How to Choose a Martial
by Sifu Mark Moy
You've decided that you're ready to fulfill a childhood
dream and take a Martial Arts class.
Your child is being
bullied or has trouble focusing.
You want your teen to hang
around a healthy peer group and learn
how to set and achieve goals.
You're tired of the same
old workout routine at the gym and want to get strong
physically and mentally.
You watched the Ultimate
Fighting Championship and want to "train for real."
Open the yellow pages or
go online. Either way, you'll be overwhelmed by
all the choices.
Here are some suggestions
on how to sift through all of the advertising and
promises that are made.
First a quick overview of the
world of Martial Arts:
in schools will focus on either sport and competition, or on
self-defense. Aerobic workouts, strength
conditioning, and flexibility are common benefits in
In general, there are only two things that occur in hand-to-hand
combat - striking or grappling / wrestling.
Most schools will also
teach some form of defense against weapons (knife,
club, gun), some will teach classical weapons
(staff, spear, sword), others will teach offensive
use of weapons (impact or edged).
Facilities will have a very traditional atmosphere
or a modern sports club feel.
If you're interested
in sport / competition you'll find point-sparring
(light contact) to full-contact kickboxing.
Arts that specialize in takedowns and throws, to
arts that are proficient in a ground-fighting
situation. There are also competitions that
combine kickboxing and grappling / wrestling.
Although sport martial
arts instructors will say that their techniques
would work in a self defense situation, the training
mindset is completely different in competition
(where there are rules and referees) vs. a life and
If you want to compete, then find a teacher that
will help coach you to becoming successful in that
If you want to learn how to defend yourself, then
find a program purposefully designed to teach you
how to deal with situations ranging from a bully /
jerk - to a life and death attack.
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Step 1 - Decide on a
specific, short-term goal. What are you hoping that training
will do for you?
Step 2 - Be willing to
commit to 4 - 6 weeks of classes. Each school
should have some Trial Program available. I don't
suggest signing a one-year, or longer, contract until
you're sure that's where you want to train.
Step 3 - Visit some
schools in your vicinity. Although I have students
that drive 60 - 90 minutes to train with me, they are
the exception to the rule. The closer to your home
the better. The school should be within a 20-25
minute drive of your home.
Here is a Checklist of
Points To Consider, listed in order of importance (#1 is
the most important):
Character of Head Instructor
Is that instructor
someone whom you would want to influence your
child? Would you feel comfortable introducing them
to your mother, father, or sister? Do they bring
out the best in you?
2) Certifications and credentials of Head Instructor
Does this person have a
legitimate certification to teach
that martial art? Will their program and the style
they teach help you achieve your personal training
3) Ability of teacher to communicate
Is the instructor a 'good' communicator / teacher? Do they assess the learning styles of
their students and teach in a manner that ALL of their
Location of the school
Is the drive-time to the
Is the facility clean and well managed? Do they have the
proper equipment that allows the students to practice
the drills? Are there clear safety and training guidelines that the
instructor enforces with the students?
Cost vs. Value
Your choice in a Martial Arts School should not just be
based on what they charge for tuition.
Yes, you should train within
your budget. But, don't pick a school just because
they have the cheapest tuition, nor think that the
school that charges the most has the best program.
When in doubt read Checklist Points 1-3 again.
Besides the monthly
tuition, what are the additional fees? What gear
is required, cost of uniform, testing fees, association
membership fees, competition / tournament costs?
What is the tuition and contractual-commitment for
Actually, a better title
for this article would be "How to choose a Martial
As you can see, Checklist
Points 1-3 have to do with the Head Instructor.
Your entire training experience will be based on a
relationship with that individual and the attitude that
My students often hear me
talk about the importance of healthy relationships.
I've had students start with me when they were five
years old and train until they graduated high school and
went to college.
Whether you train to
accomplish a short-term goal, or decide that practicing
"The Martial Way" is integral to your long-term purpose
in life - I wish you, and your family, the very best.
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