Concierge Martial Arts Instruction: A Modest Proposal

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 a Concierge Medical Service

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?

Would It Work In The Martial Arts Field?

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.

A Modest Proposal

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.

"That's Insane!"

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.

An Example Program

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?

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