Questions to ask on your first visit to a Martial Arts School

Questions to ask on your first visit to a Martial Arts School
Ready to begin with Martial Arts but don't know what to do? These questions might help you as you enter your first school and guide you to the "right" choice.
    1) First and foremost, why are you going to study Martial Arts? Before you go into any school, sit down and honest ask yourself what you're looking for. What you are looking for will change how you approach your questions.
    * Are you looking for something to do with your children? If so, you'll want to look for a curriculum that encourages both parents and children to study together. You'll want to find a school that has children about your child's age always around as it creates an open atmosphere.
    * Are you looking for something because of a medical or health reason? If so, you'll want to spend time talking with your prospective teacher about what you're looking for. If you're not comfortable telling them specifics, ask more general questions such as what experiences they've had working with physical therapy? Observe what type of students come through for classes. You'll want to be careful that students don't come in or leave looking like they are injured.

Now that you have that figured out, I encourage people to go directly to the school. Talking with an instructor over the phone will only give you some idea of what you want. But until you step into the school and observe things in person, it will be hard to gauge what you like.

Of course, there are probably many Martial Arts school in your area as the arts are spreading. So, in order to narrow down your selections, start by some basics:
    2) How far away is the school from your house? From your place of work? From any other location you might travel from to get to the school?

    3) What hours do they run classes? This will be important to know if you can fit this into your schedule. In addition to when the class you're interested in happens, you'll also want to know if there are other times available for make-up classes in the event you have to travel.

Most of these answers you can get online or with a simply phone call. Once that is squared away, narrow down your selection to just a few schools. Expect to spend anywhere from 15 minutes to 1 hour at the schools talking with the instructors.

Some of the things to talk about once you've gone:
    4) What style does the instructor teach? If you're not experienced in Martial Arts, a lot of this talk may go over your head. Keep asking questions based on what you're familiar with and what you're looking for. Ask simple things to clarify the style for you. For instance, Does this style teach weapons?, Do you have to fight in this style?. If you must, you can even ask the teacher to relate it to something on TV or in movies.

    5) How long have you been teaching? This will give you an understanding of what sort of experience the teacher has had.

    6) What are the majority of your students? Male, female, young or old? This will help you gauge your comfort level with the school. If the school has mostly men and you don't feel comfortable in that sort of setting, you won't like taking classes there.

    7) Any accreditation or affiliation to this school and larger organizations? These days, there are as many affiliations in Martial Arts as there are styles, perhaps even more. This won't tell you much but it might give you more information to search on later if you so choose. Being affiliated or accredited by an organization is only as good as the organization conducts itself. There are some strong advantages to having this accreditation. It means if you should move, there may be another school of your style taught in your new location. It also means that there's a good chance your teacher will continue to grow and learn, which means so will you under this family.

    8) How often is the head instructor on the floor? This is important to know as you do want to be taught by the head instructor. It is also a good sign if the head instructor is not the sole teacher in the school. Should the head instructor need to be off on travel or away for any other reason, you want to still be able to take classes and train. Some smaller school don't have this luxury but will have other accommodations should the head instructor not be available.

    9) What is the monetary commitment? Martial Arts is just like any other sport in that there are commitments you must make in both purchasing equipment, uniforms, and paying for classes. Some schools require you to make a year commitment when you first sign up. For them, it is a necessary task in order to survive. But for you as the consumer, that could be costly if you decide not to attend. If you don't have a reference to give you an idea if this is a good school or not, consider asking if there are any introductory courses available or seminars you can come in for to try it out.

    10) Ask to talk to some of the students under this teacher. You learn a lot about why a person stays with a teacher and continues to train in Martial Arts from those under them. This is a good chance also for you to potentially make a friend and a partner to practice in in the future. Ask the other student questions about why they are here and why they stay, what they like and what they think they gain from being here.

    11) Are private classes available? This might be a good option for some people who either don't have time to train during the regular schedule or want more focused training.

    12) What CPR or safety training do people have? Just as you would ask in a fitness gym, you should follow the same lines of questioning here. It's important to know if there's something that goes wrong, there are people around who will be able to help you.

Finally, and perhaps the most important to me:
    13) Listen to yourself! If you walk into a school and suddenly feel scared or are intimidated by the teacher. If you find it's hard to talk to instructor. If you find they are rude or aren't really listening to what you are saying. Walk away. Say "Thank you" and head out. Chances are if you feel this uncomfortable now, things won't change over time. Our instincts are one of our most basic pieces of consciousness and one should listen to it.

Hopefully, these questions will help set you on the right path to finding a school right for you.

You may find these articles helpful:
Beginner Martial Arts Questions Answered
Finding a Martial Arts School

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