A few weeks ago, I shared the first five questions you should ask before selecting a martial arts school for the budding artists in your family. In this entry, we cover the other five questions you should ask.
6. Is the school a part of an organization?
This may seem like an unnecessary question, but surprisingly, there are some martial arts schools that have no affiliation. So, what does it mean if a school does have a national or international affiliation?
Anyone can open a studio, slap up a "taekwondo" sign, and start recruiting students, but how can you be sure that school is of high quality? Easy answer: Check the affiliations. And check the affiliation website to make sure its mission and vision match your family's goals and values. In the last blog, I wrote about Certified Instructors and why you should train at a school that has Certified Instructors. The same idea applies to affiliations. When a school has a national or international affiliation, you know that the school has oversight. Martial arts is a very physical sport, and children who train can improve their physical health and flexibility, but their growing bodies can also be subjected to too much strain if the trainers and schools do not know what they are doing. A martial arts school that is part of an organization must maintain the high, established standards of that organization.
Finally, the fun part of martial arts is not just the training, but also the competing! When a martial arts school has a national or international affiliation, you have a chance to compete with others from around the region, country, and possibly world in your chosen sport. More importantly, you know that the martial arts students you are competing with will follow the same rules and guidelines that you have been training in. No last-minute surprises!
If the school has no affiliations, that is not the martial arts school for you.
7. Is the curriculum standardized?
If your martial arts school is part of an organization, it will have a standardized curriculum. You probably started because you want to be a "black belt." (Everyone wants to be a black belt!) But the journey to achieving your first (of many) black belts can be a long process. You have a lot to learn between your first class and your black belt ceremony. A standardized curriculum will help you reach your goals in the fastest, most efficient manner. Plus, when a school has a standardized curriculum, you know what to expect in your training. You won't have to learn how to jump-spin-sidekick before you have learned how to do a side-kick!
Remember this: you are attending a private school for martial arts when you start training. Just like you would hate to be in a math class where the teacher instructs you in algebra when you never learned to multiply, you would hate to be in a martial arts class where you have to spar when you have not yet learned how to defend yourself.
If the school does not have a curriculum that they will share with you when you ask, this is not the school for you.
8. What will I learn?
Of course, you already know that you are going to learn a certain set of skills - strikes, kicks, blocks, jumps, spins, and lots of combinations of the above. Did you know that you will also learn other skills that will serve you well in all aspects of your life?
You will learn about nutrition and exercise, hydration and rest.
You will learn how to assess a situation and determine your best course of action: Should I attack? Should I defend? Should I escape?
You will learn to discipline your body and mind.
You will learn to overcome your fears and inhibitions.
You will learn to pace yourself, to push yourself, and to persevere when you thought you couldn't do it.
You will learn what your strengths and weaknesses are, and how to accommodate for your weaknesses.
You will learn that you can accomplish more than you ever thought possible.
If you are not learning lessons outside of the stated curriculum, this is not the martial arts school for you.
9. Does the school offer other activities besides the scheduled classes?
When you start your training in a martial arts school, you are going to develop friendships with the people around you. Because you have to trust them during class, you start to trust them outside of class, and trust is one of the building blocks of an amicable relationship. A good school will provide opportunities outside of regular classes that will help nurture those bonds so you feel as if you are part of a community. Look for a school that has family nights, parties, seminars, and gatherings. Look for a school that likes to shake things up and break out of the norm. Perhaps your school has a few days a year where class is held outside in a park instead of in the building. Perhaps your school has movie nights for the kids so the parents can go out on a date. Perhaps your school arranges night activities for the adults that have nothing to do with taekwondo but which help cement the bonds the adults are forming.
If the martial arts school you are looking at does nothing but train, it might not be the school for you. In this case, it depends on your goals.
10. Are classes fun?
Absolutely! Why else would thousands of children beg to sign up for martial arts every year and thousands of adults join because they are jealous of the fun the kids are having? Everyone who trains finds a different part of the classes fun. Some like striking and kicking a bag because they can let loose. Some prefer learning and performing the forms because they can find peace in the repetition. Some like to spar and compete because they like the adrenaline rush and the thrill of challenging themselves to kick higher, block faster, score more points. Some like to jump and spin because people who don't do martial arts are impressed by their versatility. Me? I love to break boards. Nothing makes me smile more than the feeling I get after I have driven my hand through a solid chunk of wood.
When you go to check out a school, take some time to ask the students what they like best about their training. Ask a variety of ages, especially if you are looking to register your child as well as yourself. The children will be the most honest. Adults tend to shy away from admitting how much fun they have in their classes. However, if you see a lot adults with colored and black belts, you know the school is fun. Adults simply do not participate if they are not having fun.
If you start your training and you are not having fun, obviously, that is not the school for you!