Choosing a martial arts school, what’s right for you? …

So just how do you go about choosing a martial arts school? How do you know that it’s reputable, that the instructors are trustworthy and safe? Governing bodies and associations abound in the martial arts world, there’s no all-seeing all-knowing single governing authority like the FA that you can approach for advice. Ultimately, your decision will be based on what you see, what you’re told by the instructor and by word of mouth.

Speak to the instructor ask him about the club. How long has it been running? How many students does he have? Ask him to explain a little about what is taught. There are so many martial arts styles around that you need to know the specific style to help you with your research; generic answers like ‘we teach karate’ won’t help you much, so ask the instructor what style.

What’s the organisation that the club belongs to? Make a note so that you can research them as well. If the answer is ‘I don’t belong to an organisation’ be wary. Most clubs are associated to an organisation for the insurance cover.

This doesn’t mean that no organisation equals no insurance, martial arts insurance cover for student and instructor can be purchased by the individual. Just ensure that the instructor and their students are suitably covered. Training without insurance cover is of course your choice, but any reputable club would not allow it.

Ask the instructor if you can sit in on a class to watch. If he refuses, on the grounds that ‘his secret ninja death touch techniques can only be demonstrated to members of the club,’ avoid the temptation to call him a prat, leave quickly and inform anyone with similar aspirations to avoid that class at all costs.

What qualifications to teach does the instructor have?

A black belt doesn’t necessarily equal a competent or qualified teacher. What if the club doesn’t use or recognise grades? It would be unfair to dismiss a non black belt wearing instructor merely because he has no belt – research, ask and question. If you like what they teach, what you’re told and feel safe then train with him, give ’em a go.

However, if they are advertising themselves as a genuine black belt then they should be able to substantiate that, if not, and they’re a green belt masquerading as a black then any grades they test and pass will be worthless.

You should also avoid clubs that practise fast belt promotions and black belts for small kids. These clubs mostly exist to impress naive parents and their offspring. A worthy black belt will have spent approx 10 years in training and there is absolutely no logic on planet earth that can justify a blackbelt ranking for a child – it’s ludicrous and exists purely to part you with your money.

Of course, the proof in how good any pudding is, is the taste. So have a go, join in a training session. Try them for 2 or 3 weeks and if you’re not happy move on…

It may take a while, but you’ll eventually find the right club for you or your children.