Martial Arts Safety Governance

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Today’s preeminent business success factor

Andries Pruim | January 2020

Trifecta of Success for a Martial Arts School

While there are a number of different definitions within the Martial Arts Industry on what elements of business are needed in order to become a successful school owner, I position that there are only three (3) main components that need to be addressed. As reflected above, I have simplified the ‘high level’ success factors for a Martial Arts Business as:

·       Curriculum

o   This is your “Product”, “Service”, the Widget you are selling!

o   From White Belt (Beginner) to Master Instructor, all gradings fully defined.

o   Includes all types of training (Karate, Grappling, Weapons, etc.)


·       Revenue Streams/Profit Centers

o   How to Monetize your Product ....  i.e.: Curriculum

o   Monthly/Annual Dues/Upgrades

o   Events/Seminars

o   Retail Sales

o   Includes all aspects of Marketing and Sales


·       Safety Governance (Risk Management)

o   Every activity needed to ensure the Safety (and Health) of All participants.

o   Always Evolving.

o   Mitigate Lawsuits.

o   Enhances likelihood of Success.


The Curriculum is the Product or Service that your business is providing and must be defined completely. You wouldn’t try to sell a product that was only half developed/built, so your curriculum must be well thought out. Your ‘Product’ must be fully detailed and documented ensuring everyone knows how a student progresses through the curriculum.

This detailing (Documentation) must represent all aspects of your curriculum including what martial art is being taught (and it’s history) as well as any specialty classes (e.g.: weapons). The Curriculum should also fully define how your school recruits it’s next generation of instructors. In other words, all aspects of your martial arts progression strategy are fully explained and understood by all.

Another aspect your curriculum that must be considered is how well can you update or modify it. The recent Coronavirus ‘disruption’ has revealed that to survive in today’s ever-changing world, you are going to have to modify your teaching habits regularly (even if only temporary). Whether its finding new mediums in which to teach your students or alternatively restructuring your class size and/or scheduling, just remember you are not changing WHAT you teach just HOW you teach it.

Revenue Streams

The second Trifecta component is the various Revenue Streams you need to develop in order to obtain compensation for the teaching of your curriculum. This includes whether to simply charge a single monthly fee, allow for paid up front memberships, putting on seminars, using upgrades, related retails sales and any other possible way to monetize your product, namely your curriculum.

Obviously, this would also include your Marketing, Sales Lead conversions, and any other aspects of your business related to generated revenues. Being aware of every new possible revenue stream will ensure the success of your business, examples of which is the recent spike in remote classes due to the unforeseen pandemic. Being able to develop a new revenue stream shows that even in a crisis (as we have recently experienced), level heads will ensure the survival of your school.

Safety Governance

The final and in my opinion, the most important component of the Trifecta of Success, especially considering our society’s changing priorities (not to mention the recent COVID-19 pandemic) is Safety Governance. In today’s litigious society, the emphasis on Risk Management must be given serious consideration, otherwise your efforts at Monetizing your Curriculum will be moot (and could cost you a lot of effort, grief and eventually money).

In fact, the COVID-19 pandemic has put this business management component front and center and if implemented correctly could save your business, considering what we have witnessed lately. While this segment of Business is normally referred to as Risk Management or Risk Mitigation, this moniker continues to carry a negative implication which in turn makes it difficult to discuss, implement and maintain. What needs to be understood is that we as school owners are looking after the welfare of not only our students but the business (and our reputations) as well. In other words, don’t see this important component as a ‘cost of doing business’ but rather as a positive outlook in keeping everyone in a safe, inclusive and educational environment.

For this reason, if we are all looking after the safety and health of all martial arts school participants (or “Stakeholders” when using the business vernacular) then it would be more appropriate to entitle this part of your business as “Safety Governance”. We are wanting to “Keep it Safe” for the Student, the Parent, the Instructors and even the Business itself.

Safety Code of Practice for Martial Arts Businesses

Safety Governance is one of the most important components of a successful Martial Arts Business, or any business in fact. Ensuring the atmosphere of your Martial Arts School is safe and inviting takes considerable effort, and something that needs your attention on a daily basis.

