Masters Club

Masters Club

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Black Belt Eyes

by John Graden

I created a black-and-white ad of a student throwing a perfect jump sidekick under a great headline, “Kids Don’t Seem to Mind Our Summer School.” The ad was a big hit. Schools reported 40 to 60 phone calls, more than they had ever received. Some members, though, wanted to cancel because they didn’t do that technique. Others complained because they wore white uniforms, but the kid in the ad was in a white gi. This is a classic example of Black Belt Eyes.

Black Belt Eyes illustrate how the Core Dynamics are reflected in what we do. In most cases, Black Belt Eyes are based upon false assumptions. For instance, with the jump sidekick ad, the guys who canceled may have feared that a mom would bring the ad in and say, “I want to enroll my child, but first show me this kick.” Or, “Do you have that uniform in white, like this ad?” Of course, that never happens, but we are so deeply connected to our systems that our Black Belt Eyes often get in the way of our more useful Market Eyes. Black Belt Eyes assumed people would see they wore a different color uniform or wouldn’t recognize the technique. Market Eyes are the eyes of your potential students, who don’t know a jump sidekick from a jumping jack.

When Black Belt Eyes see an ad with a jump sidekick, they are drawn to the most important aspect of the ad for black belts. It’s not the headline, the copy, or the offer. Black Belt Eyes will check to make sure the kid has his foot bladed and the other foot is tucked. That’s not a bad thing. It reflects your standards as a black belt. But if you choose not to run that ad because you don’t do jump kicks, then your Black Belt Eyes may have cost you 40 to 60 phone calls which should have converted to 20 to 30 new students.

Black Belt Eyes work against you when you assume that a person with little or no martial arts experience will feel the same about it as you do.

A Black Belt Eyes ad will have someone getting kicked in the head. The owner knows that one of life’s simple pleasures is wrapping your foot around someone’s head with a hook kick or round kick. The readers, however, with their Market Eyes, may translate that image into what will happen to them at that school. They can’t even imagine getting their leg up that high, so they are not identifying with the kicker.

Black Belt Eyes tell the market what it needs, rather than listening to the market and giving it what it wants. Black Belt Eyes show that we care about what we do. They are not bad, but you have to be aware of them. Most of all, recognize when they get in your way.

Has a spouse or significant other made a suggestion about your school or how you teach? What was your reaction? I know mine was essentially ‘Who the heck are you to tell me, the black belt, about martial arts?’ The key, though, is they don’t care about martial arts; they care about you. They usually represent Market Eyes, and they are almost always right.

Other examples of Black Belt Eyes are:

Using your style name as a headline, or worse, a school name. This is a huge assumption that the reader knows how your style translates to benefits for them.

Using a logo that looks like martial arts hieroglyphics. If your logo contains a fist, a yin/yang, a circle, a triangle, Asian lettering, or a bug, you may have Black Belt Eyes. As quickly as you can, seek professional help with the MATA Logo Design service at

Listing techniques in your marketing, rather than benefits. This may disappoint you, but the odds are miniscule that someone seeing an ad that touts Hun Gar 3 Step Waza will exclaim to his wife, “Honey! Hun Gar 3 Step Waza! Just what I’ve always wanted!” Only your Black Belt Eyes will know what that means.

Listing your tournament wins, hall of fame inductions, or that you trained the military police. Black Belt Eyes assume people want to know that you are an accomplished black belt. No one cares. Truthfully. Mike Tyson is a great boxer, but I don’t want him teaching my kids. Study the ads for private schools. They don’t list the teachers’ résumés. Market Eyes want to know what you can do for them or their children.

Having long classes. The assumption is that more is better. The truth is that better is better. If more were better, a four-hour class would be better than a two-hour class. People are busy, and it’s presumptuous to assume that your class is so important it has to take two hours of their day. Most people have 16 waking hours per day. Two hours is over 10 percent of that day. Good instructors can teach a great class and produce outstanding black belts using one-hour classes. If your classes are longer than, reduce them to one hour. Your students will not complain. They will thank you.

Keeping archaic exam requirements that are important to you, not the student. When I was a student, you had to break two boards with a reverse punch, round kick two boards, and running jump side kick over two people to break three boards. This was for the blue belt to 4th degree (kyu or kup) brown belt and usually occurred about a year into training. 

I opened my school with the same requirements. I have great video of my black belts like Kathy Marlor breaking and bouncing off boards during these marathon exams. When the children’s invasion began in the mid-1980s, those requirements became a real problem. Eight- and ten-year-olds have no business doing those types of breaks. So I dropped board breaking as a requirement and added board-breaking seminars that the students could pay to attend. I turned a negative element of the exam process into a fun profit center. To do that, I had to overcome my Black Belt Eyes.

