How to Choose the Right Martial Arts School for Your Family
After you’ve made the decision to do some training, you have to decide which school is best for you. Approach your search for a martial arts school with the same seriousness you would have if you were shopping for a new car. Both the car and martial art school should make you happy for a good many years. And like a new car, martial arts can help you get to your goals and take you exciting new places. Before you begin your search, ask yourself how much you can afford, how often you want to take classes, and what your goals in taking the classes are.
"I loved TKD for the inner strength it made me feel. It was a positive for my life and for my body. It also helped that we had a wonderful leadership team that made my family feel welcomed and loved."
Brown Belt in Taekwondo
What Are Your Personal Growth & Fitness Goals?
To help you decide which martial arts style and school is for you, go through the following check list and check the goals that interest you the most:
To get in shape and improve your health and overall fitness
To increase your range of motion, flexibility, and balance
To learn to defend yourself
To improve your confidence and increase self-discipline
To challenge yourself to achieve more than you thought possible
To make new friends
To earn a Black Belt
To have fun
What Does a Good Martial Arts School Look Like?
Start by asking among your friends and family. The majority of students in many martial arts schools come from referrals from satisfied students and parents. If you don’t know anyone currently training, visit the local schools. Talk to the instructor and look around. A good school will have a family atmosphere, lots of smiles, and be well kept. The students will be impressive and enthusiastic. The mirrors are polished, the floor is clean, and the dressing rooms are in good order. On the wall you might see photographs of recent school events and outings, and there should be an area for family and guests to sit and watch the classes. You should feel comfortable, not intimidated, with the personnel and facility. If you walk in and the place is smelly and dirty, all the photos are of the instructor smashing bricks (or people) and the wall is covered with enough weapons to mount a small coup, you may want to look elsewhere.
What Does a Great Martial Arts Instructor Look Like?
The fact of the matter is, there are good and not-so-good practitioners in every profession, so what are some of the things you should look for in a good martial arts instructor? Don’t get confused by claims of multiple black-belt degrees, big tournament wins, or martial arts styles. The only style that matters is the teaching style of the instructor and how you or your child will respond to him. Rank and tournament titles sometimes have little to do with your level of satisfaction with your instructor. Just because some one has won or achieved something doesn’t mean he has the ability to teach it to you or your child. In fact the hard core competitor or coach often has a difficult time toning the training down for a novice or child. A good martial arts instructor will be repetitive. Repetition is the way to build muscle memory and mastery. A better than good instructor will disguise the repetition by teaching the same technique in many different ways. Believe it or not, all good instructors have a little “Sergeant Carter" in them. In martial arts, if your instructor demands more from you it means he cares. A good instructor will correct, guide, and stay on a student he sees has the potential to make black belt. A sign of a good teacher is someone who won’t turn the other way and let you get by with less than your best.
Staying Within Your Family Activity Budget
Now that you know your goals and what you’re looking for, you need to figure out how much you can afford. You’ll soon find out that the benefits and values martial arts training far exceeds the monetary cost. Realistically, though, no matter how excited you get about the new school you finally found, if it costs more money than you can comfortably afford, you won’t be able to enjoy the school very long. The fact is, when money gets tight, extracurricular activities are the first things to go, so stay within your budget. With the huge variance in the instructors, facility, and atmosphere of one school to the next, you should never shop for martial arts based upon price. Schools tend to charge what they think they are worth. If a school is charging less than everyone else in town, there’s probably a reason. If a school is charging more than everyone else, they probably feel it is worth the price. Interestingly, the more expensive schools often have more students than the bargain basement ones. A good school will cost anywhere from $100 to $150 per month. If the school charges more or less than these amounts ask why. For this amount of money you should be able to attend classes two to five times a week. Martial arts memberships run exactly like gym memberships with contracts ranging from three months to three years. Unlike gyms though, martial arts schools actually want each and every member to use the facility so they will work to find a membership that meets your needs. These memberships are usually only cancelable if you’ve moved outside of a set mileage range from the school or have health issues that do not allow you to continue. Sometimes, though, for a little extra money, a school will let you go month to month instead of signing a contract. This is a good idea if you’re concerned that your five year olds attention will wander towards a different activity or if you’re moving shortly. You can often get a tuition discount of ten to twenty percent by paying the full amount in advance. This is only an option. The schools who claim it is the only option have a high drop out rate and want to get as much money as possible from you up front.
