Martial Arts Business. Fice Reminders for The Master Teacher and School Owner, from Tom Callos

Self-Defense isn’t only the kick, the escape, the arm-bar, or the punch. In today’s world self-defense is diet, food production, pesticides, pollution, diabetes, heart disease, war, violence as problem solving, hyper-masculinity, racial discrimination, bullying, issues of social justice, apathy, ignorance, conspicuous consumption, disconnection, anger, deforestation, the destruction of our oceans, the depletion of and/or extinction of animal life, and the other issues that cause untold suffering and destruction in today’s world. To teach self-defense without addressing the things that cause suffering, pain, and death in today’s world (and tomorrow’s world), is parallel to trying to teach someone to swim —in the shower. 

You progress, as in move forward and evolve, best —with things you make a practice of. If you make a practice of letting days, weeks, or months go by without effectively telling the stories of your work, it becomes your “way.” In contrast, if you make a practice of looking deeply at what your work is a catalyst for —where it affects change, what its intent is, what it brings about in the lives of people —and in your community, and you tell those stories with the 4 methods of storytelling (1. The spoken word; 2. The written word; 3. Images and modified images; and 4. Video), you then make a practice of instigating, cultivating, and sharing the stories of how your work is relevant, valuable, and powerful. It’s all about “The Hero’s Journey,” which is: A. The exodus; B. The epiphany; and C. The return. 

Do not make the mistake of being a promise-based school or teacher. Learn to be an evidence-based school —a teacher who creates evidence that what he/she does is effective, relevant, and important. 

Connect, do not disconnect. If you intend to be a master teacher of any importance, then your stage, your work, is not contained to the mat you teach on or restricted to the district your school happens to be located in. Your work radiates outward —and your potential and power comes from uniting with the international martial arts community for the purpose of bringing light, healing, wisdom, and compassion to the world; the entire world. That would be “the ultimate.”

Quickly understand, absorb, and embrace the methods for “doing business.” Make these things as automatic as is getting dressed, practicing good hygiene, and driving your bike or car to your place of business. Don’t mistake putting on your pants, brushing your teeth, or operating a moving vehicle as your life’s work or as what is truly important in life. DO SOMETHING Noble. Be a hero. Find your tree and climb it. Stand for something. Be a part of the tribe that makes a difference in the world. Collect your heroes, keep them close, let them instruct you, follow their examples, be selfless in your mission, and be oblivious to the dominant paradigm and to obstacles. Be a master of masters. 

I’m writing these reminders for myself —if they serve you too, then all the better. 

Tom Callos

I can help you in subtle and not-so-subtle ways with your school, its management, your marketing strategies and daily marketing / promotion action, staff training, curriculum development, and problem solving. 
I can help you produce more income.
My advice is based on our dialogue about your wants, needs, and areas of interest. I offer you the opportunity to work with me one-on-one, via phone and video conferencing, to help you improve your work, in general. 
All of my work is straight-up honest, ethical, and healthy. I don’t offer one-size-fits-all strategies, but seek to hear what it is YOU want to do, what you’re good at, and what you believe your mission and work to be. 
Respond from this e-mail and I’ll give you a 3 month 50% off trial consulting membership, access to the 100.’s vast library, and membership in what is THE most progressive martial arts school management group in the world. 
My phone: 530-903-0286
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You’ll spend $5 a day with me during your trial. You can’t lose, if you play full out. 
Martial Arts Business. Instructions for Masters of the Art of Making Change

The work we do (and/or have the potential to do) as teachers of the martial arts. Unsolicited advice about business and career, from Tom Callos: 

We can be master change-makers (my/the new word for “warriors”). But we can’t be change-makers if we don’t own the language and actions of change-makers. This is why we don’t let others write our ad-copy or populate our info-websites and brochures with made-for-you sales content, images, sales jargon, and off-the-shelf curriculum. We’re not here for the purpose of sales and “elite wealth,” —we’re here to represent the idea of MASTERY. 

Mastery over negative emotions and action; mastery over the foolishness of thinking you are what you own or can afford; mastery over apathy; mastery over disconnection, prejudice, and ignorance; mastery over the pitfalls of a diet without discipline, of a body let go, of a mind left unused.

When the pursuit and practice of mastery drives your work, for real, sales jargon and formulaic sales junk smells like meat gone bad. 

The Transcendence of Your Brand Name (Style)
You are not Taekwondo (TKD), as TKD is a mess, a brand, a political quagmire, a useless, empty facade. TKD, like BJJ, like MMA, like Aikido, like whatever it is you call what you know and don’t know, is a CAR. It might be pretty, it probably has some value, but the car is not the journey; a car is made to take you on a journey. 

