Choosing the right martial arts school for yourself or your child is an important decision. Choosing the right school can lead to years of enjoyment, and benefit. Choosing the wrong school can be a waste of time, money, and even lead to injury. Here are 11 questions you should ALWAYS ask before joining any martial arts school.
1. How long have you been in business at you CURRENT location?
Why It’s Important: It is not enough to simply ask how long a school has been in business. You will often find that a school has been in business for 10 years, but moved 3 or 4 times. This is a red flag! You should generally avoid any school that has been at its current location for less than 10 years.
Where we stand: We have been in the same Marysville, Washington location since 1996. In 2005 we even bought the property. We will be here for a very long time.
2. What are your school’s hours?
Why it’s important: This is a trick question. You can already assume that most schools will be open in the afternoons when classes are usually taught. What not might be so obvious is that many schools are “part-time” schools that only open in the afternoon. What this usually means is that the instructor works a full time job, shows up a few minutes before classes are to start, then has to juggle teaching, answering phones, paying bills, and everything else that goes into running a professional school.
Where we stand: We are a full time, professional martial arts school. Martial arts is all we do. We do have several part-time instructors and support staff, but our main instructors are hear for you all day long.
3. How are your classes separated? Age? Rank?
Why It’s Important: There are several ways in which schools split their classes. Most split their class by rank (experience level) while others split their class by age group. This is a very important distinction. The idea of grouping students by experience level ‘sounds’ like a good idea, but having to wide of an age range in class is a BIG mistake. Four year olds, six year olds, eight year olds, and ten year olds all learn in VERY different ways. More important that ‘what’ they are learning is ‘how’ they are learning it. It is crucial, especially at younger ages, that student are taught in a way that is most conducive to their age and learning level.
Where we stand: Not only do we group our classes by age, we take it a step further. Our classes are grouped by grade levels. The different groups are Pre-k, K-2nd, 3rd-5th, Middle School – 10th grade, and 11th grade – adult. By doing this we are able to ensure that students are always in the proper learning group based on their personal level of development.
4. How often will I or my child advance?
Why It’s Important: This is another trick question. Anytime someone gives you a precise answer, politely hang up the phone or walk away. Every student is different, and learns at a different pace. Some schools like to promise a black belt in three years or less. This is never a good thing! Sure, McDonalds can crank out a cheese burger in just a couple minutes, but how does it compare the Red Robin burger you have to wait 20 minutes for?
Where we stand: Every student in our school advances at their own pace, based on their own merits. It is possible, but rare for a students to earn their black belt in only a few years. It generally takes closer to five years.
5. What are your rates & fees?
Why It’s Important: Almost all of us are on a budget. Rates are important, but should not be the determining factor. It is important to visit the school and get a clear vision of what the rates are paying for. It is common to find a school with only slightly higher rate, but much greater value. What’s more important is the ‘fees’. Lot’s of school will sign you up, and it’s not until later that you discover all of their hidden fees. The trickiest is testing fees. They often start around $50, but quickly increase as students test for higher ranks. May school even charge $500 or more for black belt testing.
Where we stand: We are always upfront with our pricing. Give us a call and we will be glad to give you all of the information you want. As far as testing fees are concerned, each time a student tests for a new belt there in a nominal $25 testing fee. Black belt testing is FREE! Teen and adults students will be required to purchase practice weapons for their current rank, but these are $30 or less. Sparring gear is also required for students who chose to attend our sparring classes.
6. Am I required to sign a contract?
Why It’s Important: NEVER join a school that requires you to sign a contract. If you ever decide to leave they will often stick you with cancellation fees that sometimes range into the thousands. You’ve got to love fine print. If you ever ask them why they require contracts, they will give you several ‘salesy’ sounding reasons why it is in your best interest. Believe me, the only person’s interest it is in is theirs.
Where we stand: We offer lessons on a month to month, and quarterly basis. We also offer seven and twelve month contracts at significantly reduced rates. If you ever decide to quit before the contract is up, we only ask that you pay the difference between the standard rate and the discount you received.
