Parent’s Guide in Looking for the Best Martial Arts School For Children
Parents can find the best martial arts school for their children in no time. However, the logical question is what constitutes “best” in the world of martial arts. Is it about how many thugs the instructor has maimed? Or perhaps it is how many students enroll?
As a parent there are numerous considerations before signing up your child to attend a martial arts school. So, before you even contemplate enrolling your child, here are some important considerations.
The first logical criterion is to know why you are actually enrolling your child in a martial arts school. Is it for self-defense, physical fitness or just the fun of seeing your child beating up someone else? This is the most common question instructors ask parents. As such, don’t be tempted to enroll your child in a self-defense school simply because your child is being bullied. Moreover, learning martial arts goes beyond physical confrontation. In fact, it’s about discipline and responsibility.
- Physical fitness
- Health benefits
- Additional extracurricular activities
- Meet new friends
- Develop confidence
Depending on your schedule, you may want to look for a school that is proximal. Some parents find it easier to wait for their children rather than leave them and pick them up later. So no, a dojo is not a day care center for your child.
Consider how you will bring the child to the school. Will you commute? Will you use your car? Will you walk? The basic idea here is convenience. The more relaxed the child is, the better he or she will learn.
- Distance from your home
- Time of travel
- Location of dojo – residential, within mall, business area, etc.
I had the privilege to teach high school students MMA a few semesters back. I had to fit into their schedule as academics come first. Thus, we usually met after their classes. As a quick mental note, make sure you find a school with a schedule that is beneficial to your child. In addition, there are schools that have weekly session. Others may have daily. Still others may have multiple classes within the week.
Moreover, consider the time of the martial arts classes. A class that is too early or too late can be counterproductive. Likewise, remember that your child has other activities – school work, taking a bath, tidying up the room, etc. Of course the amount of activity depends on the age of the child and how ruthless you are when it comes to chores and activities. Learning and practicing martial arts can be exhausting. Put that into the equation.
- How often you want your child to attend
- Other events like schedule of tournaments, promotions/exams
- School load of the child
- Other activities of your child
- Schedule to fit your child’s and your schedule
- Time with family and friends
It is a good idea to visit the dojo. Sure, there will be pictures and even videos posted over the net. They will look outstanding. Obviously it will! These are marketing tools to get you to sign up. So the prudent course of action is to visit the dojo yourself.
Your priority should be safety. Are there adequate padding and safety equipment? Are there medical equipment and first aid kits? Although you don’t have to look for their health, safety and sanitation clearance, it would be a good idea to do so – I would!
You must check the lockers and shower areas. They should be in tip top shape. Safety and cleanliness are major concern that you should not take lightly.
- Cleanliness of the dojo
- How tight is security?
- How old are the equipment?
- Permits and other safety codes certification
- Visibility of key and important places to staff, parents and guardians
- A comfortable waiting area for parents and guardians
- Safety features and equipment
- Proximity to emergency services
- Staff safety knowledge and skills
- Safety policies and how it is implemented
Next, you should evaluate the instructor. No, you don’t have to test the teacher’s skill by challenging her/him to a brawl. Ask certifications and licenses. Depending on your location, there are state regulations regarding martial arts teaching. Make sure the teacher complies with all. A black belt around the waist is not enough. Competency and experience are important.
In addition, the teacher should be child-friendly. He/she should know how to interact properly with children. Teaching adults and children are two very different skills. So it would be a good idea to observe how he/she teaches.
- Martial arts background of instructor(s)
- Total number of instructors
- Number of instructors per session
- Licenses and certifications
- Years of experience as an instructor
- Years of training in the martial arts discipline
Part of your assessment should include other personnel in the martial arts studio. This can vary depending on what school you visit. Regardless of the dojo, you should take the time to talk with them and learn more about them. Keep in mind that you’ll leave your child in their care.
So talk to people from the person in the reception to the custodian. You'll have a better gauge on the whole school this way. Just casually talk to them. Don't interrogate employees.
- Backgrounds and specialization of each personnel
- Certifications and licenses
- Child-friendly behaviors
- Knowledge in first aid and other emergency scenarios
As a parent you should consider other dojo students. It should not be limited to your child’s classmates. In fact, observe other students that come and go. Likewise, consider every person that visit the dojo. Of course it can be a little paranoid, but a little more caution can do wonders.
It would be a good idea to know how students interact. This way you can gauge how discipline is established in the school. It would be a good idea to talk to other parents and students of the school. This way you can get an idea of other people’s impression of the school and the students.
- Common age of students enrolled
- Skill level
- Behaviors and attitude – especially when it comes to discipline
- Gauge the culture of the martial arts school
The school’s reputation is very important. You can ask around the neighborhood regarding the school. In fact, I suggest, checking local listings of martial arts school and asking about them. Remember that more students do not necessarily mean better school. Likewise, consider the philosophy of the school in terms of teaching.
- School’s philosophy is aligned with yours
- Recommended by established organizations and associations
- A member of reputable martial arts associations
- Updated licenses and certifications for a dojo
- Completed all regulations and requirements for operations
Another essential part of your assessment should include the school’s curriculum. You should know what your child will learn and more importantly how they will learn it. I’d say no to a school teaching your 10-year old child the secrets of killing silently with their bare hands. Plus, the methodology of training is very important. You don’t want your child walking through hot coal or punching a concrete wall to learn focus and discipline.
- Child-appropriate teaching techniques
- Child-appropriate learning objectives
- Level of fun and excitement
- Child-friendly equipment
- Reasonable time to learn techniques and skills
Your child’s interest
Ultimately, your efforts to find the best martial arts school will go to waste if your child is not into it. There are numerous schools and martial arts to choose from. Some of the common disciplines available to the public include Tae Kwon Do and Karate. But there are other programs like Jiu Jitsu, Judo, Aikido and a host of other martial arts. There are even special course on bully-proofing your child.
The interest of your child is a key in finding the right dojo.
- Ask your child his/her interests
- Search the internet for schools together
- Visit dojos together
Learning martial arts at an early age has many benefits. If your child shows interest, it would be a good idea to help nurture it. But don’t just settle for any dojo. Your child deserves the best martial arts school.
A talented young Judoka
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