In any Martial Arts program, one of the most important aspects that should be emphasised is safety. From the exercises that are practiced in classes, to the way warm-ups are presented, safety has to be paramount. Does the school have the necessary safety equipment such as mats and first aid to ensure protective environment? Is it a full time dojo, with dedicated full time staff? A common misconception is that because its “Martial Arts” it might be inherently dangerous, however, Martial Arts has some of the lowest injury rates in comparison to other sports such as rugby league or soccer. In fact, regularly we see students enrolling in Martial arts as a result of injuries in other sports as a means of rehabilitation. A Martial Arts dojo is often the safest place to go.
3. Age Appropriate Classes
So you have found a few schools which could help you achieve your goals and has a professional and safe program? A big differentiator will be age appropriate classes. The next thing to consider is the age bracket of the programs offered by the school. Often a good sign of a school being well established is determined by the number of age brackets on offer. For example, a 16 year old may not want to train with a 10 year old, or a 4 year old with a 12 year old. It is crucial to look for small age ranges. Ideally, schools that offer programs for ages of 3-4 years apart. Creating the depth in curriculum necessary in hitting those developmental milestones in the growth and development of our kids. A further step to determining the credibility is to determine if there are also skill levels divided up into low range age groups. For example; Classes for kids from 6-9 years old, which include beginner, intermediate and advanced options. This will ensure the speciality and maintain the high level of quality of service from the instructors teaching these programs. Members’ part taking in the classes will also feel more comfortable training with peers with a similar skill set and age.
4. Friendly, welcoming positive environment/atmosphere & leadership qualities
Martial Arts locations are essentially the same thing. A large hall, with mats and mirrors. A key area to consider when determining the right school is the atmosphere when you step foot in the dojo. What is the aura like? What vibes do you sense? Is it friendly, welcoming, empowering, or is it testosterone fuelled with hard core personalities? Either way, there is a demand for both, it’s just a matter of determining where you will feel most comfortable. What is the general level of service like? Do they practice what they preach in terms of respect? Do the staff walk the walk? Are there leadership qualities infiltrated through the programs, or is it about the head honcho? Are there a team of leaders in the age groups and programs, so members have role models of all different shapes and sizes. A Martial Arts dojo with the ideal environment should cultivate and foster a leadership system. This ensures a fun friendly culture welcoming the growth and improvement throughout the programs.
5. Life skill component
Most Martial Arts School advertise that they teach respect, discipline, focus, confidence. But is it taught, spoken about, demonstrated clearly in classes? While adults might be able to recognise these benefits, it may be difficult for kids to make the connection. A great Martial Arts School has the Life Skills entrenched in its curriculum and consistently raises awareness on how the physical drill covered in class helps improve desired personal qualities and life skills. This can be done in a multitude of ways. Through mat chats or small group discussions, overarching themes of the month/week, worksheets or tailor made leadership/instructor development programs. Ensure the reasons why you enrol in Martial Arts are clearly and consistently covered through their curriculum.
6. Content and Curriculum, will my child continuously be challenged?
In order to reap the benefits of Martial Arts training, one must view training for the long term. Realistically this is a good 3-4 years which is often the length of time required to attain a Black Belt in most styles. Throughout this process it is crucial to see whether there is continual development in content covered. Will there be new techniques, self-defence moves or potentially weapons introduced which will help to keep members engaged and motivated? Or is it just the same techniques covered? A reputable Martial Arts institution will have the breadth, as well as the depth in their syllabus which will challenge members for life. Will there continuously be options to grow and develop throughout ones Martial Arts journey through the programs offered? Are their upgrade, higher level programs which can be unlocked at certain levels of rank? A good sign of this is to have a look at the number of higher belts present. If there is a lot, then that school ticks this.
7. Teaching methods, Content delivery and understanding the target market taught
Another question to ask is how the Instructors are interacting with members? As Martial Arts is a sport that is open to all age groups, teaching methods will vary immensely across these programs. Is it the same instructors across all age groups or are their specialist instructors? Are they completely engaged while teaching children? Is the method of delivery matching that of the demographic in class? People learn the most when they are having fun and loving what they do. Do the instructors create this environment and do they have rapport with their members?
8. International recognition and affiliation
Unfortunately the Martial Arts Industry does not have a specific governing body to ensure best practice. Therefore it is crucial to ensure the school you plan on attending is legitimate in qualifications, insured and legally safe. Furthermore, you can check to see if your school is affiliated with a National and International Body. For example the World Taekwondo Federation or the World Karate Federation. This way, the certificates received for the hard work are recognised all around the world. The tighter the links with these international bodies, or even the International Olympic Committee (IOC), the purer the style of teaching will be.
9. Flexibility in schedules and program
In our time poor society, making sure that you can attend classes is crucial. After all, you only reap the benefits if you attend the classes. Many professional schools have a variety of week day, weekend and morning or evening sessions available to help make it easier for you to make it to class regularly. Many of these schools also allow you to make up missed classes and change your times and days if you need to. This will help you to reach your goals faster.
And last but not least FUN. Martial Arts training has to be challenging, rewarding and fun. Students must always be safe, learn something new and have fun each and every session. This will ensure that motivation is sustained. A fun environment is determined by the culture of the academy led through their vision and mission. A fun environment is developed through their instructors and fostered through the members and families of the Schools community.