The number of martial arts gyms opening up across the United States has grown exponentially in the past decade. The popularity of martial arts has grown especially among adults. 

If you own a martial arts school or are thinking about opening one, there are several things to consider when it comes to marketing and making sure as many people as possible know why they should join your gym. In this article, we explore how to market your martial arts school to the adult sector.

What are the Most Popular Martial Arts Styles for Adults?

The dilemma that a lot of reluctant adults face is one of popularity versus effectiveness. Just because a martial art is popular does not mean that it is effective against one or multiple attackers. The martial arts world has undergone a serious transformation over the past thirty years due to the exponential rise in popularity of mixed martial arts (MMA). I am an MMA guy, just so you are aware of my bias from the beginning, but I have also accumulated roughly fourteen years of experience, which has included sparring people across multiple disciplines such as boxing and Muay Thai, but also ones that are not see often in the sport such as karate, taekwondo, and kung fu.  

While these three may still be highly popular in the United States, there are few competitions and sparring is not very common amongst its participants, which puts them at a serious disadvantage in case they encounter trouble on the streets. What is the point of practicing any kind of martial art if you are not going to practice any kind of real-life scenarios? Even if the practice of those two disciplines may be useful for personal reasons, the overwhelming majority of practitioners will find themselves in trouble if they happen to encounter an attacker with any kind of physical advantage and fortitude, much less against multiple attackers.

Even if there were more people willing to spar in these disciplines, a major problem with karate is that it is difficult to find a legitimate school in an age where literally anyone can receive a black belt in the mail once they have submitted a few videos to the right organization. Taekwondo practitioners only know how to throw kicks, and kung fu fighters are too reliant on misdirecting attacks to deliver any effective blows of their own. 

In my experience, boxing and Muay Thai are the most effective for self defense because just about every technique can be applied against multiple attackers. Jiu jitsu, in my opinion, is more effective in a street fight against a single attacker because a smaller person – man or woman – will hardly be able to knock out someone who is much bigger than themselves, but anyone can break a bigger person’s arm if they know a few basic techniques. Approximately one third of all karate and taekwondo practitioners are women, so if you are teaching jiu jitsu, lean heavily on the ideas that not only is it more practical, but it is also a lot of fun.  

Although I am basing my opinions on my own anecdotal experiences, data also exists that help support my claim. MMA, boxing, and jiu jitsu gyms are the three most-profitable martial arts disciplines in the United States, in that order.

Gyms that offer more than one discipline are generally more popular than those that only specialize in one. MMA gyms have become increasingly popular because most of them also teach jiu jitsu, boxing, Muay Thai, and wrestling separately throughout the week alongside regular MMA classes. 

Even though more MMA gyms are opening up all over the place, the violent nature of the sport is still quite off putting to a lot of people. This is understandable, but many of those same people are drawn to the “gentle art” of jiu jitsu because there are no strikes or bloodshed and it is a highly effective way of learning self defense. It is also a fantastic way of getting into peak physical condition that is a lot more fun than going to a traditional weightlifting gym. 

If you want to attract as many people as possible to take your adult martial arts classes, a heavy marketing focus needs to be placed on fitness, self defense, and participating in competitions.

Martial Arts with a Fitness Focus

If you ask random people on the street whether or not they are in good shape, the majority will likely either give a resounding “no,” or they will lament how they wished they were in better shape. Most people would seize the opportunity to look and feel better if it was given to them, which is a major reason why martial arts classes for adults are popular in the first place. 

Fitness classes have shown to be a popular addition to an MMA gym’s schedule, which is why it is a prudent idea to conduct them as well. People are attracted to the idea of training like a fighter because fighters are in better shape overall than athletes in any other field, which is apparent during televised competitions. When advertising your services, you may attract more people by leaning heavily on the fact that people will be able to train like a fighter without the risk of getting punched or hurt. It also lets people know that anyone can join your gym, not just fighters and other competitors.

Adult Self Defense Classes

The world of martial arts has, unfortunately, become tainted with instructors teaching mysticism and flashy Hollywood techniques that are quite unrealistic in any scenario, which makes many people searching for a gym confused over which ones are useful and which ones are useless. A major cause for the reluctance of participating in self-defense martial arts classes for adults is that people are unsure whether or not the techniques learned could be applied in real-life situations. Fortunately, those types of gyms are dying out and being replaced by gyms that offer disciplines that actually work. 

In my personal experience, most people are turned off by the idea of fighting in general, but almost everyone wishes that they knew how to defend themselves in case they are ever robbed or attacked in some way. Focusing on the self-defense aspect of your adult martial arts classes will be another major selling point to beginners. Let it be known to your target audience that the fighting styles taught at your school are practical for real-life scenarios and that you hold regular sparring sessions in order to prepare for them. Not only is that the best way for them to develop their reflexes and skillset, but it is also a lot of fun when done with the right people. 

Combat Sports Competition Programs

Display as many trophies, belts, medals, pictures and whatever else that will help highlight the accomplishments of you and your students. After all, what good is a martial arts gym if you do not train your students for competitions? A large number of people begin training in martial arts in the first place because they are interested in challenging themselves to see how well they would do against others with similar levels of experience. 

