How to start a martial arts school

12 min read
Interested in learning how to start a successful martial arts school? Here are some things to help you launch.

Interested in learning how to start a successful martial arts school? Here are some things to help you launch.

Starting a martial arts school is an exciting process that can go even smoother when you have a clear idea of the direction you want to take your business in. This is why knowing what systems you need in place can help you wrestle early obstacles head-on and avoid any problems that can arise in the future. Not to mention know how to manage your school smoothly.

In this guide, you'll learn everything from how to manage your school with martial arts software and how to build a business plan to the ways you can market your new business. If you want to make sure your new business starts off as a success keep reading along.

A kickboxing training session in a martial arts school


Photo Credit: Lions Gym

Know why you're launching this business

Knowing why you are starting a business is an important part of figuring out who your clients are or will be. Are you hoping to inspire the next generation of martial artists by teaching kids classes and courses? Do you want to train people or teach self-defence to a range of age groups?

Or are you aspiring to open a dojo for people who want to compete in their discipline and need a gym and trainer to help them achieve their goals? Figuring out the people who will best benefit from the classes and services you offer will help you determine how to frame and structure your school.

Find a suitable location for your martial arts school

Finding the right location for your school is also an important first step. Firstly, you want to weigh the difference in cost and location. Rents and mortgages can be pricey, and not all spaces suit the same needs. For example, a CrossFit gym and a yoga studio would not need the same type of space as each other, so deciding what you need is a great place to start when looking.

If your students are mainly children, consider a location in the centre of your local school district. If your customers are primarily adults consider a location in a well-populated part of your town or city where adults often frequent or near areas with a lot of offices and businesses. It's worth shopping around until you find the best space that will suit the needs of your school as well as have a great price and be easy for your clients to reach.

Hiring staff for your school

Making sure you hire the right people is an incredibly important way to keep people coming back to classes. They're the ones who make sessions entertaining and rewarding. Investing time and creating a good method for your hiring process is a vital part of getting your business off the ground. If you have taught in another school before you'll know the drill when it comes to working together as a team to deliver the best experience to your students and customers.

Make sure that when you're building your staff and hiring other teachers, you know exactly what you're looking for and what type of person or teacher will be the right fit for the experience you want to offer. Even if it means hiring outside the typical mould you're looking for. Consider who is the best fit and who can grow and learn from you.

Build your website

Having a website where potential new clients can easily find and access your website is the best way to start building up your business's online presence. Not only does a website help clients learn more about you, but it's a great way to show them what you offer, your prices, how they can benefit from your services, as well as how to book your classes.

Giving them one place where they can do everything they need to sign up, pay, and attend your classes makes becoming your customer quick and easy. Especially when you make it easy for parents to manage their children's memberships and bookings on the go.

If you want to learn more about how a website can get your new school in front of the eyes of new customers to learn more, in our building your website guide, but some guidelines to start you off include

Keep reading to find out how your blog can help attract more clients to your website

Create a content marketing plan

Your marketing strategy especially at the start of your new business can be kept very simple. Your main goal with marketing should be to attract new customers and students. Consider their interests and where they are most likely to search for businesses as yours can help you narrow down your list of places to market.

Not to mention save you some money early on. Creating a plan including a mixture of easy-to-implement content marketing strategies can help you grow early on. Creating well-thought-out social media posts keep your new customers engaged, and it'll give your potential clients an insight into your business.

Target places your target customers regularly visit, be it for work or leisure. Take the time to explore keywords and figure out which ones are relevant to your business and that you can nestle into your website to give Google a nudge.

Once you know who your customers are and what their likes and dislikes are, use your blog to get their attention. Think blog titles such as "The Best Classes for Martial Arts Students" or "How to go from a green belt to a black belt in 6 months." Titles such as those on your website will wink at Google and let them know that people interested in martial arts should check out your business.

And because knowing how to market your business is incredibly helpful, here are some ideas for advertising locally and using social media to attract new customers.

Engaging with the community

Advertising locally is a great starting point to engage with the community and attract new members to your martial arts school, especially if you're working with a small budget. You can start by:

  1. Create a referral program. Encourage your early customers to help you build your business by bringing friends and family to your classes. You can even build a referral program and award them early on. An extension of this is to get your coaches and staff to spread the word. From former clients to their own friends and family, they'll have a network of potential clients to who they can recommend your martial arts school.
  2. Host competitions and offer free demos. Hosting live events and competitions where new members can enter and participate once they start coming to class is a great way to encourage new customers to participate and sign up. You can also offer free demos at local schools or at community events to show people in the local area what they can expect from your classes and courses.
  3. Advertise with the help of the community. As well as offering demos to schools, ask local school districts if you can advertise with them to tap into the young learners market. For a broader client base, ask local businesses if you can offer their clients a discount for signing up and to advertise in their shops.

