On Martial Arts Business Consultants

“Consulting”, The Next Great Career Opportunity in Martial Arts

Did you know you could make a million dollars as a “martial arts business consultant”?

Oh, it must be true because… everyone is doing it. ;)

But let me tell you a couple of secrets about “consultants” –

  1. Just because you can do something well, doesn’t mean you can teach someone else how to do it well, tooI mean, how many times have we seen great fighters who start coaching and teaching and are lousy at it?
  2. And, no matter how great they say they are, there’s no guarantee they’ll be able to help youHowever, they’re virtually guaranteed to help themselves – to your pocketbook, that is.

The Job Of A Consultant, Brilliantly Explained

You know, there’s this great book that explains the job of “consultant” brilliantly… it’s called 100 BS Jobs by Stanley Bing. (Well that’s really not the name, but the full name isn’t really appropriate for a general audience blog…)

“Consultant” is #27 on the list, right after “Construction Flag Waiver.”

I’m not making this up – let me show you:

Yes there really is a book called that and consultant really is number 27 on the list

Yes there really is a book called that and consultant really is number 27 on the list

It’s actually one of my favorite books in the “business humor” category. I keep it on my bookshelf next to my desk, and thumb through it when I need a laugh or two.

Anyway, I am only telling you this because:

a. I hope you’ll recognize the blatant sarcasm in this article, which in turn will hopefully further drive home the point I’m about to make…


b. I am fairly certain that, if you’re still reading this, you’re as tired of the proliferation of “consultants” in this industry as I am.

And although Bing’s book is obvious satire, I think he’s right on the money, so to speak.

Which is why I’ve never been “in” the “consulting” business.

But, let me tell you how I got into the “helping martial arts instructors” business…

Man Gets Seriously Hacked Off, Writes Combination Exposé and Business Manual

“Mike, I really liked your book… there’s just one thing,” the martial arts software guy told me.

“Yes?” I asked.

“You seem really angry in it.”

Yes you too can be a martial arts business consultant

Yes you too can be a martial arts business consultant

This was no news to me. At the time I wrote it, I had just sold my first school, a very profitable 150-180 student cash machine that I’d had a ton of fun teaching at… until I got caught up in the “big school dream”.

Which I caught (like a bad flu) from a martial arts business consultant, I might add.

And, in the pursuit of the “big school dream”, let’s just say I became a bit disillusioned with the whole martial arts school consulting industry.

Which I think is a farce, in case you haven’t noticed.

So, I wrote a book about it, from the perspective of all the things I had learned in 10 years of running schools, falling flat on my face at least three times, then building a highly successful school that had extremely high profit margins…

…by doing the exact opposite of what the martial arts school consultants tell you to do.

I stayed small, kept my staff minimal, did almost everything myself, kept my happy butt on the floor teaching as many classes as possible, and was, well, happy.

And Then, I Lost My Freaking Mind

Then I decided to almost triple my square footage in order to expand my school to mammoth and previously unheard of proportions, yadda, yadda, yadda.

Yep, I had it bad. Until a crooked landlord saved me from myself. Guy took our money, and we never did get into our huge new space. Eventually, we went through arbitration and got our money back and then some… but that’s another story.

In the mean time, I lost a lot of sleep, a ton of hair, my health, about a third of my students (which I quickly replaced – good riddance, abandoning their instructor during a crisis, who needs ’em?), had a few panic attacks, and did a LOT of soul searching.

Sanity Returns to Massie-ville

I finally realized I was killing myself in pursuit of someone else’s idea of success.

Heck, I was happy running a “small” school – a term, I might add, which many “consultants” unfairly deride – teaching most of my classes, maintaining low overhead with a heck of a lot less worries and a lot more face time with my students.

I hated being a manager, which is what most of those martial art school mini-tycoons become, I might add. Although I would like to say, if that makes you happy, have at it. I’ve known some very nice people who run large schools, and I don’t hold that against them – it makes them happy, and that’s all well and good.

Me, I prefer teaching over being a human resources manager. But hey, that’s just me.

But Getting Back To My Book…

So, when I later sold my first school at the height of its success, it was really in order to take stock of my situation and recharge my batteries. (However, I made the excuse to myself and others that I wanted to attend law school, and actually scored high enough on the LSAT to get accepted to a very prestigious school. Six weeks of learning that B.S. profession was all it took to cure me, though. “Lawyer”, #54 in Bing’s book…)

But somewhere in your heart you want to come in from the cold

“But somewhere in your heart you want to come in from the cold.” That’s classic.

Of course, I ended up venting all my frustrations with the martial arts consulting industry into a 200+ page business manual, which ended up becoming a sort of underground hit.

Which is how I fell into the “martial arts instructor helping business”, almost by complete accident. You see, when you write a business manual that actually helps people be more successful in their business, people start to ask you for help.

So, I started giving it to them, in the form of a free newsletter, then a website with free articles, then a low-cost coaching program for aspiring and struggling martial arts school owners, then, this blog.

I’m actually happy with the way it all turned out. I get to help martial arts instructors, and also help them avoid allowing consultants to help themselves to their money. Not that I work for free – I’m not that altruistic, for goodness sakes.

But, I tend to operate on the principle of economies of scale; thereby allowing me to charge a reasonable amount for the products and services I do charge for, which makes it easy for most instructors to have access to them.

(By the way, I did actually start another school about three years ago, which I built up to around 100 students – in the midst of a recession, I might add – then sold it to a good buddy of mine who was teaching for me. Will I start another one? Who knows! But, after I take some time off, I’m sure it won’t be long before I start teaching again.)

