Home Detailed Information Bandon Classes Classes & Class descriptions Our Blackbelts Still Have Questions?

How to choose a Martial Arts School

Martial Arts help people learn to be more confident, more fit, and of course, how to defend themselves. They can be a sport, an art, or a combination of the two. The following will cover a number of topics:

Which Art Is Right for you?

Costs of Martial Arts

Determine how far you are willing to drive and how much you can afford to pay. There are schools charging as much as 50.00 per hour and as little as 50.00 (49.95)per month1. Consider the costs involved in running a martial arts school: not only is there rent, lights, building insurance and paying instructors, but also specialized liability insurance, years of previous training(if they are truly certified, it takes 4-10 years to earn one's 1st degree black belt, depending on the style) and continuing education(very important as there are innovations in both the arts and how to more safely train in the arts). The average school spends between 1000.00 and 5000.00 per month in operating costs, alone, and another 200.00 to 2000.00 a year in instructor training.

Thus 50.00 per month is about as cheap as one should expect in an area of low rental expense. Any less and you should ask yourself just what is the price for training at that school? Lack of experience, issues with reputation, or perhaps the instructors are desperate for students. Literally the worst price you might pay for a "discount" is that you or your child leave the martial arts because you had a bad experience. Of all children's sports, the martial arts have the lowest rate of emergency room admissions. This is due to rigorous training and experience on the part of well trained instructors. Beyond all of this, many schools will not accept your training at another facility, when your instructor decides he can't afford to train you anymore and closes his doors. Thus, you have to decide if a school charging a discount rate is worth an investment of your time and training, only to have it fail later on.

Do you want to learn basic self defense? If so keep reading. Do you like spending time being thrown to the ground and having your joints locked? If so, then you might want to try our hapkido class or systema study group. If groundwork isn't for you, there are many punching and kicking arts, including Tae Kwon Do.

Are you older, have injuries? Most schools will make concessions based on age and ability and it is not unheard of for someone in their 50's, 60's or even 70's to earn a back belt. Do you want or need a less strenuous class? Perhaps Tai Chi is for you. Tai Chi is proven to help older adults improve their balance, reduce pain from Fibromyalgia and arthritis, lower blood pressure and increase feelings of general weel-being. This is true of any well taught martial art, however. There are hundreds of different martial arts out there, all having the same goals, and each only a little different from the other. The biggest differences are generally in the individual at the head of the class.

More than anything else, this is the person who will make your or your child's martial arts experience either wonderful, or not so wonderful. It is important to choose carefully.

Children's Classes

Looking for classes for your child? Then you are looking for someone who takes your child's safety and character development as seriously as you do. An instructor who is well versed at teaching adults, but treats children as "miniature adults," is not what you are looking for. Instead you want someone who understands teaching children. This will be someone who will work with you to create the best learning experience for your child. The instructor will be concerned with improving grades, bully-proofing your child and helping their self esteem and confidence grow at the same rate as their respect and martial arts skills. This person will also make sure their interactions are age appropriate. They are not there to be your child's friend, but rather an adult role model. Any extra curricular activities, will be open to parents, and will be well chaperoned, with multiple adults. There will not be sleepovers at the instructor's home, or video game parties, or even pizza parties, unless the parents and other family are invited or at least permitted, and multiple adults are there to act as chaperones. These activities will be held at the studio, dojo or dojang, or at a public place.

Doing Your Research

In today's internet world, an instructor's qualifications are only a google away. Check their website and/or facebook page first. If they claim their school opened in 1990, but then they left it in the hands of another instructor a year or two, can they really claim to be in business for 24 years? Do they list their dan rank? Does their rank make sense with their time in training? A 9th dan should be in his/her 50's, 60's or even 70's, not their 20's, 30's or 40's. In taekwondo, a 10th dan is generally deceased: or is someone who has made major contributions to the art. In most other arts, it is a designation of someone who has created their own system, rather than following a traditional system.

Google the association or person who certified them. Most associations are easy to look up, and if there are questions, can be contacted to verify certification. Most also list how one gains certification. Is it based solely on years in their art? Or do they have to follow a standardized curriculum and be certified by a high ranking official in the system. Does the association award dans(degrees of black belt) to only one style, or do they somehow claim to certify a multitude of styles?

Finally, check the newspaper archives for articles mentioning their name or their school. This will at least tell you about their involvement in both community and competition.

