Martial Arts Business Blunders

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I had a really cool article about guard development that I was really excited to post.

But sometimes things happen or events occur that warrant me addressing them.

If you guys know me in real life. I make it a point to talk to and to keep in contact with the owners of the academies that I meet.

Even if it’s just in passing. You can learn a lot about the martial arts business from the ones that are savvy.

It’s no secret why they are successful. You can see it in their mindset and how they approach challenges.

So when they’re excited about another year of member growth or they expanded into a new location. It’s really no surprise.

But I’ve come into contact with a few academies that seem to be making blunder after blunder.

Even more well established academies that have been open for decades are making blunders that are mainly due to a lack of basic business principles.

Making mistakes isn’t bad. It’s not learning from them and continuing to do same things that is the problem.

When you’re in the martial arts business or any business really, you can’t afford to make blunders.

I’ve recently taken up playing chess. I completely suck (right now) but it’s crazy how you can relate that game back to the business aspects of Jiu Jitsu.

For those of you not avid players. In the chess world a blunder is considered:

“a very bad move. It is usually caused by some tactical oversight, whether from time trouble, overconfidence or carelessness.”

And I really want to emphasize the overconfidence and carelessness parts.

In a game like chess mistakes are expected. Especially during the beginning stages.

However, when you decide to enter into the martial arts business world. It’s very much like entering the black belt division.

If you have any major (or minor) holes in your game. They will be exposed for all to see.

And everyone is out to beat you. Even if it means hurting you to do so.

The same goes for the business side of Jiu Jitsu.

If you don’t have the right training.

You will suffer.

If you don’t have the right experience.

You will struggle.

When you’re the head of an academy you have a lot of people counting on your success.

Your family.

Your students.

Unfortunately, I’ve seen many martial arts academies not make it.

Not only does the owner feel like they let their family and their students down. But they often internalize those feelings which can lead to anxiety, depression, and a whole host of other bad stuff.

Common Blunders

Listen, you’re going to make mistakes over the course of managing your business.

Mistakes happen.

But you can’t afford to make mistake after mistake and hope to stay in business.

There’s just too much competition out there.

Pick the right location – it’s better to outgrow a location than it is to have a big academy right off the back.

Avoid the wrong instructor(s) – Find instructors that are a good fit and will represent your academy well.

Avoid joining the wrong associations – Join associations that make your business better and bring value.

Have the right credentials – If you don’t have the right credentials. You’re not a black belt (or soon to be promoted) or you haven’t differentiated yourself enough yet through tournaments, social media, etc. Then maybe you should hold off opening an academy until you have more experience. Otherwise you might do a disservice to yourself and actually limit your progression.

Investing back into your business – This is where I see a lot of academies drop the ball. You have to invest back into your academy.

Keep your academy looking good. Update your equipment and mats every few years.

Invest back into your students by bringing the right instructors.

Invest in your staff by making sure they get the right training that they need to be successful.

Academies are the center of the Jiu Jitsu community

The academy is the foundation of the Jiu Jitsu community.

It’s where student go to practice their techniques.

Where competitors go to sharpen their skills.

And where instructors go to master their craft.

Without successful academies their would be no Jiu Jitsu. It’s only through the success of academies, both small and large, that Jiu Jitsu will continue to grow.

Advice overload

I’ve spent a lot of time with the owners of academies throughout my career and I’ve seen that the ones that tend to struggle the most are often the same ones to turn down good advice or wise council.

It’s funny that in Jiu Jitsu we promote having no ego and being open minded.

But often these same people are less willing to take their own advice when it comes to business matters.

I’m not saying that you have to take every piece of advice to heart and that you have to implement right away.

That would be a terrible idea.

But you should keep an open mind when someone more experienced than yourself reaches out to you or when one of your students voice a good suggestion.

Feedback and how to filter

From Giving feedback:

Being receptive to feedback is an important part of Jiu Jitsu (business) because it is the only way that you will be able to improve.

Receiving Feedback
Actively listen. Respond and remember what is being said.
Say thanks. Regardless of whether the feedback is useful or not.
Evaluate feedback. Think about how you can effectively apply the feedback to grow your Jiu Jitsu (business).

These same steps can be used in receiving advice (aka feedback) on your marital arts business.

It’s telling that many of the best competitors and instructors are also some of the most receptive to feedback.

Jiu Jitsu and entrepreneurs

I’ve found that many of the business owners and entrepreneurs that I know love talking about their businesses and actively seek feedback and advice about their business.

That’s one way that I know that an academy owner will be successful.

It’s when I come across owners that still operate their business like it’s 1980’s Brazil or ones that consistently seem to struggle that I begin to worry.

Not everyone is cut out for it

I’ve said this before but just because you’re good at Jiu Jitsu doesn’t mean that you will be good at running a Jiu Jitsu business.

You could be a world champion.

Or the best instructor in the world.

And that alone would not be enough to ensure that your martial arts business will be a success.

That’s the hard, uncomfortable truth.

The most successful academies weren’t started by Jiu Jitsu practitioners alone.

In fact they started off as a partnership between a high level competitor or well known instructor and someone with a background in business and ample resources.

The Mendez brothers and RVCA founder PM Tenore.

Marcelo Garcia and chess prodigy Josh Waitzkin.

And many more well known academies that you have probably heard of.

Get help

It’s hard asking for help but if your martial arts business is struggling. You have to look at the big picture.

It’s better to get help now and save your business than to not get help and slowly let your business fail.

This might seem so illogical to many of my readers but I’ve witnessed first hand the decline of an academy.

It wasn’t pretty and completely avoidable.

Don’t be another statistic.

Even if your academy is doing well. Is there a way to take it to the next level?

By having the right people looking out for you like mentors, other business owners, and even knowledgeable students, you already have a competitive advantage.

But you will also need to be receptive to what they say. Even if it’s not what you want to hear.

No ego.

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