Advertising your style is 1% of your message. What you really know, what you really teach, what isn’t someone else’s work you’ve adopted, is what you do, what you have done, what you intend to do, and what you know ———AND, all of these things applied to those you work with (staff) and your students. Honestly my friends, my master-teacher friends, if you aren’t doing amazing things in the world, change-maker things —and if you aren’t inspiring people to take what you practice on the mat and put it to work in the world, then you aren’t doing your best work. For some, certainly, that’s enough; that’s all they can imagine or hope for. For some of us however, it’s not enough. It wasn’t enough for our heroes —and by way of their examples, it’s not enough for us. 

To work on your work is not a program you buy, it’s not a class you attend, it’s not a seminar or convention or reading thru the latest trade mag. It’s not your disconnecting, your inability to work on things you don’t yet understand, you inability to join and contribute. To work on your work is a concentrated, purposeful, uncomfortable, empowering DAILY PRACTICE. This is the approach I take in my work and consulting at 

It’s hard work, it makes you dig deep, it leaves you, at times, confused —but, like the practice of the martial arts, there is no way to master the work without showing up and practicing, mindfully, and with unrelenting focus.

How to Teach Kids the Martial Arts, That is, How to Teach them to USE It All

When you teach the martial arts, whether it be Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Judo, Karate, Taekwondo, Aikido, or what have you —you stand a very good chance of teaching young people.

And when you teach young people, when you “put on the uniform” of the teacher, the leader, the “one who knows,” the one who gives directions, the one, for what ever period of time you’re given, is asked and/or expected to “teach the lessons,” I think it’s one big whopping whale of an opportunity to do some of the best work our particular, odd, left-of-center, often goofy, all too self-serious profession sets in front of us. 

And while teaching little Johnny and Sally how to punch people in the face, choke them, and or defend themselves from the same —might seem like the mission of the “martial arts” teacher — from my point of view it is not the most important work, not the work that really matters at that age, that might really bring about the change we have the potential to play a role in, or that might actually make these little people more powerful, participative, engaged, compassionate —and thus happier and more connected to that which it is best to be connected to. 

I treasure, however, the teacher, the smart, connected, awake teacher, who uses the martial arts, no, who uses the time they are gifted with to be an influencer, as a tool to provide experiences and viewpoints that speak of a better, more compassionate, less violent world. So Dan Rominski's canned food drive work —and the work so many of you do where you're creating these experiences of doing for others —I'd just like to point out the obvious: 

This is one of the jobs of the martial arts teacher/citizen. I’d like to suggest you get the (expletive deleted) into it. Embrace it. Take it to level 10. Do it better or as good as anyone in your town, in your sphere of friends and peers, maybe as good as anyone in the nation or the world. Why not? You have something better or more important to do?

The environment. We’re really doing a terrible job of teaching people how their actions, our actions, and consuming without thought, brings about chains of suffering. 

Food. My god, we’re letting food that isn’t really food at all, kill millions —and contribute a dead-fish string of consequences that’s like a disease in and of itself. 

Hyper-masculine fear inspired posturing and violence and the way the media constantly distorts, for gain, the female persona and image and what that’s doing to the values and actions of so many women —and men too, and the conflicts, and the disconnection we have, from their suffering, from the sense of our responsibility to others and the power of community engagement…

The worship of things. The buy-in that those advertised things, with their perfectly crafted pitches to our fears and lusts and selfishness and sense of entitlement —and what that means for the world. 

These things are at the core of the core of the core of what “self-defense” is, today, for real, on a global scale. So, to think globally and act locally —to use our period-of-influence to engage young people in acts of kindness, in the importance of little actions of good, compassion, care, connection —and what doing for others does for ourselves; this is our work. It is in my opinion.

The Dumbing Down of The Martial Arts School. Martial Arts Business from Tom Callos

The Model was / is / has been this:

The path to wealth is found in running multiple schools. The model for the wealth building multiple school is to keep the expenses as low as possible, profit as high as possible. Staff the place as cheap as possible. Simplify the work to the point where the smallest crew, 1 or 2 people, can do everything. 

The result is a kind of curriculum that can be taught by someone with the least amount of experience. Insure this person has as tight a non-compete contract as is possible, as there’s an expected turn-over. Keep all extracurricular activities, tournaments and other events, in-house, to maximize profits. Design the curriculum to include required items for sale, make these retail items mandatory, require members to buy these items from the company. Maximize all profit centers. Design the curriculum so that the more interesting aspects of it require an upgrade of membership. Sell large membership contracts for cash, as turn-over is expected. 

Close the doors to all other organizations or people, build brand loyalty. Establish a test fee strategy to maximize testing as a profit center, require quotas. Award rank contingent on the recipients student body size and his or her ability to run multiple locations. Build a hierarchal, autocratic form of leadership, with the “grand” or “supreme” masters having complete authority over those underneath them. 

Systemize operations to the point where someone with the least amount of training can make sales and turn a noteworthy profit. Model McDonalds and other multi-location operations for their exacting operational specifications. Think profit or go home. 

