7 Ways to Make a Living Teaching Martial Arts

You love your art, and what it has done for your life. Wouldn’t it be great if you could make a great living teaching BJJ, TaeKwonDo, or whatever style it is that you love? The good news is that you can, and there are more ways to do so than ever before.

Are You a Professional Martial Arts Teacher?

There is not just one way to be a professional martial arts instructor. But wait, what does it even mean to be a professional martial arts teacher? First, you need to hold at least a black belt rank. Second, you need to be a trained and qualified instructor, by way of completing a teacher training program (such as the Certified Martial Arts Teacher™), to effectively spread your art and make an impact.

Not a One-Size-Fits-All Career

Most people think the only way to make a living is to open up your own school. Find a location, sign a multi-year lease, get a loan, buy mats, equipment, and open for business. That is simply one option (the most expensive and most grandiose), but by no means the only option that will lead to your success as a teacher (financially and in terms of student-impact).

Option 1: Become an Instructor at an Existing School

Perhaps you already attend a local school, and would enjoy becoming a paid instructor at the academy. Of course you will need to express your desire to not only teach, but that you are interested in becoming a career instructor, to your head instructor/owner of the school. What if there are not any positions available at the moment? Consider pitching a new class idea to your instructor/school owner. Such as a 3-4 year old class, a new fitness program, or a weapons program. Some way that will allow you to teach, and add students/revenue to the school at the same time, with no risk for the owner. This will give you an opportunity to get your feet wet making class plans, teaching, building relationships, and learning what it means to be a successful teacher.

Option 2: Start a School in a Local Community Center

Instead of getting in debt and signing an expensive lease, if you are wanting to teach part-time, consider starting a small club at a location that has very low cost or free rent. You might be able to revenue share with a local gymnastics or dance academy, at a local community center, or fitness facility. This will give you the opportunity to operate your own school, without the extra financial pressure and long-term commitment to a certain facility. Once you outgrow the location, you could then more easily sign a lease and launch a full-time school.

Option 3: Start a Garage Dojo (Martial Arts School at Your Home)

Many small business owners now operate from their home. Why pay rent and numerous other expenses when you already have to do all of that at your house? Some martial artists are even building a separate structure on their residential property as a training facility. You will need to check the local rules and regulations before you ever open a business at your residential address. For many (especially in rural areas), this is a viable, low-cost option, that can work out very well.

Option 4: Become an Online Martial Arts Instructor

You read that right. There are a growing number of online martial arts schools that teach students from every country on the planet. You could launch your own course, or become an instructor for an existing course. Your responsibilities could include: planning classes, filming classes, grading video exams, doing video-conference private lessons, teaching live streaming video classes, interacting with students, and managing your online course content. This is a unique way to be able to teach and help your students, from wherever you are in the world (you are not attached to a physical location).

Option 5: Private Lessons at Home

An often overlooked option is purely teaching private lessons in your home or in your student’s home. You can charge much more per lesson, while having your student buy a private lesson package in advance. You can completely customize a student’s training plan to their needs, and their schedule. Some instructors make more money only teaching private lessons (due to having close to $0 in overhead expenses), and have more time to spend with their family.

Option 6: Daycares and Schools

Who says that you must have your own dojo? Another great career opportunity is setting up a recurring class visit at local daycares, private schools, and even public schools. You will have a set number of students to teach week-after-week, for the entire school year – not a bad gig at all! The class can be hosted within a specially designed trailer that you bring to each school (a higher investment), or simply by bringing some gear into a classroom or gym.

Option 7: Open Your Own School

The traditional route – open your own school. Find a location with great drive-by traffic, in a growing neighborhood for your target student-base. Are you going to focus on teaching kids? Are you going to focus on fitness and self defense for adults? Start as a specialist, to get your foothold in the community, and to become know as the “best place for _____” in town. Use some money that you have saved up to get the essentials: nice and safe mats, training equipment, a clean and modern facility, and good signage. Start small and add as you go, rather than getting into a large amount of debt just to have everything that you dreamed of on your day one opening.

Which Way Will You Go?

Whichever way you choose to go – go. Don’t stall waiting for the perfect location to open up. Don’t wait for the investor to help you open up a mega school with sparkling new mats. Don’t wait for the daycare to call you back. Choose yourself. If you are passionate about teaching, are well trained and educated (very important, if you actually want to succeed long-term), then begin with one student. Begin with one class. Let it spread, sure pour some gas on the fire from time to time, but if you are doing what you love, and using great teaching principles, soon you’ll have more students than you can handle.

Written by Michael Hodge
I am a Lead Instructor at the Global Martial Arts University. I live with my three energetic kids and wonderful wife on a prairie in Texas. I also lead The Abundance Projects.