One of the most frequent questions young women ask is “How do I pick a good martial arts school? This is an important decision, and the time you spend doing your research will pay off in the end.The first step in picking a style and school is to ask yourself a series of questions about what you want from your training experience:
Once you’ve got those nailed down, it’s time to start checking out the schools in your area.
If you’re a beginner, it’s generally less important to focus on a particular style than it is to focus on your overall goals – they can often be met by any number of individual styles. Make a list of the schools in your area and prepare to spend a bit of time on the phone. Ask for descriptions of the style(s) taught, the structure of the curriculum, the cost of training and any additional fees (uniforms, required equipment, testing fees), and whether or not long-term contracts are required.
Don’t be put off if the person you speak with requests that you take a trial class before discussing fees – that’s a common practice in this business. Ask also about the qualifications of the instructors – how long they’ve trained, how long they’ve been teaching, the extent to which junior belts are involved in instruction. Be sure to make your own goals very clear as well and listen carefully to how your needs are addressed.
Based on what you hear, set up trial classes in several schools (3 is a good number to start with). If you can attend two classes at each school, that’s great. If not, take the time to at least observe a variety of classes to be sure you’re getting the complete picture. While you’re there, observe and ask a lot of questions. Talk to the instructors, the other students, and parents whose children train there. And spend some time just “feeling” the environment. All these things are important. As you check out the schools, here are some specific things to look for:
Finally, here are a few miscellaneous caveats that may help: Certificates don’t guarantee quality. A huge number of organizations offer “certification” of rank. Many are legitimate, conferring rank based on real accomplishment and sound criteria; others can simply be bought. Unless you already know something about the organization(s) conferring certification, pay more attention to what you see and hear than what you see on someone’s wall. Of course, it’s perfectly reasonable to ask what those certificates mean and where they come from!
Martial arts training is not necessarily the same as self defense training. Although all martial arts were originally developed as systems of defense, the degree to which practical self defense techniques are integrated into the formal curriculum varies widely among schools. So if self defense is your primary interest, make sure you find out exactly how a school’s curriculum will help you meet that goal.
“Masters” may know a lot, but they can’t make your decision for you. Don’t let a school owner/head instructor tell you what you need or want! So, that’s about it! Good luck with your quest, and let us know how it turned out!
Adapted from National Women’s Martial Arts Federation