Top Ten Considerations
This is my top ten, you might order yours differently but these are all worth review…
Number 1 – Reputation
Reputation is important, probably the most important. Talk to anyone you might know that trains at the school. Joining a school is a commitment. Make sure they have a reputation you feel you can trust. Remember there may be times when you need to leave your child with them for the duration of class
Check them out online. Most reputable schools have social media pages and most of those have some means to review them. Pay particular attention to review replies. Are they gracious for the feedback? Do they handle negative reviews appropriately? Does the school have any third party validations, those are usually a good sign.
Number 2 – Experience
Look for a team of experienced professionals. Chances are pretty good that Advanced Black Belts know their stuff, It can take 9+ years of training to get to a level that you can teach traditional styles. That should make most of the instructor’s young adults as well.
Are they well trained and do they have a curriculum that they work from during class?
Number 3 – Quality Operation
Is it clean?
Any off odors?
Check the restrooms. It’s a detail that many miss.
Does there appear to be a good variety of equipment and in good repair?
Number 4 – Curriculum
Curriculum should be important, whether it’s traditional or non traditional is a matter of preference. What is important is whether the curriculum is documented and structured in such a way that it makes sense and is easy to follow. Understand that this sort of training requires a good amount of practice. Does the school encourage practice at home? Do they have tools that can be used to support training at home, such as a video library? Don’t forget to ask about how students advance.
Number 5 – Traditional vs Non-Traditional
Traditional styles are committed to a recognized style. Anyone that tells you that they are a mix of karate, self-defense and say Tae Kwon Do are not commited to a style and the problem with that is that the rank is not transferable. Chances are pretty good that the blue belt that little Johnny earned in a non-traditional style will not be honored by another school.
Number 6 – Fee Structure
Look for a transparent fee structure that is simple to understand and does not have any hidden fees. It is typical to pay a fee to promote and those fees tend to change as students advance, some schools pass on credit card processing fees, and have calculations that apply to cancellations. You should know what those are up-front.
Also, don’t hesitate to ask about the last rate change and whether of not members are grandfathered in avoiding the increase.e
Number 7 – Contracts
Getting locked into a contract is generally not something anyone wants to do. But the reality of running a martial arts academy requires commitment from students, parents and yes the school. Each party needs to communicate a level of commitment. Students show their commitment by attending regularly, doing their best and referring friends. The instructors show commitment by being welcoming and supportive. Parents show their commitment by helping the student arrive to class on time and pay tuition in a timely manner. Whether there is a formal document or not, this is how it works. You should at the very least, find out from the owner what the expectation is when it’s time to cancel.
Number 8 – Series of Classes
Some schools are more than happy to have you try a class. Sometimes those are one on one sessions, sometimes they are in the group class. The fact is that trial lessons for anything less than two weeks will not give you the opportunity to make an informed decision. Look for programs that longer than two weeks. This does not apply to children younger than 6, they can get bored in more than 2 weeks.
Expect to pay something for the trial. Even if you are not paying for the classes, students want to fit in by having a uniform, which many will charge for.Be wary of a free trial that includes a uniform. Some manufacturers have uniforms specifically for this purpose and they are light-weight, lesser quality.
Number 9 – Location
Location is a determining factor in rate calculations. Don’t try to justify the top 8 because you don’t want to explain why you are driving by one or two other schools. Enrolling in the right school can have a long term benefit to the student.
Number 10 – Uniforms
Traditional styles always have uniforms that are required, as do some non-traditional styles. Expect to pay a premium for uniforms that are screened or embroidered. They are pricey and sometimes hard to get.
It’s very common to see uniforms change at the black belt level as well as for instructors. If you see uniform variations, find out why that is.