During my 25 years of Martial Arts teaching and study one of the most asked questions is, “How do I pick a good Martial Arts School??” Choosing an art seems to be one of the hardest questions but is actually one of the easiest. Every Martial Art has the same goals. They look very different and their approach varies but ultimately a student is looking for balance in his or her life and that is what any Martial Art gives you.
I am partial to Tae Kwon Do probably because that is what I started out in, but I have studied a number of different arts, and each Art has very fine qualities. Having said that and whether or not you have decided on a particular art it’s time to visit some schools.
It’s easier to feel more comfortable if you know someone that is already studying a Martial Art to go visit that school because you will have a great deal of information from your friend before you even show up. If you are hitting it cold here are some things to look for.
If the school has a policy that you can not watch….go to the next school on your list. I have always felt that if I can’t watch they must be hiding something. Some schools use this as a ploy to peak your curiosity so you will join sight unseen just to see what is going on in there. It is generally not worth it.
If they let you watch you should look for several things. If there is someone else watching strike up a conversation with them. If they are one of the students parents or a current student you will gain a great deal of information. They won’t mind telling you what they think about the school, the instructors, or anything prevalent. If no one else is there look for the relationship between the instructor and his or her students. Pay attention to the time spent with each student and the conversation that takes place between them. Don’t be disappointed if they don’t come over right away and tell you about their marvelous program. If they take awhile to acknowledge you and let you know they will get to you in a moment then you know the instructor cares about the students. This is a good sign. When you do have a minute to talk to the instructor you should ask not only the price and schedule but also if there is a contract(more on that later), how many students are in the school, men, women, children ratio, (50% to 60% of most schools now days consist of children), ask the questions that will answer why it is you personally want to study.
On contracts. Some schools require a contract. Usually it works this way. If you join monthly = more money a month if you sign up for longer periods = less money a month. Contracts will give a student some incentive to continue if they are discouraged but will also bring a bill collector if for some reason you can not continue or decide that this isn’t for you. This ends up being a personal choice.
In my particular school we do not have contracts for two reasons. They are a bit cumbersome from a bookkeeping point of view, and I really don’t think I could sue someone for not paying therefore we run month to month with a great deal of success.
In summary, try to visit as many schools as you can before you decide. Be sure you are comfortable with the instructor(s) at the school you choose, remember that age is not an issue, I have had students from 4 years old to 70, and most importantly have fun while you are studying!
by Master John Rankin