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  • What questions to ask before joining a martial arts school?
    It is very important that beginners ask many questions before joining any martial arts schools. This will help them to avoid financial headaches, inappropriate styles, training problems, McDojos, 25 year old Grand Masters, etc.

    What key questions would you suggest that new students ask?

    For example, I would suggest that students ask if the school has a low priced trial period in order to get acquainted with the school, system, instructors & students (before signing any longer-term contracts). Then ask if there is any required contracts (i.e. annual contract, month-to-month contract, etc.) and then ask what are the extra costs (i.e. additional testing fees). Students need to determine the real cost of training and the length of this financial commitment.

    Please help beginners by listing some essential questions that should be asked before joining any martial arts school.

    Black Belt Wiki
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      • 5
      Al W Questions I would personally ask the instructor of the class
      1: How long have you been training?
      2: How long have you been teaching?
      3: How often should I train?
      4: How much do lessons cost?
      5: How do I pay for lessons?
      6: How much does membership cost?
      7: How often do you grade students?
      8: Is there any extra cost for gradings?
      9: Do I need to purchase a uniform?

      But most of all ask yourself "Is this the Martial Art for me?"
        • 1
        Michael Great post. I can't think of much us to ask other than "What style do you teach, and why did you choose to learn the style yourself?" This both ensures that you get the style name to do your own research and opens up the opportunity for the instructor to explain why their style is the best (at least in their opinion) without undercutting other styles.
        • 1
        Jody Williams All good, but what do you think the answers should be?
          • 1
          Joe Bramblett 1: Since 1912
          2: Since the 1930s
          3: Daily
          4: As a school cannot exist without students, we will pay you a competitive wage for attending.
          5: Through your sweat and occasionally blood.
          6: Years of dedication.
          7: Very carefully.
          8: Of course not; that's when you get raises.
          9: No, uniforms will be provided, as well as a small cadre of concubines to assist with laundry and other cleaning tasks.

          Well, those are the ideal answers. If anyone knows where I can find that dojo, I'll never have time to post again.
        • 1
        Will - Black Belt Wiki Great answer... and no jokes. :)

      • 3
      ChuckD The thing I like about the school I'm at is people can try a few classes for free. Also there is no contract. The instructor literally said if he is not teaching well enough to keep people there with out a contract then something needs to change. There is a small belt test fee of 20 dollars up to like 30 or 40 for higher ranks but that is only like 1-2 times per year and maybe 3 times a year for an adult.

      I think the best thing is to take a few classes and what how the instructor behaves and how the senior students behave. Are they helpful to new students? Respectful etc...
        • 1
        Will - Black Belt Wiki I like it - free market principles for martial arts instruction. Of course, does this mean the opposite when he is teaching well and retaining/attracting too many students? :)
          • 1
          ChuckD I believe he would cap the class size if too many joined up (that would be a horrible problem :) ). It is fairly traditional and small dojo that he runs on the side. He seems pretty happy as long as there are enough students to cover rent, utilities etc. I've seen quite a few times where people either have their promotion test postponed or failed depending on their performance(no additional fees).
      • 2
      Mike First, are there really schools that won't let you watch before you join? I can't think of one in our local market.
      After a few years in MA, a few different schools and countless instructors the first thing I would ask or at least look for is cleanliness, "do you clean your mats and equipment", "how often", "with what".
      How often do we train with the high belt /master?
      Observation gallery?
      Flexible class schedules?
      Can I train with my wife/kids?
        • 1
        Beth Loomer There really are schools that wont let you watch before joining. Our only true competition wont let you watch a class prior to joining among other shady things.
          • 1
          Will - Black Belt Wiki Amazed that they get any students if new people can't watch what they are getting into. Do they at least offer free trial sessions?
            • 1
            Beth Loomer No they dont and they are very expensive they charge double what we do for one person and it just goes up alot from there.
      • 2
      Beth Loomer Can I watch a few classes?
      Can I talk to some of the students?

      Then if you can do so. If you they would rather you not then I would run, You can tell a lot about a school by the way the instructor/instructors interact with the students or parents.

      Find out about how often a school does tournaments and if they are required in any way.

      How long does it take to promote and what is required of students at promotion?
      Who does the grading at promotions?

      Asking about price, uniforms, gear, when classes are seem a given.
        • 1
        Will - Black Belt Wiki Great observation about instructor interaction with parents & students. Also good point about asking for any hidden costs (i.e. uniforms, sparring gear, testing fees, etc.).
      • 2
      Alex For BJJ specific schools:
      1. How much does it cost?

      2. Does that include all classes (some schools charge differently if you want to have an unlimited amount of class options-my school does not, you pay the monthly price and get 5 bjj specific classes as well as 3 striking classes and two invitation only striking sparring sessions).