If you find nothing beyond a brief mention in a mixed style registry, then it is time to ask some tough questions:

After you have narrowed your search to two or three schools, call first and ask basic questions. How much do they charge? What ages do they train? If you or your child have special needs, have they had experience teaching someone with similar issues? Is that person still training there, or is the instructor willing to have you speak to that person or his/her parent. Do their own students have any significant accomplishments? What dan rank(black belts are ranked 1st through 9th with 10th being an honorarium, usually post humously) are the instructors and the person(s) who certified them? Did they test for that rank in person or via distance learning? Who was/is their instructor and do they maintain contact with that person. Is the instructor open to you contacting their instructor(s) for a reference? Do they have references in the local martial arts community that you can contact. What other schools say about someone, or rather what they don't say, speaks volumes. If a reputable school recommends that person, then take a closer look. Who do they train with now and how often do they themselves go to seminars and receive instruction? Instructors who avail themselves of frequent instruction tend to make their classes more interesting and varied, and also follow tried and true methods of instruction and technique. Ask about other styles. If they downgrade another style, or make claims of the superiority 2 of their own style/school only then it is time to seek another school if possible.

Is the school backed by a national or international association? Many schools pride themselves on being independant or even "rogue," claming this allows them freedom to teach what they want. The truth is, every school that is a member of an association is free to teach what they want, based on the amount of training the instructor has. Each of those schools will be different from the next, with one exception: they will have a minimum standard they must maintain to be part of the association. Some schools "pick and choose" from a variety of styles, with the student missing out on a curriculum that was carefully designed with decades, or even centuries of development, to ensure the student is fully and properly trained in self defense and self improvement.

One style associations are usually dedicated to maintaining quality of education, whereas multistyle associations give lip service to maintaining quality and are charging instructors money in exchange for legitimacy. An association like the Kukkiwon, World Taekwondo headquarters has certain minimum standards, plus they invest money in research on what is effective and safe. Check to see that your school is affiliated with one or more of these associations and not just a single school or instructor.

Look at Your Choices in Person

Having now narrowed down your choices, you should do is go visit and watch a class or two. Go early, not so much to talk with the instructors, but to watch their interaction with the students, and to talk with the families of students. You may call ahead and ask, or simply show up. Tell the instructor you want to watch a class first and then speak to them after the class. Either way, chances are, they will accommodate you. If they do not want you to watch, or if they interrupt their teaching too often to speak with you, consider it a possible warning sign. However, lets assume you are sitting quietly and comfortably watching the students enter and get ready for class. Take notes on the following: Is the dojo (gym or community building) clean? Is there enough space, and high enough ceilings to safely teach the art you have chosen to take(even ground fighting arts need high enough ceilings not to throw an opponent into the light fixtures). Is there a comfortable place for family to watch the class, if they so desire? Are students and instructor respectful to each other? Is there some down-time for more casual interaction and instruction, but without being too casual? Does the instructor discipline students matter of factly, or does he or she denigrate the student, calling them stupid, or asking them to "not be an %@$#." Respect is an art learned first by example, and thus mutual respect is important. Even before or after class, students should be respectful of each other, and of those who may be training.

Finally ask if you can try a class or classes free. If not(and no matter how inexpensive their program is), then it is time to thank them for their time and walk away. If they offer more than a week or two of classes free, except during special promotions, again this is a potential warning sign. Chances are, if they offer a month free, you will be paying for the free month in other ways: either a longterm contract with a credit agency(aka billing company) or through higher prices or both. Ask for the monthly price up front and if they won't answer until after you've taken their free trial, walk away. If there are several schools in your area, each offering a period of training time free, take advantage of that fact and give each one a one day, one week or even that one month trial. Ask if they will match another school's special offer. Most will be happy to do so.

The final thing to determine is whether you enjoy the classes and can learn from the instructor(s). If you find a place that you feel comfortable with, then empty your cup and prepare to receive the experience of your life!

And you don't have to take our word for it. There are many articles posted on line about choosing a martial arts school in addition to the ones referenced above. Please make an informed choice! And before signing a contract, ask how the contract can be broken. Is it only a matter of giving 30 days notice, or do you have to wait for the end of the year long agreement? Does it automatically re-up at the end of 12 months? Beware of Contracts

Ready to give us a try?

Email your name, address, phone and prospective students' name(s) for your free intro, today!

Email address
Perferred contact
Coos Bay

Return to Home

Last Updated June 17, 2014 by Karen Saxton