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Start A Martial Arts Business: A Starting Guide For Success

Looking to start a Martial Arts Business?

Creating a business can be a challenging and rewarding venture. However, the road will not be easy and at most only 20% will be in business after five years.

There is no just build it and they will come approach in business that will be successful. To be successful you need have a successful plan in place and understand what tools you’ll need to succeed before you invest the first dollar. As Sun Tzu said, “Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win.”

Create Your Map For Success

You love Martial Arts, you’re inspired, and you want to make money doing what you love to do. Now what steps do you need to first take to make your dream a reality? There are several steps that you must first undertake to get your business off the ground.

Now, let’s create your plan of action!


Universal Goal

What does success look like? Write down your ultimate goal and what success to you would be.

Be realistic here but it’s also an opportunity to visualize your dream!

Break down your Universal Goal into small increments.

  • How many students do you expect after 4 months, 12 months, 2 years?

Then write down your branding and image.

  • What are you going to name your school?
  • Do you have a mission or vision statements?

This is the fun part where you visualize your goal and put it on paper.



Create Your Budget And Understand Your Expenses
  • To start a Martial Arts business, what are the costs involved?
  • What tools, software, and equipment are you going to need to purchase?

Write down a list of all the items you’ll need to get your business started. Some of these items on this list will be initial cost and can vary depending on what you are planning to offer. Your initial cost list should include items like sparring gloves, target pads, floor mats, shin pads, and uniforms.

Items like uniforms more than likely will be sold when a student enrolls. You can make the choice depending on your business plan in regards to profit, perhaps include it in the enrollment package for the new students. Creating a shop to sell items like shin pads, chest protectors, and mouth pieces at your location is an opportunity for supplemental income.

Many schools even have fridges stocked with waters and sports drinks. Often you can find a vendor for this that will rent space in your school and will restock and do all the work for you. It’s more than likely minimal income for you each month, but it’s at no expense and provides a better ambiance for your students.


There is also going to be ongoing expenses. You will need of course to rent space and pay utilities.

Here is a free template you can use through Rocket Lawyer. There are also other templates you can find online that may suit you.


Get Insured

Sufficient insurance will also be an expense. You will need liability and business insurance. If you plan on hiring employees don’t forget to find out if workers compensation insurance is required in your state. As your business and membership grows, intermittently revisit your insurance plan or speak with your provider.


Hiscox is an company that specializes in small business insurance. I learned about them from a friend that went through them for his dojo. I can’t speak to a personal experience with them, but have heard they are affordable and can provide an online quote. You can vett them and find out if they will be a fit for your business.

Along with insurance I want to highlight the importance of having a liability waiver.

Rocket Lawyer again is a great resource to investigate. Specializing in legal support and documents for small to medium business, most of your needs can be met for under $40. They also have many free documents which I’ve put several links to on this article.

They can help get your business incorporated as well, which we’ll go over later. You can create and download a free liability release here. I’m sure if you are into Martial Arts you are aware of this and have probably signed many with each dojo you have visited. This is an essential form that that no martial arts school can go without and I felt necessary to include in this section.


What management software are you going to use?

Management software is a tool that handles your check-ins, scheduling, Point Of Sale, agreement writing, payroll, and payment processing. Statistically, schools that do not have management software in place can expect to see 10% to 16% loss in revenue each month from declined billing. With adequate club management software in place you can expect to reduce your monthly revenue loss to 5% or less! The automated agreements and billing also adds an efficiency to your business that can’t be underestimated.


Motionsoft is an elite software that will provide you all your management tools in one format. Also, they are a major player in the processing field and can normally offer lower processing fees than most providers. Along with that they have several recovery tools and account receivable capabilities. This ensures you are maximizing collections from the monthly dues without losing any of the revenue you should be getting.


I am the Marketing Director with Motionsoft and can personally help you to find out if Motionsoft is the correct tool for your business. You can schedule a time with me by clicking here and I can walk you through the process. Other players in the field would be MindBody, Zen Planner, and ASF.

When you are at this stage don’t hesitate to reach out to me for assistance.

If Motionsoft is not a fit, I’d be happy to refer you to a company that better fits your needs.


What are your plans for marketing?

How are you going to attract and attain your students? Are you going to hire a marketing expert to assist you with your launch or are you going to do it yourself?

Published in the Wall Street Journal a new business should be spending 12-20% of gross revenue on marketing While an established company should be spending 6-12% of the monthly revenue on marketing.

As a start up you of course don’t have monthly revenue yet. Instead you are just going to have to work within your allotted budget to launch. If you are going to hire an individual or company to do your marketing they will go through a checklist of questions to assess the best solution for you.

From my experience with marketing, the best advice I can give you is to be patient. Don’t rush this step and interview several companies or individuals for the position. Since you are going to start a Martial Arts business make sure to ask if they have experience in this niche.


Of course with Sushi Fitness I specialize in working with martial arts schools and small studios. Let’s set up a time to chat and discuss what your business goals and opportunities are. You can easily set up a time on my calendar: Click Here To Set Up A Time

If you want to try it on your own Deluxe Business Service is a good starting point for understanding online marketing if you are new to this. They can do logo and website design for you. They also offer online, social media, and email marketing. In addition they can handle payroll services, incorporating your business, and other functions to assist with making your business successful.

Pabbly is another great company to start with. They have a variety of tools for marketing and to assist your business like, email marketing and billing


You Will Need To Establish Yourself As A Legal Business

You are teaching students self defense, let’s now take the steps to defend ourselves in court. Forming an LLC or business entity will protect you from being personally sued if your school should ever happen to be sued. An LLC is the most common option used by small businesses. They are very easy to do on your own but there is also business services that can help you in the process.


