In the post on marketing your martial arts club I mentioned registering your club details with websites. A list of some sites that allow you to do this is below.
For some the name of your new club will be pretty obvious. It can be as simple as adding the location of your studio to the name of the art e.g. Cambridge Mixed Martial Arts. However there are some things to consider when picking a name.
Stand out from the crowd – The most simple names are the location + the art but what if you are in London? You are unlikely to be able to pick London Karate Club as your club name as that will be taken and there will be hundreds of London Karate clubs. You need a name that differentiates your club from the others. Below are some suggestions of how to make up your name.
- Location – Think about the location that you can include in your name. For more uncommon styles you may be able to use a region or county for your location e.g. North East Krav Maga Club or Lancashire Eskrima Studio . For more common styles you may need to be more specific by including the city, such as, Sheffield Karate or by including the area of a city such as East Birmingham Taekwondo. If there are a lot of clubs in the area, which may be the case in large cities, then you could even include the street name or venue name e.g. Drummond Street Tang Soo Do or Hillside Sports Centre Judo Club.
- Association Name – A way to change your name is to include the association name in your clubs name. There may be lots of karate clubs in Manchester but you might be the only one that is part of the British Karate Federation for example so call the club Manchester British Karate Federation Studio or Manchester BKF Studio to make yours stand out.
- Your Name – You could include the lead instructors name in the club name. This could be useful if you are well known as a martial artist or have some recognisable achievement such as a world championship medal. An example would be Steve Smith Karate Academy.
- Suffix – Adding a suffix to your club name can differentiate it from others. This can be as simple as words like; club, studio, dojo or academy. However you may want to go for words that are more emotive such as; Warriors, Dragons, Tigers etc. for example, Coventry Karate Dragons. Using words such as these could make your name more memorable.
Length – Don’t make the name too long. Something like “South East England Traditional Old Style Kyokushinkai Karate Seniors Club” may be very descriptive but it is too much for new prospective students to remember and you will struggle to use it. Try to keep it short and snappy.
Spelling – There may be variations in ways to spell parts of your clubs name. Some Asian words are translated from pictographic scripts phonetically into English so there can be variations. There may be one particular way of spelling that is common to your art or association and if so then use this. Otherwise try entering the different ways into Google and see how may results you get for each. This is a crude way of finding out the most popular way of spelling the word.
You may be tempted to use substitute letters like Karate Klub or Martial Artz to make your club stand out. I would advise against this. It could cause confusion, may annoy some and will not show up in searches on search engines.
Language-If you are doing a Korean, Japanese or other foreign style there may be words from the originating countries language that you could use in your name. Use caution when doing this because unless it is a well-known word it will not be easy for students to remember or spell.
Other considerations – Avoid using any trademarked names in your club name as this could land you in legal difficulties, so you don’t want to be the Coca Cola Karate Club or Disney Judo Studio for extreme examples.
Consider if your club name will work well as a URL for when you come to set up a website and check that a domain name is available that relates to your club. Your domain does not have to be the same as your club but it would help when people are searching for you online.
Before opening your club you need to think about the kind of club you are starting. There are many different styles and within each style many variations and then each club has its own particular way of doing things. Here are some things to consider;
Traditional vs Modern
Are you going for a traditional martial art steeped in history and tradition such as Shotokan or Tang Soo Do are you looking at a newer sport based art such as Tae Kwon Do or MMA? In many ways the style you are teaching will dictate a lot of the way you do things. Traditional styles are often more formal than the newer counterparts with students expected to bow to instructors and call senior grades Sir or Ma’am. You need to decide if you want students to call you by your first name or for them to use your surname and title i.e. Mr or Mrs when talking to you. I think it sets a level of respect to have the students using Mr or Mrs but this may not be appropriate for less formal sport based arts.
What do you expect the make up of your class to be? The type of class you run will be influenced by the types of students that you are teaching. Do you want to teach children only, adults only or mixed family groups? Are you expecting to teach both men and women?
If teaching children you need to think about the minimum age that you will take them from. I would suggest any younger than 5 years old would be difficult to teach due to lack of concentration and coordination etc. There are also implications of teaching younger children. You need to decide if you require parents to remain in the room while the class is on or whether parents can drop the kids off and pick them up later leaving you in charge of their offspring. Younger children are likely to need frequent toilet breaks during a class, for example, and they may need an adult to accompany them. You may require helpers to be able to do this while you run the rest of the class if parents are not around. You should seek parental consent if they are not going to be present for things such as applying basic first aid. You never know if you are going to have to put a plaster on a child and if they are allergic to the adhesive you need to know. In fact you need to know about any allergies or medical conditions for both children and adults and have things like inhalers on hand for asthmatics, for example. You should also be CRB checked before working with children. I write more on this subject in one of my other posts.
Children have a shorter attention span and so classes should be kept fairly short and serious training should be interspersed with fun activities. You should be looking at an hour to an hour and a half maximum class time for younger children. You may decide to have a separate class for younger children outside of the main class so you can tailor it specifically for that age group. Some associations have Little Dragons or Tiny Tigers programs which have a modified training program for youngsters so that is something to think about.
Adults and mixed Family Classes
If you have an adults only class they may expect a completely different style of training to a mixed family class. Some people come to martial arts as a hobby, to keep fit, to socialise etc. these are all good motivations. Others are coming to learn how to fight and defend themselves and expect hard techniques and semi or full contact. Most are looking for a nice balance between all of these things but your class can go to either extreme. You need to decide what your class is going to be and make this known to students when they join. If you have a family class with light contact and friendly atmosphere you don’t want students joining that are expecting full contact sparring and teaching of lethal techniques. Similarly if you are running a class for adults that give and receive full contact strikes you don’t want to bring young children into that atmosphere as it will dilute the training for the existing members and could be dangerous for the children.