      3. Who did you get your belt from? This question is extremely important, since the popularity of BJJ in the US we have seen a number of fake black belts. Every person who trains BJJ will know their lineage at least to a certain point. If they can't tell you who promoted them or who promoted the person who supposedly promoted them then more than likely they aren't someone you want to train under.

      4. When can I start sparring? Some schools have different opinions about this so it's important to know where a school stands when you first start. You don't want to be disappointed if you can't spar from day 1.

      5. If you're a woman who is looking for women's only classes to help you get into the sport it would be wise to ask this right away. Neither of the schools I train at have women's only classes but they are amazingly welcoming so we've just never needed them to get women involved.

      6. If you know a little bit about BJJ you may want to ask about competitions. Are you required to do them? Encouraged? etc. I would say if you are discouraged from doing them, that you should NOT train at that school, there is usually a reason they don't want you to go to comps and it usuallty stems from them not being legitimate. If you don't want to compete don't sign up at the school that requires it to get promoted.

      7. Do I have to buy a school uniform: some BJJ schools require you to only buy their gear. If they do require it, it is not necessarily a sign of a bad school, but they definitely care more about making money. Our school has school gis if you want them, but no one is forced to buy them. We wear whatever gi/no gi attire that we want. It can get very expensive if you have to buy a school uniform so if you're a bit strapped on cash I would pass on a school that requires that you only wear their gear.

      That's all I can think of at the moment.
      • 2
      David Ianetta I think before asking questions of the school, it's important to ask questions of yourself. For example, what is it you want to get out of your MA training? What are the most important aspects to you? Are you looking strictly for self defense? Are you looking for more of a traditional school? Are you looking for mental discipline as well as physical? Do you want to eventually train with weapons? Are you interested in the spiritual aspects of training in MA? Do you want to compete?

      Knowing clearly why you want to train will go a long way toward finding the right school for you.
        • 2
        Andy @David Ianetta, well said! I completely agree! I would also add that it is nowadays much easier to find information on various martial arts as there is lots of excellent information available online (such as this site for example :) which makes choosing a martial art much easier than it was in the days when myself and other older practitioners first started. Unfortunately there is also a downside to internet related martial arts information (as so excellently demonstrated by @Al W's recent post) in that there is way to much complete BS online perpetuated by people who haven't got a clue about, let alone actually trained in any of the 'ineffective' traditional martial arts that they so glibly write off in favour of current trends such as Krav Maga and BJJ! No disrespect intended to Krav Maga or BJJ by the way, they are both excellent martial arts with some highly skilled practitioners but both are in my opinion overrated and there are some equally skilled and excellent practitioners in various other (innefective) martial arts!
        Sorry I have gone a little off track here and most of this should have been posted on Al W's thread! :)
        • 0 2 votes
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        • 1
        Will - Black Belt Wiki Excellent response! Beginners should definitely consider David's questions before joining any martial arts school.

      • 2
      Al W Ask them "Can you teach me the No Touch KO?"

      If they say yes then run, run far away and never look back
      • 2
      Andy As [171668,Will - Black Belt Wiki] and [242184,Guillaume Chan] have done such a good job raising some pertinent questions that you SHOULD ask when seeking a good dojo or martial arts class,
      here are some questions that you should probably avoid :)
      Why do I have to wear pyjamas to train?
      How long do I have to train before I can do Hadouken fireballs?
      Can you catch a fly with chopsticks?
      Why did the Ninja cross the road?
      Could Bruce Lee have beaten a Tyrannosaurus Rex?
      If moths love light so much, why don't they come out in the daytime?
      Is there really such thing as a Chuck Norris?
      Do I really have to train for years to become a blackbelt? Can't I just buy one on eBay?
      What is the most amount of Dan grades I can get away with claiming at 32 years of age before I look like a complete fraud?
      Why can't Sharks swim backwards?
        • 1
        Andy How many chucks would a Woodchuck Chuck if the first Chuck that the Woodchuck came across was Chuck Norris (who then got angry at trying to be chucked by a Woodchuck and subsequently beat every single living Woodchuck to death with Nunchucks)?
          • 1
          Will - Black Belt Wiki Of course, I need to link this to the wiki page on Chuck Norris "facts" :) -

          • 1
          ChuckD I have often pondered this.....
      • 2
      Guillaume Chan Good topic.

      I think it's essential to get some informations about the background of the school master. This will help you determine if the school is legit or not. What's his career in martial arts ? Has he trained in only style or many ? For how many years ? What about the other instructors of the school ?
      If the school is part of a federation, it might be a good thing but not always. If this is the case, take a look on how serious is this federation in checking its schools quality.

