YMCA, Community College, Recreation Center for a Beginner?

Hawke

Master Black Belt
Joined
Jan 10, 2007
Messages
1,067
Reaction score
24
Hey All,

What do you guys think about studying a martial art at the local YMCA, community college, or rec center for someone new to the martial art?

Might be an affordable way for some people to get a taste of the martial art.

What are some of the pros and cons?

Pro:
Cheap and affordable.
The instructor.

Con:
The instructor.

Know any other cheap alternatives for the beginner? Garage dojos? Parks?
 

Gordon Nore

Senior Master
Joined
May 26, 2007
Messages
2,118
Reaction score
77
Location
Toronto
Don't know why the instructor would fall in the 'con' column unless you happen to know s/he is a poor instructor. Depending upon the type of public venue, you might have fewer amenities and less access to training. A private school can charge you for X lessons and let you come every night if you want. The Y or the community centre may not have the same flexibility.

I've known a few really great instructors who just wanted to teach their class and didn't want to be bothered with running a school and hunting for students.

I think your choice is best made by what the instructor offers, what you can afford, and what fits into your schedule, etc.
 

Flying Crane

Sr. Grandmaster
Joined
Sep 21, 2005
Messages
13,417
Reaction score
2,849
Location
San Francisco
If the instructor is a good instructor, skilled and knowledgeable in his system, and you have a good relationship with him, then it does not matter where he teaches.

Your post seems to indicate you think these settings might imply poor instruction. Why would you think this?
 
OP
Hawke

Hawke

Master Black Belt
Joined
Jan 10, 2007
Messages
1,067
Reaction score
24
Thanks for the reply.

I was thinking of a post that may help new comers.

The instructor can be a Pro or a Con. In the past I've had excellent instructors at the community colleges. They are a rare gem to tap into when you find a good instructor.

Someone new in the martial art might be able to get a better perspective of what to look for after a semester, six months, or a year. These places might be an affordable way for them to get an idea of what type of schools are being offered around their neighborhood.

Now with some experience they may get a better idea of what a good instructor may be. Then go to a commercial school, private teacher, or join a club.

The YMCA, community college, rec center being a stepping stone to a fantastic journey.
 
OP
Hawke

Hawke

Master Black Belt
Joined
Jan 10, 2007
Messages
1,067
Reaction score
24
Hey Crane,

I just saw your post after I replied to Gordon.

I think YMCA, community college, rec centers (garage and parks if you can find them) have the possibility to offer great instructors. Do I think every YMCA, community college, and rec center have good instructors? No, I will guess that some offer poor instructors.

Same can be said about commercial schools. I think there are awesome instructors at commercial schools. I also think that there are some bad ones as well.

The places I named to train are a great stepping stone on the path for a fantastic and addicting journey.
 
Last edited:
OP
Hawke

Hawke

Master Black Belt
Joined
Jan 10, 2007
Messages
1,067
Reaction score
24
They could also be the best place to be, period. Again, it really depends on the teacher.

That was the reason for the instructor to be a Pro or a Con.
 
OP
Hawke

Hawke

Master Black Belt
Joined
Jan 10, 2007
Messages
1,067
Reaction score
24
Your post seems to indicate you think these settings might imply poor instruction. Why would you think this?
I did not mean to come across to say these are all bad places. I listed the instructors in both Pro and Con because it depends. Some are great. Others not so great.

I think these overlook places can be helpful for the new student looking to get a better idea about the martial arts in an affordable way.
 

MJS

Administrator
Staff member
Lifetime Supporting Member
Joined
Jun 21, 2003
Messages
30,187
Reaction score
427
Location
Cromwell,CT
Just like any martial arts school, the Y, rec centers, etc., have the potential to be good or bad. I would suggest the student to do their homework, ie: watch a class or 2, talk to the inst., the students, etc.

On the flip side, I've had some of my best workouts in the garage, backyard settings. A small, dedicated group of people, who're there for 1 reason...to train. No egos, no worrying about a bump, cut or scrape, no lawsuits...just good, hard training.
 
OP
Hawke

Hawke

Master Black Belt
Joined
Jan 10, 2007
Messages
1,067
Reaction score
24
Garage dojos and parks are great places as well. Training with family and friends is a great way to get in some practice without a pissing contest.

Any ideas for the new student to train at an affordable price?

