martial arts business

83 – Karate Club Owner On Verge Of Closure Shifts Into Profit And Revives The Dream

Ever had a close call in your martial arts business? That you'll need to close doors? That was Bob King not too long ago. Here's how he turned it around.


  • How to grow your student base through Facebook advertising 
  • Why key conversion elements are essential for martial arts websites 
  • The power of having a business mentor to guide you through your journey
  • How does the Academy program compare to other Martial Arts Business Coaching programs
  • And more

*Need help growing your martial arts school? Learn More Here.

Download the PDF transcription


Well, it's certainly gotten rid of that big dark cloud hanging over me, and I can see that if we continue the way we are at the very least, even if we didn't grow any further than what we are at the moment, we are now financially viable, and I'm actually putting money back in the bank account.

GEORGE: Good day, this is George Fourie, and I'm joined today by one of our Academy members, Bob King. How are you doing today, Bob?

BOB: Good, thanks George. How are you?

GEORGE: Pretty good. Pretty good. Thanks for jumping on.

So we're just going to have a quick chat just about Bob and his school and working together with our Academy program, and a couple of results and things that came up.

So thanks again for jumping on, Bob. If you don't mind, just share with us a couple of minutes, a bit of background about you. Who do you teach, a bit about your school, etc.

BOB: Okay, so I'm a member of the Koryu Uchinadi Kenpo Jutsu school. Hanshi Patrick McCarthy is the head of our school. We teach old-style, predominantly karate, but also jiui jitsu and weapons.

I've been doing martial arts for nearly 50 years, been teaching for probably 35 years. Predominantly ran schools out of school halls and community centres and that sort of thing. It was about seven or eight years ago, we had enough numbers to go into full-time premises that became available in the area where I teach. It progressed from there. Just started teaching full-time, probably five, six days a week with different classes on most days.

GEORGE: Alright, awesome. Okay, so we recently started working together and what I want to sort of getting down to, before we got to that point, what problems were you facing and what were you hoping to achieve through the program?

BOB: Well, the biggest problem that we had was our numbers had declined. When we first opened, we had good numbers. The bank account was looking healthy. The building we were in, we occupied two-thirds of it. Third of it was occupied by a funeral director who parked his hearse in it. That extra area became available and we decided to take it on. We were offered the lease on it to expand, and we took it on because we were concerned who might move in and cause us problems.

And we thought also with the extra area, we could make some improvements to our facility and that would hopefully increase numbers further. Failed to materialize. Once we'd gone into the bigger area, our rent went up but our numbers started to decline, and we got to the point where, probably for 18 months, I was losing money. We were going out the back door.

Just prior to joining your Academy program, we were at the point of we either had to do something and turn it around and actually start making the club profitable, or I was going to close down.

GEORGE: All right. Okay, so just a bit more on that. So was there anything else that was the impact that was having on the business and the situation of the students declining, etc?

BOB: Well, as I said, the bank account. After having a healthy bank account, it was slowly going backwards. I think probably over a two year period, I lost probably close to $13,000 out of my account. Obviously, I wasn't earning any income at all. In fact, it was costing me money. I also work as a personal trainer and a massage therapist, so I was basically subsidizing the dojo with that, and also my wife with her income.

So yeah, it was putting a little bit of a strain on us financially. And I guess the joy of teaching, I was losing that a little bit because you were concerned that you were losing members, and not as many students in the dojo, and the thought that you might have to just stop and either go and start teaching out of school halls or whatever again, or just completely stop training altogether. Stop teaching altogether.

GEORGE: Gotcha. And was there any other impact that it was having on you personally? You know, just with you and the family?

BOB: No, not really. I'll admit I'm not a very good businessman. I like to think I'm a reasonable martial artist, but I'm not much of a businessman. And my wife was sort of getting quite cranky with me at times because I wasn't doing the paperwork and wasn't keeping on top of things.

I also sort of took a bit of a, “It'll sort itself out.” We were doing all right for a while, it'll turn around, it'll pick up. It's just a low period, whatever. All the excuses under the sun.

