The type of equipment that you need to purchase before starting your club will be dependent upon the art and type of training that you are offering. You may be able to start off with no equipment at all with students wearing their own loose fitting clothing and performing kicks and punches into the air. However for most arts a certain level of equipment will be required such as; kick shields, target pads, floor mats, weapons and even martial arts uniforms and belts. There are many manufacturers and sellers out there and of course you can always look on Ebay or in your high street sports stores. For my club I use an online martial arts shop to buy all of my pads but I get the suits and belts through my instructor who has his own supplier that provides custom made suits for our association. I think his supplier ships the suits from Pakistan and I myself have had many emails from prospective suppliers from this region offering me suits and equipment. Be careful to check these out before getting tied into a deal or handing over a lot of money. It took my instructor a while to find his current supplier after suffering a lot of substandard offerings from other suppliers. They had sounded good in the first place but their products did not live up to the promises.
The reason I use the online martial arts shop, other than the good quality of the products, is that they offer wholesale accounts for club instructors. This means that you can get lots of equipment for around half retail price. This is a great saver when buying equipment for the club. You can also offer to get students personal equipment for them. For example, training uniforms, belts, hand, feet and head guards can be offered. It is up to you whether you pass the saving on from your wholesale prices or whether you charge them retail and keep the difference for club funds to help finance pads and mats etc. For my class I have made up a price list with pictures of the pads and things I am selling along with sizes and colours available and I have laminated it. I keep this with me in case anybody is looking to buy them from me. One thing to watch out for is the cost of postage and packing. Some companies don’t charge this on large orders but for smaller orders the postage can be proportionally quite high so try to wait until you have a few orders from students before sending off for it. It is also a good idea to get the money up front so that there is no risk of you being out of pocket.Other than actual training equipment there are a few things that you should consider having with you for the smooth running of the classes.
- Association Flags, Pictures, Manuals – Many associations have paraphernalia that the club and students need that are directly related to the association. Some associations have association or national flags displayed (such as Japan, Brazil, Korea) whilst others will display portraits of the grandmaster or other senior figures in the art. Check with your instructor about how to obtain these. Some associations also have manuals, both for instructors and for students. If your association uses these then make sure you get a supply of these to give to your students when they join your club.
- Money Tin – Not everyone will come to your class with the exact money so it is a good idea to have some coins on hand to be able to break notes and offer change. A lockable money tin is a good place to keep your change. It can also be used to hold any payments made in the class. You are going to be focused on doing your class so if you can lock the money away then you don’t need to worry about any of it going missing should anyone be stupid enough to try and steal from a martial arts instructor!
- Calculator – You will be dealing with other people’s money. If you are not confident in your mental arithmetic then having a calculator on hand to work out class fees or equipment orders could be a wise choice. You don’t want students loosing trust in you by accidentally short changing them.
- Receipt book – In most cases this will not be needed but some students may require receipts for payments for equipment or class fees. These are inexpensive and can be kept on hand if required.
- Stationary – Make sure you have some pens available and a notepad. There will often be times when a student asks you something or tells you about an upcoming absence etc. and you should note this down so that you don’t forget. Remembering something can show that you care and help form a trust with your students.
- Document Holder – To keep all of your admin together you can carry a briefcase of some description, attaché case or document holder. It will look more professional than lugging it around in a carrier bag.
- Register – It is a good idea to keep a record of how many students and indeed which students have attended each class. You can make a register up on graph paper or create your own using excel or other spread sheet programs. Alternatively you can buy registers from stationers. Your association may have a minimum class attendance number that is required between gradings for instance and so a register can be used as proof that the student has at least met that requirement.
- First Aid Kit – You should carry a basic first aid kit that includes plasters, bandages, antiseptic wipes etc. to be used in class in case of any minor injuries. Make sure that you have parental consent for any children before applying plasters. You need to be sure that they don’t have an allergy to the adhesive.
- Mobile Phone – Carry a mobile phone with you to classes and make sure you have contact details for any parents leaving their children with you.
- Laminator – I use a laminator to protect important documents and also to cover posters that are being put up outside. I also have a laminated price list. I would advise going for a hot laminator rather than a cold one. The hot one costs a little more but they are so easy to use and give a really professional look. The cold ones use sticky laminator sheets and in my opinion are difficult to use and can end up with air bubbles in your documents.
- Laptop – A laptop, tablet or home computer can come in useful for your club. Whether it is producing posters and leaflets or managing registers and budgets in excel the computer is invaluable. Most people already have one of these but it might be an investment to get a portable device that is dedicated to your club. This way you can take it with you to class to fill in an electronic register and also have other electronic information to hand. Having it dedicated to your club means that it should not get clogged up with other applications, viruses, malware etc. that a normal household computer can get over time.