Conducting marathon exams. During the days of my marathon Saturday exams, it seemed as though we measured the quality of an exam by the number of ambulance calls. I thought it was important for students to deal with the stress of the high-pressure, marathon exams, because it would help them deal with the stress of self-defense—which is just dumb. I also waited until enough people were ready before I held the exam. This is classic Black Belt Eyes combined with the Control Factor.

In time, I switched to monthly exams (stripes and belts) that were held in class. This greatly increased retention and student progress, and reduced stress.

Displaying weapons on the wall or in the office. You may love weapons, but to the market, a wall full of knives, swords, and spears looks like a weapons cache. Mothers, in particular, do not respond well to the prospects of their darling child being exposed to these instruments of death.

Displaying photos of yourself hitting, getting hit, or breaking. One school had a photo of the instructor being front kicked, full power, in the groin. His Black Belt Eyes felt that the photo showed he could withstand any blow. My Market Eyes made me wince and turn away. There is nothing interesting, appealing, or tasteful about such a photo. Take down the 1989 photos of you, and replace them with pictures of your happy students. It’s OK to have a shot of yourself; just make sure it’s tasteful and professionally shot.

Media coverage, such as magazine covers or newspaper articles, are also fine. Tip: If you are on a TV show, have someone take a photo that includes the cameras. This is a good way to get mileage out of a TV appearance. You can’t post a video on your wall, but this type of photo shows you were on a TV show. Media appearances build confidence in students and prospects. Photos of you breaking flaming bricks don’t.

Having a smelly school. This could be called Black Belt Nose. When prospects walked into my school, their eyes watered and their faces contorted from the sweaty stench soaked into our carpet. I used to tell them with pride, “We earned that smell . . .” Not good.

Sparring too soon. Black Belt Eyes say, “Sparring prepares you for self-defense.” Market Eyes say, “That’s scary, and it hurts.” Few things lead to high dropouts faster than sparring. Sparring is important, and I love it. But the smartest curriculum adjustment I ever made was to push back the time when students had to spar. Rather than after three months, which was how I was raised, it became eight months. During those eight months, we work on limited sparring drills and defense and prepare the students how to spar before they are thrown in the ring.

I made the change after years of having the following scenario played out too often. Typically, a female student would enroll and soon become an A student. She was in every class. She was at every function. She volunteered to help. She changed her work hours or made changes in her life to make sure she could do karate.

This lasted for three months until she reached the rank where sparring was required. Then I wouldn’t see her again until running into her at the mall or a restaurant. “Sally! Great to see you. We sure miss you in class.” “Oh, um, hi, Mr. Graden . . . Yeah, I’ve been really busy lately. Gotta go.”

If I had a Truth Translator the real message would be, “I trusted you. I really trusted you and embraced your school into my life. Then you put me up against that guy, and I had no idea what to do. He hit me on my nose, and it hurt. I will not trust you again.” When I tell this story in seminars, the classic Black Belt Eyes vs Market Eyes exchange reveals itself, as the owners’ wives and girlfriends elbow them in the ribs. “I told you!”

Some guys argue that sparring is important. I agree. However, how can you teach sparring to someone who drops out?

Today people, especially women, are taught never to hit someone. We have to be patient and help them get comfortable with the idea of hitting and getting hit. We have to give them strategies to get out of the way of a bigger, faster opponent and, most of all, we have to drill them over and over so they are ready to spar when they reach that level.

Setting heavy traditional requirements in the first year. If your white-belt class consists of traditional stances, blocks, and forms, you are going to have a tough time keeping students. Give your students material they can use right away.

We pushed all of our traditional tae kwon do techniques back to green belt. White, gold, and orange belt were spent on working on pad drills, practical self-defense, sparring, and footwork drills. The students loved it. They felt a sense of competence right away.  As important as they are, the traditional martial arts are very hard to learn. By front-loading your curriculum with your core traditional material, you put some of the most difficult techniques to learn with your most inexperienced students.

This is especially true for children. Forms were created by highly disciplined adults to be taught to other highly disciplined adults. They were not designed to be taught to eight-year-olds with ADHD.

Teaching a new student a front stance and then trying to layer on a down block-lunge punch is not only hard, but you almost have to apologize for the lack of practicality. We say things like, “You would never really block this way, but this is a block against a kick to the groin.” That, my friend, are Black Belt Eyes in action.

Having too many “shoulds” in your curriculum. It’s natural for a new school owner to have dreams of creating a great martial arts school. He dreams that his black belts will be the best, and people will flock to his school. When this enterprising black belt sits down to design the ultimate curriculum, he thinks to himself, “Hmmm. My students should learn the traditional basics. They should be able to do a form or two each belt. They should know the basic traditional stances and blocks. They should be able to do all the kicks and punches. They should learn some self-defense. They should be able to do one-steps and spar as well.”

