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Martial Arts Software Shootout! Pt 1

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With so many options available for managing your martial arts school, a martial arts instructor or school owner often asks:

“What is the best martial arts software for my academy?”

The answer is tough to narrow down sometimes. It depends on your goals.  Here are some questions to ask yourself to get started:

  • Do I want to use a dedicated billing company…or…do I handle billing in-house?
  • Do I want to install a program on my computer? Or would I prefer web-based software?
  • How important is security to me?
  • Do I want automatic backups done for me…or can I manage all my own backups?
  • Am I an advanced computer user or a basic computer user?
  • Will I be the sole person using my martial arts software? Or will I have multiple instructors using it?
  • Do I want to track attendance? Will I need to purchase external hardware?
  • Do I need advanced options…or simply the easiest way to manage my martial arts school?

In this article, we take the biggest martial arts school management programs head-to-head and put them to the test.  Which one comes out on top?  Keep reading to find out. In the meantime, here’s some background.

Martial arts software can be broken down into two basic categories: “dependent software” and “independent software”. Let’s talk about each.

Dependent Software

Dependent software is tied to a billing company. To manage your martial arts academy with dependent software, you must also use the services of the particular billing company that offers it. In other words, it’s proprietary.

The best-known example of dependent software is Perfectmind from ChampionsWay. Other software in this category include: ASF’s software, MindbodyOnline and a few others.

Billing companies entice customers with school management software, then “upsell” school owners on using their billing services.  This is where billing companies make their real money – by taking a percentage of each student who walks through your door.

While dependent software has certain features and advantages school owners like (such as good reports), there are four main flaws:

  1. Inflexible – If you like the software but want to do your billing in-house (or use another company’s services), you’re out of luck. You cannot use this software by itself. If you decide to change billing services, you’re out of luck. Your martial arts software goes with them. You can’t use the software anymore – even though you invested time and money in learning it.
  2. Complex – Most dependent software requires extensive time and training to get up and running. This is because its myriad features and options are tied to that specific company’s billing practices.
  3. Technology Lock-Ins – Many dependent software solutions track attendance. However, the particular bar-code (card) scanners required are propriery and cannot be used if you switch services.
  4. Expensive -Finally, this type of software is expensive. Unfortunately, it’s hard to accurately gauge how much you’re actually paying for the software because it’s so closely tied to the billing system. Estimates range, however, between $200 and $500 per month for using this type of software. Keep in mind, using the services of a billing company often requires you sign a long-term contract.

While the promise of “we do it all for you” might sound attractive at first, many school owners find this one-size-fits-all approach does not work for them.

For example, what if you want to change your billing company? What happens to your data? In many cases, it’s difficult, time-consuming and expensive to “export” your data from a billing company’s application and switch to a new one.

For this reason, we recommend choosing dependent martial arts software only if:

  • You have considerable time to invest in learning the software…
  • You have a sizable budget…
  • You don’t mind being married to this billing company for the long-haul.

For part two of our review on martial arts software, we’ll discuss “independent software”. Stay tuned!

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