We’ve been there. You are a great practitioner of your martial art. You have great lineage of instructors. You are dedicated to your art. But growing your class sizes and your school is a whole other discipline entirely. How do you get more people in the door?

Below are a few of the things we’ve used to grow from one school in Clearwater, Florida, to dozens of schools all around the country and even internationally. Hopefully they will be useful for you.

1. Improve Search Engine Keywords for Your Martial Arts School Website

When people are searching Google and other search engines for your martial art in your area, does your site come up?

One of the ways search engines know whether to recommend your site in their search results is based on whether your site is providing information about what the searcher is searching for. Example: “Kenpo Karate” in “Dallas, Texas.” This text is referred to as “keywords” or “search keywords.” Your website should use the keywords that your prospective clients are using when they search.

How do you know what keywords they are using when they are searching for martial arts schools like yours? You can use Google’s Keyword Planner to discover how many monthly searches are taking place for things within your industry and to get suggested keyword terms that may perform better than others that seem very similar. If you use analytics software like Google Analytics to track usage of your site, you can also search “acquisition sources” and get some details about the search terms people use to discover your website currently.

If your website uses the WordPress software, you can add an SEO plugin such as Yoast SEO that can help you optimize keywords for pages of your website.

We’ll talk about blogs and content below, but note that creating blog posts are a good way to create pages on your site with content that your target customers are searching for.

2. Make Your Website Viewable on Mobile

Many local searches happen on mobile. Make sure your site is viewable on mobile devices and that your phone number and email is easily accessible and clickable on mobile.

A common mobile user flow for local business:

  1. User searches Google for “your martial art”
  2. Google returns a search result with their map
  3. User clicks a school and reads some of their Google reviews (see below)
  4. They click to visit the website to gauge the quality and to get more info
  5. If they like what they’ve seen, they click a phone number (hopefully that is easy to find on all pages)

One term used in web design speak is “responsive design” which basically means your website “responds” (changes) depending on what sized device it is being viewed from. You shouldn’t need a whole new site just for mobile and just for desktops. One website that is “responsive” should be what you need. If you use WordPress, look for a responsive theme.

3. Give A Clear Countdown For Your Next Class

Most websites have a lot of information competing for attention. So much so that the main action you want a visitor to take can get lost. Most martial arts schools want visitors to take one of three actions: contact them for more info, sign up for the next class, provide an email address for future contact. We use a countdown to our next class to not only drive awareness to our next class but to also instill a sense of urgency: if you don’t act now, you could miss out.

C.O.B.R.A. Self-Defense website masthead

Our class countdown. Also note the prominent phone number as well.

And this is true not just for your website, but for your social channels as well. Let your followers periodically know the clock is ticking.

You can also consider using scarcity even more. Limit your class to X new enrollees. Once the number of enrollees is reached, the visitor will have to wait until the next class so they better not delay!

4. Add Your Martial Arts School to Google Maps

For local searches (searches where the searcher is limiting their search to just their local area), Google Maps can be a very important method your prospective customers find you. Add your business to Google’s My Business which is how you get listed to their Google Maps service.

5. Encourage Customer Reviews

A very important way for people doing local searches as well as for Google itself in deciding whether to present you higher in search results are customer reviews of your martial arts school. Encourage your customers to write reviews about your martial arts school via Google. Have them find your business via search, then they can click “write a review.”

Don’t fake this! I’m sure I don’t have to say this, but I will: don’t try to fudge this with fake reviews.

C.O.B.R.A. Self-Defense Reviews

6. Build Community with Content

Be helpful. Whether it’s a social platform like Facebook or YouTube or it’s a blog on your website, be helpful. Your existing and prospective customers want to gain the benefits your martial art delivers. Help them get a taste of learning some of your art’s secrets with free content. Don’t worry, short posts about your martial art will never supplant your full, hands-on training. But it can attract people who genuinely have an interest in that art.

7. Build Your Email List From Social Followers & Site Visitors

You currently collect emails from your existing customers, yes? But how do you generate leads and build an email list from prospective customers?

Also, you have followers on one or two social media platforms… but where are the sales?

This is what we recommend:

A. Create a clear email sign up “call to action” on your website.

This could be a “get a free class” offer, a discounted price for your class, content with more in-depth knowledge or something else of value. Let this be seen prominently on all pages of your website.

