Like most parents or students, finding the right martial arts school can seem daunting, especially if you have never studied it, or even if you have. The subject is vast, and many selections look the same on the outside (especially if they all have 5-star reviews!). We hope this helps you decide.
Selecting the personal best martial arts school for you or your family is about finding the right fit. This means finding a community you share fundamental values with, where you are comfortable to entrust the physical, emotional, and mental development of your most precious one, or yourself!
- A lot of the points outlined below will be further discussed in separate posts for a deeper dive.
- Though this guide was meant mostly for parents and their martial arts school selection, many adults will find the discussions helpful for their own search.
- Keep in mind, these are beliefs and opinions of CMAC Dapo, gathered from decades of teaching and running a martial arts school. Other establishments may have varying opinions.
- For children especially, care is more important the the style of martial arts.
1. Where—Where is the school?
In these pandemic times, location becomes both irrelevant and critical at the same time: irrelevant since there are online martial arts programs worldwide that you can choose from, so you can learn from someone in another continent, and critical because many are training with the expectation and excitement to train in-person, making location still crucial.
Questions to ask
- Where is the school in proximity to your home?
- Convenience vs care: are you willing to drive to a good quality school, or will you settle for one around the corner, even if it is not the quality you prefer?
- What is your driving or waiting time limit? Can you run errands or have some “me time” during the wait time while the kids are in the class?
- Is the environment conducive for learning? Distracting? Quiet? Busy?
Good to know
Dojo is a Japanese word that means, “place of the way”. It is a classroom for studying martial arts. In this classroom are instruments, symbols, knowledge, materials and the space needed to study martial arts. There are other cultures who have alternate terms for a place to study martial arts, but dojo is most common.
2. Who—Who will be teaching your child?
To have achieved a black belt or its equivalent in a style of martial arts, or to have won a tournament of some type, does not complete a teacher of martial arts, in our honest opinion. Teaching, as any teacher will tell you is a discipline through which to pass on a discipline.
The first directive of a martial arts teacher is to do no harm.
The second is to begin at the beginning.
The third is understand where the beginning is for a child, youth and adult respectively.
Some schools implement a teaching certificate, some view black belt as a requirement in itself, and others are open to any skill level teaching at any age.
Our teaching qualifications include—
- Age requirement: must be a competent, reliable adult, who has an interest in teaching and child education
- Minimum rank of shodan 1° black belt
- Vulnerable police check
- CPR and first aid certification
- Updated and competent knowledge and skill in the style being taught, as determined by the Director / Head Instructor
- Firm understanding of martial arts theory
- Acquired a minimum number of teaching hours
- Consistent weekly training
- Maintain a health and physical fitness regimen
- Completed an apprenticeship as an instructor and awarded their teaching certificate
Questions to ask
- Who is the Director (sometimes called Sensei / Principal) of the school?
- Who is the Vice-principal (sometimes called Senpai)?
- Who are the faculty members? Are there teaching assistants?
- Can you meet the teachers? Do they seem to embody the philosophies that the school stands for?
3. What—What is the curriculum? What will your child be taught?
One of our main principles is that martial arts for a child is not martial arts for an adult.
Remember when you were in school? Learning the ABC’s was complemented by rearing—little things you learned that led to shaping your independence, behaviour, ability to share, and habits training.
Your child learning martial arts will remind you of how the simple things support more complex things. Before expecting to see a perfect kick or an amazing block, see how they are able to follow instructions, work with their classmates, translate what is happening around them in the flow of class, step forward and backward, line up in belt order, sit still for a few minutes, and govern themselves.
Martial arts for a child is not only to help mould their disposition, it is an opportunity to give them tools with which to manage the ups and downs of living with others and themselves. After all, there is an education that leads to making a living, and another in how to live.
At our school, there are seven core virtues that establish and direct the context of learning toward a student refining their nature without competition being the catalyst for improving. This opens opportunities for them to create, and imagine alternate places in themselves through which to manifest strengths born free of the limits of win and loss.
Martial arts when taught in this manner establishes an intuition in a student, that is very important to complimenting instincts and intellect that can easily rule their nature otherwise.
We believe that these virtues are as essential to martial arts as the laws of science, math, and language.
CMAC Dapo Virtues
Respect ❋ Integrity ❋ Duty and loyalty ❋ Honesty and sincerity ❋ Heroic courage ❋ Honour ❋ Compassion
Time will be a lifetime balancing act. Quality over quantity makes for a sound decision: less activities for your children means more mindful choices as to why you chose a certain complement to their rearing. Again, find the right fit for you and your values.
Questions to ask
- How long is each class?
- What is the minimum required training time per week?
- How flexible is the schedule?
- Are makeup classes allowed?
