Concierge Martial Arts Instruction: A Modest Proposal

Discussion in 'Articles' started by SifuPhil, Aug 24, 2012.

  1. SifuPhil

    SifuPhil Lucky Cat Is Lucky

    I had the TV going in the background while I was writing the other day and I heard for the umpteenth time a commercial for “restoring the vigor of youth” through something called Cenegenics. I'd heard this commercial before but for whatever reason this time it registered in my brain. I did a little online research, received their PDF brochure and discovered that Cenegenics is a concierge medical service designed to help people gain and retain superior health in their later years.

    The mechanics of the program – heavy on hormone-replacement therapy, with personalized coaching in nutrition, cardio, weightlifting and stretching – wasn't as important to me as was the fee charged for these very personalized services. The initial screening required – a full blood test and physical, a fitness, diet and lifestyle evaluation – costs around $4,000. It can only be done at one of three centers in the U.S. (Las Vegas, Charleston or Boca Raton) so you have to add travel and accommodation costs.

    Then you have the monthly “maintenance” fees for ongoing monitoring and for receiving your prescriptions and “nutriceuticals”; while the costs are not mentioned on the Cenegenics website, I managed to find out that they run around $1,500-$1,800 per month.


    So superior, client-centered healthcare is expensive. We already knew that. But it made me think of using the concierge medicine model in the martial arts instruction field – would it work, how would you set it up, how would it be any different than the existing private-lesson structure?

    One of the most common complaints I've heard in martial arts over the years has been the de-personalized nature of instruction – standing in a class of 40-50 students and trying to mimic what you see the instructor doing, having him mumble two or three words to you during a 2-hour class, the humiliation of “doing it wrong” in front of everyone … some of these drawbacks might lead to a desire to take private lessons, especially for the more well-heeled student (aka “target market”).

    But private lessons have their drawbacks also. Although you DO get individualized attention it's only for an hour or two a week. The instructor usually teaches only the physical movements required for promotion – they don't care about the holistic package of mental state, stress levels, your nutritional habits, your BMI or any of a thousand other relevant points – they're only there to teach you the moves.

    How much better it would be if you could sign-up for a comprehensive martial arts education – an in-depth series of courses that are designed specifically for YOU. I'm talking the total package here, like Cenegenics does: an initial evaluation, discussion of options, and most importantly crafting a plan for achieving your goals through a “total-body make-over”.

    To justify the fees you're going to charge you'll need a high-end training area with all the latest bells and whistles. You'll have to differentiate yourself from the sweaty, filthy dungeon dojos in the area by keeping a hygienic level of cleanliness. You'll need access to allied professionals: dieticians, physical therapists, perhaps even maintain ties with a local medical center so as to have access to qualified medical personnel for testing purposes.

    You'll have to determine ahead of time what level of service you're going to provide. You'll have to accommodate your student's schedules, invest the time necessary to really get to know them and their goals and then have the ability to come up with a well-conceived plan for their advancement. You'll need to stay current on training methodologies and technologies. It's going to be a lot of work, but you should be able to command premium prices for these kinds of services, prices that will leave your closest competitor in the dust.

    The membership fee that you charge will need to be all-inclusive – you don't want to start nickel-and-diming your client every time a new expense comes up. Let's say you currently charge $70/month for group lessons … and, say, $25/hour for private lessons. You'd probably need to come up with a figure that includes both the group tuition (call it “overhead”) AND the private tuition fee, based upon how many hours per month you (or your staff) are going to be teaching. We're looking at a minimum of $400-$500 per month, and that's a very LOW minimum; realistically we would be better off planning on $600-$800/month as a base fee.

    Now you're going to say “WHOA, Sifu! That's insane! NOBODY'S going to pay that kind of money for learning how to kick and punch!” But that's the catch: you have to get over the idea that THAT is all you're teaching. You're a concierge, a personal trainer, a life-coach and a counselor all wrapped-up into a one-stop shopping solution. You're offering a lifestyle make-over, you're offering to show them the Path toward achieving their goals.

