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How to Start a Self-Defense Training Business

Written by:

Carolyn Young is a business writer who focuses on entrepreneurial concepts and the business formation. She has over 25 years of experience in business roles, and has authored several entrepreneurship textbooks.

Edited by:

David has been writing and learning about business, finance and globalization for a quarter-century, starting with a small New York consulting firm in the 1990s.

How to Start a Self-Defense Training Business

Fast Facts

Investment range

$2,550 - $10,100

Revenue potential

$55,000 - $350,000 p.a.

Time to build

0 – 3 months

Profit potential

$50,000 - $145,000 p.a.

Industry trend

Growing

Commitment

Flexible

Ours is a dangerous world, and it helps to be able to defend yourself. If you have strong self-defense skills, you could provide this valuable service to others and improve their level of safety while making a comfortable living. You could start by teaching classes from your home, or in a gym. Eventually, as your business grows, you could open your own studio and build a self-defense empire! 

You’ll need more, however, than just self-defense skills. Knowledge about the industry and the ins and outs of business are a necessity. Luckily, this step-by-step guide will fully prepare you to begin your new entrepreneurial journey to becoming the next Cobra Kai. 

Step 1: Decide if the Business Is Right for You

Pros and cons

Starting a self-defense training business has pros and cons to consider before deciding if it’s the right path for you.

Pros

  • Save Lives – Good self-defense helps keep people safe
  • Low Startup Costs – Start with a small investment
  • High Profit Margins – Steady income, low expenses

Cons

  • Certification Needed – Not required, but adds credibility
  • Competitive Market – Many martial arts studios

Self-defense training industry trends

Information about the self-defense industry is hard to come by, but data on the US martial arts studio industry and global self-defense products are indicative of the demand. 

Industry size and growth

self-defense industry size and growth

Trends and challenges

self-defense industry Trends and Challenges

Trends in the self-defense training industry include:

  • Self-defense training for the whole family is becoming popular, presenting opportunities for additional revenue for self-defense training businesses.
  • Online self-defense training is becoming more prevalent, which also presents an opportunity for businesses to expand their reach.
  • The hit Netlfix series Cobra Kai, based on the Karate Kid movies, has driven renewed interest in karate and self-defense training.((https://www.denofgeek.com/tv/the-real-martial-arts-behind-cobra-kai-and-the-karate-kid/))

Challenges in the self-defense training industry include:

  • An increased interest in the psychology of self-defense is creating a need for continuing education for self-defense trainers.
  • The increased number of online self-defense classes is making the industry more competitive.

What kind of people work in self-defense training?

self-defense industry demographics

How much does it cost to start a self-defense training business?

You can start a self-defense training business from your home or by working in a gym for about $2,500. The costs include mats and protective gear. To start a business with your own rented studio space will cost about $10,000. Costs also include instructor certification, which you can get through places like the National Personal Training Association, or C.O.B.R.A.

Courses begin at around $200 and take anywhere from just a few weeks to a year. 

Start-up CostsBallpark RangeAverage
Setting up a business name and corporation$150 - $200$175
Business licenses and permits$100 - $300$200
Insurance$100-$300$200
Business cards and brochures$200 - $300$250
Website setup$1,000 - $3,000$2,000
Mats and protective gear$750 - $1,500$1,125
Deposit on space rental$0 - $3,000$1,500
Self defense instructor certification$250 - $1,500$875
Total$2,550 - $10,100$6,325

How much can you earn from a self-defense training business?

Self-Defense Training business earnings forecast

Prices for self-defense training average $70 per person per class. Your profit margin if you teach at home or in a gym should be about 90%. 

In your first year or two, you could do three classes a week for five people, bringing in nearly $55,000 in annual revenue. This would mean almost $50,000 in profit, assuming that 90% margin. As your business grows and you start to get referrals, you could do 10 classes a week for 10 people. At this stage, you would rent studio space and hire staff, reducing your profit margin to 40%. With annual revenue of over $350,000, you’d make more than  $145,000.

What barriers to entry are there?

There are a few barriers to entry for a self-defense training business. Your biggest challenges will be:

  • Getting certified as an instructor
  • Competing with established studios and online courses

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Step by Step Business values real-life experience above all. Through our Entrepreneur Spotlight Series, we interview business leaders from diverse industries, providing readers with firsthand insights.

Dive into our interview with Jen Zieger of PKSA Karate Detroit to discover inspiring business insights and the power of community in martial arts.

Step 2: Hone Your Idea

develop a business idea

Now that you know what’s involved in starting a self-defense training business, it’s a good idea to hone your concept in preparation to enter a competitive market. 

