Posted in Articles, Portfolio

Successful Martial Arts Gyms: Problems they had to overcome & How they came to be what they are today

All Martial arts gyms want to be successful in one way or another but the question is how and what you do to overcome the problems and barriers you are faced with when running a martial arts gym.

First the meaning of a successful gym according to the following owners of well-established martial arts gyms:
David Roger owner of the Rising Crane Centre, one of the longest running Chinese martial arts gyms in the UK said that: “A successful Martial arts gym is one where people will keep coming back because they­­­ have had a good experience and are getting results.” He also said that, “a good school will put the goals of the members first, and the ability of the owner/instructors second.”

David Ross, owner of NY San Da, one of the top 50 martial arts schools in the USA defined success: “as having three of the following aspects, money, achievement and happiness. Different people have various ideas of achievement. For some it is getting people black belts, winning tournaments, helping people achieve weight loss and finally, being happy.” He stated you should, “Do what you love and love what you do?”

Helen Cummings, owner of Dragon Wushu School of Chinese Martial arts said that their biggest success: “apart from the numerous competition results, was having produced successful stuntmen, Andrew Lister and Tom Rodgers.” She also said that. “Other students are also training to be stuntmen, and that watching the kids go from nothing to kicking their own faces and doing aerials is really great.” Therefore the student’s success in life can also be seen as one of the major outcomes of a successful gym especially if their career path is one that needs a martial arts backing.

How success is achieved:
Mr. Ross also strongly believed that “one of the elements of success is vision and dedication to that vision.” This is something that he experienced first-hand, as he stated that: “I am where I am today because no matter what, I refused to change that vision. I went with the times and gave people what they wanted but I did not water down my classes or make the classes easier. I now have over 1000 students in the New York area, most are regular people yet ALL of them have the basic martial art skill, not any watered down made up stuff” He also said that, “People start up a business, a few months in it is a struggle and then they give up. They should always have a ‘plan B.” Just in case something goes wrong. Therefore, you should make sure you have a clear direction as to what you want to be accomplished. Then make sure you have the drive and motivation to carry it through.

There are three points which Mr. Ross stated you needed to be a success in the martial arts industry, these are:

  • To teach a great class, and have a great program
  • Marketing and customer service
  • To acknowledge you do not know everything, and learn to ask for help

This is something that David Ross learnt as he realized that his weak points were marketing and customer service, it was only after he learnt these that his business started to gain success.

The internet was another major factor in his success and something else he had to learn as by 2007 the media and market was changing and he did not understand technology or social media, so he got help. He said: “I put my ego in the closet; duck taped my mouth and listened to someone who had once been my martial arts student. A lot of Martial arts guys would be like ‘you are my student, I am you senior, and I am a master.’ It is this ignorance and pride that is the reason some people end up going under and closing down, because they refuse to listen or ask for help.”

The result of learning how to use the internet to his advantage meant that Mr. Ross more than TRIPLED his business in two years going from an average of 25 new members a month to around 60 members a month. He said, ‘the new technology, had it made it easier but I am still constantly learning about it because technology, social media, trends and demographics change every day. Similarly, Mr. Rogers also believes that internet is crucial in the martial arts industry especially in attracting and recruiting new members, as more than 80% of all sign-ups that he gains are through his website. So in order to run a successful gym the internet is an essential tool as it allows you to do a number of things including interacting on forums, social media and essentially putting yourself out there.

What Mr. Ross said was one of the key points to his success is Google if you put terms relevant to his gym, his gym has the first seven of the first ten results. He did this by having a number of back links, reviews on 57 review sites and active accounts on the main social media sites. This means that the average person never sees his ‘competition.’ And it is from the internet that he gets over 100 intros a month and signs up about 60% of them. This is something he said anyone could do, except they do not because they do not ask for help in order to do so.

Other components to operate a successful martial arts gym according to Mr. Rogers are:

  • Giving a really good experience to members
  • Delivering RESULTS
  • Having nice clean facilities, with well-maintained equipment, friendly staff and exciting classes.

