How to Become a Judo Instructor

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Judo, translated from the Japanese as the “gentle way,” is a martial art developed by Kano Jigoro Shihan at the end of the 19th century. It was created as a physical, mental and moral discipline. Practitioners throw, takedown or submit to opponents using strikes, pins, joint locks, and chokes. In this way, Judo is similar to Jujutsu. The sport became an Olympic event in 1964. Today more than 20 million people practice Judo around the world, according to the International Judo Federation.

Judo instructor demonstrating a leg locking move on a partner

Judo instructors teach the martial art in addition to preparing class sessions and handling administrative work for the business.

Great physical fitness is essential for the successful Judo instructor, who must be able not only to demonstrate the techniques, but also observe students and help them make the physical adjustments necessary to improve.

As with other martial arts disciplines, students advance through different levels represented by a series of colored belts, the black belt being the highest level.

Judo instructors guide students through skill levels until they are ready for their tests to advance to the next stage in their training. Instructors also organize and supervise competitions to motivate students.

This rewarding career enables you to help others achieve peak physical fitness, learn how to defend themselves and enjoy a competitive sport embraced the world over. Read on to discover how you can get ready to become a Judo Instructor.

In this article you’ll learn:

  • How much money you can make as a Judo instructor
  • The required training and certifications
  • Professional groups to join
  • Employment opportunities for Judo instructors
  • Finding clients
  • Plus helpful tips

How much money can you make?

Judo instructors in the United States average almost $20 per hour, according to a recent survey by Indeed. That works out to about $40,000 annually. You can make more by running your own Judo school, depending on your ability to attract and retain students. We’ll cover that in the Finding Clients section of this article.

Judo fighters sparring in front of a crowd

Job prospects remain good for Judo instructors, due both to the popularity of this martial art and interest in physical fitness. The US Bureau of Labor reports that employment for all fitness instructors, including martial arts teachers, is likely to increase by 13% through 2028.

Training and Certification

You don’t need a formal license to offer Judo instruction. Possibly a business license if you are running a for-profit Judo school, but there are no government regulations on the actual instruction of Judo. Still, many martial arts instructors have no formal training in education – essential teaching skills and methods – so becoming certified can give you an edge over competitors applying for the same job. Some Judo schools may even require instructor certification as a condition of employment. Above all, earning certification can provide the knowledge to teach Judo with confidence.

There are three teaching levels in Judo, each with minimum age requirements and achievement/grade levels (known as a Dan):

Class A – minimum rank of 3rd Dan and age 21 or over

Class B – minimum rank of 1st Dan and age 18 or over

Class C – two years of judo training and age 16 or over

The World Wide Martial Arts Association is a non-profit organization that provides instruction to members, hosts training camps, supports coaches and students, and publishes educational materials. The USMAA is a large governing body that works to spread the values and high-quality examination, testing, and instruction standards. Certification is available through the USMAA.

Here is a listing of Judo instructor and certification programs to guide your research.

Professional Groups to Join

Getting involved with Judo professional organizations can be a huge benefit for your career. First, these affiliations look great on a resume. They provide evidence of your dedication to Judo and your professionalism as an instructor. Joining a professional organization provides many other benefits, as well. You can make new friends and network with other members. These valuable contacts can mentor you as you develop as an instructor. They can also help you find jobs – often before an opening is even advertised. Through professional memberships you’ll also have resources for continuing training, learning new teaching ideas and enjoying being part of something to which you are devoting your life’s work.

Judo instructor demonstrating a grappling move on a partner

Here are some of the leading professional associations for Judo instructors:

United States Judo Association promotes the art of Judo in the soul of jita-kyoei, meaning “shared advantage.” Their goal is to provide help, education, and a network of like-minded individuals to cultivate the development and appreciation of Judo in the United States. A $60 annual membership comes with benefits such as access to Accident and Liability insurance, members-only specials and rank verification.

United States Judo Federation is a non-profit organization that sets national standards and guidelines for the advancement of grassroots judo for students and members. The USJF is the oldest national Judo organization in the United States, and comprises local associations called Yudanshakai, including the Black Belt Holder’s Association, local clubs or schools (dojos), and individual members.

The Martial Arts Teachers Association offers training and certification for instructors, plus deep resources for learning how to run a profitable martial arts studio, as well as access to affordable insurance plans. Membership is $37 a month or $199 for a full year paid in advance.

There are also many informal Judo groups on social media. You can review an extensive list of Judo instructor networking groups here.

Judo instructor sparring with a partner


You’ll find job openings for Judo instructors at martial arts studios, public recreation centers, the YMCA, larger gyms with fitness programs and fitness centers focused on children.

Before applying for jobs, make copies of your resume. You’ll need printed copies as well as a resume for online distribution. For resumes going out by email, the best way to attach documents to your email is by creating .pdf files with Adobe Acrobat. These types of files are considered safe to send and are much less likely to trigger a spam alert in the recipient’s mailbox. Always send attachments as .pdf files and you improve the odds that your online correspondence reaches a real person, not a spam folder.

Also make photocopies of all your professional certifications and memberships in Judo organizations. These extra credentials set you apart from competitors for the same job, and prospective employers are more likely to put your application on the top of the pile when deciding who to interview for the position. Competition is fierce – on and off the Judo mat – so you may as well take advantage of every professional achievement you can show to an employer.

Finding Clients
Congratulations. You’re opening your own Judo studio. Before you can unlock the front door and welcome students, you’ll need to do some marketing.

Judo partners sparring during a class

Business cards and a website should be the core of your marketing toolkit as a Judo instructor. The website can be as fancy as you like, so long as it is attractively designed, with photos of your Judo studio, students practicing their moves and a few pictures of you in action, training students. Your business location and contact information must be clearly visible at the top of every page on your website. The upper right-hand corner is a good location, but wherever you display the information it should be in the same location on every page. Search engines scan this information to match your website geographically with people searching for a Judo instructor.

In addition to your business website, you’ll want to create an Instagram account to showcase your Judo studio. Instagram is the top online venue for professionals to present themselves. It’s free and it’s always working on your behalf.

Next, build out a free Facebook page for your Judo school. This is a great way to grow followers and keep them up-to-date on what’s happening at your Judo school. You can run promotions and create teaser links to your business website by offering articles and news about Judo.

Now set up a Google My Business page, where you can display your hours of operation, photos and an interactive map of your location. There’s also an area for people to leave reviews of your business, so you can encourage students to post nice comments on your Google My Business page.

Setting up a page on each of these sites should take less than an hour.

Other strategies for attracting new business:

  • Create a referral program with discounts for students who bring new people to class.
  • Ask students to review your Judo training online. According to a recent survey, 90% of people say their buying decisions are influenced by positive online reviews.

Good to know

Because Judo involves physical contact, classroom safety is the most important aspect of this sport and must be front-of-mind when students are practicing under your watch. Beginners, especially, are prone to mistakes that could injure themselves or their sparring partners.

Judo student posing in a ready position

Experienced instructors will tell you that personal hygiene is likewise important. Students must understand that they should arrive for class with clean hands and feet, including neatly trimmed fingernails and toenails to prevent nasty cuts and scratches.

Students should also be required to remove all jewelry and body piercings before starting practice.

As an instructor, your job is to clean and sanitize practice mats before the start of the next class.

If you enjoyed this article, check out some more great content that can help you grow your career as a judo instructor. Here’s a great place to start.

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