I tend to hear people that want to learn martial arts, but not sure where to go and they are looking for alternative methods that are easy on their pocket book.

The places I usually recommend are:

YMCA $48 a month (Karate, Tai Chi, Yoga)
Community College $26 a unit for the semester (TSD)
Rec Center $25 a month (Judo)
Park $15 a class (Dog Brothers)

The registration for each place varies. I only listed the monthly cost. Your mileage may vary.

I tell people to visit these places and talk with the head instructor.

Maybe I should have titled this thread as cheap martial art training for the new student.

The commercial studios are around $120 to $400 a month.
 

MJS

Administrator
Staff member
Lifetime Supporting Member
Joined
Jun 21, 2003
Messages
30,187
Reaction score
427
Location
Cromwell,CT
If they're looking for something affordable, then I'd say the rec center, YMCA type settings are the best routes to take. Of course, their options will also be limited, as those facilities usually only offer certain things. In other words, the only thing offered at those settings may be Judo or some form of Karate. If the student is looking for BJJ, they may be out of luck.

Another possible option would be to talk to the inst. at a school, and see if they'd be willing to work something out with just private lessons. Another option would be to offer to help clean the school every day, do some office work, etc., in exchange for lessons at a lower cost.

The other thing that comes to mind would be to surf the web. Using forums such as this, the student may find someone in their area that has a small group.
 

Flying Crane

Sr. Grandmaster
Joined
Sep 21, 2005
Messages
13,417
Reaction score
2,849
Location
San Francisco
Garage dojos and parks are great places as well. Training with family and friends is a great way to get in some practice without a pissing contest.

The garage/back yard doesn't automatically mean it's an informal training session among family or friends. This could be where the head teacher teaches.

one of my best teachers teaches in his back yard. When it rains, we go into the garage. He doesn't have a formal school anywhere else, and he is absolutely one of the very best in the system that he teaches.
 
OP
Hawke

Hawke

Master Black Belt
Joined
Jan 10, 2007
Messages
1,067
Reaction score
24
I do know a few instructors that offer a sliding scale. They themselves are trying to make ends meet, but want to help a person out.

I remember there were some commercial schools they got in trouble for using children to clean the school. Something about a child labor act that was violated. I thought was weird. Years ago when I did Aikido everyone had to clean the mat. Young and old.

Affordability does limit on choices.

Another common comment I hear to keep cost down is learning from DVDs, the internet (youtube), or distance learning. If the student is new, not a good idea. No feed back. No guidance from a qualified instructor. No one with a critical eye to correct you.
 
OP
Hawke

Hawke

Master Black Belt
Joined
Jan 10, 2007
Messages
1,067
Reaction score
24
The garage/back yard doesn't automatically mean it's an informal training session among family or friends
I know instructors that teach right out of their garage. There's a silat instructor in Washington state that teaches out of his garage. For him, it's by invitation.

Others teach out of their garage and parks that are not family and friends. They are there to train.

The comment I made was in response to MJS. The instructor I know that teaches at the park, when it rains, we still practice at the park.
 

Carol

Crazy like a...
MT Mentor
Lifetime Supporting Member
MTS Alumni
Joined
Jan 16, 2006
Messages
20,311
Reaction score
540
Location
NH
Cons of training in a community environment:
- equipment may not be on par with a commercial school
- age divisions may not be the same as a commercial school (ie: 4 to 64 in a single class)
- training isn't as frequent...very few community schools have classes 6-7 days a week
- training in shared space may not have the same sense of "home"

Pros:
- classes may be smaller, a closer relationship with the instructor is more likely
- lower tuition, contracts are unlikely
- YMCA-type organizations are often reasonably well run
- Training often takes the needs of the community/neighborhood in to account

Its important that a student take their own needs in to account. For example, I strongly prefer to train at a place with mats, because I have less back issues than I do when I train on a hard (or carpeted) floor.

There are some martial arts schools that are more affordable than the average commercial school. The Shodokan Dojo in Salem, MA (for example) runs as a non-profit and offers a huge selection of arts for something like $60/month. www.shodokan.org
 
OP
Hawke

Hawke

Master Black Belt
Joined
Jan 10, 2007
Messages
1,067
Reaction score
24
Hey Carol,

You bring up some good points.