Mrs. Cummings and Mr. Ross also mentioned the facilities, stating it had to be well kept as no one wants to train in dirty facilities. Mr. Ross also mentioned it should be awe inspiring and motive people to train.

Overcoming Problems:

One of the biggest problems that Martial arts gyms would have faced, is in 2008 when the recession hit, this was the cause of many Martial art gym closures as in a recession leisure is the first thing to be cut from a family’s tight budget. Mr. Rogers was also affected by the recession as his membership dropped by 30% or so. In order to get the same amount of sign-ups as before he had to do much more advertising, and promoting to get the same result, but he never gave up and now in the last 12 months, due to the pre-recession his numbers are building up again. Mrs Cummings on the other hand made the choice to move to cheaper premises in order to keep the gym running. But, neither gave up and both martial art gyms are still running successfully today after having survived the recession.

So whether you are currently running a martial arts’ gym or are planning to start one these are a few things you should keep in mind:

David Rogers:
Running a school is not about you, it’s about your members. It is not enough to be a good martial artist, instead you must be a good teacher, and that takes study and practice.
Also you need to really study advertising, marketing, customer service, instructor training, decor and design, accounts, computing, all of the things that are needed for the day-to-day running of the business.

If you are not willing to spend a lot of time on those things, you would be better off working as an instructor at somebody else’s gym.

David Ross:
If you want to run a martial arts’ gym, ask yourself if you really want a BUSINESS. There are three steps to consider both whilst running a martial arts’ gym and before opening one these are:

  • Acknowledge it is a business, and if you don’t want that just stop right there.
  • As a business, realize that you have to sell a product that people want, not what you want.
  • And number three, ASK FOR HELP, seek out help… and keep an open mind.

These are the factors that you should be thinking about in order to create a successful gym, so if you are running a gym already or planning on opening one. Then think have you done what you can to make it successful, have you learnt to use the resources around you to the best of your advantage, or are you struggling because you refuse to learn something new or ask for help.


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Posted in Articles, Portfolio

Four Female Composers: Changing times, views and is it getting better for the ladies?

By Elizabeth Han Hopkins


betty Roe
Picture of Betty Roe

A music publisher once said: “We definitely want to publish it. Will you be willing to change your name to George?”

These were the words that 84 year old female composer, singer, and conductor Betty Roe was confronted with. After her hugely successful composition and performance of Christus Victor in 1964, a work that Alan Ridout, a British composer said could change the course of English church music in the way that “Stainer’s Crucifixion” had done. Ms. Roe had to make a choice as to whether or not to use a male pseudonym on the publication of her work; this was a common practice during that time. However unlike most Ms.Roe said that she had: “Foolishly said no, I would not change my name to George. It did sell but not very well, and eventually the publisher did not want to handle it anymore, so I brought the remaining stock up myself.”

Even though it was a very difficult time and was not easy for her to get her work published, this did not deter Ms. Roe. She and her late husband John Bishop decided to set up a publishing company called, Thames Publishing in 1970 so that she would be able to publish her compositions. Since they have been published her compositions have been successful and performed on various occasions.

Ms. Roe does think that the industry is improving for women composers and says: “I suppose it is getting better otherwise we would not have had the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors(BASCA) Women in Classical Music forum event where Jessica Duchen, interviewed five female composers from classical music. There certainly has been more interest in me since then, according to Iain Snedden, (the head of the Betty Roe Society page) and I am writing a new composition at moment.”

She still is an active composer and has created over 100 compositions since she first started, but has only recently achieved an MBE for her services to classical music and composition, which she received in 2011.


Nicola Lefanu
Picture of Nicola LeFanu

Another composeress, who believes that the industry is improving for women composers, is 67 year old Nicola LeFanu. Who said: “Certainly at the moment there is a wonderful crop of women composers and there are a great many women composers being performed; which is wonderful.” However Ms.LeFanu still has her concerns the main one being: “That people realize it is improving but this does not mean that everything is now alright and always will be. So what we have to hope is that the present generation of young women will in 20, 30 years’ time will still be having the great exposure that they are having at the moment, because it does tend to go in cycles. In which everything seems fine and as though there is a proper equality of opportunity, but then 10 or 15 years later it has gone away again.”

