Martial Arts Universities: A Review

Most martial artists are focused upon their particular art - indeed, it takes years to gain proficiency in any art so that focus is understandable. They seek only to learn how to defend themselves or how to win tournaments using their particular style's techniques.

But there's a small segment of martial artists who want it all - they want not only their “base” style but knowledge of many other styles. They want to cross-train; they want the best of everything. They also want to know the history of martial arts, the physiological and psychological basis of the arts as well as how to run a martial arts business.

Now all of this can be learned by long and hard individual study, but sometimes it helps to have a more structured environment in which to pursue your studies. This is where the concept of the martial arts university comes in - it is formal education, often with certification or the receipt of a diploma, even undergraduate and graduate degrees - in the arts and sciences of the martial arts.

Only a relative handful of such institutions exist at this point in the United States and far fewer in Europe, and this is one field in which China holds a long lead. China has several very old and very trusted universities and schools devoted solely to instructing the students in the practice and management of martial arts - some even accept foreign students, so if you don't find what you like in YOUR area and you have the time and financial resources you might consider a Chinese school for your education. Be advised that many do not issue degrees, and any degrees you DO receive might not be accepted elsewhere.

The following is my attempt to gather and evaluate a few these schools, from the point of view of not only a practitioner but also as an experienced business owner. Note that your requirements will almost certainly be different; as always it is totally upon YOU to do the necessary research. This article is only intended to whet your whistle and show you the possibilities, and is not intended to be all-inclusive.

I also do not guarantee the quality or cost of any of these programs - I have not attended nor graduated from any of them so cannot provide first-person perspectives. Buyer beware.

B.A. Degree in Martial Arts Studies - University of Bridgeport

Located in Bridgeport, CT on the grounds of the former P.T. Barnum estate (!), UB offers a B.A. degree in Martial Arts Studies which includes:

  • Historical background and philosophical roots of the martial arts
  • Languages and cultures of the societies in which the martial arts originated and developed
  • In-depth study of at least one of the martial arts
  • Psychosocial dimensions of the martial arts and their impact upon personality and society

The base curriculum includes the following required courses:

  • MARTS 212 The History of Martial Arts
  • MARTS 213 Martial Arts and East Asian Thought
  • MARTS 261 Psychosocial Aspects of Martial Arts
  • MARTS 245 Martial Arts School Development
  • MARTS 299 The Dao of Business
  • MARTS 300 Martial Arts and Research Methods
  • WREL 205 Buddhism
  • WREL 229 Confucianism & Taoism
  • MARTS 278 Survey of the Martial Arts
  • MARTS 311 Communication and the Martial Arts
  • MARTS 312 Image and Reality in the Martial Arts
  • MARTS 330 Internship
  • MARTS 340 Senior Thesis/Presentation

As the “practical” part of the course you are required to choose from among only three styles - Taekwondo, Karate-do or Taijiquan. This I believe is a shortcoming of this course - students will certainly have far more differing tastes than just these three. But the core curricula seems rounded enough at first glance.

Undergrad degrees cost approx. $13,000 per semester, along with all the associated fees. Graduate programs charge $620 per credit hour.

The nice thing is that you earn your belts while you're simultaneously learning the theoretical, historical and business-related aspects of the arts, a style of learning which I wholeheartedly endorse.

University of Bridgeport - Home

MBA Degree in Martial Arts Management - Horizons University (Online/Intensives)

Horizons offers a two-year MBA degree in Martial Arts Management with a concurrent study of WKF-sanctioned Karate leading to a Black Belt rank (French WKF-issued) through a combination of home study via video testing and in-person Black Belt training and testing.

Year One:

  • Leadership of Contemporary Business Organizations
  • Financial Resource Management
  • Global Integration Processes
  • Business Research Application
  • Thesis and Internship

Year Two:

  • Martial Arts Management
  • Martial Arts Communication Skills
  • Comparative Martial Arts
  • Martial Arts in Competition
  • Thesis and Internship

I'm not really happy with the online-learning aspect of a physical martial art; even with the optional in-person workshops and mandated in-person testing for Black Belt I feel there are just too many hurdles that can be encountered in such a set-up. The core curricula seems acceptable, if a bit thin (no history or philosophy). Granted it's an MBA degree, but that's no reason not to have a well-rounded education in the arts.