    How could you say that a measly couple of hundred bucks a month is too much to pay for that?!?

    Concierge services began back in Medieval times and until recently were seen only in high-end hotels, usually in Europe. Now, with the advent of concierge medical care and companies like Cenegenics opening their doors for business (and seemingly having great success in doing so), along with the constant increase in personal training demands in the physical fitness fields, it seems to be the perfect time to revisit the traditional methods of martial arts instruction in order to provide a superior product while also increasing your bottom line. I happen to think that concierge martial arts instruction is one such possible method.

    Dr. Yang Jwing-Ming is currently attempting this in his training center / retreat in California. The one drawback that I see is that he has this set-up as a multi-year curriculum – seven years, I believe – and that's a long, LONG time commitment to make for the average Joe, especially for the full-time instruction that Dr. Yang offers. But you could take that level of instruction – deep, comprehensive and effective – and distill it into something that is more appealing yet equally beneficial.

    I currently have several private students that I see individually for 3 hours or so each week. I teach out of my apartment – a tiny, plain little space. Each of these students pays $600/month for their lessons. Imagine if I still had a brick-and-mortar school with access to training equipment and allied professionals? What could I do then?

    What do you think? Is this something you could envision yourself doing, or are you happy to stay with your current model of instruction? What other benefits – or drawbacks - could you foresee in concierge instruction?
  3. Judah

    Judah fights in tights

    Benefits: each student would advance more quickly, their progress would be monitored and of course training could be tailored to better suit each student and the teacher wouldn't lose money by having less students.

    Drawbacks: only people with the finances could afford it.

    It's a nice idea and if regular classes could also be maintained, those without the funds to pay for the concierge service can still learn.
  4. Dave76

    Dave76 Deheuol Gwyn Dragon

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  5. SifuPhil

    SifuPhil Lucky Cat Is Lucky

    Wow, those prices are a bargain! $320/month for regular classes and $20 for a private class ... yeah, they're kind of looking at the same thing but from a different direction - one that probably works better for them given their location and their specialties. Thanks for posting that, Dave.

    Wellllll ... if we're looking solely at the medical concierge model then we probably wouldn't bother with those classes. You'd have the same overhead to pay but much lower prices, and I've found from personal experience that sometimes it's hard to "switch off" between group and private classes.

    I respect your looking-out for those that aren't flush with money, but from a purely business perspective I think that might mess things up.
    Sherratt likes this.
  6. Sherratt

    Sherratt Disciple

    since most people would probably just otp for the regular class
  7. Dave76

    Dave76 Deheuol Gwyn Dragon

    Having spoken with a few guys at my club about the place they all agree it's great, just watch your wallet. Almost everything is an extra. And when your there it's harder to say no. Example - 3 of you finish a particuly hard weights session and the other two have opted for the after spa treatment with massage, etc... "Oh man! You should so come along!", your feeling so tired, so sore, the thought of blissing out with an awesome hot oil massage sounds sooo good, but it'll cost ya!
    Your feeling a little sluggish when you get up and could really do with a good feed, but anything off the basic menu will cost how much!
    Hugh, nickname Smiley, said his first time there on the first day, when he saw his tiny little one room shack with shared bathroom facilities, he was easily talked into ugrading to the beach bungloes for a little extra.
    But this is where they make their money, the fact that it is harder to say no for most people when actually there.
    But if you can stick to your guns and focus on your training instead of turning it in to a holiday...apparently it's great.
  8. Sherratt

    Sherratt Disciple

    [quote="Dave76, post: 11169, member: 844"But if you can stick to your guns and focus on your training instead of turning it in to a holiday...apparently it's great.[/quote]

    to bad youd need superhuman discipline to do that though :(
  9. Judah

    Judah fights in tights

    This is why I never made any money teaching. I was too concerned with making it accessible to all which is in complete contrast to my usual attitude, everything must be paid for and a profit must be made. Thing is I didn't have much money when I started training, I paid the equivalent of $30 per month for TKD and $35 per term for ju jitsu which was subsidised by the local FE college. Apart from a little set aside for fuel that was all my money. I didn't go out at weekends, or go to pubs or clubs (I think that may be why i don't go to them now) I couldn't afford anything else. It was the same for my brother and he is a phenomenal martial artist now. Where would either of us have been without good old pay monthly affordable classes?