One franchise of schools seeks to entice non-martial artists to buy into their chain of schools, offers 1 whole week of training at their corporate office, suggests the new “owners” hire hungry martial arts teachers (style doesn’t matter, just the need to teach the curriculum they’ve laid out) —and promises a noteworthy and convincing “return on investment.” They “brand” their approach to bully prevention or other aspects of curriculum, to try and legitimize the work. 

The disservice this has done to the martial arts community is due, in part, to the industry’s trade mags, billing companies, and associations profiling profit-mongers as visionaries and advocating their policies as sound and smart. Impressionable instructors have adopted many of the sales, marketing, and management strategies for their own businesses, thinking them smart. 

Easier curriculum that requires little or no training on the part of the teacher to pass on. Lower testing standards. 2 and 2.5 year black belts —and nobody even blinks an eye. Less, or nonexistent, substantive educational training for teachers / staff, except for sales training. Fifth, 6th, 7th, 8th, and even 9th dan black belts who are young, inexperienced, and honestly unqualified to represent the martial arts as senior members of our leadership. 

Every association decision contingent on its ability to be “monetized.” 

Now in fairness, organization and systemization are good things, unless they’re not. There is a balance to be struck. By over-systemizing and looking for profit above all other things, the martial arts industry has, in general, become a creatively-limited field of work. Real teacher training is the exception, rather than the rule. Isolationism, homogeneous curriculum, creeds, and methods abound, new ideas are looked upon with suspicion, unless they are obviously profitable, and hyperbole and inference of knowledge rule out over actual education and experience. 

By knowing and recognizing these things, we can avoid being sucked into idolizing school owners and/or methods that are heralded as “successes,” due mostly to quantity of ad space bought, the size of their billing account, or the quantity of retail items purchased. The pendulum of martial arts practices swung to the right in the 1990’s and thru the 2000’s —and everything went “the system.” Now we’re swinging back to the left, where innovation, individualism, experimentation, and authenticity rule the roost —and conformity, the Wal Mart / McDonalds mentality, the dumbing down of the curriculum and practices, goals and ambitions, and the corporate suit and tie attitude represents the opposite of real success.

Martial Arts Business. The Potential of The Martial Arts Teacher to Make Change - in the World

Master Teacher (of the Martial Arts) Direction Given, Unsolicited —and Only My Opinion, of Course:

If you are a martial artist, then what you do, for yourself and others, is a part of your practice. That’s a no-brainer, yes? Your actions speak. 

Beyond yourself, a part of the practice of the martial arts is our collaboration and cooperation with a partner, often many partners —and the way you / we work together can greatly / significantly increase the quality of our work, our practice. 

As a member of a school / group, how you behave, participate, support, and contribute, can add up to and/or become something bigger, more significant, and more powerful than what you can do or accomplish or stand for as an individual. Many can be what 1 or 2 cannot.

Beyond the school, is your connection to other individuals, partners, and schools —a network of people beyond the walls of your own school. And just as powerful and telling as the actions of the individual, the partnership, and the school-as-community, how and what you can do, could do, have the potential to do as 10 or 50 or 100 or 1000 schools, connected and doing what a group of that size might do, is a completely different animal —but no less important than the actions of an individual practitioner. 

For those of you who consider themselves MASTER teachers —or who aspire to be master teachers, I put on the table the idea that if you don’t actively participate in linking our large network together, for the best of reasons, reasons far, far beyond commerce, beyond the preservation of “brand,” beyond the tournament ——-if you don’t play on an international level, then not only do you NOT help do what so many could do —in and for the world, but you miss all the lessons and learning and growth that come with seeking to make contribution on a national or global scale. 

And what are “the best of reasons” to unite?

The destruction of our natural environment —which threatens the well-being of the next generation —and the livability of our planet. 

Hate, prejudice, war, anger, misunderstanding, apathy, bullying, violence, and ignorance. We could be —must be —a player in the work of battling the destruction caused by fear on a scale that transcends what we, ourselves, as individuals believe and/or practice. Many could do what one cannot. 

Health, fitness, and the well-being of our processes for the production of food. In that the top 10 killers of men, women, and children on the planet don’t include “death by rear naked choke or side-kick,” but do relate to the consumption of food —and that we are the holders of the flame of preventive self-defense training, we could and should be advocates for mindful eating and mindful food production. 

Conspicuous consumption. While consumption might fuel our economy, only “living simply, so that others may simply live,” offers us the truly spiritual path. If others go without as we consume far more than what we really need, we are not connected —and thus contribute to suffering on a global scale. 

Education. In that children “defend themselves with their heads,” we could and should be significant proponents of equitable, affordable, and non prejudicial education for all. 

Yes, there are other reasons, of course. But the question is, here, are you engaged or disconnected? Are you participating and joining forces, or standing back, content with you and yours, but forgetting or ignoring the opportunities we have in the here and now —to be change-makers on a much, much larger scale?

Martial Arts Business. A Curriculum and Intent to Create Change Makers.


Virtually every day of the year I stand up at the front of my classroom, stand in the circle of my students and friends, and / or speak from my position as teacher / student / citizen ———and suggest that you, we, can make this work about something truly, genuinely, and authentically noble and important. 

