If you do a quick search for “Martial Arts Schools Near Me,” you will surely find one or two that are offering a free introductory lesson or two. There are a lot of high-quality martial arts schools out there. But, sadly, there are just as many lousy ones. One of the tell-tale signs of a lousy martial arts school is the infamous “FREE Class” offer.
At first glance, trying a couple free martial arts classes sounds great: Of course you want to ensure you like the school for yourself or your children, so why wouldn’t you want to try it out first? Plus, who doesn’t like free?
That is exactly what they are counting on.
But . . . what could possibly be wrong with trying a free class? There are two significant problems that you need to be very aware of.
First, schools that offer a free martial arts class are demonstrating that they don’t understand—or don’t care—that one, or even two classes are not enough to make an informed decision. This is particularly important when choosing a martial arts school for children.
The first class may be (and usually is) great: The instructors are very aware that new students are trying out the school, and they go out of their way to tailor that class to be as fun as possible for that student. Is the next class going to be as fun? Are subsequent classes also going to be satisfactory? It’s easy to offer great classes once or twice, but consistency is key. That’s why it’s essential to try at least 8–12 classes before joining long-term.
The second and more nefarious reason the “One Free Class” offer is a bad idea is the sleazy high-pressure sales tactics that will almost always follow. These schools know they can get you excited after just one class. They also know this is likely their one shot at getting some sort of down payment and your signature on a contract. They understand the psychology of sales and that giving you something free makes you feel appreciated and instills a sense of obligation to do something for them in return. Then, when your free class is over, and they transition into their slick sales pitch full of rehearsed stories, limited-time offers, and “What’s holding you back?” lines of questioning, you feel guilty for not joining. This tactic works well—really, really well.
The only thing sketchier than a free group class is the free “private” introductory lesson. They do this so you’re isolated and can’t observe the actual class dynamics or talk to other members about their experience at the school. You will feel very special when the instructor gives you 100% of their attention but how much attention will you or your child actually get with a full class?
To be clear, there are some wonderful schools that offer a free class. They will typically be smaller independent schools that fall into the first category (of not understanding a healthy decision-making process). But, if the school is part of a chain or franchise, you can bet they know exactly what they’re doing and that you are little more than another number they want to add to their bottom line.