If you like movies like “Kung Fu Panda” and “Karate Kid” you may enjoy learning a martial art.  Getting started isn’t difficult.  Just choose a school and sign up for classes.  But how do you spot a high quality martial arts school?

First, make a list of schools in your areas.  Look online, in the Yellow Pages, and in local newspapers.  This will dig up the larger commercial schools.  Talk with friends and neighbors to find out what else is available in your area.  There may also be independent kung fu or karate instructors teaching out of churches, the YMCA, or even at a local park.

Next it’s time to do a little research.  Read the schools’ websites and online reviews.  Look into the teachers’ backgrounds.  The martial arts industry is not regulated, so anyone can buy a black belt online, lease a studio, and begin teaching classes.  One red flag is teachers who claim high rank in many different arts.  Mastering a even one art takes decades of study.  Be wary of teachers who have a “Hall of Fame” award.  Some “Hall of Fame” awards may be legitimate, but I have been contacted several times by organizations offering to sell me one.  Less qualified teachers may use these things to impress you.

Now you’re ready to start visiting schools in person.  Here’s what to look for:

Teacher

Look at the teachers.  Are they physically fit?  Do they have a high level of martial skill?  Do they offer personalized instruction and feedback to each student?  Are they patient?  Do they treat their students with respect?

Here are some questions for the teacher:

  • How long have you been training & teaching?
  • How much of the classes does the head instructor teach? What is the role of assistants?
  • Is there a formal curriculum?

Tuition

Instruction should be reasonably priced.  If a school tries to lock you in to paying a year’s tuition, or if they use high pressure sales techniques, you should walk away.  I have noticed in America that there are many martial arts schools that guarantee students a black belt in 1-2 years.  My students told me that these schools are called “McDojos” because they are the martial arts equivalent of fast food.  The McDojo style of systemized rank inflation creates the illusion that students are making progress and hides the fact that students are learning watered-down and impractical martial arts.

Students

Check out the students.  Are the students focused?  Do they help each other?  Do they have a good attitude?  If you have the chance, ask a few of the students about the school.  What do they like about it?  How long have they been studying?  High student turnover is another red flag.  If the students are happy and gaining skill, they will stay. 

I wish you good luck in selecting the best kung fu or karate school for yourself.  If you do your research and visit a few schools before signing up, soon you will be studying at a school that is right for you.