ratio. Schools typically draw from a 15-minute driving radius, so start with that but don’t limit yourself. You need to know the demographics for your immediate area as well.

The farther away the demographic group, the less potential they have as students. Make sure you are surrounded with the right potential student base.

Finally, be sure the zoning in the area allows for a martial arts school. Know what limits you have on signage, parking, fire codes, etc.

Martial Arts School Location Evaluation Form +

Circle the answer that applies to your situation, and then add your total score at the end.

1) Do you have a Best Buy, Sears, or well-known food or drug store in the same center as your studio? 

a) Yes –10

b) No – 0

2) Is your studio in the main body of the center? 

a) Close to the busiest store in the center. – 10

b) On the same side, but not close. – 5

c) Not on the same side. – 2

d) Not applicable, or no store that is busy. – 0

3) Does your studio face a street?

a) Major street. – 10

b) Minor street. – 5

c) Does not face street. – 0

4) Can your window be seen from the street?

a) Easy to see all of it. – 10

b) Can see some of it. – 5

c) Can see none of it. – 0

5) Is there another business that draws a large amount of parents and other people from your main target markets into your center, such as a dance studio, bank, or deli? 

a) Yes – 10

b) No – 5

6) Does the center have access from both sides of the street? 

a) Yes – 10

b) No – 0

7) Is there always lots of parking available? 

a) Always lots. – 10

b) Usually lots. – 5

c) Sometimes not much. – 2

d) Very little. – 0

8) Is there a major fast food chain in your center? 

a) McDonalds, Burger King, KFC, etc. – 10

b) Denny’s, Perkins, Shoney’s. – 5

c) Local chain, not national. – 2

d) None. – 0

9) Are there any other full-time commercial martial arts studios with in a two-mile circle from your location? 

a) None. – 10

b) One. – 5

c) Two. – 2

d) Three. – 0

10) Do you have a large marquee-type sign on the street? 

a) Large marquee sign with great visibility. – 10

b) Good-sized sign with good visibility. – 5

c) OK sign and visibility. – 2

d) No sign, or very poor visibility. – 0

11) Are there lots of people within a three-mile radius of your studio? (Go – 5-7 miles if your area is very rural.) 

a) 40,000+ – 10

b) 30,000 – 5

c) 20,000 – 2

d) Less than – 10,000 – 0

12) Is your studio location surrounded by houses? 

a) Houses on all four sides. – 10

b) Houses on three sides. – 5

c) Houses on two sides. – 2

d) No houses around the studio. – 0

13) Is there a major draw directly opposite your studio that would be a benefit to you in terms of visibility? 

a) Yes – they must see my studio as they leave. – 10

b) Yes – they may see my studio. – 5

c) No – 0

14) Is there a school close to your studio?

a) Half a mile to a mile. – 10

b) A mile to two miles. – 5

c) No – 2

15) What is the makeup of your center? 

a) Retail only. – 10

b) Retail plus offices. – 5

c) Industrial area. – 2

16) What is the income of your market area? 

a) Middle income. – 10

b) High income. – 5

c) Low income. – 2

d) Poor. – 0

17) What is the average age of adults in your area? 

a) Young adults 20-35. – 10

b) Middle aged adults 36- 55. – 5

c) Older adults – 56+. – 2

18) What is your total rent amount per sq. foot? 

a) Under one dollar per sq. foot. – 10

b) Under two dollars per sq. foot. – 5

c) Under three dollars per sq. foot. – 2

d) Over three dollars per sq. foot. – 0

Your total score:

140+. Your location is excellent. You can spend much less on advertising, because so much traffic comes by each day.

Score 120-139. Your location is good. You may have to spend an average amount of money on advertising. That is typically 10% of gross.

Score 95-119. Your location is average. You must spend a little extra on advertising to attract more students to your studio. Keep on the lookout for a better location, should one become available.

Score 89 or less. Your location is poor. Start looking for another location now.

This is an excellent evaluation of a location’s potential. However, there some schools that fail this test miserably still do well. That is the X Factor, and the X factor is you and your teaching skills. Besides, entrepreneurship exists in varying shades of gray.

If it were just black and white, we’d all be on Easy Street. Still, there is no doubt that having a school in a densely populated area will give you more potential students than in a sparsely populated area.

