Instructor decision.

Decide if you are up to it.

Qualities of an Instructor

The first, and maybe the most obvious, question to ask yourself is; are you good instructor material? It is worth taking a pause to consider this. Not everybody is cut out to be a karate instructor and those that are not up to it would be better off staying as a student rather than inflicting bad teaching on a new generation.

Experience and Ability

An instructor should have experience in the martial art that they are proposing to teach and be knowledgeable about the techniques that the art is comprised of. Students will be coming to you as an expert and a teacher. You would not expect to pay for guitar lessons from somebody who had never played the instrument and the same applies with martial arts.

Not everybody believes in the belt system but it is usually a good indicator of the proficiency of the martial artist so in my opinion an instructor should at least hold a black belt that has been awarded by a reputable association. This should ensure that the instructor has undergone a minimal amount of instruction and has demonstrated that they can perform the required techniques.

Apprenticeship and Certification

A lot of martial arts associations are protective of their reputation. They don’t want bad instructors representing them and so they have their own conditions for becoming an instructor. If your new club is going to be affiliated with an association then you need to find out what the requirements are. Some associations will expect you to have completed a minimum number of hours teaching within another class. This is a kind of apprenticeship where you have the opportunity to lead parts of the class under the supervision of another instructor. Even if this is not a requirement of the association I would recommend you ask your instructor if you can do this anyway. If nothing else it will give you a flavour of what teaching will be like and help you decide if it is right for you. Some associations may even have a formal instructors certification program with tests (both physical and written) required before you can call yourself an instructor. If this is required then take the test and get the certificate as this will give further proof to any of your prospective students that you know what you are doing.

Keep Training

If at all possible you should continue to be a student under your instructor while running your own club. This will ensure that you continue to learn and grow within the martial art and have new things to show your students. It also means that you can progress your own rank and maintain your fitness levels and flexibility. Teaching can be physically demanding but nowhere near as demanding as training as a student. I would suggest that if you teach once a week you should try and attend another class twice a week. If you teach twice or more a week I would still suggest that you train once a week with your instructor if possible.

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In the post on marketing your martial arts club I mentioned registering your clubs details with websites. A list of some sites that allow you to do this is below.

Unfortunately this is not the movie “A field of dreams”. If you build it they will not necessarily come. You need to let people know you are there. You are not a club until you have some students so promoting your new club is one of the most important things for you to do. Even once established you should view promotion as an on-going activity to ensure you have a steady stream of new starters. The unfortunate reality of martial arts is that there is a high dropout rate so you need to keep new blood coming through the doors. Even if you have the best club with high retention rates, unless you continue to get new white belts joining the club you risk ending up with a top heavy club with only senior grades which can make it very intimidating for new students to join.

There are some very obvious ways of promoting a club and some you may not have thought of. The list below is not exhaustive but should give you plenty of ideas to think about.

Talk about it

It may seem obvious but the first thing to do to promote your new club is to talk about it with the people that are close to you. Get a buzz going between your family and friends. Setting up your club will take some doing so it will undoubtedly be in your mind a lot of the time. Share your thoughts with people and get them talking and thinking about the club too. Encourage them to mention it to people they know. You can not underestimate the power of word of mouth when promoting a club. A recommendation from a friend will be far more effective than even the best advert. Talk about it at work. If your employer allows send an email out to your colleagues with details of the club. They may want to join or have people they know that would join. If you have young children and do the school run then talk about it with the parents at the school gate. They may want to get their kids involved or might want to get into a class themselves for fitness.

Basically talk, talk, talk about it and then talk some more. Let everyone know you are there.


Posters are a great way to promote your karate club. For details on how to create the perfect poster for your club click here.

I would aim to get around 50 posters done initially and then head out to blitz your local area. There are many places where you can put posters. You definitely want one at your venue so hopefully there is a notice board or window where you can display a poster. Then you need to visit local shops, post offices, community centres, hair dressers, sports halls, doctors’ surgeries etc. and put posters up in these locations. Be prepared to have to pay a small sum of money to some of these places so have a pocket full of change on you when going out. Keep a look out for community notice boards and try to put posters up where people will gather. If there is a chance to put a poster up at a bus stop or train station that will be great. You may see posters attached to telegraph polls and lamp posts while you are out. Personally I avoid putting posters up on these. If I don’t have permission then I won’t put a poster up. I don’t want my club creating a bad impression before it opens by littering the street but you may find the odd poster on a lamppost works for you.

Another idea for your posters is to attach one or two to the back windows in your car.  That way you are advertising your club everywhere you park up.


The design and production of leaflets is similar to the poster section. In fact your leaflet could be just a smaller version of your poster. There are two main things to do with the leaflets;

Leave piles in strategic locations – take a handful of leaflets to different locations and ask if you can leave a little pile of them somewhere where the customers can pick one up if they are interested. This can work if they are left in hair dressers, doctors or dentists waiting rooms and can also work in libraries or school reception areas. If someone is sitting bored waiting for an appointment they might just pick one of your leaflets up and have a read. They may stuff it in their pocket or handbag and there you have a new potential student.

Deliver door to door – Sometimes the only way to let people know you are there is to put a leaflet through their letterbox. This may go against most peoples thinking as we all hate junk mail but local businesses do this all the time. How many window cleaner, landscaping or pizza shop leaflets are delivered through your door on a monthly basis? Most are chucked straight in the bin but some are kept and acted upon. A lot of this is luck. If someone is thinking about starting a martial art and then your leaflet lands on their mat then you have a good chance of getting that person as a student. They may even think it is karma.