- Can I move a different lesson to make time for martial arts?
- Is my child going to learn a lot doing martial arts in recess time? Why or why not?
- How important are the values of martial arts to my child’s upbringing, that I should make time for it?
Makes no mistake, fighting is a most natural type of learning; it is life’s test.
At our school, we use various methods to implement the curriculum. A few examples are below:
- Engaging warm-ups for cardiovascular health and flexibility
- Monk training exercises for strength
- Cooperative drills for social development
- Step-by-step fundamentals
- Safety, learning how to fall and get up properly
- Forms to help govern attention and discipline
- Breathing exercises to calm the mind
- Open-ended discussions for emotional development
- Focus drills to bring clarity
- Practices to develop a positive mental attitude
- Self-defence skills to teach confidence and resilience
- Artwork for deeper learning
- Stories, Word Work, and poetry to extend learning and apply it “in the real world”
- Life tactics that can be applied to various areas like time management, electronics time management, habit training
- Virtues and non-virtues
It is important to recognize that learning anything is decided by the intent of the principle teacher of each school or class. The style of martial art is not as important as the intent of the teaching.
I started learning martial arts for myself, what I got out of it was for everyone else.
Questions to ask your potential schools
- What methods do you use to implement your curriculum?
- What is your vision-mission?
- Does your institution follow more of a sports / entertainment model or a school / education model?
If possible, request a free trial class or assessment, which is one of the best ways to know what it would be like for your child to be a student of the school.
6. How much
We really like the saying by Bob Talbert, associate writer for the Detroit Free Press: “Teaching children to count is fine, but teaching them what counts is best!”
Between price, quality, and service, we can choose 2. Expecting the best quality and the best service, while paying the cheapest rate, is not reasonable. We may choose to shop around for the best “deal,” however keep in mind that we are investing in our child’s education, and not shopping for a car.
Choose the cheapest, and we usually get what we pay for. Again, we come back to finding the right fit. Expecting a fair rate is reasonable, with simple payment terms.
Questions to ask
- What are the payment terms?
- Is there a contract?
- What is the refund policy?
Question to ask yourself
Do I want cheap, or do I want the best for my child?
Teaching children to count is fine, but teaching them what counts is best!
-Bob Talbert- associate writer for the Detroit Free Press
7. Which style of martial arts is the best?
When asking yourself “Which is the personal best martial arts for me?” the question about style comes up inevitably. There are many styles of martial arts around the world that have emerged out of an identity of many cultures. Martial arts is ultimately the study of human nature through the refinement of what hinders it, and as such, there are many styles and versions- after all, human nature is not unique to any one culture.
Some styles have been around for a long time and other are much newer.
Older styles have had time to evolve into or adopt a non-combative methodology through which self-governance, healing and wisdom are at the epicentre.
Modern or newer styles tend to adhere to combative methods that will have success in a tournament, competitive or warring environment – winning is at the epicentre.
Newer and older perspectives provide a discriminative momentum through which martial arts as a discipline continues to emerge and take shape as an art of human nature, and provides a place for every person of any age, maturity, or physical limit to begin.
There is no absolute best style, anymore then there is a best genre of art, music or architecture. There is however the right start and the right fit, and a solid curriculum (what is being taught, how it is being taught, to who is teaching it).
It is a good idea to remember that this is your child’s journey and you are their guide until they take over. And although they will choose fun and easy over the alternative, it is a balancing act that requires imagination and caring which is often more taxing on the parents and teachers. But we do it for them.
The style a child learns martial arts through is in their parents’ hands until it is in their own.
8. THE WHY
Martial Arts is the study of life. Life is survival, adaptation, faith, courage, integrity and strategy, among many other virtues.
A mother tiger who wants to teach her cubs to survive does so through many lessons that lead up to the success of a hunt, the cubs have no idea there experiences are ultimately about a skill that will determine there survival. Long walks, leaping, explosiveness, endurance, awareness, hiding crouching, waiting, being quite, breathing, honing instincts, concentration, and so on. If a little cub was asked “what is hunting?” we’d get a very different answer than mom, and a very different point of interest.
Martial Arts is vey much like a mother tiger teaching her young. It is a means through which to adapt a student to the world in such a way that they arrive with the tools to know how to live.
What is your why
Why do you want your child to learn martial arts?
Why is it important to you and your family?
Do your reasons match the school’s values?
Do you feel supported as a parent in teaching these values?
Your “why’s” can be your guide to the right school for you.
We hope that this guide to finding the personal best martial arts for you has been helpful. We recommend your child to try a class or book an assessment, where you can also ask questions and get the best sense of the feel and vibe of the school. Some parents even book a class for themselves to get an even better idea on the martial arts path that their child will start.