I suspect a lot of people will think it's the growth of the UFC and MMA. Or maybe the re-emergence of grappling based systems, but that's really not it.
The biggest change in the martial arts is the same change that has happened in almost everything... the internet.
What the internet has done has given accountability to businesses and taken power from the instructors and given it to the students / clients.
If we teach you a technique poorly you'll find out, there are countless videos online showing every possible technique from every possible perspective and variation. Instructors are no longer the guardians of hard to find knowledge. It's all gone public, our role has shifted to curators, organizers and coaches.
If we treat our customers poorly they won't just tell 5 close friends... they will tell 500 or even 5000 online. Students have access to a lot more information from a lot more sources then they ever did in the past. 15 years ago the only real information you where likely to find about any business would be stuff coming from that business.
The internet has really helped the martial arts, and every other sort of business by forcing everyone to up their game. Businesses are no longer the ones holding all the cards and everything spreads faster and farther.
We are not the right school for everyone, no one is. Which is another thing business can't get away with anymore. If you aren't the right fit for our school we don't want you here, it does neither of us any good. The great thing about the martial arts is the huge variety in both what gets done and how it gets taught. We'd rather recommend a place that is a good fit then have you here and unhappy. Signing up people on long term memberships that are not a good fit in a time of information spreading fast hurts businesses more then the gain from keeping them on a contract.
That's the biggest change to the martial arts as I see it. Now the power has switched from instructors and owners and a buyer beware environment to clients and students having a lot more information from a lot more sources and business not being able to hold all the cards.
Our goal is to get ahead of the curve, be the best we can at what we do and offer the best service and value we can.