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.

John Graden
John Graden

John Graden is widely credited with leading the martial arts school business into the modern age. He is the founder of the first successful professional association and trade journal. MA Success editor John Corcoran first called him a “visionary” in 1995. Martial Arts World magazine dubbed him, The Teacher of Teachers. Mr. Graden’s leadership was recognized in many mainstream media outlets including a cover story on the Wall Street Journal, documentaries on A&E Network, and as a guest on the Dr. Oz Show and many others.

    12 replies to "2015 Martial Arts Business Statistics: Where Did 13,014 Martial Arts Schools Go?"

    • Ed iannucci

      Ed Iannucci
      Owner-Operator at Philadelphia Nightclub Security Training
      I hate to use the E Word but the economy IS one reason a few years ago anyway. People got used to their kids doing nothing other than tapping on I pads and I phones with has become the new parent, babysitter, best friend, and instructor. There has also been a general lack of appreciation for the martial arts and the values and benefits. Parents are letting the kids run the house and NOT parenting so there has been less due diligence and as a result, kids for the most part are lazier and less respectful. Add in the elevated divorce rate where mothers are working more and or going to school and …See More
      Like · Reply · Delete · Just now

    • Ed iannucci

      If you remember, up until the economic recession of 96,97,98 .. A lot of operators where encouraged tgrough some of the “martial art millionaires” and mass marketing programs to charge WAY to much money and they WHERE getting it because the economy was robust. When the recession hit, the discretionary dollar diminished and those industry magazine “cover story successes” where no longer syccessful. The big rent, big schools, and big advertisement money went away and the smart operators downsized and kept our prices bearable to our immediate markets. If you stay true to your demographic they will stay true to you. I’m not saying that we HAVE NOT had better times but you have to adapt to changes WITHOUT SELLING OUT!

    • Robert Wolfe

      I operate a traditional dojo with only adult students. The biggest trend we’ve noticed is the aging of our enrollment. Younger adults seem to have little or no interest in classical Japanese arts, and the few that join don’t last. I’m very concerned that the demographic with interest in what we do will soon be too old to undertake training.

    • Sil Crino

      Been an owner for 7 years. I learned how to run a school by assisting & running the school I attended. My background is in hands on it-management, so managing dealing with people not a problem. I started at a terrible time in our country because I had no other choice, economy going down the tubes, but I’ve been keeping my head above water by busting my butt everyday. The way I see it the problem has been: economy, middle class being killed off, increase in: electricity, oil, gas and rents.. Then their are the Vendor companies like: Century, Macho, AWMA, etc.. etc.. – Selling equipment at below costs to Retailers at less then our wholesale costs. i.e. Sports Authority had Bob – for sale for a few dollars less then I could get it before S&H.. How do we compete with that.. Then there are the families = with the child in: soccer, lacrosse, swimming, tennis and karate, the throw in homework, religion and whatever else they can stick them in to get them out of their hair all at the same time.. Then their are the McDOJO’s socially promoting students with no knowledge of the arts.. i.e. I had 1 student take the summer off – mom put him in TKD and in 2 months he advanced 2 belts.. Now add in the Flavor of the month schools and finally, The scums in our profession assaulting: Women, Children and Men and all that the and we the Industry say nothing… Does not help us.. My retention averages about 90& – but whenever I either break or about to break 100 students (and need to 30 plus to breath better)- I lose 10 – because Joey or Samantha – is now doing football or dance, etc.. We teach Kempo Jiu Jitsu, Self Defense, Weapons, Forms – Students MUST know material and be able to do it on someone correctly, not kinda of, No Social Promotions. I apologize for rambling on and on.. I think I covered all the reasons….

    • Rick

      We have seen a great shift in demographics. In the last 10 years we have had a drop in teens and young adults joining classes. We get kids and their parents, but no young athletes. And Joey and Jenny do a dozen activities. You should see the eyes glaze over when I tell prospective student’s parents that their special snowflake would need to come to class 2-3 times a week.
      And for the young athlete,we are simply not cool anymore. They love UFC, but it’s like WWE: cool to watch, but that’s all. Graden used to put it as “white belt eyes”. They see themselves as the kicker, not kicker.

    • Quietstorm

      What everyone has said previously is on target. The economy, Mcdojos, the type of student whether child or adult. The type of student does effect the situation because they want the ‘microwave’ results, no philosophy, no understanding, just how to I kick or beat someone up. WRONG type of spirit and mind. Some owners, just throw in the towel due to some of these mentionable things. The dojo I am at now has been open for little over a year. My student enrollments are increasing, not as rapidly, as I would like, however, I am working on various projects to increase those enrollments based upon all of the expert advice from many of the industry leaders.

      I am patient, and I see much potential. 2016’s theme for me is ‘out of my comfort zone and out of the box’ mental and physical construct to increase my enrollments, teach from the ole school methods with some new science methods throw in. I do a lot of listening from the parent and/or adult student, as to what their goals are and include that into what mine are for the Program.

      I don’t believe in giving up, plus, I use a lot of the technology and other modalities to get them in the door.

      I know it is a constant involvement to keep ahead, keep even, stay afloat.

    • Pablo Zamora

      There’s several variables at play in this. But one important point to note is that there are many schools that are very successful. As school owners we have to learn to adapt to the changes. How we did it 5-10 yrs ago will not work today. Due to technology kids and even adults have a lower attention span. Classes more than ever have to be amazing. If we want to run a successful school we can’t fall in love with the product/ service. I know this sounds harsh… but it’s true. We have to be willing to change our curriculum to fit our market. We have to fully understand that retention is the number one reason for school failing. It can be due to a poor curriculum, untrained staff and many other variables. But truth is, if students and parents see value, they will stay. It’s our job to make what we do more valuable than any other sport or activity. Come on… we have the edge that like to call it The Triple Blast: Self-Defense, Fitness, Life Skills. What other activity offer all this and more? Now it’s up to us to see the glass as half full, not half empty. Reality is, we have to become better than our competition…. and that is anything that takes their focus away from training with us at least 2 times a week.

    • […] it difficult to attract and retain students.  The US-based Martial Arts Teachers Association estimates that the number of schools in the US has fallen from 20,234 in 2013 to 15,896 in […]

    • […] it difficult to attract and retain students.  The US-based Martial Arts Teachers Association estimates that the number of schools in the US has fallen from 20,234 in 2013 to 15,896 in […]

    • Ron Tramontano

      John could use your help, My Virtual Competitions project is on the verge of being very real and I need people to oversee what I am doing before I press any buttons. I need a few very smart individuals I can have access to when I need to get some input. I would like to count on you and anyone you think would be of value. If this is Okay I have some numbers I would like to send to you to excel with a plan to implement the start of selling the actual platform. My cell if you need it is 561-629-6005

      • Facebook Profile photo John Graden

        Hi Ron
        Please email with any questions or info on what you are doing.

    • John Fletcher

      I am sure it can’t be all the fat, unhealthy “black belts” running around in white suits yelling at kids…or all the canned McDojo programs incrementally squeezing every last dime out of parents with monthly “testings” or specialty clubs….or super secret “grand masters” teaching arcane arts from some lost island…or millennial parents who want no part of confrontational teaching of their children or any semblance of verbal respect…the decline will continue.

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