More important than the trophy, than the color of our belts, than our bicep or waist size, than our billing service, association, or political org., than whether we can —or cannot —“handle” ourselves in a street fight, whether what we do came from this country or that one, this teacher or the other. 

I seek to produce CHANGE-MAKERS. And this is not a bullshit statement; it’s not something I throw out there to sound better, to create an illusion of value; it’s not like saying “I am a martial artist” —and then having that mean almost nothing of value, nothing that means much of anything on the worlds (or even a community’s) stage. 

You want your business to take off, to fly? You want to see your bank balance look like you’ve got your game on? You want to blow people away? It’s about VALUE my friend; it’s about doing what is valuable to people, to a community, the nation, and to the world. 

It’s not about the black belt. It’s not about the tournament. It’s not about fighting and violence and fear and isolation or inactivity or apathy or “the bottom line.” I feel like my teachers, every one of them, were teaching me how to use what I was learning, doing, to be a change-maker. In The 100. (—I urge, compel, coach, cry, cajole, shout, whisper, instruct, and drive members to think bigger, to act bigger, to do the hardest work, to transcend the dominant paradigm of the “industry,” and to MAKE THINGS HAPPEN. Grand things. Perfect things. Beautiful things. Meaningful things. 

In turn, I seek to inspire instructors to turn to their students and ask for the same. Why on Earth would we ask ourselves for anything but our best effort? 

I can’t make martial arts teachers do more with their art that what their brain can wrap around; more than what their intelligence allows; more than what their courage incites; more than what they believe is possible —————-but I can (and do) urge them on. I can seek to try and show them how it can be done. I can bring them examples of regular people, like them, like me, trying / doing extraordinary work.

Some of my peers in the industry work to help you get your gross up with birthday parties, clever websites, VIP passes, sleepovers, after school child care, school talks, and what have you. And while these might all be tools of the trade, they don’t inspire me to action the way solving problems does; the way getting a group of young people together and showing them exactly HOW they can use what they have to facilitate positive change in their own lives, in the lives of others, and in their communities.

If the members of the 100. aren’t solid-state, 100%, dynamic, focused, participative CHANGE MAKERS, of a sort more rare than not, then I’m not doing my job. If my students don’t understand, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that this IS NOT about the martial arts, not about the technique, but something far, far more valuable, then I am failing to get across the point. 

There was a time when I wanted money; a time when I wanted trophies; a time when I wanted superior technique; a time when I wanted a big school; a time when I wanted lots of things ——but now, now my only goal is to cultivate change-makers —in a world where we must change and adapt to thrive and survive and contribute.

Martial Arts Business. Thinking Thru the Evolution of a School’s Consciousness

Martial Arts School Owner Advice, Unsolicited (of course): 

Maslow’s theory of the hierarchy of needs serves as a model for this viewpoint I’d like to give you; that there is a process of development of a school that most often begins with learning how to be a “real” business, one that has a functional plant/site, all the physical tools it needs, where there’s a plan for paying expenses required to operate the school, a system for spreading word of the school, and adequate management of resources ——you know, the same old things that make or break all businesses: The ABC’s of hanging a shingle, “running” a business, and balancing the numbers. 

One of my chief complaints with the “martial arts industry” as it is today, is how much of the material is about business basics —and chiefly, how many of the school owners I meet who are stuck there, still (after years) trying to figure out how to keep the numbers, how often and/or how to get new students (market), and how to use a day planner, answer phones, design ads, build a website on their own, you know….the basics that should be learned in, what? 2 years max? Some people I talk to have made these things their primary focus ——and thus, it’s always SURVIVAL time. 

Staff development, the ability to practice “management” — as in “getting things done thru the efforts of others.” 90% of the school owners I meet haven’t ever read even a single book or taken a course in staff development. Staff training ends up being nonexistent or painfully dysfunctional —and undeveloped, staff members are often performing and producing at a fraction of their potential —and feel under-paid, trapped, and as if they’re not evolving. 

Students; when you have good teachers —then 20, 50, 200, 400 students —or any number of people beyond the 1 to 5 people that might make up “the staff” of a school, you have a very new, very dynamic, very powerful machine —that is not what it was in the “basics” stage, that is not what a school is that has a strong owner and a good staff, you have a power-tool that can be managed in a way that creates something new, something far more dynamic and valuable with, than without. At this stage in a school’s potential development, the owner and staff need to join forces with the students to create something far beyond what the school was BEFORE the student body evolved to be a group that the school doesn’t just serve, but that becomes a part of what the school is, what it creates. 

The WORKING SCHOOL. The working school has the basics down —and understands that the basics have their place, but they are not “the school.” The basics are equivalent to getting up in the morning, showering, getting dressed, and going about the day. This is NOT what the school is, it’s what the school does, without much thought, so that it make go do things of a higher purpose. The WORKING SCHOOL is making money, managing people well, all systems are in place and it’s working. A WORKING SCHOOL is then an animal in and of itself, with powers, abilities, and resources to use for things beyond the processes that got the school to BE a working school. 