Tuition is $4,600 / semester, which includes all fees and materials and membership in the KOTA on-line karate training program.

Horizons Online

Certificate, A.A. and B.A. Degrees in Martial Arts Studies - The American Martial Arts College

This is a brand-new institution located in San Antonio, TX that is not yet operational nor accredited. It plans to offer both on-line and residency programs; their plan is to offer only on-line training (with two 1-week residencies) for the first two years until accreditation, then switch to the combined program.

I have to say that in looking at their curriculum I am impressed - it's pretty much what I had in mind for my own school: comprehensive enough to give a thorough grounding in the arts yet pragmatic enough to provide for business success.

The “dean” of this college, Jason McLendon, seems to have an interesting background - an MBA in Organizational Security Management, a Yondan (4th degree Black Belt) in Karate, over ten years in the military teaching anti-terrorist and security courses and owns two currently-operating dojos. If nothing else, I give the man credit for his breadth of experience - at least on paper it appears he can walk the walk.

Fees: As a consequence of not being accredited AMAC cannot accept any financial-aid applications or participate in any government-aid programs, so their current prices are relatively low - $65 / credit hour. Once they receive their accreditation they will increase their fees to around $350 / credit hour.

My overall impression? Impressive on paper - not sure how it will all pan-out, and the lack of accreditation is a troubling aspect. Without it your degree is virtually useless except in the most self-directed educational sense.

The American Martial Arts College

M.S. Degree in Martial Arts - Amerstate University

Located in Racine, WI, Amerstate offers a full-residency Master of Science degree in Martial Arts. Their requirements for entrance are somewhat rigorous:

  • Proof of Bachelors degree
  • 4th degree or higher Black Belt
  • 12 years proven teaching experience
  • Certification of qualification as “Master Instructor” in martial arts

It seems to me that these requirements will severely limit the available student pool, as well as being somewhat questionable in terms of the “Master Instructor” requirement. Perhaps I'm missing something here, but if you've already been teaching for 12 years you've either succeeded or failed - you probably won't need what this degree program teaches you.

But if you DO have the requisite qualifications, the time and the resources this might be an interesting program. Everything takes place in one large building - separate male and female dormitories on the top two floors, a large martial training area and such niceties as a cafeteria, lounge, computer lab - even a golf range and bowling alley.

Their accreditation is questionable; they are a non-profit organization with the “approval” of the Wisconsin State Educational Board, but there is no mention of a national, recognized accreditation.

Tuition is $13,600 / year (2009-2010 prices); with living expenses, mandatory insurance and fees and materials you're looking at over $27,000 per year.

The curriculum fits the M.S. designation in that it offers little in the way of business knowledge, history or philosophy and never touches on allied modalities such as TCM; instead it focuses solely on development of the physical aspects of martial arts,competition and judging. It almost appears to be “finishing school” for the advanced practitioner, but if this is what you're looking for then give them a call.

Overall Impression: Not sure of this place. If they're still operating they should have recently graduated their fourth class this past spring - not a very long track record. In 2009 they had 10 instructors and 26 graduates, so at least you'll be assured of individual attention. The President, Grandmaster Jason Cho, is the nephew of Hee Il Cho, Taekwondo Grandmaster and founder of Action International Martial Arts Association (AIMAA).

At least he has some good roots.

Amerstate University

Schools / Universities in China

Here's a short list of schools and universities in China that offer both degree and non-degree programs - investigate at your own risk!

Once again, some of these schools offer English-language training; the others you'll have to know the Chinese language. Some are more accepting of foreign students, some have a more “closed-door” policy.

Good luck, and good learning!

Martial Arts | Martial Arts Philosophy

QR Code
QR Code martial_arts_universities_a_review (generated for current page)