John Graden: There is such a huge increase in the number of people either offering a reality-based self-defense system like COBRA-Defense in addition to the martial arts program or I’m seeing lots of guys that are stepping away from their school or away from their current full-time job in the mainstream world and opening their own COBRA-Defense self-defense center where that becomes the central curriculum. And also guys that don’t have a facility and go out there and teach COBRA or reality self-defense in kind of a seminar by seminar basis if they need a place they’ll run out a rec center or a local dance school but they don’t have a real facility for themselves so this is a new dynamic reality of defenses somewhat separated because it is so different. What kind of insurance considerations should have an instructor investigate in choosing to do self-defense as either a primary or part-time extension of the business?
Jennifer Urmston: Well thank you for bringing the topic up because it is really important that we help these the self-defense instructors and or COBRA-Defense instructors have the right coverage for their business. So first of all, I think the word business is important. You know incorporating as a business in whatever form your accountant recommends is best for you is important to have a legal entity. That way when you are ready you’re leasing space or whether you’re having clients come into your own space and sign a waiver.
There is a legal entity. You as the owner are covered just like a legal entity when you have an insurance policy. But it is important to have a legal entity when you start setting up a new business. If you’re incorporating that self-defense business into your existing martial arts school that can usually be written on the same policy that you already have for your school. Just you know let us know that you’re doing that and you know it is not going to increase the cost of your martial arts schools insurance significantly.
Any changes to your operation you should let your insurance agent know especially if you’re incorporating under a different legal entities name for those who want to add that legal entity to your policy. So any time you have a change in your operations and you’re doing something really new in the martial arts school what your insurance agent know. And make sure there’s no issue with coverage and it or that needs to be added as a legal entity under your policy.
If you’re opening a COBRA defense facility then that will need to have its own coverage that will include the premises liability for the facility as well as the professional liability for teaching or self-defense classes in any other classes that you might teach inside that facility.
So that would, of course, need to be incorporated legally and you would need to have waivers for people coming into that facility and taking classes and you need the professional ability for your teachers.
If you are going out on your own and you’re renting a room at a hotel to have a conference or you’re going into a corporation to teach, or you’re going into a school to teach. That’s still a legal entity. If you don’t have a facility and you’re using other people’s premises, you’re probably going to be asked by the owner to provide proof that you have insurance.
You are still going to be asked to show proof of insurance even if you’re just renting space or utilizing space and other people facility. But that would just be professional liability insurance for you primarily when you’re using other people’s facilities.
You still need to have some insurance in case someone trips and falls or in case the facility asks you for the proof of insurance.
If they’re coming into your facility make sure they sign a waiver. Be sure to reach out to your insurance agent any time you had a new business or you’re changing the operations of your existing business to make sure you have coverage.
John Graden: As I see this there are three categories. We have the solo instructor who rents a facility when he needs it or he goes to offices and does on-site training. Then we have the person who is opening their own self-defense facility where that’s the central curriculum. The third is the add-on to the current martial arts school.
To recap what you said, for the add-on to the martial arts school self-defense probably is not going to change the premium but it’s important it’s written as into the coverage. Next, if you’re opening your own self-defense facility essentially that’s a whole new ballgame and that you have to get premise insurance for that facility and professional liability for the people. Then there is the solo instructor. If I’m a solo instructor and I call you guys up. How do you go about determining what levels of liability in maybe even what that premium might be?
Jennifer Urmston: For someone who does not have a premise but is teaching the self-defense courses in other people’s facilities, your primary exposure is your professional life as the teacher. It’s the same as someone who goes and gives lectures and teaches courses at anything from a trade show to corporations to schools. Your primary exposure is the professional liability for the things you’re saying. But when you’re renting out a room to use at someone else’s facility or a hotel that business is going to require you to show proof of insurance. Your insurance policy that covered you for your professional liability, that content, of what you’re teaching should also cover you for any premise exposure related to renting that room. But your premise’s exposure is going to be far less than owning your own facility where people are coming in and out of your own facility every day. So as a solo instructor without a premise that you should have a lower premium. Your premium for your professional liability is going to be based on how much money you’re making in that business. It’s going to be based on your revenue. So as a startup teaching one class here and one class where you’d be paying a lot less than if you were full time booked teaching in corporations, in schools, and renting out hotels for weekend conferences to teach. As your business grows your premium will grow with you. And it’s really the same way if you’re opening a new business if you’re opening a facility for your COBRA-Defense school, you’re going to have your premises exposure to start with when it’s your own school. But as your business grows the exposure for your professional liability of teaching those classes would grow.