It is composed of a headline “Get Your Free Class”, an optional image and a way to collect the email. The email form will, most likely, be created by your email service provider (ESP) such as MailChimp or ActiveCampaign (our favorite).

Email lead generation call to action

B. Create helpful, engaging content.
Ok great. But how do you drive more traffic to your site so more people engage with that sign up form?

Create helpful content that engages your audience. A “how to defend against X” or a specific move for example. Post this content to your blog or somewhere on your website.

C. Link to that content on your social channels.

D. Repeat B and C
A doesn’t change. But this method requires continuously publishing content (B & C) and offering it to your community. It helps build your community and helps drive more email sign ups over time. The stronger the content and stronger the “call to action” offer, the more sign ups you should find.

Note: a variation on this process is to use ads to drive prospects to your email sign ups.

8. Make It Easy to Try

Consider offering free trial classes to make it easy for prospects to take the first step.

9. Present Your School As a Professional Brand

Most people will not know the quality of your training until after they have already tried your training for themselves. But they will start making assumptions about your quality well before that. With what they see on your social media and on your website they will gauge the level of professionalism and value that you offer. Is your business presented as sloppy, disorganized, hard to understand — and plain ugly?

Or do they have positive experiences with these different touchpoints? Do they come away with the feeling that the owners of this school care enough to make sure their experience is a good one? Do they believe that the quality you dedicate to these early experiences is the same kind of quality they should expect from their training?

10. Know Your Customers

To keep your clients coming back, referring other clients and converting prospective clients into customers demands that you know your clients well. It means that you serve clients who actually value what you provide. Knowing what your customer really values can affect the classes and products you offer, your school hours, how you communicate to prospective clients and so much more.

Want to know what your customers value? Ask them. Survey them with feedback cards in your school or via online surveys.

One popular method is called the Net Promoter Score®. While it is composed of only two questions it can pack a lot of insight into those two questions.

“How likely are you to recommend My Martial Arts School X to friends and colleagues?” (on a scale 0 to 10). And “Why did you give that score?”

11. Communicate Your Value Well

In #10 above, you’re getting to know your customers better and what they value. Great!

Now, communicate that value of your training to the specific market segments you are targeting. How can you quickly and effectively communicate why your school deserves a specific group of people’s time, attention and money?

Is your school focused on adults who are looking for real world self-defense for their dangerous job, or to become the next great professional competitor, or to lose weight, or for the love of the art, or for the parent who wants to instill good characteristics in their child?

Are your marketing materials selling your martial art or the benefit people receive from that art? Are you selling “Muay Thai” or are you selling “improved body and mental alertness with Muay Thai”?

12. Grow Your Adult Students

Are you experiencing high turnover with your child-focused school? Getting a large base of adult clients can be more difficult for some kid-focused martial art schools, but if done right, your clients can be higher paying and stick with you longer. See below for ways to drive more adults to your classes.

13. Partnerships

One of the biggest areas that has helped us grow is partnerships. We are extremely ambitious yet humble enough to know it takes the talents of a lot of great people to do really great things. Read more about growing your martial arts business with partnerships here.

14. Create A Funnel with More Product Offerings

The single biggest area of growth we’ve seen in our business is implementing a funnel system. We offer a 10 week reality-based self-defense program that is highly desirable to a wide audience. This is our “top of the funnel” program, C.O.B.R.A.™ Self-defense. It is designed to introduce the general population to self-defense in a unique and accessible way. At 10 weeks it is doable for most anyone. But it also leaves people craving more. A high majority of these students, about 70% in our experience, will sign up for our more traditional, monthly, belt-based martial arts offering.

This has been so successful that we started offering it to other martial art schools who are finding that is growing their schools as well. Martial art schools around the United States such as in Texas, Florida, Colorado, New York and many more — and even around the world such as in the UK, Australia, Okinawa, Germany, Canada… — are growing their schools with this program.


There are a lot of steps to take to grow your martial arts school business. It takes time and effort, but we think it’s worth it to make our schools healthy businesses that continue to positively affect many people. Which is why, I think, we have had so much interest in our C.O.B.R.A.™ system because it helps school owners get up and running with a lot of these steps above which lets lets them focus more on doing what they love most: helping more people discover the martial art they are so passionate about.

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