View Full Version : Martial Arts, a viable career path
Is Martial Arts Instruction a viable career path, or do most people have other full time jobs? Any info would be appreciated.
I have met quite a few MA instructors over the years, and the majority of LEGITIMATE ones have a full-time job to support their hobby of teaching :-)
My sensei is the exception to the rule; however she lives a fairly modest lifestyle, and doesn't expect to retire rich :-)
Up until recently I worked full time as an instructor....it can be done, but depending on where you are it can be hard going. I used to travel around 200 miles a week to teach in various locations. Its a fickle exsistance, nice weather not everyone wants to train, if your income is dependent on numbers, you can find there are periods when paying the bills is a struggle. I also found that because I was doing so many classes a week I was not only very tired, but injury recovery was slower and I was not really enjoying my martial art. After 5 years I decided to concentrate on 2 locations, maximum of 4 classes a week (on different days, that can be an hour an a half class or 3 back to back still counting as one) and balancing out my day with other persuits.....I am now at college. What may not often be realised by students is how much preparation and background work goes into running classes.....they may just turn up for their hour and a half, but then I would go home and get organised with the advertising, the website, organising workshops, producing newsletters etc......It can become a major operation.
With my art (Bujinkan) it's very rare to find full-time "commercial" instructors: Most everyone has a regular "day job", and even the master teachers in Japan generally rent space two or three times a week in a sports center or something of the sort for their classes rather than having a regular dojo facility of their own. Teaching for a living is something Hatsumi sensei actually discourages, as he feels it is likely to lead to an unbalanced life and unbalanced budo.
Mandeigh makes some superb observations of some of the potential problems. If, on top of those, you have a martial art which (when taught properly) requires as much mental engagement and analysis as physical movement -- and therefore doesn't attract students in large numbers to begin with -- trying to derive one's sole income from teaching while still maintaining one's integrity is virtually impossible.
Not if you need money for anything at all! :D
Consider it a hobby and to justify (to the Mrs?) it's cheaper than going to the gym.
As the saying goes: How to make a small fortune in marital arts, start with a large fortune and open a school.
I know a few who have made it full time; but, they mostly rely on a kids program to support the adult program.
Dear Brian Cosgrove:
It is a viable career path. There are several paths one can take as has been suggested. If one becomes a professional martial artist and pursues--movies,selling store supplies, bulletin board,teaching,UFC etc etc It can be done.
Suggest you start off with a good business plan: like in 5 year segments and a mentor who has done it before will help a lot.
There is software on this in the marketplace. Good Luck on your venture.
Im guessing my instructor is full-time. But there's nothing commercial about it, there nothing wrong with having a dedicated instructor who cares about his/her school. He ain't no Donald Trump, that's obvious. But he's there in the morning, afternoon and evening. It's a pretty thriving school. Id say the adults come and go with kids sticking around a little longer. But never have I felt it was commercial. Ive seen that school, the main instructor said I wouldn't have to start over at white belt and that my brown could be used, obviously wanted me in there for the money. I realize owners have to make money in order to keep the dojo warm but there's a real difference between Karate Ken and Karate Ben(jamin).
although i do not run or own a school, i am seriously considering the career path of a professional instructor.
what i find, however, is that there is that thin line between "making a living" and running, what i have read in forums, a "McDojo". i am still in the planning process, so this issue is central to the decision i will make of whether to give up my present career. i do not want to be "that guy" who just harrasses people into signing up in order to make ends meet, but one must take those opportunities. not only for the income, but the off chance that this person is currently needing some encouragement.
for now, i am the enrollment coordinator at my school and i find it, for the most part, a very rewarding experience. even for the students that i have conducted numerous "follow-ups" in order to get thier business, it has proved less sleazy than i would have assumed "selling" martial arts to be could be. having the students come up to me after they test into thier next belt level and thank me for harrassing them into joining really threw me for a loop the first few times. awkwardly rewarding.
if one approaches their art with passion and dedication, it is a sales tool in itself. people will see your drive and want to find that same kind of happiness for themselves. if you have enough time, energy and business sense, along with a good chunk of humility, i think it is entirely possible to make a good living. however, i dont meet many millionaire martial arts instructors. in fact, i have met none, thank goodness that is not my reason for teaching.
rambling aside, i dont know if i will ever be completely comfortable pushing people into joining, it seems so contrary to the martial art philosophy of individual dedication.
my two cents.....jordan scharf
This is an interesting thread. I teach out of an established TKD school. The owner is a Full Time teacher, but he also has a fitness center in the same building. He does allot of personal training, and is very successful. It is a great environment to train in.
