The business of self defence

Philip Bartlette of Martial Art Sports explains why running a martial arts club is perfect for working mums.

Do you get on well with children? Do you like to keep fit? If so, you might be interested in running a martial arts and fitness franchise.

No martial arts skills are needed at the outset, says Philip Bartlette, founder of Martial Art Sports.

The main thing is that potential franchisees should be able to relate to children.

“It’s perfect for mums,” he says, “as they can work flexibly around their children – whether part-time or term-time only – and still earn a good salary. It’s great for work life balance.”

Philip used to be in sales and marketing, but he decided that he wanted to do something he had more of a passion for. “I loved teaching martial arts,” he said, “so I started thinking how I could set that up as a full-time business. I used my sales and marketing knowledge to promote the business and in a short time I realised I had the largest martial arts training school in the Northants area even though I had only just moved there.”

In fact, very soon he had too much work, but he didn’t want to turn it down so he looked into starting a franchise to give others the opportunity to work with children and do martial arts.

He did some research in several areas which showed that his model would work and would work quickly, which he says is unusual for martial arts clubs.

Philip says Martial Art Sports is different from other fitness clubs. “In other clubs people will book a hall and try to get people to come along by placing ads in local papers,” he says. “There are so many people doing martial arts and fitness, though, that it can be hard to get people to come if you are launching a new club. My model involves going into schools which immediately markets you to a wide range of people. Presentations take around 10 minutes and there is a high hit rate. We do talks and assemblies as well as anti-bullying weekends and work with schools in as many ways as we can.”

Once children start earning their martial arts qualifications they are presented with their certificates and belts in school, which makes other children aware of what they might be missing. When Philip promotes his classes he also involves the kids in his classes. “It’s better to show children what other kids are doing rather than for them to see adult teachers doing it,” he says. “They get excited and think they can do that.”

Martial Art Sports was launched as a franchise around a year ago and was advertised mainly in martial arts magazines. However, Philip wants to broaden this to people who are interested in running their own business and working with children. He says the main criteria for franchisees is that they want to work with children. “I am looking for people who have worked with children or are parents. Everything else can be taught,” he says, adding that those with no martial arts experience can still teach the fitness classes aimed at preschoolers the company specialises in. Philip provides a full training and teaching course in both fitness and martial arts. The company he uses to provide the teaching in how to be a martial arts instructor works as a professional coaching company and is affiliated to Sport England. After the initial training, top-up training is also provided.

The initial training takes place in North Hants and is a three-day course. However, it can be done flexibly in several chunks or over a weekend or half term. It covers issues such as child protection, risk assessments, marketing, lesson plans, how to set up a class and so forth – all the things franchisees will need to start up.

Philip says that anyone interested in becoming a franchisee will be invited to a meeting to talk about their expectations. If they still want to go ahead with the franchise after this, the franchise consultants company will draw up the paperwork. The franchise fee – £4,995 plus VAT – covers the training, fitness and martial arts equipment such as gym mats, a full CRB check, advertising and all the other support they get. They have the opportunity to do on the job training with Philip.

Philip says you can earn up to £50,000 a year running a franchise, doing classes for three or so hours a day and then administrative work in the evenings around your family time.

“It keeps you fit too and it teaches children a really important life skill. It can help stop them being bullied, for instance,” he says. He cites the case of one boy he has taught, Jack. Jack started martial arts aged eight because he was being bullied. The bullying got so bad that he hated going to school. After doing some martial arts, though, he started to feel more confident. Jack told Philip that the bully tried to pick on him again, even when he told him he didn’t want any trouble.  Jack told Philip: "I blocked his fist and then grabbed his arm and left him on the floor. I felt brilliant and not scared, I don’t think he will pick on me any more."

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