Summer Martial Arts Camp Overview

Martial Arts camps not only bring in necessary additional income but they also provide a vehicle for gaining new students as well as keeping current students interested and involved. 

In addition to the camp at your school, you can contact private schools in your area that run summer camps and YMCA’s , country clubs, etc. I usually run three camps every summer. 

My gross revenues from these camps are about $10,000-$12,000 from June through August. Here’s how to do it!

Step One—Plan your time
Figure out the best week or weeks to run your camp. Generally, I have found the second or third week of August to be best. 

This is when summer activities are winding down and the kids are home driving mom crazy while school is a few weeks away. Look at your schedule and block out four hours after the noon hour. 

This is usually an unproductive part of the day for most schools. My children’s classes are shortly thereafter, so I allow my regular students to stay for their class—Mom is happy and my attendance stays up.

Step Two—Create your curriculum
Create a curriculum that is different and exciting to your camp participants. Don’t just do martial arts and expect a big turnout the following year! Your curriculum must be appealing to your campers, but most importantly, their parents.

On a sheet of paper, or schedule pad mark 15 minute intervals down the left side of your page. To the right of each 15 minutes you will place the activity, including breaks. It is very important that you account for every minute. 

Do not leave any blanks! I start the day with a fun warm-up. Try to stay away from the same old “Jumping jacks—ten down the first row”. Use music, use props, get creative!

The rest of the day is filled with martial arts (one hour max), character education, aerobic Kickboxing, circuit training, conflict resolution, games, contests , musical forms, creative combinations, and other fun activities. As you begin to plan each day it becomes easier and easier. Do not try to “wing it”! Careful planning for each day is essential.Step Three—Market your camp.

When it comes to marketing, put on your thinking caps. You have a ready-made market right in your school. Most of my camp participants are my current students. 

Ask your students to bring a friend to summer camp (give them a few brochures to give to their friends). You’ll be surprised at the response. 

Also, mom generally plans the activities for the summer. Leave brochures where moms frequent such as beauty shops, tanning parlors, pre-schools, day care centers, grocery stores, dry cleaners, etc. 

Finally, don’t forget about networking. It really works! For example, I do not use newspaper, radio or TV to advertise my camps.

Step Four—Sign Up Campers
Sign up forms with payment in advance is crucial to your planning. You will need to make preparations for awards, prizes, T-shirts, snacks and various supply items. 

One week prior to your camp, send out letters to campers and parents describing your curriculum, drop-off and pick-up times and other pertinent details that will make life simple for you and your campers. I require a waiver and medical releases as well as emergency numbers so that I can reach a parent or guardian if necessary. 

I will not allow a camper to leave with anyone other than their parents unless arrangements are made in advance and in writing. 

Also, I generally have a couple of teenage black belts as assistants the ratio I like to keep is one assistant for every ten campers.

Success starts on the first day

Set the tone immediately. To begin with, I have everyone sit in a straight line and introduce themselves. Then, I explain my rules. No running, no talking when I am talking or teaching. 

And stay away from mirrors and windows. That’s it! Simple yet it sets the tone. Remember it’s a camp and you want to make sure they are going to have fun.

Each year, I hand out a different camp T-shirt. To help with this I have a “design our camp T-shirt contest” well in advance of my camp and the winner gets a free T-shirt. I do not have the kids wear uniforms and shoes are allowed.

To really ensure that you have a successful camp and make a good impression, make sure that you start your curriculum on time and stick to your schedule. 

Another suggestion is to include a couple of 15-minute breaks so the kids can get snacks and drinks. At the end of the day make certain that the children have a handout to take home with them. 

I like handouts about home rules, conflict resolution, character education, etc. Talk to the parents when they arrive to pick-up their kids. Tell them what you covered and how much fun you had with their kids.

A lasting impression is made on the final day
The final day needs to be the best and most memorable day for the campers. After all, you want as many non-students to continue at your school as possible. You also want to build repeat business for next year’s camp. 

On the last day, I have a tournament and graduation. The tournament consists of judging their creative combinations, simple and easy board breaking, and fun sparring with the counselors and me. To make sure the parents are part of this, I send invitations home with the kids a few days before the last day.

I have all of the campers demonstrate what they learned as a graduation. They all receive a nice frameable certificate and those that have never experienced martial arts at your school, receive a gold belt with a white stripe down the center (a non-rank at my school). 

Remember, make it fun, exciting and memorable. By doing so you are creating great word of mouth advertising. Finally, I hand out an invitation to a “Bring A Friend” class that I schedule within the next two weeks following the camp.