Market research will give you the upper hand, even if you’re already positive that you have a perfect product or service. Conducting market research is important, because it can help you understand your customers better, who your competitors are, and your business landscape.

Why? Identify an opportunity

Research self-defense training businesses in your area to examine their services, price points, and customer reviews. You’re looking for a market gap to fill. For instance, maybe the local market is missing a self-defense studio that offers private lessons. 

You might consider targeting a niche market by specializing in a certain aspect of your industry, such as self-defense training for families.

This could jumpstart your word-of-mouth marketing and attract clients right away. 

What? Determine your class offerings and training packages

You’ll need to determine how you want to structure your classes. You could offer your classes as a package, like five lessons for $300. You may also want to offer private lessons, lessons in customers’ homes, or family lessons.

How much should you charge for self-defense training?

The average price for training is $70 per person per class. Your ongoing expenses will be for marketing your business and for fuel if you travel to a gym, so you should aim for a profit margin of about 90%. 

Once you know your costs, you can use this Step By Step profit margin calculator to determine your markup and final price point. Remember, the prices you use at launch should be subject to change if warranted by the market.

Who? Identify your target market

Your target market will be broad, since almost anyone may want to learn self-defense. You should focus on established families and spread out your marketing efforts on multiple social media sites including Instagram, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

Where? Choose your business premises

In the early stages, you may want to run your business from home to keep costs low. But as your business grows, you’ll likely need to hire workers for various roles and rent out a studio.  Find commercial space to rent in your area on sites such as Craigslist, Crexi, and Instant Offices.

When choosing a commercial space, you may want to follow these rules of thumb:

  • Central location accessible via public transport
  • Ventilated and spacious, with good natural light
  • Flexible lease that can be extended as your business grows
  • Ready-to-use space with no major renovations or repairs needed
self-defense training business idea rating

Step 3: Brainstorm a Self-Defense Business Name

Here are some ideas for brainstorming your business name:

  • Short, unique, and catchy names tend to stand out
  • Names that are easy to say and spell tend to do better 
  • Name should be relevant to your product or service offerings
  • Ask around — family, friends, colleagues, social media — for suggestions
  • Including keywords, such as “self-defense” or “self-defense training”, boosts SEO
  • Name should allow for expansion, for ex: “Tactical Defense Training Center” over “Krav Maga Defense Solutions”
  • A location-based name can help establish a strong connection with your local community and help with the SEO but might hinder future expansion

Once you’ve got a list of potential names, visit the website of the US Patent and Trademark Office to make sure they are available for registration and check the availability of related domain names using our Domain Name Search tool. Using “.com” or “.org” sharply increases credibility, so it’s best to focus on these. 

Finally, make your choice among the names that pass this screening and go ahead with domain registration and social media account creation. Your business name is one of the key differentiators that set your business apart. Once you pick your company name, and start with the branding, it is hard to change the business name. Therefore, it’s important to carefully consider your choice before you start a business entity.

Step 4: Create a Self-Defense Training Business Plan

Here are the key components of a business plan:

what to include in a business plan
  • Executive Summary: Summarize your self-defense training business, highlighting its focus on personal safety, the range of courses offered, and the expertise that sets you apart.
  • Business Overview: Describe the scope of your self-defense training services, which may include classes for individuals, specialized workshops, and corporate training programs.
  • Product and Services: Detail the various self-defense courses you offer, such as basic self-protection techniques, martial arts-based defense, and women’s self-defense.
  • Market Analysis: Assess the demand for self-defense training in your area, identifying target demographics like women, seniors, or corporate clients.
  • Competitive Analysis: Compare your training programs to other local self-defense options, focusing on your unique teaching methods or specializations.
  • Sales and Marketing: Outline your strategy for attracting clients, possibly through online marketing, community events, or partnerships with schools and businesses.
  • Management Team: Highlight the qualifications and backgrounds of your team, emphasizing expertise in martial arts, security, or personal safety education.
  • Operations Plan: Describe the logistics of running your training sessions, including scheduling, venue management, and equipment requirements.
  • Financial Plan: Provide an overview of your business’s financial aspects, including start-up costs, pricing strategy, and revenue projections.
  • Appendix: Include additional documents such as instructor certifications, testimonials, or detailed curriculum outlines to support your business plan.

If you’ve never created a business plan, it can be an intimidating task. You might consider hiring a business plan specialist to create a top-notch business plan for you.

Step 5: Register Your Business

Registering your business is an absolutely crucial step — it’s the prerequisite to paying taxes, raising capital, opening a bank account, and other guideposts on the road to getting a business up and running.