Your Potential Ratio +

Your potential ratio is the percentage of the population that has a realistic potential of joining your school. The number used for decades has been 1.5%. Due to the explosion of exposure and credibility the martial arts gained from the fitness kickboxing boom in the mid-1990s, I personally feel the number is larger than that. But, to be safe, let’s say two percent of the population may join your school. This applies mostly to medium and larger cities and metro areas. Smaller cities and towns can draw a much higher percentage of the population, depending on the demographics and the type of program being offered.

Let’s say you are in a 100,000-population area, which means you have a potential ratio of 2,000 students. Sounds great, right? Well, slow down. First, those 2,000 are the potential for all of the martial arts classes combined. Your job, of course, is to get more than your competitors. Second, what if they live on the other side of town?

Your pull radius is the area surrounding your school, from which your students will come. Typically, a student will not drive more than 10-15 minutes to your school. Yes, yes, yes, I know you have students who drive an hour and walk uphill both ways to get to your classes, but unless you are going to charge those three people $1,000 per class, you can’t build a school around them.

The real question is, how much of my potential ratio is within my pull radius? Here is just a sample of the factors that will influence the answer:

1. Regardless of the population of your area, what is the population within your pull radius? Multiply that by .02 to get your potential ratio.

2. Is your school near a natural barrier? Where I live, there is a subtle bridge north of us. While there is nothing stopping us from crossing it, we rarely do. We turn south on the main roads to travel to shops, restaurants, and parks. I’m sure there are good restaurants and shops across the bridge, but we don’t go there, and I’m sure people on the other side don’t come south to our area. Other barriers include railroad tracks, rivers, bridges, busy highways, and tunnels.

3. What are the real demographics of your pull radius? Do you have the area’s largest trailer park or retired person’s community inside your pull radius? You’re not going to get two percent of those markets.

The demographics within your pull radius will make you or break you. Your job is to match your pull-radius demographic with your school.

For our purposes, we will narrow your demographic focus to those people within your pull radius. Imagine setting a ring with the radius of a 15-minute drive on a map of your area and then moving it around. Wherever you move the ring the demographics will change. Our goal is to find the best demographics within that ring. Keep in mind that a 15-minute drive ring will be much smaller for a densely populated area with lots of traffic than a more rural area. A 15 minute drive in Orlando or London could be two miles, while it could be 15 miles or more in smaller, less congested areas, so be realistic in your ring size. You have to know the size of your pull radius.

Once you zero in on a location, drive from the location at different times that your students would be going to class, so you can experience and time the drive, to see how far you get in 15-minutes.

If two percent of your ring is your potential ratio, a population of 15,000 within the ring equates to a potential market of 300 students. Keep in mind that a good school in a smaller market can pull much more than two percent. Still, that is a sobering thought.

Is Owning a Martial Arts School Right for You? +

I knew from my first night in white belt class on February 12, 1974, at age 13, that I was going to do martial arts for the rest of my life. I was teaching professionally by age 16 and have been teaching ever since. However, I never wanted to own a school, at least until the mid-1980s when I was in my twenties.

For one thing, I had no business experience. For that matter, I hadn’t even finished high school.

Second, I was not money directed. I was far more focused on quality of life, and in your twenties, it doesn’t take much money to have the lifestyle you want. I slept until 10 a.m., ran three to five miles on the beach, lifted weights at the gym, took a nap, and then taught for a few hours. It was the life of a karate bum and I loved it.

Mike Anderson, the co-founder of the PKA (Professional Karate Association) and WAKO (World Association of KickBoxing Organizations) and publisher of Professional Karate magazine, tried to persuade me to open a school in the early 1980s.

He, along with Fred Wren, had operated some very successful schools in the St. Louis area. He tried to tell me I could do the same thing, but I had no clue of how to run a school. I knew I could teach well, but that was about it.

In 1984, Joe Lewis convinced me to open my first school. Before that, we trained and sparred together at the various locations around town where I taught my classes. One day we were on a basketball court, the next day in a college fitness facility, and another at a boxing club.

Joe noticed that I was building a solid core of excellent students who would follow me from location to location to take afternoon and evening classes. Kathy Marlor, Phil Beatty, Kevin Walker, Kim Cox, my brother Mark, and eventually even action movie star Gary Daniels (who came to me already as an excellent black belt) all were training hard in my classes almost daily.

