Showing posts with tag: Martial arts business

Martial Arts Business Toolkit

After years of writing on topics concerning the business side of martial arts. I decided to compile everything that I’ve learned into a easy to read guide. The Martial Arts Business Toolkit.

I know many athletes all over the world pursuing Jiu Jitsu as their career.

But even if you’ve made a name for yourself, and established yourself as a skilled competitor and instructor. It’s still hard.

As Jiu Jitsu continues to grow, more and more people are going to look to make a career out of it.

It’s only natural. In the America we’re always told that you should follow your dreams and do what you love.

But what are the options for someone looking to make a career out of Jiu Jitsu?

The most obvious, and the one that I hear everyone say is that you should open up an academy.

>Get a black belt. Open an academy.

>Win a world championship. Open an academy.

>No other skills. Open up an academy.

I expect most high level Jiu Jitsu competitors too have this thought cross their mind at some point. But running an academy is a business, and just like you have to prepare your techniques before entering a tournament. You also have to prepare yourself to run a business.

Starting an academy takes preparation, patience and resources.

And if you foolishly rush into this it can be an expensive lesson.

If you are dead set on having an academy one day in the future then you should be learning about the business aspects of running an academy as soon as possible.

Easy test: If you had to work the front desk at your academy for one hour would you be able to handle everything without a hitch?

You would be surprised that many academy owners and instructors are completely lost when it comes to handling basic business operations. Let alone doing basic accounting, marketing, and sales. Things that make businesses successful.

All the Jiu Jitsu technique in the world won’t help you when it comes running your business.

In my Martial Arts Business Toolkit we will cover:

  • How to fund your academy
  • Marketing your programs
  • Different systems that I use
  • Common mistakes to avoid

Promoting a great training environment

The environment of an academy can make or break it.

I’ve thought a lot about this topic. Both as an instructor and as a student. And my hypothesis is that academies with a great training environment tend to do better financially and in competitions.

It’s hard to explain what makes for a great training environment. However, I do know that no matter how good your academy is there will always be someone that gets rubbed the wrong way.

You can’t please everyone. And that’s okay.

But I will touch on a few key factors that have no part of any academy. As well as things that I look for in the academies that I visit and train under.

Drama between students

A lot of the drama between students (and sometimes instructors) occurs because of their relationship outside of the academy.

I’ve seen a lot of drama ensue after two students began dating, break up, and then start dating other students within the academy.

There’s been a few instances where I’ve tried to pair students to train not knowing that they had some prior romantic relationship. One time, I had a student flat out tell me that he would not work with another student right in the middle of the class.

Not only was this an awkward situation but it really hindered the mood of the training. The environment went from fun and exciting to unpleasant and heavy.

I’ve yet to find a solution to this outside of asking students to keep their personal lives (and relationships) out of the academy but this topic definitely deserves its own post.

In school fighting

This also relates to personal issues and relationships. But instead of students, this often involves academy owners and/or instructors.

Here in Sweden, we actually have a board that decides many of the important issues that affect an academy.

But most academies have one or two owners that also instruct.

In this case, if there are differences in how they believe they should run their academy. Like which students to graduate, or who they should affiliate with. This can cause a lot of tension that students can feel even if they don’t know the details of the situation. Negatively affecting the environment for everyone.

Splits and breaks

Splits or breaks from an academy can often be seen in two different lights.

In one way, it could be seen as filtering out bad students or members that don’t follow the code of conduct.

I’ve see this a lot with some of the top academies. Often, the students will continue pushing the limit until their behavior will have to be addressed by the instructors or the owners of the academy.

I believe this is what happened fairly recently when Dillon Danis and Mansher Khera were asked to leave MGA earlier this year (2017).

On the other hand, a break or split could be the sign of a toxic training environment.

A few years ago there was a major team break off from TLI that I was a part of at the time.

I won’t got into to much detail, but I will say that a negative environment can often attract a bad element into your academy. Undoing all of your hard work and making the training unbearable.

There’s just no way to sustain an academy with a bad or toxic environment. It affects everything from the energy, moral, and motivation of students and instructors alike.

Academy culture

The best academies that I’ve had the pleasure of attending all had a strong culture.

A culture of mutual respect between: students and teachers, lower belts and higher belts, men and women, and young and old.

It’s hard to put into words what exactly an academy’s culture is. It’s more of the experience that you have when you train. It’s different shades of grey between good or bad, and differs between academies and our own individual perception.

As a some what well known black belt I (usually) get treated differently than a new white belt off of the street.

But a great academy will treat us both equally well.

As my friend Sam Yang writes in his post Lead from the Front – Don’t Boss from the Back

“In the dojo, the teacher must be egalitarian. The techniques should be libertarian. The culture should be socialistic. This is the balancing act of any sound leadership.”

Promoting a great training environment

Promoting a great training environment is no easy task. It takes a lot of time, effort, and thought.