There are two consequences to this line of thinking.

a. Each requirement will have to be covered in class to prepare students for their exams. 

b. With so many requirements, students will have less time to work on each, so quality will be difficult to obtain and maintain.

When you have too many requirements for each belt, you are strapping yourself to covering those techniques in each class. If you don’t cover them, students will not be ready for exams, and it won’t be their fault. If you have 20 requirements for an orange-belt exam, you have to spend a large amount of class covering these 20 techniques. With that many requirements being covered each class, your creativity is hindered. Your classes will tend to be the same. This level of repetition is good only to the degree you don’t lose students to boredom.

The key is to require only the base skills on exams. You’ll have to decide what those base skills are. You can still teach the other 100 techniques you think students “should” learn, but you don’t box yourself in as a teacher. For instance, I can teach spin hook kick to a class of blue belts but not require it on an exam. It’s not a core technique, but it is fun.

Self-defense escapes can also fall into this category, though it depends. Self-defense is at the core of most programs, but typically, it’s not taught very well, and it’s hard to practice. There is a lot of speculation, “I do this, which will make him do that . . .” in self-defense that is style based. Realistically, a headlock escape practiced at 50 percent speed and power works 100 percent of the time. A headlock escape practiced at 75 percent speed and power works less. But how well does it work when both students are going at it 100 percent? Most of us never do that, so who knows?

Students have a finite amount of time to practice your curriculum. If they have 20 techniques to master in order to pass your orange-belt exam, they will spend half the amount of time on each technique than if they only had 10 techniques. For example, in a 12-week testing cycle you expect students to attend class twice a week. This is a total of 24 hours in class. In each class, you devote 20 minutes to requirements. That is total of 8 hours working on test requirements. Some requirements, like forms, take much more time to master, while others, like a ridge hand, take less time.

It only makes sense that a student who has 10 requirements to learn in 8 hours will spend twice as much time on each one as a student who has 20 to learn. Conversely, an instructor will have twice as much time on each of 10 requirements in 8 hours than one who has to cover 20. Odds are, the students with 10 requirements will have a higher competence level than those with 20.

Our Black Belt Eyes lead us to believe that our students will be good because they know more, but again, more is not better. Better is better. Fewer requirements make better students and aid retention, because students who feel they are doing well are happy students and stay in the school. Competence leads to confidence.

Just remember that Market Eyes pay the bills. The next time your spouse or significant other makes the suggestion that tying students together with a belt and having them spar may not be a good move, take a deep breath, listen, and say, “Thank you.”

Your life is defined by your patterns of behavior and thought. Actions do speak louder than words. The Core Dynamics are five crucial areas of our professional life. The top schools owners manage the Control Factor; they have Found Their Own Voice; they Value What They Do; they have Clarity of Purpose; and they balance their Black Belt Eyes with educated Market Eyes.

The Masters on Change

by John Graden

Here are some quotations regarding styles from three of the most influential martial artists in history:

“The art does not make the man. The man makes the art.” – Gichin Funakoshi

“You limit a style by labeling it.” – Bruce Lee

“The style serves the student. The student doesn’t serve the style.” – Joe Lewis

Despite my roots in tae kwon do, my responsibility is to my students, not tae kwon do, kickboxing, Joe Lewis Fighting Systems, or any other source of information. My job is to create the best black belts possible in a school that authentically represents what I believe in. In large part, that responsibility is expressed through my curriculum.

When Does a System Freeze?

The history of the arts, however, is the tendency to freeze a curriculum and then resist any change or suggestion of change. I love Shotokan and know that the reason I did so well in forms division was my adaptation of the core elements of Shotokan, which is deeper balance and more powerful and crisp blocks and punches than my root system of tae kwon do.

We have the great system of Shotokan because of the work of Gichin Funakoshi. In fact, the genesis of Shotokan is in the massive change Funakoshi’s made to Okinawan karate. He radically changed the recipe book, yet for the most part the book has not changed since.

It’s also entertaining to me to see modern Jeet Kune Do teachers argue over what is real JKD. If anyone didn’t want his system to freeze, it was Bruce Lee. He was way ahead of his time in his approach to creating a practical martial art that was not confined or restricted by history.

Joe Lewis is someone who has continually updated his material. Recently we trained one-on-one for the first time in over a decade. He had me fire some of the excellent Joe Lewis Fighting Systems’ combinations on the bag in my garage. He stopped me and started to show me how to throw a straight right hand. My mouth kind of dropped, my eyes got wide, and I shook my head in disbelief. He said, “What?” I said, “That is the exact opposite of what you taught me in the 80s!” He said, “What? I’m not supposed to evolve?” It was the perfect response.

