40 Signs That You Might Be A Broke Martial Art School Owner

broke martial arts instructor

This post is satire. If you don’t think this is even remotely funny, then this probably isn’t the martial arts business site for you.

Also, there’s some strong language in this post. If that offends you, please feel free to skip it. And, I think there are more than 40 entries on this list, so if you’re anal or OCD, you might want to stop reading now.

Now that you know where I’m coming from, here are some signs that you might be a broke martial art school owner.

You Might Be A Broke Martial Art School Owner If You…

  • Changed your curriculum three times in the last two years –
  • Changed your curriculum the last time you went to a seminar –
  • Change your curriculum every time you attend a seminar –
  • Last cleaned your school when you opened the doors –
  • Clean the school everyday, but your idea of “cleaning” is putting the community sparring gear back in the bin –
  • Think that “funky foot smell” is better than “new car smell”, because that means people have been getting a workout –
  • Are proud of the blood stains on your mats –
  • Find new students by flyering cars that are parked in front of your competitors’ schools –
  • Read martial arts business books to “see what those rich pansies are doing” –
  • Think you’re broke because you teach “real” martial arts –
  • Are glad when students quit, because you’re weeding out the weak –
  • Designed your curriculum to weed out the weak –
  • Designed your belt tests to weed out the weak –
  • Designed your dating habits to weed out the weak. This has nothing to do with you being a broke martial art school owner, except for the fact that you first met your last four girlfriends in your white belt class –
  • Having a marketing plan that consists of “oh shit, I can’t pay the rent – better go flyer some cars in front of that McDojo down the street” –
  • Think sparring class is your personal workout time, complete with moving punching bags –
  • Think every class is your personal workout time, complete with moving punching bags –
  • Look forward to promoting students to black belt, because you’ll finally have someone to teach classes for you again –
  • Show up with a tallboy in hand to challenge the guy down the street to a “friendly match” –
  • Show up with a tallboy in hand to teach class –
  • Forgot to teach class, because you were pounding tallboys –
  • Spent next month’s rent money on bringing in your instructor for a seminar because:

a) He’d whip your ass if you didn’t bring him in this year –
b) Those strippers get more expensive every year –
c) You have your priorities straight –


The Karate Kid – Columbia Pictures Corporation

  • Routinely post pictures of you and your (fight team/sparring class/staff) posing shirtless flashing gang signs on Facebook –
  • Think client communication consists of sexting with your front desk girl –
  • Think if Andrew Weiner did MMA, he’d be your hero –
  • Flirt with the single moms who sit in the lobby during your kid’s classes –
  • Flirt with the married moms who sit in the lobby during the kid’s classes –
  • Don’t talk to the moms who sit in the lobby during the kid’s classes, because all the hot ones took their kids out (and you still can’t figure out why) –
  • Wear a sleeveless martial arts gi, because every day should include a trip to the gun show –
  • Spend a lot of time telling your students about how ridiculous the McDojo down the street is (“they have mats instead of concrete! har, har har!”) –
  • Revoked a student’s black belt rank within the last six months –
  • Revoked a student’s black belt rank, then announced it publicly on Facebook –
  • Revoked a student’s black belt rank, ever –
  • Only consider it to be a tough belt rank test if someone breaks or dislocates a bone, draws blood, or gets knocked out –
  • Offer private lessons in “chi rejuvenating massage” –
  • Think that ringworm, impetigo, and MRSA only make you stronger –
  • Have a bumper sticker that says, “My green belt KTFO’d your honor student” –


And finally, you might be a broke martial arts instructor if you read this list, shook your head, and went back to trolling martial arts YouTube videos.

Note: You’ll notice that I didn’t have a lot to say about black belt mills and other McDojo-type behavior on this list. That’s because, sadly, those types of schools often seem to make a lot of money. However, it’s a flawed logic to assume that because those schools make money, that every school that is financially successful is a McDojo…

It’s YOUR job as a school owner who teaches quality martial arts to learn sound business and marketing practices so you can give people a choice beyond the McDojos of the world. For that reason alone, if you’re a conscientious martial arts instructor you should learn everything you can about business and marketing, so you can save some unwitting person from getting ripped off. – MM


  1. John on September 12, 2013 at 8:31 am

    I’ve been training in the arts for 42 years I’ve owned a karate school for 17 years . You are dead on ,100% correct. I am a union electrician in New York so I’m up early and home early . My classes start at 6:00 when they should start at 4:00 . I barely make the rent . I am good at what I do . I’ve had mat chat since the beginning , I’m still hard core but compassionate . Show love to my students . They are all very good . We compete at high level tournaments and win. I don’t force them but encourage them to compete , to face there fears. My problem is I’m to nice. I give free karate to students who can’t afford it or free gis and gear and parents see how I am . My point is now I’ve had to move my dojo cause I lost my lease to new owners , I was in the same place for 17 years. My rent is high and realestate tax I have to pay ( something new) don’t know if its legal. So when I try to do money generating events like movie night . 4hrs for $20 I buy pizza and drinks and cupcakes , I can’t get more then 5 kids out of 25 students. If it was free everyone would be there. The dojo across the street charges $50 for 4 hrs. The parents st my school think everything should be included with dues. I don’t charge for promotion only charge for BB. I bought your ebook years ago. I never advertise in all the years but now I have to cause rent is high $2500 per month and $1k every 3 months taxes and I only rent. What is the best way to get 20 new students fast before I go under . Please help me I love to teach and don’t want to hurt these kids by closing mg doors , these kids need me . If you can find the time please . 646-423-7898thank you so very much and continued success to you.

  2. Mike Massie on September 12, 2013 at 12:47 pm

    John, you absolutely must market your business when you’re in business, and a business that doesn’t turn a decent profit will eventually go under. I meet instructors all the time who are in your shoes, and it’s sad because by trying to help your students you’re hurting yourself. Moreover, you’re just letting them taking advantage of you, and they won’t respect you when you don’t respect yourself enough to charge them enough to make a decent living.

    Speaking of which, of course I’ll be happy to call you to discuss business coaching, but I learned a long time ago that when I give people my time and share my expertise for free they don’t respect it (and they typically don’t implement it, either). So, if you want my time and expertise you’ll have to pay just like everyone else.

    Even so, there’s a ton of free marketing advice on this site; in fact, last year I wrote and published an entire series here about online marketing for martial arts school that could have easily been a report or course. Do a search on this site for “marketing”, “online marketing”, etc. and put what you find to use.

    As for a quick way to get more students in your school, I do have some methods that work. We can talk about it when I call.

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