On the other hand I see the different Full Time schools in the area that rely completely on their respective arts for income. The end result is a cost that is out of this world to take a class. Then they will start to tag on, different rules and clubs that you have to buy into, or the belt test fees can make you think of taking a second mortgage. A big problem I see is that so much of this is geared at children. If it is not properly managed the art is lost, and all is left is the next “cool” thing to buy or join. Is that a good thing for children to get the true meaning of the art? Or just that his new graphite Bo matches his “X-tream” team Gi!
I am very fortunate to be associated with good Dojo. I figure Karma will get the best of those schools who are just in it to make a buck, but what damage will they leave in their wake to the future martial Artist.
Michael G Olive
I teach full time now but I did part time for over a decade.
Its not easy to do if your not a Mc Dojo.
We offer alot of different classes...
Karate (youth and adult)
That creates alot of interest but I think it hurt progression.
My full time school opened in December.
I think I will drop some classes once people are ready for higher level classes.
Sadly I will have to chose by which classes have largest attendance (supply and demand).
The Bear Warrior
I am new to this forum and this is my first post, so I thought I would lay down my 2 cents.
It is hard to balance a martial career while paying the bills. I have a full time job as a technician and currently teach privately out of my home (basement dojo) and hold the ocassional seminar.
I am currently in school for web design and have my own website www.bigbearacademy.com it does help me pay for some of the business expenses.
Teaching to me is as much of a joy as learning is. As a matter a fact I learn as much from teaching, as I do when I am in the student role.
I personally believe that you shouldn't start a martial career, but instead start a martial arts passion. That passion will carry you where you need to go. If the all mighty dollar is your goal, you have already missed the greatest lesson of the martial arts.
I hope that one day I will get all my business ventures going (ie website, webdesign, ect.) so that I can spend as much time teaching and training in the warrior arts as I choose. Teaching whom is willing to learn.
I watched Sensei go through ups and downs of memberships, moving locations while loosing a wife. On the other had I have trained with other Sensei that make it work and don't have to compromise their arts.
That is my main point, don't go into a martial career if you find it necessary to loose or compromise your warrior art. As they say "Keep it Real' then you will attract, and keep students and make life long friends.
Hope this helps. Didn't mean to get so winded.
The Bear Warrior
While we MA's do like to think that we are somehow a little different, the truth is that opening a school is just another business venture. I hate to say it, but it's the truth. Your revenue is produced by selling service (teaching MA). You need customers to buy your product to pay for rent, utilities, and everything else. And if I remember correctly, something like 50% of all new businesses shut down in the first year....or something like that.
Talk to other self-starters around your area...ask real questions about business. They can tell you some things that, as MA's, we may not think about. Make sure you figure your expenses beforehand. Remember, students pay your bills...so do you have enough students to pay your bills?
These words will haunt me for a long time, when my instructor said:
‘It’s either a hobby or a money maker’
When he maid this statement we started the transition from being a real dojo into a McDojo. Our Black Belt meetings went from learning how to be a better student and instructor –into- how to recruit and close potential students.
From this situation, I gave by resignation on December 14, 2003 and have not once regretted the decision.
You can make a full time living in the MA if you give it time and adjust your style of living – so you do something you love to do vs. something you have to do, like my day job.
I promise my wife that I will not open a fulltime dojo until our nine year old graduates high school. That is nine long years – it is the vision of having my own school that keeps me going when I loathe what I do as my daytime-fulltime-pay the bills profession.
Good luck to those that teach fulltime and maintain the integrity of the MA. I am learning from you and you keep my dream a live.
Sorry, for the melodramatics but it’s off to work I go - because I owe, I owe.
Don't mis-understand. When I say "you have to treat MA just like every other business", I mean that you must be careful not to over-extend yourself.
The biggest mistake that I think an instructor could make when opening a school is to open a full-time school straight away. Without students how can you pay the bills? So, when you open the doors to your school, how many students will you need to afford that place? Can you aquire those students in time to pay those bills? Can you do it and maintain you "ideal" school?
These are the questions that I feel every school owner has to answer before they can really be serious about opening a school.
Make sure you have a good amount of savings in the bank before you start.
