Finding a martial arts school is easy, however finding a good school is difficult. You should know the following things before joining any school. Some school owners would rather we not share this information with you, because you probably would not join their school . . . if you knew the truth!
"Belt Factories" are simply schools that give the belts to students as long as the student is paying tuition, regardless of their ability to perform the required skills. Their main concern is about making the student feel good regardless of their martial arts skills. Be assured Black Belts do not mean what they used to and they are literally given away these days.
Knowing Their Intentions
Call the school and talk to the head instructor. Ask questions about their program and see if they meet your needs/goals. At that point, ask about tuition rates. If they would rather you come in to discuss it, be prepared for high tuition rates, high pressure tactics and long term contracts. This type of school wants to get you in person because they know their pressure tactics will usually work. Their main concern is about how much money they can bring in every month.
Value Of A Black Belt
If you see several 9-year-old "black belts" in the school - leave immediately! A 9-year-old cannot understand the basics and philosophies of martial arts, teach others correctly or even defend themselves properly, regardless of how talented or bright that child may be!
Why Pay For A Trial?!
Look for a trial membership so that you are not committed to something you may not like or understand. This is also a good way to see if you can understand the instructors. The fact that someone is wearing a Black Belt does NOT mean they are a good instructor. Can you ask questions of the head instructor before, during or after class?
No One Likes Commitment!
Do NOT sign a long term contract! Many schools have you sign a 3 year contract called a “Black Belt Club" or "Masters Club” that guarantees a Black Belt in 3 years no matter what. Do NOT get pressured into it. While you need to commit to your training for many years to be proficient, the school should not force you to commit. If you are not willing to commit yourself to the art, you are not ready to learn martial arts.
Beware: Honesty Isn't What It Used To Be
Martial artists are not all honest and genuine as they should be! Watch out for money-making schemes and price gouging! Make no mistake, schools need to make money to stay in business, but there is no reason to take advantage of you. You will be very surprised at how your tuition may be the least of all your expenses!
Ask the price of each belt test, including Black Belt. You will usually see it cost anywhere from $30 - $50 for color belts and $200-$500 for the black belt. What is amazing is how some schools get away with charging $30 for a white belt test, then charging $60 for a blue belt test. There is NO cost difference in the color of belts! A yellow belt costs the SAME as a blue belt! Sometimes a solid stripe will cost $2-$5 extra, and a black belt with embroidery will certainly cost more.
Are there minimum time and skill requirements from one belt rank to the next? One money-making scam to watch out for is the "NO BELT" to White Belt. Likewise, watch out for "Guaranteed Black Belt Programs". This is like attending a college that will guarantee a diploma regardless of grades. Typical signs of factory schools are where students promote automatically every 2-3 months. A good martial arts school should never emphasize the belts or how quickly one will get to the next rank.
Let No One Slip Through The Cracks
Look for class size! Large classes means less personal attention. If there are too many in a class, the student should have the option to attend another class. We recommend a maximum ratio of 1 instructor for every 8 students. How do the students behave and act in AND out of the school? The foundation for martial arts training includes respect, discipline, character and mental skills. You will find an astonishing number of students at some schools that behave badly and disrespectfully outside of the school. Look at how the students behave in and OUT of the school to know if the school is effective. While misbehavior is more common and understandable at the lower belt levels, you should not see this behavior with higher belt ranks. A good way to find out is to simply watch the students as they leave class and are getting ready to leave the school.
Striking Should Be A Last Resort
Self-defense is doing what you must do to prevent yourself from being harmed when unjustly attacked. Some schools that claim to focus on self-defense are, in fact, teaching fighting with rules (MMA, Muay Thai, boxing, grappling, Karate etc.). PREVENTION is ALWAYS your FIRST Line of self-defense. You are not there to engage an opponent. You are not there to fight an opponent. In a self-defense situation you are seeking to protect your life or prevent grievous bodily injury to yourself and/or a loved one.