4 Tips to Become a Self-employed Martial Arts Instructor

4 Tips to Become a Self-employed Martial Arts Instructor

Depending on who you are, becoming a full time, self-employed martial arts instructor may not have been a linear thing. Maybe you started teaching martial arts as a hobby, as it was something you are passionate about. But now, as your side hustle has started to become a full-time position, you’re trying to take that next step in turning your labour of love into a proper business.

It’s admirable what you’re doing, and I think there are a few things that could help you as you set out. Right now, your business is just a seed idea, but as you seek advice and research other possibilities, you can develop strategies to make your business competitive, including adopting a business model suited to your goals.

In this article, we will discuss:

  1. Martial arts instructor business models
  2. Free certifications and paid martial arts certifications to get
  3. Portable martial arts clubs vs. hiring space for a training centre
  4. Equipment to outfit your club

Martial arts instructor business models

Change is never easy, and as you’ve been developing your martial arts instructor business, you’ve noticed that it has really taken off. Now you’re scrambling to make sure that you scale up your business to meet the needs of the people interested in it, whilst also trying to ground your dreams in reality.

There are tons of opportunities available, even at the tail end of the global pandemic, to develop a thriving business from the martial arts industry. There are people who are hungry to develop new skills, especially those who would prefer to get personal, one-on-one training in the comfort of their own home by a certified professional.

And consider this, British households saved an enormous amount of money during the first two years of the pandemic. There is a tremendous opportunity to earn a livable wage by training people in your local area.

There are three levels for business models for martial arts instructors:

  1. Self-employed: The self-employed martial arts instructor teaches and trains students, whilst also performing other business duties. The self-employed instructor brings to mind a young Bruce Lee who trained Hollywood stars in their homes. As a self-employed instructor, the responsibility to teach martial arts falls on one single person, but for some people, that’s exactly what they’d like. You’re in control of what’s being taught, as well as the opportunities to refine your business.
  2. Business owner: Business owners take a step back from the day-to-day operations of running a training centre. Instead of teaching all the classes, you’ll have other certified instructors come in. Also, as a business owner, you’ll have to handle pay cheques and become more involved in taxes than a single operator. When you own your own school, you end up pouring a lot of yourself into it.
  3. Multi-school owner: Business owners that make that next step and purchase over one location can think big picture on how to grow their business. Multi-school business owners are the type of people who have thought through how to effectively market their brand to their local area, expand into new regions, and motivate staff to provide the best individual training programmes on the market. They spend less time on the day-to-day activities.

Whichever business model you take, the first question you need to ask yourself is, “Why?” Why exactly do you want to teach pupils one-on-one? Why would you like to own your own training centre?

Just like any career path, the motivation behind it is going to propel you forward. Maybe your motivation is to be self-employed, able to dictate your own schedule and maybe spend more time with friends and family. Or maybe you have a new vision on how to teach self defence skills, and this drives you to establish a group of training schools.

Professional tip

Speak with a former coach of yours or the owner of the first martial arts training centre you trained at. Ask them what motivated them as they started out in their career. By striking up a conversation with them, you may be able to build a long-lasting mentorship relationship with them.

Also, there are several business coaches available in the UK. You may be interested in speaking with one of them to help you establish your goals.


Depending on where you are in your career, it may benefit you to become more specialised with new certifications. It’s best to get your certifications with a recognised governing body.

The British Martial Arts and Boxing Association offers free access to their vocational level 1 and vocational level 2 instructor qualifications. These online courses may be the first step which allows you to get your foot in the door as a martial arts instructor. These also give you the technical competency to lead classes, create lesson plans, and develop your own skills in training students.

It may also be prudent to receive your black belt in the combat sports discipline which you’re involved in. Although not necessarily a requirement, having your black belt shows that you have reached one of the highest qualifications in your sport. This certification may provide you with credibility as you look for clients in your local area.

Besides a coaching qualification, you may also be interested in receiving a first-aid certificate. It’s always best to have somebody who’s first-aid trained attending all training sessions, just in case anything were to happen. You may also want to get a police certificate, as this can allow you to work with vulnerable adults and children. Showing a clean police record through a DBS check may also be a requirement of your insurance company’s legal policy in their child protection plan.

Portable martial arts training vs. hiring a training centre

Whether you choose to go to your clients to train them or hire a training centre, there are benefits and drawbacks to either style of coaching that you choose.


The benefit of being a portable martial arts training instructor is that you can reach a different clientele. There are people who are still interested in their health but would rather not head to clubs or training centres. You can also offer online classes to give people access to martial arts training.

One downside of going portable is that you need to haul all of your equipment to the location. This means all of your training gear, mats, and even clean up equipment will need to be carried into the location that you’re using.

One of the most portable mats available is rollout mats, which are easy to deploy and easy to put away. If you’re looking for ways to increase manoeuvrability, purchase some handcarts to carry the load. One of the worst things that can happen is that you show up to a training session completely exhausted because you had to carry in all of your gear.

Hiring a training centre

Having a home base to work from, somewhere that you can store all of your stuff, is a great thing to have. Even more so, in fact, if you’re able to leave out all of your equipment and not tear down and set up every day. This helps to cut down on the costs in labour, whilst also saving you stress for cleanup.

The major downside is, however, that it will cost you a little more money than conducting training sessions in your home or a client’s home. This will ultimately factor into the costs associated with running your business, but it is a major cost you don’t want to forget about.

Equipment to outfit your gym

Before you can start training people, you need equipment. There are significant costs associated with running a martial arts training centre. The best advice for you is to make a checklist of all the things that you think that you’ll need, and write next to them the priority level for each one. Martial arts mats should have a number “1” as they’re a significantly important product, whilst workout equipment, like bench presses, may be lower down on your priority list.

Martial arts mats

Considered the first form of personal protective equipment for the athletes training at your gym, martial arts mats are an integral part of any training centre. At first glance, they may seem to be an enormous investment, and that’s exactly what they are: an investment. By purchasing good quality mats at the beginning of your career, you won’t need to worry about the mats falling apart.

Here are the best mats available for martial arts training centres:

Related: Martial Arts Ring Sizes

Training equipment

Another important consideration to take in the mind is the training equipment that you have for your training centre. I’m not talking about the equipment that each martial artist will need to supply, but if you’re interested in learning more about essential equipment for MMA, then you should check out this article.

below you’ll find some of the most important equipment that you’ll need:

  • Punching bags
  • Sparring gear
  • Crash mats
  • Free weights ā€” bench presses, dumbbells, and cable stations
  • Cleaning equipment

As mentioned above, you don’t need to have all the stuff purchased on the first day. Instead, you can build up your equipment over time.

If you’re interested in purchasing punching bags and sparring gear, our Irish site, Martial Arts Mats Ireland, has exactly what you need to kit out your gym.



It is a tremendous achievement to realise that you’re ready to take that next step and become a business owner. Your path may not be easy, but it will be incredibly rewarding. If you’re ever interested in learning more about martial arts mats or the equipment that you need, give us a ring or click on the handy chat button in the bottom right-hand corner of your screen.


Author: David Van Kooten

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