How to Choose a Martial Art

Contributor: Avigayil Basser

You are paying for a service. You want that service to:

a.       Be the actual service you are seeking

b.      Be the best possible version available

c.       Be the most affordable

a. When choosing to train a martial art, it is important to first define your goal, this will help you find an answer to point a. Is your goal fitness? Excitement? Gaining confidence? Competition? Or the most likely and most important – surviving a life and death altercation. Actually most likely all these aspects and more combine to form the reason you are seeking some form of martial arts training. The answer to these questions will also vary depending on the potential student, is it you? Your child? Your spouse?

Research. Don’t follow what is popular, and don’t fall for finding the first half decent provider. Based on the above specifications do a Google search: “most proven method of self defence”,  “what is better for children to learn karate or jiu jitsu”, “what is Muay Thai”. A simple search can really help you narrow down so you can pinpoint what you are really looking for.

b. Once you have selected your choice, or maybe at least narrowed down your interests, it is time to find the best service provider. Always ask for certification/ history, it is your right to request from the instructor teaching you to prove that they are authorized and capable. Even if a heart surgeon went to medical school, would you trust him if he didn’t complete his residency? This might be about your survival or protecting your family. Ask for references, talk to students. And be smart, don’t believe unbacked claims. There are multiple fraudulent instructors who have been exposed, but continue to teach because their students will not perform a simple online search to uncover this information.

Next, ask about a trial class, or a trial month of classes. Many gyms/ dojos will have some sort of arrangement. If you are interested in more than one style, perhaps you should seek an MMA gym which will teach all of these styles under one roof. But again, do research. Gyms have been known to jump on current fads and claim they teach styles other than their own. They might hire a novice junior instructor to teach the new style, or they might even make it up as they go along. If your Karate school offers kickboxing, ask what the difference is, it might simply be karate kicks demonstrated on a B.O.B. with loud music and much sweat. If this is what you enjoy – go for it. But recognize this is not the same kickboxing utilized in the UFC cage or K1 ring.

c. Pricing: sometimes you pay for the quality of training, sometimes for the luxury of the gym, and sometimes simply because you are being squeezed for more. Ask if the dojo charges for belt promotions or for graduating to the next level classes (I trained at a gym that did this. They made you sign up for a test, and pay a fee before graduating to the L2 Krav Maga class. A good instructor will pay enough attention to measure your skill and allow you to advance when ready without charging $40).  This is not in reference to achieving higher level adult belts which require specific testing and often are charged for by the organization granting the belt (also, a money making business, but necessary to regulate the system), but you should not be charged a fee when your child is up for Tae kwon Do yellow belt testing. If the only membership option is a yearly contract, and you are not sure you can make that work – find a place that offers a monthly option. On the other hand, be mindful, it costs money to run a gym, rent, utilities, and association memberships are costly and many instructors struggle to make ends meet. So as long as the fees are not outrageous and you are continuously benefiting from training, respect the gym and your teachers by paying membership dues on time and with a smile.

I will finish this piece off with advice from a great martial artist who fought and won what was arguably the first style vs. style (wrestler against boxer) match back in the 60’s against Milo Savage.

“In the early days of Ultimate Fighting you would have a guy who’s 10th degree in his style and he would go against one of the Gracie kids and get choked out in a matter of minutes. Now that guy was tenth degree… but he would go into his karate pose and get chocked out for his trouble… You have it all to take it all and you can’t just train in one style anymore – you have to train in all of them” (Gene LeBell, The Toughest Man Alive).