When should you open a school?

Bob Hubbard

MT Mentor
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MTS Alumni
Aug 4, 2001
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Land of the Free
Or, more accurately, at what point are you ready to open your own school?
You're in it for the money. Unless you're a McDojo and then we don't want you anyway!

I'll never understand why so many people want to open their own school...
Seriously, I know I personally am in no way ready, but, 5v years from now...who knows. I guess I'm currious what the path is, and if maybe a better idea might be to keep the day job, and do classes somewhere else a few nights a week. I dunno...just fishing for ideas, plus, I'm sure theres other folks a LOT! farther along than me who are currious as to whats -really- needed.
I'm sure it will help to have a day job. Many people I have talked to who run good schools say they DO NOT PAY WELL. You have to augment it with other things.

Personally I think there are too many "Paper Tigers" out there with schools teaching unrealistic stuff to people willing to suspend the disbelief that they might be able to make it work for them. Even then there are people who have a great system/art but man, I have no clue as to how they stay open.

I think there should be some proficiency in what you do. Otherwise you're not helping things much. You're just peeing in the gene pool and we'll all need to add more chlorine.
My instructor starting teaching just to try and spread the art. At the time, no one was teaching the style on the east coast of the U.S. Since he was in the U.S. Air Force at the time, he didn't need to do it for the money.

I agree with Gou that if you're doing it for the money, you're doing it for all the wrong reasons. While it is possible to actually make a living teaching the martial arts, it doesn't happen often. I've seen more martial arts schools fail than succeed. Some, because the teacher just didn't know anything. Some, because the teacher knew his art, but didn't know how to teach it. Many fail because martial artists usually aren't businessmen first.

I'd like to do it just to spread the art and to keep my skills improving. I've always said that if you can't teach it, then you don't know it. Therefore, teaching the art will ensure that I know the art, as well as give me better understanding of it as I teach it over the years and discover new aspects of the system.

Babbling again. I need a gag.

I started teaching in my backyard to a couple of friends, and somewhere along the line we came up with a name. We decided to link my e-mail to the IMAF (Prior to the storm). I had many contacts from people wanting to learn the Art of Arnis.

We moved to a friends preschool, and soon outgrew that. One of my students mentioned moving to the Filipino-American Association. The Association was thrilled to have someone promoting the Art, and provided the building rent free.

We don't charge for our classes, or private lessons, but we are very successful. We have been "in business" for a year now.

I can't honestly say that I thought I was ready to start a school, or even wanted a school, it just happened.

I guess if the goal is to spread the Art and not make money I have succeeded.
Thats the funny thing....sometimes, I want to earn a living at it, othertimes, its just the desire to have fun and train with some cool friends. So, for me, I dunno. :)
I thought about this a little too. I have taught some Tae Kwon Do classes at th University of Rochester when my instructor was not in and I really enjoyed it. I enjoy teaching in general.

However, a self-sustaining school is also a business. I was thinking maybe 5-7 years down the line trying something like that. On the other hand, 1-3 years down the line I can maybe teach a class in my backyard or community center, charge much less (if anything) and just have fun.

I think one should look at what is the goal in starting a school. If it's to make money and earn a living doing something you love and are decent (although there are some schools where the instructors aren't that good) at, great, go for it. If you want to have fun sharing the art you know, getting in some extra training, or you enjoy teaching, but you have another job and don't want to take the business risks, then maybe a small class or club might be the way to go.

So many options:)

I'd like to start out with a class first. If it goes well, then I'd like to have a school in order to give the class a better environment in which to train that can house more training equipment.

I look at owning and operating a school as needing 3 different Black Blets. The first in you styel, the second Black Blet as an instructor, the as a business man.

This might sound confusing, but you need to be atleast as proficient as an instructor and business man as you are in your art. If not you are in for deep trouble.

I have been through the rigors of owning and operating a school, it is not easy. You have to love teaching to be a school owner. You have to consider teaching your reward for all the other crap you have to put up with. You never have the time to train the way you really want. There is always some pressing matter that must be attended to, and you have to do it or the doors will close. The pay sucks for a long time, then it only mildly sucks.