Plus, registration is exciting because it makes the entire process official. Once it’s complete, you’ll have your own business! 

Choose where to register your company

Your business location is important because it can affect taxes, legal requirements, and revenue. Most people will register their business in the state where they live, but if you are planning to expand, you might consider looking elsewhere, as some states could offer real advantages when it comes to self-defense training businesses. 

If you’re willing to move, you could really maximize your business! Keep in mind, it’s relatively easy to transfer your business to another state. 

Choose your business structure

Business entities come in several varieties, each with its pros and cons. The legal structure you choose for your self-defense business will shape your taxes, personal liability, and business registration requirements, so choose wisely. 

Here are the main options:

types of business structures
  • Sole Proprietorship – The most common structure for small businesses makes no legal distinction between company and owner. All income goes to the owner, who’s also liable for any debts, losses, or liabilities incurred by the business. The owner pays taxes on business income on his or her personal tax return.
  • General Partnership – Similar to a sole proprietorship, but for two or more people. Again, owners keep the profits and are liable for losses. The partners pay taxes on their share of business income on their personal tax returns.
  • Limited Liability Company (LLC) – Combines the characteristics of corporations with those of sole proprietorships or partnerships. Again, the owners are not personally liable for debts.
  • C Corp – Under this structure, the business is a distinct legal entity and the owner or owners are not personally liable for its debts. Owners take profits through shareholder dividends, rather than directly. The corporation pays taxes, and owners pay taxes on their dividends, which is sometimes referred to as double taxation.
  • S Corp – An S-Corporation refers to the tax classification of the business but is not a business entity. An S-Corp can be either a corporation or an LLC, which just needs to elect to be an S-Corp for tax status. In an S-Corp, income is passed through directly to shareholders, who pay taxes on their share of business income on their personal tax returns.

We recommend that new business owners choose LLC as it offers liability protection and pass-through taxation while being simpler to form than a corporation. You can form an LLC in as little as five minutes using an online LLC formation service. They will check that your business name is available before filing, submit your articles of organization, and answer any questions you might have. 

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Step 6: Register for Taxes

The final step before you’re able to pay taxes is getting an Employer Identification Number, or EIN. You can file for your EIN online or by mail or fax: visit the IRS website to learn more. Keep in mind, if you’ve chosen to be a sole proprietorship you can simply use your social security number as your EIN. 

Once you have your EIN, you’ll need to choose your tax year. Financially speaking, your business will operate in a calendar year (January–December) or a fiscal year, a 12-month period that can start in any month. This will determine your tax cycle, while your business structure will determine which taxes you’ll pay.

The IRS website also offers a tax-payers checklist, and taxes can be filed online.

It is important to consult an accountant or other professional to help you with your taxes to ensure you are completing them correctly.

Step 7: Fund your Business

Securing financing is your next step and there are plenty of ways to raise capital:

types of business financing
  • Bank loans: This is the most common method but getting approved requires a rock-solid business plan and strong credit history.
  • SBA-guaranteed loans: The Small Business Administration can act as guarantor, helping gain that elusive bank approval via an SBA-guaranteed loan.
  • Government grants: A handful of financial assistance programs help fund entrepreneurs. Visit Grants.gov to learn which might work for you.
  • Friends and Family: Reach out to friends and family to provide a business loan or investment in your concept. It’s a good idea to have legal advice when doing so because SEC regulations apply.
  • Crowdfunding: Websites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo offer an increasingly popular low-risk option, in which donors fund your vision. Entrepreneurial crowdfunding sites like Fundable and WeFunder enable multiple investors to fund your business.
  • Personal: Self-fund your business via your savings or the sale of property or other assets.

Bank and SBA loans are probably the best options, other than friends and family, for funding a self-defense business. You might also try crowdfunding if you have an innovative concept.  

Step 8: Apply for Self-Defense Business Licenses and Permits

Business Licenses and Permits

Starting a self-defense training business requires obtaining a number of licenses and permits from local, state, and federal governments.

Federal regulations, licenses, and permits associated with starting your business include doing business as (DBA), health licenses and permits from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), trademarks, copyrights, patents, and other intellectual properties, as well as industry-specific licenses and permits. 

You may also need state-level and local county or city-based licenses and permits. The license requirements and how to obtain them vary, so check the websites of your state, city, and county governments or contact the appropriate person to learn more. 

You could also check this SBA guide for your state’s requirements, but we recommend using MyCorporation’s Business License Compliance Package. They will research the exact forms you need for your business and state and provide them to ensure you’re fully compliant.

