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Attracting adults


Martial arts school owners know that children are where the money is. You cannot have a successful martial arts business without children, lots of children. They love to train and beg their parents to take them to class, they want to go to tournaments, camps, clinics, etc., and they want lots of equipment and accessories. Children get fewer injuries and, when they do, they heal quickly. Children tend to stay as students for many years, and they are where most of a school's instructor trainees come from. Therefore, most schools have an extensive advertising program to reach children, such as demonstrations in malls, ads, school visits, bring a friend to class, etc.

However, children grow up, start dating, start college, and move on to other aspects of their lives. This means there is a high turnover rate with children. If there are not some adult long-term students in the school, it leads to a dearth of wisdom and experience in the school. Therefore, owners need adult students. They have a lot of expertise in many areas that may be useful to the school, such as carpenters, electricians, doctors, etc. and most are willing to help the school in these areas. They have the wisdom and experience to guide younger students. They are stable in their lives and are not trying to "find themselves."

However, adults have different needs than those of younger students and, if these needs are not fulfilled, they will quit or find a school that does fulfill their needs. Therefore, owners must be aware of the needs of adult students and seek to fulfill these needs to attract and keep them in the schools.
Children accept anything you tell them. They knew nothing about martial arts until you became their instructor, so, as they progress through the ranks, they become little martial arts "clones" of you. Adults have a lot of knowledge about a lot of things, especially about life in general. They are not as accepting of everything the instructor says; they want to know why and why not. They want to be stimulated. Most are not satisfied being mindless robots that perform the same techniques over-and-over on command for no apparent reason.

Adults have busy lives

Most young adults have active lives with a lot of things happening. They multi-task daily, both at their jobs and in their lives, so, to get the most out of their time, they want to multi-task in a martial arts class. They want to learn a martial art, get an aerobic workout, built strength, learn self-defense, get fit, meet new friends, and socialize with the friends.

Traditional martial arts are boring. Stretch, drill, practice forms, spar, go home. After a few years of this, even a monk would get bored. If you have the patience of Job, you will become an expert technician, but you would also become a mindless robot, repeating the same thing over and over. Young adults need to be stimulated and challenged. Oh, there are always the mindless few, but they are few. You cannot build a business catering to the few; you must appeal to the masses.

Be a leader

People are attracted to leaders. People like to be led; it means less work for them. This is why people have personal trainers and why they train harder when in a class than they do when they train on their own. People want a leader who does all the research to find the best way to do something; that way they don't have to take the time to do the research. People want a leader they trust to tell them the best thing for them.

To attract students, you must be a leader in your martial arts community, or at least create that illusion. Take out front-page ads in community newspapers and in the Yellow Pages. Pay to have a movie advertisement at local movie theaters, especially when a martial arts film is showing. Project yourself as the best martial arts instructor in the community. If you do things small, you will be perceived as small.

Advertise to adults

To attract adults, advertise to adults. Instead of having advertisements showing you performing a spectacular kick or helping a child, show photos of trim, fit adults performing ordinary techniques. Show techniques that an average adult could do with training. Show a lot of tight, firm skin. If you ask a group of adults how many of them want to become black belts, few will answer yes. However, if you ask the same group how many want to become trimmer, fitter, and healthier, most would answer yes. So, to attract adults, offer them what they want.

Visit other successful schools and see what they are doing to attract adults and build their businesses. Take what you learn and adapt it to your school. Adapt your adult training methods to fit what adults want and can do. Average adults cannot do high kicks or jump spin kicks, so stress low kicks and use more hand techniques. Don’t attempt to force adults to try something at which they will probably fail. Instead, motivate them to do what they can do. Adopt techniques from other arts. This may not please purists in your martial art, but it will put food on the table for your family.

To attract all types of students, specialize your classes. Teach special classes that concentrate on specific areas, such as forms, self-defense, weapons, sparring, etc., so that students who are interested in these areas may maintain their interest. Teach classes for different belts levels, such as white/yellow belts, color belts, and black belts. Then students may train at the intensity required of their belt level.

Use no-cancel contracts. People tend to keep training when they have to pay for the classes, even if they do not attend. However, be careful with no-cancel contracts, they tend to cause discontent and a lot of negative comments in the social media. This may ruin your reputation and your business if not handled properly.

To attract adult students:
  • Offer cardio classes.
  • Offer self-defense classes.
  • Offer classes for older adults.
  • Classes should have an educational value. Students should leave class knowing something that they did not know when they arrived.

  • Shaw, S. (2004). Art of Attracting Adult Student. [Online].

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