Fitness and the Business of Martial Arts

The Question of Integrity and Making a Buck in Your Martial Arts Business

Since I announced in my email newsletter a few years ago that I was teaching fitness boot camps in my martial art school, it seems that every martial arts school is offering boot camps.

While I think this is great, the problem I see with this is that most of the schools that are doing this are implementing fitness programs the same way they implement any new program in their studios…

That is, they change their sign and make it up as they go along.

We saw this with ninjitsu in the 80’s, with kickboxing in the 90’s, and with grappling and mixed martial arts in the 2000’s. And, as we all know, this ends up ultimately working against the studio owner who decides that they don’t need to acquire any additional training in order to teach another program in their martial art school.

I can tell you for a fact, the local fitness trainers love it when martial art school owners with zero fitness education or certifications start boot camps in their studios. The reason? Because they know your clients will soon become their clients, once they figure out you’re a sham.

The same thing goes for legitimate jiu-jitsu instructors and MMA coaches. They know that, sooner or later, all those students who are suddenly taking grappling and mixed martial arts from their karate, tae kwon do, or kung fu teacher are going to wise up and go looking for a qualified instructor who can teach them those skills.

Is It Worth It To Get Trained to Teach Fitness Classes?

martial arts fitness business

This guy wants your students.

Absolutely. The trend at this time is for fitness facilities to add any and every program they think will add revenue to their facility. This means many of the big box gyms are experimenting with adding programs like MMA, combat fitness classes, and children’s martial arts.

Yes, you read that right – your local Globo Gym could soon be adding kid’s martial arts to their class line-up. And if you don’t understand and have the skills to compete with them, you’re sunk.

I’ve always had a fitness program running in my studios, because it’s a great income stream and I enjoy teaching those classes. But, what I discovered over the years is that many people actually choose my programs over those taught at their local Giganto Gym, and for a very specific reason.

How I Compete With Globo Gym

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – the way to survive is not to try to become a Globo Gym. Uh-uh. Instead, it’s in embracing the boutique nature of the Small Dojo Big Profits school.

See, where the big box gyms (and ginormous martial arts schools) tend to drop the ball is in building customer relationships and in creating a positive and welcoming culture. It’s simply too hard to control those two elements when you build a business on a large scale.

Sure, you can make your place look like a Starbucks and put your staff in cute little embroidered golf shirts and matching sweat pants, but it’s impossible to create relationships between your staff and your clients. That’s something only a small business owner who is on the front lines serving and greeting customers daily can do.

In short, it’s where small martial art school owners like us shine. Unfortunately, your relationship with your clients is only as good as the trust they place in you. That means you absolutely positively must meet and exceed their expectations in every way.

Now, what do you think happens when you hold yourself out to be a fitness expert, and your clients find out the extent of your fitness training and education is doing push-ups with your martial arts students? Do you think they’re going to start having trust issues with you?

The Visual Incongruity of Being a “Fat Master”

You’re darn straight they will. I know this for a fact. Back in the 90’s and early 2000’s when everyone was copying Billy Blanks, I was going to fitness industry seminars and finding out what they were doing that we weren’t. And, you know what I found out?

They were actively pursuing education on a regular basis, and also living what they taught. And while you and I routinely see fat martial arts “masters” touting the benefits of good health to their students, you will never see a fat personal trainer trying to tell other people how to eat or lose weight.

That’s because the standards of the fitness industry are actually much higher when it comes to fitness and health than they are in the martial arts industry. What you have to realize is that, when presented with a choice between you and the local trainer, if you don’t look the part and have the knowledge to go with it potential clients are going to pass you right by and go to Globo Gym.

Moreover, your ideal clients aren’t stupid. And, I believe most people understand on a molecular level that there’s something that smacks of a scam about a person who claims to be a master of martial arts, but who isn’t even a master of their own body.

So, How Do You Get There?

As I said before, there are a plethora of programs being taught out there. All of them claim to teach you how to introduce fitness programs into your martial art school.

The question is, how many of those programs were created by someone who has been successfully teaching fitness programs in a working martial arts studio for well over 15 years?

I’d hazard a guess to say, “None of them” outside of our Fighting Fit Boot Camp instructor certification and training program. And, I’m fairly certain we have the only program with a track record of success in showing martial arts instructors how to become successful fitness professionals, and also showing them how to add a solid revenue stream to their martial art studios.

If you’re interested in finding out more about how you can add a solid and permanent fitness revenue stream to your studio in a manner that’s ethically sound, contact Jim Mahan at 254-247-4999, and ask him how you can become a certified Fighting Fit Boot Camp Instructor.


  1. Mike D on November 18, 2011 at 3:34 pm

    This is really one the clearest and best articles on the topic of “martial arts fitness programs” ever written. If school owners take your advice and get and stay committed to teaching a fitness program in their school — they will succeed when they do it right and market it properly. They fail when they jump from “trend to trend.”

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