But my wife has always been very supportive of me, so it wasn't a case that we were fighting or arguing or anything like that. But it was just, as I said, feeling a bit, not depressed, but lack of enthusiasm because things weren't going well. For most martial artists, I guess, opening a full-time dojo and being a full-time martial arts student, for most of us that have been in it for any period of time, that's sort of the dream, I guess. And the idea that I was going to probably lose that was not a happy thought.

GEORGE: Gotcha. All right, cool. But turning it around, you took action and we started working on a few things. Now, when we got working together, what are the two to three parts of the system that you feel made the biggest impact to change things around?

BOB: Well, I guess number one was just the fact of having someone, yourself, there mentoring and making suggestions, giving us some direction on what we were doing, was probably the number one thing. Basically, I needed you to give me a kick up the ass and get me moving… other than my wife who was constantly kicking me up the ass.

So I guess, obviously the main focus with the Facebook ads, that was our main form of advertising. Learning how to do that, which was interesting to say the least to begin with, but once we got going with that, that started to bear results. The other thing was the information that you gave us regarding our website. We had a website that we had put together ourselves, which was a bit dodgy to begin with.

And once again my wife, who is far more technologically minded than I am, stepped in and took over that and started working with that, finding her own ideas and doing some research into what to do with that, but also taking ideas that you had given us in the Academy program to improve that. And that made a big difference as well.

BOB: We started getting far more people coming to the site and more people making inquiries from that site as well. Plus we'd already put out a number of ads, I guess, or notices on various other websites around the place, “Find your local…” or whatever they're called, all that sort of thing. So they were probably, as I said, the mentoring from the start and the guidance, the Facebook stuff and then assistance with getting that website working better for us than what it was.

GEORGE: Perfect, that's awesome. So there's this sort of two-fold because the Facebook ads started working, you say that that was an interesting journey to get going. But you know, as we learned, marketing, it's not always linear. You might get the Facebook ads right, and all of a sudden your inquiries come from different directions and things start working. And so, as you mentioned, the tweaks that you've made to the website, that also helped with getting the conversions going, et cetera. Is that right?

BOB: Yeah, and I'd say there were probably people there that either saw things about us on Facebook, saw our ads on Facebook. We were also doing content marketing, which is what you had suggested. So we put a whole bunch of things together that worked really well. One of them, in particular, was a program we called The 12 Benefits Of Martial Arts, which we ran over 12 weeks, put a new one out each week and that went through the roof.

In terms of our Facebook, our numbers of people liking our page increased… God, I don't know how much, probably 1000% locally, but also obviously you get international people and that sort of thing as well, but that raised our profile enormously. But yeah, we had people that we're probably seeing stuff about us on Facebook, and then going and checking out our website, and probably the other way around too. People seeing our website and then going and seeing things about us on Facebook. So I think the two definitely probably complemented each other.

GEORGE: Awesome, so that's good to hear. So what results have you achieved up to now? How are things different?

BOB: Well, before we started the program, we were down to about 50 or 60 members, predominantly children. I run classes for what I call my junior class, which is four to seven-year-olds. The youth is the eight to 16-year-olds. And then our senior classes. We don't do separate grappling classes or separate weapons classes, we teach the Karate Kyu.

So we went from somewhere between 50 and 60, and now we're up around 80. We got a lot of… we did the paid trial, that was probably our biggest thing. We did a 39.95, three weeks unlimited training with a uniform, and that worked really well for us. We got a lot of people trialling from that, and the vast majority of those people that trialled, converted and are now training with us.

GEORGE: That's awesome.

BOB: Now, as I said, we're up around the 80. There are a few more trials and a few more inquiries that have come in that may well, within the next couple of weeks, push us sort of 85 members sort of thing.

GEORGE: Perfect. And so, how's that impacted your business now? You were saying earlier how you were fearful that you would have to give up that whole dream of running the full-time school. How's that different for you at the moment?