Out of the Dojo and Into the World. A working school, with an evolved owner, staff, and senior body of students, represents an eco-system that has in its sphere of influence 100’s or even 1000’s of people connected to people in the school, that are not IN the school, but nevertheless capable of being affected by the work of the school. A school that works and is evolved makes REAL contribution, goes after real problems in the community, it’s members step off the mat —and into the fabric of the community, using the work of the school as it’s foundation and fuel tank. This level of development isn’t a marketing ploy, it’s a fully evolved organization that has the ability, the wherewithal, and the understanding / wisdom to recognize and actualize itself —in the community, as a member of the community, and something far beyond “a business.” 

A school that can’t master the basics is destined to get stuck there, in a “Groundhog Day” of reliving the same experience over and over. A teacher with a vision of social engagement, who doesn’t keep her numbers and use them to better manage her time, is destined to struggle. 

This piece is written, for me, as I work thru the argument of why school owners need to THINK WRONG (thank you JB) about the present dominant paradigm of the martial arts industry. So many schools and teachers are stuck at the bottom of the pyramid (as product and services are sold there, they’re abundant, they make school owners good customers), while the higher levels require the people in the school to create, to engage non-business elements of a working school, and making products and services for sale for this level of school is far more challenging, far more complex. 

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Your Martial Arts Teaching Heroes — or Community Heroes —or Hero Heroes. This is the Business of Teaching the Martial Arts (Beyond Technique)

My (Martial Arts) Teaching Heroes. How to Help Those Who Make a Difference in Your Community.

I just wrote the piece, link above, on It’s about my growing list of martial arts teaching heroes. 

Three (or so) Pieces of no Bullshit Advice for Martial Arts School Owners, Whether They Want it or Not, from Tom Callos of

Sensible, no Bullshit Advice for School Owners, Whether They Want it or Not, from Tom Callos of No. 1

Do not send students to collection for unpaid tuition for untaught lessons. This is something the evolved master teacher never does, ever, period. Be smart enough to create programs that allow the school to collect the income it needs to thrive, but without chasing people, harassing them, because you weren’t resourceful enough to keep them coming, despite the well known obstacles (there are always obstacles). 

Create pricing programs that serve the diverse economic range of parents and other people in your community. Keep students and make them happy and able to pay with individual and high quality service. Offer one class a week free to all children, use it to train your up and coming teachers and to activate volunteers who’d be into helping kids who are quite possibly in an economic situation where they might never get to take lessons under a high quality teacher. Create a one-day-per-week pricing program, so that you may appeal to students / parents who are on a tight budget and/or who are pressed for time. You’re a teacher, so teach and serve. Create short term courses that allow students to see if you are smart and capable enough to assist them in breaking thru all the reasons people don’t stay the course of their training. If you keep them, they will pay (to support your school).


Sensible, no Bullshit Advice for School Owners, Whether They Want it or Not, from Tom Callos of No. 2

Do not engage in manipulative, hidden, or dishonest / questionable pricing practices. Do not hold back curriculum to entice people to up-grade their program. Do not host events that are a ruse for membership sales and up-grade efforts. Do not hide your prices on the phone or in your school’s information. Do not build a model for business that requires you to get and spend tomorrow’s income for today’s expenses. 

Be completely and absolutely transparent in all of your pricing and financial issues at your school. The burden isn’t to try and hide your pricing until you can justify the value of your lessons, it’s to price your programs so that people get a chance to see what you’re worth, for real, and then to charge enough to each student that it makes perfect sense for the school’s budget. DO build a school that is known for it’s up-front, nothing hidden, completely honest and transparent business practices. DO speak out, as an activist in your community, about pricing policies in the MA community that create win-lose situations with students, practices that put the burden of obligation on the student, not the school’s teaching staff. Do adjust your pricing so that everyone in your community with an interest can have access to lessons they can afford. Do learn to live on the money you make this month, versus spending tomorrow’s money for today’s expenses.


Sensible, no Bullshit Advice for School Owners, Whether They Want it or Not, from Tom Callos of No. 3

Do not build your school’s identity and sales approach based on the words, images, and concepts that everyone else uses. Do NOT sell your services with slogans borrowed or bought or stolen or modeled from the work of others —or that are “standard” in the industry. Do not offer or advertise “benefits” of membership at your school that are unjustified, un-researched, and that you actually know little or nothing about. Do not put staff members on the floor with the inference they are teaching some benefit, without having spent adequate time training them and/or exploring how they’re to “teach” any particular benefit —and what the language and practices of these benefits are. In other words, don’t advertise you teach bully prevention, for example, when you or your team of instructors have not invested even a single term paper’s worth of thought and energy into actual study of the subject; when you and/or your team haven’t read a single book on the subject, have published no opinions on it, have not attended a single conference or seminar or viable course of instruction, don’t know who the experts are, or what research has been done. Don’t sell what you don’t know, don’t research, and don’t actually train your staff in. Don’t teach things that you don’t have even a single teaching aid to teach —or teach things that under the scrutiny of a real expert, would embarrass you for your lack of research and actual knowledge.

