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How a grandmaster became a franchise master

3 min read


One of the reasons I went into the martial arts business was to help children. It’s no secret that I was bullied as a kid. I know what it’s like to be picked on, but also how it feels to build confidence, character and stay safe through the use of martial arts.

When I opened my first karate studio in 1991, it felt good to know that I was making a difference by helping children learn inspiring and motivational life skills. When the opportunity came up to begin franchising, the first thought that came to my head was, “Working one-on-one, I’m impacting hundreds of children. With franchising, I can impact thousands.” And that’s exactly what I’ve done.

With the franchise model we use, I’ve been able to train hundreds of people the lessons and skills I’ve acquired in my 20-plus years of martial arts.

I went from owning six studios to more than 170 licenses sold. When it comes to franchising, it’s all about demand. When I started, there were no martial arts franchises. I learned quickly that successful franchises were systems-based, not personality-based. The key system needs to start a franchise are documentation, operation manuals, marketing, sales and development, real estate, IT and support.

I took everything I learned in the dojo and I put it into systems. That’s a drill that anyone can do for any business. I’ve done my best to develop a business model that’s sustainable on profit and trust. I consulted with many franchise veterans for valuable experience, and learned that a solid and fair ROI was paramount.

One of the things to help us succeed was showing the benefits of martial arts and starting a business you can believe in. Our programs are built to help children increase confidence, energy and spirit. If you’re a parent, you know how important that is. Also, the adult fitness market continues to grow, and incorporating that into the business was huge.

The next thing we wanted to show potential franchise buyers was that you don’t need martial arts experience to succeed. Hiring good employees is important, as is investing in an infrastructure. The business plan was designed for self-motivators with management and people skills. The rest was covered in training.

Pro Martial Arts is really for anyone who has a passion to start their own business and become involved in their community. Once we could show prospective clients that they didn’t necessarily need martial arts experience, and that we could develop a plan and work together to make their dream come true, we opened up the door to success.

That’s a key difference in starting a business and starting a franchise: being there for the client. We have to take a much different role and be as supportive and helpful as possible. For us to succeed in developing relationships and clients, we have to make sure they have the tools to succeed. And if they’re succeeding, that means children are learning discipline, confidence and life skills from martial arts.

My work is not just adding locations. It is making sure they open up and are profitable and contribute back to the community. And when everything is said and done, that’s what I’m most proud of.

Grandmaster Ed Samane is president and CEO of PRO Martial Arts Franchise Corp.  The health and fitness franchise provides a character education model using concepts from Samane that utilize martial arts fitness techniques to build self-confidence in children and young adults.