7. What qualifications do your instructors have? Do volunteers help teach classes? What are their qualifications?
Why It’s Important: This is important especially if you are looking into a part-time school. Often times part-time school owners are so busy that they assign ‘senior students’ to teach while they return phone calls, and pay the bills. Unfortunately, just because a student has been in class longer than the others, that does not mean they are qualified to teach. This results in poor quality, and ensures that each generation of students is worse than the last.
Where we stand: All of our instructors are professional martial artists. They are all rigorously trained, and tested, not just in the martial arts, but also in how to teach. All volunteers we use must demonstrate exceptional level of skill, participate in our ongoing Leadership Team training course, and participate in our ongoing Future Instructor classes. They are always under the supervisor of our staff instructors.
8. Is your staff background checked?
Why It’s Important: This seems like a no brainer, right? You would be shocked how many schools have never done a background check on their staff or volunteers. It is also common for them to do a background check once, and then never again.
Where we stand: All of our staff and volunteers are background checked annually. As the owner of the school, I have my own background check ran annually as well.
9. Are visitors welcome?
Why It’s Important: If a school does not allow visitors, or does not let parents watch classes, RUN! Don’t walk, RUN!
Where we stand: We love visitors, and parents are always welcome to watch classes. We have visitor seating for about thirty. You may want to show up a bit early to get the best seat though.
10. HOW do you teach the things you claim to teach, especially things like life skills and good values?
Why It’s Important: Many, if not most, martial arts teachers seem to think that life skills and good values are something that can be taught by osmosis. They hang some scenic posters up at their school with words like “honor” and “respect” across the top. The have students repeat these words as part of a school creed. Then they wipe their hands and consider that part of their job done. Don’t believe me? Just ask them for a list of values they teach. Then ask them one by one, how they teach them. Be warned, the awkward silence is coming.
Where we stand: We are experts in the martial arts. We know that when you want the best, you go to the best. That is why we have partnered with Dr. Robyn Silverman, and her husband Jason Silverman, to bring the Powerful Words Character Development Program to our school. Dr. Robyn, as we call her, is one of the country’s foremost experts on child, teen, and adult character development.
11. How many locations do you have?
Why It’s Important: This is yet another trick question. Conventional logic would tell you that a school with lots of locations must be great. Sadly, that is not the case, especially when a school grows to more than three or four locations. Two things generally happen when schools start opening multiple locations. First, the quality declines, and the master that trained the first few school owners in simply not able to ensure that quality is consistent at all the schools. The second thing that happens is that the schools become very ‘one size fits all’. When students are tested, they test with several other schools at one time. They are often judged by instructors who do not know them, and have no idea how far they have come in their personal journey. This is not how the martial arts where intended.
Where we stand: We are a single school, with the possibility of opening another nearby school. When our students test, they test in front of teachers who know them very well.
12. What style of martial arts do you teach?
Why It’s Important: Usually, it’s not. Unless of course you are a teen or adult with your heart set on a particular style. Beware of any teacher that tells you their ‘style’ of martial arts is the best. That is like saying if you buy the best hammer, you can build the best house. It all comes down to individual effort, and training.
Where we stand: We teach a mix of Chinese (Northern style of Kung Fu and Tai Chi) and Korean (Taekwondo and Jungyae Moosul) martial arts.
13. Can we try a class or two before joining?
Why It’s Important: Before making a commitment, or asking your child to make one, it is important to know that the school is the right fit. Some schools will allow you to try a class for free, and some require you enroll in some sort of introductory program.
Where we stand: Our program has become so popular that we can no longer offer free classes. We now offer a six week introductory program which includes a uniform, lots of perks and comes with a 100% money back guarantee.
14. Do your students participate in tournaments? Are they required?
Why It’s Important: Some school focus heavily on tournaments, some don’t, and some fall somewhere in the middle. Schools with a heavy focus on tournaments often require students to participate in order to earn their new belt, or they show favoritism to those student who do. Nothing is worse than seeing your child ignored during class in favor of another student who might help earn more trophies for the front window of the school. It is important to know because tournaments can be a big extra expense, and are definitely not for everyone.
Where we stand: We do participate in tournaments, however they are completely optional and we have separate training times for competitors that they must take in addition to their regular classes.
If you have any questions, or there is anything else we can help you with, please do not hesitate to
contact us at 360.653.2820 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright 2015 – Kung Fu Northwest Inc.