I think the distinction to the martial arts world is that in martial arts schools the premiums are a little more geared towards how many people are in the school the number of students versus revenue that you just described for self-defense coverage.
The martial arts schools are very much rated based on how many students you’re teaching. That’s why you need to communicate to your agent that you’re going to start the self-defense classes but they’re not they are learning martial arts. They’re not doing the physical activity of martial arts school they’re going to bring in X amount of revenue. That’s not going to grow your premium as much as it would be bringing in many martial arts students. But again it’s important to make sure you communicated that to your agent because if you have started a martial arts program and you’re adding 50 new students to a martial arts program that’s different than bringing in 50 participants to a lecture you know on Sunday afternoons or on Monday evenings or whatever you decide to do the self-defense classes.
Just communicate to the agent so that when you come up for renewal you’re rated correctly.
John Graden: That’s good news for self-defense instructors because the difference is that in a martial arts school, the goal is to train the student for as long as possible and get them to sign for longer programs so that they can stay in the school and continue paying tuition forever and ever. However, in a self-defense program, much of the appeal is that it’s just a five-week program or a 10-week program or it’s a one hour class and then it’s over. So that’s a really good news for self-defense instructors.
What about concealed weapons self-defense coverage?
The issue with weapons is always around a real weapon versus a fake weapon. Martial arts schools are going to have exclusions on their policies for bringing in real weapons. A real gun should not come in the door of a school. You can use a fake gun or a fake sword, but you’re not going to use a live blade and you should not bring in a real gun to teach a self-defense class.
But it’s just kind of incentive for people to join and that includes that. But if you’re doing it in-house you know that consideration needs to be very clear to you.
I was at the Marriott Marquis in New York in front of a bunch of colleges a student activity representatives for about 70 to 80 schools. When we open up our active shooter seminar it starts with a paint gun machine gun that looks and sounds just like a real machine gun. And my wife screams. I fire off about 10 rounds from the gun just in the air from behind the group and the idea is to really startle them into questions like, “How many shots was that? How long did it take? Are the police here?” It’s a great way to open up the seminar. However, I had real concerns about doing this in Times Square. So I went to the event coordinator who put me in touch with security. They freaked out! They said, “We have SWAT throughout this building at all times. We have off-duty and on-duty police at all times. We have canine units at all times. We have undercover at all times. You have no idea the possibilities of what could happen if somebody interprets that as being a real gun and goes running down the hallway screaming.” So we had to improvise. But talk just a little bit about the idea of using a gun simulator like that. We typically will ask the audience to make sure that they do not have any concealed weapons. We don’t want somebody pulled a gun out and shoot me. What are the ramifications of starting with fake gunfire?
Jennifer Urmston: Well you could startle someone into having heart attack quite frankly. I mean you really would have some liability for starting an event like that. I mean you’re you’re going to be filling out an application for your insurance, you’ll telling them that there will be no real weapons.
If it startles someone into having a heart attack there would be a liability there. So you might have them in the waiver that they signed before coming to class say that we may simulate an attack. You want to get them to sign a waiver saying that they know this might occur.
Always make sure there’s not a real weapon and no projectiles but give people a chance to sign a waiver that they’re accepting what’s going to happen. And telling your facility this is going to happen at approximately such time to make sure they don’t call in the SWAT team.
John Graden: Great advice. You mentioned that you had talked to some of the COBRA owners and that you’re seeing an increase in self-defense.
Jennifer Urmston: We sure are. Absolutely. We are definitely seeing more self-self-defense specific training. It’s a newer trend still. We weren’t talking about it three years ago or four years ago. We certainly are talking about it now. So again, I always recommend a phone call or send an e-mail to inform your agent of any changes you’re making, such as COBRA. If you have a new business or any business idea, find out what your insurance cost is going to be and talk about what the coverage should be and just make a well-informed decision.
John Graden: If you’re going to call the agent, get him to confirm what you discuss in an e-mail back to you so you have it in writing. You want to make sure that there’s no question about any ambiguities in the coverage or what was actually described. Get that in writing by e-mail either the exchanges are done by e-mail or at least confirmation. “Here are that the five things you told me in our conversation”
It’s a record later of what you talked about you know. Whether it’s your business or you’re thinking about it for business, when you look back at it a month later and you come back to thinking about this new project, have it in writing it so that you can remember what was said to you. The last thing you want is to say, “I thought you said this was covered.”
Jennifer Urmston: The policy language is always going to trump whatever you’re talking about. But, if you want to make sure you’re clear about what you talk about. Especially if you’re planning to business now and it doesn’t really start for 120 days.
