1. Is the school clean and well-kept? Hygeine is THE MOST IMPORTANT part of any facility. None are spotless at all times, but, with martial arts you are in constant contact with someone, sweating, wrestling on the mats and walking without shoes. Make sure the school and its mats are cleaned daily, otherwise you are risking getting skin infections like ringworm, staph and worst of all, MRSA . We mop the mats every night & have showers so you can properly clean up right after class.
2. Does the school have a qualified Instructor ? Believe it or not, Anyone with a buck and a business license can open a martial arts school. Many won't even have black belts or have any experience when trying to do so. The popularity of the UFC and MMA has everyone trying to make a quick buck and schools with little to no experience offering classes they cant teach. Therefor it is beyond important to research who, what and where you are considering attending to validate their credentials. The internet will show if the person has any experience in the programs, arts or events they claim. As a student, You want an instructor that is an actual black belt and has a tenured competition record as they offer you much more than an instructor that has never competed. Someone with certifications, senior ranking belts in long standing arts as well as competition records is the best thing you can associate with.
Jiu Jitsu has become so popular, people are doing anything to make a quick dollar from it. People are actually getting their first belt, which is blue, and trying to open schools claiming to be instructors. A blue belt is not an instructor, a purple belt is not an instructor. They cannot promote you, in fact, they are only on the first belt after white. Be very careful when doing your research.
3. Affiliations. Don’t be fooled by an “affiliation”, You may simply be getting a well known name as a sticker on the door and nothing more. If you are choosing a school based on its affiliation with a popular name or person, It is doubly important to find out if that gym just pays money to the Association to use their name or if that name actually teaches there. Research who the actual instructor is as well as their rank, their years of experience and any competition experience to find out if their lineage is credible. HYBRID's Jiu Jitsu program is through Pedro Sauer. All of our black belts have been with Pedro from the beginning (since 1995) and recieved all their belts directly from him. Our Judo is with the USJA and is the original Roanoke Judo Club that was founded by Gus Carper in the 50's and has run continuously into today. Our Muay Thai is via the US Muay Thai association which is the first muay thai association in America with an instructor that has 20 years of muay thai, not karate that suddenly became muay thai because it's popular.
4. What is the atmosphere of the school? You really need to stop and think about what you are looking for. Are you looking for a place where professional fighters train, a place that promotes positive learning, a place without egos and attitudes, a family environment, etc.? You have to figure out what you are looking for and then match an academy with your expectations. There is no way to help you with this decision, it is strictly personal choice.
5. Does the school allow you to set your own goals? Not every martial art is for self-defense, some are taught as only a sport. Make sure you know what you are going in for, whether that be getting exercise, learning basic self-defense, or training at the sport level? You can determine this by talking with the instructor(s), the other students and watching the class to ensure you are getting what you want. Don't get lost in the crowd as the school only focuses on its competitors and you are simply a whipping boy for them. Again this is personal choice.
6. Competition. Most martial arts do have a sport side to what they represent. However, competition is not for everyone. If this is your goal, make sure you have an instructor that has actually competed in what they offer, and more importantly, won. If you get an instructor that has never competed in a sport they claim to offer, or is "living through his students" when he is young enough to compete, they probably have something to hide. Likewise, competitors that have a tremendously lopsided losing record have that for a reason. You have a resume' for your employment, An instructor's competition record is just as big a part of their resume' for what they are offering.
7. Is there a contract? Most martial arts schools will have some form of autodraft or contract, anywhere from 3 months to one or two years. Talk with the owner of the school about their policy on your contract should a financial situation arise or if your job relocates you. Automatic billing is generally standard for martial arts schools because when starting, you should really expect to commit yourself for at least a year anyway in order to learn the basics.
8. Does the school have a curriculum that they follow and can show you? Many schools do not follow a step-by-step program. It's a nightly free for all with no continuity so neither the teachers nor the students know where they are going or how far they have come. Just like with any business, there should be a plan and goals.
9. If the owner is not the instructor, WHY?!?!?! it is important to find out what the turn-over with instructors is like. A lot of why you choose a school should be based on the programs advertised and the actual instruction. If you have temporary instructors popping in and out, a school that has an excessive number of styles, or worse yet, students that are the teachers of main classes, you will eventually get stuck with someone that you don’t mesh well with. Don't get caught up in the name that is on the sign outside. Also, you should ask if the owner(s) is/are the primary instructors. Most all schools have small programs in their facility where they rent out the space which is great, but if the facility is offering something, make sure they are certified to teach!! don't take a class from someone that isn't a blackbelt or properly certified from an association.
10. Can you test drive the car before you buy it? Ask if the school has an Intro class or Intro period in which you can actually try the class and interact with the instructor and/or students at the academy. This is going to be the BEST manner in which to determine if the school has what you are looking for. Don't expect a school to be committed to you if you aren't committed to them.
11. What is the value that the academy offers? Again, we are speaking about value, not price. When it's all said and done, you are paying for a product. Most all academies in any geographic area will be priced similarly, give or take a few bucks a month. If there is a huge price discrepancy, high or low, you will need to determine why. Remember, the phrase "you get what you pay for" exists for a reason. The value relates to what comes with your membership- i.e. rank and experience of instructors, class sizes, number of classes and programs included, schedule, amenities (i.e. showers, location, etc.), reputation of program, etc.. Don't find out after it's too late that you attempted to save a few bucks on the front end only to realize you're NOT getting what was advertised and are now stuck in a contract which ends up costing you an enormous amount more in the long run.
people complain about a facility being $10 more per month than somewhere else, but, will spend $50-100 in a single night out on the town.
do you want to pay to learn WITH someone when you could be paying to learn FROM an instructor.