Choosing a Dojo

According to Dr. Shin, parents who are considering martial arts classes should keep the following in mind:

1. Is the instructor skilled, engaged, and friendly?
2. How long has the instructor been training?
3. How long has the instructor been teaching?

It is important to consider both questions 2 and 3, because in addition to having a teacher who knows the discipline, you also want to work with someone who has demonstrated the ability to successfully work with students over time.

1. Fees vary widely, but expect to pay along the same lines you would for any quality athletic program. Like any other product or service, you get what you pay for.

2. Do you have to sign a contract? (If so, and this is your child’s first MA experience, ask if there is an introductory program to avoid being locked into a long-term financial commitment that is not compatible with your child’s interests or abilities.)

3. Be wary of schools which rely on promotions as a revenue stream. These are known in the martial arts community as “belt factories” or “McDojo’s”, because of the way they require students to take promotional belt tests at regular, prescribed intervals. Often, they promise things like “we will make your child a black belt in four years.” What this means in practice is, your child will be required to take promotional exams whether they are ready or not, sacrificing instructional and educational integrity for profit, as you will be charged exorbitant fees for each promotion. A good school or instructor will promote according to excellence, not a schedule, and provide both the structure to support your child’s learning, and the flexibility to meet his or her particular needs.

4. Most martial arts classes do not require a lot of equipment. Students usually wear a loose-fitting uniform of drawstring pants and a coordinating top that is specially constructed to withstand the type of practice being taught.

1. What type of discipline best suits your child, hard or soft? If you are unsure, try to visit several examples of both types.

2. May you observe each class level?

3. Is a first lesson offered for free on a try-out basis?

4. Is the classroom clean? How does it smell? Any serious gym is bound to smell like a gym to some degree, but it should not be offensive.

5. Is the facility permanently dedicated to the discipline you are interested in? If it needs mats, are the mats clean, of good quality, and designed for the activity? Many places use mats that need to be put away on a regular basis because they share the space with other activities, and so are unsuitable or provide inadequate protection from falls.

6. Are classes structured by age group or by training level? There are benefits to both, so consider your child’s learning style, and what suits her or him best.

7. What do other parents think of the instructor and the program? Don’t be afraid to ask!

8. Finally, and this is a critical point: Is the school accredited by or affiliated with a reputable national organization? Although there’s no single accreditation program for martial arts instruction overall, many schools adhere to guidelines laid out by a national organization specific to their discipline. These will be easily found on the internet, and will outline accreditation requirements, such as background checks, teaching credentials, coaching certification, first-aid training, and more.


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