5 Biggest Mistakes People make when choosing a Martial Arts School

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5 Biggest Mistakes People Make When Choosing a Martial Arts School

With the huge growth of Mixed Martial Arts over the last decade, more and more Americans are joining academies and becoming part of this virtual explosion. It is not uncommon for UFC veterans and Grappler's Quest champions to be household names. Rising from obscurity just ten years ago, mixed martial arts is now the fastest growing professional sport in America. Consequently, martial arts schools are becoming more prevalent with over 4,500 new ones opening up each year. Many people are joining schools that may not be the right fit for their particular needs. Therefore, what follows is what I have determined in over thirty years in this industry, to be the five biggest mistakes people make when choosing a school.

Mistake Number One: Basing your decision on price alone.

The old adage you get what you pay for, unambiguously does not apply in the field of martial arts training. Pricing in this industry varies greatly. I have seen schools that charge at little as $69 per month and as much as over $400 per month. Like all products and services, price does not necessarily equate to value. The most important factor to consider with respect to price is the value that you will be getting. It is imperative that you compare apples to apples. Some factors to keep in mind are the level of instruction, the quality of training, the experience of the instructors, the facility itself, the amount of classes per week offered with each membership, the equipment utilized, the availability of classes, the teacher/student ratio, and other costs outside of membership fees. Naturally you should choose a school that you could afford, but more importantly the best value for your budget. Don't choose a school because it is the cheapest. Good instructors, like all professionals will demand, and are entitled to, a greater wage. You wouldn't choose a heart surgeon because he or she is the cheapest. Many of the less expensive schools don't offer much in terms of the facility or the quality of the instruction. Likewise, do not choose a school because the price is very high and you assume that it must be good. There are many schools that charge a lot of money because they spend excessive amounts on national advertising, cool logos, or simply because they are arrogant and need that money to feed their big egos. At many of those schools the quality of instruction is not nearly as good as some of their competitors who charge a lot less. Often these schools do not stay in business very long. Once again, it is essential that you consider the value you are getting for your hard earned money.

Mistake Number Two: Choosing a school because it is the closest to you.

Not all schools are created equally. While the closest school may be convenient, it may not be quite what you are looking for. It may be overpriced. It may not be the art that you want to learn. The schedule may not work for you. At my school, I have many students who come from surrounding towns (even though those towns have many of their own schools) because they found a school that is comfortable for them. Before you choose a school, visit all of the schools that are near your house or job. How far to travel is up to you, but statistically, if you have to travel more than fifteen minutes to get to class, you are a lot more likely to not go on a regular basis. Find a school that is the best fit for you within a reasonable traveling distance.

Mistake Number Three: Not considering what is being taught.

Many schools advertise themselves as a mixed martial arts academy or say they teach a particular art and then on closer examination, you realize the classes look nothing like what you were expecting. Almost every school offers at least one trial class, many schools offer a trial period before joining. Take advantage of this. Ask the instructors what specifically you will learn if becoming a student. If the instructor is unable or unwilling to clearly communicate this information or if it is not what you were looking for, it is probably not a good idea to join. Like any activity, before joining do your research. Determine which martial art or arts you want to learn and then find a school that offers training in those areas. If you are not sure what to study, visit a variety of schools. Talk to the instructors. Find out how any particular school will benefit you and get you closer to your goals. Many people join a tae kwon do school because it seems popular and then realize what they are learning is not practical. If your goal is realistic self defense, find a school that caters to that need. If you want a school where you will get in great shape, don't just read the word "fitness" in the advertisement and assume it will be a good work out. Thoroughly study the program and the curriculum of a school you are considering. Then evaluate if it is right for you.

Mistake Number Four: Failure to Evaluate the Instructors and the Staff

Martial arts instructors are and should be professionals. You are trusting them with your health and safety or those of your children. Everything about them should be professional. Do not be afraid to ask questions. One main factor to consider is the instructor's background. Do not be confused because someone tells you they are a high ranking Black Belt or be impressed because there are trophies around. In some organizations black belts are handed out after a very short period of time and a low level of competency. Many schools put trophies everywhere to make up for a lack of competence. There are tournaments every weekend where there are more trophies than participants, so do not be impressed by a large amount of them. Make sure the instructors are qualified to teach. Ask them how long they have been training. What is the instructors level of experience in teaching. What you see is more important than what you are being told. If the instructor is telling you that you will get in great shape by becoming a member, but he or she is overweight, then there is no credibility in that school. If the instructor tells you that martial arts will improve your health, and he or she is a smoker, drug user, or abuser of alcohol, then the instructor clearly doesn't lead by example. Instructors should, first and foremost, practice what they preach. Consider not just what the instructor tells you, but what you can clearly observe. Do your best to determine the instructor overall. Is he or she intelligent, friendly, professional, articulate, competent, and proficient in the arts they claim to teach. Is this a person you would feel comfortable working with. Does this person practice what they preach.

Mistake Number Five: Not taking a hard look at the facility and equipment.

One of the most important factors to consider when choosing a school is looking at the facility itself. If someone is asking you to pay a considerable amount of money, the place should not be old and worn out, it should be clean and not smell bad, and the equipment should be modern and in good working order. There should be a comfortable waiting area for guests, visitors, and parents. There should be readily accessible bathrooms. There should be adequate mats down. I have seen some schools that claim to teach ground work that don't even have mats down. I would not want to roll around on a hard wooden floor. If the school looks or smells bad it is generally indicative of overall neglect and sloppiness. I certainly would not want to train in this type of environment. Everything about the school should say professionalism. Lastly consider what amenities the school offers. Is there a place for parents to relax and observe classes. Some schools have a large, comfortable waiting area with flat screen tvs and free coffee and other schools don't let parents and guests stay and watch. Determine what is important for you. Is it comfortable for younger siblings and the elderly. Is it easy to get to and in a good neighborhood. Make sure you consider what services are important to you.


Which martial arts school you choose will make a tremendous difference on the experience that you have. Give it careful thought and consideration before making a decision. Do not be afraid to ask lots of questions and take into account all of the factors mentioned. Talk to some of the other students or parents of students. With the right school and right instructor, your life will be substantially improved. I wish you the best of luck!

This article was written by Mr. Peter A. Tuccino owner and chief children's instructor of Dragon Spirit Martial Arts located in Lyndhurst, NJ. Mr. Tuccino has over thirty years experience in the martial arts and has owned his school for 15 years. For comments please send an email to [email protected]


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