This is not a step to be taken lightly, as failing to comply with legal requirements can result in hefty penalties.

If you feel overwhelmed by this step or don’t know how to begin, it might be a good idea to hire a professional to help you check all the legal boxes.

Step 9: Open a Business Bank Account

Before you start making money, you’ll need a place to keep it, and that requires opening a bank account.

Keeping your business finances separate from your personal account makes it easy to file taxes and track your company’s income, so it’s worth doing even if you’re running your self-defense training business as a sole proprietorship. Opening a business bank account is quite simple, and similar to opening a personal one. Most major banks offer accounts tailored for businesses — just inquire at your preferred bank to learn about their rates and features.

Banks vary in terms of offerings, so it’s a good idea to examine your options and select the best plan for you. Once you choose your bank, bring in your EIN (or Social Security Number if you decide on a sole proprietorship), articles of incorporation, and other legal documents and open your new account. 

Step 10: Get Business Insurance

Business insurance is an area that often gets overlooked yet it can be vital to your success as an entrepreneur, especially when it comes to self-defense. Insurance protects you from unexpected events that can have a devastating impact on your business.

Here are some types of insurance to consider:

types of business insurance
  • General liability: The most comprehensive type of insurance, acting as a catch-all for many business elements that require coverage. If you get just one kind of insurance, this is it. It even protects against bodily injury and property damage.
  • Business Property: Provides coverage for your equipment and supplies.
  • Equipment Breakdown Insurance: Covers the cost of replacing or repairing equipment that has broken due to mechanical issues.
  • Worker’s compensation: Provides compensation to employees injured on the job.
  • Property: Covers your physical space, whether it is a cart, storefront, or office.
  • Commercial auto: Protection for your company-owned vehicle.
  • Professional liability: Protects against claims from a client who says they suffered a loss due to an error or omission in your work.
  • Business owner’s policy (BOP): This is an insurance plan that acts as an all-in-one insurance policy, a combination of the above insurance types.

Step 11: Prepare to Launch

Launching a Business

As opening day nears, prepare for launch by reviewing and improving some key elements of your business. 

Essential software and tools

Being an entrepreneur often means wearing many hats, from marketing to sales to accounting, which can be overwhelming. Fortunately, many websites and digital tools are available to help simplify many business tasks.  

You may want to use industry-specific software, such as Perfect Mind, zenplanner, or Kicksite, to manage your scheduling, classes, billing, and communication.

Accounting

  • Popular web-based accounting programs for smaller businesses include Quickbooks, Freshbooks, and Xero
  • If you’re unfamiliar with basic accounting, you may want to hire a professional, especially as you begin. The consequences for filing incorrect tax documents can be harsh, so accuracy is crucial. 

Develop your website

Website development is crucial because your site is your online presence and needs to convince prospective clients of your expertise and professionalism.

You can create your own website using services like WordPress, Wix, or Squarespace. This route is very affordable, but figuring out how to build a website can be time-consuming. If you lack tech-savvy, you can hire a web designer or developer to create a custom website for your business.

They are unlikely to find your website, however, unless you follow Search Engine Optimization (SEO) practices. These are steps that help pages rank higher in the results of top search engines like Google. 

Marketing

Here are some powerful marketing strategies for your future business:

  • Free Workshops in the Community: Offer free self-defense workshops at local community centers, schools, or workplaces to showcase your expertise and create a buzz around your business.
  • Social Media Challenges: Create engaging self-defense challenges on social media platforms, encouraging participants to share their experiences and tag friends, increasing your online visibility and credibility.
  • Partnerships with Local Businesses: Establish partnerships with local gyms, martial arts studios, or women’s clubs to cross-promote your services, expanding your reach to a broader audience.
  • Referral Programs: Institute a referral program offering discounts or free classes to existing clients who refer new students, leveraging the power of word-of-mouth marketing.
  • Targeted Online Advertising: Utilize targeted online ads on platforms like Facebook and Instagram, focusing on demographics such as college students, working professionals, or specific neighborhoods.
  • Corporate Training Packages: Develop tailored self-defense training packages for businesses, providing employee workshops on personal safety and situational awareness.
  • Collaborate with Influencers: Partner with local influencers or community leaders to attend and promote your classes, adding credibility and attracting their followers to your business.
  • Student Discounts: Offer special discounts for students, encouraging a younger demographic to prioritize personal safety and enroll in your self-defense classes.
  • Mobile App Integration: Develop a mobile app that complements your training, offering instructional videos, safety tips, and a community forum, enhancing engagement with your audience.
  • Community Sponsorships: Sponsor local events, sports teams, or fundraisers to increase your brand visibility and demonstrate your commitment to community well-being.