This cycle is something Ms.Lefanu has seen first-hand, as she composed in a time whereby there were many possibilities for women composers, as Ms.Lefanu explains that: “there were a lot of us who happened to be women and were having wonderful opportunities, I was composing for the proms, the opera house and all these kinds of things and so were my friends,” However: “In the 1980s that was not the case. We had these wonderful opportunities and the next generation were not getting them. So it seemed to me it was up to us who had, had good opportunities to speak up for them.”

Although Ms.Lefanu herself does not feel as though she has faced any hardships being a woman composer, as she has composed over 100 works which have been widely played, broadcast, and recorded. She does want to help those who have not had as many opportunities. Ms.LeFanu said that: “I am much more aware of the need to fight for other people because I feel that I have had fantastic chances all through my life, but it is true that you have to very single-minded. As every now and again you will come across someone who is very prejudice but you just have to ignore it because it is their loss. I am not aware of prejudice towards myself but I am aware of the kind of prejudices that are still around.”

In order to keep equal opportunities for female composers, there needs to be continuous reminder that there are women in this field and that they too need to have a proportionate representation in the classical music industry. As there are as many talented and up-coming female composers as there are men.


Chertl Frances-Hoad.jpg
Picture of Cheryl Frances-Hoad by

Likewise Cheryl Frances-Hoad a 34 year old composeress did not feel as though she had faced many hardships as a female in the industry, but she does feel as though she was lucky.

She said, “It is only now I realise how lucky I have been because, I went to the Yehudi Menuhin School a specialist music school based in Surrey at the age of 8 and have been networking ever since. I have probably written 5 pieces for people who I was at school with when I was young.” Networking with performers and building strong relationships with them plays a big part in composers getting known.  Ms. Frances-Hoad for example, keeps in contact with old school friends many of whom are now active in the music world and made new friends in the competitions she entered. Along with networking Ms.Frances-Hoad also actively looked for opportunities and entered competitions. One of the first competitions she won was the BBC Young composer’s award 1996 which she did when she was only 15 years old. It was also the competition that made her realize that composing was the career path for her. It was this competition that opened up many opportunities for Ms.Frances-Hoad in terms of commissions.

Though it is currently easier for women composers than before, in terms of getting their selves known in the industry, “women’s music is still very much unrepresented on things such as the radio and there needs to be an increased knowledge on the part of concert promoters about what women’s music currently exists,” said Ms.Frances-Hoad.

The under representation of women’s music is especially evident in honourable music events such as the BBC proms, as can be seen in Jennifer Fowler’s survey of women in the BBC Proms 2014. Whereby there were only 8 out of 124 (6.2%) composers who were women. Although this was considered as to be a good year for women composers as 8 women composers in the proms is a larger number than usual.


Danielle Howard
Photo of Danielle Howard by Andreea Tufescu

Still studying at the Royal College of Music is 21 year old composer Danielle Howard, who has had her pieces performed internationally, broadcasted on the BBC Radio 3 and televised on Channel 4. She said, she has not been through any hardships yet, but is aware that there are many female composers who have.

She said: “I have not met any resistance with performers playing my work, which is wonderful. Equally I am not taught about female composers and that side of it is not brought into my education. Therefore a lot of the people I look up to are male but it is not because they are male. It is just that those are the works I was taught and those are the works that I know. However other than that I have not had any issues with being a female composer.” If she was given the chance to learn about female composers in school, Ms.Howard said: “I would have loved to have learnt about female composers, and have had them in my text books. Even through secondary school, I have never heard of a female composer until the Royal College of Music; which is a bit late into music study to find out that there are female composers. I think it would make a big difference to how people perceive female composers if the ones who had made a difference musically and there are a lot, were also in the educational music syllabus.”

So even though women composers seem to be doing better than their predecessors in terms of having their work published, being performed and becoming known, there is still a large difference in the amount of women composers being represented compared to their male counterparts. Whether this is in school, in examinations, in media or in concerts, women are still being underrepresented. There is still a long way to go before there is complete equality in the industry and will the classical music industry ever truly be equal?