In all honesty, it’s best to create the training environment that you want from the very start. Having it ingrained into your academy’s core. Obviously, this is the task for the academy owner/instructors.

It’s much harder to clean up a toxic environment that’s been left to fester and completely take over an entire academy. Even for the best, most experienced instructors out there.

Change has to come from the top. Down to the students.

As an instructor, you have to constantly monitor the environment at your academy.

Is it positive?

Are students motivated?

Do they have a good time?

How can I make the environment even better?

These are just a few of the questions that I ask myself on a daily basis.

As a student, you can also do your part to enhance the training environment at your academy.

Like, if you see a new student struggling with a technique. If the instructor is preoccupied, take the initiative and go help them out.

Or if there’s an event hosted by your academy. Go and give your support.

I really feel that mutual respect is also a major key behind keeping and maintaining a great environment.

There have been times when I was traveling and some of the academies didn’t have a culture of respect. It was really offputting.

It doesn’t matter how technically good an academy is if the environment is bad.

Similar to my post Building Better Relationships with your students.

I believe that the key to promoting a great training environment is like cultivating any of your other relationships.

There needs to be clear and open communication. Members have to feel and know that their thoughts and concerns are heard and valued.

Instructors and academy owners also need to keep bringing value. This could mean upgrading to better facilities, teaching newer techniques, or even bringing in instructors for seminars.

A Jiu Jitsu academy is really a little community. Made of people from all different walks of life, status, age groups, ethnicities, social class, etc. Where else could all of these people mix together?

This shared environment is definitely worth cultivating and protecting.

Should your academy have a uniform policy?

Over the last few years I’ve observed more and more academies enacting a uniform policy for their members.

It’s nothing new in martial arts.

In traditional martial arts, they’ve had it for years.

The world’s largest Jiu Jitsu association, Gracie Barra, has always enforced a strict gi policy. Simply put, if you train at a Gracie Barra academy then you have to wear a Gracie Barra gi.

There’s different forms of uniform policy that I’m going to introduce today.

But I also want to touch on a few ways to make the transition easier for you and your students since a lot of academies seem to drop the ball at that step.

First, let’s look at some of the pros of a uniform policy.

1 Revenue source

The best reason to have a uniform is that it can serve as another source of revenue for your academy.

Gi’s, t-shirts, belts, hoodies, etc don’t seem like they will add to much to your academies coffers. But imagine students purchasing multiple items or a new student not having to shop around since you have everything they need.

2 More professional

No question here. When all of you students wear the same uniform it looks more professional and shows any visitors and new students that your academy is a well run business and not just a hobby or hodge podge.

3 Social media

This plays off my last point but in this age of social media it’s important how you present your business to the outside world. Matching uniforms look great in photos and videos.

Cons

Depending on how you set up your uniform and the time table you implement. It’s possible that some of your members will push back against this change.

In my old academy in Atlanta, we had a very similar situation occur. I won’t lie a few members complained and I knew of a a couple that decided to leave because of this change in policy.

As an instructor, a business owner, and a person you simply cannot please everyone.

If you make a decision you have to stick by it.

Implementing

I’ve observed two ways of implementing a uniform dress policy.

The easiest one to set into motion is to pick a color scheme for your academy. This means that you decide which color uniforms are allowed and which ones are not allowed.

Examples of this include the Art of Jiu Jitsu academy white gi policy, all black no gi, and Cobrinha’s white and blue gi policy.

With this policy, your students will be able to wear their favorite uniform. It will just have to conform.

The next step is a little bit harder so expect some push back from a few members. But could possibly generate even more revenue for your martial business if done properly.

At many of the top academies, there is a strict uniform policy where you have to wear the official academy uniform. Often this will be sourced in house. Meaning that the academy itself produces its own uniform or it goes through a third party gi manufacturer. These could be well known companies that many of you know and live, or some random startup out of Pakistan lol.

The uniform will usually contains patches with the academies logo on the pants and top as well as the manufactures logo.

Maybe I will go more into detail about gi production in a later post but for now I just wanted to introduce the topic of uniforms in Jiu Jitsu academies.

Ultimately, it is up to the owner/instructors on whether or not to set a uniform.

Of course, it looks great when an academy has a uniform. It’s no different than a sports team wearing the same uniform and looks great on social media. But implementing it can be tough. Old Members and students can become too accustomed to the way things have always been done that enacting change will ruffle some feathers.

My advice if you want to implement a uniform policy in your academy is to start slow. Offer your own academy branded apparel, gi, shorts, and rashguard. Don’t make it mandatory at first but just another option that your members can select.

Start slow, offer your gear to your beginning students and newer members and then on to the old members.

If you can, try to not go through any third parties manufacturers because that will cut into your profit and will often affect the pricing.

Maybe adding a uniform policy could be the right step to take your martial arts business to the next level.