How To Build Community at Your Martial Arts School

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martial arts community

I might be biased, but I firmly believe that martial arts training will benefit everyone who sticks with it. Be it self-defense, physical fitness or discipline, the benefits of training are endless. Long-term practitioners realize this, but the struggle in every school is making sure that students stay consistent and progress through the ranks. The school owner has a lot going against them: the competitor down the street, other programs that promise faster results, and the student’s busy life off the mats are all hurdles that need to be overcome. So what can be done?

After practicing Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu for nearly 10 years and speaking to school owners across the world for three years with Zen Planner, I’ve noticed one commonality in all of the schools that are packed wall-to-wall. The sense of COMMUNITY they share with their students.

Each community is unique and different, but one thing is for sure: the instructors care about their students and helping them reach their potential.

As a school grows, it becomes harder and harder for the owner to be present in each of the students’ lives. But if the vision, responsibility and practices are shared down and owned by the other instructors and employees, that community can continue to grow stronger.

So Where Do You Start?

1. Showing your students that you care about them! The basics are familiar to most school owners: 2,4,6 week check-ins, birthday cards, extended absence check-ins via Automations, etc. More importantly, consider the interactions between your students and their instructors. They are the front line of the culture at your school. If a student doesn’t show up for 2 weeks, that instructor should be calling to check on them or praising them for their improvements.

MA community service

2. Drive interaction off the mats. Schedule team mixers in the form of socials or community service events. It’s important to demonstrate how to act on the values and community vision you have for your school.

If your instructors are leading by example, it won’t be long until your students follow suit.The sense of community and caring trickles down to your students. Soon they will be the ones checking on each other and motivating each other to train.

I’ll never forget the first time one of my older training partners pointed it out to me. “This place is something special. It’s a group of individuals with nothing in common coming together to reach common goals. You won’t see another place where you have doctors, lawyers and businessmen who are close friends with college kids, bartenders and tattoo artists.” Every school has the potential to grow this type of community.


Looking for other ways to grow your martial arts school? Download our guide, Four Essential Strategies for Student Retention.

martial arts student retention guide

jiu jitsu fighter chris mierzwiak

Chris Mierzwiak, Partnership Development Manager

Zen Planner

Since the first day Chris started training Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, it has been the main focus in his life. He believes that martial arts training provides valuable skills that people can translate to any other area in life. His goal is to spread those experiences and lessons to as many people as possible.

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