15 Things to look for in a Martial Arts Club . . . 

1. Are they First Aid Certified

Most good Martial Arts or Karate instructors should have some kind if First Aid certificate or qualification. This is so that should something go wrong in your absents or you or your child have an accident in the club you can be confident they will have some idea how to deal with an injury or situation.

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) from teaching innocent and vulnerable children. (If you don’t live locally, check your state or country governing body for something similar). Most good Martial Arts and Karate instructors should be WWC Certified and be able to show you their registration Card.

3. What is their Experience in years teaching/instructing

For 2 reasons.  Firstly after 20 or 30 years or more, they should have accumulated considerable knowledge over that time. Secondly, 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. What are their Instructor Qualifications

Most good styles of Martial Arts can be contactable and can tell you who their members are and whether they are a paid-up registered member. If you are unsure of the instructor or something doesn’t seem right. Ask to see and get 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.

6. What are their Safety Standards

With most Martial Arts, you will sooner or late be pairing up with a partner or opponent to attack them or defend them. 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. 

Most good karate or Martial Arts clubs should tell you what you can do and what not to do. The amount of contact you receive should be a gradual process, 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, and 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 150 press-ups in one go.

7. What are your overall costs

Most good styles of Martial Arts should tell you all your costs ‘up front’ so you can make an informed decision right from the start. However, it is 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). There is nothing wrong with this practice, as it ‘IS’ a good deal!  But that is where it ends. What you or parents are often not aware of is, that after training with the club and it’s 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 cost of 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 kids) have to now leave all your new-found friends or pay the higher frees you would have said no too earlier if you hadn’t been committed to them now. 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, so there are no surprises later.

8. Are they a Real Karate or the Real Martial Art

Beware of the glorified baby sitters. These are 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 kids 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 exactly what they want. But if you want the Real Karate or Real Martial Art 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. Are they a Member of a National (Govt.) Organisation

Good styles of Martial Arts and Karate should be members of a contactable government-approved organisation. They should require you and your club to be paid up registered members. Why? because in most countries the government organisation is required to support the people and their communities. Which means your club has to meet 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.

11. Do they have a Direct link to their Masters of Style

 Many of the best Martial Arts schools or best Karate Schools have historical roots that go back centuries. Where 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 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.

12. Do they regularly visit or is visited by 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.

13. 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 to NOT fight!  In other words, the “the best fight is NO fight”.  It’s easy to pick a fight or allow yourself to get into a fight. 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. 

14. Do they promote mental strength

Ever heard of this . . . “Sticks and stones will break your bones but words will never hurt you”. This is an old saying with a certain amount of truth but not heard to often these days.  The reality is that words DO hurt considerably depending on who they come from, what is said and the degree of emotion and intent. 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.

15. Check you like your instructor

With Karate or any good style of Martial Art, you should be approaching it with a long term expectation in mind. As almost all Martial Arts and Karate styles are long term sports. Meaning the aim is to continually get better and better over many years. To become as perfect as you can be in every way – in fitness, skills, knowledge, character and spiritually. With the highest of morals, standards, integrity, principals and understanding of others. 

In short, you are going to be spending a lot of time with your instructor in future, so make sure you really like your instructor as you are going to be stuck with them for quite a while!