Also, if you think you’re going into someone else’s facility and you’ll probably need an insurance certificate.
John Graden: How does an instructor request an insurance certificate?
Jennifer Urmston: First, you have an insurance policy in place. First of all. So I have you know I have people that call all the time and say, “oh we’re teaching this class on Saturday.” And they don’t have a policy yet. So you have to fill out an application and get the quote accepted the quote and have the policy issued. And then if you have a policy in place we can issue certificates usually in 24 to 48 hours any time but you have to have the policy in place.
So if you’re going to rent a room at the Marriott Marquis to teach your class. You know they want a certificate showing them the name of your carrier, what your policy limits are and when your policies are effective. They’re going to want to be named as additional assured if you’re using their facility. And that’s all on one sheet of paper.
But in today’s world, it gets e-mailed. So it’s not a big deal to request one if you already have insurance. If you talk about insurance 90 days ago and never actually got it bound and then you all of a sudden need a certificate you can be in a tough spot. Also, there’s no additional charge for a certificate. You can teach at five different hotels between now and Christmas and get five different certificates and not have a charge.
It seems we’re always seeing news headlines of child molestations, guest instructor negligence, and even murder in the martial arts. Though each incident carries potentially millions of dollars in liability, in many cases, the owner was not present when the incident happened yet he or she could lose everything personally and professionally without solid insurance coverage.
What Kind of Martial Arts School Insurance Coverage Do I Need?
What kind of insurance you’ll need will depend on what you do. If you have a children’s based school with little no contact, you requirements would significantly different than an MMA school with a cage and lots of sparring.
A good place to start is understanding the different claims you can be liable for. The first distinction is whether the claim is personal or property related. It is critical that Martial Arts School owners protect themselves with appropriate and sufficient insurance.
Liability claims can come from injuries to students or sexual assault and abuse claims made by minors and adult students alike.
Property claims can come from fire or lightning or a car driving through the glass front of a martial arts school. All of these claims and more can lead to lawsuits or repair bills that can destroy a business.
General Liability Insurance (Must Have!)
All Martial Arts Schools should carry General Liability insurance that includes Professional Liability coverage to protect themselves from claims including lawsuits.
Read more: 3 Types of Liability Insurance
Premises Liability Claims range from simple slip and fall injuries to minor or more severe injuries. All martial arts schools have premises exposures related to students and guests coming into their owned or leased space. This includes walking through the parking lot, over the sidewalk, across the threshold, into the dojo, as well as, participation in classes, belt testing, and competitions.
Professional Liability Coverage protects the owners and employees of the martial arts school from claims related to the instruction that they do or do not provide to their students or guests.
Products And Completed Operations coverage protects the school from claims related to items that they sell.
Personal and Advertising Injury coverage protects the school from claims related to use of trademarked or personal information or photos in verbal, print or electronic media.
Sexual Abuse and Molestation coverage protects a martial school from losses related to physical and verbal acts of abuse and can be claimed by minors and adults alike.
Hired and NonOwned Auto coverage provides coverage for the school when an employee uses a personal or hired vehicle in the course of the school’s operation.
Standard Liability Insurance Limits
Standard liability limits for martial arts schools in today’s world are one of the following: $1,000,000 per occurrence (single claim) and either $2,000,000 or $3,000,000 annual aggregate (total of all claims in a given year) or $2,000,000 per occurrence and $4,000,000 aggregate. Higher limits are available through purchasing an Umbrella or Excess Liability policy.
When a school leases their space, the landlord typically requires a certain liability limit per occurrence that the tenant must meet or negotiate. The lease generally determined the liability limit of coverage selected. The individual assets of the martial school and owner(s) should also be considered when selecting sufficient liability limits.
Martial Arts Schools Need Property Insurance
Nearly all martial arts schools have some equipment and other contents that need to be insured under a Commercial Property insurance policy.
When you are renting, any tenant’s improvements such as HVAC, mirrors, glass and sign coverage are typically insured by the tenant and should be included in the school’s Commercial Property policy’s limits as well.
Coverage for Loss of Income, also called Business Income replaces lost income when a school suffers a covered property loss and has to be fully or partially closed during the period of restoration.
It is common practice for a leased school to purchase three to four months of business income coverage.
Workers Compensation Insurance
Any martial arts school with regularly employed full-time or part-time staff will also be required to carry Worker’s Compensation Insurance in most states. Annual payroll is used to calculate Workers Comp premiums.
A business can be fined by the State for not carrying mandatory workers compensation insurance. Worker’s compensation pays medical bills and lost work time for employees and contractors injured on the job and is important protection for all martial arts schools with staff other than the owner(s). Owners and officers are not required to pay workers comp premiums on their own payroll in most states.
