How To Choose A Martial Arts School By Clint Leung

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How To Choose A Martial Arts School
By Clint Leung

To reap the best benefits from martial arts, they should be
taken as long term activities rather than short term. Given this
suggestion, one should not just simply walk into the closest
martial arts studio and sign up right away without doing some
research. Not all martial arts are alike and not all schools or
studios are alike either. Therefore, it is important to really
think about what your own needs are with respect to martial arts

The discussion of which martial art style to take is too
extensive for this article. So what I will say here is that
there are differences in the various styles of martial arts
which may result in some being more suitable for certain
individuals compared to others. Do some research on the
different styles and do visit the classes of different studios
that teach different martial arts if possible. But more
important is each individual schools approach to teaching their
martial arts. Many martial arts schools teach only techniques
and forms (set routines) that are specific to a traditional
style. These schools follow the ways that the original founders
of each martial art style developed and they have continued with
minimal variance over the years. Other studios like to borrow
techniques from a variety of martial art disciplines and
integrate a mix into their programs. Some schools are
non-traditional and adopt a more open free style system which
incorporates traditional martial art techniques with gymnastics
and open choreography of forms. There are many clubs that do
both traditional and open styles. Each school will claim that
their martial art style and method of teaching is superior to
others. Prospective students must not take these claims too
seriously and choose an approach that would be best suited for
them on an individual basis.

Many advertisements for martial arts schools push the
backgrounds of their higher ranking instructors as a way to
attract students. It is important to realize that the more
degrees (or dans) a particular black belt has dont always mean
that the individual is a better instructor. This is the same
with instructors who have very successful competition records.
There is no correlation to the number of world championship
titles won with how good an instructor is. The term master
should also be taken with caution. A master doesnt always make
an excellent instructor. The teaching style of different
instructors can vary. Some use the old Asian masters approach
where discipline is strictly enforced much like in the military.
While general discipline is actually a good attribute to learn
from martial arts training, some of the old ways of teaching,
particularly reprimanding students vocally or physically for
incorrect techniques may be considered a bit harsh for todays
society. This is why it is important to watch classes of
prospective martial arts schools you are interested in. You want
to see the teaching style of an instructor to determine if its
a style that would be compatible with you or not. Ask questions
after instructors have finished teaching. If you have the gut
feeling that certain instructors will not be right for you, move
on to find another club. Most legitimate schools will allow
prospective students to witness or even try out a class for free
before joining.

Related to teaching styles, some instructors emphasize safety
more than others. The use of protective equipment and certain
rules while sparring are factors. In addition to asking
instructors, also ask other students about injury rates and
their general feedback about the classes (ideally when they are
outside of their schools). Another point on the students is that
some schools attract a certain type of student profile. Observe
the other students and decide whether these are people you would
like to train with.

Some schools are very much into competition with active
encouragement of students to participate in tournaments. In
fact, some schools even make this a requirement in order to
advance through the different levels. Other schools have been
known to restrict competition only within a particular circuit.
For example, many tae know do clubs only participate in
tournaments that are strictly Olympic style tae kwon do and
never go to events that are open to all martial arts styles.
There are schools in the complete opposite end where they do not
believe in competition at all and pretty well keep to themselves
without any interaction with other martial arts clubs. Many
Chinese kung fu clubs do not compete and some styles of martial
arts such as aikido do not offer any competitive outlet. Many
martial arts schools choose to have a relaxed position towards
competition where they leave it up to individual students to
choose whether they want to participate in tournaments or not.
Some schools have special competition teams where additional
training is available for those students who wish to compete. So
as a prospective student, you should consider what involvement
you would like in competition if any. If you know that you never
want to compete, you should not get locked into a school that
requires tournament competition. If you have a desire for
competition, dont join a studio that shuns competition.

Some martial arts schools teach in community centers, school
gyms and even church basements. Some have bare bones studios
with outdated equipment. Some schools have the latest martial
arts and fitness equipment with sparkling clean change rooms and
facilities. All of these will factor into the membership fee of
each school. You have to determine what you are willing to pay
for and what type of environment you will feel comfortable
training in.

Many schools require annual contracts while some are on a month
to month basis. There could be initiation fees. There could also
be testing or grading fees for advancement. All of these extra
costs will add up. Ask what happens if you have to freeze your
membership due to extended illness or injury.

If one doesnt really know whether martial arts is an activity
for them in the long run, the option of taking short term
courses such as those offered by community centers may be a
viable alternative to making a full commitment to a dedicated
martial arts club with its own studio space. But do be aware
that although martial arts can be very enjoyable from the first
day you put on a karate uniform, it is a long term activity and
one must have patience in order to benefit the most from martial
arts. Fortunately, there are many options in the form of
different martial art styles and schools to choose from in the
market today. Just make sure that you do some preliminary
research before committing to any particular club.

About the Author: Clint Leung is a lifelong martial artist with
over 32 years of training experience in kung fu, tae kwon do,
karate, kickboxing and martial arts weaponry. He has won
Canadian and world championship titles (NBL and WSKF). He is
also owner of Free Spirit Activewear
( , an online retailer and
designer of premium martial arts activewear. Free Spirit
Activewear has martial arts info articles.


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