A Parents Guide to Selecting a Martial Arts School.
What to look for in a Martial Arts school.
As instructors, even before we opened our own school, we have been asked what people should tell friends or family in other cities to look for in a martial arts school.
The martial arts style is less important than the personality, teaching style and teaching qualifications of the Chief Instructor(s).
• Ask if the Chief Instructors are at the school during all the classes and if they teach most of the classes.
• Are the Chief Instructors old enough to have the experience and maturity to handle difficult situations that might arise.
• Watch a few classes to see if the Chief Instructors seem to genuinely like teaching, know the students’ names, use positive reinforcement, and maintain control of the classes while keeping it fun.
• The Chief Instructors should be at least 2nd degree black belts. Beyond that, teaching style is more important than rank. Many 2nd and 3rd degree Chief Instructors have better teaching and communication skills than instructors who have much higher rank who are considered “masters” of martial arts.
• All of the people in charge of teaching classes should be at least a black belt and have been certified to teach by some national martial arts group. If colored belt students are used, it should be in supporting roles to keep order.
• How important are the Chief Instructor’s competition history and trophies? An instructor’s personal martial arts accomplishments do not give any indication as to his/her teaching ability. It is more important that the instructors be able to communicate well with children and adults, be able to demonstrate proper technique, keep classes fun and interesting, and motivate students through positive teaching methods to develop self-confidence and achieve their goals.
• Check to see if the Chief Instructor is affiliated with a national martial arts organization that provides on-going training and quality control.
• Inquire about the number of classes that you or your child can attend each week. The more options you have, the better. Anything less than three times a week is too little. Make sure that the class times are flexible so that if a hectic week forces you to change your schedule you can still attend class.
• Ask if parents and spectators are allowed to watch classes. A closed-door policy is a red flag that something is wrong with the teaching methods in the school. (It is normal, however, for schools to ask parents to not talk to students during their class because it can distract the student and result in an injury.)
• Are classes fun or is it the same thing day after day? While repetition is important, classes should be an interesting, fun learning experience.
• What activities does the school offer besides classes, testings and tournaments to promote a family atmosphere? Look for activities such as lock-ins, parties, picnics, etc.
• Assuming you like the instructors and the program, the more convenient the location, the more likely you will attend classes regularly and get the most out of the program. If you choose a school all the way across town, even though it may be less expensive, you may attend less because of traffic and the longer drive time.
• Does the school look bright and smell clean? How often is it cleaned?
• Any schools you are considering should ask you to try a free class or two before you sign up for any martial arts program.
• One-year memberships are standard in our industry among full-time instructors. Many schools also offer an introductory special to allow new students to try classes for one or two months for a fee. When you are ready to sign the one-year memberships contract, it is better to make monthly payments rather than the entire amount up front, in case the school should close. Also, check to see if they offer a written guarantee that will let you out of the contract if you change your mind within the first 30 days.
• Ask how often the students test and how much testing costs. Specifically ask how much it costs to test for Black Belt (at some schools this could be hundreds of dollars). Also ask what equipment the students are required to have, when they are required to have it, and how much it costs.
• Make sure that the rates are reasonable, but do not make a decision based solely on price. The cheapest place may not be the best deal and the most expensive school may not offer the best program.