Academic journal article Journal of Marketing and Management

Services Marketing in Mixed Martial Arts, Developing Jiu Jitsu in Seoul, Korea

Academic journal article Journal of Marketing and Management

Services Marketing in Mixed Martial Arts, Developing Jiu Jitsu in Seoul, Korea

Article excerpt


Although they have their roots in Asian systems of combat, due to an assortment of factors martial arts have managed to enjoy a sort of rebranding and are now used to achieve a diversity of goals: self-defense, combat sports, physical fitness (Hallander, 1987), and mental control training (Columbus & Rice, 1991; Daniels & Thornton, 1990; Finkenberg, 1990; Law, 2004; Richman & Rehberg, 1986; Spear, 1989; Trulson, 1986).

Since its introduction to a wide audience through the Ultimate Fighting Championship (Ultimate Fighting Championship [UFC], 2013), which began in the US in 1993, and Pride Fighting Championship (Pride FC, 2013), which began in Japan in 1997, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (often called BJJ or simply Jiu Jitsu) has spread worldwide. In part, it was thanks to the early successes of its practitioners that Jiu Jitsu quickly gained a reputation for dominating other fighting systems.

The wave of interest has even managed to reach the shores of Korea, which has a highly competitive market. For example, Taekwondo and Hapkido, both developed in Korea hundreds of years ago, remain very popular (World Taekwondo Federation, 2013) (World Hapkido Federation, 2013). Therefore, although many mixed martial artists train in Jiu Jitsu to prepare for grappling and ground fighting (UFC, 2013), Jiu Jitsu faces more than one type of challenge in Korea. Anyone wanting to train has a number of well-established martial arts from which to choose. On top of that, martial arts' rebranding as a sport and a way to achieve physical fitness puts Jiu Jitsu in direct competition with all other sports organizations.

The success of Jiu Jitsu academies in a highly competitive market depends on the academies' willingness to adapt to the marketplace. Generally, academies are still virtually 100% reliant on membership fees for income. The revenue generated from membership fees actually consists of two separate channels: the first is attracting new students to the academy, and the second is retaining those students once they have joined.

Academies understand that effective marketing as well as productive management strategies need to be employed to maintain financial stability. For them to generate a full return on their time and effort, a good understanding of the marketplace is required.

Even with academies' acceptance of the importance of marketing, martial arts academies as a group are still falling behind other industries. (Ko, 2003) There have been multiple studies focusing on the reasons to participate in martial arts (Ko & Valacich, 2004), but research focusing on Jiu Jitsu academies regarding market demand variables has not yet been conducted. The purpose of this study is to understand the specific motivations behind learning Jiu Jistu so the industry can continue to grow.

Literature Review

Brief Background on Jiu Jitsu

Traditionally, when people in Korea think about martial arts, they think of Eastern martial arts such as Taekwondo, Kung Fu and Karate. From early childhood, Koreans are exposed to martial arts. Elementary schools are full of students wearing Taekwondo kimonos in preparation for after-school classes. During their mandatory military service, Korean men learn Taekwondo as part of their training (Black Belt, 2013). Martial arts are also present in mainstream entertainment. Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan are household names. From direct training to fanciful representations in popular culture, martial arts are a part of everyday life.

In many ways, the mechanics of Jiu Jitsu are the same as those of other martial arts. Gracie Jui Jitsu Academy explains that the originators "applied laws of physics such as leverage, momentum, balance, center of gravity, friction, weight transmission and manipulation of the human anatomy's vital points in order to create a scientific art of self-defense" (Gracie Jiu Jitsu Academy, 2013). Broadly speaking, Jiu Jitsu is a combination of Judo and submission wrestling and grappling. …

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