Why Teaching Martial Arts is Relationship-Based Business

too many martial arts students in a dojo

There was a time when I had more students than I could handle, and I was miserable.

Let me explain.

As my school grew larger, it was nearly impossible to provide individual attention to each and every student. Pretty soon, I found myself filling the role of a human resources manager more than that of a martial arts instructor.

Now, that may be fine for some martial arts school owners, and I know there are several who are happy teaching the occasional class or just their black belts and spending most of their time counting money… and I’m not knocking it if it makes them happy.

But for me personally, I enjoy knowing every student’s name, what they like to do, how their grades are, where they work, and so on. And, it’s my experience that when you do, your school has a “personal touch” that leads to greater student satisfaction and higher retention.

(Not to mention the lower overhead due to reduced payroll… but that’s a story for another post.)

Retention Is About Relationships

Now, there are certain things you can do to add even more of a personal touch for your students, but what it all boils down to is developing strong relationships with your students.

It’s those strong ties that keep students coming back. And, that’s really what it’s all about… if you want to have a strong school, you MUST build strong relationships with your students.

Now, the thing about having strong relationships with your students is that it takes a real effort to do. But, if you have systems in place, it’s not as hard as you might think.

Everything Is Easier When You Follow A Proven System

I go into great detail about how to create these systems in Small Dojo Big Profits (and in another book that I wrote as sort of a sequel to SDBP, The Profit-Boosting Principles). However, if you’re thinking you want to run the sort of small, tight-knit school I’m talking about here, then you need to start by reading Small Dojo Big Profits.

In it, I explain how to run a small martial arts school and still make a great living at it. The fact is, you don’t need 500 students, or 400, or 300, or even 200 to make a decent living teaching martial arts. In fact, I’m of the opinion that 150-175 students is just about optimal for running a small, highly profitable dojo.

But, you have to set it up right to be a success. And that’s specifically what I deal with in Small Dojo Big Profits. Step-by-step, I take you through every single stage of starting and running a successful martial art school, the SDBP way, including:

  • Choosing a location for your studio – how to pick a location that will practically ensure your success…
  • Finding the right space for your dojo – how to get just enough space to succeed, without breaking the bank…
  • How to market your school – and not have to sell your soul in the process…
  • How to keep students for the long haul – the secret to real lasting success in this industry…
  • And, how and when to hire staff – and the truth about running an efficient and highly profitable school!

The Business System That Lets You Spend Your Time As You Like

I cover all this and more in Small Dojo Big Profits – and you can get the complete system for less than the cost of a one-hour coaching session with yours truly (in fact, I make my coaching clients read the book first, since it often saves them thousands of dollars in expensive consulting fees).

Now, I’m not saying you can’t figure this all out on your own – but why risk failure when you can follow a proven martial arts business plan for success?

Go check it out right now, and find out how to start and run a successful martial art where you know everyone by their first name:

 Click here for more info


  1. Julio L Matta on February 19, 2018 at 1:40 am

    Grand Master Massie;

    Although, I plan to open my first school to teach both Tai Chi Chuan and Praying Mantis Kung Fu, I am very glad I came across your information. I am just starting my business plan, writing my curriculums, for the Tai Chi Programs and subsequently my Kung Fu Programs, but I believe having the information I purchased you Small Dojo Big Profit complete kit, this will serve as a great road map for me in that I may not have to through to many walls of mistakes through the guidance you provide. Thus far the information is interesting and I am using it to write my curriculums, and great ideas for marketing and selling the school when the time comes and how to retain and provide great training to my students. I deceided in stead of rusing into a location, it is better to be on the look out for locations I can use temporarily, churches, youth centers, adult communities, and ideas you have in you guidance material. I really just wanted to say, for what ever its worth, I feel I will do a much better job at putting the school up and running using your guidance even if only 50% of it works out for me, since at this time I have no real experience and idea on how to do it, and the reason I am starting from the very basic, write your curriculum, work it, make sure it effective, and now follow the guidance. I am a 8th Dan Black Belt, who practice for 34 years, had to walk away from the arts due to two bouts with cancer that kept me away for more then 12 years, now and not at an early age, since I am sure I am way older then many who will open up martial arts schools in the next two years, and after two years of heavy practicing, I believe I am ready to take up from where I left. Maybe I can be one of your succes stories in the future. Thank you for taking the time to provide this information. Hanshi Julio L. Matta

  2. Mike Massie on February 21, 2018 at 4:17 pm

    Please, don’t ever call me master (or grand master – I hate those terms). Glad to hear that your health has improved. I hope you find the materials helpful in opening a school, and I wish you the best of success in all your endeavors.

  3. Darrell Roath on June 13, 2020 at 1:55 pm

    I am in an area where they don’t teach martial Arts. In Greenville Maine. I am considering myself a white belt. I have. Always been fascinated with the ninja since I was a kid. Not the television and movie version. But the authentic version. I bought the complete home training system taught under Hatsumi Masaaki teachings. The Bujinkan. I have bought some training items. I am setting up my backyard as a outdoor dojo. Eventually hope to get training partners. This is a lifelong dream. Just could not afford training.

  4. Mike Massie on July 19, 2020 at 8:12 am

    There’s nothing wrong with training at home with a few dedicated training partners. However, there’s no substitute for learning from a live instructor. If you can afford to pay $300 for those ninjutsu videos, you can afford to pay $100 a month to an instructor at the YMCA. Get in a good martial arts class and quit making excuses about why you can’t afford it. If you want it bad enough, you’ll find a way.

  5. Irvin Burton on October 27, 2020 at 7:39 pm

    Glad I found your work Mr. Massie! Your program was the solution to becoming the exact type of instructor I wanted to be; having a small school and knowing everyone by name! My Sifu had a very basic curriculum (forms only) and your program helped me dig deep to offer more from my classes! After reading several of your books, I adopted uniforms, wrote a curriculum, and focused more on strikes, kicks, combinations etc. In addition, your character education program really impressed the parents coming to class! Thanks for all you do to help martial art instructors Mr. Massie!

    Best regards,

    Sifu Irvin Burton

  6. Derrick Bostic on February 10, 2023 at 2:59 pm

    Good reading Mr. Massie,

    Retention is about relationships.
    Relationship is about building rapport with people.
    Rapport is about being a good leader to your students.
    Being a good leader is knowing how to communicate with your students.
    Being a good student is you are always a student in the martial arts.

    I should make this a Dojo Sign.

    I hope to transition to new storefront by summertime pending start-up of school year.

    Derrick Bostic

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