Don’t be afraid to split your classes up into different groups if you find it difficult training across family groups. Many clubs have a children’s class, an adults and older children’s mixed class and a senior grades advanced class. Some clubs even run female-only classes for ladies that are not comfortable training in a male atmosphere. Split it in a way that works for you.
Do you plan to cater for physically disabled or learning disability students? This may not be something that you feel equipped to deal with; on the other hand, it may be that you are actually planning to specialise in teaching these students.Either way you need to know what to say and do if you are approached by a potential student with these issues. Talk to your instructor about this to find out if they have dealt with this before and find out any special considerations.
Do you have a maximum age limit? You may plan to run a class aimed specifically at over 60’s and be geared up for that but if not you need to know any considerations to put in place for older students. In theory there shouldn’t be an upper age limit and, in practice, it is the fitness of the student that counts and not how many candles they had on their last birthday cake; however you need to be aware of limitations for more mature students.
Competition and unique selling point
There are thousands of martial arts clubs across the country with probably at least one or two already in your village or town. When starting a club look at the competition to see what else is being taught in the local area. I also mention this in my post about studio location but you need to see what is out there and what you can do to differentiate yourself from the others so that students beat a path to your studios door rather than going elsewhere. As a new instructor you are already at a disadvantage to every other club because all of the others are established and have experienced instructors while you are the newbie. Don’t let this put you off, just think what you can offer that the others are not or cannot. You can differentiate on many of the points raised above; for instance, by offering a kids only class, a ladies self-defence class or an older persons class. You can offer your classes for cheaper prices than the competition until you are established. You can offer classes at a more convenient time than other groups. A children’s class run as an after school club may do well, for example, whereas a weekend class for adults might be more successful for working men and women. For my club we push the fact that we are a family friendly club as our USP and this seems to be working well for our area. I like to think that as martial artists we all respect each other’s arts so I would not suggest making your USP that your art is better than the one currently being taught in your local area. It is better to say what is good and different about your club than bad mouthing the other club.
If you are offering a different style to all of the other local clubs and as long as the area is not saturated with martial arts clubs then you should be alright to open your club in that area. You could even open in the same venue as other clubs. However I would not suggest opening a club right on another clubs doorstep if you are both practising the same style. In fact I would suggest looking for a venue that is around 10 miles away from the nearest club practising the same style. This may be hard to do in practise but if you manage it you will have your very own catchment area for students and are not encroaching on somebody else’s established area. It would be beneficial for you to get in touch with local clubs practising the same style and form a loose alliance especially if you are part of the same governing association. By doing this you can share knowledge, provide cover for each other’s classes for holidays, illness or emergencies and even think about inter club competitions.
If you want to be professional you should know exactly what type of club you are going for. In business companies often create what they call a mission statement to outline the ethos, philosophy and direction of the company. I think that it is a good idea to write out a mission statement for your club. It doesn’t have to be a work of Shakespeare. A couple of lines should do it but it should clearly outline the vision you have for your new club. Here are some examples;
- “We are a family club with a friendly atmosphere training a mixture of children and adults in the traditional art of xxx to give them the benefits achievable by following this art”.
- “We are an adults only club that train hard to get the very best results for our students so that they can compete to the very highest level”.
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Qualities of an Instructor
The first, and maybe the most obvious, question to ask yourself is; are you good instructor material? It is worth taking a pause to consider this. Not everybody is cut out to be an instructor and those that are not up to it would be better off staying as a student rather than inflicting bad teaching on a new generation.
Experience and Ability
An instructor should have experience in the martial art that they are proposing to teach and be knowledgeable about the techniques that the art is comprised of. Students will be coming to you as an expert and a teacher. You would not expect to pay for guitar lessons from somebody who had never played the instrument and the same applies with martial arts.
Not everybody believes in the belt system but it is usually a good indicator of the proficiency of the martial artist so in my opinion an instructor should at least hold a black belt that has been awarded by a reputable association. This should ensure that the instructor has undergone a minimal amount of instruction and has demonstrated that they can perform the required techniques.
Apprenticeship and Certification
A lot of martial arts associations are protective of their reputation. They don’t want bad instructors representing them and so they have their own conditions for becoming an instructor. If your new club is going to be affiliated with an association then you need to find out what the requirements are. Some associations will expect you to have completed a minimum number of hours teaching within another class. This is a kind of apprenticeship where you have the opportunity to lead parts of the class under the supervision of another instructor. Even if this is not a requirement of the association I would recommend you ask your instructor if you can do this anyway. If nothing else it will give you a flavour of what teaching will be like and help you decide if it is right for you. Some associations may even have a formal instructors certification program with tests (both physical and written) required before you can call yourself an instructor. If this is required then take the test and get the certificate as this will give further proof to any of your prospective students that you know what you are doing.
If at all possible you should continue to be a student under your instructor while running your own club. This will ensure that you continue to learn and grow within the martial art and have new things to show your students. It also means that you can progress your own rank and maintain your fitness levels and flexibility. Teaching can be physically demanding but nowhere near as demanding as training as a student. I would suggest that if you teach once a week you should try and attend another class twice a week. If you teach twice or more a week I would still suggest that you train once a week with your instructor if possible.