Choosing the Right Martial Arts School
By: Sensei Jacob Hennessey
When starting the search for a martial arts school to begin your training you may think that all schools and styles are created equal. This is not true! Every style has a different focus, result, and method of teaching. Instructors of the same style will also present the information differently depending on how they think about the material, how it was taught to them, and even how they like to practice. For all these reasons and more, it is extremely important that when beginning your study, you find the school and style that best suits your wants and needs. Know what you want, Try it, and click with the teacher. These are the three tenants that will yield the best results in your training.
Know What you Want
The first of the tenants to finding the correct school is Know what you want. This will help narrow your search, from the infinite number of schools within a half hour of your home to a manageable number that can be easily vetted to find the perfect martial arts experience. Knowing what you want has multiple facets.
The first and foremost is your end goal. Do you want to be a tournament competitor? Or be able to defend yourself in the dark parking lot after work? Is martial arts an interesting way for you to cross-train for another sport? Is it your dream to see the inside of an MMA cage some day? If you want to be the next Randy Couture or Chuck "the Icemen" Liddell you will start on a very different path then if you would like to get back in shape or increase your flexibility. Looking into the different styles offered near you and deciding if they will help you achieve your goal is a great first step.
Some other things to think about before starting at a martial arts school can include how much time you want to devote, how much you want to spend, and whether or not sparring or mock fighting is something that you want your training to include. Have the answers to all these questions before you start visiting schools so you know what questions to ask.
The next tenant is Try It. I can think of zero schools that expect someone to sign right up without trying a class. The trail period is important because watching a class and participating in a class are very different. Exercise is easy when you are looking from the outside in but when it is you in a horse stance punching and kicking you feel just how tiring it can be. Try as many classes as you can before making your decision. This could mean the difference of being on the fence to loving it or push you from loving a school to knowing that it is not for you. The more you try the better you can determine if they are what you want.
Click with the Teacher
The last tenant is Click with the Teacher. Make sure that while you are investigating a school you have a conversation or two with the person that will be teaching you. Most schools are relatively small and you will talk to them often but some you may have to try a little harder to make this happen. If you don’t click with your teacher you won't ask questions, stay and talk after class, and you will be less likely to want to pursue the art further. I consider my teachers of the past 16 years to be close friends as, hopefully, you will too.
I sincerely hope that you found this helpful and will begin searching for the perfect style, school, and teacher as soon as possible. Remember, Know what you want, Try it, and Click with your Teacher.