Unfortunately it is not easy to have your leaflet delivered at the exact time that somebody wants it. However you can use a couple of tricks. At certain times of the year people’s minds turn to fitness and bettering themselves. A perfect example is after an over indulgent Christmas a lot of people make a resolution. Now if their resolution is related to fitness or starting a new hobby then the arrival of your leaflet in the first week of January could send them your way. The same principle can be applied after Easter or leading up to the summer holidays when people are thinking about their beach bodies. If you tailor your leaflet to play on this fitness aspect your leaflet drop may be more successful at those times. Another trick is to deliver your leaflets on non-postal days i.e. bank holidays or Sundays. On a postal day the leaflet will get caught up with the normal post and can be easily ignored. On a non-postal day when the letter box opens and shuts the occupant is immediately curious and will most likely go and investigate. They may just bin the leaflet anyway but if they have got up to go to the door they may at least read it on the way to the bin. I don’t mean to be too negative about leaflets being binned but the truth is that is where most will end up. Door to door leafleting is a numbers game and putting out a thousand leaflets may only result in a handful of students or even enquiries. I still think that it is worth doing when trying to grow your club.

If the thought of hand delivering 1000 leaflets puts you off then try to recruit some of your students to do it for you. You can always offer them a couple of free lessons to compensate them for their time or they may just be happy to be helping out their club.

A further alternative is to go out with a handful of leaflets wearing your training uniform and stand on a high street or busy thoroughfare. Hand the leaflets out to passers-by and try to engage members of the public to talk about your club. This may be a little scary but you are going to be standing in front of a room of students soon enough so this may be good practise for you as well as a method to get new students.

Venue Advertising

When I first opened my club I made an A-Board out of an old wallpaper paste table and attached posters to it. I then tied this up outside my venue with a sign on it saying “Club Here Tonight”. This was a great way to advertise the club to foot traffic that is walking past the venue or even cars driving past. It also served as a marker for new students so that they could easily find the venue. You can buy professionally made A-Boards and large poster prints from many online stores or high street stationers or an alternative is a printed PVC banner which can look very professional and serve the same purpose.

Business Cards
This may not be something that you think of but you will look far more professional when talking about your club if you can hand over a business card with your details on rather than scrabbling around for a pen and paper. You can also pin cards to notice boards and leave little piles of them in waiting rooms etc. instead of leaflets. Lots of companies offer cheap business cards and allow you to fully customise them to fit your art. I use Vistaprint for my cards and they usually have offers on.

Local Press

Find out what newspapers, newsletters, parish magazines etc. are delivered or are on sale in the local area. If you live local to the club then you will be able to collect these for yourself otherwise if you have students that live local to the club ask them to help you. There may also be online editions of these publications so try some searching on Google to see what you can find. Try to find out how to submit articles to each of the ones that you have found. Somewhere within them there should be contact details for the editor.

Prepare an article that describes your club and get some pictures together to go with the text. Try to think of an angle to make it interesting to the editor so that they want to publish it. For example if you had to overcome some kind of adversity to become an instructor or had some good achievement then that could form a general interest story that leads onto to talking about the club. Things such as being a very young or very old instructor, large weight loss, overcoming illness, winning a national trophy etc. could be used as a springboard for the story. Make sure you include contact details in the article for people wanting to find out more about the club. Hopefully you will get some column inches out of it and if this could be delivered to households right across your catchment area. This is a very effective and cheap way to mass market your club. Keep the editors onside and you might get a story printed every so often when the club has achievements such as competition success or gradings etc.

If the editors are not printing your articles then it may be worth looking at paid for adverts in these same publications. A lot of local papers depend upon advertising for their survival so they will happily accept an advert from you. The advert needs something to grab the reader’s attention, give some details of the club and a contact number or email. The costs can vary between different publications so you need to decide if this route will be cost effective for you.


Creating a special offer can entice some students to join your club. In my club we always offer the first class for free with no obligation to join. This allows the prospective student to get a feel for what we do and how we run the class to see if it is a good fit for them. We make sure we collect some details from the person such as their contact details and we always ask how they found out about us, as this helps with our marketing. At the end of the free class it is important to try and get a commitment from the student to come back. This is a tough act as you don’t want to put the hard sell on them but you do want them to come back. Having worked with the student through their trial lesson you should have a gut feeling whether they were enjoying it and if they are likely to come back. Make sure you answer any questions that they might have and find out if there is anything that might put them off returning to see if you can assuage those fears.

Another idea is to offer 2 months training for the price of one. A BOGOF offer if you like. It may cost you in the short term but if that student stays with you until they are a black belt and beyond then taking that hit at the start will pay for itself many times over.

Some clubs offer a starter package where for a one off price the student gets a training uniform, a number of classes paid for, insurance, association membership and a student manual. These can be a good idea as the student gets everything that they will need in one go and once they have paid out a larger financial amount they may be more motivated to come to training to get their money’s worth.

Bring a Friend

Encourage your students to bring a friend along to class for a trial lesson. Some students may do this naturally or be willing to do it to try and help grow their club. For those that are shy or reluctant to do this you can give them an incentive such as free lessons or maybe pads or other equipment if they bring someone along and they then join (and stay at) the club.


Why not show the world exactly what you can do and what you can offer them. Most schools have a summer fair on the school field, many churches and community groups have similar events and lots of villages have their own festivals on the village green. Find out what is going on in the area local to your club and see if you can contact the organisers to see if they would allow you to do a demonstration. I think a lot of these will be happy to give you a slot on the day when you can show off your stuff.

