My $5,800 A Month

John Graden

When I opened my school in 1986 I was a top martial artist. I had fought all over America and Europe on the U.S. Team. I’d been on the cover of magazines. I was training with a legend, Joe Lewis. I had it all. I was an excellent teacher. In fact, when I opened the school I had over 100 students join in the first six-weeks. Most of them were college kids who transferred in from a class I was teaching on campus.

In my first month, I gross $5,800. I was set. So I thought. While my college-age students were doing great, I began to have trouble keeping the other students.

When I started classes in 1974, I was one of the youngest guys in the school at age 14. I never trained with kids or really ever taught any. So when I opened my school, I was ready for the college age guys. I could kill them. You know the kind of student I’m talking about. You ever punch someone while sparring in class and then catch their teeth? That’s what I mean. I was ready for these guys. I was not ready for the six-year old student. I definitely was not ready for his mother who wanted to tell me when her kid was going to test.

I started to lose students. Also, once all my college students transferred in, I didn’t get many calls from people interested in training. I mean, I ran ads. They had a big picture of me kicking someone and listed every tournament I’d won. I couldn’t figure out why they didn’t make the phone ring.

I was tracking my schools income on a ledger. Each month I’d draw dot where the gross was on the graph and then connect the dots into a chart. One month, the line went off the bottom of the page. I’d dropped so low from my high of $5,800, it literally dropped of the page. I still have this page. On the bottom, I wrote AAGHHH!!

I needed to get some help. This is when I began to study schools around the country that fulfilled two criteria. Number and most important, the school had to produce excellent black belts. I was not about to sell out. The second requirement was the owner of the school had to have a personal income of at least $100,000 from the school. This was where I wanted to be. I wanted to earn a great living and be a great teacher. So I studied schools all over. I studied schools that taught karate, kung fu, tae kwon do, kenpo, I even studied ninja schools. You couldn’t see them, but they ran a good business.

I studied their class structure, their exams, their staff meetings, their marketing and their management. Most of all, I began to apply what I learned to my school. It worked. I went from a single school of less than 100 students to a two-school operation with over 600 students and a personal income of over $100,000 per year.

I formed the Martial Arts Teachers’ Association to help school owners could do what I did. If you would like to increase your enrollments, keep more students for longer, and seriously increase your income without sacrificing the quality of your school, then MATA is for you.

The first impression of your school is the most important. In most cases, it’s an ad you’ve thrown together to bring in more students. Black Belt Eyes is a phrase I coined a few years ago. It refers to the common tendency for the black belt owner of a school to design his curriculum, his school, and his marketing around what he or she likes. The mistake, of course, is that this black belt is someone who has undergone the intense, long-term physical and mental conditioning inherent especially in the old school martial arts. For instance, we tend to enjoy pain. As a veteran black belt, odds are you, like me, get a perverse joy from crunching someone when you’re sparring. Oddly enough, you also enjoy a training session that leaves you someone battered and sore as well.

This is not the person who should be designing the marketing for the school. This is the same guy makes the assumption that if he shows someone getting kicked in an ad, that the reader of the ad will know the deep satisfaction that he enjoys. That is that impaling someone with a sidekick is one of life’s simple pleasures.

Of course the poor reader of the ad may very well relate much more to the person being kicked since she has never kicked anyone and probably can’t picture herself doing it. The ads typically read more like resume`s than advertisements. Just look at the typical martial arts ad. Everyone is a world champion, 9th degree, who is also a hall of fame member.

Even worse are the ads that list all the styles and techniques taught. The ad reads, “Northern Pun Kow Three Step Sparring.” As though someone is going to read that and say, “Honey look! Northern Pun Kow Three Step Sparring. Just what I’ve always wanted!” That’s if they can even pronounce the style name.

I say this folks, because, as I described earlier, I used to run ads just like this. I used to smack my students with a shinai. I used to put holes in the walls with my student’s heads. If I can learn how to operate my school more professionally, so can you.
MATA is designed to help real martial artists help more people.

We know martial arts are good for people. That’s why we’re dedicated to dramatically increasing the number of people enrolled in good, quality martial arts schools. The more people involved in martial arts, the better for our society. That can only happen if the schools are modern, professional and dedicated to helping a student reach black belt and beyond.

Give MATA a try. It will save you years of wasted time and thousands of dollars of lost money. I wish MATA were around when I opened my school. It would have made a huge difference in my life. I know it can make that difference in yours. I know it will help you achieve success without selling out.