A Martial Arts Checklist

By April 11, 2012Self Defense

Last night I decided to try a new martial arts school in my area. I miss training in a dojo environment and could use some sharpening of my skills. It’s tough as an instructor to become a student again but it is also a great practice to empty your cup. Become new again. It also got me thinking of my old school in NY, how tough it was to leave, and difficult it is to replace it. But here’s some info that could help you, when and if you ever decide to train in martial arts.

I often get asked which style of martial arts I recommend. This is such a tough question to answer in short so that’s why it is today’s blog post. After training in HapKiDo  at the World Martial Arts Center (WMAC) in NYC for ten straight years, my immediate answer would have been easy. HapKiDo. It’s amazing in its diversity. There are boxing, kickboxing and sparring drills where I got to sweat my tail off. Then we learned self-defense techniques that could potentially save my life (and have).  We learned weaponry so I got to train with swords, knives, staffs, sticks, daggers, canes, fans, tonfa and nunchuks (over many years of course). The conditioning kept my body strong and lean and the meditation kept my mind strong and lean (no room for crap that fattens our minds) as well. I loved my school and spent more time there than any office, or place other than my apartment. But alas, the Socal sunshine called and I had to say goodbye.

In the last two plus years of living in Los Angeles, I have tried out a wide array of martial arts schools but none of them have lived up to the quality of teaching, diversity in the curriculum, and overall excellence of WMAC. So back to the question: which style to choose? The answer is; it all depends on the school, it’s teachers and what your goals are. So here is a quick checklist you can use when trying to find the right school for you.

1. Are you looking to learn practical self defense? If so, do your research. Some schools don’t really teach practical self defense.

2. Does the school practice the tradition of martial arts (bowing, formal names, etc.)? This is a personal decision. If you have a problem being humble and bowing to authority then it may not be for you. I personally like the formality and tradition and would only choose a school where it exists.

3. Is the Master (or head instructor) dedicated to the martial arts? Are they authentic or just trying to sell belts?

4. How much training do the instructors have in actually teaching? Many instructors wind up teaching because it is tradition to help the school. Many are terrible teachers and need specific teacher training.

5. Is there a curriculum? Some schools just teach random techniques based on their moods. This can lead to disorganized learning and lack of memorization.

6. Are you treated kindly? I have been to many schools where instructors have egos bigger than their biceps. This is not the martial way.

7. Are you looking for strictly a workout? Some schools offer cardio kickboxing programs that are separate from their martial arts programs.

These are just some questions for you to think about and make sure to ask when you go research schools in your area. Remember that it’s more about the actual school and teachers than it is about the style. You can have a great diverse style with a terribly disorganized school and conversely, have a not-so-perfect style but have excellent instruction. I happen to get very lucky and find the perfect combo of a great style (HapKiDO), super instructors, and after time a studio that felt like home.

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