Ten Rules for Opening a Martial Arts School

This is a response to Dan's 10 Rules for Opening a Martial Arts School post.

10. When I started my school I had a framework for a traditional taekwondo system which I thought needed to be fleshed out. I wasn't trying to come up with my own system. I wanted a program that would help beginners through the training, and come up with some standard and consistency. I didn't want to have to think about the system again and again, so I made sure to write down everything and draw my sequences out. Now I've got a fantastic program that helps me teach others. My advice is to do your homework and prepare instructor notes or a program that will make your job easier in the long run.

9. In a previous life, I spent years and years as a national representative in another sport and years and years coaching other people from club level to national level. Any martial arts instructor should do some research into sports science or psychology or coaching in order to understand what makes an instructor and what makes a good coach. I would also seek to rope in at least two other senior students or assistant instructors at least - so you've got some backup in class or if you can't make it because of other commitments.

8. When I grade my adult students I am not obliged to pass any of them. Mostly white belts pass to yellow belts. But unless you do sufficiently well during the grade, the grading is only going to be a coaching and feedback session, and in the end .. you might receive a retained-in-current-grade result. I have never regretted this failing of people. I have however regretted passing people. This is something to ponder as a martial arts owner -- your students will reflect you. So teach them less techniques. Teach them better. Drill them more. And make sure your expectations are clear. Make your gradings fair to help promote quality, but don't compromise. Note - I don't teach children classes. This approach might not work for young children.

7. Make time for your own traditional taekwondo training. Get all consumed to provide good training and you might forget yourself. Make sure to work in with your students. They will benefit from your experience. This keeps you in shape and helps you learn how to deal with non-trained opponents and opponents who are taller or shorter. Make sure you warm up before you strain yourself - or you'll injure yourself easily. Keep mixing things up to keep classes fun.

6. Revenue - when I started a commercial operation I kept my martial arts group small and catered to organisational clients. Each half day or lunchtime gig I sold was fantastic revenue. If I had a regular martial arts class I would have had to work like a dog to get the same dollars. The lesson here is that there are different ways to earn money yet provide a high level of satisfaction for your students and yourself. Open yourself up to organisational courses, birthday parties, public speaking, motivational courses, etc. I saw myself as a broker for other martial arts instructors. Can you believe that? I would help other martial arts instructors earn money for commissions. Now who would think of such a cooperative? If you open up a school, this is what you've got to do, think as a business owner and expand your pie first.

5. I have derived great satisfaction from the number of martial arts friends I have. From previous experience, martial arts practitioners are difficult people and I tend to stay well away from them. But I have now changed my mind. There are those martial arts practitioners out there who are beyond self-indulgence, ego, and arrogance. I personally have met a good number of them and I am proud to call them my friends. You can too. Take the first step and be friendly. Network! It doesn't hurt to meet people who share the same interest as you. (Stay away from the a**holes.)

4. Martial arts training changes a person. Pushing students to the limit and giving them newfound skills strengthens them. These people draw inspiration from you beyond the physical lessons you provide. Recognize this and don't be afraid of pushing your students to reach out to their potential. Share your passion. Guide them correctly. Even knowing that you have made a difference to one student's life will be a profound revelation to the martial arts instructor.

3. The IAOMAS or International Alliance of Martial Arts Schools is a non-profit student support organisation that helps instructors and supports travelling students. Reach out to them and join in like-minded instructors who are confident in themselves to allow students who travel the ability to train at 600+ locations worldwide.

2. Quality, quality, quality. How do you provide maintain and improve a quality service? This question begs to be asked again and again. How do you maintain standards? Improve on service delivery? Evaluation methods? Consistency of results? Customer satisfaction? Knowledge retention? Grow human resources? You are a service provider ... time to act like one and manage indices that can be used to measure your worth!

1. Don't be afraid to grow with your students.

Colin Wee
Joong Do Kwan Chung Sah Nim
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Dan Djurdjevic said…
Some very sound principles!

I'm going to have to put links to IAOMAS on my sites. You might want to make the reference in your blog entry a clickable link too!


Mike Humphries said…
Regarding testing, we use a probationary system. Generally a student is not allowed to test until the instructor(s) feel he is ready. In the event that the testing is not satisfactory in the eyes of the grader, the student is placed on probation and is given the specifics of what has to occur to achieve full rank. This is for color belts only.


Anonymous said…
I very much like the planned approach which provides for the combination of quality teaching and commercial success. So often, it seems, school instructors have to go predominantly with one of these objectives and compromise on the other. Sue
Colin Wee said…
I like the probationary system because I think it's very much in line with the martial arts training approach. But I thought using that system would drive me beserk if I had too many students to look after. That's why I went with the system my school used in the States - everyone grades every three months irrespective if you're ready or not. Take it as a feedback session and do only what you've been trained. I like this method because it gives students formal feedback regularly. I would stay away from the probationary system myself -- too much to think about for one instructor. Of course it could work well for you. Colin
Colin Wee said…
I very much like the planned approach which provides for the combination of quality teaching and commercial success.

Good seeing you here, Sue.

I changed my sylllabus greatly to respond to the challenge of maintaining quality whilst opening a commercial entity. Unfortunately we decided to shelve our commercial plans, but my training system stayed and I'm glad for it. It's based on the idea of teaching 'just enough' to each level. For instance, beginners get to learn only two blocks and one punch. All the other things they learn are variations off that theme. The higher you go, the more you learn because you're used to it and are receptive to the material. It's also based on the buildup of past skills.

supergroup7 said…
Wonderful posting Colin. This list needs to be kept in the front of an Instructor's book to help with goal planning. It makes me think of how adaptive an instructor needs to become to think of all of the aspects when it comes to running a Martial Arts club. Thanks for posting this.. I hope that you don't mind if I copy it and add it to my personal journal.

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