A Guide to Selecting a Martial Arts School
Factors to Consider When Selecting a Martial Arts School
Choosing a martial arts school to train yourself or your child is an important decision. There are many factors to consider when selecting a place to train such as:
This guide is unique in that it
will not only help you explore issues to help ensure that you find a
school with quality instruction. The guide will also help you find a
good "school situation" in terms of the customer relationship and
business interactions that will be healthy and enjoyable for you. This
will enable you to stick with classes over the long term, receive a
quality training experience and a positive customer experience so that
you can become an avid martial artist and maintain peace of mind
throughout the multi-year experience of your martial arts journey.
One of the most important aspects of selecting a martial arts school to train at is the location. Most students attend a class with in three miles of their home. An ideal school is one that is located within one to two miles of your home. If the school is a short distance from your home, there is a greater chance that you or your child will be able to attend classes regularly. Depending on the age of your child and your preferences as a parent, attending a school within walking or bicycling distance of your home may eliminate the need for you to drive your child to class. Additionally, if the school is located close to your home, you will still be able to get to class if you run late during the work day and avoid traffic, etc…
While location alone is not the
most important factor in selecting a school, it is the factor most
likely to affect your ability to regularly attend classes and the
likelihood of your attending classes for the long term. Driving merely
15 minutes to class results in 1 to 1.5 hours of commute time per week,
which is 75 hours per year! Because of this broad reach and affect, you
should weigh location seriously in your decision for selecting a school.
In order to fully understand the system's curriculum, an instructor usually must have achieved the rank of 4th Degree Black Belt (4th Dan).
The instructor’s rank should be further qualified by his time in training. A typical minimum time line for rank attainment would be:
Thus an 5th Dan should have approximately 17 years of training. Some programs and schools offer 2 year black belts and accelerate ranks that go 1 year for 2nd Dan, 2 years for 3rd Dan, 3 years for 4th Dan etc…. which would produce a 5th Dan at 12 years of experience.
This is comparable to a doctor who went to a two year medical school and tested out of his residency. Would you let him operate on you?
There are several other traits that instructors can posses that may enhance an instructor's ability to delivery a quality martial arts experience such as:
· Holding a leadership positions in Martial Arts Organizations
· Having a College Degree
· Holding significant positions in the work force or community
· Having military service experience
· Serving in a law enforcement position
An instructor who has demonstrable credentials, achievements and success outside of the martial arts school is more likely to be able to maintain and grow the school from a business and operations perspective. This will result in a healthy school that will exist long enough for you or your child to earn a black belt. It will also enable the instructor to provide a better customer experience for you and the other members of the class.
Full Disclosure of Costs and Fees
· What are the belt test fees ?
· What are the association membership fees?
· Are long term contracts required to start training? Are they required to progress past a certain rank?
· Are there required programs (such as Black Belt programs, Master programs, or Leaderships programs) and if so what financial and time commitments are associated with them?
Many students start a martial arts program and quit after 2 – 6 months. Thus, many martial arts schools require annual contracts. In the event that you quit coming to class the school continues to get paid for a full year regardless of whether you like the class or the martial art or even attend classes. This makes the schools income more stable for the instructor, but can be quite frustrating for the student or worse than frustrating if you find yourself in a situation where you can no longer afford to pay the cost of tuition.
Many people find that the friendly instructor who told them that he would work things out and refund the students money in case of an emergency or a problem, that the contract was merely a formality or part of the association rules; found their instructor not to be so forgiving when it came time to ask to end the contract. If you sign a contract, you will likely have to the pay the full amount of the contract, one way or another, which is usually anywhere from $1,200 to $5,000. Additionally, you will most likely not be dealing with the instructor, but rather a collection agency who will be making negative reports about your credit.
In addition to annual contracts
being required for all students, some schools have a “bait and switch”
program. They give new students an attractive deal to start training.
Then at a crucial point, the instructor informs the student that a long
term contract or membership in a special program (which requires a
contract) is required to continue training or to earn the next
promotion. For example, a school may allow the you to pay monthly for 6
months and then, prior to your green belt test, the school may require
you to join the Black Belt Program/Club (2 year contract), Master’s
Program/Club (3 year contract), or Leadership Program/Club (4 year
contract). This can be a gut wrenching decision especially when small
children are involved.
A lesser example of this tactic would be where the school will let you bring your children to a week’s worth of free classes, get the children extremely excited about the class, and only then tell you the tuition is $150 per month (per child) with 1 year contractual commitment for each child.
The bottom line is that the school should be confident enough in its services and training that it does not have to force the students into a signing a long term contract or black mail the students by withholding rank. In the event that the school would like to offer long term contracts or pre-pays they should do so in a mutually beneficial way by offering discounted tuition incentives so that both parties (Instructor and student) win.
The school should be confident enough to earn your business on a monthly basis and continue to provide you quality service month after month consistently. Additionally, be wary of schools that demand that you buy your equipment from only the school, often at inflated prices.
Martial Arts Style or System
The following break down of scores should help you differentiate potential schools for both ease of use, comfort in business transactions and positive customer experience.
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