Martial arts training is one of the best activities for fitness as well as for developing personal confidence and self discipline. If you have decided that you might want to take up martial arts, do not just simply walk into the closest karate school and sign up right away without doing some research. Not all martial arts are alike and not all schools are alike either.
The discussion of which martial art style to take is too extensive for this article. So what I will say here is that there are differences in the various styles of martial arts which may result in some being more suitable for certain individuals compared to others. Do some research and visit the classes of a few clubs that teach different styles if possible.
A School’s Teaching Approach Is More Important Than Styles
What is more important is each school’s approach to teaching. Many martial arts schools teach only techniques that are specific to a traditional style. These schools follow the ways that the original founders of each style developed and they have continued with minimal variance over the years. Other studios like to borrow techniques from a variety of martial art disciplines and integrate a mix into their programs. These more non-traditional schools adopt a more open free-style system that incorporates both traditional and modern techniques.
With the explosion of mixed martial arts, some martial arts are purely combative without any artistic and spiritual content. Each school will claim that their style and method of teaching is superior to others. Prospective students must not take these claims too seriously. Choose an approach that would be best suited for you.
Watch The Instructors In Action First Before Signing Up
Many schools push the backgrounds of their instructors as a way to attract students. It is important to realize that the more degrees (or dans) a particular black belt has does not always mean that the individual is a better instructor. This is the same with instructors who have successful competition records. There is no correlation between the number of championship titles won and how good an instructor is. The term master should be taken with caution.
Some instructors use the approach of the old masters where discipline is strictly enforced much like in the military. While general discipline is actually a good attribute to learn from martial arts, some of the old ways of teaching, particularly reprimanding students vocally or physically for incorrect techniques may be considered a bit harsh for modern society.
This is why it is important to watch classes of prospective. You want to see the teaching style of an instructor to determine if it is a style that would be compatible with you or not. Ask questions after instructors have finished teaching. If you have the gut feeling that certain instructors will not be right for you, move on to find another club. Most legitimate schools will allow prospective students to witness or even try out a class for free before joining.
Competition Versus Non-Competition
Some schools are very much into competition with active encouragement of students to participate in tournaments. Some schools even make this a requirement in order to advance through the different levels.
There are schools in the complete opposite end where they do not believe in competition at all and pretty well keep to themselves without any interaction with other martial arts clubs. Many Chinese kung fu clubs do not compete and some styles such as aikido do not offer any competitive outlet. Many schools choose to have a relaxed position towards competition where they leave it up to individual students to choose whether they want to participate in tournaments or not.
So as a prospective student, you should consider what involvement you would like in competition if any. If you know that you never want to compete, you should not get locked into a school that requires tournament competition. If you have a desire for competition, do not join a studio that shuns competition.
Martial Arts Training Environment
Some schools teach in community centers, school gyms and even church basements. Some have bare bones studios with outdated equipment. Some have the latest fitness equipment with sparkling clean change rooms and facilities. All of these will factor into the membership fee of each school. You have to determine what you are willing to pay for and what type of environment you will feel comfortable training in.
Many schools require annual contracts while some are on a month-to-month basis. There could be initiation fees as well as testing or grading fees for advancement. All of these extra costs will add up. Ask what happens if you have to freeze your membership due to extended illness or injury.
If one does not really know whether martial arts is an activity for them in the long run, the option of taking short term courses such as those offered by community centers may be a viable alternative to making a full commitment to a dedicated martial arts club with its own studio space.
There are many options in the form of different martial art styles and schools to choose from in the market today. Just make sure that you do some preliminary research before committing to any particular club.