Teach More Adults, Now!

The Challenge With Filling Your Adult Classes

One of the all-time biggest challenges instructors share with me is:

“Mike, how do I get more adult students?”

In recent years, the answer you’ve been hearing is, “Add MMA classes to your school.” Well, I agree – MMA classes will attract more adults in your school… mostly consisting of young, broke types who will gladly spend $80 on an Affliction t-shirt and then tell you they don’t have money for tuition this month.

Personally, I like MMA and I like working with young adults, too – so the pros sort of outweigh the cons in my mind with the MMA market. But, there’s another huge issue that no one has brought up when it comes to MMA filling the void in your adult enrollment…

The Real Truth About Filling Your School With MMA Students

While the FAN BASE of mixed martial arts is undeniably huge, the actual percentage of the population who is really interested in DOING MMA is not that large a slice of the population.

As I said above, they are mostly young (say, 16 – 34) and looking for a harder and more physical type of training. Despite what you may have been told – statistically, that’s not a whole lot of people.

(And I know there are some large MMA schools out there. But, those are generally going to fall into the category of gyms where pros train that are located in large, densely populated metropolitan areas… you aren’t going to find many large no-name gyms in small towns.)

Things I’ve Learned From Teaching MMA

Look, I try to test everything I can (within the bounds of ethics), because if someone says something works, then I want to know about it. So, I offered MMA in my school for over two years.

Here’s what I found:

  1. The real market for MMA only accounts for a small percentage of the overall adult population. (If you think I’m off on this, ask yourself why Dana White isn’t rolling out MMA schools across the country.)
  2. Most adults want to do some of the MMA training (and it’s fun to do when performed safely), but they don’t want to do hard contact sparring or high impact grappling all the time. (Fact: Women make up 50% of the population. Fact: Many women would like to learn practical self-defense skills. Fact: It is socially unacceptable for a woman to show up to work with a black eye and bruises up and down her arms. Fact: More guys than will admit feel the exact same way…)
  3. The young guys who show up looking for MMA training DO want hard contact and high impact grappling (at least, the ones who stick around after the first week, right?).

So, what do you think happens when one of your young MMA students tees off on Sally Soccer Mom or Ted Executive? Yep, you lose them – for good!

But, softening up your MMA class is a disservice to your MMA students…

And, you know that you need to attract the MAJORITY of the adult market to have a really strong adult enrollment in your school…

So what are you supposed to do?

Here’s The Answer I Came Up With…

The answer is to offer what most adults really want when they walk into a martial arts school: Fitness and Reality Based Self-Defense.

In case you haven’t heard, at last weekend’s seminar in Austin we introduced and taught two new adult programs…

Fighting Fit™ and the Self Defense Black Belt Program™

Both programs are based on research and field testing I did in my own school during the recent recession, and after three years of research and field testing, and a year of preparation, we’re launching these programs and making them available to martial arts school owners starting in early September.

But, you get to hear about them first on this blog – I’ll be posting more info on the Fighting Fit program next week, but today I’d like to focus on the SDBBP…

Here’s a “teaser” video to give you a peak at what we did at the seminar on August 14th – 16th in Austin:

The Big Question You May Be Asking

I know many of you will be asking, “Why a self-defense program? And, doesn’t this compete with what we already do?”

In answering this, first I’d like to point out that this program is designed to attract people into your school who would NEVER consider doing a regular martial arts program, for whatever reason.

Now, I’m not going to go into a long discussion about why most adults aren’t interested in what I call “culturally-influenced” martial arts…

But I will say that “culturally-influenced” arts are really only for a niche market – which is why the typical market penetration for martial arts schools is only around 1.5% of the local population.

People don’t call your school and say, “Yes, I’m calling because I’d like to be steeped in the martial traditions of a foreign culture.”

Uh-uh. They call and say, “I’d like to learn how to protect myself… I want to learn self-defense.”

The draw is learning self defense, which is why realistic self-defense programs have a widespread appeal with the majority of the adult population… not just a small segment. Everyone is a potential customer when you teach realistic self-defense. Everyone.

Protected Territories

Also, I’d like to mention the fact that we’re providing school owners with protected territories. The idea is to give you an edge over your competitors, by having something no one else in your area has.

Complements Your Existing Programs

Third, the program is designed to complement what you already do. At the first Instructor Seminar, we had instructors from every walk and background… and they all said that the program was brilliant in it’s simplicity and that it could easily be implemented in their schools.

There are several ways to implement this curriculum:

  1. It can be taught as a stand-alone adult program.
  2. It can be taught as a self-defense component to an existing program.
  3. It can be taught in small group classes and private lessons.
  4. It can be taught as an add-on program for your BBC, Leadership, and Master’s students.

Obviously, the most profitable way is teaching it as a stand-alone program. But, I understand that different schools have different needs… so I created it to be versatile.