Individual Martial Arts and Self Defense Instructors
Martial Arts and Self Defense Instructors teaching seminars and classes can purchase individual Professional Liability policies that cover them if they work as independent contractors in other people’s schools or facilities.
Individual Instructors should request the same liability limits as the facility where they are working.
A Martial Arts school should require all of their independent contractors to show proof of this coverage before allowing the contractor to work inside their facility.
Direct employees are covered under the facility’s General Liability policy for their professional liability exposure but independent contractors are usually not covered.
What To Do Right Now
Review your insurance exposures and coverage each year and never let the school’s insurance lapse. It is also very important to work with an insurance provider who has an understanding of martial arts, as well as, the specific operation and needs of a school.
Sports and Fitness Insurance Corporation is the Official Insurance Provider for the Martial Arts Teachers’ Association.
Read more: What You Must Know About Insurance For Your Martial Arts School
Martial Arts School New Year Insurance Checklist
Ask yourself a few simple questions TODAY to protect your business in 2018!
Are you launching any NEW PROGRAMS in the New Year? YES__ NO__
Discuss new programs such as, Self-Defense Classes, After-School Programs or Day Camps with your insurance agent. If you have not offered the program in the past, make sure your current insurance will cover it!
Do you need to perform any EQUIPMENT Maintenance? YES__ NO__
Make sure all pads, safety gear and weapons equipment are in good condition. Keeping your school’s equipment is in top condition helps you look better to new prospective students and prevents insurance claims!
Is your location ready for WINTER WEATHER? YES__ NO__
Are you responsible for clearing ice and snow or is your landlord? If you don’t know the answer, ask now! Make sure your school, as well as, the sidewalk and parking lot are safe for your students in the winter weather.
When in the New Year does your INSURANCE renew? DATE________
Be ready for your insurance renewal! Review it 60 to 90 days ahead of time to make sure all of the information that you have provided to your insurance agent is accurate and up to date. Don’t get caught with a claim that you are not covered for by not communicating. In the New Year get a competitive quote if you have not done so recently. You might be able to get more coverage and save money.
Brought to you by Sports Fitness Insurance Corp (SFIC). SFIC is the Official Insurance Provider of the Martial Arts Teachers Association (MATA).
Get a year-end review of your insurance at MATAInsurance.com
See our comprehensive library of Martial Arts School Insurance Information and Interviews.
In order to avoid using your martial arts school insurance, you have to address the issue of accidents step-by-step, the first general issue to consider is avoiding accidents. No matter the present situation with documentation or martial arts insurance, if no accidents occur, then there will be no claims. There are three key areas to consider:
1. Safety of the Training Area.
2. Safety of the Training Equipment.
3. Safety of the Training Techniques.
Safety of the Training Area
The first thing to do is evaluate the safety of your training area. Any potential dangers need to be addressed. If there is a tear in the mat that could catch someone’s foot, then it should be taped down or the mat replaced. Look at your school from the standpoint of a nit-picking safety inspector. Do not dismiss things as “good enough,” since, in a court of law, “good enough” often isn’t. Carefully explore both the actual training area and the rest of your premises.
SOME COMMON TRAINING-AREA DANGERS
– Torn Mats.
– Uneven Floor.
– Protruding Objects (nails, splinters, etc.).
– Equipment Improperly Stored (stacked so it may fall over, weapons loosely mounted on a wall, equipment in training areas, etc.).
– Sticky or Slick Areas on Hard Floor.
– Chemicals (usually in restrooms, etc.).
– Poorly Lit Areas (especially Training Areas).
Safety of the Training Equipment
The second area to carefully evaluate is the safety of your training equipment. If weapons have splinters, then they should be sanded down or replaced. If the grips on sai are coming loose, then they need to be secured. If a cord on nunchaku is frayed or there is a crack in the weapon, it must be replaced. Sharp weapons should be stored well out of the way of curious visitors or students.
The standard here is the same. Look over every piece of equipment as though you were looking for an excuse to sue your own school.
Some common dangers:
– Splintering or Cracked Weapons.
– Old Kicking Shields.
– Stressed Chains on Heavy Bags.
– Fraying Cord on Speed Bags.
– Loose Grips on Weapons.
– Worn Mats.
– Sharp Weapons.
– Nunchaku, Three-Section Staves, Eight-Section Whips, and other weapons with which the inexperienced can easily injure themselves.
