What to look for in a club - 14 tips

Are you looking for something different to keep your body and mind active? Considering trying your hand at Karate, but don’t know where to start?

Perhaps your child has shown an interest in Karate. Awesome! A fun space for learning, socialisation and fun, physical practice awaits…

How do you know you’re picking the right Perth Martial Arts club for your needs, or to sustain your child’s curiosity? A Karate club committed to you or your child, developing skill set and personal development and delivers true value for money?

We’ve compiled a list of what you should look for in a Perth Karate Club below.

What to look for in a Karate Club?

 1. Are they First Aid Certified?

All the best Martial Arts or Karate instructors will (and should) have some kind of First Aid certification or qualification. 

Why is this important? So that should something go wrong in your absence, or if you or your child have an accident in the club, you can feel confident they will know how to deal with an injury or emergency situation.

It’s recommended to ask for this before signing up with a Karate Club for your safety and peace of mind.

2. Are they Working with Children (WWC) Approved?

In Western Australia, there is a compulsory screening strategy/test to check and protect all children from undesirable adults (people who have been convicted because of their relationship with children) banning them from teaching innocent and vulnerable children.

Don’t risk the safety of your children, instead, ask the Karate Club whether they’re WWC Certified and ask to view their registration card before joining.

Don’t live in WA? Check your state or country governing body for something similar.

3. What is their experience in years of teaching and instructing?

It’s a great idea to ask for the Karate instructor’s experience in years of teaching and instruction for two reasons:

1. After two or three decades, they should have accumulated considerable knowledge over that time.

2. If they have been teaching for a long time, it shows they have been consistently helping others and that their students have stayed with them because they like the instructor/s. They wouldn’t hang around them for long unless there is some good benefit to the student.

4. Is the instructor really qualified?

To be a qualified Martial Arts instructor, including Shotokan Karate, you must be part of a membership and organisation for your specialised style. So, to check if your potential instructor is really qualified, contact the appropriate organisation and confirm if they are a paid-up registered member.

If you are unsure of the instructor or something doesn’t seem right, ask to see a copy of their rank certificate and contact the organisation to see if the person is who they say they are.

5. What are their Coaching Qualifications?

In Australia, most major sports work with the Government to develop the best people to become professional coaches to grow their particular sport. Most Martial Arts and Karate Clubs are required to do the same through their Martial Arts organisation.

For all types of Karate, you have to be registered with the AKF (Australian Karate Federation) and as part of the AKF you are required to do their sports-specific Coaching Course if you are an instructor.

Before choosing your instructor, make sure they’re registered and qualified. This includes the club too, which ensures the club has met a set of standards required by the Government body. Things like meeting legal, safety and training requirements, that are in you and/or your child’s best interest.

6. How are their Safety Standards?

As with any sport, safety is paramount. And naturally, with most Martial Arts, you will be pairing up with a partner or opponent to attack or defend them, sooner or later. 

When you are “attacking” another person, safety may not be a concern to you, but if you or your child are “defending” and are on the receiving end of strong uncontrolled attacks, you may wonder what you got yourself into! This is where you need good safety standards and controls. 

All reputable Karate or Martial Arts clubs should tell you what you can do and what not to do, and have a high degree of safety standards in place for their members. The amount of contact you receive should be a gradual process too, depending on your age, health, and capabilities. 

A good instructor should point out any safety concerns of any techniques you may be attempting ‘before’ you attempt it (not after). Generally, good duty of care is a legal duty to take reasonable care not to injure any other person that could have been reasonably foreseen prior to the event. For example, bad duty of care is ‘letting a brown or blackbelt beat up a beginner or yellow belt who has nowhere near the same skill set of the blackbelt’, or forcing a 5-year-old beginner to do 100 press-ups in one go.

7. What about the overall costs?

It’s a good idea to find out about the overall costs ‘up front’, so you can make an informed decision right from the start. However, it’s common practice in the Martial Arts industry for clubs to offer a 1/2 price or free uniform with 4 to 6 sessions for ‘FREE’ or for a very small fee before you have to commit to joining (with no further mention of the real ongoing costs). 

Whilst there is nothing wrong with this practice, as it ‘IS’ a good deal, this is often where it ends…. What you or parents are often not aware of is, that after training with the club and its members for 4 to 6 weeks, you will have built up a good relationship/friendship with the instructor and their members over this time. At which point you are then told the real costof your classes, which is often on the high side (even twice the price) compared to others. 

This puts you in a difficult position because you (and/or your children) have to now leave all your new-found friends or pay the higher frees you would have likely said no to earlier. The moral of the story . . . ask what the total cost will be upfront for a month, a term, or 12 months. So, you know what you are getting yourself into, and avoid any surprises later!