Which Brings Me To My Latest Project…

So, my latest project is designed to help those of you who have found you simply can’t belong to everything, and probably don’t care to belong to most of what’s out there, anyway.

Good for you.

That’s why I started MA Biz U, for folks like you.

To learn more about MABizU, visit:



  1. Darrin Walton on February 16, 2009 at 11:45 am

    Massie you are so right on. I want to thank you for bringing up the point of small school vs huge schools because in my mind of course I get the cha-ching going on about having a big school but after reading what you offer this last month and contemplating what I really want. I want a small school because like you I love the teaching and being involved with the students and parents.

    Thanks for helping me clarify what I really want.

    Best regards,

  2. Mike Massie on February 16, 2009 at 12:14 pm

    Darrin, the bottom line is that you have to do what makes you happy as an instructor. Some of the most successful martial arts instructors I know, who have lifestyles most would envy, run schools in the 150-200 student range. I don’t ask why a lot of school owners practically kill themselves trying to build and run huge mega-schools, because I already know the answer: they’ve been brainwashed into believing school size and enrollment numbers are the only measure of success. Hogwash. Success is determined by what is important to you; not what some “consultant” tells you. So, good for you that you have decided you’re happy with “just enough” instead of “just a little more”.

  3. Jerry Taylor on February 16, 2009 at 12:40 pm

    I have never thought of becoming a mega school owner and I have no desire to be a martial arts consultant.
    I have been teaching TKD part time since 1982 and full time since 2007 and I love it. So, I still have the part time school and I own the property and the full time school that I am purchasing the property. A 150 to 200 hundred student base would seem very big to me. My goal is 100 active so it would be between 75 and 125 if it grows bigger than that… all the better. At this time I am at 60 active so I figure I am floating between 50 and 70 students with both schools combined.
    My goal is very attainable in the near future, even in this recession.
    I do enjoy reading your articles and I use a lot of your advice and I thank you for that.
    Jerry Taylor
    Taylor’s Tae Kwon Do Academy

  4. John Scaini on February 16, 2009 at 7:39 pm

    Hi Mike,
    You are right, we don\’t need consultants but a way and people willing to share their experiences. About ten years ago, my sensei let his personal life problems and greed interfere with our club(which was run as a charitable Organization).
    The club folded, so the black belts who wanted to continue to teach and pratice Karate for the love of the art, got together and we formed a registered not for profit club named Kime Karate Dojo. We were the alternative school, practicing in the local church hall, for students who could not afford the bigger expensive clubs, and for students not interested in competitions. All they had to do is make a donation to the church, giving what they can afford. No one receives a salary. We try to instil the idea of volunteering in you neighbourhood for giving back what was given to you. We now run the club out of two school gyms, in the evenings. The rental fee is waivered do to a government grant for providing an exercise program for children.
    The only cost that is shared is the liaabiliity insurance required by the schoool boars in order to use the gym.
    I am third dan sensei who has had parkinson\’s disease for ten years now. I am still teaching and am prou of what we accomplished.
    I tell my students, \" I may have slowen down a tiny bit but I\’ll still kick their ass. \"

    John Scaini
    Kime Karate Dojo
    Vaughan Ontario

    p.s. I invite you for any comments you may have.

  5. Sean Russell on February 17, 2009 at 12:09 am

    I like being able to teach and work with people excited to learn martial arts. This helps me grow in my art also. I have not been teaching to “just” make money. Wait a minute,I have never made any money teaching because the two schools I have taught in I have only been an assistant(ha ha ha). But, please do not count me out of your martial arts business world I have been a sales manager in the car business for almost 13 years, worked for a fortune 500 company and have a degree in Economics. I have studied business for 23 years now and Mr. Massie you make since to me. I am opening a school in the next couple of months and look foreward to applying the advise I have read in your book and articles. I guess I’m too cheap to spend my money on consultants when I can read for pennies on the dollar what a they will charge.

  6. Declan on February 17, 2009 at 5:03 am

    Mr Massie,

    Always find your posts and emails informative and useful, even with an extensive background in the “Big school” arena.

    Could you please tell me if MASAI membership will be open to school owners in the UK?

  7. Mike Massie on February 17, 2009 at 5:33 am

    Yes, and as a matter of fact we’ll be looking for leaders in Europe, Mexico, and Canada to help spread the word about the organization.

    Feel free to contact me by phone at my office. I believe I’m on GMT -6 here in central Texas, so anytime between 3 PM and 10 PM your time is fine.

    And, thanks for the inquiry and your continued support of my activities in the martial arts industry.

  8. Mike Massie on February 17, 2009 at 5:39 am

    Sean, that’s something Jeff Barnes and I were just talking about the other day… that we help our coaching clients and site members get the same results for “pennies on the dollar.”

    Do I want to be compensated fairly for my time? Of course, and my hourly rate can be pretty steep for some. And that’s why I write my newsletter, this blog, and have a website where you can get business advice and resources for under $20 a month.

    If you’re opening a school soon, membership to either Starting-a-Martial-Arts-School.com or The Martial Art School Alliance International would be a good idea. You’ll get access to lots of solid advice and tips on all aspects of starting and running a school, and it won’t break the bank.

    Keep me posted on your progress, and let me know how it goes!

  9. Mike Massie on February 17, 2009 at 5:46 am

    Hi John,

    You know, one of the reasons we started M.A.S.A.I. was to service clubs and non-for-profits like yours.

    My experience in writing my newsletter and running my websites over the last five years has shown that non-commercial schools like yours are just as much a part of the martial arts industry as the for-profit schools.

    By the way, kudos to you for continuing to teach and train despite your illness. Keep it up!

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