How to Choose a Martial Art School
How to Choose a Martial Arts School
by Tom Callos & Shared by Sensei Dan & TheDOJO
So many martial arts schools and so little time! How does one choose the right
one? Here are some inside tips to help you to pick the right school – for the right
reasons, from Tom Callos, a veteran school owner and consultant to the martial
Martial arts schools are everywhere! If you live in the U.S., chances are you have
at least one school within a 5-mile radius of your home - and probably more.
There are estimated to be more than six million martial arts practitioners in North
America, about 70% of those are children. Today’s martial arts schools range
from operations that rival the polish and fancy facilities of the nation’s finest
health club chains to schools that look like the set of The Last Samurai to down and-dirty “garage dojos.” Price ranges in the martial art industry, according to Frank Silverman, Director of the Martial Arts Industry Association, average out at about $125 per month, but most schools can be found charging anywhere from $35.00 per month to more than $300. How does one go about choosing the right school? Industry expert Tom Callos, a veteran school owner himself, has some
great advice on how to choose a martial arts school that’s right for you.
“The first thing to know about choosing a martial arts school is that you already
know how to do it,” says Callos.
“You evaluate a martial arts school the same way you
would evaluate any school you would take your child
to. Just because you’re thinking of joining a school
that teaches the “ancient arts of self defense,” doesn’t
mean you don’t apply modern day scrutiny to their
professionalism, teachers, and facilities.”
Callos asserts that being a black belt, at any level, is not a sign that the wearer is
a good teacher or that he or she knows how to run a business. “Just because
someone is a good athlete, doesn’t mean they are going to give you your
money’s worth when it comes to lessons,” warns Callos. “Parents should use
their good judgment when choosing a school, as just like in the martial arts, there
aren’t really any secrets, it’s all about mastering the fundamentals. If you’re
looking for a good school, look for one that’s proficient at the fundamentals of
Read our nine tips:
Callos offers nine other school-hunting tips:
Just like any business, the way the facility looks and its cleanliness (or lack
thereof) says something about the attitude and aptitude of the owner. A martial
arts school doesn’t have to look like a Starbucks, but it ought to be clean and
organized. If a school doesn’t look professional, chances are it isn’t.
Just like you would expect from any business, the staff of a martial arts school
should be courteous, professional, and personable. They should treat you
(and/or your child) like a paying customer. If you can go to a department store
and get better service than you can at your local martial arts school, then spend
your money at the department store.
Bad attitude = bad school; if you get a weird feeling, a sort of “attitude” from the
staff or owner that rubs you the wrong way, then you shouldn’t become a
customer of that school. If the attitude of the owner is superb and his or her staff
exhibits a similar attitude, then you’ve found a school worth a second look.
When shopping for a martial arts school, the “style” the school teaches is
secondary to who teaches the classes and how they teach them. A good
instructor will make you feel good about what you’re doing. He or she will help
you stay healthy and take an interest in why you’ve joined the school. If you’re a
complete novice to the martial arts, don’t shop for a style or method, shop for the
best teacher or teachers (read: the best people) you can find. Find the right
teacher and you’ll love the martial arts. Find the wrong teacher and it won’t
matter what style they teach.
Lots of intermediate and advanced students in classes? Chances are you’ve
found a school that knows how to enroll and keep its students; that’s a good sign.
If you go to a school that’s been in business for a year or longer and it’s still
empty, something’s not right with the school. Most martial arts teachers think
their classes are the best classes - the way that most restaurateurs think that
their food is the best food. If the parking lot is empty, it’s a sign that the
customers have a different opinion.
The Financial Arrangements
Many martial arts schools will ask you to sign a contract for a certain number of
lessons and/or for a certain amount of time – and that’s ok, as a school has to
sell its wares and generate cash flow just like any other business. You shouldn’t
think twice about signing a contract with a school, under the following conditions:
1. You’ve had adequate time to witness and experience the service the school
provides. Most schools have a great sales pitch, but some aren’t able to follow
through with the level of service they promise. Nine out of 10 schools will allow
you to try a month of lessons, for a price, before you agree to enroll for a certain
number of classes or months. If you can’t negotiate this trial period, it’s a definite
red flag. Bonus Tip: Most schools will have a Pay In Full option on membership.
It’s ok to pay for your membership in full, but make sure you know the school
thoroughly before doing so. Most schools will have a no-refund policy.
2. The contract you sign should spell out, clearly and exactly, how you leave the
program should you have to leave or if you become dissatisfied with the service.
It’s ok to pay a little exit fee or some other penalty should you decide to leave
before fulfilling the terms of a contract, but the penalty or penalties shouldn’t be
unreasonable (and some are, so check carefully). Nine out of 10 schools will, if
you insist, write a special “exit clause” on your contract spelling out the terms of
your departure and they will also be willing to strike out parts of a contract if you
don’t feel comfortable with the verbiage. Bonus Tip: The way the owner or staff
member treats you should you try to negotiate a trial period or a change in the
school’s contract will give you a very clear idea of what the school’s service is
really like, after the sale. If you’re not treated with respect, go elsewhere.
There’s service, then there’s good service, and then there’s excellent service.
Just because the owner or staff member of a martial arts school has the ability to
make you beg for mercy with his or her baby toe, doesn’t mean they have the
right provide you with anything but the best service they can muster. If you visit a
martial arts school and you don’t see or feel a reasonably high level of customer
service happening, raise that suspicious eyebrow, step back a bit, and do some
The Feeling You Get When You’re There and When You Leave
Are you having fun? Do you leave the school feeling empowered and taken care
of? If you go to a martial arts school and leave feeling better than when you
arrived, you’ve found a good thing.
Your Gut Instinct
Always go with your gut instinct when choosing a school or instructor. If your
intuition says something’s not right, something’s not right. If you’ve found a good
school, you’ll know it (especially if you’ve read this article).
Tom Callos is a professional consultant to the martial arts industry.
He is also a co-founder of www.911aok.com, an Acts of Kindness character development program for children and adults.
He resides Hilo, Hawaii Contact Tom Callos UltimateBlackBeltTest.com
Sensei Dan Rominski and his school TheDOJO in Rutherford NJ is referred to the reader as a HIGHLY recommended martial arts school to attend by Tom Callos. Sensei Dan & TheDOJO meet & exceed all of the qualifications of this article for safety, professionalism & martial arts quality. Sensei Dan Rominski is a Member & Graduate of programs by Tom Callos such as the Ultimate Black Belt Test & The 100 and other teacher training education.