The day Joe called me on the phone it was a seminal moment in my life. I was in the kitchen of my rented house when I heard him say, “You need to give your students a home. You need to give them a place they can take pride in.” That hit home.

Mike Anderson’s promise of making good money never struck a chord with me, but I certainly could relate to having pride in your school. Since I had often slept at my school when I was a kid, I understood totally the idea of creating a home for my students. I started looking for a location the next day.

Martial arts is not an ordinary business. Because there is no educational requisite to open a school, schools are opened by people on many levels of experience and skill.

You can come out of college with an MBA and open a school. You can also come right out of prison and open a school.

There are no hard standards or requirements. Some have what it takes and some do not, regardless of what system they study.

A Timeline For Opening a Martial Arts School +

This is a compiled timeline based upon a variety of schools, all with slightly or significantly different timelines. Based upon the information from those schools, here is a pretty solid chronology of events relating to preparation and planning for your martial arts school.

180 Days Out

Begin to Develop Your Business Plan

Use the Search Engine on The Martial Arts Teachers’ Association to find information and examples of good business plans. Work on this every day all the way through opening and refer to it often afterwards. This is your map.

Choose a School Name

A good name is short and easy to remember and understand. Resist using your style in the name. Instead, consider using your name, city, or region and maybe one word that describes your focus.

Examples of good names:

World Champion Jeff Smith Karate

Palm Harbor Kickboxing

John Graden’s USA Karate

Family Martial Arts

Martial Arts Fitness Center

Fitness Kickboxing

Kickboxing for Fun and Fitness

Florida Karate Academy

Secure The Domain Name For Your School

If you can’t get the domain name to match your school, try to get one that can promote it. For instance, if you have a kung fu school, but can’t get a domain to match your school name, another great choice would be or Visit HYPERLINK “” to see what domains are available and also HYPERLINK “” for great domain names.

Forget About the Yellow Pages

You get a free listing in the yellow pages and that is all that you need. Spend your resources on a great website instead.

170 Days Out

Choose an Accountant and Attorney/Solicitor

Be sure to ask around. All accountants and attorney/solicitors are not equal. Make sure they specialize in small business owners.

Choose Your Business Structure – Sole Proprietor, Partnership, S or C Corp, or LLC. Helping you decide is the first task of your account and attorney/solicitor. Be sure the articles of incorporation include a hold harmless for you and an indemnity clause that will reimburse you for any expenses you incur that arise out of any action against the company.

File for Tax IDs

Have your attorney/solicitor file for your Federal Employment Tax ID as part of your business structure plan, and have your accountant apply for your State, Province, VAT Tax ID, and any others required in your state. Note, you may only have to pay taxes such as VAT on merchandise sold over a certain level. Check with your accountant to make sure you are not paying taxes you don’t have to.

Apply for an American Express Credit Card, Blue Card and/or a High Reward Visa

Use these strictly as business-only cards that are to be paid off each month.

Open General Bank Account

Use this to pay rent, phone, and utility deposits, and clear your credit card statement in full each month.

Obtain a Merchant Account to Take Credit Cards

You don’t want someone to walk in during construction that wants to enroll and not be able to take his or her credit card. You can sell intros, merchandise, and programs in person and online at a discount long before the doors open. Get your merchant account right away.

Open a account to take online orders.

PayPal is more of a convenience than a need. You will find some people who spend easier and faster with a PayPal account than a credit card or check. There is something about the quickness of a click that works in our favor.

160 Days Out

Complete Your Business Plan

Use the Examples in the Planning Section of MATA

The missing elements of business structure, name, location, etc., can be finalized now, along with the impact they may have on the Plan.

Create a Marketing Plan

Your marketing over the next year will emphasize Low Risk Marketing, as opposed to High Risk Marketing. What’s the difference? Low Risk costs little or nothing. You risk your time, not your money. Let the competition write checks for High Risk Marketing. You’ll write a media release instead.

Begin to Develop Your Curriculum and Belt Ranks

This can change up to the end, but it’s helpful to have this important element of your success worked on way in advance of opening.

