Finding the right martial arts school can be a daunting task. For example how do you:
- Evaluate the quality of the instruction?
- Know if you are going to get what you want out of training there?
- Know if you are paying the right price?
- Know if you have found the right school?
Martial arts instructors are literally fruit from their respective trees. The education and curriculum will vary by style, school and instructor, but the basics of what is taught is derived directly from their interpretation of how they were taught as students. And much like the “telephone game” where you sit in a circle and tell the person next to you one thing, by the time it is passed from person to person and returns to you it is invariably somewhat different. Since every instructor is unique how do you know if you are going to get quality instruction at the martial arts school you choose?
Here are some good questions you should seek the answers to when evaluating a school…
- When you first contact the school, how are you greeted? Is the person professional and polite in answering your questions? Make sure you speak with one of the instructors. Bear in mind that during class hours they are often on the floor and cannot take calls, so try to call during the morning or early afternoon on weekdays when they can spend more time with you.
- What are the school hours and how many classes do they offer? As a new student how many classes will you be allowed to attend? Some schools limit participation unless you join an advanced program. Do they offer morning, afternoon or evening classes? Does their schedule fit yours?
- Upon visiting the school what is your first impression? Is the school clean and organized? Are there viewing areas for parents and family to watch classes? Adequate changing facilities and restrooms? Are the training floors safe and padded?
- What is the primary focus of the school? Is the school about self-development? Self-defense? Tournament or competitive preparation? Physical fitness? Ask yourself, what do you want to focus on?
- What is the core philosophy of the teaching? Improving the physical being is only one of four main focuses in martial arts. The students emotions, mind and spirit must also be trained. To maintain a deep calm when challenges arise the teachings must prepare the student emotional. Their knowledge of what to do requires mental preparedness. Their belief system must be reinforced with positive influences that the student can radiate out.
- Do the students use hand and foot protection while sparring? Does the school sell or provide this equipment?
- How many students are there in classes? If the number of students is very small, perhaps it is a newer school, or…? Ask why there are not many students? If you go to a restaurant and it has few customers you will question if the food is good.
- What do the students, parents and family say about the school? They can give you feel for the school, especially family. They are likely to share both the good and the bad about their experiences.
- How many instructors are in each class? Their should be an adequate number of instructors to break out in groups by rank. That isn’t to say a senior instructor or master cannot teach a large group, indeed they can, but they will also assign junior instructors to work in smaller focus groups so students can work on the techniques they need to improve.
- How long are the classes? Classes should be at least 1 hour in length. This is necessary for the body to become warm. The physical being; the heart, circulation, lymphatic system and muscles need this amount of time to be thoroughly stimulated and activated.
- How are students promoted? What does it take to move from rank to rank? Are there written and oral as well as physical tests? How often are the testings? Are the students required to perform breaking?
- What types of programs do they offer? Can you try an introductory class? Can you pay month to month, or do you need to commit to a longer period? Do they offer discounts if you do commit to a longer term? Is there an initiation fee? If yes, what is included in the fee? A uniform? Protective equipment?
- Do they have certification, affiliation or accreditation? Does the master of the school have their certificate(s) displayed?
Armed with this preparation you can (and should) visit several schools before you choose. Just comparing the differences will help you to make the right decision in finding the school that teaches what you seek to learn.