The Reality Of Getting Into The “Martial Arts Business”

"We live in a world of noise: squeaks, honks, laughter, etc. Make a photo of a noise maker you hear today." This was my second choice for today's dailyshoot assignment. Since I still had to fill in the old one, I'm posting it under that prompt. I am VERY thankful that we don't have to use our chalkboards often anymore. Most of our classrooms are now equipped with SmartBoards, which make only the occasional squeaking noise if your hands are sweaty!

What is worse than hearing nails on a chalk board? Excuses are worse. Excuses can be found around each and every corner and in the martial arts / fitness industry there seem to be many, many corners. Leaders look at a situation and work to make it successful based on market demand and evolving with experience.  As a business owner / entrepreneur you are a leader.

We field calls all the time from the very successful schools / instructors all the way to the chronic and constantly struggling business owner. The most successful schools want to increase their business even further and realize it’s not your techniques that make you a living. Your techniques are just tools and some 19 year old kid in his parent’s basement can practice those same tools. It should be a given that you, as a professional, should refine all your tools before you ever open and be proficient in your chosen craft.

The difference between an amateur hobbyist who trains for fun and the professional is the actual business of instructing. COBRA owners specialize in many highly marketable areas of self-defense and personal safety. It’s not ok to just teach kids and a hand full of adults just to struggle financially every month.

*My location is bad

*I have no signage

*My market is low income

*My area is to rich and there is no interest

*I am injured / getting a job / buying a house, etc.








These are some of the many reasons / excuses we have heard from struggling martial art instructors who quickly take an axe to their school using just about any excuse. The big question is this; why are you in business?

Sure there are ups and downs in all businesses and markets, however most of the common excuses are irrelevant to begin with.

This is the information age and all businesses are on a level playing field called “Google / The Internet.” Gone are the days you need a prime location on a busy street with enormous overhead just to be found. We have owners doing very well in some of the most obscure and low profile locations.

Signage is your internet presence, anyone with a smart phone can find your logo, brand, offers, schedule and location in approximately 10 seconds. Every market has low, high and middle income. You will see people buying over priced coffee and driving luxury cars in low income areas and at the same time see people struggle in high income areas.






As a business owner your 3 main goals are:

*Be found by your market

*Communicate a clear message as the self-defense professional

*Create and keep your clients

Revenue flows to those who do these three things the best no matter what the “income level” is. We have all seen a person who makes average to low income and has a car that cost as much or more than they make in a year. This illustrates that people in all markets spend money weather they have it or not.

Here is a great example of choosing result and not excuses . COBRA Instructor Matt DiPitreo – Read His Story Here

Our goal as self-defense professionals is to lead with our established, successful and global brand and break the industry cycle.








Here is the story / cycle we hear – The Industry Cycle:

*A student earns rank under an instructor and become loyal to a specific “style.” The school owner is teaching what he was taught and struggles financially 90% of the time.

*The student wants to start a school teaching the same “style”. A new school is opened repeating the same business practices the previous struggling business owner used.

*The new school owner has limited to no business training or proven successful business systems in place. They continue to break the bank and add stress to their life just to teach the original “style” they started in.

*They realize through industry studies year after year that only 1.5 – 3 % of the market want will sign up for their services. They add other programs they feel will help however their main focus is their “style”. This doesn’t allow growth or success of any add on programs.

*About 2 – 3 years into it, the new school owner keeps their head in the sand, plows forward and continues the chronic cycle. They either go out of business or become content teaching 90% kids with a hand full of adults.

The downfall or lack of success will be written off using one of the many above stated excuses.

Sad Businessman






TO BE CLEAR – What is meant by struggling?

*If you are in business 3 – 5 years and you can’t pay your personal and business bills on a consistent basis.

*If you have to chip in every month from outside resources to make overhead.

*If you have to cut important business resources that could grow your business. Example: a consulting firm, websites add-on programs and advertising.

*If your personal life is constantly taking a hit due to your business

The real reason is the unwillingness to accept what the market wants or to change appropriately with the market is the real reason. The ironic thing is you don’t have to give up teaching your “style.”  Successful instructors and business professionals quickly realize to succeed in the industry you have to have a proven business model.

Once you have a proven business model you have to become extremely proficient with it. Even a McDonald’s will fail if you don’t understand their business systems.

The hardest cycle to break is for the instructor turned business owner to recognize what needs to change and to take action. Many who train in the arts treat their “style” like a religion and feel that if they change then that would be admitting they may have some how been wrong.

That is the furthest thing from the truth. Trust me, you can have your cake and eat it to.  Here is a quick story that is outside the MA / Fitness industry yet very similar to this business topic.

In the late 1990’s / early 2000’s, there was a super successful store in the Tampa Bay area called “Beepers & Phones.” I know this story well because I grew up with the founder.  This business was on every other corner, in the malls on T.V. and in the paper constantly.












Entering farther into 2003 – 2005, the stores began to disappear as fast as a new one would open. The technology was moving fast and there was no longer a demand for beepers. The market was taken over by Blackberries and later, the smart phone.

Further more, the market didn’t care to purchase from a “Beepers & Phones” store on the corner. They would rather go straight to a direct carrier store like Verizon, Sprint, etc.

For several years, you would still see these stores trying to make it and they just struggled and eventually went away entirely.

The market demand for communication devices is higher than ever, but would you want to open a Beeper sales store?

Personal safety and self-defense has never been in higher demand. This is due in a large part to the barrage of violent stories not only on the news, but social media. You don’t have to wait for the morning paper or night time news to hear about the latest abduction or shooting.

You can test the market at any time with the following exercise:


Ask ten of your family members or friends this question:

If you or a family member was assaulted, battered, bullied, robbed, or had a dangerous brush with a criminal / bad guy, what type of training would you seek out?



Would you Google (insert the “top 2 choices” followed by “your city”):

Fitness Gyms

Karate Classes

Cage Matches

Tae Kwon Do

YMCA  Training

Black Belt Training

Reality Self-Defense Training

Fight Clubs

Personal Protection Experts

Extreme Tai Chi

Boxing Gyms







As a self-defense professional you need to know that this is how your market looks for your services. Out of the ten people you ask, which two do you think they will pick?

Prospects who want real self-defense training are very specific in their search. As a self-defense professional you must stand out from the amateurs, the inexperienced, and mixed-messaged market. If you teach MA, there is a clear message for what you do, separate from your self-defense side.

Our COBRA owners worldwide are breaking this cycle left and right. We have instructors with decades of traditional experience completely rebranding their businesses with just COBRA. We have highly successful owners with no physical location or traditional background, either. This isn’t just in our U.S. locations, but also in our vast international locations as well.

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Real Instructor Stories Here.

You deserve success in the business and industry in which you teach. Our proven self-defense business system has been generating success for martial arts / self-defense and fitness instructors since 2002.

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