While not everyone who joins a martial arts gym wants to compete, it is incredibly common for people who do end up joining to develop an aspiration of one day stepping into the cage or ring if they did not already possess it when they started. Jiu jitsu and MMA competitions are held year round, and amateur and professional boxing and kickboxing matches are held frequently as well. The more competitors you have from your school, the more others will be inspired to compete. Your school will also develop a respectable reputation of fierce competitors and a place where anyone can go if they are looking for fun new challenges.

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Hold Convenient Class Times

The more options you give people to participate, the more often they will show up. If possible, hold classes all throughout the day in order to give people as many options to attend and as few excuses to miss as possible. For some reason, a lot of people seem to enjoy working out at 6:00 am. 

Referral Programs

The best form of advertisement is word of mouth. Martial arts referral programs are fantastic ways of spreading the word about why people should join your martial arts adult classes because it incentivizes other members to do the advertising for you. Offering members of all ages discounts if their guests end up signing membership contracts will be a huge motivating factor for them to get busy spreading the word.

Schedule Parent-Student Classes

There are plenty of adults who have their kids involved in martial arts but are not participating themselves. A good way to spark a new interest in the parents of your younger students. This will likely lead to an increase in adult enrollment after they experience first hand what your classes are all about and you can then talk to them about free trials, family discounts, and specialized parent-student classes.

Create a Website 

Creating a martial arts website gives your business a professional look and allows you to post as much content as you want and organize it in a way that is attractive and user friendly for visitors. The most important information is the schedule and who the instructors are. Designing and maintaining a website yourself these days is relatively simple and inexpensive. 

Advertise on Social Media 

Almost everyone has some kind of social media profile these days, which is why it will literally pay to have social media pages for your adult martial arts classes. Facebook is still the preferred platform that is most used by people ranging in age from 18 – 44.

Creating a Facebook page is simple, free, and one of the best ways of advertising your martial arts classes for adults. You will be able to permanently display a link to your website, any relevant contact information, class schedules, the latest membership specials, videos of class, and just about anything else to make your martial arts gym stand apart from the rest. 

Instagram is also another popular platform for the same demographic. A major difference, though, is that you are only able to post pictures and videos and the page itself is much more limited with what you are able to advertise. However, it is still a great marketing tool and can be highly effective in garnering attention for your adult martial arts classes, especially if you are in a larger city. 

Advertise on the Radio

Yes, people still listen to local and regional radio in this day and age, primarily while commuting to and from work. There is a chance that advertising your martial arts adult classes over the radio waves will reach a few drivers who have severe road rage, so try and include how much stress will be relieved each time if they decide to take your classes. 

Cross Promote with Other Businesses 

Networking is essential to growing any kind of business. Reach out to local business owners of all kinds – from grocery stores to hardware stores and everything in between – to see if they would be willing to let you hang flyers around their stores or conspicuously display a stack of business cards for people to grab. In return, you could offer to promote their business as well at your gym and on your website.  


Martial arts is often thought of as a children’s activity, but there is a massive and growing number of adults that are interested in training in martial arts.

To accomplish this, make sure your programs are oriented at one or more of these:

  • Fitness
  • Self-Defense
  • Competition/Skill Mastery

Add these newfound program emphases to the message of your marketing, and you’ll have a thriving martial arts business in no time.


How Do I Market My Martial Arts Business?

Marketing your adult martial arts classes requires networking with local business owners, friends, and organizations where adults interested in martial arts will be. Marketing your martial arts business involves digital marketing campaigns and traditional marketing campaigns, such as direct mail and door hangers.

What is the Target Market for Martial Arts?

According to Gymdesk, the main demographic of people who participate in martial arts are men whose ages range from 25 to 34 years old.

How Do You Attract Martial Arts Students?

One way to attract students to try your adult martial arts classes is by teaching one or more martial arts that actually work as a means of self defense. Another is by training your students for competitions.

How Do I Get My Martial Art Program Recognized?

Media are everywhere these days, from television to radio to the internet. Since almost everyone is online in some way or another, it has never been easier to spread the word about the effectiveness of your martial arts programs. Passing out and posting flyers as well as collaborating with local businesses are also great ways of getting your name out there. 

How Do You Promote a Self-Defense Class?

Successfully promoting a self-defense class is all about hustling, networking, and reaching your target audience. Handing out flyers with links to all of your content and accomplishments will help legitimize you as a martial arts instructor from whom everyone wants to learn. 

Engaging with others on social media also goes a long way in the eyes of those who are bored reading comments from a martial arts Facebook page. Who knows, maybe your online conversation will inspire the bored ones to also join. 

How Do You Introduce Self-defense?

Introduce self-defense first by talking about how to properly defend oneself. Introduce self-defense by explaining how vulnerable people are without any knowledge of how to properly react in case of an attack. 

How to Start Your Own Self-Defense Business?

Your self-defense business begins once you score your first customer. Utilize the advertising techniques listed in the article and get creative with some of your own ways to promote your services.

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