How to Become a Kung Fu Instructor

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Kung Fu broadly refers to any physical discipline or skill that requires hard work and practice. When it is used to describe martial arts, Kung Fu can be divided into two geographic categories – Wushu and Quanfa. The official Chinese term is “Wushu,” while in the Western world “Quanfa” or “quan” is more commonly used. So Shaolin Kung Fu is “shaolinquan” or “shaolin wushu” in Chinese, and Tai Chi Kung Fu is “taijiquan” or “taiji wushu.”

Kung Fu instructor sparring with a partner

Instructors teach the fighting techniques and principles of these ancient martial arts to students ranging from beginners to experienced Kung Fu practitioners. Shaolin Kung Fu, Wing Chun, and Tai Chi are common forms of Kung Fu, and each has its own techniques and guiding principles.

As a Kung Fu instructor, your job is to demonstrate fighting techniques to students, mentor them in practice, and show what adjustments to make to sharpen their skills. Students work their way through different levels of Kung Fu styles. Those who dedicate themselves to the martial arts eventually attain the level of black belt. In fact, almost all Kung Fu instructors hold a black belt in one style or another.

Tests and competitions can be part of the learning experience so students are motivated to excel.

Another part of your work as a Kung Fu instructor involves lesson planning, organizing and promoting competitions, handling the logistics of traveling to events as well as the administrative aspects of running a business. These are all skills you will learn in training to become an instructor.

Once certified to teach, you can work for a studio, school or gym, or start your own business. Whichever path you choose, you’ll enjoy the satisfaction of a career with deep roots in culture and history, spiritual values, good health and the art of self-defense. Read on to learn how you can become a certified Kung Fu instructor.

In this article you’ll learn:

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

How much money can you make?

Kung Fu instructors in the United States average $36,138 annually, according to a recent survey conducted by

Kung Fu instructors leading a class in a park

Nationwide, the top 10 percent of Kung Fu instructors make $63,690 a year. Running your own school gives you the opportunity to earn much more when you invest the time in marketing to attract and retain students.

Training and Certification

No formal licensing is required to teach martial arts in the United States, however, certification as an instructor will set you apart from trainers who are not accredited. In addition, some employers may require certification to hire a Kung Fu instructor. At minimum, training can provide the confidence and knowledge necessary to teach martial arts effectively.

There are hundreds of Kung Fu schools and training programs for instructors, available both in-person and online. Certification programs vary from 40 hours to more than 200 hours.

Kung Fu student posing in a defensive stance

Online courses are available for as little as $20. Individual instruction in-person will give you much more interaction with an experienced instructor, for which you can expect to pay more.

Rather than allow your training options to become overwhelming, consider calling a few Kung Fu schools and studios throughout your state and ask the owner what sorts of certifications she or he expects when hiring new instructors and whether the school focuses on a particular Kung Fu style. After a few of these interviews you’ll be better prepared to choose a training program most likely to help you land a job as a Kung Fu instructor.

Some of what you’ll learn while training as a Kung Fu instructor:

  • How to teach a specific style or styles of Kung Fu
  • Proper body conditioning, strengthening exercises
  • Base level combat training, including basic kicks and hand strikes
  • Improving physical stamina
  • History and traditions of Kung Fu
  • Basic business skills
  • How to run a Kung Fu school successfully

Here is a directory of Kung Fu instructor certification programs and training to help you get started in your research.

Professional Groups to Join

Joining a professional organization is evidence of your dedication as a Kung Fu instructor. You’ll enjoy networking with other members, access to ongoing training and education and the priceless ability to learn from more experienced instructors. Credentials that come with professional memberships can also be displayed at your studio, as well as on your website and marketing materials. Make friends with members and you’ll have contacts who can alert you to job openings that can advance your career.

Kung Fu instructor posing in a defensive stance

The Martial Arts Teachers Association is the world’s largest online professional association for martial arts instructors and school proprietors. A pro membership is $37 a month or $199 for a full year if paid in advance. The association offers certifications, rankings and affordable insurance plans, among other benefits.

The Association of Women Martial Arts Instructors was established to empower advanced women martial artists with learning, training, ranking, networking, and professional recognition. They believe knowledge shared teacher-to-teacher adds power to the individual and raises the whole world of martial arts. Annual dues are $50 or you can purchase a lifetime membership for $500.

The United States Traditional Kung Fu and Cultural Federation promotes the practice of Traditional Kung Fu. A non-profit organization, they are “committed to the highest standards of true Kung Fu.” The U.S. Traditional Kung Fu and Cultural Federation counts among its members, notable masters, sifus and schools that practice Traditional Kung Fu. A lifetime membership is $200. Benefits include having your school listed in the federation’s online directory.

In addition to professional organizations, there are dozens of informal groups you can review and consider joining on social media. Make new friends, learn about job openings and share class ideas. Here is an extensive listing of Kung Fu Instructor Networking Groups.


Look for job opportunities for Kung Fu instructors at martial arts studios, public recreation centers, the YMCA, larger gyms with fitness programs and fitness centers focused on children.

Children training in a Kung Fu class

You’ll want to make copies of your resume, both printed and for online distribution. When sending resumes by email, the best way to attach this document and supporting materials is by creating .pdf files of the documents with Adobe Acrobat. These types of files are considered safe to send and are far less likely to trigger a spam alert in the recipient’s mailbox. Follow this tip and you’ll have a much better chance that your online correspondence lands in front of a real person, not a spam folder.

Also make photocopies of your professional certifications and memberships in Kung Fu organizations. These extra materials can pull your application to the top of the pile and set you apart from competitors for the same job.

Finding Clients
Business cards and a basic website should be the core of your marketing toolkit as a Kung Fu instructor. The website can be as fancy as you like, so long as it is attractively designed, with photos of your karate studio, students practicing their moves and a few images of you in action, teaching students. Your business location and contact information should be clearly visible at the top of every page on your website. Search engines scan this information to match your website geographically with people searching for a Kung Fu instructor.

Kung Fu fighter ripping shirt open in celebration

In addition to your business website, the next thing to do is create an Instagram account to showcase your Kung Fu studio. Instagram is the #1 online venue for professionals to promote their work. It’s a free marketing tool that’s always working on your behalf.

Now set up a Facebook page for your Kung Fu school. This is a great way to build a following and keep people up-to-date on your offerings.

Be sure to create a Google My Business page, where you can add hours of operation, photos and an interactive map of your location.

All of the above services are free and setting up a page on each site takes less than an hour.

Other strategies for attracting new business:

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

Good to know

Experienced Kung Fu instructors say one of the keys to rapid student improvement – and retention – is to give all participants a homework assignment at the end of each class. This is typically a specific exercise, move, combination or body alignment for students to work on independently.

Person doing a Kung Fu pose with hands around the shape of the Sun

At the next session, everyone will hone in on that skill and use it to build upon the information covered in the current class. This fosters a constant sense of involvement and a competitive spirit, since students will be demonstrating their new skill in front of others. It also encourages regular training outside the classroom setting. As you know from your own experience with Kung Fu, more work is involved than just the training during class sessions with the instructor.

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