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13 Martial Arts Industry Trends You Need to Know

martial arts

 The martial arts industry is booming, but that’s been building for decades.  

After coming to America shortly after WWII, US Navy veteran Robert Trias (known as the father of US martial arts) started giving private lessons. His influence led to a wave of growth in the martial arts, and wave upon wave has come since then. Another surge followed in the 70s when Bruce Lee film like Enter the Dragon were hugely successful. Since the 2010s, the rising popularity of UFC and MMA has seen another rise in Americans taking up martial arts.

Martial arts studio trainers that stay on top of trends have an extra edge in remaining relevant and scaling up their. Like, seriously: in the last half of the 2010s, martial arts industry growth in the US was over 3.8%. At Glofox, we’re supporting hundreds of martial arts schools in managing their memberships and services, so we’ve got a bird’s eye view of the industry. 

Let’s dive into some martial arts industry statistics, and then some of the key trends that’re motivating millions of people to throw on gloves and join their local studios. Soon, you’ll be ready to grow like never before. 

Martial arts industry statistics at a glance

  • In 2020, the global martial arts industry was valued at $90.25 billion – it’s predicted to increase to $171.14 billion by 2028
  • There are over 42,000 martial arts schools in America, employing around 70,000 people (many studios are owner-run)
  • In 2021, 2.34 million Americans took part in martial arts training for fitness

Martial arts business and revenue data

  • US martial arts studio revenue has been climbing at a compound aggregate growth rate (CAGR) of 1.1%
  • Martial art studio members pay an average of $103 USD per month for their training
  • Average annual earnings for a martial arts instructor in the US are $40,249 USD
  • The martial arts industry’s market size has grown at an average rate of 18.7% since 2012, and grew to an estimated $10 billion by 2023

Martial arts studio demographics

The numbers don’t lie: the martial arts industry is kicking serious butt in the United States. Around 18 million Americans participate in martial arts at least once a year. This includes:

  • 9.4 million adults
  • 5.5 million teenagers
  • 3.2 million children

Your average martial arts practitioner is 33 years old, although children aged 6-12 are the largest age group of martial arts practitioners. The gender demographics are also quite even. This’s what the breakdown looks like: 

  • 60% of martial arts students are men
  • 40% of martial arts students are women

Revenue statistics for popular martial arts and combat sports

Wondering what some of the most popular martial arts disciplines earn on average per year? Here’s how the relative annual revenues for different types of martial arts studios stack up:

Mixed martial arts (MMA) comes out right on top, with boxing, Brazilian jiu-jitsu and karate bringing up the rear. Smaller disciplines like krav maga and kickboxing aren’t on the list—but that’s not to say that they aren’t winners, either. (We know lots of successful gyms that focus on both.) 

Why are youth martial arts so popular? 

Parents are always on the lookout for ways to help keep their kids active, and martial arts classes for young people are a perennial favorite. Children can get started with martial arts starting around 4 and upwards, although ages 6-12 are the peak years. On average, kids participate for just over two and a half years before they drift off into other activities—or get hopelessly addicted to Minecraft. (Either or, right?) 

It’s not just parents: media also contributes to the growth in the martial arts’ popularity. Superhero films and other movies that include martial arts style content tend to cause a surge in interest from young people. Most young participants stop by the age of 9, but research shows that teenagers who practice martial arts have increased confidence and feel part of a community to a significantly higher degree than those taking part in other sports.

Your guide to becoming a top martial arts school

Staying in business isn’t a cakewalk. All across the country, martial arts schools open and close frequently. Getting yourself known as one of the top MMA schools—or one of the best for any martial art discipline—takes time and effort. 

However, being the best martial arts school in your local area is way easier. You may not be turning out the top fighters in your country, but by marketing your local gym well, you can build a thriving roster of martial arts clients Martial arts studios that teach kids aged 7-12 or men aged 25-34 are likely to appeal to the widest audience, ‘cause those are the peak training years. 

13 martial arts studio industry trends you need to know

When it comes to martial arts, trends have a massive influence on the types of studios that open up—and where consumers’ money goes. With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the most popular martial arts trends in America:

1. Mixed Martial Arts 

Fuelled by the growth of UFC, MMA is incredibly popular, and the number of practitioners is growing faster than ever. Right now, many fitness studios and gyms are offering MMA classes as they try to leverage the sports’ growing popularity.

