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Starting a Martial Arts Club


Are you starting a Martial Arts club, choosing your martial arts club name and logo has just one job - which is NOT to boost your ego! Its job is to sell you, really easily to ‘joe public’.


The name and logo represent you.


Think about it from a point of view of someone who doesn’t know you and is just searching for a local martial arts class. They don’t know the difference between styles, all they know is you get fit with self defence.


With this in mind, think about what image the words you choose project.


In the late 80’s, my husband's first club name was Ultimate Defence Freestyle Karate. It was abbreviated for the logo to UDFK.


It was a typical 80’s / 90’s approach & we probably only got away with it because there was no internet searching & everyone else had equally bad names!


If we had stuck with it, can you see how dated our brand would look now?


It at least said what he taught – freestyle karate which at the time was sufficient enough to separate us from the traditional classes but if you’d have seen the logo, it was bog-standard stereotypical – a circle with a silhouette of a man kicking and I think it may have had the something chucked in there to represent Wada Ryu. He was still successful, but due to business strategy & strength of teaching – the branding was insignificant & he would have struggled as a start-up in today’s market.


We then opened a full-time dojo, Birmingham Martial Arts Centre. This name has stood its ground for nearly 30 years. It does well with martial arts searches online, it has always projected a professional image, it tells you that it’s a full-time dojo. It's specific enough to tell you what you are contacting & vague enough to not restrict interest. It isn’t indulgent or egotistic so again separates the brand from ‘those’ instructors. It is a solid, reliable, classic name.


An extra bit of consideration for those of you who want to have a fight gym.


The kind of gym names that present this image certainly do the job of showcasing you as a fight gym, however, what can be totally overlooked is that people like the THOUGHT of belonging to a fight gym, but not so many of them enjoy the physical commitment. People like the THOUGHT of making the booking for a free lesson, but in reality, often talk themselves out of it because they worry that they are going to get beaten up – a fallacy I know – but they don’t know that! Once getting them through the door, it is usually fine if you have strong teaching structure, however, the truth is that only a very very small percentage of your student base will ever really commit to a fight regime. So, by making your image too aggressive, you risk attracting limited students and it overwhelms many of those who do attend with the thought they have to fight & the reality is many will not want to.


This is an example of mixing idealism with reality. So, even if you want a fight gym, you still need to open the doors to the masses so that you can afford to stay open but be assured if you want to produce fighters forthwith, you still will, regardless of how safe your business name is.



Once settled on a name, get a logo. Think about how the logo will look on a website, on printed t-shirts, on a grading certificate, on a flyer, on social media.


Simple is best – a lot of detail may look good on a plain printed piece of paper but doesn’t print out great on t-shirts and can make a website or advertising look too fussy. Simple is best. Always.


The use of colours is important. Imagine you taught Tai Chi, you have decided to call your club Telford Tai Chi. You could choose an Eastern-looking logo, with pastel colours & a soft font. This would project gentleness, harmony, tradition.


Apply this same design for a Muay Thai class. Let’s call it Telford Muay Thai. We have used exactly the same approach for the name, but to use the style of logo & colour wouldn’t work at al..


If we used bold colours, maybe black & red and a strong font, no extra detail, simply a strong clear logo, we would project a very masculine image & this would still attract those who want to fight without it being too aggressive to put anyone else off. It would translate well onto T-shirts etc, imagine a photo of your corner all wearing branded clothes at a fight show.


If it’s simple strong & clear, it becomes recognisable. If someone wants to find you, they easily recognise your brand when they find your website. On entering the website, the brand continues, you then look seamless, professional, trustworthy, safe. You look like you know what you’re doing – all the things you need to attract new students. You look like I would want you to teach me…


I will be more inclined to buy the extra t-shirt & sweatshirt because I belong to a brand. It makes me look fit & strong, or in the case of the Tai Chi club, I will enjoy feeling fit and harmonious.


If your students feel like they belong, you are more likely to retain them.

The better your retention is, the less marketing you have to do to replace lost students.

The longer they stay, the more chance there is that they will upgrade how many times a week they train.

The more students who train more often, the higher the standards become.

The higher the standards, the more likely you are to attract more students.


This is the first lesson in looking at things from all angles, planning longevity and the ripple effect that a carefully considered decision has.


Growing a Martial Arts Club


If you grow to the point of opening other clubs taught by other instructors, it’ll be easily replicable – a great example is Steve Logan from K Star who has done this fantastically – he has 5 full-time K Star gyms. A fantastic achievement by anyone’s standards. He has built a solid brand, a plain-speaking, does what it says, easy to remember, easy to recognise brand.


If you already have a club name, which you are recognising as perhaps presenting a small thinking slightly tired image, you have two choices. Keep the name but invest in a revamp of the logo, this can be a breath of fresh air. The second choice is to change the name and logo. If you are a large club, I wouldn’t extinguish the establishment of the name and would just revamp the logo. If you are a very small club, you literally have nothing to lose, bin the lot, get some design help, start again.


Now, admittedly a decent club name and logo will not win the war alone. It does need to be reinforced by decent teaching, strong processes, marketing, pricing and all the other faculties that will strengthen your Martial Arts business, but, if you have a good looking hard working brand, it simply makes selling yourself easier in the first place.

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