Hire a Logo Artist

For about $350 you can have a professional logo developed for your school by our artists. This is an important step, so don’t play artist and do it yourself.

150 Days Out (At the latest)

Start Location Shopping 

Use the Location Evaluator in this section to help you pick a good location.

120 Days Out

Prepare Emergency Financing

We suggest you never go into debt to fund a start-up, but it’s a good idea to make sure your credit is clean and make requests for increases in your credit line just in case.

Shop for a Good Sign Maker

You don’t have a place to put it yet, but have the creation process rolling along, so all you have to do is determine the dimensions and mounting. Get various quotes based upon the restrictions placed on the sign by your lease or local regulations.

90 Days Out

Sign Lease (Make sure your attorney/solicitor reviews every step of this process)

Review the section on Lease Negotiations. You will need at least 90 days to have the school built out to your specs, so this is the latest in the process you want this done. Hold off on setting any kind of opening date until this step is complete.

Begin Build-Out as Soon as You Can.

Review Lease Negotiations for build-out negotiation strategies and school layout examples.

Order Telephone and Utilities

You may need to forward the phone to your home or cell phone until you open, but get that number established. Try to make it easy to remember, such as 341-1000.

Order Business Cards and Stationary

Order as soon as you know your address, phone, web site, and e-mail. You will want to have cards ready and use letterhead in your communications to show you are professional.

Order and Mount Your Sign

As soon as you sign the lease, get your sign up with banners and window art that keeps people up-to-date on the progress of the school and directs them to your web site and phone to get info and enroll for pre-opening discounts.

Obtain Your Permits, plus Occupational, Merchant License or Equivalent 

Depending on your build-out, you may be responsible for getting the building permits, etc., for the construction. Make sure you meet all the requirements for access, etc.

Also, be sure to get whatever licensing your community requires to operate a business.

60 Days Out

Write Your Sound Bites – Memorize It Cold!

Develop one 30-second sound bite that answers the question, “What do you do?” What is the most powerful, compelling answer you can come up with for that question? Compare, “I teach martial arts” to “I help adults who want to improve their lives by learning to take care of themselves, create great focus, and get in the best shape ever.” Or, “I help parents who want to see their children become more confident, focused, and fit.”

Join Chamber of Commerce (and maybe a charity organization)

This is a free way to get the word out among the community leaders that you are going to open a martial arts center. Business cards are a must here.

Get Professional Liability Insurance for Your School

45 Days Out

Finalize Belt Requirements

Since you may be the only instructor, don’t require everything you teach. As you plan your exam programs, make sure it is realistic and manageable. You can always modify it later.

Create The First Class Schedule

Since you may be the only instructor, resist the common mistake of scheduling too many classes at first. Focus on two or three classes per night for beginners and a martial arts fitness class on Saturday morning. This will keep you from burning out early and leave you with time to market each day.

Create a Media List

All local editors, TV, and radio producers go on this list. You will want to list their:




Contact info

Department/angle (Sports, Human Interest, Business)

Create a Demo/Speech Target List

Like the Media List, research all the potential organizations that might be interested in your presenting a speech on martial arts, teaching a self-defense workshop, or doing a full blown demo.

You will want to list their:




Contact info

Department/angle (Sports, Human Interest, Business)

30 Days Out

Order Logo Items

Patches, T-shirts, sweatshirts, etc. Take time to create. Don’t over-order, but do make sure you will have enough that you can give some away as premiums when you open.

Start Researching Office Equipment

What computer, desk, copier, phone system, etc., would be best for you? How can you get them as inexpensively as possible? Check the local classifieds and research on to find the lowest prices possible.

Review Your Marketing Plan

Rule One: Get one qualified lead per day. Every single day must be spent on filling your classes. Put on your uniform, and visit the stores in your strip mall. Find ways to co-op market. Become a marketing machine. Research the Low Risk Marketing Department at

Rule Two: Write down your scripts for the phone call, walk in, school tour, intro, and enrollment. Then practice them as you drive or in front of a video camera.

Rule Three: Write down and memorize how to describe the benefits of training at your school.

Rule Four: Create copy and paste email responses to inquiries.

Make sure you are spending time each day “Attracting new students.” That means writing emails, meeting people, “shaking hands and kissing babies.”