Plan what you are going to do in advance and make sure it looks impressive. You want the crowds to be wowed and wanting to find out how to do it. Things such as board or breeze block breaking , high jumping kicks and use of weapons  will definitely impress. Make sure anything you are doing is flawless. Practise, practise, practise. It will not look good if you fail to break, stumble or fall while displaying techniques. Get some of your students to help you on the day and ask them to wear their training uniforms. Take along a batch of leaflets and business cards and have your students hand these out. Walk around in your uniform while the fair is on and be ready to answer any questions interested members of the public may have.

As well as doing an outdoor display at a fair it is also an idea to put together a demonstration class that can be offered as a taster session. You can then contact local schools or even other youth groups such as Scouts and offer them a free taster class. You would then go to the school or club venue and run a modified class for say an hour making sure that it has all of the fun elements to try and hook them in. Again make sure that you have leaflets and business cards for interested parties to take away with them.

Community Initiatives

Keep an eye out for any local initiatives in your area for fitness or weight loss. There are sometimes drives to get kids active or local NHS groups trying to tackle obesity. If you can get involved in any capacity with any of these then you may have individuals that are actively looking for a way of getting into fitness coming to you through referrals from these schemes.

Adult learning

Most colleges offer adult learning on a term by term basis in subjects such as photography, computing, cake baking, car mechanics, decorating etc. Why not visit your local colleges to see if there is any possibility of offering evening classes in self-defence? You can devise a program of say 10 classes that takes the student from the basics of self-defence through to some more advanced techniques. You will be paid by the college for these courses and they will provide the venue so that is good in itself but once you have the students there seeing what you can do and getting a bit of the martial art bug you can start talking about your regular classes and the belt system etc. There is a good chance that you will get some students from this.

Workplace Self-Defence

Approach local businesses to see if they would like to send their employees on a basic self-defence course. Some businesses offer this to their female employees. This would be maybe a half day or one day seminar to teach some basic techniques and strategies for staying safe. Of course mention your regular classes and have leaflets available for them to take away.

Promotional Items

These days with digital printing you can get your design on almost any item you can think of. Many companies such as Vistaprint offer a wide selection of different products and allow you to upload your own artwork to be printed on the items. If you have a logo for your club then upload this to the sites and have it printed on products such as pens, mouse mats or mugs. Then you can use these items in the office or at home to spark conversations when people ask what the logo is. You can also use branded products to give away at demonstrations or other events to help promote the club; branded pens are an ideal item for this. Another idea is to give branded products away as part of an incentive program within your class. Students that work hard or students that bring along new members could be awarded a branded product. Whenever they use the gift your clubs name and logo will be seen.

Register Your Club details with websites

One of the first places prospective new students will look will be the internet. Hopefully your club will have its own website but as well as that I recommend that you register with as many websites as you can find and add the club details to them. Some of these websites will rank very highly with search engines so your details have a good chance of appearing on page one.  There are websites set up specifically for martial arts and fitness clubs and then there are more generalised local sites like yellow pages or Thompson directory. These usually allow you to give class details like location (sometime including a clickable map), opening times, contact details and other club information. If you have a website then make sure you include a link to it on these sites as the links from these sites could help with the SEO of your website. A good list of links can be found by clicking here. This is by no means exhaustive so keep a look out for other sites, especially local ones that you can also add to. I suggest doing a search for martial arts, karate, MMA etc. in the search engine and then note down the sites on the first few pages of results. Repeat the search including your town name and then do it again with your county or region. This should give you more sites that allow clubs to advertise on them. Note that some of these sites will charge for registering but may offer advanced listings, higher ranking in their own search results or added features. Weigh these up and decide if you want to pay or just stick with the free ones.

Note that Yellow pages and Thompson directory also still produce hard copies that are delivered to homes in your local area so you could explore having a paid for listing in those too.

Email Footer

Include your club details in the footer of your email messages. Most email programs will allow you to add a signature to your emails which means that you set the details up once and then they will be added to all of your emails. You definitely want this on all of the emails that you send on club business but you could also include the footer on your personal emails and even business ones if your employer allows and it is not inappropriate.  In my email footer I include the following;

<Add club name here>

Proud members of the <add association name here>

Tel:    00000 000000

Mob: 00000 000000



Follow us on Facebook, Twitter & LinkedIn

Add your email address, web address and social media connections as hyperlinks so it is easier for people to simply click them to follow the links.


Sign up for a Google account and then you can register with Google places. This will allow you to enter your club details, contact details, opening times, photos, logo and your venue location on a map. When people search for your club in Google the results will include a map with a red arrow pointing at your club venue on the map. When this is selected your club details will be displayed. The best thing about doing this is that the map result normally appears on the first page and right at the top so it is a great way to get noticed on Google.

When adding your details make sure you are careful that you get them right first time as it takes quite a long time for changes that are made to your listing later to appear in the results. Also notify people at your venue that you will be putting them on Google places. Google send a postcard to the registered address with a pin code that needs to be entered before your listing goes live. If you let the venue know then they can pass the postcard on to you. Once you have entered the code your listing should start to appear within a couple of weeks.


Another idea for promoting your club is to create a video to be published on Youtube. We have all seen videos that have gone viral like Psy’s “Gangnam Style” and “Charlie bit my finger” but you don’t need to be getting a global audience in the millions. However you can use Youtube to get your club details out there in a visual way that is easy for your potential students to digest. You can include links to the video on your website and in your emails to promote it. Your video can have a link back to your website to help with the SEO of your website too.