BOB: Well, it's certainly gotten rid of that big dark cloud hanging over me. I can see that if we continue the way we are at the very least, even if we didn't grow any further than what we are at the moment, we are now financially viable and I'm actually putting money back in the bank account, which helps pay for me to go and do seminars and train elsewhere and whatever I might want to do with, as well as just earning a bit of extra income. So the future looks good.

And also with the knowledge we now have, once I get my administration in better shape in terms of teaching, I think that the possibility for us to grow even further is definitely there. At the moment I teach all the classes, I don't really have any assistant instructors that take classes for me, but I'm in the process of getting some of my senior people to now come on board and be assistant instructors with me so that we keep good quality in our classes. And as that progresses, and as more students come up to that level, I can see that we will then have the ability to have bigger classes or run more classes and grow even further down the track.

GEORGE: Sounds great. And how has that impacted you personally?

BOB: Well, as I said, I haven't got the dark cloud hanging over me anymore. I'm more positive about what we're going to do and where we're going to be in the future. And there's not that worry that we're going to have to close down or where we're going to find the next week's rent or whatever. So from that point of view, it's certainly lifted, but certainly, I'll say this though, it wasn't a cakewalk. There was a lot of hours and a lot of work put in both by me and my good wife in getting all this happening. So if anyone thinks that they're just going to run a few simple Facebook ads and all of a sudden double their students… out of luck. It takes a bit of work. But it's been good. It's been a very good learning experience.

GEORGE: Definitely so, and I'll add to that, I mean if there was one person that would be on every coaching call and make sure you ask all the right questions, trial and error, that's what it takes. That's really what it takes. I mean it's nice to hear that the support that we've offered and help, but at the end of the day, that ambition and drive, it's got to come from you. It's going to be internal. Because yeah, there are a couple of roadblocks in the way and that's really what makes the difference, right?

Some people take the martial arts philosophy and push through, and others just find the excuse and go the other way. But you haven't, and that's what's basically adding to the success, of course.

BOB: Yeah. Well as you said, I was on every webinar and I probably frustrated the hell out of some of the other guys that were on the webinars, because I did tend to take up a bit of your time. All the modules, I went through and did the module. Sometimes if I didn't quite get something, I'd go back and do the module again. I was taking notes while I was doing the modules, while I was doing webinars. And then when my wife came home, we would sit down and I would discuss what I'd done that day in terms of the webinars or the modules. She obviously also had access to the modules, which she looked at.

So yeah, it was just that yes, we got the mentoring, we got a lot of good information from you through all of those avenues, but it was actually taking that information and doing something with it. Because you have all the information in the world, if you don't use it, nothing happens.

GEORGE: Yeah, totally, that's awesome. Bob, thank you so much. So just a couple of quick questions just to round things up. So if you had to complete this sentence, “I almost didn't join because…”.

BOB: I almost didn't join because… well, the only thing I would say is we didn't know you. We had been looking at various other similar sorts of marketing programs or that sort of thing, but I think the thing that swayed us towards you was the fact that you are specifically martial arts-oriented, as opposed to many of the other ones out there that are just general. But that was the only thing. We hummed and hawed about whether or not we could afford to do it. Not that it was a great amount of money to start with, but that was probably the only thing that made us think twice about it. But in the end, it really wasn't an issue. Long answer.

GEORGE: Yeah, that's perfect. Cool. And what's been the best part of working together at this point?

BOB: I guess access to the information was good. There are a few times where we were a bit frustrated. As I said, when we first started trying to do the Facebook ads, we were both ready to punch a hole in the monitor because we'd try and do something and it wouldn't work and whatever else. But then it was usually relatively simple to send a message through to you either via the Facebook page or even just an email or something and go, “Hey, we're having problems with this. What's the story? What have we got to do?” And usually, you would give us an answer or point us in the right direction. Plus we would then go off and do our own research on that as well, and try and sort it out even better.

So yeah, that available information, the modules being there and being able to go and look at them and, as I said, sometimes go through them once or twice to try and get that information in your head. And then, when we do a webinar, if there was something I didn't quite understand regarding the modules or anything else, you were there to sort of give that information to us. So that support was a big part of actually making things work, but again, a big part of keeping us going because you constantly ask, “What are you going to do today? Why haven't you done this? What's next? What's next?” So I suppose that's the point of a coach, isn't it, to sort of push you along a little bit and get you moving in the right direction.

