How to Choose a Martial Arts School

Have you seen how many martial arts schools are in your local phonebook? How do you know if you’re choosing the right school? In this article we will feature advice on choosing the right martial arts school for your child.

Everywhere you turn there’s a martial arts school! It is estimated there is 20,000 martial arts school in the U.S. alone. Chances are you have at least one school within a few miles of your home. Today’s martial arts schools ranges from garage-based schools, to fancy mega-schools with multiple training floors and observation lounges. Based on national averages, martial arts schools charge about $ 125 per month, but schools can be found charging anywhere from $ 35.00 to more than $ 200/month.

Because most parents are not experts in martial arts they will typically choose a martial arts school based on either price or convenience of the location. Unfortunately, choosing a martial arts school is not as simple as comparing prices or the proximity from your home. It may be cliché, but if you compare martial arts schools, you’re comparing apples to oranges. If you plan to enroll your child in martial arts school with goal of building his/her self-esteem or empowering him/her with the ability to defend his/herself it may take a minimum of one year of training, but likely more. That being said, choosing the wrong school can lead to your child wanting to quit before the goal is achieved. Choosing the right school can have a life-changing affect on your child.

Martial arts consultant, and a veteran school owner, Tom Callos, says, “You evaluate a martial arts school the same way you would evaluate any school you would take your child to. Just because you’re thinking of joining a school that teaches the “ancient art of self defense,” doesn’t mean you don’t apply modern day scrutiny to their professionalism, teachers, and facilities.”

Here are six tips to finding the right martial arts school:

The Instructor

This should be your number one focus when choosing the right school. A few qualities to look for in an instructor is someone that possesses confidence, courtesy, a positive attitude, and professionalism. Look for an instructor that treats his/her students with respect, as you would like your child to treat you. Gone are the days of respect from intimidation. The instructor will hopefully be wearing a black belt, which should indicate that he/she has attained a high-level of proficiency within their school. The belt does not necessarily translate that he or she will be a great teacher. Watch a class or better yet have your child participate in a trial lesson to see how the instructor interacts with the students and/or your child. Not getting a good vibe, maybe this is not the school for you.

The Curriculum

Over 93% of parents polled in a national survey indicated they wanted their child to be more confident, focused, disciplined and respectful. Do you want the same for your child? These life-skills are what most martial arts schools tell you they teach. But how do they teach it? Ask to see how the school teaches character development. In some schools the process happens by osmosis. There is no set curriculum and it either happens or not. The top schools martial arts schools invest in a system for teaching personal development that ensures all students are equipped with the same values, regardless of which instructor is teaching the class. Make sure the character education program caters to your child’s learning style. If the lessons are all auditory (i.e. reading stories in class) that may not work best for children who are more visual or kinesthetic (action-based) learners. If the school has no “system” for teaching character education then there are no guarantees your child will gain the values you desire.

The Students

Are there a lot of intermediate and advanced students in classes? Chances are you’ve found a school that knows how to enroll and keep its students; that’s a good sign! If you go to a school that’s been in business for a year or longer and it’s still empty, something’s not right with the school. Most martial arts teachers think their classes are the best classes — the way that most restaurateurs think that their food is the best food. If the parking lot is empty, it’s a sign that the customers have a different opinion. On a side note, big does not always equal best. Make sure that your child will receive the personal attention that he or she would receive in school. The student to teacher ratio should not exceed 25 to 1.

The Style

When shopping for the right martial arts school, the “style” the school teaches is not nearly as important as who teaches the class. A good instructor will inspire your child to be their best. There is not one style that is best for kids. Each style will offer something different. One may focus on kicks and strikes, one may emphasize throws and rolls, and another may concentrate on ground defense. A qualified instructor will not teach your child self-offense. Each style should and will, if taught by a good instructor, teach self-defense; so there is no need to worry that your child will become the next playground bully.

The Commitment

Most schools will give you and/or your child an opportunity to try martial arts before making a commitment. Martial arts schools typically will offer a free class, a free private lesson or an introductory course. This gives you an opportunity to evaluate the instructor and program and determine if what they promise and what they deliver are congruent. If there seems to be a deviation from what you’ve been promised or the instructor doesn’t seem to “live up to the hype”; perhaps it’s time to move on. If the school doesn’t offer a trial program and wants to sign you up on a long-term commitment that should be a definite red flag.

Do Your Research

Most schools will have information that you can peruse on the Internet that should tell about the instructor, and the features and benefits of the school. The theme and content of the website may give you a good indication of whether this is a school you may want to consider. Remember why you want to enroll your child in martial arts and see if the website content addresses those needs. If instead the website is more focused on boasting the accomplishments of the instructor having won several championships, breaking bricks with the touch of his/her hand, or the instructor has high ranking degrees in several different martial arts, you may want to proceed with caution. Remember this quote, “People don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.” Be impressed by the instructor, not the credentials.

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Gary Martin has been a sought-after speaker within the martial arts industry. He has authored a book on personal development for kids and is the founder of Success Centers. Mr. Martin was also a competitor in 2006 World Championships. He can be reached at

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