What It's Like to Start a Martial Art School

management start-up Sep 09, 2022

Life As A New Martial Art School Owner

Being a new business owner is scary, mysterious, and exciting all at once. On the one hand, starting your new business represents an exciting new adventure, as well as the potential for financial freedom and getting to do what you love for a living.

On the other hand, not knowing what to expect can work on your nerves and make your first few months that much more difficult. Starting a martial art school is stressful enough; the last thing you need is additional stress based on uncertainty.

In addition, you may have unrealistic expectations that can later work against you when life as a school owner doesn’t turn out to be the smooth trip you thought it would be.

So, I thought I’d quickly share the following with you...

A Typical Day In The Life Of A New Martial Art School Owner –

Chances are good you’ll be working at your “day job” while you’re getting your school off the ground. So, your day will start at around 6:00 A.M., or maybe a little earlier if you want to check in on your billing accounts, do some paperwork for the school, or get a workout in before work…

Your work breaks and lunchtime at your day job will likely be spent returning phone inquiries and following up on leads. Plan to use the back hallways, lonely conference rooms, and empty offices in your place of work to return phone calls using your cell phone. If your school phone is your cell phone, so much the better.

Oh, and you’ll be using your employer’s internet access for returning email inquiries and customer service emails as well… unless you have a smart phone, which solves that little ethical conundrum. But, you still may find yourself doing this when you should be working (shame, shame!)

After your work day at the day job is done, it’s time to fight traffic in order to make it in to teach that first class. Hopefully, your job is close to your school – if not, you’ll likely face a daily struggle to open the front doors on schedule.

Since your earliest classes are usually your youngest age groups, you can assign opening and teaching early classes to an assistant, once you have a student with enough rank to teach for you. However, you’re pinching every penny you can right now, and it doesn’t make sense to pay someone else before you are even able to pay yourself… so it’s likely going to be months or years before that happens.

Roughly 5 minutes before (or after) your first class is supposed to start, you rush in the door with your uniform and gear bag in tow. Apologizing profusely to the streams of parents and children who are following you in the school, you run to your office, pull the shades and quickly change into your uniform. The thought enters your mind that you could use a telephone booth for this routine, but you sure don’t feel like Superman right now…

That feeling changes, however, the minute you walk out on the floor and catch a smile from one of the kids in your first class. The minute you walk out, you get bum-rushed by about a dozen little future black belts, all clamoring to tell you about their new pet, toy, sibling, teacher, “ow-ee”, fake tattoo, etc. After letting them get it out of their system, you get them lined up and start class – only 3 minutes late. (Phew!)

Classes rush by in a whirlwind of activity… you’re in your element, and the rush you get from teaching and doing what you love makes your day job seem like it’s almost worth putting up with for a few more months until you can do this full-time. In between classes you’re going back and forth from the floor to the front lobby to the office, trying to take care of customer service issues and field walk-in inquiries while you keep classes running.

If you’ve been smart, you’ve already trained a leadership team and have them helping with warm-ups and the like. And if you’re really smart, you’ve scheduled a short break between classes. If not, you silently wish you could clone yourself, leave five of you at the school, and take two of your extra doubles on a vacation to Tahiti, so you can sleep three times as much while you’re there…

After the last class is over, you don’t get the last adult student out until 30 minutes later. They like to chat, you like to explain things and share insights into your martial art, and it’s hard to tell them you really need to do some work before you leave.

It’s always a good idea to start cleaning the school while you’re talking, since you are going to have to do it tonight anyway, and there’s always the odd chance a student will take the hint and chip in to help. Usually, though, they just follow you around the school and keep asking questions, even when you’re elbow-deep scrubbing toilets…

Right around 9:30 or 10:00 P.M., you’re in your office. It’s time to get the day’s deposit together, to check inventory for the week’s pro shop order, to process new membership agreements and set up billing schedules, to enter and review attendance, to print a list of MIA calls you’ll need to make in the morning at your first break, to pay some bills (can’t forget the light bill again – that “ninja training night” story only works once), to finish off this month’s newsletter, to figure out how many belts you need and what color for graduation (yikes… it’s this Friday!), to plan your marketing for next month…

It’ll never get all done tonight, but there’s always Saturday morning before classes for the things that aren’t urgent. 11:00 P.M. and you’re finally walking out the door, locking the front door on your way out.

11:20 and you’re finally home. Feed the dog/cat/parakeet/hamster/turtle/yourself, kiss the dog/cat/parakeet/hamster/turtle/wife/kids (don’t wake them!), make sure you have a clean uniform for the school and clean socks and underwear for work tomorrow… and don’t forget that report you’re giving at the big meeting!

Midnight rolls around, and you’re tucked away in bed, ready to drift off to… CRAP!

You bolt upright in bed, realizing you forgot to close and lock the back door to the martial art school.

Oh, the joys of starting and running a martial art school.

Now, where are those car keys?


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