While developing your School’s Safety Governance Guidelines is the first step in protecting your investments, it is the enforcement of these guidelines that will make or break your business. As you are slowly and methodically building both your business and your reputation, you need to think about protecting both as well.

When establishing a Safety Governance Plan for your business, you must take into consideration both Business and Injury Risk Mitigation, bearing in mind the Industry we are in. In other words, the more you can provide for a safe environment in which your students can thrive, the more successful you will be both as a business and as an instructor. While not comprehensive, the listings below provide a good overview of what you need to take into consideration each and every day your school is open.

Business Risk Mitigation

Injury Risk Mitigation

·       Full Insurance Coverage

·       Staff Training (including Harassment and Abuse awareness)

·       Modern up-to-date Information systems (Reports)

·       Emergency Action Plans

·       Minimize Violence (safe sparring)

·       Proper Customer Service (Keeping Clients Happy!)

·       No Change rooms or Single Person Change Rooms only.

·       Proper Legal and Tax forms, Business Licenses and other regulatory requirements.

·       Smartphone and Photography Usage limitations in place

·       Video Supervision of all Classes

·       Full transparencies of all class, student and rank requirements/objectives.



·       Properly maintained Equipment

·       Clean Facilities with proper Mats

·       Techniques appropriate for skill level

·       Proper Supervision of all activities and facilities (including Parking Lots and Sidewalks)

·       Comprehensive First Aid Training for all Instructors

·       Proper Signage

·       Moderate Class size and/or proper Instructor/Student ratio.

·       KYC (Know your Client/Student/Member)!!!



Special COVID-19 Mitigations


·       Control access

·       Limit occupancy

·       Post signs

·       Screen arriving students

·       Manage students (and parents) entry points

·       Require staff to self-monitor for symptoms of COVID-19

·       Use contactless forms of payment and check-in

·       Provide hand sanitizer stations or handwashing stations for patrons and

·       encourage their use

·       Use appropriate disinfectants

·       Provide patrons with either disinfectant wipes or disinfectant in a spray bottle and paper towels for disinfecting equipment and surfaces

·       Continually encourage physical distancing and discourage congregating

·       Do not offer group classes unless students are able to remain two metres from one another at all times during a class

·       Limit locker room use and avoid use if possible

·       Do not offer food service

·       Close drinking fountains. Water bottle filling stations are acceptable if appropriately sanitized.

·       Continue developing online classes until such time that physical distancing restrictions are suspended


The “KYC” element of the Injury Risk Mitigation category can obviously be listed under both columns and is similar to what is required in the Financial Services world. This knowledge leads to a “fiduciary duty” we are obligated to provide our Clients and Students (See Sidebar for Definitions). You can quickly determine by the various Risk definitions above that there is a myriad of situations which could endanger the health of your Martial Arts business.

While most would look at the foregoing list as something negative to either avoid or having to ‘deal with’, you as a business owner should be looking at the positive side of “keeping it safe” for all to enjoy. If you can create an environment of inclusiveness in which everyone has a fun and safe experience, you can assure yourself of a successful martial arts business.

In examining the categories above, we note that both columns could have been could have been listed under a single Risk Management column, but we wanted to differentiate Business Risk Management into those Risks related to Macro Business Environmental areas of concern and those concerns that subject the Student to some possible Injury Risk (physical or psychological).

Business Risk Mitigation

The Business Risk Mitigation portion of your Safety Governance Guidelines should cover the overall business portion of the school such as in the purchasing of proper Business and Liability Insurance. The parameters surrounding proper coverage is now a complex liability mitigation point and something you discuss in depth with your Insurance agent.

While ensuring your school’s Safety Best Practices can sometimes be considered “extra work” and inconvenient, nevertheless each of the suggested strategies herein will assuredly result in increased profits for your business. Safety Governance is the managing of both the overall business as well as ensuring the safety of each class and its participants.

The Coronavirus issue we have encountered once again reinforces the requirements of proper communications as well as social distancing strategies (such as eliminating change rooms or anything that can result in non-hygienic possibilities).

Injury Risk Mitigation

Under the Injury Mitigation Category, ensuring that all Training equipment is in good condition, regularly cleansed and properly maintained is a great example of “keeping it safe” for both the students and the instructors.

