With so many martial arts schools, styles, systems, and instructors, it sometimes can seem overwhelming in the decision process of picking a school and instructor for yourself, or your family. I refer to an earlier blog of mine where I discussed how to pick the proper Art for oneself. Keeping that in mind, the potential student should ask himself/ herself the question, "What do I want out of my study of the Arts?" The answers vary greatly from self defense to sport to socialization. Another consideration is, "What Art is best suited for my body type?" A long lanky individual might do well in Taekwondo where someone lower centered might do better in a grappling style. However, this is just a rule of thumb and not in stone. I have competed against many different body types in the Arts I teach and study, Taekwondo and Hapkido. Bruce Lee is quoted as saying, "Keep what is useful, discard what is not, and make it your own." This give us a lot of latitude in our training even though we study a "system" of conceptually driven techniques. So much for the review. What about the school and the instructor?
Once one makes a decision of what Art he or she in interested in, then comes finding a good match of school, instructor, and student. The mark of a good instructor is one that has the welfare of the student in mind and not his or her own personal agenda. There are many martial arts organizations which schools and instructors fall under. Some even are not affiliated wit any organization, but operate independently. When I was coming up through the ranks there were only a few internationally approved organizations. Today there are many. Let's start with the instructor.
Feel free to ask the instructor about certifications the he/ she has obtained and their experience. Do not let the "bling" of a trophy distract you. Legitimate instructors are willing to allow you to see their certifications and credentials. Go home after and research the credentialing authority. Most main organizations have web sites and information about instructors and qualifications necessary to become a "Certified Instructor."
Next concern is the school. Just because a school has been around for a long time does not mean that the rank one receives there will transfer to any other group if you have to move or relocate. Just like with instructors, schools are "Charted" by the authorizing agency to conduct business, promote students and operate with honor. Once again, ask questions. Go home and research. The same applies as with the instructors.
One last thing before one joins a school is to ask about all fees, contracts, etc. There are many schools who have several fees and contracts and then, if you are lucky, you find a school that is straight and up front about monthly dues and other costs. Check with the Better Business Bureau. Also, you can check the Rotary Club and the Chamber of Commerce. The Secretary of State is another place to look. Most legitimate schools who are interested in good standing in the community are LLC's, Limited Liabilty Corporations. One can find them on the Secretary of State's web site. Here you can find who is active and who is not. Also, you can find those who are revoked.
Go with you gut. Research!!! And good hunting. Training should be fun, safe and effective, and conducted in a positive manner and environment. If an instructor spends his/her time "slamming" other martial artists and schools, it may be a good idea to look elsewhere. That is a waste of your classtime, as well as the mark of an instructor who is not confident in his/her own abilities. A good quote comes to mind here, "When entering this dojo, leave your shoes and ego's at the door."
Master Ken Ducote