Fitting Martial Arts & Fitness Into Your Schedule
Regardless of how good a school is, it won’t do you any good if you can’t find time to attend. Martial arts training is just like anything else. The more time you put into it, the more you’ll get out of it. This is why you should carefully consider how much time you’ll be able to spend training and practicing. I recommend taking at least two classes a week and practicing at least half an hour a day. Not unlike what your music teacher would recommend in order to make progress towards your goals. Compare the school’s class schedule with your free time calendar. You need to make sure the school’s schedule offers a minimum of three classes a week that you can attend, whether you choose to or not. This means you’ll get flexibility in your schedule. Five to six available classes a week should be the goal, but you can settle for three.
What to Look for When Choosing a Martial Art School
To help prevent you from being taken advantage of by a martial arts school, I’ve put together the following list of questions to help you know what to look for when choosing the school that’s best for you:
What is the ratio between students and instructors? A one to fifteen ration is good.
Who does the majority of the teaching, the chief instructor or one of his assistants? The chief instructor should teach at least 50 percent of the classes.
Are classes divided by age or experience level? Classes are often divided by age and/or experience. Kids, families, adults and/or beginners, intermediate, advanced. Both methods of dividing classes have benefits to the students such as having an older or more experienced peer to look up to. Humility is paramount in martial arts training so remember you can often learn just as much from a younger student as they can from you.
How long has the school been in operation? The longer the better. Though, often chief instructors have many years of teaching experience at their instructors school before they strike out on their own with the guidance of their master and organization. Also, new schools often offer good tuition deals while they are building their student base.
Does the class schedule work well with yours? If not, then don’t join because you won’t go.
How long are the classes? Classes are not necessarily more valuable if they are longer. Young children should train about 30 minutes, and between 40 to 60 minutes for older kids and adults. Studies on attention spans and retaining new information have shown that 30 to 60 minutes are about the max for most people.
How far will you have to travel? More than twenty minutes each way is not recommended. Though, I’ve been known to drive an hour each way for a great instructor.
Can you watch and try a few classes before you commit? An instructor who doesn’t want you to observe or try classes before hand is suspicious. He should be proud to show off what his students have achieved. A minimum of three trial classes is recommended. Keep in mind that being sore in places you forgot existed for the first couple of weeks, is a good sign that this will be an effective workout for you.
Martial Arts or Self-Defense?
Martial arts and self-defense training don’t always walk hand in hand. Tai-Chi, competition, martial arts, and fitness martial arts don’t necessarily emphasize self-defense. While a self-defense course might focus on immediate safety concerns and skip the character building lessons of martial arts. Martial arts and self-defense both have a great deal to offer if you know what you want and what to look for. They both come down to learning to take care of yourself, which is a great way to invest your time and money. The martial arts aren’t for everyone, but if you feel like giving it a try, remember that it’s a lot of hard work with great benefits if you stick it out. How many fun activities are there that work towards improving your character and physical health at the same time? The benefits of the right self-defense training are priceless. A good self-defense program can last you a lifetime and can save your life. The best scenario is if you can learn self-defense in combination with martial arts. This way you get the best of both worlds. The TaeKwonDo Reeves Martial Arts & Fitness teaches offers all the character building benefits of an ancient martial art and self-defense techniques effective enough to be the combat training choice of the South Korean military.
Excerpts from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Self Defense 2000, and The Complete Idiot's Guide to Tae Kwon Do 1998
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