Don’t let yourself get so distracted by the demands of building the school that you neglect building your student body.

Get Credit Card with Generous Reward Program for Equipment, and Open Retail Bank Account

Use one credit card for all merchandise purchases. Pay it off each month in full. Let the rewards grow. Deposit all receipts for equipment into your Retail Account. When the credit card bill comes in, pay it in full from this account. Your credit score will increase, as will your frequent flyer miles. Best of all, this account should grow each month.

20 Days Out

Write First Media Release

This will be an announcement of your school, what you offer, when you will open, and how to contact you.

Write Sales Presentation Materials

Create your tuition sheets, program descriptions, Black Belt Club info, school brochures, and copy for your window (find a good window artist who works in temporary paint to rework your window every month or so).

Create a List of Daily, Weekly, and Monthly Maintenance Processes

This list is for everything NOT related to marketing and retention. This is cleaning, admin, filing, organizing, supply ordering, etc. There are Monday–Friday action lists in the MATA download area.

Establish a Wholesale Account with an Equipment Distributor

Student uniforms are top of the list along with training equipment. This is a great way to expand your retail sales into a significant profit center.

10 Days Out

Mail First Media Release

7 Days Out

Call Media to Follow Up on Releases.

Call Prospects and Start Scheduling Appointments for Intros

Each Day, Make Yourself Visible in Uniform to Your School’s Neighborhood

1-3 Days Out

Practice and Role-Play

Do as many role-plays as you can. With a friend or spouse, role-play the phone call, the intro, the school tour, the enrollment conference. Practice your sound bite over and over again.

Opening Day


You are more prepared than 95% of any other school owner on opening day. You’ll do great.

What Equipment Will I Need for My Martial Arts School? +

The martial arts school, provided it’s not a Fantasy School, has a great advantage over health clubs in that we have very few and relatively inexpensive needs for equipment. W

hat equipment you need depends on your type of school. If you are a family-oriented kids’ school, a heavy bag will use up valuable space that could be used for students in class.

On the other hand, if you are a kickboxing school, heavy bags are an important element of the school. In fact, one bag is usually not enough. There are companies you can hire to build multi-bag systems on frames that can be raised to the ceiling when not in use.

Here are some basic equipment needs for various schools:

Kids/Family:  body shields Hand-held kicking/punching pads Obstacle course elements (triangles, pads, tunnels, etc.) Blocker pads (handle with padded shaft for striking), cones and obstacle pads for obstacle courses and races and tape on the floor to show students how and where to line up.

Kickboxing: body shields, hand-held kicking/punching pads, heavy bags, upper-cut bags, jump ropes, double-end bag, speed bag, body pads for partner to wear for striking.

Self defense:  body shields, hand-held kicking/punching pads, fake guns and knives, human-shaped freestanding bags, padded mats for take-downs and throws

Deciding What Your Brand Will Be +

A classic branding story involves a letter being mailed and successfully delivered to the Playboy mansion in Chicago in the early 1960s. The envelope had no address on it; the only thing on the envelope was the iconic Playboy bunny logo. That is branding.

Hugh Hefner is a master of branding personally and professionally. While Donald Trump, Steve Jobs, and Richard Branson all have powerful professional brands, Hefner effectively wove his personal and professional brands together.

Professional branding is the communication of what a client or customer will experience when interacting and, hopefully, doing business with your company.

Branding is not about pleasing everyone in every case. Wal-Mart has a brand that is totally different than Nordstrom’s. They sell plenty of the same items, but the experience in each is totally different. Apple’s OS X and Microsoft’s Windows operating systems are both successful, but they have completely different brands and fans.

• Professionally designed marketing materials (logo, stationery, ads, etc.)

  • Professional Website with Mobile
  • Cleanliness of your facility
  • Level of client or customer service
  • Consistency of your marketing on and offline
  • Consistency of colors and look on and offline
  • Consistency in how your staff treats clients
  • Updated bio

• Updated professionally shot headshot

As with personal branding, your professional brand is loud and clear every day. Take control of that message and build a brand you can be proud of.

Reporting Procedures +

Reporting keeps score on your performance. Your reports let you know how well you and your team are performing in every area. They also helps you to see any problem areas that may be developing well in advance. It will then be easy to take corrective action early when, through your tracking efforts, you find areas of your team’s performance that are not operating optimally.

