I’ve heard it said often that you can’t make money at the martial arts unless you’re ripping your students off. I don’t totally agree but there are truly two sides to teaching martial arts.
1. A passion for teaching martial arts
2. The business side of things
There are fantastic martial artists and teachers who fail at running a school or dojo and there are so-so ones that succeed and make a fair amount of money in the process.
Is it ok to make enough money to teach martial arts full-time? I’ve always been around people who had full-time jobs and taught on the side. They often criticized anyone who ran a big school. I originally agreed, shunning the bigger, flashier schools with lots of merchandise, fees for stripes, strips, stickers etc. It seemed wrong somehow.
Now I’m not so sure. Running a club (for profit) is a business. A business must have a plan. When we compare what we pay for other services, it’s surprising how little we want to pay for martial arts training. Many people wouldn’t hesitate to pay much more for yoga, exercise classes in the park, spinning etc. These are all great pursuits by the way, but to many, $100.00 a month for 1 and ½ to 2 hour classes, 3 times a week seems on the high end. That’s 12 classes a month minimum if you went to all of them. That’s $8.33 per class, or a little over $4 bucks and hour. Your average yoga/meditation/mindfulness class will run you much higher, often 3 to 4 times as much (per hour).
Still, you aren’t going to get a lot of people signing up for a martial arts club willing to pay $200-$300 a month. So you’ve got to do other things.
Merchandise is one way. Most uniforms, pads etc. can have a decent markup. Kids are good money makers. Parents tend to be willing to pay lots more for their kids to be in martial arts than they are for themselves. Compare other children’s activities, sports, clubs etc. and martial arts are a bargain.
If you could make a living teaching martial arts, is there anything wrong with that? If you continued to improve your own skills to give your students the best possible training you can provide, isn’t that a good thing?
I’ve revisited this topic due to some recent visits I’ve made to some clubs in hopes of supplementing my current training regimen.
I watched a class, and was struck by…how shall I put this…poor the instruction was. There was clearly no real knowledge base about how an attack might come in, or how a defense could be applied. The people were, in my estimation, well intentioned. I just felt they lacked the depth of knowledge surrounding the realities of violence. They had clearly learned the techniques and were doing their best to pass them on, but I’m not sure they really understood them.
And the students were serious about their training (which is good) but I felt they were getting technique that might not translate to the real world. And they clearly didn’t know this. I may sound overly harsh and don’t mean to be, but that’s what I saw. Well intentioned instructors, hardworking respectful students, and positive energy. The only thing lacking was consistent street worthy technique. I should mention that some was decent.
The original point of all this was that this business was successful, with charts for grading fees, schedules, merchandise, t-shirts, gym bags, jackets, books, magazines etc. This particular club has been successfully running for well over a decade.
There are (in my opinion), better qualified people to teach in the area, but few know how to make money in the arts.
Is it ok to make a living at the martial arts? Does doing so mean an inferior training experience for students?
Can you still find the depth of knowledge in the arts in a commercially successful martial arts school?
It would be the dream of many to make a decent living in the martial arts. Is it possible to do so without ‘selling out’?