Seal Martial Arts Business Advice
Recently I have set up UK Martial Arts Business Advice on Facebook to provide advice and support to martial arts instructors struggling to get their dojos up and running. I feel this is necessary as there are so many of these snake oil salesmen out there selling martial arts mentoring for maximum profit with no actual guarantee of results. I have spoken to several of them over the years and it’s always the same story it’s about £500 a month (or much more in some cases) for two hours of accountability calls a month and you fronting all the cash for your marketing as well as their extortionate fee for showing you how to spend your money.
It all rubs me up the wrong way as I teach martial arts because I love teaching it’s not some vehicle for me to make money and then move away from teaching entirely and become a bloody life coach. I could be a life coach if I wanted to do so if I’m brutally honest as my back story is far worse than I was living in a rented 3 bedroom house and making a few grand a month as one of these people outlines as their low point.
Anyway my point is the ethos behind what I’m trying to achieve is making business advice to martial artists free or at the very least affordable via an affordable monthly subscription like £50 a month. We do pretty much everything in house for the Seal Martial Arts Dojo and I could easily set up a portal with tons of information, provide custom merchandise for your martial arts school, provide a design service to help you with your marketing and much more and it won’t cost you the earth.
I regularly get asked by instructors in the Bujinkan how to run a successful martial arts school so the Facebook group (UK Martial Arts Business Advice) will provide a place for me to compile all of the information and also provides a community of instructors for you to ask for advice. I will also endeavour to put more information on the blog or you can email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will get back to you as soon as possible. Seriously the group is the quickest way to get advice though.
So where do you start? As I said if you need to be guided through the process then I can help for a small monthly fee and you will get advice directly from me as well as access to the portal for loads of useful material. I also offer instructor training and courses specifically focused in traditional weapons so we have got you covered.
If you have just got your black belt and for some reason find yourself in a situation where you are not able to train at your old dojo (often it’s because people have moved away from their dojo) then you will probably be thinking about setting up your school and getting a study group going. There are a few things to consider before you get started.
Firstly you need to be committed to succeeding, Yeah I know you’re probably thinking “well I am” but I mean you have to give it a serious shot for a decent amount of time. When we first started the dojo I had two students both of which I’m related to and I had no mats and no equipment just my knowledge of Ninjutsu and an idea of what I wanted to achieve. Sometimes you will have no students turn up, you might even go for a few weeks with no students and feeling like it’s pointless but you have to be consistent and stick at it. It’s all a learning curve running a dojo and one thing you will need to do a lot is get new students through the door. Even when you have a decent amount of students you still get the natural turnover of the dojo so you will constantly be looking for new students it’s part of being an instructor. Getting students takes a multi angle approach and it takes time to build up your reputation in the local community so stick at it! I can’t stress this enough as trust me it’s hard work but worth it in the end.
I would say the basic steps to get set up are:
1. You need a decent logo, Don’t make your own it will be crap get a proper designed to do it. How do you get one designed. Go on Fiverr and find a logo designer with a style you like. I tend to go for American football sports/mascot type logo designs as I like the finish personally so find a designer you like, send them what you want included and use the revisions to get your logo exactly how you want it. Remember your logo IS your brand and is how people will identify you so keep it simple. If your dojo is called the Mushin Shurikenjutsu Renshu Kai NO ONE is going to understand what your logo means it’s just a load of Japanese words and confused customers don’t buy. It’s why we are called Seal Martial Arts as what we do is literally in our name.
2. Establish yourself on social media, If it’s not online it didn’t happen. You should set up profiles on Facebook, Instagram, Linked In, Snapchat, TikTok and any other major platform. Different platforms appeal to different age groups so keep that in mind. Video is also king, try not to take yourself too seriously just get used to doing short videos and posting them online. Even if your videos are crap it’s important to get into the habit of it and work at improving your content. Basic steps would be setting up a group and a page in Facebook for your dojo and establishing profiles on everything else.
3. Find a venue. Everyone always struggles with this one but you have to look around at local schools, gyms, community centres, colleges, halls, dance schools and anywhere that has a decent amount of space. You don’t want to pay more than £20 an hour like that would be my maximum when you are just starting out, some places will rent you space for £7.50 an hour so ask around and see what’s available in your local community. You can approach other martial arts schools and collaborate but often there is a bit of a conflict of interest due to which the students decide to join.
4. Register on Google. Once you have a venue sorted get yourself registered on Google Maps as a business, You used to do it via Google My Business but they integrated it into Google Maps. Google is very good for organic leads as people will obviously search for martial arts in your area. SEO and ranking high on Google is a different matter entirely but you can outsource it via Fiverr if you don’t want to do it yourself. Make sure you keep Google up to date and post your offers as like I said it’s often potential students first impression of your martial arts school.
5. Make sure all of your documentation is in order! Before you even step foot in the dojo you need to make sure you are meeting industry standards. While it is true you don’t have to register with an association you definitely should or you are running a shit show. I would recommend registering with the Silver Package with the British Martial Arts & Boxing Association (BMABA) and at the very least undertaking all of their online courses as it will bring you up to what we would consider to be the industry standard for martial arts instructors. You can get your insurance from them, they provide you with a ton of qualifications and continued support should you need it. They also process DBS checks if you are not sure how to do it (I literally get asked about how to get a DBS all the time). Obviously you need to be a qualified martial arts instructor and will have to verify it with them but BMABA are by far the best association in the UK. They even helped me get my swords back from the Police when they took them for no reason so they go above and beyond.