To create the video you can go as low budget as a slide show or give it the full Hollywood treatment. I have seen some successful videos which have been created in Powerpoint with information on slides which also include images and animations. You can set all this to an appropriate soundtrack. I have seen lots of videos that have the track Kung Fu Fighting by Carl Douglas playing over them. Alternatively you can whip the camera out and start filming your masterpiece. A club in my association created a very professional looking short film that showed a choreographed fight between two of the senior black belts. When doing a film you may want to think about scripts, costumes, locations, lighting etc. basically anything that your average Hollywood director needs to think of. Once the filming is done it is time to edit the footage to make it into a coherent piece of work. Also think about adding graphics, text and music to the video when editing.

To submit your video to Youtube you will need to have a Google account. Once you have that it is a fairly intuitive straight forward procedure to upload the video from your computer to their server. Larger videos or HD may take a little longer to process. Once your video is up there you can put links to it in your emails and on your website or you can even embed a Youtube widget so the video can play directly in your website too.  One consideration is to think about disabling comments on your video. It would be nice to get praise for your efforts but it could look bad if a troll starts putting negative comments or abusive language.

Anyone can design a basic poster but for your poster to really work you need to follow these simple guidelines;Uncle Sam Poster

  • Clear layout – The information on your poster should be separated into sections and organised logically so that the information flows across the page in either rows or columns. Bullet points are a great way of organising the information. A good technique to perfect your layout is to cut out each section on pieces of paper and try re-arranging them until it becomes visually pleasing. This process may also help you filter out any information that may not be necessary on the poster.  Try to leave plenty of “White Space” between your sections to make the layout easy on the eyes.
  • Information – The job of the poster is to attract passers-by to read it. It doesn’t need to tell them everything, too much information could have the reader bored before they get to the crucial information, it just needs to give enough to get them interested enough to make contact. Include basic class information such as venue and times etc. and don’t forget to include your contact details. If you have a website then include the address so that if they are interested they can go there to get more information.
  • Font – Pick a simple font that is easy on the eye. Try to avoid comic style fonts or italics as they are harder for the brain to process. Also avoid using Capitals as these are harder to read. Use a font such as Times New Roman or Arial in mixed case with bold formatting. Think about the size you use too. An effective poster should be able to be read from around 5-6 meters away so the font needs to be big enough for that but not too big so that you can’t fit much information on. Try to make the headings and sub heading larger than the body text to differentiate them.
  • Colour – Keep your colour scheme simple with only 2-3 colours involved. When it comes to colour on posters; less really is more. A rainbow palette will be hard on your reader’s eyes and will turn them away from it. Try to pick colours that complement each other. A dark colour for text on a lighter background colour is best.
  • Visuals – A good picture or photograph will be what draws the eye of passers-by to your poster and can be the image that they take away in their mind. Try to pick a picture that is relevant for your club and is good quality. A pixelated photograph or clipart will look terrible on a poster so if taking your own photographs try to use a quality digital camera and tidy up the picture using software like Photoshop or Gimp. One or two pictures are all that you need. Too many pictures will clutter the poster and cloud the message. I suggest a photograph of the instructor and/or a picture of the association insignia is all you need.

One you have your wonderful poster created it is time to print it out. If you have a quality printer at home then you can print your own posters. If you don’t have a printer then it may be time to invest in one as it will come in handy with a lot of the admin documents that you need for your club. Printers are fairly inexpensive these days and you can get a decent printer for this from Amazon or PC World for under £100. You are going to need colour ink cartridges too. These can be quite dear but if you get non-branded or Tescos own versions then it can be considerably cheaper. It also pays to get some quality paper for your posters. Again this can be found at Tescos or Amazon or Staples.

You don’t need to do this but I laminate some of my posters to allow them to be put up outside. You can get laminators and laminator sheets from Amazon and they do give a professional look to your posters. The laminator also comes in handy for other club related documents that I want to protect.

Another option I have used is to outsource the printing. If you search on Ebay for poster printers there are lots of people offering a print service for various prices. Professional printers also now offer poster printing services such as where you can upload your poster image and get posters printed in various quantities and sizes.

Time for TrainingAlong with your clubs location the time and day(s) that you run your club can play a major part in how successful it will be and the kind of students you will attract. The availability of venues in your area may limit your choice of days and time or you may find that some venues are cheaper at certain times and that could influence your choice. If the choice is completely up to you then there are some things to consider when deciding this.

Are you free? – One of the most obvious things to consider is what days you can make a commitment to instruct on. This is going to be the same days for every week for the foreseeable future. Consider your family and work commitments as well as the nights that you currently train. You want teaching at your new club to be a joy and not a hassle so pick a day that is convenient for you too.

Other local groups – Check out your local newspaper or parish newsletter and do some web searches to look for local groups in the area to see what days other clubs operate on. If you are looking to run a martial arts class for children and you find that there are already successful Brownies, Scouts and Ballet classes running on a Tuesday night in the local area then perhaps you should avoid that night. By doing this you are not excluding all of the potential students that are already doing other clubs.

Mondays –On the face of it a Monday evening looks like a good choice of day for a class. It is the start of the week and hopefully your students will have lots of energy. However in the UK, Monday is the day when most bank holidays occur. There are 4 Bank holiday Monday’s in a typical year; Easter Monday, two in May and the summer bank holiday in August. Your venue may be closed on holidays but even if it is open your students may take the advantage for a long weekend away and miss training anyway. Maybe you can afford to miss 4 classes a year but if not then think about looking for another night.

