John Graden Accepts Appointment to AFS Advisory Council


MATA Executive Director John Graden

(Clearwater Beach, FL/CHICAGO, IL, April 20, 2016) – The Association of Fitness Studios (AFS) today proudly announced the addition of world-renown John Graden, Founder and Executive Director of the Martial Arts Teachers Association (MATA) to the AFS Advisory Council.

The author of many bestselling books, including The Art of Marketing Without Marketing and The Truth About the Martial Arts Business, Graden is widely credited with leading the martial arts school business into the modern era.

“We are thrilled beyond belief that John Graden has accepted a position on ourAdvisory Council,” said AFS founder and CEO Josh Leve.  “John brings an incredible expertise in both the martial arts discipline and how to channel one’s martial arts passion into a successful school.”

AFS research has shown that martial arts has become a mainstream component of the fitness studio environment over the past 20 years.  Thousands of studios have added varieties of martial arts programming and equipment, and thousands more martial arts aficionados are aspiring school owners.

 “I’m honored to join the AFS Advisory Council,” Graden said.  ”I’ve enjoyed working with Josh and AFS.  They’re really sharp.  Together, we’re finding that martial arts is an ideal fit for fitness studios. I’m excited to help AFS clients and the fitness industry in general tap into the huge potential martial arts programming creates for expanding their market share.”

To say Graden is a legend in the martial arts world would be putting it mildly.  After his seemingly never-ending competitive accomplishments in the ‘70s and ‘80s, John transitioned to entrepreneurship through associations, founding the National Association of Professional Martial Artists in 1993, and the American Council on Martial Arts in 1996.  MATA was created in 2003.

In 1995, John founded Martial Arts Professional magazine and in 1998 he authored How to Open and Operate a Successful Martial Arts School.

“We couldn’t be happier that John has accepted our invitation,” said Leve.  “He clearly brings an expertise to AFS that will help a large number of our members be more successful.”

About AFS

The Association of Fitness Studios (AFS) is the only membership community dedicated solely to the business of fitness studios.  AFS provides studio owners and developers a wide array of business-specific products, services, and benefits that enable them to more effectively manage and grow their businesses, building on the passion, compassion and courage they’ve already shown.

About John Graden and MATA

The Martial Arts Teachers’ Association (MATA) is the world’s largest online professional association for martial arts schools and programming.

For more information on John Graden, you can check out his bio at -

MATA Annual Martial Arts School Business Report: 2015: Where Did 13,014 Martial Arts Schools Go?

martial arts business statistics

Martial Arts Business Statistics: Number of Active Schools in the USA

Martial arts business research is hard to come by. We’re a small field of private, mom and pop businesses. Still, we make an effort to provide consistent information based on the resources available.

In 2013, we reported that according to, there were 20,234 businesses under Karate & Other Martial Arts Instruction (7999-44) and Martial Arts Instruction (7999-45.) Today, that number is down to 15,896 schools.

Where did 13,014 schools go?

In 2013 there were 20,234 schools.

In January 2016 there were 15,896 schools

The difference is 4,338 schools. 

It stands to reason that at least that many new schools open each year. That’s just 87 schools per state. Odds are, more are opened each year, but let’s just use that as a base.

If 4,338 schools opened in 2014 and 2015 that would add 8,676 to the 20,234 in 2013 giving us 28,910 schools to start 2016 with. That is of course if the martial arts business had 100% retention.

20,234 schools in 2013

+ 4,338 in 2014

+ 4,338 in 2015

= 28,910 potential total schools to start 2016.

The actual number for 2016 was 15,896.

The difference is an estimated 13,014 missing schools.

Mind you, since you are still in business, the drop off in competitors is not keeping you up at night. Still, it’s our business to ask why is the number of schools declining so rapidly?

Read what we think on

Based on the numbers, the martial arts school business is declining at a serious rate. 15,896 schools still open out of a potential 28,910, represents 54% of active schools in the past three years.

If we were to go back to the 1990s, we did research reports that showed that, in the hottest markets, there were never much more than 20,000 schools in the USA.

We are doing some investigating and will have more information for you as we uncover it, but in the meantime, please comment below on why you think that the number of martial arts schools has declined so much in just two years.

If you have information or suggested martial arts business research sources, please let us know about them so we can share the information with the martial arts school business community.

Please comment below.