Student Retention In Your Martial Arts School

One of the main keys to success is student retention in your Martial Arts School. If you don’t hold onto students you school is always relying on a near constant flow of beginners. That’s not what you want. It’s miserable running through the motions of teaching beginner after beginner over and over again. It’s not what any school owner wants but sadly it can be a reality for many martial arts schools.

student retention in your martial arts school

Student Retention In Your Martial Arts School

Student retention is probably one of the most important factors in making your martial arts school successful. Unless your students are sticking around, getting better and lifting the standards, your standards are dropping. This is true of yourself too. Unless you are doing your own training and getting better yourself, eventually your students will be catching up to you. This leads to one of the main issues and one of many reasons why people won’t stick around.

The Teacher

For many students of martial arts the teacher is the most important thing. Admittedly some are more focused on the class, but for many there is some kind of allure of projecting some kind of hero focus onto your teacher. This can set some high expectations. Admittedly when I started training in various styles I was looking for some kind of father figure. I was looking for someone who who very skilled and also some kind of guru figure. Oh boy was I in for a disappointment!

The point is that people will look to you as the main focus of the class. One class I went to the main instructor was losing his temper and swearing in one of the first classes I attended. This immediately put me off, since he wasn’t the kind of person I was expecting from such a discipline. Of course everyone is human, but at a young age some students can look for a role model. Keep this in mind and be mindful of your behavior towards your students. Not everyone will like you no matter how you are, but it’s still important to tidy up your act for those who are noticing.

The Art

student retention in your martial arts school

Most of your students will be coming to your classes because they trust they are going to learn something useful. They might need to use it one day. If they don’t believe in you they won’t believe in what you are teaching. So you need to be confident about what you are doing. You might know how good your style is but some of your students will need to be convinced.

They might have a different agenda to you, or not see the whole picture. Remember back to when you started out. I didn’t see the bigger picture in some styles I was training in, I saw fault. I picked holes in things, rather than completely trust my instructor. You might know how good your martial art it, but your students don’t. Make sure you listen to your students needs and teach in a way which answers their questions. If they don’t see the value in what you’re teaching they will leave.

Every style has its own strengths and weaknesses, sometimes it is no fault of your own if someone is looking for something else too.


Marketing is a vital part in growing a school. However, student retention in your martial arts school is just as important if not more. Both go hand in hand. Without a good sized class, even the hardiest of martial artists will struggle to keep turning up.

You can expect a natural drop off rate. But if your drop off rate is faster than your recruitment rate, you have a problem. As less and less people train at your school, it becomes harder for your loyal students to remain. After all what’s in it for them? It’s not their job to grow your school. Unless they are benefiting from your classes they won’t stick around for long, no matter how loyal they are.

This is why it is vital to have a good marketing strategy which brings in new students to help grow your school. Marketing is much easier than retention, when you know how to do it. But you need both to grow your school. See martial arts marketing solutions.


Whether you run classes for adults or children you need to cater to the people who are in front of you. For children, it’s more their parents you need to convince!

The class tempo will depend on your particular class teaching style and the style of your martial art. If people come for fitness, that’s what you need to offer. If people want to learn how to defend against a punch, you need to be covering that. Everyone is looking for something slightly different. You need to convey to your students that what you are teaching is what they want! You do this by listening to their needs and answering their objections. Of course you also need to deliver the value they are looking for, or they will go somewhere else.

You also need to ‘set out your stall’. If you don’t teach fitness in your class say so. That way you won’t waste anyone’s time. Fitness is a byproduct of training in any martial art. However, some people want cardiovascular exercise from a martial arts class, other people want purely the martial aspect. Make people aware of what you do and why you do it. This way you don’t waste time trying to convince people who want something you don’t offer.

Remember you don’t have to be ‘all things to all men’. Set out your stall and run your class in a way which you want, gives value and allows people to learn at their own pace.


student retention in your martial arts school

Student retention in your martial arts school is a delicate balance. Unless you can get it right people will leave and keep leaving. But if you can learn from it you can turn a negative into a positive and change your practices so it doesn’t keep happening.

Listen to your existing students because they can give you insight into how it feels being a student at your school. It’s harder to ask for feedback from those who have left but it’s definitely worth asking if you can. Insight into why people are leaving is hugely valuable, as is insight into why people stay.

Have a feedback form at the front end too, when you run a beginners course or open day. Or you can ask prospective students what they are looking for in a martial art. There is a natural drop off in all school so don’t take everything personally. But if there is something you can change which will help, it’s worth finding out what that is. Feedback from existing, potential and leaving students can all help you understand if you are doing something which isn’t working, or ways to change your class structure.


Gradings are a great way to keep people interested and can improve student retention in your martial arts school. Gradings give structure to your school and getting regular certificates is a nice way to learn and feel like your are progressing in something. They also help to instruct and give you a means to break down training into various formats in a well structured way. There are different ways to do gradings and you need to do something which works for you personally. You can do ‘assessments’, ‘gradings’ ‘levels’, or whatever you want to call it.

Not everyone is focused on gradings or think it matters. However, many are put off if your school doesn’t offer a regular grading and a ‘black belt’ syllabus. If you don’t offer gradings you need to structure the classes in a way which moves people forwards and keeps them interested.

This can be done by rotating the class format every month or so, switching from ‘set patterns’ to sparring to drills and varying the format of the classes over certain time frames. Keeping it interesting while people are learning is the key to maintaining an interesting class. Some people can do repetitive drills all day long and want to do this. Others need a more broken rhythm to maintain their interest. However you run your classes people need to feel they are progressing and getting better.

Other Students

Other students play an important role in your school too. Your students are you ‘ambassadors’ when new people come in to your school. Are they welcoming of new students? Your ‘ethos’ will be reflected through your students. They are likely to pick up your habits both in a training sense and in other ways.

Your attitudes are likely to be reflected through your students too. If you get a bully in your school it can be very bad for your new students and your retention rate. People can leave because of one ‘rotten apple’. Remember you still have the final say as to who stays in your school and weeding out the ‘bad egg/s’ can be an effective response if student retention in your martial arts school is a problem.

Your Mindset

Your mindset has a huge amount to do with how your school operates and runs. Student retention in your martial arts school is another aspect of this. Whatever your vision (or lack of vision) for your school is, you can bet that somewhere in your mind you hold the key to retaining your students. For example, if your long term students are all leaving around the same time, let’s say after their black belt, this could mean they have very little left to stay for.

Some students will stay because they feel some kind of shared ownership towards the club, or they have some responsibility. How you think will affect your school and those who have come to know you over many years.  Is your school just for profit or is it part of something bigger? When does the drop off happen? Are you maintaining standards and helping people achieve higher and higher levels, or do you hold them back? Ask yourself the tough questions and look into your objectives. Do you really have the best interests of your students at heart?