Martial Arts Houston: How To Choose A Martial Arts School – Considerations for Making the Right Decision
Whether you are a parent wanting to sign your child up in martial arts classes, or you are interested in training yourself, the basic principles in choosing a martial arts school are the same. You first have to decide what you want to gain by taking martial arts, and then you have to find the best school and instructor that best matches that need. Let’s take each step one at a time.
STEP 1: DECIDE CLEARLY WHAT YOU WANT YOU OR YOUR CHILD TO GAIN FROM MARTIAL ARTS TRAINING
This is a crucial step that is sometimes overlooked. People have different but very good reasons for wanting to take up martial arts training. There are quite a lot of benefits that martial arts training has to offer – here are just a few:
Develop an overall sense of well being and self confidence
Gain flexibility and coordination
Acquire more discipline
Why do you want to train in martial arts? Maybe your reasons include all of the above, and that’s fine, but try to find the one or two reasons that are most important to you. For example, are you looking for just a little light recreation? Then a community center program may suffice. However if you want all of the benefits martial arts has to offer, like self-defense or personal development, then you are going to need a full-time professional school. Deciding what you really want is a very important step in choosing the best school for you.
STEP 2: PICKING THE SCHOOL AND INSTRUCTOR THAT BEST MATCHES YOUR NEEDS
After you have decided what you want from your training, the next step is to find the right place. There are several factors you should consider in choosing a school. You will want to consider things like; finding the right instructor, the cleanliness and distance of the school, the price for classes, finding a suitable style of martial art, and safety considerations. Let’s look at each of these factors a little more closely.
What is your impression of the instructor?
You should realize that a big factor in choosing the right school is really choosing the right instructor. Here we are talking about the instructor’s personality and teaching style. It’s tough making an informed judgment about a person in a brief meeting, but usually you are going to have to trust your gut here. Intuition and first impressions, while not always correct, often turn out to be true. Be sure to visit the school, meet the instructor and have a look around.
How does the instructor greet visitors and how do they treat the students?
A professional school will have a friendly atmosphere, lots of smiles and be well kept. You’ll feel comfortable with the personnel and the facility. While this may not end up being the closest school to your house, when it comes to your safety or the safety and education of your child, an extra ten-minute drive can make a world of difference in the outcome.
How advanced should the instructor be? Should they have a lot of titles and trophies?
Contrary to popular opinion, finding the best martial arts champion doesn’t mean you have the best teacher. Just because an instructor has a lot of competition wins does not always mean the person is a good teacher. Likewise, just because someone has received a high rank within an art doesn’t make him or her a good teacher. This is a critical point to understand. One can be a “natural” at martial arts, meaning they just pick it up really quickly. This type of person can go on to be a great champion with many medals and trophies, but of course, this is no guarantee at all that they will be able to effectively communicate and translate to others what comes to them quite easily. There are many examples of great competitors who are actually poor teachers. Clearly, a school owner or chief instructor should be a black belt or the equivalent depending on the art. Beyond that though, the rank of the instructor will actually mean very little to your classroom experience or the quality of your classes. What an instructor has accomplished is not as important as what he or she can do for you. It’s a whole lot more important to find an instructor who cares about the students and makes them the focal point instead of seeking all the attention for himself or herself. Titles and trophies signify excellence in competition. So titles and trophies are great, IF that same person is also a good teacher. So if you can find an instructor with great credentials, medals, belts, etc., who ALSO cares about his or her students and is able to effectively transmit that information over to them – then you have the best of both worlds.
Is the school clean?
This is an important one. Dirty gyms can transmit staph and a lot of other nasty things that you would rather not find out about. Good gyms however are vigilant about sanitizing their equipment on a regular basis. Don’t be afraid to ask how often the instructor has the equipment cleaned and sanitized. Sometimes you’ll know everything you need just by looking around. This doesn’t mean that the school has to be as immaculate – a little dust here or there doesn’t hurt anything. But if you see filthy mats or blood on the walls, it’s time to look elsewhere.
How far away is the school?
The best school in the world won’t do you any good if it is too far away for you to make classes regularly. Consider the traffic as well. It might even be a good idea to make a “trial run” drive during the times you will be traveling to class. Is the class schedule suitable? Ask to see the schedule and be sure that you are able to attend comfortably at least two times per week. Also pay attention to the duration of the classes. In today’s world, it’s just very difficult to devote more than an hour to an activity for any length of time and studies on attention spans have shown that 30-60-minutes is about the max for most people.
How much should I expect to pay?
Paying for martial arts lessons is really a lot like buying a car or anything else. You frequently get what you pay for. Cleanliness, professionalism, quality, safety and individual attention is what usually separates the higher end schools from the cheaper schools. Most schools charge what they think they are worth. So if you want the best instruction, you should expect the price to be higher than normal. So what’s normal? In 2007, the average price in the United States for martial arts training was approximately $100 per month. Schools in smaller towns will charge less, and in cities where the cost of living in general is a little higher, so too will be the case with martial arts classes. For those who want the very best for themselves or for their children, expect to pay around $120 a month or more. Just like private academic institutions and universities exist for a certain group of people who want the best academic education, in a similar way these higher end martial arts programs are for those who want the safest and most professional service available for their martial arts training.
You should also be aware that offering classes with 6 or 12 month agreements is common practice in the martial arts industry. In fact, in our experience, schools that have such agreements are usually better maintained, better run, and of all around better quality than the cheaper “monthby- month” schools.
What style of martial art should I choose?
This answer here depends on what your goals are. If you just want a little light recreation, then most tae kwon do schools would be fine. If you only want a cardio alternative and don’t care at all about self-defense, improving your self-confidence, and things of this sort, then a typical “cardiokickboxing” class at your local health spa might be just the thing for you. If you are only interested in preserving an old oriental art form, with perhaps a little self-defense as a side consideration, then a traditional kung fu, karate, or tae kwon do school would suit you.
However, if you are looking to really increase your fitness level or get serious about self-defense training, here is one word of advice: When it comes to serious conditioning & self-defense, martial arts styles are NOT “all the same”.
This is a controversial question, and there will certainly be those who disagree with what we say here, but we think the style or discipline taught matters a lot if you want serious training that can give you the best in conditioning and self-defense. Perhaps the most famous martial artist ever, Bruce Lee, recognized the limitations in the more traditional forms of karate, kung fu and tae kwon do. Lee thought many of these arts held on to outdated, impractical techniques and training methods out of a groundless respect towards “tradition”, while ignoring the fact that there might be newer and better ways to do things. We agree with Bruce Lee’s assessment. In our opinion, the more contemporary martial arts like Muay Thai, Jeet Kune Do, Krav Maga, Kickboxing, Grappling, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Judo, Boxing and Wrestling are a great deal better when it comes to conditioning and realistic self defense.
Is martial arts training safe?
Generally speaking it is, yet it can vary depending on the school you choose. Most schools are very safe and go to great lengths to insure the safety of its classes. Other schools are rougher and can have a military-like atmosphere where only the strong survive. An almost exclusively adult male student body and “fighters gym-like” atmosphere can help you recognize these schools. You should know that past insurance ratings rank martial arts as safer than golf in the number of injury claims. That doesn’t mean you’re not going to get sore or occasionally bruised, it just means that serious injuries are not very common in most martial arts schools. This can be particularly true for schools belonging to a professional organization which emphasizes the importance of safety.
Finally, while claims against schools are very rare because the training is very safe, many schools are not insured, which is a mistake. Make sure your school is insured and the instructors are attending seminars and workshops on teaching safe classes.