I'll respond when I get back from training.
 

ap Oweyn

Purple Belt
Joined
Jun 30, 2005
Messages
393
Reaction score
27
Location
Alexandria, VA
Absolutely, I'd recommend studying at the rec centers or community colleges. One of my most influential teachers was through a local community college. And I've trained with several backyard groups. I've taken (and taught) classes offered by gyms I've belonged to. Hell, I haven't been involved with a commercial, full-time school in about 18 years.

Because well-taught martial arts generally aren't that profitable anyway, teachers are very often doing it for the love of the art. In which case, they're as likely to be at one of these settings as they are in a commercial school. Maybe even more likely, as they probably want to keep overhead down to avoid making the compromises necessary for a successful business.

The other argument for it, I think, is that direct personal experience is a much better teacher than anything else. We get thousands upon thousands of inquiries about what style someone should take, how some school's website looks, whether anyone's heard of some instructor, etc. And our feedback may or may not be useful. But at the end of the day, you're always going to make your most insightful decisions based on what you've learned from actually doing.

I think that a big part of me realizing what I DO want in a training experience flows from experiences where I determined what I DON'T want. Not a criticism of those schools. I'm not saying they weren't what anyone wanted. I'm saying that it's easier to develop a sense for what your priorities are as you attend classes in which they are or are not satisfied. When I left taekwondo, I started developing a better sense of what I was looking for. "Practical, includes weapons, flowing..."

That approach, though, is always going to be more appealing if you aren't dropping huge downpayments or getting locked into long-term contracts in order to learn those lessons. Cheaper (and perhaps shorter) class setups give you a good chance to triangulate what you want without committing quite so much.


Stuart
 

MJS

Administrator
Staff member
Lifetime Supporting Member
Joined
Jun 21, 2003
Messages
30,187
Reaction score
427
Location
Cromwell,CT
I do know a few instructors that offer a sliding scale. They themselves are trying to make ends meet, but want to help a person out.

I remember there were some commercial schools they got in trouble for using children to clean the school. Something about a child labor act that was violated. I thought was weird. Years ago when I did Aikido everyone had to clean the mat. Young and old.

Affordability does limit on choices.

Yeah, that is kinda weird, as everyone usually did something to take care of the school. I wouldn't be surprised if it was the result of some parent who felt that their kid was there to learn the martial arts, not clean. Then again, even if that had nothing to do with it, its usually only for a short time anyways. I mean, how long does it take to vacume, sweep, empty trash or wipe down mirrors? Its not like the kid is putting in 40+ hrs a week.

Another common comment I hear to keep cost down is learning from DVDs, the internet (youtube), or distance learning. If the student is new, not a good idea. No feed back. No guidance from a qualified instructor. No one with a critical eye to correct you.

Yes, that is another option. IMO, even if the person is a skilled MAist, personally, I'd rather not use those tools to learn from, but instead as more of a reference.
 
OP
Hawke

Hawke

Master Black Belt
Joined
Jan 10, 2007
Messages
1,067
Reaction score
24
Hey Carol,

Yes the equipment may not be up to par with the commercial schools. I have seen duct taped rattan sticks, duct taped focus mitts/shields. Even though the tools for feedback may not be that great, the instructor that runs the place is awesome. Certain arts, the only feedback is your partner. Having equipment is nice though.

Hey Stuart,

I prefer a smaller class. You brought up a point that after your previous experience with TKD that you got a better idea of what to look for. I was thinking that the Y, community colleges, rec centers may be an affordable way for people to get a better idea what to look for as well. Some of my best experiences have been parks, rec centers, and community colleges.

Hey MJS,

I see the DVDs as supplemental resource material as well.
 

repz

Green Belt
Joined
Jan 21, 2010
Messages
195
Reaction score
3
Location
Brooklyn, NYC
Best instructor I ever had used to be a YMCA instructor. He was a former kickboxing champion, and he taught a mix of shotokan and American kickboxing.

I currently train in a community college. Hes a 5th degree under the skif, which isnt too bad, and he still competes in world tournaments.

Other then this, I have trained in schools that have rented space in studios. Who I guess you can put in the same boat as those above, since they dont own their own private space.

I am from NYC, and space is really expensive. Average fees go over 100 due to the wreck that is NYC rental fees.

The ones that do own their space are more salesmen then martial artists, at least when it comes to my experience. I have found more respectful, more "its about the art, not the business", and treat you like students then clients, in studios, schools, and other public rented spaces.
 

Latest Discussions

Top