Here was a 60-year-old black belt who was in his fourth decade as a worldwide recognized pioneer and superstar, but in his mind, he is in his fourth decade of evolution. While I’m on the subject of Joe Lewis, let me also mention this. Joe is a very traditional martial artist. I am, too. We don’t express our traditions by holding on to techniques or rituals. We express them by making sure our students: execute with proper form, can defend themselves and develop the tenacity to never quit.

A Martial Arts School Full of Pooh Bears

The first step to increasing your product sales is to logo everything in sight. Harely Davidson now makes more money selling t-shirts and jackets than they make selling motor-bikes. That’s the power of a recognizable logo and a good line of merchandise.

Disney, Warner Brothers and Coke-a-Cola make huge sums of money selling their logo merchandise. If it works for sugar water, it will work for us. Of course, you have to have an attractive logo that people won’t be embarrassed to wear. Be sure to read the report on how to create a good logo.

Logo-wear works on a number of levels:

  1. People like to show they are an accepted member of a group. The more prestigious and “cool” the group, the better. Given a choice, most people might prefer to show the world they belong to the Harvard Athletic Club than the South Emerald City Community College Athletic Club.
  1. Provided you do a good job, students and parents will be proud of their association with you and your school. When someone is proud of their association they typically want others to know.
  1. A “School Logo Only” policy helps to reduce the temptation for students to purchase items outside the school. When a student or parent buys product through the mail or at your local sports discount store this cuts you out of the profit loop.

Logo your uniforms, sparring equipment and t-shirts but don’t stop there. Logo hats, sweat shirts, pens and anything else you plan to sell or give away.

What Items Can You Sell in Your Pro-shop?

  • Sparring equipment
  • A full line of Logo t-shirts, tanks and sweats
  • Caps, headbands and visors
  • Polo style embroidered shirts
  • Warm up suits
  • Martial arts shoes
  • Regular gi’s, colored gi’s and custom gi’s all screen printed with logo
  • Black belt club specialty items
  • Books and videos pursuant to your style
  • Kicking and punching pads 

Selling Training Aids

Training aids are not just for use in the school. Their purchase and use at home could be encouraged by you and all your staff since this not only helps profits but also aids in retention.

Few schools that I know of make much of an effort to sell training aids for use outside the school. This is usually simply because they have not created a system to do this.

If you enroll 20 students per month, let’s create a plan to sell 20 kicking shields to them. Kicking shields are used extensively in the school but do all of your young students have a kicking shield at home?No, but they have a baseball bat a ball and a glove. They have a soccer ball to play with. You can be sure mom or dad enjoys throwing or kicking the ball as well!

Think about it! What is the best way to show a parent that the child is really interested in martial arts?

What is the best way to get the parent emotionally bonded to their child’s success in his martial arts program? Get the parent involved. While you may not get every parent to enroll you can at least encourage the parents to buy a kicking shield and work out with their child on a weekend for ten or twenty minutes.

What if you had a five page booklet with photos of you showing the parent how to hold the target, what techniques to practice and how, plus tips on what to remind the child to focus on? What would that cost you to produce? With a digital camera, a computer and a printer, next to nothing but the time to put it together.

Heavy bags, blockers and focus mitts are also idea for encouraging practice at home and interaction with another member of the family. Each time a parent sees his child practicing at home it reinforces that child’s commitment to martial arts and re-enforces the parents resolve to continue investing in lessons.

Other training aids such as stretching machines are more adult in their appeal but should also be promoted for home use especially around Christmas time.



The Guru Story

The obvious answer is anytime, but you will find that certain times will offer the opportunity for a quick and easy sale because of a students heightened state of emotion. Remember that people always buy out of emotion backed up by logic.


When the student first enrolls his interest is at a peak. Give him a few days to get into the program and recover from his initial investment in your lessons. By then he should already be expressing interest in one or two products and is almost certainly open to “cross-selling.”


The first major “high” in a student’s experience in your school is after they pass their first rank test. This is another period of time when their emotions are high and therefore a prime time to sell them products. Books, videos and equipment related to the new material they are going to learn would clearly be well received at this stage.

One time a student really appreciates some suggestive selling is if they get hurt. A barefooted student who has just stubbed his toe will be very receptive and appreciate a suggestion of martial arts shoes.

When someone gets a bruised shin, forearm or bone, let them know that protective pads are available. Consider also, carrying dit dat jow, a Chinese herbal preparation of some repute. It significantly enhances the healing of bruises. Stretching machines and books and videos on stretching can be sold as a preventative measure to strained muscles.

