Choosing a School

Looking for a martial arts school?

Here’s what to look for and look OUT for.

What REALLY goes on there?

Any reputable school will have a schedule listed on their website. Show up unannounced and watch real classes. If you’re not welcome to do so, why not? Seeing how a real class runs and the rapport instructors have with students is the most important thing to look for.

Avoid "all ages" classes.

The teaching style for kindergarteners, middle schoolers and adults should not be remotely similar so why have them in the same class? Also, students should be engaged in activity throughout the entire class. Stay clear of a class structure that has students sitting and waiting for any length of time.


Be wary of “private introductory lessons” that are designed to steer people into a commitment before they are fully informed. Are there long term contracts? If so, why? Watch out for schools that use legally binding contracts to retain students. That’s what entertaining, well planned and informative classes and curriculum are for. Information regarding price should be given freely the first time you ask.


Take a look (and sniff) around and make sure the place is clean. Mats should be mopped and disinfected multiple times a week. The gym should not “smell like a gym!” Be wary of places that have students clean the gym (yes, they’re still out there.) It should be assumed that a clean place to train is included in the tuition. It is the gym’s responsibility to keep you safe and healthy.


A well equipped gym should have a large matted area and plenty of well cared for equipment. Boxing or focus mitts are used to build technical punching skill, reaction time and defense. Heavy duty punching bags and large shields are used to develop power. If you are looking for true self defense training, be wary of places that lack good mats and heavy bags. Paper targets and kicking the air develop pretty kicks but not effective ones. Good safety gear (boxing gloves, shin guards and head protection) should be used to develop a real defensive skill set in a safe environment.

What do they teach?

Martial arts have changed more in the last fifteen years than in the two thousand before that! Many traditional martial arts have evolved into “sports” with point systems and memorized “dance routines” but very little emphasis on real boxing or grappling skills. On the other end of the spectrum are “fighting gyms” that have great skill sets but focus on the “two people in a cage” scenario and leave out reality based situations such as multiple opponents and armed attacks.

Coaches and Instructors

Do NOT be impressed by a black belt around someone’s waist. Look for someone who has trained in multiple systems for a long period of time. If you walk in and the instructor tells you all about themselves and how great they are, walk back out. There is no shortage of self importance and ego in the martial arts world. A real “school” should be about the students.