To reap the best benefits from martial arts, they should be taken as long term activities rather than short term. Given this suggestion, one should not just simply walk into the closest martial arts studio and sign up right away without doing some research. Not all martial arts are alike and not all schools or studios are alike either. Therefore, it is important to really think about what your own needs are with respect to martial arts training.
The discussion of which martial art style to take is too extensive for this article. So what I will say here is that there are differences in the various styles of martial arts which may result in some being more suitable for certain individuals compared to others. Do some research on the different styles and do visit the classes of different studios that teach different martial arts if possible. But more important is each individual school’s approach to teaching their martial arts. Many martial arts schools teach only techniques and forms (set routines) that are specific to a traditional style. These schools follow the ways that the original founders of each martial art style developed and they have continued with minimal variance over the years.
Other studios like to borrow techniques from a variety of martial art disciplines and integrate a mix into their programs. Some schools are non-traditional and adopt a more open free style system which incorporates traditional martial art techniques with gymnastics and open choreography of forms. There are many clubs that do both traditional and open styles. Each school will claim that their martial art style and method of teaching is superior to others. Prospective students must not take these claims too seriously and choose an approach that would be best suited for them on an individual basis.
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Many advertisements for martial arts schools push the backgrounds of their higher ranking instructors as a way to attract students. It is important to realize that the more degrees (or dans) a particular black belt has don’t always mean that the individual is a better instructor. This is the same with instructors who have very successful competition records. There is no correlation to the number of world championship titles won with how good an instructor is.
The term ’master’ should also be taken with caution. A master doesn’t always make an excellent instructor. The teaching style of different instructors can vary. Some use the old Asian masters’ approach where discipline is strictly enforced much like in the military. While general discipline is actually a good attribute to learn from martial arts training, some of the old ways of teaching, particularly reprimanding students vocally or physically for incorrect techniques may be considered a bit harsh for today’s society.
This is why it is important to watch classes of prospective martial arts schools you are interested in. You want to see the teaching style of an instructor to determine if it’s a style that would be compatible with you or not. Ask questions after instructors have finished teaching. If you have the gut feeling that certain instructors will not be right for you, move on to find another club. Most legitimate schools will allow prospective students to witness or even try out a class for free before joining.