Daytime Versus Evening – The makeup of your class is going to completely change depending on whether you run it during the day or on an evening. By running it during the day you are excluding school age children and people that work a normal 9-5 pattern. The type of people that can train during a normal week day will be stay at home parents, unemployed, retired, students, shift workers etc.

If you want to have a children’s martial arts class then the time of day can be quite crucial. If you have a class that starts not long after the end of the school day then you may get a lot of kids doing it as an after school activity. The parents they may view your club as a cheap way to have their children looked after for a couple of hours. This may not be the best motivation for students to start but once you have them it is up to you to engage them and get them excited about training.

If you want to include adults in your class then you need to be thinking of a later start time. Some people will be happy to go training straight from work but a lot like to go home first, have something to eat and see their family before going training. With this in mind you would be looking at a start time no earlier than 6pm and probably 7pm or 8pm would be more appropriate. However the later your class starts the less appealing it is for younger students that need to be in bed at a decent time. It is a tricky balance and you may lose potential students based on the time so it is important to try and get it right.  If your venue is flexible then your times don’t have to be set in stone and you can talk to the students to see what works for them. If a change of time would make it easier for them or people they know to come to class then consider changing it. Just don’t do this after you have posted 10000 leaflets with the old times on.

Another option is to run multiple classes on the same night with an earlier junior class for younger children followed by a class for older students. You could overlap these if that helped so that the older students come in for the last half hour of the younger class and then start their training later.

Weekday Versus Weekends – With all the considerations around weekday times it may seem like a good idea to have your classes on a weekend. People are free from work and study and you can have a morning class or afternoon class when students will be more alert. Unfortunately there are downsides too. Venues such as sports halls will be busier at weekends and may charge a premium to hire a room. Students may not be around every weekend. People take long weekends away, attend weddings and other family functions, go to football matches and other live sporting events for example. Basically there are lots of competing things to do on a weekend. On top of that your association may organise gradings, competitions and seminars on weekend days so you may need to cancel classes when these clash.

Regular Intervals – If offering more than one class a week then you need to think about how close the classes are. I think it is beneficial for students to have a gap between training sessions of a day or two. If you offered training on a Tuesday and Wednesday, for example, but then nothing else for the rest of the week then the students are getting an intense two days but a large gap before the next session. This doesn’t give chance for the students to recover from any aches and pains from the first class and the longer gap will make it harder for the students to remember techniques.

Take all of the above point into consideration and come up with a day and time that works for you that will bring in the volume and types of students that you desire.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles /

Open a Karate ClubSo you want to open a karate club? You have made a great decision; running your own club and teaching can be one of the most rewarding experiences you can have as a martial artist. However before you open the studio doors for the first time there are a lot of things to consider. This blog will guide you through the process from initial concept to getting your first students and beyond. I have been where you are now. The process of opening a studio seemed very daunting to me at first but with planning, effort and a little time I am now running a successful martial arts club and you can too.

If you are new to this site then click here to view the post archive in chronological order otherwise scroll down to see the latest posts.

Image courtesy of dan /

Martial Arts Pads

Selection of Martial Arts Pads

The type of equipment that you need to purchase before starting your club will be dependent upon the art and type of training that you are offering. You may be able to start off with no equipment at all with students wearing their own loose fitting clothing and performing kicks and punches into the air. However for most arts a certain level of equipment will be required such as; Kick Shields, Target Pads, Floor Mats, Weapons and even Martial Arts Suits and Belts. There are many manufacturers and sellers out there and of course you can always look on Ebay or in your local high street sports stores, such as JD Sports. For my club I use an online martial arts shop to buy all of my pads but I get the suits and belts through my instructor who has his own supplier that provides custom made suits for our association. I think his supplier ships the suits from Pakistan and I myself have had many emails from prospective suppliers from this region offering me suits and equipment. Be careful to check these out before getting tied into a deal or handing over a lot of money.  It took my instructor a while to find his current supplier after suffering a lot of substandard offerings from other suppliers. They had sounded good in the first place but their products did not live up to the promises.

The reason I use the online martial arts shop, other than the good quality of the products, is that they offer wholesale accounts for club instructors. This means that you can get lots of equipment for around half retail price. This is a great saver when buying equipment for the club. You can also offer to get students personal equipment for them. For example, training uniforms, belts, hands, feet and head guards can be offered. It is up to you whether you pass the saving on from your wholesale prices or whether you charge them retail and keep the difference for club funds to help finance pads and mats etc. For my class I have made up a price list with pictures of the pads and things I am selling along with sizes and colours available and I have laminated it. I keep this with me in case anybody is looking to buy them from me.

One thing to watch out for is the cost of postage and packing. Some companies don’t charge this on large orders but for smaller orders the postage can be proportionally quite high so try to wait until you have a few orders from students before sending off for it. It is also a good idea to get the money up front so that there is no risk of you being out of pocket. Other than actual training equipment there are a few things that you should consider having with you for the smooth running of the classes.

