Search This Blog

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Choosing a martial arts school & learning martial arts: Primer for potential students

I saw a funny stand up comedy video the other day, where the comedian spoke about her friends who were starting to get into health and fitness. She spoke about how "two grown adults" were taking Karate. "You don't take Karate when you're an adult, you take it when you're 8 years old! You don't use the moves in Karate when you're a grownup! What would you need it for?"  Initially, I took it as an affront, but it was a tongue-in-cheek comedy routine, and it indeed was pretty funny.

Martial artists out there, I'm sure you'd agree that no matter what age you started martial arts, that the positive benefits and "moves" will stay with you for the rest of your life...all through childhood and adulthood. Granted, there's nothing wrong with taking a martial arts as merely a "hobby" or for sport and recreation, or for something to take up time after school. But regardless of the sport or art, its all about the sports coach or martial arts teacher that determines whether or not the lessons and skill learned in the sport or martial art, stays with the player/student and provides part of a base with which to build upon during future years.

With that in mind, here are some tips for people looking to get into martial arts and for parents looking to get their kids into this fun activity:

  • 1) Do a little research before visiting schools. Yes, it might be a little bit of work to email or call schools in your area, but its important to get a feel for what is being taught, who the teacher is, etc.
  • 2) Focus on the school's content and overall feel, not the fact that its got the cheapest tuition. If the school "feels" right for you and/or your child, then the learning experience will be that much more enjoyable. Don't jump into the cheapest school just because its cheaper than other might end up joining a class that your personality might not really be attracted to. If you are looking for lower cost classes, check out community centers or YMCA's, but keep in mind that the class schedule is usually not negotiable due to the facilities other events or class room rentals. Full time schools will most likely offer "open training" times during the weekends, where students can come in to practice on their own, make up a missed class or get extra coaching. Full time school may also have hours where you may come in for guided coaching on your free time, private lessons with a coach or master instructor, or have classes during workday lunch hours.   This probably won't be available at YMCA's or community centers as the class schedules are set times only.
  • 3) Parents, please be aware that "Karate" is not taught at all martial arts schools. I've seen parents in Kung Fu schools call the class "Karate class", or Aikido classes "Karate class". These are entirely different arts.  If your child joins a martial arts school, find out what style is taught and get a brief overview of the art's history and the history of your school. This will make classes funner for your child especially when they can talk to you about the training and classes, and you won't be clueless. Better yet, if there is a mixed age class and you're interested, join in with your child. (see below for tips on taking classes with your child) 
  • 4) Students: Are you joining a school only because the learning progression is quick and goes by what YOU want instead of what the Master requires? If you join a school only because the "cool stuff" is being taught and the rank progression is very quick, take a moment and look at the other students. Do they talk or move about when the Teacher is teaching or demonstrating? Are the students not so excited about practicing basics but light up when the "cool stuff" is taught? Do the students not like being corrected? How's the effort of the students? If you join a school only for the "cool stuff", you will not learn the discipline required to achieve higher skills and ranks, and your mind will turn into "selective learning"...this is not respectful to the teacher, when you listen only when YOU want to!   I've seen too many students at some schools that learn intermediate or advanced skills or weapons when they are clearly not ready for the skills....and while the weapons or skills may be "cool", the foundation and form will clearly not be as refined if seen by expert eyes. Students should go through skill progression at the supervision of the teacher, not by own student's perceptions of their own skill (which sometimes can be a bit inflated). A professional teacher will advance your skills based on your ability, not solely by what you think is cool.
  • 5) Realize that each person has different goals and reasons for joining a martial arts school. Try not to be surprised when other students don't have the same obsession for the martial arts as you do. We all have different lifestyles, goals, and reasons for bringing martial arts into our lives......try not to "preach" to other students about why they should be as passionate as you.
  • 6) Upon registering at the school, be sure to ask about the uniform and gear-accessory requirements......don't assume that the school will give you free uniforms and accessories. While most schools might give you a uniform on your first day, some schools do not require a specific uniform, or you might have to purchase some or all of the uniform items on your own. Other items, such as sparring gear, training weapons, etc, may likely be your responsibility to purchase through your teacher or through martial arts supply companies.  However, some schools that focus on community service or have classes for lower income individuals, may provide some training items free of charge. If  you absolutely cannot afford the uniform requirements, don't be afraid to ask about ways to work things out.....good schools are always happy to work with you on making sure your uniform and gear is attainable.
  • 7) Realize that sometimes the classes will be hard or confusing....not every class will be easy.  For kids, not every class will be fun and games. Try your best, however don't hesitate to notify the teacher if you start to feel sick due to the physical demands. Don't give up if you don't understand something, and don't be afraid to raise your hand and ask for clarification or help about techniques you don't understand. Keep practicing and you'll find the difficult stuff will get so much easier.
  • 8) Parents: Speaking of "games". Many schools will use games to teach specific skills. These drills and games keep young children engaged and more apt to learn the skills. Remember you are paying for the teacher to teach the skills to your child, not to treat your child like a "mini adult" nor teach your child on your terms. As much as some parents don't like to hear....your child is in the TEACHER'S instruction, not yours.  Don't assume that your child has to go through a very strict para-military regimen to learn martial arts. A very young child needs gradual introduction into the discipline of martial arts....don't worry....your child WILL learn about discipline, honor and respect. :)  And lastly.....try not to coach your child from the sidelines. That's the teacher's job. :)
  • 9) Be supportive of your classmates but don't be bossy or attempt to "teach", no matter how well you think you know something. Again, that's the teacher's job. Raise your hand and ask the teacher for help if there's any confusion about techniques or  self defense movements.
  • 10) New students, would you believe that some people are very afraid of not looking competent on their first day? It is natural to be sort of nervous on one's first class, new people, new things can be sometimes overwhelming. But just know that the more experienced students have been where you are now, and will understand your initial nervousness or concerns. Take a deep breath and dive'll do just fine!

There are many other things that will make your experience in martial arts a great one, and you'll learn those as you progress. The initial plunge into the world of martial arts may be a whirlwind at first, but you'll definitely see so many benefits within a very short time.

Happy Training!

No comments: