Martial Law

Patti of Good Googledy Moogledies commented on a recent post where she asked:
"Have any advice that might help a mom who'd like to let her boy explore what [martial art] he is interested in, but in an environment that is productive to the boy - not just the instructor's bottom line?"

Choosing a martial arts school can seem complicated: Tuition costs, uniforms, extra equipment, etc. are only a few of the thoughts that will run through your head when trying to choose a school. Honestly, though, the above concerns aren't the most important. Ultimately, the concern is finding a martial art & school you enjoy.

With that in mind, here are Hap's recommendations for finding a martial arts school:
1) Style: What does the school teach? This is what the student will study & it needs to match what you want out of a martial art. Do you want self-defense? Jeet Kun Do or Hap Ki Do are great...Tae Kwon Do or Karate aren't for you in this case. I'll offer more suggestions at the end of the post.

2) Location/Facility: Try to find a close school with clean, organized facilities. Traveling for an hour, unless the student is exceptionally dedicated to the art, is not practical. Facilities should be appropriate for the art (i.e. - clean, spacious mats for Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu or high ceilings with clean, smooth floors for Tae Kwon Do). Fancy equipment is often expensive & schools generally are in this for profit. That means the students are paying for what you see. That's not necessarily a bad thing...just keep it in mind.

3) Contracts: This also includes tuition costs. There is ZERO need to sign a contract, in my opinion. The school should either bill by the lesson or by the month. Just because "you get what you pay for" is a popular adage doesn't mean it's entirely true. A good school won't break the bank. In fact, I'd be suspect of any school that charges over $80/month (major cities may cost more). My instructor charges far less, though teaching is not how he earns his living.

Any school worth your time will let a prospective student try out a lesson or two for free AND will answer all questions honestly.

4) Equipment: Can you purchase your own or must you buy from the school? The latter often means marked-up prices. Depending on the art, there may be a lot of equipment to purchase & purchasing from a distributor such as Century can often be less expensive than buying from the school. A school can determine the dress code of students & the students should be allowed to obtain that equipment by the most cost-effective means.

With those basics out of the way, here are some questions I'd ask based on experience:
(If you don't get a straight answer on any of the below, just leave the school)
1) How many years have you practiced AND taught in [martial art]?

2) What is the core philosophy of the school (sparring, self-defense, discipline, competition, etc.)?

3) How much is tuition? Are testing fees included in this price? If not, what are the testing fees for each level & for what (exactly) does the testing fee pay (boards, new belt, certificate, instructor time)? I'm personally against the instructor charging a large test fee for his/her "time". That should be part of the tuition, not test. The testing is the student's time!

4) Are there any age restrictions for rank? Unfortunately, some schools will promote based only on time-in-rank & not consider age. Remember that rank is a combination of skill, effort, time and maturity. The belt is basically a measuring stick for progress. By itself, the belt keeps your pants up - it does not determine actual ability or dedication to the art.

There are plenty of other questions that may be asked. If anyone comes up with any, I am always available to answer them. Please feel free to e-mail me (e-mail link is at the top of the site) if something is on your mind.

Now, for a quick summary of martial arts. These are arts to which I have been exposed but do not necessarily have a rank:
1) Hapkido (2nd Degree): My first martial art & the other love in my life (besides God, Country & Family). Hapkido focuses largely on joint locks, balance disruption & minor striking elements. The main focus is to prevent/deter an attack & strongly discourage the attacker from pursuing another assault. It is a difficult art to learn but exceptionally difficult to counter in its primary application: Self-Defense.

2) Taekwondo (2nd Degree): A striking art that utilizes snapping kicks (70%) & hand strikes (30%). It is an art in the sense of patterns (kata, poomse) to learn & an entire philosophy permeating every aspect of the discipline. This is a very popular art across America for families & children as one major focus for schools is to instill discipline in students. There are also more "acrobatic" kicks & techniques that make for good demonstration, competition & sparring.

3) Arnis (Level 2 of 10): An overly-simplified summary of this art is "stick fighting". More accurately, it is close-quarters self-defense with a combative edge to the art. The stick & knife techniques supplement Hapkido's joint locks with practical weaponry. Still, the art easily stands on its own in terms of self-defense & adaptability.

4) Jeet Kun Do (No Rank): The art founded by the late Bruce Lee, JKD is simplicity in self-defense. It borrows elements from various Chinese styles & offers discipline along with self-confidence. If there were a place to start in martial arts, this would probably be the best. A student can get in shape while learning valuable skills.

5) Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (No Rank): A grappling art, the traditional form founded by the Gracies is renowned for revolutionizing Mixed Martial Arts & gave us organizations such as the UFC. BJJ deals largely with ground fighting applications & utilizes chokes, holds & joint manipulation to submit or render an opponent unconscious. There are "street" applications of this art that focus on self-defense but I am wary of any art that takes an attack to the ground. The focus of self-defense is to get out of the situation, not prolong it on the floor (That is just my opinion).


patti said...

Thank you kindly, that was exactly the sort of thing I needed. I don't begrudge someone making a living, but I have also heard from several parents around here of schools demanding long contracts and upfront fees for them. I'm not really into a long contract until the boy has shown some degree of dedication after exposure. And I had no idea the discription of the varied forms, just that there are many different disciplines so that truely helped too. I'll let you know what happens.

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