I’m a huge fan of martial arts, as a way to build a kid’s confidence and athleticism. And every kid can benefit from knowing basic self-defense. But many parents don’t know where to start when looking for a martial arts school.
Here are six things to keep in mind.
- Karate Isn’t the Only Martial Art A lot of parents think that Karate is the end all and be all of martial arts. The truth is that there are numerous martial arts. Even Karate has many different forms and styles. Here are the some of the martial arts you’ll see taught to children: Karate, Tae Kwon Do, Judo, Kung Fu and Brazilian Jujitsu. But importantly, when a child starts out, the actual style and art don’t matter that much, unless you are a die-hard martial arts enthusiast. Other things matter more (see below.)
- Look for a Strong Instructor The key to a good martial arts school is strong instruction. More than anything, the teacher in charge of the school will determine the quality of a child’s experience. If your kid is going to be throwing kicks and punches, he should be guided. You’ll want to look for an instructor who is calm, flexible and good with kids, but also pushes students to stretch their abilities. The instructor should emphasize excellence, and that includes the correct forms and technique.
- Don’t Pay for Belts, Weapons or Advancement Some martial arts schools will ask students to pay for belts, weapons or rank advancement. This is a sign of a bad school. These payments create a perverse incentive for the school to keep pushing belts or selling weapons, even if a child isn’t ready for them. The best schools charge a flat fee by the month or per class and make advancement free. The only exception may be fees for higher belt tests, which can take an entire day or more of a school’s time. It’s also OK to be asked to pay for optional extras like t-shirts, camps or tournaments.
- Stay Away From Schools That Emphasize Fighting One common misconception about martial arts is that it’s all about fighting. In reality, the true purpose of martial arts is discipline, confidence and self-defense. Real life fights are unpredictable and messy. An actual fight can leave a child seriously injured or even dead. Look for a school where the instructor says that the best self-defense is to run away. Fighting is always a last resort. That said, a school that doesn’t have any sparring or contact is also a red flag. The school shouldn’t emphasize fighting, but it also must prepare your child for real life circumstances.
- Find a School With Long-Term Students A high quality school will have long-term, committed students. If you walk into a school and meet students who have been there for years, that’s a great sign. It can also be a good sign to see those students teaching and helping out with classes.
- Find a School That Is Close Studying martial arts takes commitment and time. You want to make sure that the school you select is close to your home and convenient. Otherwise, there is a big temptation for your kid to drop out or not go to class. The real benefits to martial arts comes when a child reaches higher belts and feels a real sense of accomplishment.