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Questions to ask any Martial Art School ( Dojo ) to weed out the good from the bad

I have been giving this some thought latley, mainly becuase it has been bugging me.  Every week I go shop at the local shopping center, and there is Franchise Martial Arts ( Altering Lives ) and I see they have many people coming in to train, and I see what they are training and I know what they are paying to be trained and I wonder why? 

From my perspective I see little to no control, timing is non existant, everything is fast and flashy so I wonder how or why these people would choose such a school.  I have never talked to anyone to find out what they like about it, or why they selected Altering Lives Martial Arts ( that isn't the real name LOL ).

So, I can only assume that those who are taking classes there, and at schools like it, simply have no idea what martial arts are about.  Their only frame of refrence is obviously Hollywood.  So, I wanted to put together some quesionts to help you weed out the great schools from the hollywood flash.

Question 1:

"What is your lineage, where did you receive your black belt and how long did you train?"

This quesition is vitally important, lineage in the martial art world can tell you a lot about the school and how closely they maintain the original teachings of the styel or system.  Every system is headed by one man who is generally a 10th Dan.  Those who train directly with him.  In physics there is a law called the Inverse Square Law which simply states that :  "Intensity is inversely proportional to the square of the distance from the source."  This is what lineage shows, the source is the head of the system at the time the instructor studied. If you look at someones lineage and he is one generation from the head of the system he is nearer the source, it is resonable to expect that what he is teacher is closer to the original intent than say someone who is 4th or 4th generation from the source.  This is becuase the teaching from the source has been diluted by other ideas.

It is important to note that all martial artist should know their lineage, who their teachers are, who their teachers, teachers were etc. If an instructor, or school, seems uncertain or beats around the bush this is a clear sign that you should really look elsewhere.

Question 2:

"What is your curriculum, what does it consist of?"

Every school has a curriculum, traditional martial art schools base their curriculum on Kata "Forms" and a number of drills that develop the body and mind and then work towards sparring in a controlled fashion.

The goal here is for you to understand what the school is trying to teach and develop.  Many martial art schools today have very little understanding of the subtleties that were once common practice in the 60's and 70's instead they teach a fighting system that resembles boxing, and is only focused on offense, getting the punch.  Karate is all about defense, defense first and last, be sure to ask many questions about how they teach defense.

Question 3:

"What do you charge for belt and what are the requirements?"  

You will  want to understand how the curriculum affects promotion, or belt ranks.  Over the years schools have added so many different belts it looks as if a skittles bag exploded, you will see all sorts of colored belts with many different stripes too.  Originally, there were no belts then after world war II belt ranks were added, but only a few.  In the 60's in the USA most schools only had 5 belts before black, and 6 if you count black.  Today, the curriculum is to quickly move through some concept, or form, and in 2 or 3 months test for a stripe or belt. This is repeated ad nauseam until the student has tested for his black belt.  Oftent times each of these tests carry a hefty fee. 

Also, if you are told that you must maintain an attendance sheet, and when you have attended X number of classes you can test for this belt or that stripe.  Ask what the number of days one attended class has to do with the quality of karate that the student is developing, not every person learns as quickly as the other, or graps concepts as quickly, so why do these school treat everyone the same?

Question 4:

"What is the schools affiliation?"

Affilation is an important aspect, just as important as lineage.  Affiliation means that the school belongs to an association, you will want to seek out a school that belongs to a strong association that works to maintain the essense of the styles original intent.  For example, Shorinkan is a very large international organization that is head quartered in Okinawa, Japan and teaches the Shorin-ryu Karate system.  In North America many students visit Okinawa to receive training from the Hombu dojo, this allows the head dojo to ensure that everyone is teaching the same material.

Question 5:

This isn't really a question,  instead some research.  Go to the schools website and read who they are and what their mission is.  Do they list their instructors or do they use vague statement like "Our instructors a a few of the best" ... "Our instructors are hand picked by our Master Instructor...", "Our instructors are mentors ... ", "Our instructors focus on ... "  Now, when you go in ask who are the instructors, how long have they been training to teach?  Who is the "master instructor?"  what are his qualifications?

While you are at the website what is the focus?  Is it about getting you to sign up for a trial program? register for a newsletter? Do you see more testimonials then you do information about training and where they come from?  Do they teach more than one system? For example, do they teach "martial arts" and Krav Maga? If so what Martial art do they teach?  Don't be afraid to ask questions, after all they are going to ask you quesions.

Question 6:

"Are woman trained differently than men?"

Lets face it men and woman both want to learn to defend themselves.  So, ask the chief instructor if they teach both men and woman, does the training differ based on one sex?  If you are a female, this is more important. Are females treated iin a softer and more tender manner than their male counter parts?  If so, does this make sense?  Will a would be criminal bent on a strong arm attack be more tender in his attack than he would if he were attacking a man?  I doubt it!  So, why do many schools insist on training their female students with kit golves? Why would a female want to learn an ineffective method of selfdefense?

Question 7:

"Are you concerned with the students feelings?"

This may sound odd, but you are embarking on a form of training that is rooted in Military art of fighting, hence the term Martial Art. Much of what is being taught is designed to maim or injuire your assailant in such away that you can safely walk away.  This requires that one is focused and takes the training seriously, there is little room for fun and games.  The instructors are not there to make you laugh, sometimes instructors have to get stern to drive home a point, and a students feeling may be hurt.



These are just 7 quick questions I came up with to help you pick a Dojo.  Another key aspect may be when you visit the dojo do they seem more interested in trophies, performing demonstrations "demo teams?" or when you walk in do you see a simple humble dojo with a simple training area?  As time goes on, I will update and add questions to this list.