  • Association Flags, Pictures, Manuals – Many associations have paraphernalia that the club and students need that are directly related to the association. Some associations have association or national flags displayed (such as Japan, Brazil, Korea) whilst others will display portraits of the grandmaster or other senior figures in the art. Check with your instructor about how to obtain these. Some associations also have manuals, both for instructors and for students. If your association uses these then make sure you get a supply of these to give to your students when they join your club.
  • Money Box – Not everyone will come to your class with the exact money so it is a good idea to have some coins on hand to be able to break notes and offer change. A lockable money tin is a good place to keep your change. It can also be used to hold any payments made in the class. You are going to be focused on doing your class so if you can lock the money away then you don’t need to worry about any of it going missing should anyone be stupid enough to try and steal from a martial arts instructor!
  • Calculator – You will be dealing with other people’s money. If you are not confident in your mental arithmetic then having a calculator on hand to work out class fees or equipment orders could be a wise choice. You don’t want students loosing trust in you by accidentally short changing them.
  • Receipt book – In most cases this will not be needed but some students may require receipts for payments for equipment or class fees. These are inexpensive and can be kept on hand if required.
  • Stationary – Make sure you have some pens available and a notepad. There will often be times when a student asks you something or tells you about an upcoming absence etc. and you should note this down so that you don’t forget. Remembering something can show that you care and help form a trust with your students.
  • Document Holder – To keep all of your admin together you can carry a briefcase of some description, attaché case or document holder. We have something like this – Expanding file A4 fabric black.
    It will look more professional than lugging it around in a carrier bag.
  • Register – It is a good idea to keep a record of how many students and indeed which students have attended each class. You can make a register up on graph paper or create your own using excel or other spread sheet programs. Alternatively you can buy registers from high street stationers or from Amazon. Your association may have a minimum class attendance number that is required between gradings for instance and so a register can be used as proof that the student has at least met that requirement.
  • Accident Book – It is likely that your insurance will include a requirement that you maintain an accident book to record any accidents that might occur at your classes. The records in this book will be used in the event that a claim is made against the policy. You can use a simple notebook for this purpose or alternatively you can purchase a ready made accident book from Amazon or from high street stationers.
  • First Aid Kit – You should carry a basic First Aid Kit that includes plasters, bandages, antiseptic wipes etc. to be used in class in case of any minor injuries. Make sure that you have parental consent for any children before applying plasters. You need to be sure that they don’t have an allergy to the adhesive.
  • Mobile Phone – Carry a mobile phone with you to classes and make sure you have contact details for any parents leaving their children with you.
  • Laminator – I use a laminator to protect important documents and also to cover posters that are being put up outside. I also have a laminated price list. I would advise going for a hot laminator rather than a cold one. The hot one costs a little more but they are so easy to use and give a really professional look. The cold ones use sticky laminator sheets and in my opinion are difficult to use and can end up with air bubbles in your documents.
  • Laptop – A laptop, Tablet or home computer can come in useful for your club. Whether it is producing posters and leaflets or managing registers and budgets in excel the computer is invaluable. Most people already have one of these but it might be an investment to get a portable device that is dedicated to your club. This way you can take it with you to class to fill in an electronic register and also have other electronic information to hand. Having it dedicated to your club means that it should not get clogged up with other applications, viruses, malware etc. that a normal household computer can get over time.

Club name decision

Picking a club name is not always easy

For some the name of your new club will be pretty obvious. It can be as simple as adding the location of your studio to the name of the art e.g. Cambridge Mixed Martial Arts. However there are some things to consider when picking a name.

Stand out from the crowd – The most simple names are the location + the art but what if you are in London? You are unlikely to be able to pick London Karate Club as your club name as that will be taken and there will be hundreds of London Karate clubs. You need a name that differentiates your club from the others. Below are some suggestions of how to make up your name.

  • Location – Think about the location that you can include in your name. For more uncommon styles you may be able to use a region or county for your location e.g. North East Krav Maga Club or Lancashire Eskrima Studio . For more common styles you may need to be more specific by including the city, such as, Sheffield Karate or by including the area of a city such as East Birmingham Taekwondo. If there are a lot of clubs in the area, which may be the case in large cities, then you could even include the street name or venue name e.g. Drummond Street Tang Soo Do or Hillside Sports Centre Judo Club.
  • Association Name – A way to change your name is to include the association name in your clubs name. There may be lots of karate clubs in Manchester but you might be the only one that is part of the British Karate Federation for example so call the club Manchester British Karate Federation Studio  or Manchester BKF Studio to make yours stand out.
  • Your Name – You could include the lead instructors name in the club name. This could be useful if you are well known as a martial artist or have some recognisable achievement such as a world championship medal.  An example would be Steve Smith Karate Academy.
  • Suffix – Adding a suffix to your club name can differentiate it from others. This can be as simple as words like; club, studio, dojo or academy. However you may want to go for words that are more emotive such as; Warriors, Dragons, Tigers etc. for example, Coventry Karate Dragons. Using words such as these could make your name more memorable.

Length – Don’t make the name too long. Something like “South East England Traditional Old Style Kyokushinkai Karate Seniors Club” may be very descriptive but it is too much for new prospective students to remember and you will struggle to use it. Try to keep it short and snappy.

Spelling – There may be variations in ways to spell parts of your clubs name. Some Asian words are translated from pictographic scripts phonetically into English so there can be variations. There may be one particular way of spelling that is common to your art or association and if so then use this. Otherwise try entering the different ways into Google and see how may results you get for each. This is a crude way of finding out the most popular way of spelling the word.

You may be tempted to use substitute letters like Karate Klub or Martial Artz to make your club stand out. I would advise against this. It could cause confusion, may annoy some and will not show up in searches on search engines.

Language-If you are doing a Korean, Japanese or other foreign style there may be words from the originating countries language that you could use in your name. Use caution when doing this because unless it is a well-known word it will not be easy for students to remember or spell.