Using social media to gain an audience

Social media plays a huge role in any new business opening, and that's true for martial arts schools, gyms and studios. Facebook should be the first port of call for anyone advertising a new business. Still the most used social media platform, Facebook ads are a really great resource for reaching martial arts practitioners in your local area, not to mention it's a cost-effective way of marketing your new business.

Instagram and Twitter are also useful advertising tools. Creating posts with videos or photos of your sessions keeps your clients interested, and shows any potential clients finding your account through hashtags about your business and training style. Your business's Linkedin page should also be kept updated. Include any job openings, any offers you're promoting, and anything that you feel is valuable to your discipline to encourage engagement with other martial arts schools and to grow your network.

Managing your costs and income

Keeping track of your expenses starts when you write up your business plan and assess what your initial costs are going to be prior to opening. You then need to think about your outgoings as your business grows. You can do that in a few easy steps.

  • Open a business bank account. Creating a separate bank account for your martial arts school is the best way to keep an eye on your cash flow. You can clearly see your costs and income, and it will be useful for when you're working out any tax deductions you may be entitled to. Opening a checking account, savings account, credit card account and a merchant services account will help to itemise all your expenditure.
  • Have a dedicated business credit card. Getting a business credit card organised quickly means your business can establish a credit history, and having credit gives you a way to make big purchases when you're first setting up your martial arts school.
  • Look into tax deductions. Many of your business expenses will be both ordinary and necessary, the basic requirement for tax-deductible expenses. If you're unsure what you're allowed to include as a tax deduction, get in touch with a local accountant or financial advisor as it will largely depend on the country you live in.

Getting the right insurance and cover

You want to ensure that your new martial arts school is fully insured, even if your clients have signed waivers, disclaimers, and any other legal documentation you need them to sign. As a martial arts business owner or instructor, you know better than anyone that injuries can happen during training. Your insurance shouldn't just cover you for any potential injuries to members and clients though. You want to make sure you find martial arts school insurance that also covers your staff as well as making sure you have insurance against property damage.

Know what you should avoid

It's all well and good being advised what to do when you're setting up a martial arts school, but it is equally important to know what to avoid when you're opening a business.

  1. Don't be an absent owner. One of the first things you're going to do is hire staff you know you can trust to run classes and keep your scheduling and other day-to-day admin up to date. But as the owner, you should still be available to run things.
  2. Not caring about the aesthetics of your school. The old adage "don't judge a book by its cover" doesn't apply here, unfortunately. Potential clients and members want to attend a martial arts school they find appealing, so make sure their first impressions of your business are positive.
  3. Not setting up an SEO-friendly website. We talked about this earlier, but it is a common mistake new business owners make and we really can't overemphasise its importance in helping you establish a client base for your martial arts school.
  4. Not continuing your education. The best teachers are also students. Trends and techniques change and develop, so it's important to keep improving yourself and to make sure you're aware of any new developments in the world of martial arts.

Use a martial arts software

Investing in management software will not just make your day-to-day easier, it will also make it easier for your clients to book and pay for classes and sessions. You want all your admin to be as organised as possible to run your business as efficiently as possible. You can set up memberships quickly and easily, and with a customer app, your clients can easily see your schedule and book sessions with you from their mobile devices. You can clearly define the pricing for your different membership options, and you can also include all the forms you need your clients to fill out. Waivers, permissions and personal information forms can all be kept in one safe, easy to use place. And that's just the start of it.

Billing and client invoicing

There's nothing worse for a new business than having to chase payments from clients. Without a proper system in place, payments can slip through the cracks, clients can cancel classes at the last minute or simply not show up. This is where your management software steps in. By setting up a foolproof system on intuitive software, you decide when classes are paid for, and you can define your own cancellation policy so that members are held accountable should they miss a scheduled session.

Connect with a business coach or mentor 

Knowing that it's ok to ask for help is the sign of a good business owner willing to learn. A lot of new business owners consider using a business coach or mentor to help guide them in the right direction. Starting any business is a lot of work and there are experts out there who know the ins and outs of getting a fitness business off the ground. If you know people in the martial arts industry already, you can reach out to them and ask if they'd be willing to give you a few pointers.

Getting started

While setting up your own martial arts school can seem daunting at the start, if you follow these structured steps, you'll give yourself the best chance at success. Building a website and implementing a solid marketing plan, choosing the right management software and getting your payments and finances in order, these steps are essential to making sure your business starts off on the right track and grows right from the beginning.

Request a Demo

To learn more about TeamUp's martial arts studio management software, schedule a call with a member of our team and sign up for a free trial.


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