Using Meetup for the Martial Arts
When Mr. Chick and I moved to Kansas City, we started the Kansas City Presas Arnis Meetup almost immediately.
It was literally within a couple of weeks of the final move from Texas. We moved on June 4, 2018, and the first Meetup was on June 16, 2018. So, 12 days(!) from move to Meetup.
Originally, our goal was twofold.
First, to reserve time in the week for us to just train. We knew we needed to get away from our house and all the things we do and just focus on martial arts for a couple of hours a week. While we focused in on Arnis, when it was just we two, we also trained in other things as well.
Second, to attract a few other people to train with, and to teach, not only for our own progress but to spread the art in our new city. Maybe we'd develop a core of people to form a school with, much later down the line...
We started in a local park on Saturdays. Later, a friend offered us training space on Sunday mornings, and given it can easily get in the single-digit temps here in KC in the winter, we gratefully accepted. We moved the Meetup indoors in early 2019.
It has to be Sunday morning, as Sundays are NFL football days, and Kansas City takes that sport very seriously. It's hard to do much of anything when the Chiefs are playing. Your city might not have that idiosyncrasy, but it's true here, and has been for decades.
It's important to know stuff like that when you schedule a Meetup.
A session of our Meetup is 1-1/2 hours, and is basically whatever Mr. Chick & I feel like teaching or training on any given Sunday. Sometimes we train things in mind for our students to work on, sometimes it's something we want to do for ourselves, or sometimes we saw something cool somewhere and we want to play around.
After we came back to live training after the worst of COVID lockdowns here, in August 2020, we added in a second Meetup session, Pacific Archipelago Concepts - that one Mr. Chick teaches, and I sometimes help out with. So our Sunday mornings are busy with martial arts from 8:30 am to 11:30 am.
I know, you're probably wondering about curriculum, and rank, and all that stuff we normally worry about in a formal class.
The Meetup, for us, isn't a formal class. It's a Meetup.
There is no set curriculum, there is no rank being given, and it's free. We just train for fun. The only money we make is from selling people training weapons, and maybe they'll buy some of the t-shirts we have on Teespring (here and here and here for Stick Chick blog stuff, while we're on the subject)
We have people that will probably eventually want to seek rank, and we'll probably work out what that looks like with those individuals, but the format of the Meetup is still "whatever strikes our fancy".
Generally, we have a core group of about four people who come on the regular, another group of about 6-7 who come when they can but are less regular (work, health issues, and other obligations can make it difficult sometimes for them), and we've had maybe another 10 people visit and train once or for a few sessions and then move along to other interests.
A nice, solid FMA training group. We were even able to keep going virtually during the COVID-19 lockdown!
Not bad, given the only money we spend on it is our yearly organizer membership to Meetup.com itself - we don't do any other paid advertising on the regular.
I'm writing about this today because you might be thinking you need or want to start up a martial arts training group of your own, and don't know how to start. Or you don't have the money to do things like rent a place, pay for advertising, etc. yet, but you want to try to get a martial arts group going now that you can.
Meetup.com is a fantastic way to get going with martial arts training, either as an organizer, or as an individual looking for training.
Individuals can join Meetup for free, but organizers pay a fee, based on how many members they can allow in their group. If you're organizing a Meetup, you should start with the cheapest plan, and when you get to within a few members of the next level, move up to the next plan.
THIS guide walks you through the process of getting going. You can do virtual Meetups as well as in-person (helpful if you want to develop a distance training program with folks, but you need a virtual meeting service like Zoom or Google Meet to make the actual session work - I'm partial to Google Meet myself).
Note: If you keep the cheaper plan over time, you will eventually have to monitor non-active members and remove them periodically. It might be worth that to you, to keep the organizer cost down, but I quickly got tired of it, and I just changed the plan to unlimited members.
I'm not going to walk you through the details how to use Meetup itself here. There are tutorials on Meetup.com that will help you. Once it's set up, I strongly advise you to download the app onto your smartphone. I use the app on my phone to manage my Meetup stuff most of the time.
You can use Meetup as a way to contact your students as well (newsletter, announcements, etc.). It's very basic, but very easy to use. Require all your students to join your Meetup on the site, and they'll get those communications.
After you have a Meetup group, try to have at least one other Social Media channel popular with the kind of people who train with you actively promoting it. It could be Instagram, MeWe, Facebook, Tik-Tok, Twitter, whatever. We use Facebook and MeWe on the regular, but I have other active channels I'll share Meetup info to once in a while (and of course, I mention it every Friday here on the blog, too).
Then set a date for your first session. Meetup will notify people in your area that are interested in martial arts (or other keywords) that your Meetup is happening and they might be interested in attending.
You can set sessions to recurring, which means Meetup will automatically create a new session for you until you tell it not to (and it will automatically send a notification to your group members to remind them to come).
You can cancel a session (which everybody has to do sometimes) and Meetup will notify members that you canceled it.
See? Pretty simple and easy.
You can do something similar on Facebook with Facebook Events, but a lot of people - especially young adults - aren't on Facebook anymore. And while Facebook is "free", it won't automatically share your stuff to people interested in what you are doing, you have to pay for Ads to do that.
Nothing is ever really totally free, y'all.
Speaking of which, you can charge for Meetup sessions. Meetup can help you collect those fees as an organizer, versus having to do extra stuff yourself.
Ultimately, if you're looking to start a martial arts training group on the cheap, it's hard to beat Meetup.com. Easy, inexpensive, and very good at helping people find you. You don't have to be super tech-savvy to make this work, and I know for a lot of you, that's really important.
Do you use Meetup? What tips and tricks do you have to share? Is there another service you like better? If so, what is it? How do you organize YOUR martial arts training group (not in a school)? Do you have questions about using Meetup? Let us know in the comments!