GEORGE: Yeah, perfect. You were saying kick up the ass. I know I'm the lesser of a martial artist, so I can only do that by distance and feel comfortable with it.

BOB: Sometimes the psychological kick up the ass has more effect than the physical one.

GEORGE: Yeah. Yeah. True. Cool. Bob, one last question. Who would you recommend the Academy program to and why?

BOB: Well, I've already recommended it. Told people that I've done this program or I’m doing this program. We had a major training thing up in Brisbane two months ago. I had told my head instructor Hanshi McCarthy that I was doing this program and he was quite interested in it. A few of the people up there, because they'd seen our ads and saw what was happening, started asking me questions. So I told them the program that I was doing, whether or not they follow it up is not my problem, I suppose, that’s there’s to try and get motivated and do something with it.

So I'm quite happy to tell anybody that I deal with in terms of martial arts that we did the program and that we were happy with it and well worth the money that we spent. And as I said to you when we first started, that the consideration of doing the Partners program was there and it's still a possibility. As I said, we need to consolidate and see where we're going and what's happening, but I would still consider going to the next level and doing the Partners program again. But I just need to, as I said, get my act together a bit in terms of running classes and things.

GEORGE: That's awesome. Cool. Well, thanks so much. And for anyone listening, if you'd like to know more about the programs that we offer and how we can potentially help you get similar results no matter where your school is at, whether you're at that 50, 60 marks, scaling to 80, or if it's 100 to 400, we've got a vast variety of programs that we offer based on where the school owner is at.

So if you would like to know more info on how we can help, you can just go to, as in S-C-A-L-E, and just fill in the form, we ask a couple of questions. We'll set up a time to chat on the phone, brief phone conversation, see if or how we can help, and take it from there.

Awesome! Thanks so much. And Bob, thanks again for jumping on. Look forward to seeing you in the next webinar and hitting some more goals.

BOB: Okay. Thanks very much, George. You're welcome.

GEORGE: Thank you. Cheers.

Awesome. Thanks for listening. If you want to connect with another top, smart martial arts school owners, and have a chat about marketing, lead generation, what's working now, or just have a gentle rant about things that are happening in the industry, then I want to invite you to join our Facebook group.

It's a private Facebook group and in there, I share a lot of extra videos and downloads and worksheets – the things that are working for us when we help school owners grow and share a couple of video interviews and a bunch of cool extra resources.

So it's called the Martial Arts Media Business Community and an easy way to access it is, if you just go to the domain named, so, g-r-o-u-p, there's no .Com or anything, That will take you straight there. Request to join and I will accept your invitation.

Thanks – I'll speak to you on the next episode – cheers!

Here are 3 ways we can help scale your school right now.

1. Join the Martial Arts Media community.

It's our new Facebook community where martial arts school owners get to ask questions about online marketing and get access to training videos that we don't share elsewhere – Click Here.

2. Join the Martial Arts Media Academy and become a Case Study.

I'm working closely with a group of martial arts school owners this month. If you'd like to work with me to help you grow your martial arts school, message me with the word ‘Case Study'.

3. Work with me and my team privately.

If you would like to work with me and my team to scale your school to the next level, then message me with the word ‘private'… tell me a little about your business and what you would like to work on together and I'll get you all the details.

Enjoyed the show? Get more martial arts business tips when you subscribe on iTunes for iPhone or Stitcher Radio for Android devices.

***NEW*** Now available on Spotify!

Podcast Sponsored by Martial Arts Media Partners

Yes, I want George to show me new ways to Attract students, Increase signups and Retain more members.

Start the quiz
George Fourie

Hi I'm George Fourie, the founder of When I'm not doing dad duties or training on the mats (which I manage to combine when my son is willing! :), I'm helping Martial Arts Gym owners grow their business through the power of online media.