How to Become a Karate Teacher

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Karate is a kick-and-punch style of martial arts. Traditional karate involves more than just physical technique. It has a long history that includes ethics, philosophy and discipline. Students who reach the rank of shodan (first-degree black belt) often assist teaching the kohai (junior students) in their classes. Students who reach the rank of nidan (second-degree black belt) or beyond may wish to oversee their own students. A nidan or above can become a sensei (teacher) by setting up his own dojo (training hall) or offering classes in other venues.

Identify your desired students. Some teachers prefer to work only with children, whereas others prefer to teach only adults. If you wish to open your own dojo, you should be prepared to teach both to keep your school financially afloat. Dojos often benefit from the presence of more than one sensei, so consider teaming up with someone and delegate your classes accordingly.

Select your location. Your dojo is a business like most others. If you wish to use a retail space, consider the viability of your school in the neighborhood (is another dojo located right across the street?), as well as conveniences such as parking and mass transit. You may choose to build your stable of karate practitioners by teaching in someone else's space. Dance schools may be interested in hiring your to teach karate in their studios, especially if they have little brothers running through the halls while their sisters take ballet. Community colleges may hire you to teach beginner classes for students who need physical education credit. Town park and recreation departments may also be interested in offering karate classes--and they will provide you with a space to train.

Set up a business plan. Those who are passionate about the martial arts hate viewing it as a business, but if you want to run a for-profit dojo, you need to watch your money. Decide how much capital you are willing to invest, and then determine the rates you will charge your students. Design your class schedule to accommodate adults who work and kids who go to school. Yes, you will work nights and weekends. Be ready for the financial down time in the summer when families go on vacation and kids got away to camp.

Meet with an insurance agent. You may not be teaching full-contact martial arts, but you will still need full liability coverage in case one of your students is injured during class. Many insurance companies offer policies that deal with sports and recreational activities. One-day policies also are available for single-day events such as tournaments.

Develop a packet of material to hand out to new students. This designates what students can expect when they study karate with you. Include such information as the history of karate, the translation of some Japanese terms and a diagram of how to tie the belt, which is a tricky task for a new karateka. Provide a list of the basic requirements for promotions. State the minimum time that a student must spend at each rank. You don't need to strictly adhere to it, but it will definitely come in handy if pushy parents demand to know how soon their kids will get promoted.

Tips & Warnings

  • Designate a refund policy. Children may start classes and then decide to move on to something else. Parents will want to be refunded for classes their kids don't take. Review your policy with all students when they first sign up.
  • Work with your insurance agent or lawyer to draw up a basic waiver of responsibility that students must sign before they can take class. This will protect you in the event of minor injuries or disagreements. File all signed waivers and keep them for at least as long as the student is an active member of your dojo. Scan signed waivers into your computer to ensure that you can produce and e-mail copies quickly if necessary.

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