If you find any potential dangers, address the problem as soon as time and money allow. Do not delay. Many problems can be partially addressed immediately, even if the problem cannot be completely resolved. If the nunchaku cord is frayed, get rid of them now. Even if you can’t replace them for a while, it is better to go without the weapon temporarily than risk serious injury or damage to the school. If the cord breaks during high-performance use, imagine the harm it can do if it struck someone.
If an accident happens today because of a problem you meant to fix tomorrow, you will feel like a fool. If you’ve never had an accident, then now is the time to take care of the problems. You do not want to wait until a student is injured before you try to make your school safe.
Safety of the Training Techniques
The third thing to look for in avoiding accidents is your actual training. Martial arts, by its very nature, bears an element of danger. Students will get minor injuries through the course of their training. The injuries might be as slight as a hyperextended joint or a strained muscle, or as serious as a concussion or fractured bone.
Combat systems are especially prone to injuries, and training could not be made entirely safe without sacrificing the effectiveness of that training. The question to ask is this: Are there any unnecessary dangers in my training policies?
Some common dangers:
– Weapons Practice in or near traffic areas (a traffic area is not just a walkway, but anywhere that other students move through, even if they are training as well).
– Students wandering near or through other students’ practice areas.
– Students holding kicking shields or heavy bags improperly (such as in front of the face, where they will hit themselves if their partner hits the shield hard.)
– Students holding kicking shields or heavy bags for others who hit too hard for them.
– Students training with sharp weapons without sufficient skill (even masters with decades of experience have nearly killed themselves practicing with combat-quality weapons).
– Sparring with excessive contact (often as a result of students sparring at a speed too fast for their level of control or a match getting out of hand).
– Sparring partners using techniques that cannot be safely performed in a sparring match (more than one full-speed MMA bout ended with a crippling injury because techniques were used that are difficult to control in a match).
– Rolling or falling on a hard floor while learning how to fall (recommendation: use a mat to learn, then the hard floor once some proficiency is developed).
– Wrist Locks, throws or self-defense skills practiced too hard (recommendation: practice very gently — even too gently — until you learn an individual training partner’s pain and injury thresholds).
martial arts school insurance.
Click Play and Listen in the Background
When a school owner comes to me for coaching, there is usually a predictable series of events that created enough pain for them to come to me for direct help.
One of the most common is that the owner doesn’t really understand what the school is selling. Sure, there is lip service about life skills and self-defense, but who doesn’t say that today? (Most schools do a poor job with each, but, that’s a different subject.)
The three questions that challenge them are:
1. Why should anyone choose your school over the other schools down the street?
2. Why should anyone choose your school regardless of the price?
3. What value are you offering for your tuition?
Graden Family Values (Scary, I know)
Presuming you watch television like us, do you use an antenna, cable, satellite, or Internet streaming? Our family uses a combination of DirectTV and Internet streaming (Netflix and AppleTV).
Even though we pay $120 a month in association fees that includes cable, we opt to spend about the same on top of that to have the options that cable doesn’t offer.
The value of having the variety, picture quality, and recording options is worth more to us than the $120. When is the last time you saw DirectTV, Apple, and Netflix offering discounts in a sale? Almost never.
They know that their value is in the options and entertainment they bring to homes. They do not place their value on price. I’ve been a Mac-head since 1991, so believe me when I tell you that Apple is always the most expensive.
Both Schools Lose
Every day I see martial arts schools post ads on Facebook. 99.99% of t lead he ads lead with price.
50% off! Hurry!
Of course, there are times that a school might run a special. But, if those specials run year-round, they ain’t that special. They become more like year-round pleading.
The message from the school is, “The best reason to join our school is our low price!” That’s a terrible message to attach to your school. If you and the school across the street both pitch price as the main value, then the school who can go the lowest wins. Truthfully, both schools lose.
The Misplaced Values
While you may place your school’s value on price, I assure you that most parents place their value on trust, safety, and the physical and emotional development of their child.
Instead of shouting about low prices, focus on improving those benefits and the experience you school will provide your students and their families.
Someone Has to Be the Most Expensive
There will always be the lowest, medium, and highest priced school in any area. I always positioned myself as the highest priced. Someone has to be, why not me? Why not you?
Rather than low prices, I focus on a high-quality experience for my students and their families. I placed the value on the “experience” not the “price.”
My staff was highly trained (and beaten regularly). They were well rehearsed and professional. From public speaking skills, sales, classroom management to how specifically to teach each technique in our curriculum, it was clear as soon as you walked in my school, we were the best.
Tons of schools talk about Black Belt Excellence, but their actual message to the market is, “We don’t really believe that we are good enough to sell on our merits. So we’re offering black belt excellence at a rock bottom prices.”
Don’t be that school.