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2. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

Closely linked to Kodokan Judo fighting principles, this sport is heavily based on ground grappling—and using your legs. It’s a fighting technique in its own right, but Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is also one of the many martial art disciplines used in MMA. (Khabib Nurmagomedov is a master.) 

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3. Muay Thai 

Thailand’s national sport is only continuing to grow in popularity. Muay Thai weaponizes body parts such as arms, feet, elbows, knees, fists, and shins. New York’s Hit House specializes in 50-minute Muay Thai classes that offer a full workout in a fun environment.


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4. Kickboxing 

New kickboxing studios are still popping up everywhere. Kickboxing studios provide an intense, full-body workout that really gets the adrenaline going and the heart pumping. Fitness franchise 9Round is a great example, if you want to see some winners in action. 

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5. Karate 

Karate will always be popular. Millions of students train in the striking-based martial art, and it’s been a martial art of choice for generations of practitioners. Teaching a range of deflection and self-defense techniques, this sport has been immortalized in films like The Karate Kid

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6. Taekwondo 

Taekwondo is a Korean martial art that blends punching and kicking—and that emphasizes a mix of physical and mental strength for practitioners. One of the oldest martial arts, it’s been popular for decades and is still booming. Membership applications typically skyrocket every four years when Taekwondo is featured at the Summer Olympics.

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7. Kung Fu 

Kung Fu is a catch-all term encompassing hundreds of fighting styles developed across China over thousands of years. It’s one of the oldest martial arts and is practiced worldwide. Like most martial arts, participants value kung fu for self-defense skills and health benefits. North Sky Kung Fu in New York is a great example of a successful kung-fu practice, if you’re curious.   


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8. Krav Maga

Krav Maga is a self-defense and fighting style that was first developed by the literal Israeli military, and eventually caught on worldwide. It’s a mixture of techniques that takes fighting principles from boxing, judo, jiu-jitsu, and aikido. The primary goal in Krav Maga is to quickly neutralize any threat—which makes it a tad more deadly than your average self-defense art.


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9. Boxing fitness 

Boxing-inspired fitness studios are on the rise—thanks in large part to the number of celebrities and influencers who’ve posted about their workouts. Overthrow Boxing Club in Brooklyn gives a perfect example of the blend of self-defense, fitness, and straight-up fun.Classes are led by pro fighters and top-level amateurs, and combine intense anaerobic workouts with high-energy music. (Love that.) 

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10. Judo 

Judo was the brainchild of Japanese instructor, Kanō Jigorō, who used his experience with childhood bullying in 1882 as a motivator for developing the art. It’s a takedown martial art that includes limited striking and joint-lock maneuvers. Judo grew in popularity after being named an Olympic sport in 1964, and it’s remained popular ever since.

11. Self-Defense Classes 

Self-defense isn’t a specific martial art, but it’s a trend that caters to more casual practitioners who want help staying safe. Folks from more vulnerable communities often go for self-defense, and organizers say there has been an increase in demand for classes from the women and LGBTQ+ community in recent years. One program developed by Shaan Sar in Orlando, Florida has been specially adapted for the LGBTQ+ community, and it’s super popular.

12. Kali 

Also known as Arnis or Eskrima, Kali is different from most other popular martial arts. Originating from the Philippines, it’s a high-octane martial art practiced using weapons—so be prepared for a lot of noise! If you’re looking for something a little different, Kali can help mix up your whole approach to combat while delivering an amazing workout.    

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13. Tai Chi 

Described as a moving meditation, Tai Chi is a traditional martial art that comes from ancient China. Slow, gentle movements and deep breathing help improve flexibility and balance. Some classes combine Tai Chi, Qigong & Yin Yoga. Fitness retreats are also jumping on the martial arts bandwagon with month-long detox retreats focusing on martial arts, meditation, self-defense, and cultural exchanges.   

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The Future of the Martial Arts Industry

The martial arts industry is only going to get more popular, and studios that want to adapt to trends and create flexible offerings need a solid technical infrastructure behind them. You’ve got to be able to remind people about bookings, deliver follow-ups, manage sign-ups… and that’s still just the tip of the iceberg. 

Luckily, that’s where Glofox comes in. Our simple dashboard makes it easy to unify your studio’s memberships, administrative tasks, and financial tasks, so you can laser-focus on teaching martial arts. Soon, you’ll be growing a loyal client base and building the gym you’ve always dreamed of. (Love that.)

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