Although it is vital to take the numbers down, in our business it’s better to analyze your numbers at the end of the week, unless you can see that something is way off course. For example, you see that you’ve had six phone calls today and no appointments. You’d better check the phone skills of your Team members immediately.

Note: It is vitally important that this information be documented accurately every day. Not documenting this data accurately every day will be cause for dismissal from the team. If you don’t care about your business, who will?

Basic Admission Statistics
Every day, you need to know the admission statistics, what’s happening with your school’s growth.

The first statistic you need is the number of Phone Calls Received. This lets you know how well your advertising and marketing efforts are performing and what changes, if any, need to be made.

The next statistic is Walk-ins. How many people are walking into your school? This let’s you know how attractive an appearance you have to the outside world.

Now we need to look at the number of guests your students are inviting to the school. This let’s you know how well you’re doing with your internal marketing and referral efforts.

After we have these three numbers you add them up to give you the number of inquiries for the day. If, for example, you had thee phone calls, I walk-in and two guests you would have six inquires (3 + I + 2). You would then add this number to the total inquires to date on yesterday’s statistics report. If the total to date as of yesterday was 10, you would add 10 + 6 to give you 16, which would go in the total number of inquires to date box.

The next statistic is the number of appointments made that day. At the end of the week the total number of your phone calls, walk-ins and guests statistics are totaled and checked against the total number of appointments. To find out how well your staff s sales skills are you simply divide the number of appointments by the number of inquiries. For example, if you have 12-inquires and you make 10-appointments, then you have 10/12= 83%. This means you have an 83% efficiency rate for making appointments.

80% is the goal we recommend everyone set for his or her operation.

The next number you’ll need is that of trial lessons performed. After the future student comes in for their appointment, how many take the trial lesson? Lets say out of the eight students who actually showed up, six took a trial lesson. This would give us 6 / 8 = 75%.

We recommend a goal of 80% for trial lessons made from actual appointments.

The final basic admissions number you’ll need is that of new students enrolled. You need to know how many new students do you enroll in comparison to trial lessons. If you had 12 trial lessons and you sign up 9 new students, this gives you 9 / 12 = 75%. This tells you for every 10 students you get in the door and take a trial lesson, 7.5 sign up. This is your closing percentage. It helps you determine if the person doing the trial lessons and enrolling the students are doing their job correctly. We would recommend a closing goal of 80%.

Other Enrollment Statistics
Other statistics that are related to enrollment are the number of student/parent conferences. In order to upgrade your students you need to have conferences. After you have the conferences, how many of these students are you upgrading? If you have 20-student conferences in a month and you upgrade 16, your upgrade percentage for the month is 80%, exactly where you need to be.

Goals for Enrollments in My Martial Arts School +

Our goals are based on (average) contract amount per new student. Working off of our current price schedule, the low-average that a new student enrolling in a martial arts program will be paying $99 per month. The average kickboxing student will pay $49 per month. To reach our goal of $15,000 in monthly tuition collections off of our evening classes, we need to hit the following numbers every month:

  • 12 new martial arts students each month (12 students x $79 = $1,188 in monthly tuition payments; $1,188 x 12 months = $14,256)
  • 8 new fitness boxers each month (8 x $49 = $392 in monthly tuition payments; $392 x 12 months = $4,704)
  • In order to make these numbers, we will have to generate 35 information calls and other inquiries each month, setting appointments for 28 of them, making sure 25 make their first intro, 24 make their second intro, and enroll 21 onto a program.

If we meet these goals consistently over the course of a year, we will end up with a potential monthly tuition collection check of $18,960. Subtracting 10% for attrition and late payments, this leaves us with about $17,064 in tuition collections each month, which will put us well over our goal.

Key Touch Points: From Stranger to Student

Student Flow – 1 – Introduction

Student Flow – 2 – Image Control

Student Flow – 3 – The Info Call

Student Flow – 4 – The Intro Course

Student Flow – 5 – The Enrollment Conference

Student Flow – 6 – Transition to Class

Student Flow – 7 –Student Service

How to Sell Martial Arts Lessons

Take the 100 Question Test:
Do You Have the Right Stuff for Opening a Martial Arts School?