If this is the case, why do so many try to open school, we love our art. We want to help others love or art as much as we love it. Is there any other job I would want other than teaching? NO.
Well said. One reason I would like to open a school down the line is because I enjoy sharing my knowledge in all areas. I think one must love the act of teaching, as Rob said. Some people love training, but not teaching, and some like to teach, but are not that good. So you need both. As a person in public school education, you don't do it for the money. It seems the same is true for most martial arts schools.
Not everyone likes people. Myself I can't stand most people and only work with those I like. Teaching is a neccessary evil in my view. Otherwise you get all these boneheads who you just want to never see.
Originally posted by GouRonin
Not everyone likes people. Myself I can't stand most people and only work with those I like. Teaching is a neccessary evil in my view. Otherwise you get all these boneheads who you just want to never see.

It is not nice to pick on Boneheads, we have feelings too.
Coming from Renegade's first 'underground' school, I always thought it would be cool to open my own. Dreams of training all day, with breaks for weightlifting, cardio and meals....ahhh.... :angel: Heaven!

BUT THEN.... I started training with Kyle, who teaches out of a successful karate school that seems to make quite a bit of money...little kids....screaming... Pokemon...birthday parties...school pictures...Dragonball Z...stuffed karate bears...

I have since decided to become independently wealthy, and train at my leisure. That whole wealthy thing is turning out to be a SLOW process though.
Ewww....Kids + Pokemon.... got an ex-gf...she was quite the poke-nerd.... 27 yrs old, buys all the toys, wears the clothes, has to take the stuffed chu out of her chu backpack to tell 'everyone' how big a fan she is.... thats the reason shes an ex.... way too loopy for me...

I think I'm gonna stick to letting the experts own the schools, maybe just form a sword arts study group...once I can consistently remember which end of the sword I hold... :D

i started teaching as soon as i recieved my first dan and then once i recieved my second my sifu sent me out to teach at local elementary schools and community centers from there i began running the day to day business of the main school and eventually when i recieved my third dan sifu told me that i was no able to teach on my own and then about a year later had to close the school due to an illness after that i trained at some local mantis schools and a couple of tae kwon do schools and began to be discusted with what i saw them doing and teaching so i decided that i was going to bring some ethics and morality back to the area and opened my own school and under cut all of them as far as monthly fees and began teaching for "real" not just turning out belt after belt after belt i felt that i had an obligation to my sifu and to all of my past students to not let these mcdojo bastardize the martial arts any more. needless to say i upset alot of "masters" by doing this but i can sleep at night knowing that when someone walks out of my school with a new rank they earned it with hard work and not money. lol i realize im rambling but oh well ill wrap it up i could go on for hours
Ramblings good. :) I agree with you. Too many schools turn out belt after belt simply for the $$ without really giving it any worth.

My personal opinion is, if I'm going to wear a belt, I want to have earned it. Test me first, then offer me the belt. Don't just 'honor' me with it...it only cheepens the rank otherwise. IMHO.

i totally agree... my biggest complaint about local schools around me is the infamous "Black Belt Club" i wish i could find the genius who came up with that idea and beat his a$$ and i think i have an idea where it came from but i wont name names... i mean its just disgusting when you walk in and you get slapped with a contract for a year at 65 a month and they want you to pay a bunch of fees up front ussually around 200 dollars then they offer you the black belt club.." if you sign up for our black belt club we can guarantee you to get a black belt in 3 years" and so on and so on all you have to do is sign this three year contract and give us some more money. and then they test the person every 3 or 4 months weather they are ready or not and charge them for the test and slap the belt on them and send them on their way... and it kills me that some of the biggest names in martial arts around here people like David Deaton and Bill Taylor and Taylor Hayden and Dale Kirby and every single tae kwon do school in the nashville area have this damn club thing and i dont see how they can sleep at night knowing they are sending people out their doors with paper belts