MyCompanyWorks is an excellent resource to help you out. They can get you through all these hurdles and save you time and effort for less than $100.

As mentioned before Rocket Lawyer and Deluxe Business Service can assist with establishing you as well. Swyft Filings is another get all around company with excellent reviews that can help you get your business started. I’d recommend contacting each company and see what the best option or bundle for you would be.


Register To Pay Taxes

As Ben Franklin said, “nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” This is a step you will have to get out of the way.

However, it’s a very simple process thankfully. You just need to register for an EIN or Employer Identification Number through the I.R.S. website.


Open Up A Bank Account And Credit Card For Your Business

It is extremely important to have a dedicated business account to protect your personal assets. This is an important step to start a Martial Arts business, or any business for that matter. If you don’t separate your personal assets from your business you are at risk in the unfortunate event your school gets sued. This also helps in regards to accounting and filing taxes.

Using a separate credit card for your business helps to simplify by having your business expenses all in one place. This will also help in generating a credit history for your business.


Are You Purchasing Your Location Or Leasing?

If you are purchasing your location you will be responsible for obtaining a Certificate Of Occupancy. A Certificate Of Occupancy just simply confirms that all codes, zoning laws, and regulations have been met. You can easily obtain a Certificate of Occupancy by  contacting your local government. Usually through the county department of housing.

If you are leasing your location it is the responsibility of your landlord to obtain a C.O.

Make sure you confirm that your landlord has a valid applicable C.O. for a martial arts school before signing.


Don’t Forget To Get Your Licenses And Permits

Depending on your location of business state licenses and permits may need to be required. Call your your town or county clerk’s office and they’ll be able to assist you.


Go Back To Your Universal Goal

Now that you have the red tape out of the way, you can go back to why you wanted to start your Martial Arts business in the first place. You’ve purchased your supplies, licenses, insurance, and software. Your school has been furnished, mats are rolled out, the bags are hanging, and you should have your business structure in place before your first student. You should also be pre-selling with your initial marketing.


Depending on the size, scope, and structure each location and school will be different. It’s your dream so you need to visualize how you want it to run and operate.

  • What’s your class structure and hours of operation going to be like?
  • Do you need to hire front desk or additional instructors?

At this stage you are revisiting your initial goal and seeing where you stand after the work you’ve put in.

  • Has your vision changed?


Your universal goal should be your guide and constant reminder. This was the start of your dream and you should always go back to it and expand upon it. Every management class I’ve taken or business book I’ve read has always been consistent with this premise.

Write down your goals and keep going back to them. This will keep you on track and help you to move forward in accomplishing what you set out to do in the first place!


Have you already started a Martial Arts business or any other type of business?

Any tips or ideas for readers who may be thinking about starting their own?

Any start up steps you feel I missed and should include?

This Post Has 8 Comments

  1. Parveen

    Hey Lee, Your guide is very useful to Start A Martial Arts Business: A Starting Guide For Success. In my views if anyone will follow your step by step guide to start their own martial art business. Your guide will give them 100% results. Deluxe Business Service is a good starting point for understanding online marketing if we are new to this. Keep this grate work up.

    1. Lee Goupil

      Parveen, I appreciate your kind words. 

      Have you used Deluxe Business Service before? 

  2. MrBiizy

    Hello Lee. I must say that I am pretty astonished by this guide on how to successfully start a martial arts business. It is plain truth that many persons fall out of business in just few years. Only the prepared and diligent ones will stay in business for years and probably forever, yes forever!

    I find this guide very useful in starting other form of businesses too. Breaking our goals into smaller pieces is very important. This is exactly what I have done and with time, we can pile up our little successes to attain more successes and goals. I’m considering registering my business and put in order everything that is required.

    Nice post.

    Peace out!

    1. Lee Goupil

      I appreciate you reading and replying. 

      Best of luck on your venture!

  3. raztouched

    This article is really a big help. I love martial arts and I’ve been into a business before I had a gym teaching children and adult martial art, but sadly I did not succeed it was not planned well and I loss.Wrong management. You are right creating a business is very challenging. My fault was just I don’t have a feasibility study. I love your article, If I’ve known it before it really a big help. Your plan is very precise and you explain it very well. Thank you for this article now I know what to do.

    1. Lee Goupil

      Thanks for reading and responding. 

      I know quite often people have a passion and jump into business and just hope it works out. 

      One of my favorite Sun Tzu quotes that I added to this article “Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win.”

      I think passion sometimes takes over and people just jump in and think they’ll figure it out as they go. 

  4. Cathy Allen

    This is a great article on starting a Martial Arts business. While it’s great to teach people how to defend themselves and compete in tournaments, it takes more work than many people realize. You really have to know not just how to teach but how to sell and market and set up a location. Insurance is a biggie; I’m glad you remembered to list that. People are always looking to start up one sort of business or another, and you’ve provided a great starting place for people looking to get into the martial arts business!

    1. Lee Goupil

      Thank you for reading and I appreciate the comments Cathy.  
      Sometimes the passion of the Art outweighs the business steps at times. 
      I’ve seen many friends who break off and want to just train and teach and make a living. 
      Unfortunately there is also the business aspect of it as well. 
      I’ve seen this a bunch in personal training too. 
      People love working out and try to make a career in fitness and unfortunately realize the challenge in creating a business that can provide enough revenue for them to continue. 

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