Other considerations – Avoid using any trademarked names in your club name as this could land you in legal difficulties, so you don’t want to be the Coca Cola Karate Club or Disney Judo Studio for extreme examples.

Consider if your club name will work well as a URL for when you come to set up a website and check that a domain name is available that relates to your club. Your domain does not have to be the same as your club but it would help when people are searching for you online.

locationThe location of your club can be one of the most important factors in whether the club will be successful or not. There are lots of factors to consider;


Types of venue

There are a huge variety of different venues that can be hired for your martial arts clubs. The obvious choices are school halls, community centres, church halls, sports centres, scout hut etc. Really it can be anywhere that is a good size with suitable flooring. You should avoid carpeted floors but wood, laminate, linoleum or concrete should be fine. As a minimum size I would suggest the size of a badminton or squash court. If you are just starting out it would be wise not to jump into hiring a huge full sized sports hall. Start small with a view to expanding later. With this in mind try to negotiate hiring terms for say 3 months at a time so that you can change your venue if needs be.


The cost of your venue is going to be the main on-going running cost of the club and so it is important to get a good deal for your room. You don’t want to be making a loss on your club so you need to think about how many students you are likely to get and ensure that the price they pay per class will cover the venue hire. Ideally you want a surplus to build club funds to buy martial arts equipment and to give a small buffer for weeks when fewer than expected students come to class. When agreeing the terms for hiring the venue it would be a good idea to suggest paying on either a week by week basis or to pay at the end of a term. You don’t want to pay up front for a long term hire as that would be a large outlay right at the start before you have any money coming in.

Opening hours

When hiring your venue make sure you find out when the room is available. If you are hiring a school hall you need to know if you can get in the hall outside of term time. Having no venue for the school holidays is one sure way to kill your club off. Also check out how you can gain access to the hall. If you are reliant on a key holder or caretaker it could also mean that the venue becomes unavailable when they are not around. Ideally you want a venue that is open year round with easy access or better yet where they trust you as a key holder.

Proximity to other clubs

Have a search for other martial arts clubs in the area. This will be your competition. If you open a club in the same village or town as other clubs then you are going up against established clubs to try and grab a share of the available students in the area. Sometimes this is unavoidable and to be fair most places have at least one martial arts club in operation already. If the other clubs are completely different styles then you will not be in too much conflict but if there are clubs doing your style then it might be an idea to look elsewhere. Some associations try to ensure their clubs do not encroach on each other and have a set minimum distance for how close clubs can be to each other. In some cases it can be quite handy to be close to another club within the same association or style as you can form an alliance and complement each other by offering instructor cover for each other’s class to cover holidays or sickness.

Catchment area

When picking a venue try to get a feel for the population in the local area. If there is a secondary school close by then there should be a large number of teenage children in the local area. Look out for other local community groups such as Scout troops or Brownies to give an indication if the area can support youth groups. A venue near a new housing development might be able to attract younger families and people that are new to the area looking for clubs to integrate into their new area. Just try to get a feel for if the location can provide enough students for your club to be a success. A village hall may be cheap to hire but if it is in a village with very few homes made up of mainly pensioners then it might be an idea to give it a miss unless of course that is your target market.

Other facilities

There are some other considerations when looking at a venue that are not as important as the ones listed above but these can make the difference when choosing between one venue and another.  These are more like the icing on the cake.

  • Parking – Is there adequate parking for students at the venue or, at the very least, a safe area for students to be dropped off and picked up?
  • Transport links – Is the venue close to good transport links? Bus stop, train station, cycle lanes, for example.
  • Storage – Does the venue have any permanent storage space where you can safely store club equipment? If you can leave large bulky items like martial arts pads, free standing punch bags, mats etc. it will save you having to transport them to and from each class.
  • Equipment Share – Does the venue already have shared equipment that can be used by your club? Some schools and community centres will have basic equipment like mats, cones, hula hoops, foam balls etc. These can be useful for training in some circumstances if the venue will allow you to use them.
  • Kitchen facilities and chairs – If you have a class for children and the parents are staying to watch the children then a venue that has tea and coffee making facilities and chairs could be useful.  If you get some parents on side to run a tea bar then you may have an extra way to generate some club funds too.

Buying permanent premises

I don’t know much about this as I would say the majority of clubs in the UK use a hired venue but I know there are some studios which have a permanent base. I have seen some clubs that have a permanent studio in a converted industrial unit on an industrial estate or clubs where a church hall has been bought and converted into a studio. The advantages of having your own permanent studio are obvious; It is yours, you can gain access easily and have classes whenever the time suits you, you can lay it out exactly as you want it and you can leave equipment set up. However unless you are wealthy enough to buy the premises out right you will need to take out a mortgage to pay for it and that means you need to be looking at class fees to cover it. It can be done but you will need a lot of students or high class fees to take care of this. It works for some but for most part time instructors hiring a venue is the way to go.

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A bad mix?

What kind of club are you going for?

Class Ethos

Before opening your Martial arts club you need to think about the kind of club you are starting. There are many different styles and within each style many variations and then each club has its own particular way of doing things. Here are some things to consider;

Traditional vs Modern

Are you going for a traditional martial art steeped in history and tradition such as Shotokan or Tang Soo Do are you looking at a newer sport based art such as Tae Kwon Do or MMA? In many ways the style you are teaching will dictate a lot of the way you do things. Traditional styles are often more formal than the newer counterparts with students expected to bow to instructors and call senior grades Sir or Ma’am. You need to decide if you want students to call you by your first name or for them to use your surname and title i.e. Mr or Mrs when talking to you. I think it sets a level of respect to have the students using Mr or Mrs but this may not be appropriate for less formal sport based arts.