8. Do they practice Real Karate and Martial Arts?

Beware of the glorified baby sitters; the clubs that are happy to take your money and give you or your child lots of exercise routines that will keep you and/or your children very busy and fit, for 30 to 45 minutes, with a few Martial Arts moves thrown in. 

Often students of these clubs find that they have trained for 2 or 3 years and still don’t have great knowledge and feel they haven’t progressed very far at all in that time. Or you find the reverse, where they find they have become a Blackbelt after only 1 or 2 years and have incredibly passed every single (expensive) grading without one single hitch! 

For some people, this is great training and is exactly what they want. If you want the Real Karate or Real Martial Arts, this kind of thing should not be happening. With real training, you should see consistent progress with real results you know you have worked hard for.

9. Are they a Gateway to the Olympics?

Not everyone wants to compete in the Olympics. But if you do! This is important. 

Not just any Karate club or Martial arts club can end up taking you all the way to the Olympics. You and your club have to belong to a government-approved organisation in your country that has been approved by the Olympic Committee. So check that your style of Karate or Martial Art is recognised by the government body in your country.

In Australia to do Karate in the Olympics you have to be a member of the AKF – Australian Karate Federation.

10. Do they have a direct link to their Masters of their Style

Many of the best Martial Arts schools or best Karate Schools have historical roots that go back for centuries, wherein the knowledge was passed down from master to student for many generations. Each generation trying to improve on the great knowledge and skill of their master before them, practising almost every day over the course of their lifetime – it’s pretty incredible when you think about it. 

It wasn’t a case of ‘I’ll try this for a year then I’ll do another sport’. You did it throughout your life always aiming for the perfection of your skills and knowledge over your lifetime. In short, if you want the real knowledge and skills no matter what style of Martial Art you do look for a style that goes back to the country of its origin.

11. Do they regularly visit the Master/s of their style?

Good Martial Arts schools and Karate Schools try to regularly visit their Masters of style in their country of origin or they invite them and others to come and train with them in their home club or dojo. Many of the old Masters have great knowledge and skills that are extremely inspirational and impressive to young students and are often fantastic role models of patience, perseverance, determination and outstanding abilities. 

The other important reason for having a connection to the Master of a particular style of Martial Art is that they bring with them the principles, standards, culture and etiquette of their particular country which makes the martial art all the more exciting.

12. Do they promote no first attack?

Great karate clubs and Martial Arts Clubs have the ethos that you are there to learn how to fight and defend yourself first, so that you can then learn how NOT to fight! In other words, “the best fight is NO fight”.  

It’s easy to pick a fight or allow yourself to get into a fight, but it’s much harder to have the will-power, mental strength and communication skills to stay out of a fight or to stop a fight. 

Real strength is mental strength. As such, real strength is being able to walk away from verbal abuse.  Reacting to it, means the abuser is winning or has won.

This is where the importance of ‘no first attack promotion’ comes into play. 

13. Do they promote mental strength?

“Sticks and stones will break your bones but words will never hurt you”. 

Familiar with that old saying?

The reality is, words DO hurt considerably, depending on what they are, who they come from, and the degree of emotion and intent behind them. The main point of this saying is that you can choose to react to words or not. For most people today, they will react to abusive situations very easily and quickly, which in turn escalates the situation and is not good for anyone. To NOT react is very difficult as most of us know. To easily ignore harsh words it takes practise, perseverance and strength of mind to resist reacting. 

Good martial Arts and Karate styles should foster characteristics like learning to fight with controlled emotions, learning not to react to over-aggressive attacks or contact. Knowing the difference between ‘accidental contact’ and ‘intentional contact’.  They should be teaching you or your children how to anticipate what the other person is likely to do and think, and basically reading your opponent. It’s not all about how wonderful you are. It should be about building you or your child’s confidence and not about you or your child’s ego. Promoting humility and modesty and putting other people first. Not look at me, I’m so wonderful, and everyone around me is not important or only there for me. 

People like to hang around people with good character, good attitude and good self-control. These are the mental traits they should be promoting regularly.

14. Check you like your instructor?

You wouldn’t spend time with someone you didn’t like, so why would you choose an instructor you don’t like? You probably wouldn’t.  

Karate and Martial Arts are considered long term sports and hobbies, with the aim of continually improving over the years, and to become as perfect as you can be in every way – in fitness, skills, knowledge, character and spirituality. With the highest of morals, standards, integrity, principles and understanding of others. 

In short, you are going to be spending a lot of time with your instructor in the future, so it’s going to be important for you to like them (you can usually tell this pretty quickly)!