Keep your eyes and ears open at all times. Opportunities to serve your students will present themselves on a daily basis. When you order and stock your merchandise, pay attention to other factors that influence spending habits. For instance, don’t load up with t-shirts in January unless you live in a warm weather climate. Instead, buy school logo sweatshirts and warm-up suits.

The same is true when approaching summer; sell off all those heavy sweats at a pre-summer sale using the money to get your new line of t-shirts on display. Remove any leftover winter stock until next season so as not to clutter up your display. This also will serve to keep seasonal merchandise from getting old.

Sparring equipment will traditionally sell better in the winter than in the summer. One reason is because people tend to workout much harder when it’s colder and also because you normally will have more students in the winter than in the summer.

Books and videos sell best around Christmas and well into the New Year. This is partly because they make good gifts but there also is another reason. Just as the New Year is a great time for new student enrollments, it’s a great time to sell. When people engage in a new activity, they are hungry for information.

Feed that desire with a good selection of related books and videos. This hunger for information can actually be helped by severe winter weather. There is a lot of time to read and watch a video on a new form or other subject of interest.

Halloween is a good time to display uniforms in your front window. Depending on the latest fad, some years you may sell a lot of uniforms for one time costume use only. Of course with each person who comes in off the street to purchase a Halloween costume, you will give a guest pass and offer them a free trial lesson.

You may get several students a year from this type of approach. It may even pay to take out a small ad in your local paper advertising that your carry such uniforms.

Prospective students will come to you in a variety of ways; capitalize on this in any way you can.

Look at your own school and try to see how trends develop. Some things will just sell better at one time of the year than another. This may vary from area to area. Analyze these trends and order your merchandise with these in mind. With attention to detail in this area you should be able to keep your inventory under control and at the same time enjoy increased sales and profitability.

Take Care of Yourself

If you school uses kicking pads, focus mitts, freestanding bags, stretch racks, heavy bags, and other tools of the trade, here is a great way to keep them in brand new condition and at the same time, creating extra income off the product.

Every six months or so, sell your existing equipment to your students. Then, use the funds your receive from them to purchase another supply of brand new equipment. Six months later, do it again. You keep repeating this cycle every six months or so.

In time, your students will make you offers for the equipment they are using in the class. If you are not ready to sell the used item, up-sell them to a new one.

Let’s look at the numbers for this. A high end shield might cost $50 brand new. As a wholesale customer, your cost is about $25 (50%). You purchase it for $25, use it in class.

You tell your students that you are going to upgrade the equipment and will be selling the shields on a first come first served basis. The price is $35. That’s $15 off retail and $10 profit for you.

Leading by Example

Wouldn’t it be great to be able produce and sell t-shirts for your school and events that would make you money with zero risk? Here is the answer.

Teespring allows you to design your own shirt, offer a variety of styles and colors, PROFIT from each one sold and handles everything from shipping to customer service.

There is a low threshold of shirts that have to be sold. Typically that level is 5 shirts have to be sold before any are shipped. If they don’t sell, you have zero cost or risk. Create shirts for your school, style, special teams, events, intra-school tournaments and so on. You could even have t-shirt design contests for your students.

Watch the video below and then visit

Weekly Goal Commitment

T-shirts are the worlds most popular form of clothing (at least that we can see). Most of us have drawers full of t-shirts adorned with rock concerts, tournaments, states, cars and commercial companies all pushing a place, a product, or a name.

  1. Expand your line and design choices.

Most schools typically have one or two t-shirts designs. Once a student has bought both why should he buy any more? The answer of course is Boosting T-shirt Sales

he won’t he won’t that is unless you expand and offer a full line of t-shirts. That doesn’t means offering 5 or 6 shirts with designs right away. It means creating a look built around your logo. That look can be changed and altered as long as you don’ t change the logo. NEVER CHANGE YOUR LOGO from one product to the next. Same colors, same image ALWAYS. Your logo is your brand, don’t mess with it. However, you could have a special black belt graduation t-shirt with all the new black belts names on it.

Just remember that when Nike t-shirt or Reebok create a new t-shirt, they use a new supporting image or slogan, but the logo stays the same. They might change the color, but rarely even that. The design is built around the logo or accented by the logo.

Everyone needs clothing, so why not provide a quality line of t-shirts with your schools logo on them and sell them to everyone you can?

  1. Use summer rules to sell more shirts

During the summer months allow your students to come to class wearing gi pants, belt, and a logo t-shirt instead of the regular full uniform. This will stimulate t-shirt sales especially if you promote this by newsletters, letters, notices and mentioning it in every class.