Class Demographic

What do you expect the make up of your class to be? The type of class you run will be influenced by the types of students that you are teaching. Do you want to teach children only, adults only or mixed family groups? Are you expecting to teach both men and women?


If teaching children you need to think about the minimum age that you will take them from. I would suggest any younger than 5 years old would be difficult to teach due to lack of concentration and coordination etc. There are also implications of teaching younger children.  You need to decide if you require parents to remain in the room while the class is on or whether parents can drop the kids off and pick them up later leaving you in charge of their offspring. Younger children are likely to need frequent toilet breaks during a class, for example, and they may need an adult to accompany them. You may require helpers to be able to do this while you run the rest of the class if parents are not around. You should seek parental consent if they are not going to be present for things such as applying basic first aid. You never know if you are going to have to put a plaster on a child and if they are allergic to the adhesive you need to know. In fact you need to know about any allergies or medical conditions for both children and adults and have things like inhalers on hand for asthmatics, for example. You should also be CRB checked before working with children. I write more on this subject in one of my other posts.

Children have a shorter attention span and so classes should be kept fairly short and serious training should be interspersed with fun activities. You should be looking at an hour to an hour and a half maximum class time for younger children. You may decide to have a separate class for younger children outside of the main class so you can tailor it specifically for that age group. Some associations have Little Dragons or Tiny Tigers programs which have a modified training program for youngsters so that is something to think about.

Adults and mixed Family Classes

If you have an adults only class they may expect a completely different style of training to a mixed family class. Some people come to martial arts as a hobby, to keep fit, to socialise etc. these are all good motivations. Others are coming to learn how to fight and defend themselves and expect hard techniques and semi or full contact. Most are looking for a nice balance between all of these things but your class can go to either extreme. You need to decide what your class is going to be and make this known to students when they join. If you have a family class with light contact and friendly atmosphere you don’t want students joining that are expecting full contact sparring and teaching of lethal techniques. Similarly if you are running a class for adults that give and receive full contact strikes you don’t want to bring young children into that atmosphere as it will dilute the training for the existing members and could be dangerous for the children.

Don’t be afraid to split your classes up into different groups if you find it difficult training across family groups. Many clubs have a children’s class, an adults and older children’s mixed class and a senior grades advanced class. Some clubs even run female-only classes for ladies that are not comfortable training in a male atmosphere. Split it in a way that works for you.

Other considerations

Do you plan to cater for physically disabled or learning disability students? This may not be something that you feel equipped to deal with; on the other hand, it may be that you are actually planning to specialise in teaching these students.Either way you need to know what to say and do if you are approached by a potential student with these issues. Talk to your instructor about this to find out if they have dealt with this before and find out any special considerations.

Do you have a maximum age limit? You may plan to run a class aimed specifically at over 60’s and be geared up for that but if not you need to know any considerations to put in place for older students. In theory there shouldn’t be an upper age limit and, in practice, it is the fitness of the student that counts and not how many candles they had on their last birthday cake; however you need to be aware of limitations for more mature students.

Competition and unique selling point

There are thousands of martial arts clubs across the country with probably at least one or two already in your village or town. When starting a club look at the competition to see what else is being taught in the local area. I also mention this in my post about studio location but you need to see what is out there and what you can do to differentiate yourself from the others so that students beat a path to your studios door rather than going elsewhere. As a new instructor you are already at a disadvantage to every other club because all of the others are established and have experienced instructors while you are the newbie. Don’t let this put you off, just think what you can offer that the others are not or cannot. You can differentiate on many of the points raised above; for instance, by offering a kids only class, a ladies self-defence class or an older persons class. You can offer your classes for cheaper prices than the competition until you are established. You can offer classes at a more convenient time than other groups. A children’s class run as an after school club may do well, for example, whereas a weekend class for adults might be more successful for working men and women. For my club we push the fact that we are a family friendly club as our USP and this seems to be working well for our area. I like to think that as martial artists we all respect each other’s arts so I would not suggest making your USP that your art is better than the one currently being taught in your local area. It is better to say what is good and different about your club than bad mouthing the other club.

If you are offering a different style to all of the other local clubs and as long as the area is not saturated with martial arts clubs then you should be alright to open your club in that area. You could even open in the same venue as other clubs. However I would not suggest opening a club right on another clubs doorstep if you are both practising the same style. In fact I would suggest looking for a venue that is around 10 miles away from the nearest club practising the same style. This may be hard to do in practise but if you manage it you will have your very own catchment area for students and are not encroaching on somebody else’s established area. It would be beneficial for you to get in touch with local clubs practising the same style and form a loose alliance especially if you are part of the same governing association. By doing this you can share knowledge, provide cover for each other’s classes for holidays, illness or emergencies and even think about inter club competitions.

Mission Statement

If you want to be professional you should know exactly what type of club you are going for. In business companies often create what they call a mission statement to outline the ethos, philosophy and direction of the company. I think that it is a good idea to write out a mission statement for your club. It doesn’t have to be a work of Shakespeare. A couple of lines should do it but it should clearly outline the vision you have for your new club. Here are some examples;

  1. “We are a family club with a friendly atmosphere training a mixture of children and adults in the traditional art of xxx to give them the benefits achievable by following this art”.
  2. “We are an adults only club that train hard to get the very best results for our students so that they can compete to the very highest level”.

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