Its has definateyl been a big leap for us.
I've been full time for the last 8 years or so. I run a mail order business alongside the teaching, so I don't rely 100% on it - it would be difficult too given the vast amount of choice of MA's these days and the less-committed attitude of many people to MA.
These days I feel more of a "service provider" than a teacher. MA schools are in competition with the local cinema, football, pub and any other leisure pursuit.
Add in insurance issues, difficulty of getting suitable venues and cost of advertising and I wouldn' t reccomendit is a "get rich quick" route! Unless of course you go the McDojo way - but I see that as a short term venture in any case.
I do feel that being full time means I can devote more energies to my own development and so (hopefully) my students and it has given me the flexibility to do many things. However I do wonder if I had put in the equivalent work and dedication into another vocation - law, medicine, building trade - whether I would now be a lot better off, have a pension plan, paid holidays,etc......
However I do wonder if I had put in the equivalent work and dedication into another vocation - law, medicine, building trade - whether I would now be a lot better off, have a pension plan, paid holidays,etc...... :laugh: :laugh: thats the bottom line eh! Nice one
I think that you should move slowly from hobby to business. From 1997 to present we went park to renting space, to having our own dojo. Lean from others and always keep the motto "do what you love and the money will come." If you focus on the money 1st you will create an evil Mcdojo.
" If you focus on the money 1st you will create an evil Mcdojo.
Michael G Olive
one of the most heartbreaking things I ever had to see and go through was when my TKD instructor lost the dojang. I knew a guy who started as teaching on the side, and I think might've went into full time but it became very money money. Another guy I knew was in the military and had his own place and he joked that this didn't make him money it took his money. Place I'm at now isn't money grubbing at all. It's nice.
Myself, I'd love to teach someday but, I don't like the idea of teaching anyone who can pay, and I have a lot of experience with instructors who are respectful to the head instructor but are extremely disrespectful when the instructors aren't looking, and I'd like to use MA to help someone in a positive way like it did me
I'm currently teaching outside like two other instructor friends in the same area. So I have no overhead and utilities. I have often dreamed of owning a dojo to teach in, but the last thing I would ever want to do is compromise what I teach and believe for the buck. I would prefer teach two students in my backyard and have quality than teach forty wannabe action stars, a watered down version and making money as I hand out belts. Just my opinion. :bandit:
Adam C. Powers
Everyone in the Mizu Hi Kobukai, per Yamada Sensei, must have a job outside the dojo. We don't have a bunch of students at each dojo, but we have serious, responsible ones.
Most Koryu Sensei I've seen teach mainly at their home dojo. Since all of us work, when an instructor builds or buys a house, there's a dojo included. I've built numerous houses moving around the country with my job. I have the garage (at least three car) built with 10 to 12 foot ceilings, the floor poured flat and than I build a raised wooden floor, frame it and add a tori for the kamidana. You'd be surprised how well it looks, feels and works. It relatively cheap, since most people have a garage at their house anyway, its a small part of your house payment, which you should be able to pay to begin with and if you have fulltime employment you don't have to bastardize you art to eat.
Just a thought when you start looking for a house. Note: Every house I've sold the people liked the dojo for a play room for their kids, or mom and dad had a hobby that needed a room like that. So it was a good selling point.
I've read in a Chuck Norris book that when he started up a school, he would go to tournaments and win medals to boost popularity for his school. It might've been a lot easier to do back in the day, but I'm guessing the same basic rule can apply: If you want to make enough money to be a full-time teacher then you're gonna want to generate interest some how. Advertising doesn't seem to be enough these days. Maybe if you were to go to some tournaments, meet some locals, set up a web site, etc. you might have a solid chance. *shrug*
My teacher is only part-time, going on a 2 day a week basis because that's about the only time he can afford with a full-time job and having a newborn baby. I know he doesn't make money off of us, because other than the new students, the old timer students who have been in his class since the beginning don't pay. New students fork over about 20 bucks, but me and the other older students have become close enough with our instructor that we rarely see each other as master and student but more as friend and friend. This is great because we'll do just about anything for each other.
So, as you can see, you don't really need to be full-time to completely intergrate martial arts into your life. I can't think of a happier man than my friend, my sensei. And MA was our main focus. MA has already taken him this far and it's only been about 5 years since we started this! It boggles me to imagine just how much more we'll acquire from each other as the years press on.
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