  1. Suggest that all demo team or competition team members wear a specific shirt.

Tell all demo team members, competition team members or any other special program you may have to wear the same t-shirt or Polo style shirt when going to an event to show team spirit. Suggest that all the proud parents get into the spirit by doing the same.

  1. Have a sale once or twice a year to move old merchandise.

At the end of each new season do what real department stores in the mall do. Have a sale and clear out all your old designs to make room for next seasons designs. The fashion business is based on new not on doing the same old thing year after year.

You must introduce new designs at least once a year to give your student an parents something fresh to look at. A word of caution though. It is better to run a little short and miss a few sales than to have over ordered and have to fire sale your inventory to get back to even.

A few cycles of that and students will simply wait for the items to go on sale to buy.

  1. Display t-shirts in your window just like a mall store.

Put a t-shirt display in the window during the summer months if it’s done well enough you will often attract the attention of passers by. You may even enroll people from off the street who came into the school with the intention of buying a t-shirt they liked.

  1. Use t-shirts as a premium to sell more expensive items.


Because t-shirts are such a valuable marketing tool it pays to use them occasionally as promotions and incentives to stimulate sales in other items. For example you might give away a free t-shirt with the purchase of a video or a heavy bag.


  1. Staff team colors.


If you have a line of t-shirts, have your staff wear different designs on different day to promote the full range of products. If you notice in doctors or dentists office you will often see this type of thing in action just because it look professional like the whole staff is on the same team. For example.


Monday – Blue Logoed Polo shirt

Tuesday – Logo t-shirt

Wednesday – White polo shirt

Thursday – Multi logo t-shirt

Friday – Black belt club t-shirt

Saturday – Red polo shirt


  1. Shirt of the month club.


One school we know of has a t-shirt of the month club where each month for an extra ten dollars the student gets a new t-shirt. While that might be a bit much for you, you could try introducing a new design each quarter and making it the shirt of the quarter.


  1. Introduce a separate line of t-shirts for Black Belt Club members only.


By introducing a separate line of Black Belt Club designs you can create a market with in a market and enhance the status and desirability of your Black Belt Club. This works best if you have a specific logo for your Black Belt Club.


  1. Consider your shirts a marketing expense that pays twice.


Remember apart from the obvious financial benefits of selling more t-shirts and making a profit everyone who buys a t-shirt becomes a walking billboard for your school and you can never have enough of them! You get paid when they purchase the shirt, and hopefully, you’ll get paid again when a new student enrolls because he discovered your school on the shirt of his friend.

60-Second Speeches

A great way to sell uniforms without any pressure and a good profit is to allow your students to wear different colored uniforms at different levels of training. This not only increases sales but retention as well.

Martial arts may be the only activity in the world the discourages students from upgrading their apparel. Think about it. White belts, the most nervous, self-conscious person in the school is usually stuck with the worse quality uniform.

The belt is sticking straight out, the folds are still in the uniform. Then we tell them we are going to improve their self-confidence! Of course, anything would be better than this! We’re kidding (a little).

Truthfully, many schools have traditional rules and reasoning for being restrictive in what students can wear. We respect that. Maybe, instead of changing colors, you upgrade the quality instead.

Help a new student get into a better uniform fast. They will feel better in class when they look better. Of course, some will argue that humility is part of the training, and we agree.

Being a white belt and struggling with all the new terminology, techniques, stretches, exercises and rituals will humble the best of us. Letting them wear a nicer uniform just helps them focus more on what is really important, learning the next belt level material rather than feeling like they look silly in a cheap uniform.

Other ideas include special uniforms for your demo team, leadership team, instructors and staff. Even if you must stick to an all white or black uniform, maybe you can have white with a black stripe or colored collars to create appeal for an upgrade in uniform.

Some schools build the new uniform into the belt requirements. For instances, by the time you test for your gold belt in three months, you’ll need at least the level 2 uniform for $49.95. Other schools allow a student to purchase a uniform that matches their belt rank.

This only makes sense at certain ranks like blue belt or red belt. We don’t want to encourage a world of gold, green, or orange uniforms. But, at a significant milestone rank, a matching uniform is an interesting idea.

Remember to make sure your uniforms are customized with a screen print logo on the back, or a quality aplicay so that your students are not tempted to buy a uniform from any other source than your school.

If you sell just two gi’s per year per student at an average of $30 profit and you have 200 students that’s an extra $12,000 in net profit from gi sales alone! Just think what you could do with an extra $12,000 and it takes almost no effort!

My Kung Fu is Better Than Yours
Call your local Police Department and ask them to come and talk to your teens. Have your teens invite their friends for this event. The theme for the event could be about gangs, drugs or drunk driving. Again, write an article about this event and advertise in your local newspaper to show that your school is not the typical martial arts school.
The Golden Child of Martial Arts

The Gillette Company turned itself around when it made the marketing decision or, came to the realization, depending on how you look at it, that the real money was not made in selling a blade holder and razor.