Take every benefit you claim to teach and adopt a self-imposed immersion into the subject of at least 60 hours of research and training; in that 60 hours (10 min a day for a year = 60 hours), carefully document and post the what, why, who, when, and where of the training on your school’s website or blog. Curate content you’re studying and/or using to train your team. And most importantly, create a PROJECT-BASED PORTFOLIO of how you’re taking the concepts you claim to teach and DOING something with them. Show how these ideas manifest themselves in hands-on experiences with you, your team, and your students. Build an EVIDENCE-BASED sales program that doesn’t simply talk-the-talk of your benefits, but shows, documents, and records how what you teach becomes a practice, logged and noted. Take the benefits you claim to impart and show more rock-solid evidence that you know exactly how to create the benefit in a tangible, hard-evidence based way. Show more actual proof that you OWN these concepts than anyone within 100 miles of you and your school. 

If you teach “Respect” then show us, show your community, exactly what that means, what it becomes. If you claim to teach bully prevention or self-defense, show what that means, what it becomes, and how it’s translating into actions, behaviors, community outreach programs, and education that comes from you and travels thru your teaching team, into your students, and outward from there into tangible, measurable off-the-mat evidence. 

Reject 90 to 100% of the kinds of sales rhetoric and marketing tools that anyone with absolutely NO experience, someone who simply buys a program or box from someone else, could do. It may take you some time to turn from a school of talk to a school or rock-solid evidence-based benefits, but it’s something that a lesser school, someone or a group with less commitment and intellect would/could never do. 

Distinguish your school and services with real stories, with actual evidence, and not just marketing hyperbole or inferred benefits.

Martial Arts Business: The Devil is in the Details

School Management. The Devil is in the Details.

I teach a very simple system for student service analysis, it’s been around for a long time, but not always (rarely) used in the way I teach people to use it. Too bad, as it’s so damned expensive to lose students you might have otherwise saved, if you’d only have known exactly how to go about the work. 

That being said, I have taught many people how to do this system —and they still don’t do it. 

The reason they don’t do it, I think, is the disconnection between the work and what it means financially to the school and the owner / staff of the school. Let me spell it out, as simply as I am able:

1 student, paying $100 a month is, let’s pretend, worth a flat $100 a month to the school. Simple, yes?

Now, if every single student in your school was good, in 1 year’s time, for 2 other student referrals (new members), that would eventually make that single student worth $300 a month to the school. Let’s pretend that’s the case. 

If we figured that every single student was worth $10 additional, each month, for special events and retail purchases (low), than the student and his/her two referrals would add $30 a month to the total, making that initial student worth $330 a month —- or $3960 per year. Multiply that by 100 students worth $330 a month or $3960 per year and we have $396,000 a year in revenue. Over 5 years that’s $1,980,000. 

So LOSING 100 students in 5 years means the school misses out on almost 2 million in revenue. 

For 2 million $$ in revenue, you would think one might pay closer attention to what each and every student was doing; but the problem is the disconnection between the detail-oriented work of daily and weekly student attention —and just how crippling a loss of operating revenue it is to do the work haphazardly. 

Oh, and go ahead, cut my estimated student value in half. That way it would only be a 1 million dollar loss in 5 years. Does that feel better? Would $500,000 in 5 years feel even better? Could you justify a sloppy student service system at $500,000 or even a $250,000 loss in 5 years. 

I think not. My services thru As low as $2400 a year. I can teach you how to keep more students —and thus dramatically affect your school’s gross revenue; but only you and your team can translate the knowledge into quantifiable results. 

The devil is in the details.

The Best Work We Can Do As Martial Artists

As a part of my practice, I think about, write, and re-write what I’m doing, what I want to do, where I’m going, who I am working with —or who I want to work with, and what the work is about, in general, 365 days a year.

One Practitioner
The goal is to cultivate the smartest, most skilled, most capable practitioners we have the intelligence, teaching skills, and wherewithal to create. We want to use the practice of the martial arts to make wildly capable technicians, who are also stable emotionally, high functioning mentally, and engaged, participative, and centered. 

One School 
A school, made up of individuals, is something of an entity in and of itself. It can do things, stand for things, engage things, champion things —-and give its work a power and force that no individual could muster by him or herself. 

I don’t look at a school as a tool of commerce, but as something that can be used to show what the practice of the martial arts can do in a community —-and THROUGH a community. 

Many Schools 
If the individual practitioner is evolved and empowered —and then joins forces with other individuals to create a community, a school, then the next tool is what comes of many schools joining forces for something, perhaps for many things; things that many schools can bring to the table that one school or one practitioner could never do alone. 