Focus on USPs

unique selling proposition

Unique selling propositions, or USPs, are the characteristics of a product or service that sets it apart from the competition. Customers today are inundated with buying options, so you’ll have a real advantage if they are able to quickly grasp how your self-defense training business meets their needs or wishes. It’s wise to do all you can to ensure your USPs stand out on your website and in your marketing and promotional materials, stimulating buyer desire. 

Global pizza chain Domino’s is renowned for its USP: “Hot pizza in 30 minutes or less, guaranteed.” Signature USPs for your self-defense training business could be: 

  • Self-defense training for the whole family
  • Private self-defense training in your home
  • Online or in-person: learn to defend yourself from attack

Networking

You may not like to network or use personal connections for business gain. But your personal and professional networks likely offer considerable untapped business potential. Maybe that Facebook friend you met in college is now running a self-defense studio, or a LinkedIn contact of yours is connected to dozens of potential clients. Maybe your cousin or neighbor has been working in self-defense for years and can offer invaluable insight and industry connections. 

The possibilities are endless, so it’s a good idea to review your personal and professional networks and reach out to those with possible links to or interest in self-defense training. You’ll probably generate new customers or find companies with which you could establish a partnership.

Step 12: Build Your Team

Building a Team for a New Business

If you’re starting out small from home, you may not need any employees. But as your business grows, you will likely need workers to fill various roles. Potential positions for a self-defense training business include:

  • Self-defense Trainers – certified instructors to teach classes
  • General Manager – staff management, scheduling, accounting
  • Marketing Lead – SEO strategies, social media, other marketing

At some point, you may need to hire all of these positions or simply a few, depending on the size and needs of your business. You might also hire multiple workers for a single role or a single worker for multiple roles, again depending on need. 

Free-of-charge methods to recruit employees include posting ads on popular platforms such as LinkedIn, Facebook, or Jobs.com. You might also consider a premium recruitment option, such as advertising on Indeed, Glassdoor, or ZipRecruiter. Further, if you have the resources, you could consider hiring a recruitment agency to help you find talent. 

Step 13: Run a Self-Defense Training Business – Start Making Money!

Running a Business

Starting a self-defense training business is a great way to get in on a growing industry, teach invaluable skills that could literally save lives, and make a good living. Thanks in part to Cobra Kai, you’ll likely find it easier to attract clients and easily scale your business. But it’s important to stay ahead of the competition. A creative marketing strategy and an extensive referral system should help do the trick.

You’ve taken the right first step by educating yourself about the business, so get ready to kick off your plan and launch your entrepreneurial adventure!

Self-defense Training Business FAQs

How can I get certified as a self-defense instructor?

You can get instructor certification through places like the National Personal Training Association, or C.O.B.R.A. Fees range from $250 to $1,500. Other options include the National Women’s
Martial Arts Federation
and the American Sports and Fitness Association

How do you market a self-defense class?

To market a self-defense class, utilize online and offline channels. Develop a professional website that highlights the benefits of your class and provides easy registration options. Utilize social media platforms to share engaging content, testimonials, and class updates. Collaborate with local community centers, schools, or businesses to offer workshops or demonstrations. 

Is self-defense training profitable business?

Self-defense training can be a profitable business if properly managed. Offering high-quality instruction, creating a strong brand reputation, and targeting the right audience can contribute to profitability. Developing additional revenue streams, such as selling self-defense products or offering advanced training programs, can also enhance profitability.

What types of self-defense techniques can a training business teach?

A self-defense training business can teach various techniques, including basic striking and blocking techniques, situational awareness, verbal de-escalation skills, practical self-defense moves, ground defense, and defense against common attacks like grabs or chokes. 

How can I differentiate my self-defense training business from competitors in the market?

Offer specialized training programs tailored to specific demographics or needs, such as self-defense for women, children, or specific professions. Emphasize a comprehensive approach that includes not only physical techniques but also mental preparedness, awareness, and risk assessment. 

What are the key factors to consider when analyzing competitors in the self-defense training industry?

When analyzing competitors in the self-defense training industry, key factors to consider include their target audience, pricing structure, training methods, instructor qualifications, class schedules, additional services or programs offered, marketing strategies, and customer reviews. Assess their strengths and weaknesses, identify gaps in the market that you can fill, and determine how you can differentiate your business based on the needs and preferences of your target audience.

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How to Start a Self-Defense Training Business