I meet new people almost everyday who are looking for a martial arts program for their children. For many people it can be a confusing process. Unlike many other sports such as soccer and hockey which have well organized governing bodies and rules, martial arts schools offer very diverse programs and are either not governed at all, or are governed by a number of different loose associations related to the type of martial arts they teach. For any parent who has not been personally involved in martial arts in the past it can be a very difficult decision as to which school or program to enroll their child in.
There are many styles of martial arts being taught all over the world and most likely in your neighbourhood as well. Whether it's Karate, Tae Kwon Do, Jiu-Jitsu or some other martial art style, they all offer students value in regards to self defense and fitness. Therefore, I don’t think the style should be the number one concern when choosing a school for your child. I believe you should first consider the factors below before the style being taught at that particular school is factored into your decision. I believe if you get the appropriate answer’s to the following 20 questions you will probably made the right decision:
1. Determine your ultimate objective(s) and after asking lots of questions decide if the program being offered satisfies your goal(s)?
2. Is the school close to your home and is free and convenient parking offered? If it's close to home you'll probably get there more often.
3. Does the school offer classes that are age specific or does it group all ages together? Make sure that the curriculum has been designed for kids at a specific age group. This will make it easier for your child to make friends and learn their program in a class which is tailored to their mental and physical abilities.
4. How big are the classes compared to the training area? Is there a maximum number of students per class? Does the school limit the number of students that can attend a class?
5. What is the ratio of students to instructors and assistants? A 1:20 instructor/student ratio or less is generally appropriate not including the assistance of additional higher belt students.
6. Does the school have a formal curriculum and teaching plan? Once you become a student are you able to obtain the requirements that your child will need to master in order to advance through each belt level?
7. Is the facility clean, well lit, and maintained properly?
8. Are the staff friendly and do they interact with the children in a positive manner? Do they have children themselves and do their children train there as well?
9. Do the instructors share the same values that are important to you in the raising of your child? Is their vision, mission and core values listed anywhere? How do they demonstrate their commitment to these values on a daily basis? If you aren’t sure ask.
10. Are the instructors qualified in their martial art? Ask questions about their background and who taught them.
11. Are high quality safety mats used in the training area?
12. Will the school allow your child to try some free classes before signing up?
13. Are you able to watch the class? If possible ask some of the other parents about their experience at the school while watching the class.
14. Do you have a budget in mind and is it realistic? Martial arts schools generally charge the same as what you would expect for music or dance lessons.
15. Will the school allow you to put the membership on hold if you take an extended trip or your child gets sick?
16. How often are you prepared to bring your child to train each week? Is the school flexible in the amount of classes they can attend or does the school limit the number of classes they can attend each week. Do you need to upgrade the membership and pay more to attend additional classes?
17. Do you have to put down a large upfront payment, or can you pay monthly as you go? Other than paying for the training clothes (Gi), or an occasional belt test, you should be able to pay for the program as you go.
18. Is it a balanced curriculum that teaches both stand up and ground self defense or do they only teach one style?
19. Are there options for you or other family members to take classes?
20. Does the school offer options for students that want to compete or move up to a higher level such as the provincial or national team?
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