Simple things like proper signage for your training area, restrooms, exits (especially Fire Escapes) and even parking will alleviate any confusions and possible incidents. The use of video surveillance is another great example of trying to minimize the risk to your business.

What needs to be mentioned here is that the one connection to both categories of your school’s Safety Governance plan is “The Instructor”, whether it be a one school operation or a multi-location business with a large number of ‘hired’ Instructors.

The level of education given to an Instructor must focus on not only how to teach the school’s Martial Art curriculum but also how to behave in front of the students (not to mention some intermediate level of first aid knowledge).

While a National Coaching certification is a “nice-to-have” for most styles of Martial Arts, it is really not a necessity. What is necessary is a well thought out and documented Instructor Training strategy. The level of detail in your documented Instructor’s Manual must include both physical and psychological elements to ensure the safety of all members of the school (as well as the mitigation of possible lawsuits).

COVID-19 (Pandemic) Mitigation

While the majority of this Blog was written prior to COVID-19 pandemic, it is extremely relevant to the subject matter and provides evidence of the seriousness of your Safety Governance Strategy. The additional health implications over and above the normal school cleanliness is a new level of risk that must be managed.

Over and above the list of COVID-19 Mitigation options provided herein, we recommend you visit the MAIAhub site to obtain your own COVID-19 Opening Check List (in Canada, the KarateCanada site has excellent resource page for the reopening of your school). These are excellent sources of Governmental approved processes you can use to ensure the best possibility of success.

While the COVID crisis is at the extreme of the possible Risk scenarios that we could have envisioned, it did occur and hopefully something you were capable of surviving if you had completed and implemented a solid Safety Governance plan.  In other words, while there has been an obvious change to your normal procedures, it really shouldn’t be that much of an extra effort if your cleaning and disinfecting protocol has been in place since day one of your school’s opening.


Safety, Feeling Safe, Staying Safe, Keeping it Safe, Safe Zones, these are all the catch phrases of today’s society and something all Martial Arts School owners must put forefront in any business strategy regardless of the martial art you teach.

The trifecta of success is very achievable for any true business person or even someone with a passion for teaching martial arts who is willing to listen to society in how it wants to be taught.

The days of past are just that, the past and while we tend to view history through rose colored glasses, we have to acknowledge reality and if you want to be in business these days, you have a fiduciary duty to your students and staff to maintain a safe and inviting environment.

It is obvious that recent events have brought health and safety concerns to the forefront of all businesses and schools, which simply reinforces the position we are making in this article. Your curriculum could be perfect, your revenue streams fully thought out and integrated, yet without a strong safety governance plan in place, the likelihood of obtaining the necessary student base to remain in business is questionable.

When you have people wanting to coming into your space, profits are guaranteed, but always remember that profits are not just monetary ....  the profit from seeing people blossom in such a safe environment and become more than they ever thought possible is where the true value of your efforts shines.

Risk definitions

Risk can be defined as:

the chance of something happening that will have an impact on objectives


For a more technical definition:

the uncertainty of outcome, within a range of exposure, arising from a combination of the impact and probability of potential events.


When considering our fiduciary duty as instructors we have the following responsibilities that are now (in most cases) legally binding

Duty of Care:


providing a reasonable standard of care for those to whom you provide a service and, in the provision of that service, to protect them from harm.



the failure to exercise appropriate standards of care to minimize the potential risk of harm to others. This harm can include physical, emotional and financial injury.


negligence is the failure of an Instructor to perform the duties that a sensible and reasonable Instructor would perform to minimize harm to students and those with whom s/he is associated with.


negligence is the omission of proper attention and the avoidance or disregard of duty from heedlessness, indifference or willfulness.



Although every care has been taken by the MAPS Advisors Group Ltd., in the preparation of this publication, no warranty is given by the MAPS Advisors Group Ltd. as to the accuracy or completeness of the information contained within it and the MAPS Advisors Group Ltd. shall not be responsible or liable for any loss or damage whatsoever arising by virtue of such information or any instructions or advice contained within this publication or by any of the aforementioned.