How to Choose a Martial Arts School

Choosing a martial art is difficult enough, but depending on where you live there could be hundreds of martial arts school to choose from.  Trying to decide which martial art is best for your or a child can be a difficult task, especially if you don’t know much about martial arts to begin with.  These tips and recommendations will help make choosing a martial art and martial art school much easier

Understanding the benefits that martial arts offer
Today’s martial arts school meet can meet various student needs.  Your first step is to determine what you want to get out of martial art training.  Be honest with your answers.  If you really aren’t into self-defense then that’s fine.  People take martial arts for reasons other than learning how to kick someone’s face in.  The important thing is to find a school and martial arts system that will meet your needs and desires.  Most martial arts schools fall into one or more of the following categories.  Almost all martial art schools will satisfy the 5 areas of interest below.  
Areas of Interest found in all martial art systems and schools.

  1.  Fitness
  2. Character Development / Confidence / Discipline
  3. Health
  4. Children / Family
  5. Adult

Almost any active sport that requires you to move a lot will yield the same results.  The reason why you shouldn’t make your choice based on those 5 areas is because martial arts schools that mainly focus on those 5 areas usually do a bad job with actually teaching martial arts.  If you are going to pay a lot for a martial art school enrollment, then it’s better to get the real thing and your money’s worth.  Some martial art schools have a separate fitness class that most people enjoy, but those are fitness classes and not martial arts classes.

How to select a martial arts system

The main areas of interest that you should choose from are listed below.  These areas of interest will help you pick a martial arts systems that has what you like.

  1. Weapons – not all martial art systems have weapons training.  Chinese martial art systems are known for having multiple weapons to train with.  Japanese martial art systems have little to no weapons to train with.  Filipino martial art systems often have extensive stick and knife training.  
  2. Self-defense – most of the traditional martial arts schools will have a focus on self-defense techniques that are designed to cause severe damage to a person.  Sporting martial arts can be used as self-defense, but overall they are focused on sport fighting.
  3. Competition – Karate, Taekwondo, Muay Thai, and BJJ are big on competitions.  Kung Fu system usually have forms competitions.
  4. Forms – All traditional martial arts will have some type of form training
  5. Sports – Taekwondo, Muay Thai, and BJJ are the most popular for sport competition
  6. Relaxation – Tai Chi is the best choice for this.  The entire focus of Tai Chi is to move in a relaxed state.
  7. Belts – If you want a belt then you can forget Chinese martial arts system.  You’ll want either a Korean or Japanese marital art to obtain the famous black belt.
  8. Uniform – Chinese martial arts have the least expensive uniform, while Japanese and Korean systems will have the most expensive.  Uniforms tend to be more expensive for children because they outgrow their uniforms.
  9. Tricking / Fancy – Extreme karate, Wushu Kung Fu, Taekwondo, and Capoeira has all of the acrobatic flips and cool kicks.


Use our martial arts comparison sheet to help you match your important categories with a martial arts system.

Some martial art schools train self-defense and some don’t.  Not every martial art system has weapons or belts.  By using our chart you’ll be able to quickly find what types of martial arts have what you want and how much of it.  Once you have picked a system that you might like then it’s time to find teacher.  Click here to view the charts

Selecting a Martial Art School

Don’t just pick the first martial arts school that you see.  Determine how far you are willing to travel to take a class and collect the names of the schools within your area.  You don’t need to write down every school.  You only need to write down schools that offer the system that you want to train in.  Keep in mind that martial art schools can vary within the same system so you’ll need to have some background information about the system.  This knowledge will help you to determine if a school is telling you the truth about the system they claim to teach.  Read reviews about the school and even ask around on the internet to get input from people who train in the same system. 

Find a good teacher

The initial research on an instructor should be on the school’s website.  Keep in mind that “world champion” does not always equal “great teacher.”  A good teacher should have patience, a passion for teaching, and should have a detailed understanding of what they are teaching.  Good teachers like to talk about their abilities to teach and not about how many trophies they won.  Martial arts trophies does not mean that the instructor actually knows how to use the martial arts that he or she teaches.  A trophy just means that they were able to do a form better than the people he or she was competing against.  A high level sports competition would present a better idea of the instructor’s ability.  Not having trophies could just mean that they don’t enter competitions, but are excellent in using the martial art system.  Once you find a school with instructors that you like, then take a visit.

Visit the School

Most schools will allow you to watch a class or will have a trial period where you can try one or 2 classes for free.  Some schools give as much as a 2 week free trial period.  Visits allow you to watch how instructors treat students and if their teaching skills are any good.  It will also give you time to check the place over and get a feel of the environment.  You will be able to tell if the place has good energy feeling or if all the students there seem to be too aggressive.  Happiness is always a good sign. Trial periods are good because they allow you to try the martial arts system first before spending money on it.  If you like the way the instructor teaches then sign up for a trial class.  We have a list of things to look for, warning signs, and days to visit a school based on the categories that interest you.

Ask Questions

When you go to the school or call up the school be sure to ask your questions.  Don’t feel shy and don’t feel as if your question is stupid.   Be sure to ask questions on your visit.  If you don’t have any questions at that time, then as questions as part of your follow up.  We have a list of questions that you can ask based on the categories that you are interested in

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