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How to choose a GOOD martial art school

There are a lot of great martial art schools out there but unfortunately there are also a great number of schools to avoid as well.

Unfortunately martial arts are one of the few sports, activities or hobbies that aren’t well regulated by any governing body and because of that, anyone can start a martial arts school -- whether they are qualified or not.

Much like the Rogue Traders we often hear about where trades people with no qualifications or experience charge for a service they are not actually in a position to provide.

It’s not uncommon in this day and age for martial art instructors to do the same, and when there’s no official body to check on them -- why not?

Particularly when there’s money to be made.

It’s not uncommon for schools owners to pay an inexperienced, unqualified coloured belt student to open a school for them so they are able to earn an additional income off the efforts of this student.

And as most people looking to join a martial art school would be unaware of this, I thought I would provide you with some things to look out for before handing over any of your hard earned money.

Top Tip No 1
Just because the martial arts school down the road is cheaper, don’t think you’re getting a great deal for your money.

Unlike the identical DVD player or washing machine you have just found for £50 cheaper on the internet, martial art instructors provide you with a service and that service is only as good as the person providing it.

Take a good look at that instructor and ask yourself 'Is that the kind of person I want to become?'

Do they themselves look like an athlete or have they clearly neglected their own training?

How can someone teach you to become fit and healthy, when they clearly can’t do it themselves?

This tip is of such importance that I will put it another way....

Despite teaching the same syllabus, it’s quite possible that the kickboxing school a mile down the road is completely different to the kickboxing school on your doorstep simply because of the ability of the instructor.

Top Tip No 2
Are they able to adequately perform what they teach?

We recently had a Karate Black Belt join our school for additional training and while demonstrating a pad combination involving a spinning kick the Karate Black Belt announced that he had never seen that kick before.

The reason --his instructor couldn’t perform it so never taught it.

Had this student decided to open his own school he wouldn’t have taught this technique to his students as he would have been unaware of it and if in turn he was unable to perform a technique well, he’d also leave that out.

If this mentality carried on down the chain, in time there would have been a martial art school teaching half a syllabus to its students.

Personally I couldn’t tell a good football coach from a bad one, but if that coach couldn’t kick a football in a straight line, couldn’t run 100 yards without having to stop and his belly was bigger than his chest, I’d look for another club.

Top Tip No 3
Are they qualified?

Unfortunately there are no recognised martial art teaching qualifications in the UK that I’m aware of.

To overcome this, insurance and licensing companies (more on these later) request at least a black belt 1st Dan certification before issuing a would be instructor with an insurance indemnity certificate (a legal requirement for teaching).

Before handing over any money or paying any joining / membership fees, ask to see at least a copy of the instructors black belt certificate and if you want to confirm it’s authenticity (as you can now download blank black belt certificates off the internet), call the issuing body.

I have a folder containing all of my coloured belt and black belt certificates that I take to all of my schools.

Other schools may have something similar.

If not, there should be no problem in the instructor getting these to you for your next free trial lesson.

Top Tip No 4
Are they insured?

Much like driving a car, indemnity insurance is a legal requirement of any martial arts school.

What would happen if you had an accident and the school was uninsured?

Pretty much the same thing as if you had a car accident involving an uninsured driver.

Yes, that driver would probably find him / herself in court but you’d still be left with a written off car and no payout.

Every school owner is legally required to hold a valid insurance indemnity certificate for a minimum amount (ours is £5 million).

Ask to see this certificate before you join and if the instructor is unable or unprepared to show you one, be cautious.

Top Tip No 5
Additional certifications.

If the instructor teaches children they are required to have been on a child protection course.

If they have, they will have a certificate to prove this so ask to see it.

If not, I personally wouldn’t let my child train there.

As with my insurance certificate and belt certificates, my original Child Protection Certificate is always down at the school available for my students and parents to see.

First Aid – it’s a legal requirement for martial art instructors to be first aid trained. Admittedly, we don’t need to trained to the level of a paramedic however we do need to have a basic knowledge of first aid that covers, bleeding, broken bones, sprains, head injuries and other possible injuries likely to occur as a nature of doing any type of sport or physical activity. Ask to see a valid first aid certificate and check that it is valid. It’s quite possible that an instructor did a first aid course ten years ago but has not attended a recent refresher course.

CRB check – The Criminal Records Bureau will hold information of anyone on the sex offenders register which is important for so many obvious reasons.

The only downside with a CRB check is that the individual could have committed a crime since having their original check and this naturally wouldn’t show up on an old form.

When I opened my Windsor school I was given a CRB check by the school before I was allowed to use their hall and all other schools that I have since taught in (even a one off P.E. lesson as part of a sports week programme) have asked to see it.

I’m unaware whether other schools, leisure centres, gyms, village halls etc do the same so it’s always worth asking to see this.

Be suspicious of anyone making excuses.

Back in the 80’s a Karate instructor that started teaching at my karate school suddenly disappeared as quickly as he had appeared.

It later turned out that he was a convicted paedophile but due to the lack of checks in place back then had managed to hide it for several years.

He was in charge of the young kids classes and would often take some of them away to events by himself (true story).

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So there you have it.

5 TOP tips to be aware of when looking for a reputable martial arts school.

In all my years of teaching I’ve only ever had a handful of people ask to see my credentials which is really quite worrying.

As a father of two myself, I know I wouldn’t be happy leaving my children in the hands of complete strangers without at least finding out a little more information about these people.

As an adult looking for a martial art school I know I wouldn’t be satisfied training at a school that was taught by anyone other than the highest calibre of instructor.

An instructor needs to earn the right to stand in front of a class of people, teach them based on his / her experience and only then can they ask that student to hand over their money for the privilege.

That is the reason why I didn’t start my first school until I had been training myself for at least fifteen years.

After all, would you consider letting someone that had only just passed their driving test teach you how to drive a car?

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