Types of venue
There are a huge variety of different venues that can be hired for your martial arts clubs. The obvious choices are school halls, community centres, church halls, sports centres, scout hut etc. Really it can be anywhere that is a good size with suitable flooring. You should avoid carpeted floors but wood, laminate, linoleum or concrete should be fine. As a minimum size I would suggest the size of a badminton or squash court. If you are just starting out it would be wise not to jump into hiring a huge full sized sports hall. Start small with a view to expanding later. With this in mind try to negotiate hiring terms for say 3 months at a time so that you can change your venue if needs be.
The cost of your venue is going to be the main on-going running cost of the club and so it is important to get a good deal for your room. You don’t want to be making a loss on your club so you need to think about how many students you are likely to get and ensure that the price they pay per class will cover the venue hire. Ideally you want a surplus to build club funds to buy martial arts equipment and to give a small buffer for weeks when fewer than expected students come to class. When agreeing the terms for hiring the venue it would be a good idea to suggest paying on either a week by week basis or to pay at the end of a term. You don’t want to pay up front for a long term hire as that would be a large outlay right at the start before you have any money coming in.
When hiring your venue make sure you find out when the room is available. If you are hiring a school hall you need to know if you can get in the hall outside of term time. Having no venue for the school holidays is one sure way to kill your club off. Also check out how you can gain access to the hall. If you are reliant on a key holder or caretaker it could also mean that the venue becomes unavailable when they are not around. Ideally you want a venue that is open year round with easy access or better yet where they trust you as a key holder.
Proximity to other clubs
Have a search for other martial arts clubs in the area. This will be your competition. If you open a club in the same village or town as other clubs then you are going up against established clubs to try and grab a share of the available students in the area. Sometimes this is unavoidable and to be fair most places have at least one martial arts club in operation already. If the other clubs are completely different styles then you will not be in too much conflict but if there are clubs doing your style then it might be an idea to look elsewhere. Some associations try to ensure their clubs do not encroach on each other and have a set minimum distance for how close clubs can be to each other. In some cases it can be quite handy to be close to another club within the same association or style as you can form an alliance and complement each other by offering instructor cover for each other’s class to cover holidays or sickness.
When picking a venue try to get a feel for the population in the local area. If there is a secondary school close by then there should be a large number of teenage children in the local area. Look out for other local community groups such as Scout troops or Brownies to give an indication if the area can support youth groups. A venue near a new housing development might be able to attract younger families and people that are new to the area looking for clubs to integrate into their new area. Just try to get a feel for if the location can provide enough students for your club to be a success. A village hall may be cheap to hire but if it is in a village with very few homes made up of mainly pensioners then it might be an idea to give it a miss unless of course that is your target market.
There are some other considerations when looking at a venue that are not as important as the ones listed above but these can make the difference when choosing between one venue and another. These are more like the icing on the cake.
- Parking – Is there adequate parking for students at the venue or, at the very least, a safe area for students to be dropped off and picked up?
- Transport links – Is the venue close to good transport links? Bus stop, train station, cycle lanes, for example.
- Storage – Does the venue have any permanent storage space where you can safely store club equipment? If you can leave large bulky items like martial arts pads, free standing punch bags, mats etc. it will save you having to transport them to and from each class.
- Equipment Share – Does the venue already have shared equipment that can be used by your club? Some schools and community centres will have basic equipment like mats, cones, hula hoops, foam balls etc. These can be useful for training in some circumstances if the venue will allow you to use them.
- Kitchen facilities and chairs – If you have a class for children and the parents are staying to watch the children then a venue that has tea and coffee making facilities and chairs could be useful. If you get some parents on side to run a tea bar then you may have an extra way to generate some club funds too.
Buying permanent premises
I don’t know much about this as I would say the majority of clubs in the UK use a hired venue but I know there are some studios which have a permanent base. I have seen some clubs that have a permanent studio in a converted industrial unit on an industrial estate or clubs where a church hall has been bought and converted into a studio. The advantages of having your own permanent studio are obvious; It is yours, you can gain access easily and have classes whenever the time suits you, you can lay it out exactly as you want it and you can leave equipment set up. However unless you are wealthy enough to buy the premises out right you will need to take out a mortgage to pay for it and that means you need to be looking at class fees to cover it. It can be done but you will need a lot of students or high class fees to take care of this. It works for some but for most part time instructors hiring a venue is the way to go.