This is the essence of the work of

Each individual has the opportunity to be something extraordinary, as a person; each school has an opportunity to bring what many people can bring to solving problems, to creating goodwill, to getting big things done, easily, by engaging many hands in the work; many schools can bring ideas and practices to thousands of people, nationally or internationally, in short order. Many schools have buying muscle, political muscle, movement muscle. 

A high-functioning practitioner; a powerful, proactive school; and a forward thinking, evolved, mission based association of schools —-these are the three pieces of the triangle of my work.

How to Get Your Local Schools to Roll Over for You —and Help You Promote Your School (to Kids Who Could Use What You Offer at Your School)

1. Have a personal relationship with the teacher who makes the decisions about who can or who cannot address students in their classroom or the school. If a teacher or the teachers know you —and you’re a genuinely trustworthy, honest teacher of the martial arts, you might stroll right thru the front door of the school. 

But, for schools that have a policy of not engaging local businesses —or schools skeptical of martial arts school owners who come thru and heavily market to students, without much (or any) tact, or for schools and/or school teachers that just don’t know you from Adam (no offense, Adam), I highly recommend the following strategy:

2. Put them in a position where they cannot, under ANY circumstances, say “No” to you. To make that happen you must break thru the “wall of commerce,” and enter the land of “I’m going to do so much for you, I’m going to so rock your world —and in a way that you’ve rarely, if ever, experienced, that when I finally ask you for help, you wouldn’t say “no” to my request ——in fact, I won’t have to ask, as I’ll be invited.” 

This isn’t really a great strategy for the school owner without imagination, intelligence, the patience of Job, and a resource tool box the size of the Parthenon. But let me tell you my friends, there is no better way to get a “yes” when you want one than going out there and affecting the lives of the people in your community ——no better way than bringing $100,000 of projects accomplished, a million dollars of lives impacted by the work of you and your students; there is no better way to get the schools to open their doors to you than addressing real flat out ugly problems in the community, in the lives of teachers and other citizens, things that NEED capable, hard-nosed, resourceful people to tackle them.

If you wonder why your local schools sometimes look at you like you’re some kind of sales-person looking to hand out two-for-one passes to your next ninja-night pizza party where your staff will seek to close as many sales as possible ———-it’s because you have NOT reached into the guts of your community —you haven’t gotten your hands dirty in the battle; you’re not wearing the blood and guts of someone who really gives a shit and then goes out and does the dirty, wonderful, meaningful work. 

If you want your school system to applaud you when you walk in, then go out there and do something teachers and school administrators can understand and respect. Help. Show up. Bring money. Bring people. Participate. Engage. You’ll get what you want when you’ve given enough others something that shines in their hearts and minds like so many diamonds. 

Just saying…

Making More Money and/or “A Living” from Your Martial Arts School is like Getting Good at Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu —or Any Martial Art

I’d love to tell you that you can learn Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu —or really learn any art —without putting in a good deal of practice time, having a decent coach or coaches, having fairly committed training partners, some good goals laid out for your head, technique, and objectives, and then revisiting the GD stuff over and over and over and over. Reassessing, reassessing, reformatting, revisiting, celebrating victories, acknowledging milestones, and then wondering what the heck happened to you (every so often). 

But that would be a bold-faced lie. There ain’t no easy path, even if that marketing clown says there is. There isn’t. If one thing come to you easy, trust me, there’s something else that’s going to come down on you like fricking Godzilla (the new one).

It is the nature of the beautiful, challenging, power-filled, and often crushing game of martial arts mastery for the purpose of enjoyment, contribution, functional fitness and health, and some kind of mental clarity. It’s life. It’s life. 

To make a good living at your martial arts school, that is to pay all the bills, enjoy some kind of reasonable quality of life (so subjective), take very good care of those who help you do the work, and not become a toothless ward of the State, I have to tell you —-it ain’t easy (either). 

Oh sure, it’s professed to be easy by some, usually marketers, or it’s easy for awhile ——-but then some damn thing come along, like a relationship, like a health issue, like your own realization that you sold out, like the epiphany that wearing that Rolex isn’t bringing you or the world happiness, or you get pregnant and suddenly all that matters no longer matters —but a whole new list of what matters gets delivered to you, usually screaming and in stinky diapers. 

Making a really healthy, sound, respectable, noteworthy, honorable, and nod-of-respect-from-your-heroes living from your martial arts school, that layered onion squirelly mess of a thing that you think you know only to discover you’ve been fooling yourself ——-it’s HARD WORK. 

To do it like a MASTER requires putting in a good deal of practice time, having a decent coach or coaches, having fairly committed training partners, some good goals laid out for your head, technique, and objectives, and then revisiting the GD stuff over and over and over and over. Reassessing, reassessing, reformatting, revisiting, celebrating victories, acknowledging milestones, and then wondering what the heck happened to you (every so often). 

