Choosing a Martial Arts School
A Reference Guide for Beginners
Choosing a martial arts school for your child, or to train yourself is an important decision. As you research your options, keep in mind the different factors that go in to selecting a good place to train:
1. School Location
2. Staff and Instruction
3. Trial Period
4. Value and Price
7. Program Fit to Your/Your Child’s Goals and Needs
Our guide can help you find your unique needs and wants and also help you identify schools that can support you in exploring those goals. A martial arts school is a place you will spend many hours for a long period of time, so your thought process early on can help you stick with classes and learning over many years in your personal martial arts journey.
1. School Location
The EASIEST filter for a martial arts school is the location. Picking a school close to your home can cut down on commute times, give you a freer range for class and day availability, and cut down on some of the personal obstacles on getting to class. Start by getting a google local map or another map program to print out your local schools in a 1-, 3-, and 5- mile radius, with ideal locations being closer, and other schools as a reach. Much more than 5 miles away may be an option, but only if your other factors outweigh the commute.
2. Staff and Instruction
The customer service and quality of instruction will go a long way to making your experience a positive one. There are many questions to ask yourself and the staff at a martial arts school so that you can gauge their knowledge and professionalism- and ones you should ask yourself and others watching, as well.
|Questions for Yourself||Questions for those Watching||Questions for Staff|
|1. Was I greeted when I entered?||1. How long have you gone here?||1. How are instructors trained?|
|2. Was the staff communicative, friendly, and personable?||2. Are you happy with the service?||2. What rank must you be to be an instructor?|
|3. Do I understand the instructor, clearly?||3. Are you happy with the instruction?||3. How many people work here?|
|4. Is there someone available to answer my questions?||4. What have you gotten out of the program?||4. What can I expect for a student to teacher ratio?|
|5. Do I get a good “vibe” or “feeling” of community/family when I enter?||5. Is the program what you expected/have you gotten what you thought you signed up for?||5. Are your staff CPR and First Aid certified?|
The instructors at a school should be a high enough rank and have trained for long enough to be knowledgeable about their art. Belt rankings in colored belts vary by school, as do the requirements for a Black Belt. Ask the instructors how long it takes in a school to earn a rank, what rank they are, and how long they have been training for more information.
3. Trial Period
We all know we wouldn’t buy a car without driving it first, or buy clothes without trying them on. A significant trial period at a school gives you or your child an opportunity to know first-hand how classes, schedules, and commutes work for you- not for others. Any quality school will give you time to try their program before you decide to commit to training there for any length of time.
Know your budget walking in to the schools that you are trying trials at. Price should not be a final determiner- but everyone has a final price that fits in their budget. Try schools on the lower end, higher end, and middle of your budget so you know what you are getting for your dollar. Consider the overhead of a school- is a large facility, a clean facility, or a smaller class size important to you? You may pay more to have a cleaner, more professional feel to the school you are in, but that value may be worth it in the end. On the other side- you may not need a gigantic school or a very small class size to be comfortable, and may pay less to be in a larger class.
There are numerous martial arts styles, systems, and forms. Even under major topic headers like “karate” or “tae kwon do” there are subtle differences from school to school. Ask yourself and the school- is this an established system that is taught across the country, or the world? If you have to move, can you or you child find a school that teaches the same or similar system? Does the style meet your needs and wants for self-defense, tradition, and exercise requirements?
Finally, decide your own personal comfort level with the school and how it fits what you need and want for yourself or your children. Do the instructors teach in a way you understand? Does the style of teaching fit with your mantra- is it disciplined enough, fun enough? Are the students friendly and helpful? Do higher ranks seem happy and approachable? What is the mix of ages in the class? Make sure you speak to other students, parents, and employees to see how they feel about the school.
USE THE FOLLOWING TEST TO DECIDE HOW A SCHOOL FITS YOUR NEEDS:
|Terrible -2||Poor -1||Average 0||Good 1||Excellent 2|
|Location||Over 15 miles from my home||Over 5 miles from my home||Within a 3 mile radius of my home||Within a 2 mile radius of my home||Within a 1 mile radius of my home.|
|Staff||I am not greeted at the door, staff is surly, unknowledgeable, or does not understand me/I do not understand them.||Staff must be approached for any information, or is uninformed.||Staff is mild and friendly, but do not go out of their way to help||Staff greets me at the door, knows my name, and are friendly.||Staff are enthusiastic about me, remember me and make me feel at home. They are understanding and communicative and go out of their way to help.|
|Instructor||Does not have control of the class, doesn’t make him/herself clear and understood. Does not seem to enjoy what they are doing, over punishes or yells.||Instructor meets 80% of qualities to the left.||Instructor is enthusiastic but informed, or informative but unenthusiastic.||Instructor meets 80% of qualities listed to the right.||Enthusiastic about teaching, meets many different learning styles. Understanding, communicative, and expressive. Controls class with discipline but does not over-punish.|
|Trial Period||Does not have a trial program/does not let you watch classes.||One free lesson / lets you watch but not participate.||Pay for a trial period (buy one month first)||Orientation session OR free weeks/month to try lessons.||Two free weeks/month, options on programs, individual orientation session to prepare you for classes.|
|Value||Large class size, poor equipment, few instructors, no materials provided.||Three categories are wrong for you.||Two categories are wrong for you.||Class size, or equipment is out of whack.||Good student-teacher ratio, clean equipment and facilities, various training tools and methods.|
|Style||You do not enjoy the techniques used in class.||Class fits 75% of the time, some things seem out of whack or inappropriate.||Classes meet most of your needs and wants, but some topics are aimed at others.||Classes meet almost all of your needs and wants,s elf defense techniques, and growth.||Well-rounded style meets your physical needs, self-defense wants, and builds on your techniques slowly.|
|School Goals/Objectives||Students and instructors are unclear or uncommunicative about the mental aspects of training.||Brief creed or statement covering mental/emotional values.||Talk about or provide materials on character, mental/emotional values, etc.||Short discussions, occasionally, about character development, martial arts etiquette, or other topics.||Clear guidelines and understanding about martial arts techniques, etiquette, and times to use. Includes academics, sportsmanship, communication skills, and/or character development. Worksheets and/or supporting materials.|
|Other Students||Are just waiting out their time to leave.||Are generally dissatisfied with service/classes/etc.||Attend classes, progress, and generally enjoy the program.||Are excited to attend classes, have friends in class, love to come.||Consider the school an integral part of their lives, are excited to be there, have nothing but positive things to say.|
|Personal Comfort Level||30% or lower happy and comfortable with atmosphere.||40% Happy and comfortable with atmosphere.||50-60% Happy and comfortable.||80% Happy and comfortable with atmosphere.||100% Happy and comfortable with atmosphere|
|TOTAL:Add up the scores (-2, -1, 0, 1, or 2 to find the school’s final score.)|
If you’re looking the Potomac, Chevy Chase, or Bethesda, Maryland area, consider GAMMA Academy. Give our free trial a try today!