    Lol, I'm a complete capitalist in everything else but I believe EVERYONE should learn martial arts, ought to be taught in schools. Why? Because after training for awhile I noticed I was calmer and didn't want to fight because I'd get all my aggression out in class and it really makes you stop and think once you start realising how much damage you can do and how much can be done to you. I truly believe there'd be less violence in the world if we all studied martial arts. :)
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  10. Sherratt

    Sherratt Disciple

    all our fees (although im currently not being charged) go towards administration costs. our instructors dont get paid for instructing although after black belt they dont have to pay for gradings since theres more to the gradings and i dont think they have to pay monthly regestration fees ether since theyre giving back to the organisation through instructing
  11. SifuPhil

    SifuPhil Lucky Cat Is Lucky

    Well, most people don't drive a Mercedes but the company is still doing quite well ... street prices for decent weed are over $100/oz. but there's no shortage of buyers ...

    It's what you offer, how you offer it and how badly people want it. It takes all three aspects to succeed. You'd only need relatively few clients to break even as opposed to the traditional MA studio, which is most often a part-time affair run by someone who has a day job, does it as a hobby and considers themselves lucky to cover the rent.

    Despite what the classics tell us, there is no honor in being poor.

    What I'm talking about is turning the usual dungeon classes into a high-end experience - it would be like the difference between dining at McDonald's or at The Four Seasons; yes, they both offer food but the way they offer it, the quality of the food and the level of individual attention they give to their customers are worlds apart.
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  12. SifuPhil

    SifuPhil Lucky Cat Is Lucky

    I understand and empathize with all that - in fact, $30/mn was right around what I always charged for my classes. I always believed the bushwa about keeping the arts pure and not profiting from teaching; that's why I'm not driving a Ferrari with a hot blonde beside me right now.

    I'm not saying eliminate the affordable classes; I'm saying add the high-end ones. I think there's a market for both.

    I agree totally, but here in the U.S. we can't even agree on gun control for adults; teaching "them there kickin' thingies ta tha youngin's" would be a massive battle. :rolleyes:
  13. Judah

    Judah fights in tights

    To be honest SifuPhil I really think people whore good will develop even with minimal training and resources, my brother and I did. Many boxing gyms produce good boxers training only 3 times per week. The boxers obviously train at home as we did. When a boxer gets good enough he can qualify for sports council funding etc. so in effect we DO have a system in place which has different levels of training.

    If someone has the money and the desire they really ought to be able to pay for the service you suggest. Hell if someone doesn't have the money and they want it enough they'll find a way to afford it, either by cutting out another expense or creating the extra cash flow required.

    As long as there are still affordable classes for the less well off, and I not suggesting someone offering the concierge service should also have to run classes, there are already so many different types of class with different payment options prices etc. that I'm sure they'd still be there.

    I think it'd actually be a good way for martial artists to become professional without having to be broke as fcuk! Cos like you said, there's nothing honourable in being poor.... Nothing dishonourable either but you know. Kinda sucks not havin enough money :)
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  14. Sherratt

    Sherratt Disciple

    both me and my cousin - even though we are in two different arts (me ITF TKD, him kick boxing) both found we became less aggressive in sparing the better we got. its not so much we were working out our aggression beforehand or maby it was because we had already worked our aggression out of our system
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  15. Judah

    Judah fights in tights

    I generally find martial artists just don't have such a great need to prove themselves in that respect as they do it on a weekly basis.
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  16. RJ Clark

    RJ Clark Tree Ninja Staff Member

    This is a good thread with good posts. But every time I read the title I hear these two in my head:
    "Concierge Martial Arts!""Worldwide!!" 2008_step_brothers_006.jpg
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