I am a coach for school owners. I’m a martial arts teacher and practitioner too, but mostly, I’m an advanced coach of the life and work of the master teacher / school owner. I don’t deliver garbage, I don’t bullshit my students, and I don’t build sales programs that promise the world, only to deliver something much less. 

If you want to see your school become something wildly extraordinary, I can be a part of the team that gets you there. But my friend, like the skill of a real master of the martial arts, it comes with a price —and it won’t be easy. 

But what a gift the journey is.

Martial Arts Business. The Folly of Running a Cash Up Front Martial Arts School

(From my Facebook page, this Morning) Lessons in Business for Martial Arts School Owners Interested in Lessons and Open to Ideas About How to Improve:

My brother Bill Callos and I started a new business in Sacramento just a little over a year ago, The Safe and Vault Outlet ( Now my brother is an astute and hard working business man who has been in the security business in Reno for 35 years. I started in the business with him, when I was in my late teens —and then went on to teach MA full time, and Bill took the business and ran with it, turning it into one of the most successful of its kind in the nation. 

We decided to open a store in Sacramento due to the fact that we knew I’d be here at least 4 years, with my daughter going thru High School, all the numbers looked good, and it’s been a time when people are locking up their things. 

This isn’t a business I opened out of pure passion for something, like my martial arts schools, this was strictly a business / commerce decision —and one I risked due mostly to my brothers comprehensive knowledge of the business —and the company’s uber-successful financial portfolio / history. 

One of the many things I’ve learned and/or been reminded of since I started this project, that’s perfectly relevant to the operation of a martial arts school, is that IN RETAIL, you can’t sell the product for less than you pay for it —and make a profit. 

In this, the first strictly retail business I’ve ever owned, it’s very straight forward: If the product costs you $1000, you’re going to have to know that, mark it up appropriately, and sell it —-or you’re going to kill the business. No money, no profit = no business.

In a martial arts school (and you know I’m a consultant, as in owner of a consulting firm / brain trust:, most owners are not acutely —or even haphazardly —aware of what their product is costing them —and so they, more often than not, are selling lessons at a loss. 

There’s even a school of thought in the industry that if you sell your lessons and get enough cash up front, you can make up for what you lose by selling another membership, up front, thus procuring more operating capital. No, that’s bad —-that’s a bad idea if the product you’re selling is being sold at a price that is below what it costs to get and maintain it. 

If I have 100 jewelry safes to sell, which cost me $200,000 to buy, I can’t sell them for $180,000 cash, paid-in-full today and make money. Yes, I’ll have $180,000 hot little dollars in my pocket; I’ll FEEL rich and solvent for a time; I’ll buy a nice car, I’ll eat well for a time, and I’ll brag a bit ———but at some point the reality of selling for less that cost is going to slap me in the face. 

Should I sell some more paid in full’s for less than cost? Can I keep the wheel turning if I bring in enough cash —and then more cash —and then more? 

This is what many are doing in their school businesses —and it’s a method of operation some “consultants” (very short sighted ones) advocate. They brag about school owners “WHO DOUBLED THEIR GROSS!” Who almost overnight went from $8000 a month to $50,000 a month. Yeah, well, they’re selling tomorrow’s lessons, for money today. They’re flush. They feel rich. 

But my friends, it’s bad news in the school business. If you don’t know your cost and you just keep cashing out for cash’s sake, at some point you’re going to hit the wall.

In retail, you can’t sell the product for less than you spent on it. In the school business, you can’t do that either. The first consulting session you and I will have, if/when you get to a place where you want real help with your work, is going to be about numbers. You have to figure your expenses before you price your lessons, before you sell your courses ——or you may find yourself suffering and struggling. 

There are other things too, of course, but step # 1 is to establish the true cost of operation, everything, so you don’t think you’re making a profit, when you’re not.


  • Pat Worley This is a concept that a LOT of schools never grasp. And, they pay for that lack of understanding.
  • Tom Callos Yes, well —I should have noted too, yes, that when you’ve got that “180k” in your pocket and go buy the new house, the new car, and start living like you’ve got 180k in the bank, all those things affect your overhead, thus reducing actual profitability all the more. That’s what so many people I’ve worked with do ——they cash out, cash out, cash out, and increase their spending in tune with the new cash flow —-and then BOOM, at some point in the future reality comes a’knocking. But there’s something even WORSE that the reality of thinking you’re making real money when you’re not:
    Tom Callos What’s worse is what paid in fulls does to the culture and climate of your school. Like it or not, intended it or not, you and your minions / employees / and mindset become primarily (all) about SALES. GET MORE LEADS (My f’n God, more leads, more leads, more leads, get more leads, get a ton of leads, generate leads, get leads, get a flood of new leads, funnel those leads, get leads, make a lead generating machine, leads, leads, leads). You put SERVICE on the back burner —as service doesn’t make the cash flow that a new sale (or the quick transition to the all powerful cashed out UPGRADE) does. Read: Self-detruct, read “grind,” read: Unsustainable.