6. Get yourself some mats. There is no getting around it matting is expensive but it’s absolutely fundamental for health and safety. A general rule is if your are a striking art you needs 20mm jigsaw mats, If you are throwing each other and practising ground work then you need 40mm jigsaw mats. You can pick up 20mm mats for about £14 a mat and as a general rule you will need at least 35 for a decent sized area for a few students. 40mm mats will cost you about £35 a mat so they are significantly more expensive but you will need them if you are throwing each other as 20mm is still quite a hard floor. You can often pick up mats second hand from other martial arts instructors and sometimes even get some free if you look around. It’s one of the most significant expenses but you need mats for the dojo and it’s something that can’t be avoided, you will use them for years so it’s worth the investment.
7. Get out there and get some students! There are loads of ways of getting students through the door but it takes a little work and a multi angled approach. In general they say it takes a student to see you about 7 times before they decide to come in for a free lesson. You need to have a presence on social media as I said previously and get out there and put posters in local shops (fish & chip shops are a good one). You can also find a leafletting service and have them do a leaflet campaign for you, it costs about £40 for 1000 leaflets to be delivered in your local area. Often they will put leaflets through your door so have a look at what services are available in your area. You can focus on digital marketing like sponsored facebook ads but I would say the are more for having a consistent presence online more so than specific lead generation unless you throw a lot of money at the ad like £750 for a week. In terms of demographics target your local area and parents (All) and all martial arts. I’m getting a bit off topic but if you aren’t particularly good at something outsource it on Fiverr such as SEO and graphics design. You need to have a clean professional appearance online so as with the logo unless you are specifically good at design get someone else to do it. I personally use Photoshop and Canva as I find I can do just about everything I need with them but it took me a while to establish my image for marketing. When it comes to getting students you need to be present in the community so you can look at doing events at local schools, summer fairs, enrichment days, demonstrations, all sorts really but you need to get out there. If students don’t know you exist they won’t come to you. It’s also a good idea to have a referral scheme to bring new students in organically, We offer the students £20 for every new member they bring in who signs up as a student for example.
8. Have a clear membership offer. You need to make your membership offers clear as confused customers don’t buy. Generally you will offer a free lesson and then a starter pack upon signing up as a member. For example you might offer the first lesson free and then upon signing up as a member for £49.99 the student receives their uniform, belt, patch and syllabus. Then they pay for the first month of lessons which would be say £50 for two lessons a week so that’s £99.99 and the student gets everything they need to get started with their training. It’s your choice how upfront you are with your costs but in general I would say there are two ways of doing this, you can either not mention the price at all in your marketing and deal with pricing on the day of the students free lesson once they are enthusiastic about starting training or alternatively you can be totally transparent about your pricing which I would argue is probably the better option. People don’t like hidden charges and fees so you need to be transparent in my experience but some people are hard sellers so they will push the student to sign up ASAP. I personally offer the first lesson free, then upon signing up as a member for £29.99 the student receives their uniform, belt, patch, syllabus, gym sack, membership card and the first month of lessons free so we appeal to people who don’t want to pay £100+ to join but I like making the dojo accessible. However there is something to be said about the psychology of doing thing cheaply but I will go into that more in my next point.
9. Have clear prices! It’s important that you have a clear price structure for lesson fees, I always charge monthly via direct debit and charge according to the amount of lessons the students attend that week. For example £29.99 a month is one lesson a week, £49.99 is two lessons a week, £64.99 is 3 lessons a week and £80 a month is unlimited lessons a month. Personally I think offering 1 lesson a week is somewhat pointless in terms of student progression but when you are just starting out offering 1 lesson a week can be a good way to build your student base. It terms of pricing there is a psychological aspect to deciding on your price, customers naturally think you get what you pay for so expensive means it’s high quality and really good, martial arts instructors play on this all the time. Personally I want my dojo to be accessible and affordable for everyone but if you are struggling to get students then weirdly raising your prices often draws people in more as they assume you must be the best in the area. As i said you get what you pay for so expensive means good, cheap must obviously be bad so don’t price yourself out of the market by being too cheap. Obviously don’t overcharge either I find in terms of membership fees £100 is about the limit and the top end for lessons should always be £80 per student as much more and it’s not really competitive in the market. If you need to process direct debits just sign up to GoCardless it’s easy to use and you just send a link to the students to sign up to the monthly subscription.
10. Make sure you are undertaking CPD. You want to make sure you stay up to date with the latest training trends and techniques so you need to do CPD (Continuous Professional Development) and make sure you are training yourself. I offer instructor training at Seal Martial Arts and a wide variety of weapons courses so if you become one of the Seal Martial Arts Instructors you get support, advice, access to all of our materials, access to the portal and whatever you need to get your dojo up and running. It also won’t cost you the earth like I said I make everything affordable and accessible so it would be a small fee of £50 a month.
i think that’s enough to get you started. If you need more advice of want to become one of our instructors contact me at email@example.com