Last month we checked out some of the different styles of martial arts. In November, we are taking a look at the different schools, and what may be some warning signs that they are more interested in money than quality of teaching. Want to start with a slight disclaimer, keep in mind there is nothing wrong with a good teacher wanting to earning a competent living. Most teachers are just as professional as any business person, and have invested many years into being a good instructor.
There are some things to look for when trying to find a new martial arts school. A few of the following are definite red flags of a school that might be better to avoid.
There is nothing wrong with contracts, as they allow a teacher to budget, project expenses, etc. When you look at the contract, make sure that there are provisions to be able to break the contract, even if there is a one or two month penalty for doing so. All contracts should be able to be dissolved if you can no longer train (injury) or move or are otherwise not available to the school anymore.
High number of lower rank belts:
While this can be common in a newer school, if the school has been established for quite a while and there are only lower ranks training, it may signal problems with the instructor and retaining students long term.
Training with other schools is prohibited:
While this is not a singular flag, if the instructor does not allow tournaments, seminars, or other outside collaboration, it may be a sign that they know what they are teaching is bogus and might not stand up to scrutiny.
There should be no secret training you have to pay extra for. Many schools will have weapons programs, leadership, or other extra items that might cost more, but they should not by mysterious and “too dangerous to teach to just anyone”. There will be some techniques and training that is reserved for advanced students, but you should be able to at least observe the class.
X rank in Y months:
While many schools may say something like “You can achieve a black belt in 2 years”, ask what it takes. It is possible, but it takes a serious time commitment. If they “guarantee” black belt in 2 years or guarantee any rank based on time, that also might be that they will promote just to keep you in the program and paying $$.
A good instructor will welcome questions, allow to you observe classes, and take time to make sure you are taken care of. Many instructors will not discuss money unless you are serious about training, this is to avoid people just shopping them for the cheapest price. Martial arts instruction is truly one of the things where you get what you pay for.
A final note – If you have a personality conflict with the instructor during the trial classes, you may want to reconsider no matter how much you like the art. You are going to be spending a lot of time with your instructor, you need to be able to relate to them.
Written by: John Paitel, Storm Self Defense & Tactical Fitness
John Paitel is the founder and principal instructor of Storm Self Defense and Tactical fitness, providing self defense seminars and fitness training for the tactical community. A two-time world champion in Tae Kwon Do, he has over 30 years experience in martial arts and teaching others how to effectively implement safety and self-defense techniques.