Within the last week my fellow coworkers and I, got into a interesting conversation on the topic of Martial Arts in Toronto and the difference between a fighter focus vs family focused martial arts facility, and if it was possible to have both.

For people new to the martial arts scene, it is fair to say that some schools have a different focus than others. In my travels and life I have been a part of about 8 different martial art schools, and I have seen these business or school ideologies many times.

Some schools advertise themselves as a “fighters school,” whereas their claim is that their facility is to breed top notch competitors in whatever martial art they focus on. Nowadays many MMA, Muay Thai or Boxing schools advertise themselves as this. I actually find this very common with new schools as they are trying to make a name for themselves versus the already established martial arts schools in the area.

In theory, it would appear to be a good concept, as you would offer only competitive training and you would have a stable of great fighters giving you your reputation. However I do see many issues with this school model. First off, to own such a school, unless your last name is Gracie or Fairtex, you had better have some credentials.

Secondly, you still have bills to pay. If you ask anyone who has trained in Muay Thai in Thailand, or at any well known MMA school, the fighters train all day. If you have fighters that are training the majority of the day, odds are they don’t have a full time job, therefore how are they going to pay for membership dues? Many MMA schools with established fighters in large organizations take a percentage of the fighters purse. However, smaller fight venues pay the fighters minimal amounts of money, and amateur competitions usually don’t at all. If anything you will be paying out of your own pocket.

Quick math 20% of 0 is 0…….

Thirdly, you have now completely narrowed your demographic. Many people pursuing martial arts are not interested in competing. In addition, competition generally is a young man’s sport, therefore your age demographic is narrowed again.

Of the 8 schools I had tried, 3 had advertised themselves as a fighter school, Within a few years of opening 2 had closed down and the third school changed their school emphasis.

This brings us to the family oriented school. This style is very appealing to parents and kids. Parents are happy because their child is learning a martial art in a safe environment, and the mood of the facility is generally nicer, more professional and usually more appealing to the everyday person. The demographic is very broad as they can appeal all ages, and experience levels, male and female.

Can there be drawbacks to the all family oriented school, of course. For example, one school I attended just did patterns every class. Some people enjoyed that, but I found that I needed more intensity and left to another facility. I have also seen some schools mix adults with kids in the same class. I personally think that based on the different teaching methods needed for adults and kids that this won’t work.

The common criticism of many family oriented martial arts facilities, is that they lack in instruction and are more focused on your money as opposed to your progression. I’ll be honest in some instances this may be the case. However this brings me to my third concept.

Can a facility have both a fighter model and a family model. And the answer is very much yes. I think to key to this is to have programs that varies in intensity and in technical format. For example at Lanna MMA in Toronto Ontario, the Muay Thai program starts with our beginner class, in kids and adults. The class itself is very fast paced, people get a great workout, and you get great instruction in fundamental techniques. The class itself is a fun class appealing to all age and experience levels. For many participants this class is all they need. However, as you progress maybe you want more in intensity or instruction or maybe you want to spar. For this reason we have an intermediate program that focuses on more advanced techniques, and we also have a sparring class as well as a beginner sparring class. If you are looking at competing, we have a competition class for that. However, to compete you have to show that you have drive, determination and technical ability to compete. In addition, if you want to be a fighter you also have to take some responsibility on yourself, to make sure you are doing your running and following your nutrition plan. I’ve seen so many people complain that they are not getting the competitive training they feel they deserve, however they are not displaying the dedication required to deserve that level of training.

Toronto’s Lanna MMA is not the only school to follow this mixed family oriented with competitive aspect mentality. Jackson’s Winkeljohn’s Mixed Martial Arts in New Mexico is home to Jon Jones, Carlos Condit, and Clay Guida, however if you check their class schedule they also offer a kids program as well as a cardio kickboxing and beginner program. Something to consider before you write off a school because they deem themselves family oriented.

Costin Beliciu

Marketing Coordinator

Lanna MMA

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