How to Become a Martial Arts Instructor

Contrary to popular belief, it takes more than just having knowing martial arts to become a teacher. Like most teaching jobs, you'll need to meet special qualifications, know what you're doing, and prove you're dedicated enough to your job to get students to sign up.


  1. Image titled Become a Martial Arts Instructor Step 1
    Get as much training in your target martial art as possible. For example, the black belt is the highest belt in karate, awarded only to people who have put in the work, time, and dedication into learning the forms they are taught. This takes years to achieve, and you'll be expected to go to the karate classes at least two times a week. You shouldn't be teaching if you yourself haven't trained long enough, so you'll have to be a black belt if you want to teach karate. You may have to be past a first degree black belt, as well.
  2. 2
    Research all of the qualifications you'll have to meet. They vary widely depending on the country you'll be working in, and some are more strict than others (particularly Asian countries, where they are trying, for good reason, to preserve the art in "martial arts"). Will you need some unpaid teaching experience first? Many dojos will allow you to teach without pay once you've proven yourself and have become a black belt.
  3. 3
    Make a list of goals or steps you'll have to achieve on your path to becoming an instructor. For example, getting enough training, getting unpaid teaching experience, finding your own place if that's what you'd like, et cetera.
  4. Image titled Become a Martial Arts Instructor Step 2
    Search for locations to teach at. Before you go out and start renting your own dojo, you should first get some experience elsewhere! Try health clubs, rec-centers, churches (if you are teaching a highly spiritual martial art, churches may not be your best bet), and community centers -- these are all great examples of places that may let you start teaching. Many successful instructors have started this way, and it won't hurt your budget.
    • If you'd like to teach at an already-existing dojo, then get in contact with them and see if they'll give you an interview. You may have the best luck trying to teach at your current martial arts location, however.
      Image titled Become a Martial Arts Instructor Step 9
  5. 5
    Don't get stuck in the comparison game. It's great to have credentials, but it's largely a waste of time pursuing ran" simply for the sake of how it appears in a yellow pages ad. Many students won't care much for instructors who are more concerned with the "alphabet soup" at the end of their name than giving their students the best possible instruction. Besides, although all instructors should be Black Belts -- not all black belts should be instructors.
  6. 6
    Market yourself. The better you can market your ability to help people with your teaching, the more people you'll be able to teach. Ask yourself this: "What #1 benefit will my karate instruction provide"? Spend more time answering that question and you'll rarely -- if ever -- have to worry about "finding" students; they'll find you. Also, be clear on who your classes are catered to, such children or adults, beginners or experienced students.
    • Don't be bashful: You've got to be willing to throw the modest humble-guy/gal approach out the window. You'll get more students by being unafraid of saying, "Hey, here's why our style is better than such and such, and here's why you should study with me."
      Image titled Become a Martial Arts Instructor Step 4
    • Consider buying a mailing list of the type of prospect (that's business lingo for "ideal potential karate student") that you think you'll either attract, prefer, or otherwise end up teaching by way of either your personal style or characteristics. The purpose of advertising is to create a "lead" (person with interest in karate); the purpose of creating a lead is to "convert" that person into a "prospect" (someone who's very interested and is ready and looking for karate).
  7. Image titled Become a Martial Arts Instructor Step 6
    Create and mail out a minimum of six marketing messages (preferably on postcards -- and no, they don't have to be the shiny, fancy ones either) inviting these "leads" to take a very, very, low-risk "next step". (Make your "next step" something easy-to-do. Don't ask for or suggest that they spend money with you right away - that's what the conventional karate schools are all doing. Instead, offer a free consumer report like: "5 Things You Need To Know Before You Even Think of Visiting a Karate or Martial Arts School" -- or -- "Kids Karate: How to choose one based on your child's personality".
  8. Image titled Become a Martial Arts Instructor Step 7
    Develop strong phone skills. Probably the most overlooked "skill" in becoming successful and well-paid martial arts instructor is the skill in answering the phone. You must possess the skill of getting someone to go from "Passive Phone Talker" all the way to "Active Participant". And you'll do this by getting everyone who calls you to commit to (and show up for) an introductory lesson. You can make your "Intro" free, or, you can offer a nominal, low-risk fee for "test driving" your expert instruction.
  9. Image titled Become a Martial Arts Instructor Step 8
    Be willing to ask your prospects for money once they've demonstrated a real interest. The best way to do this is to practice it on people who you've not spent money on (i.e. role play with your friends, family, spouse, etc.). Sit or stand in front of them and tell them to pretend as if they just took a free class with you moments ago.... and then practice saying, "The best part of our program, John, is that all you need to get started today is $295 dollars -- how did you want to take care of that; by check, cash, or credit card?"


  • It's also a good idea to join a billing company to collect your monthly tuition. (This way, you don't have to look like the 'bad guy/girl'.)
  • Most dojos focus on adults, with children's classes as sort of an afterthought. As a matter of marketing, consider doing it the other way around.
    • A 2-hour kids' session (~4pm-6pm) on week days is essentially an after-school program. If you don't have kids of your own, you have no idea what a relief it is for a working parent to have a wholesome, supervised place to stash their kid for the few hours between school and the parents' commute home. If you can provide such an place, they will pay nicely.
    • If you go this route, check about insurance.
    • You might want to get an EMT card, phys ed teacher's certification, or other ancillary training.


  • Do not open a "full-time" or "commercial location" too soon! Wait until you've got about 150% of your operational expenses covered and make sure you're hitting that financial milestone on a monthly basis -- not just episodically!

Article Info

Categories: Martial Arts | Sporting Careers