Martial arts schools are incredibly commonplace. There are dozens of different martial arts to choose from, and even if you already know what art you are looking for (karate, jiu jitsu, boxing, judo, krav maga, sambo, for example) there are often several different choices available within that niche. So, how can you decide which school is the best to train at?
Krav Maga Example
Jiu Jitsu Example
Take a Trial
Step one is to take a trial class. Every good school will offer at least one trial class for free – some may even let you take a trial week. Use that week to get a feel for the atmosphere, see what the classes are like, and watch what the other students are doing. You should be able to tell quite quickly if you are going to enjoy training at a school – even if you can’t tell whether the technique is good.
Is the Gym Clean?
Not tall martial arts schools are based in full time facilities, and to an extent it is not the fault of the owner if a community hall is a little run-down or dirty. However, if the school is based in a full-time facility then it should be kept clean. Even in a shared facility, the equipment you use to train should be in a good state of repair, and if you have mats, they should be cleaned regularly to avoid skin infections.
Are There Experienced Students?
A martial arts school that has just opened will most likely have a lot of beginners, but if the school has been running for a few years it should have a mixture of beginners and upper belts. If the school is, say, Krav Maga or a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu school where it can take eight years (or even longer) to get a Black Belt, then it is not a matter of concern if the instructor is the only black belt (or even if the instructor is not yet a black belt himself, as long as he can give a verifiable explanation of who he trains under and who gave him his current rank), but if there are very few blue or purple belts that should pose the question – why aren’t people sticking around?
Does The Instructor Care About His Students?
Does the instructor care about his students? Does he offer lots of corrections and advice while people are practicing or does he sit and look at his phone? Do classes start on time and finish when they should? Are questions answered with an in-depth explanation? Are concerns handled well? A good instructor will make time for his students and help them whenever possible?
How Are Female Students Treated?
Are female students taken good care of? Do they stick around for a long time? Do they really participate in the classes or are they off in the corner doing a “pink” version of the main class? If the instructor has a habit of giving “preferential treatment” to his female students, this is a red flag. Sometimes relationships happen because two people do click and get close to each other – but if there is a trail of broken hearts in the dojo then that suggests that the instructors and upper belts are abusing their positions of authority.
Is Cross Training and Competing Encouraged?
If your martial arts instructor tells you that you cannot train at another martial arts facility, that the art you are training is the “one true” art, or that you should not compete outside of contests run within your school (or that the art you are training is ‘too deadly to spar’), then you should look for another school unless your only reason for training is fun and fitness. Martial arts should be tested, and even if you don’t want to compete, training somewhere that allows cross training (to collect knowledge) and competition will ensure that you are training somewhere that has an open minded instructor that is dedicated to furthering his knowledge and improving the school.
Try a few different schools – and maybe even a few different arts – until you find something that works for you. There are a lot of similarities between the different martial arts and you will find that you can learn a lot from each one.