What To Look For In A Martial Arts Studio
Most parents who choose a karate school make their choice based on convenience. While this is an important factor in selecting a school, this shouldn't be the only factor in your choice. So what qualities does a professional school have? Remember, martial arts training requires a commitment of time and money so you should know what to look for. There are many great schools and instructors out there and unfortunately there are as many not so good. How do you tell the difference if you have no experience? Having been in the martial arts industry for over 25 years, if I was searching for a school to train at, these are the things I would look for.
1. Positive and High Energy Classes-
Students and people in general thrive in a positive, friendly environment. Choose a school that brings out the best in yourself or your child. Does the school have friendly staff and instructors? Is the staff happy to be there with a smile, is it sincere? Do they cultivate an environment that you makes you feel better after every class? Are there parents watching their children in the audience area, or are they participating and encouraging their kids? Can you feel the energy when you walk in? A school that focuses on positive and high energy classes will do their best to encourage you, give you appropriate feedback, and ensure your success in their program.
2. Classroom Discipline and Management-
This might seem to contradict the first statement but in reality both concepts can exist simultaneously. While martial arts should be fun, when a student comes to class they should also adhere to studio etiquette and discipline. I would evaluate this by seeing if the instructor can hold class attention without being authoritative. Are students "hustling" from technique to technique? Does the instructor work from a lesson plan or just make it up as he goes along? Is the class moving as one unit or are kids being left behind? Can you hear the "snap" and "power" coming from the group or are kids just following along? A good disciplined and managed class should closely resemble the order of a military unit. Standardized movement,discipline, and order.
3. Quality Instruction-
Quality instruction is the hardest for a parent to spot without having any experience in martial arts. Since books can be written on this subject alone, I will describe what process it takes to have quality instructors. Unfortunately the way the industry is, anybody can say there a black belt by putting one on. Most martial arts schools that teach quality instruction do the little things to make sure they stay up-to-date on methods and training. Look for the not so obvious aspects of instructors like how long have they been practicing the martial arts, how long have they been teaching, how often do they go on courses to improve their own skills? Does the studio require CPR and First Aid qualifications? Some other important aspects to look at include: Do they do background checks, are they qualified to rank you once you get to black belt? Is their school a part of a larger organization that offers support and guidance to them? A quality martial arts school should have an infrastructure like an elite college institution. It should be stringent, have extremely high standards, and have a process of on-going training and development.
4. Effective and Challenging Curriculum
The signs of an effective, challenging curriculum is how many Black Belts are training? Are they able to retain students after their Black Belt? Does the program include life skills as well as martial arts? More importantly, do the instructors lead by example and live their creed? Are they able to retain 2nd and 3rd degree Black Belts? Can you study a lifetime and still not learn everything in their curriculum? Of course, with a new school you won't have this option, but after three to five years of opening you should get a pretty good idea.
5. Clean and Safe Environment
Since a martial arts studio will have many kids, safety should be first in importance at a martial arts school. A good martial arts school makes safety its principal goal both physically and mentally. Is the training equipment in good shape? Are there plenty of instructors on the floor? Cleanliness goes along with safety in protecting students. A school should be hygienic from it's waiting area to it's training floor to it's locker rooms and bathrooms. Is the school clean from the front door, to the bathrooms, to the training area? Are the mats washed on a regular basis? Does the school reinvest back into itself?
6. Month-to-Month Agreements
Having a 9 year old myself, I know from first hand experience that kids change their minds all the time. The last thing I want to do is sign a contract and then have to force my daughter to do something that she doesn't want to do six months later. Just look at the health industry, in the 80's and 90's contracts were popular and the industry made a lot of money off them. A person would come in and sign a contract, stop working out after three months, and never show up again. During this time, the gym would get paid for the next three years! In today's market, the gym's that are flourishing and thriving are the ones that give customers the options of canceling at any time. Think about it, if adults had a hard time sticking to a membership, how difficult is it for kids? Don't make this mistake!