The real money was made with the repeat sales of the razors. The money in cleaning teeth is not in tooth brushes, it’s the tooth paste that people use and have to replace that creates huge cash flow.

The in-house seminar business can take a lesson or two from these examples. Your students will receive a free product/weapon/training aid for enrolling in the class. The item is presented as a freebie that is included in the price of the class, but in reality, you are selling the item for 10 to 20 times your cost in exchange for taking an hour to teach a group of people about it.

If you charge $25 for a padded nunchaku seminar and have 20 people enroll, that’s $500 gross. They each get a pair of chucks which cost you $2 each for a total investment of $40. That’s a $460 profit for a one-hour class that you’ll have fun teaching. A class like that once a month will add nearly $6,000 to your profits.

At Christmas time, you can sell packages of seminars, three for $60 so the student can pick which classes he attends throughout the year.

  1. Run a padded nunchaku seminar at $25 for the class. Each person who signs up gets a free pair of padded nunchaku.
  1. Run a self-defense class and charge $35 for the class. Each person signing up receives a free My Defense Tool®.
  1. Run a bo stick class for $25 and include one of the several available books on the subject “absolutely free”
  1. Pick the weapon or creative form and you can build a seminar around it. You don’t have to be an expert in the weapon to teach a group of beginners. Pick up a video or call one of your buddies who will show you a solid one hour step-by-step class you can teach.

Think about it. History, how the weapon was created, common misconceptions, etc… will take the first 15 minutes. Then, the basic blocks and strikes for 20 minutes. Then some two person drills such as blocks and counters followed by actual target practice on focus mitts will take another 15-minutes leaving 10-minutes for a short form followed by Q n A and a review.

The possibilities are endless! Check our downloads area for sample flyers for these classes. They are easy to teach and great profit makers.

Despite the fact that you are, in a roundabout way, selling merchandise, your students will perceive added value because you are advertising the actual merchandise as free.

Another excellent way to increase merchandise sales is by simply incorporating a particular training item into your regular class. For example, teach a class on speed and timing utilizing focus mitts.

Tell students they should practice this drill at home with a friend on a regular basis. One will invariably ask ” But how do we get the focus mitts?” This gives you the perfect opportunity to tell him “Right here!”.

Over a period of time you can do the same thing with a speed bag, heavy bag, kicking shield, stretching machine, video or almost anything else. A

s you teach, simply continue to state the benefits of training with that particular piece of equipment. With this method, you need say or do nothing different from what you might normally say in class.

Note: Because many schools do not offer weapons training or offer it only to a select few, weapons seminars may offer you an opportunity to pull in students from outside of your school.

These may be students or people who have no time or inclination to participate in a full course of study, yet have a specialized interest in the particular seminar topic that you are offering.

Clarity of Purpose

If you have a weekly Black Belt Club class, then your Black Belt Club events can be quarterly. If not, then you may consider a monthly event. This can range from board breaking, tournament kata (your tournament), Spar Wars (students spar against instructors), advance stretching and a musical kata class. Usually there is no charge since it is a Black Belt Club class and it’s important to create lots of anticipation for the event. In class, students in the Black Belt Club should be glad they joined and students not yet in the Black Belt Club should desire to.

In The Big Dream

This is NOT a sleepover. It’s a parents night out. Sleepovers have too much liability for the risk. Drop-off is at 7:30p.m. Saturday and a pickup by 9 the next morning. Students pay $25 and bring a sleeping bag, toothbrush, pillow and any games they might want to play. We average 70 – 80 kids for a revenue total of $1,700 – $2,000.

Expenses include staffing, pizza, prizes and the rental of a TV and VCR if your school doesn’t have them. You will need a big screen to accommodate that many kids. One of the most popular activities is Karoake. The kids love to sing and dance and generally be silly while crooning Hound Dog like Elvis.

Your leadership team is very important to the success of this since you want to keep about a 5:1 ratio of kids to leaders. With good preparation and strong leadership, you should be able to pull it off without many hitches.

Black Belt Scandals

We do not encourage our students to attend tournaments. We know from decades of experience that tournaments are sources of great frustration, disappointment, and anger. It’s not unusual for one of your top A students to never return to class after getting ripped off and disillusioned at a tournament. Parents, in particular, are not appreciative of spending $75 for an entry fee plus travel expenses and have it end up, as so many do, an exercise in frustration.

We also recognize that people have only so much they can budget for karate and we much prefer that it be budgeted for our school and not the local tournament promoter.

