Finding the Right Martial Arts School For You

There are countless martial arts styles and schools out there. So which one is right for you? The first thing a person should do is understand why they are interested in taking up a martial art. Do you want to learn self defense, get in shape, get involved in competition, or develop self discipline? There are a lot of different and legitimate reasons to get involved in martial arts. Once you understand your own motivation is when the foot work begins. The best place to start is the internet, doing a search of key words will narrow down the choices in your area. But then you have to get out and visit these schools. Talk to the instructors, watch a class, talk to students and family members of students. If the school offers a free trial class TAKE IT!

Then once you have narrowed it down, it is time to look at the curriculums, school goals and tuition programs.

Now that you have found the school you think matches your needs and interests it is time to interview the potential Instructor. Remember YOU are interviewing the Instructor, not the other way around, maintain control of the interview and don’t let the Instructor turn it around on you turning it into a sales pitch.

I recommend you first ask if the Instructor/School is a member of either NAPMA (National Association of Professional Martial Artists) or MAIA (Martial Arts Industry Association). These Associations are NOT Martial Arts organizations but Sales and Marketing Companies that specialize in making sales not teaching martial arts. NAPMA is owned and operated by businessman Stephen Oliver and MAIA is owned and operated by the world’s largest martial arts supplier Century Martial Arts.

Martial Arts Instructors pay these organizations $ 1000+ each and every month in consultations fees for sales and marketing advice. These companies DO NOT offer any martial arts instruction or training! For this astronomical monthly fee, the Instructor has been given and taught to use carefully crafted scripts to answer phone calls or talk to walk-in potential customers. They also have comprehensive lists of how to deal with any objections and get as many potential customers to sign lengthy and expensive contracts (5+ years and $ 17,000).

These sales and marketing companies and their Instructors have only one goal: Increase revenues! Martial Arts are secondary to the $ $ $ . I once interviewed for a position with Mile Hi Karate a franchise owned by Stephen Oliver (NAPMA). During the interview I was never asked about my martial arts background and experience, all of the questions were about my sales and marketing experience. Need I say more?

The way these “martial arts” schools increase and guarantee their revenue is through CONTRACTS. This scheme is legal but I question how ethical it is, especially considering the code of honor most traditional martial arts schools claim to teach. These contracts vary in length from 12 month (1 year) to 60 months (5 years). I have noticed that these schools always quote time in months and not years, that is a tactic they use to downplay what may seem like a very long time to an ordinary person.

Monthly cost can vary from about $ 160 a month to $ 500+ a month. Time to do the math a 12 month contract at $ 160 a month = $ 1920 per year. 5 year contract at $ 160 a month = $ 9600 per year. I even heard of someone signing a 36 month contract at $ 395 per month. That’s $ 14,220! Those are the values of the contracts. The monthly amounts must be paid whether the student is training or not. These contracts are ironclad, written by lawyers and tested in court. Don’t think for one second that the Instructor won’t send you to a collection agency or turn you over to their lawyer for payment even if you stop training. It never ceases to amaze me how many apparently intelligent people fall for this scam. Here is a quote from one of these people who learned the hard way:

“The beginning stages of the training has lots of young black belts studying with the children in a supportive way (sort of, we’ll get to that). While you are in the “basic” class, you have a lot of support and individual attention. Of the employees that work there, most are very nice and are great teachers but there are quite a few young kids there with very little respect for anyone and no real desire to be there. They are there contractually, that’s the “sort of”. The “sort of”: In the basic program, you can only attain a green belt. To move beyond that, you need to sign a 4 year contract at about Then far more “mandatory events” they sponsor at a fee, the belt testing fees have grown from $ 40/$ 30 2 years ago to $ 70/$ 60 now. When you take your black belt test you have to go up to one of the mountain resorts ($ 500 for the condo 2 days, $ 500 for the BB test). The hidden fees that they keep dreaming up are unreal. I could go on, but can’t keep going here. Watch and talk to a blue uniform.”

Many of these Instructors actually count on a large percentage of their students quitting! Their facilities are simply too small to accommodate the number of students enrolled. They maximize their profits based on square footage by having “paying” students who do not attend. Legal? Yes! Ethical? Doubtful.

You should also ask about UPGRADES such as sparring, Black Belt Club, Masters Club, weapons training, etc. There are lots of upgrade options that these schools use to increase revenue. Each upgrade is added to the basic fee starting around $ 160 per month. It can really start adding up. Make sure you understand clearly what your basic fee gets for you, because you can easily end up paying 2 or 3 times the basic amount to get the training you wanted.

To sum this all up, I will never forget a series of articles I saw in the monthly magazine of NAPMA. It was entitled “How to Lock in Your Students.” It dealt with using contracts to obligate students to pay the martial arts school. As disturbing as that is, the photo that accompanied it made me shudder. It was a picture of a young martial arts student in a locked cage. That’s how they see their students!

Obviously, I would recommend staying as far away from these schools or “McDojos” as they are known among traditional martial arts schools. Never sign a contract! If the school doesn’t offer a month-to-month go elsewhere, find a school where their priority is martial arts instructions and training, not sales and contracts. At Centennial Taekwon-Do we teach students, NOT customers!

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