      And I agree with your question. If there is no trial (which can be possible for administrative of security reasons), the student should at least be able to watch.
        • 1
        Will - Black Belt Wiki That is an interesting question - How serious are federations/associations about kicking out problem schools?
      • 1
      David Cochran Great topic, Most of the answers are reactive since the commenter's have been in a MA environment for a while. Staying in the same vein, how can we be more proactive in presenting this information to prospects? Another point of view; I live in a very small market which has only one commercial school which I would call a McDojo. I think this greatly skews the data. If that is the only realistic choice for many what should they do?
      • 1
      John Graden In searching for a school, ask yourself, "Why do I want to learn martial arts?" What instructor offers what I am looking for, or is at least close? What is this worth to me? Ask the same on behalf of your children.
      • 1
      Bill Emmes First of all, I do apologize to all the folks who have responded to this post that is has taken me a while to offer my thoughts on the subject.

      Everyone here has given such solid responses to a very important consideration for someone either starting out, returning to the arts or making a style change. I did just that 4 years ago when I went from Ju-Jitsu to Tai Chi Chuan/Kung Fu. My former school was a very traditional school and I was more like a family member practicing student and never felt like a customer or someone who was just here for the interim.

      A lot of people attend MA classes for a variety of reasons and one reason that never stood up was to be a tough guy/gal. The primary question has always been to me to ask "what do I want out of this training?". So many of you have included this in your comments and I think it is a serious question.

      For those of us that have spent many years doing this, realize the commitment it takes on all fronts. A dojo is not a health club, not a babysitting service nor is it a community social service. Granted, a Dojo has a special way of weeding people out naturally, the true goal is to teach and carry on your specific style.

      Having said all that, I would like to think that is someone was serious about attending a school, they would like to know how long it has been around, is it a traditional school centered on one style or various other/mixed styles offered. What is the senior instructors length in the style(s), and how any ranking students have remained in the school. What are the roots of the style that have contributed to the training of each Instructor.

      A pattern I looked for was a school that was looking for the long term student and not just another member to help pay the mortgage. I think we have all seen students that get their first black belt leave, start a school to make money and dilute the style and then close within a year or less. In addition, I was looking for a dojo and instructor(s) that have held many years in the art they were teaching, along with the history of how they attained their training.

      Cost, materials and ranking was never a question for me as I learned that knowledge in y training was most important.
      • 1
      AbhishekTripathi Do u know the condition in indian sub-continent..?? So called karate schools and NGO's delivering black belts mearly in 1.5 yrs..,:(
      • 0 1 vote
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      • 1
      Trevor Hill What insurance do you have?

      Am I expected to compete?
      • 1
      Andrew Brown Best method I found is use the free classes as much as possible. If you have multiple schools in your area, do the free intro to >=5 schools.
      Feel free to post school info, ask for opinions, watch their videos (most schools post videos now).
      Make sure you mesh with the school before signing up. I have quit after 3 months multiple times; coach was not what I need, fellow students don't have enough skill to support each other (ie. belts do not indicate ability), students are clicky,
      • 1
      Jody Williams It occurred to me that it is only now, after 5 years of training, that I have the knowledge to be able to judge a good school versus a mediocre one. Sometimes you have to "Suck it and see" as we like to say in Oz.
        • 2
        Andy [235677,Jody Williams], good point! And to extrapolate on that point, there are a lot of people currently training in mediocre (or even downright complete BS) schools who have been training for many years and have no idea as to the validity or effectiveness as to what they are supposedly learning as they have never been in a position where they are called to actually utilise their MA training! All (or most) MA techniques work great in theory or even in dojo practice with friendly/compliant training partners, it is a different story when dealing with actual violence!
      • 1
      Trevor Hill What possibilities are there for competition? Are your assocs grades recognised elsewhere?
      • 1
      Trevor Hill What is your insurance policy?
      • 1
      (deleted) What is your lineage? Who did you gain your black belt under? How long did you train by him?
      Then you have to research the lineage when you get home.
      • 1
      Andy I am loving this thread and all of the posts/questions that have so far been added! As I am currently in a deep philomosophical mood :)
      The very nature of the practice and principles of martial arts/warfare and pretty much every other human endeavour (or for that matter evolutional advancement from prehistoric pond slime to presently evolved life forms (and then back to pondslime as far as politicians and bankers are concerned :) has always been about questions and answers! How do I adapt to this situation? is the ultimate question and is and has always been the driving force behind pretty much everything in the Universe! Martial arts are no different and how to answer the question of a physical attack is the very essence of all MA training! Ok deep philosophical crap over with, now back to Woodchuck, moth and shark jokes! :)
        • 1
        Andy PS, for anyone wondering what the answer is to my question of "why did the Ninja cross the road?" It was because he was on a highly secret clandestine mission to discover the Colnels secret recipe and was disguised as a Chicken! :)
        • 0 1 vote
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          • 1
          Ralph Now I am trying to get that image of the ninja chicken doing a flip over a fence of chicken wire out of my head...
    • 32 more comments

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