What To Look for in a Martial Arts School

I am often asked which Martial Art is the best.  There are so many, and so many different schools, within each Art.  My first response is that all Martial Arts are the best.  They all have merit; they all have similarities and differences.  But the important thing is they all get you to the goal, which is ultimately to learn to defend yourself and your family, if it ever comes to that.  Martial Arts including , Ju Jitsu, Judo, Akido, Jeet Kune Do, Karate, Kung Fu, Tae Kwondo, and others, are all great Martial Arts.  However, within each system there are individual schools.  Like any other teachers, instructors are only as good at teaching as their gifts.  The greatest Martial Artist may not be the best instructor.   When seeking out a Martial Arts School there are several things you should look for and/or avoid.  1) Do the instructors seem interested in me as a person? Do they address character, honor, respect and discipline, particularly if they are teaching children?  2) Does it seem like the only important thing is the cost?  In these trying times, schools do need to charge in order to pay the rent. But does it seem like the fees are excessive and the number one priority? 3) Is there excessive pressure to join?  4) Ostentatious displays of trophies and medals are a distraction – they don’t save your butt in the street.  5) Do you notice too much emphasis on rank – as this can be a huge money-maker in some schools.  Let me expound upon this since I often hear parents tell me their 8-year-old is a Black Belt.  As a 4th Dan in Ju Jitsu, I can honestly say that rank means nothing, it is unimportant.  The belt holds your gi top closed – no matter what color it is – and actually hinders you from doing proper sit-ups.  You, the person, the Martial Artist, make the belt.  Without you, it is simply a piece of material.  Belt color allows us to know what level our students are, and they do act as an incentive, no doubt, but the emphasis should never be about rank.  In the street, rank, belts, mean nothing, zero, zilch.  In my Ju Jitsu system, following the arduous Shodan exam, the candidate , who can barely stand, is asked to put on a white belt and perform three self-defense techniques.  Despite his or her exhaustion, the candidate rises to the occasion and disarms the attackers one of whom may be swinging a knife, bat or stick.  It is symbolic of the fact that the belt does not define you as a martial artist, rather it is your devotion to your practice that makes you an exemplary martial artist.   The candidate makes the belt.  So when entering a Martial Arts school pay attention to all of these things.  Ask many questions.  Make sure you are comfortable and satisfied with what you have heard and witnessed.  Go with your gut.  And when you do find the right system/school for you, it will in all likelihood be a lifetime endeavor.

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