Offers Fast Results – A Major Draw For Self Defense Students

Fourth, it allows you to offer a short-term solution for the every day citizen who wants to learn self-defense now. While the core program has 3 full years of material (laid out in easy to follow and implement weekly lesson plans for each level), the Level I curriculum can be learned in 3-4 months.

The Invisible Adult Market = The Ones Your Never Hear From

The fact is, there are many people who want to learn self defense, but they don’t want to spend a lot of time doing it.

So, the SDBBP allows you to attract that market… and hopefully you’ll also get many of them to stick around for a year or more. And, some of them may even decide to do your other programs as well.

That means you get students you’d never be able to attract with your current programs, and you can feed those students into your core programs as time goes on.

Besides that, the material is a blast… the instructors who saw and worked it were raving about it (check out these videos to hear it in their own words).

It’s Effective

And, finally, it works. When I first started working this material with my students, I had two adults on two separate occasions who had to use it… after only a few months of training and with no prior experience.

In both cases, they came out of their scrapes safe and sound. Now, I’m not saying this is some ultimate martial art – it’s not. But it is a darned solid martial-arts-based self-defense curriculum that is focused on what works for the majority of people.

Interested In Finding Out More?

Our next Instructor Certification Seminar will be held on October 17th and 18th in Tomball, Texas at Champions Combat Arts, 12034 Spring Cypress Rd., Tomball, TX 77379.

For more information, click this link: Self Defense Certification Program

And About That Fitness Program…

I’ll explain more about the fitness program in coming blog posts.

For now, suffice it to say that it will allow you to make karate camp money without the karate camp overhead, time commitment, or hassles… more on that next week.

Until next time,

– Mike Massie


  1. Jeff on August 25, 2009 at 2:19 pm

    I am personally implementing the Self Defense Black Belt Program to replace my existing MMA program. Here is what I found…

    *Adults were able to pick up the curriculum more quickly than the curriculum I was using.

    *Adults who struggled with combinations (the basics of striking) were actually able to put combinations together and use them effectively at a more rapid pace than ever before.

    *Students want this training and enrollment in the SDBBP is outpacing my other programs.

    This stuff is great, if you want to contact me to talk to me personally feel free by getting my number from my website. I would recommend this to anyone for sure!

  2. Jason C. Brown on August 25, 2009 at 2:22 pm

    Hey Mike,

    This looks like an incredible program. Much success! I can’t wait to hear about your fitness program…just a side note.

    As you know, I’m from a fitness backround but do offer BJJ and boxing classes within our facility. I would always catch our fitness clients eye-balling the BJJ and boxing classes.

    We now offer a “fight club” class that offers the conditioning methods for our combat athletes but none of the sparring/rough contact. Class has grown each week.

    Post your fitness program asap…I’m super curious.

  3. Mike Massie on August 25, 2009 at 2:44 pm

    Glad you’re having success with it, Jeff!

    I found the same thing in my classes when I changed the way I was teaching to these methods.

    Oh… you can thank Burt Richardson for the open-hand touch drill. Good stuff…

  4. Mike Massie on August 25, 2009 at 2:45 pm

    Will do, Jason.

    You might consider the self defense program as well. You’ll get women in those classes that you’d never get in your BJJ or boxing classes.

  5. Vidal Rosales on August 25, 2009 at 9:22 pm

    Hi Mike,

    This this going to be a program on dvd, book or does it have to be an actual seminar only program. For those of us who might not be able to make the flight to texas?

  6. Jason on August 26, 2009 at 12:11 am


    I normally sit back and read the posts and hardly ever respond because I feel if people don’t get what you say, then best of luck to them. However, I wanted to respond with just a short note… Listen up to what has been said by Mike today. If you miss what it said, reread. It will bring in more students for you.

    Best regards,


  7. Mike Massie on August 26, 2009 at 6:41 am


    You’ll be able to access the material online, but you’ll still have to come train and learn in person to fulfill the requirements for representing the program. All instructor certification seminars will be held on weekends to make it easier for instructors to attend.

  8. Mike Massie on August 26, 2009 at 6:45 am

    Thanks for the vote of confidence, Jason…

    Much appreciated!

    I know those schools who choose to offer this program will benefit from it, simply by offering what the public is asking for…

  9. Vidal Rosales on August 26, 2009 at 10:23 pm

    Thank you for your prompt and professional response.

  10. Freddie McDonald Jr on August 29, 2009 at 5:43 pm

    I enjoyed the article and concur what it has mentioned about bringing in more adults.

    I live in a town that has a martial art school that teaches the varoius aspects of martial training: traditional, self-defense, and the sport. Some schools focus to much on one aspect of training (like traditional or sport).

    If I did a survey and ask several people if they are interested in learing a traditional martial art, I would get a weird stare. If I asked them about self-defense that is safe and yet particle, then I would get a spark.

    Looking at the video clip, the system seems to be free flowing, unlike other schools that teaches self-defense (got do like this when… or you gotta’ do it like that when…).

    Again, enjoyed the article.

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