How do I Become a Martial Arts Instructor?

Dale Marshall

Other than having a deep love for the martial arts and the specific discipline in which one has trained, there are three main requirements for becoming a martial arts instructor. First is a high degree of proficiency in martial arts, with a ranking of at least black belt. The second requirement is the ability to teach. Many people achieve expertise in a subject, but have no ability to teach their knowledge to others. Especially in a field like martial arts, the ability to teach successfully is critical because the students are also the paying clients. The final requirement &emdash; a good business sense &emdash; may be considered optional by those who plan to work for a school operated by someone else, but even then, the ability for self-promotion can be a critical element of success for someone who wants to become a martial arts instructor.

A martial arts instructor teaches students skill in fighting arts.
A martial arts instructor teaches students skill in fighting arts.

Acquiring a high degree of proficiency in martial arts, as evidenced by earning a black belt, is the most difficult and time-consuming requirement to meet. Achieving black-belt rank in one of the many martial arts disciplines, such as karate, kung-fu or taekwondo requires dedication, commitment and perseverance, and for someone attending class faithfully at least twice a week, will generally take at least two years and can take as long as four or five years, depending on the specific discipline. In addition, many instructors will specialize in one discipline but will train in others as well, so as to have more to offer their students when they become a martial arts instructor.

Most martial arts instructors have already practiced martial arts for a significant period of time.
Most martial arts instructors have already practiced martial arts for a significant period of time.

Most disciplines have national and international federations that certify instructors and schools, and authorize them to bestow rankings &emdash; “belts” &emdash; upon students. A good instructor should be able to confer the ranking of black belt on deserving students.

Teaching ability, the second requirement necessary to become a martial arts instructor, is absolutely critical. The martial arts are a combination of mental, physical and spiritual training, and while beginning students will consider it mostly a physical pursuit, advanced practitioners will consider it nearly all spiritual. Teaching martial arts, then, is much more than simply training someone to put more or less shoulder into a punch. The other reason teaching ability is so crucial is that the students are the paying clients; if they're not satisfied with the instruction they're receiving, they'll simply go elsewhere.

A good business sense, the third requirement of anyone who wants to become a martial arts instructor, is important because most martial arts schools are small operations, with just a few instructors. Each instructor contributes to the school's success both by the quality of the teaching and the success of the students, but also by promotion of their activities outside the school environment. Additionally, martial arts instructors who want to start a school &emdash; sometimes called a “dojong” or “dojo” &emdash; must have a strong streak of self-promotion and the ability to persuade others that their style is superior to others offered in the neighborhood.

Unlike some other occupations, people who think they want to become martial arts instructors can actually take a “test drive.” There are opportunities available to aspiring instructors that won't require them to abandon their day job or make massive investments of capital, renting instruction space and purchasing specialized equipment. Organizations like the YMCA, health clubs, churches, gyms and community centers often have space available where beginning classes can be offered without a vast initial investment, although it may be a requirement that such classes must be offered for free or just a nominal amount. Nevertheless, these are excellent opportunities to determine if they have what it takes to become a martial arts instructor.

Karate instructors typically hold a black belt in the martial art.
Karate instructors typically hold a black belt in the martial art.

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Discussion Comments


@Mor - It makes me a little nervous, actually because kids are the main market for this kind of thing and it's probably very easy for them to be exploited or injured if they don't have a competent teacher. I definitely wouldn't send my children anywhere I hadn't checked out thoroughly first.


@bythewell - I can't imagine many people trying to become a martial arts instructor without placing in a few competitions and getting some experience as a teacher first, so you'd quickly learn if you have the right skills. There are so many people out there who would like this kind of job, you'd have to have those things just to stand out.

The other option is to try and get hired by an established studio or start a franchise and I'm sure they have stringent guidelines as well.


As far as I know there isn't any regulation surrounding this kind of profession, so really anyone can rent a studio and claim to be a martial arts instructor.

That's one of the reasons you have to be careful when looking for lessons in the first place. You want someone with genuine qualifications, especially if you want to go into this professionally.

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