We use our intra-school tournament to satisfy the desire to compete. Since everyone knows each other and everyone is knowledgeable about the rules, the event runs smoothly.

The scheduling secret is dividing the divisions up by arrival time. For example:

ArrivalDivision Starts

White / Gold belts10a.m.10:30a.m.

Orange / Green11:30a.m.12 noon

Blue / Red1p.m.1:30p.m.

Brown / Black2:30p.m.3p.m.

This allows the family to schedule the tournament into their Saturday instead of spending all day waiting for their division to start.

When the students arrive they are divided by age and rank into divisions of three or four people. This is the entire division for first, second or third place. The students then compete against the other two or three people in that division. This guarantees that everyone wins an award and is the secret to smiling faces.

We charge $40 for our tournament and allow spectators to attend for free. With proper preparation and promotion, you should be able to get a 60 – 70 percent participation rate. Be sure to arrange a victory party at a local restaurant for the competitors. A good arrangement is for the medal winners to receive a discount or free drink to add to the day’s excitement. Since everyone wins a medal, the restaurant can look forward to a busy day if the premium is attractive. Once we had a restaurant offer a free meal to the first place winners and a 10 percent discount to all participants. We had over 50 winners so, needless to say, he had to change arrangements next time.

Congruency in Values

One method of attracting media attention is by creating a provocative event that lends itself to headlines and social media memes. One the best is a Spar-a-Thon.

This type of promotion works best when the cause is something that is anti-violence. For instance, See USA Karate Students Fight Their Instructors in a Death Match to Stop Domestic Abuse / Child Abuse / Bullying / Etc…. The death match is the “death of FILL IN THE BLANK.” That is the kind of headline that editors like and readers stop to check out.

IMPORTANT: Create a true partnership with an organization that will appreciate and promote such an event. You want more than a “Thank you” card when it is over. You want them pushing the event as hard, if not harder than you are. After all, they are getting the money, not you.

Here is the deal: They have resources you do not have. You have an attention-getting, donation prompting event with the kind of people they don’t know. People who will hit each other for good.

You have to emphasize this point. It is not Your School raising money for Their Organization. It’s both of you working to make an event as successful and visible as possible. Everyone wins.

Be sure to get the charity organization fully behind this. You the event on:

1. Their website

2. Announced on their email list.

3. Promoted by their promotions / community service, media relations team over and over again.

4. To their current donors.

5. Their newsletters

6. Any other resource they have to promote their cause. Be sure that they have a lot of them, and you want them all working for the event.

A spar-a-thon is like any other a-thon. Students seek out pledges for the number of 2-minute (or any duration you set) round they will spar with their instructors. For instance, if you have five instructors participating, students can seek pledges, for instance, of $2 per round for five rounds. The student spars each instructor one round for a total of $10. If he gets ten donations like that, he raises $100.

While the build up to the event is a “death match” be sure the instructors are well-chosen for their control and ego-less approach to sparring students. They want to let the students at least seem competitive every round.

Let a student sweep you to the ground and stomp you. Give them plenty of chances to score.

There is a ton of variations to this. Here are some.

1. Have the student start with the lowest ranking / skilled instructor and work his way up to the master instructor participating. Give them a 1-minute rest. This system creates an efficient and exciting process for fans to watch and students to struggle through. Take it easy on them, because they will get exhausted by round three.

This gauntlet line gives the student a sense of sacrifice and contribution. It also makes for some fun visuals. It looks like they are truly fighting to the death against the cause. They will be staggering tired, so the instructors have to be extra careful but also playful

Make sure the audience is yelling encouragement and showing vocal appreciation as the fighters end the gauntlet.

Also, be sure to have lots of water, first aid, and maybe an ambulance standing by.

2. Be creative once the event starts. Try to get people excited to contribute on the spot. For example:

a. “Who’ll contribute $10 to see Mr. 4th Dan spar Mr. 5th, Dan? Who’ll match it?”

b. Auction off fights. a. “Who wants to see School Hotshot spar with Mr. Master for two minutes? It’s a charity death match, and it starts at $20. Can I get $20? $20 there! Can I get $25?”

c. If you have media there, see if you can get the reporter to spar (be ever so gentle) if the crowd will pay for it. Get the reporters permission first. “I need just $100 for Mr. Reporter to spar with Mr. Master. Who will kick in the first $20?”

d. “Mr. Hot Shot / Master Instructor seems to be getting a little tired. Who can blame him? How about if we attack him with two fighters? Can I get $100 to see Mr. Hot Shot / Master Instructor spar two black belts for one minute?”

e. Use your imagination and have safe fun.

Let MATA members know about your event and what you did to make it work and what you would do differently next time.

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