Martial Arts Classes - What To Expect and What To Demand

US Martial Arts Classes are Not Regulated by Law

By Grandmaster Patty Inglish, 9th Dan Ji Do Kwan TKD, Hapkido, Yudo, Jujutsu, Combat Self Defense.

Martial arts classes in the USA are not regulated by and are not equal in curriculum, class structure, leadership requirements, belt rank promotion protocols, safety requirements, and other characteristics. This can lead to dangerous pr useless training., but it can also result in a long continuum of choices for the consumer.

In American, as opposed to Korea, Japan, and Nigeria, for instance, we have no national standards for purpose, definitions, rank requirements, cost for classes, or anything else about martial arts, except those rules given by multiple hundreds of martial arts organizations - some good, some bad. Most of them have tournaments and it is even possible to win money at them.

Among the variety of martial arts styles, some or all classes you try may not be what you

The only American laws concerning martial arts seem to be those that provide penalties for using these arts, if they result in injuries to one's assailant. Check your local laws about their handling of Reasonable Force, Excessive Force, and Deadly Force.

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Masters in my system are awarded a Yudo (Korean Judo) uniform. Our style emerged from the house of Korean Judo in the 1940s - 1950s.
Masters in my system are awarded a Yudo (Korean Judo) uniform. Our style emerged from the house of Korean Judo in the 1940s - 1950s. | Source

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What martial art have your studied (select your favorite if you have more than one).

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Things You Don't Know and Cannot Expect

I am a 9th dan black belt grandmaster in five distinct martial arts styles that have included survival training and relevant health & medical training beyond my Preventive Medicine degree. My training hours were long and hard and the result is that they saved my life on a couple of occasions and improved my heath past my expectations.

I practiced in physical classes 6 to 20 hours per week, all year, indoors and outdoors in all seasons and weather during the first 17 years of my career. Martial arts demonstrations for communities and related volunteer work consumed additional time with good results.

I did not practice to earn belt rank; belt rank came as a natural consequence, even though I passed tests to earn them. Our original classes in Korea were held only outdoors and my first instructor lived in a snow covered field as a child during the Korean War. Some California martial arts classes practice only outdoors today.

The worth of long-term study is that this training has saved my life, improved by health, and aided thinking processes. .

Classes and belt rankings usually require money. Some class fees or tuition include belt rank tests, but many do not do so.

Some black belt tests are short, but in some studios, they are long. For example, one local test for 4th dan black belt in my city requires three days, with fasting.

Unexpected when I started training, my own 4th dan examination required the opening and operation of a martial arts studio, known as dojang in Korean, dojo in Japanese and related systems, and kwoon in Wushu (kung fu) styles. Check the requirements for advancing in rank before you sign up for classes. In some schools, you will not be able to see the requirements for black belt ranks until you are ready for your first black belt test.

The systems in which I am trained stop at 10th dan black belt rank, although training continues, and traditionally, I must be 70 years old to attain that rank -- Interestingly, that is the time when Social Security says I can retire with full benefits.

Some other martial arts systems have as many as 15 levels of black belt and some may have a greater number.

Traditionally in some Korean styles, grandmasters do not retire at all. For instance, Sun Du Ki (Song Duk Ki) practiced until his death in his late 80s - early 90s. The South Korean Government supported him financially in its Living National Treasure program.

A Financial and Ethical Cautionary Tale

Costs of Belt Ranking

My first 17 years of classes, camps, and seminar training; advanced belt rankings; opening schools; and additional training cost $60,000.00.

With the advent of the blessed Internet, I learned that I had been charged five times the actual certification costs for my black belts. I will not pay for another one. Research belt rank prices in your city against those published by national and international organizations to which your school might belong.

My first style, Jo Do Kwan, has not been registered officially with the South Korean government's Ki Do Hae ministry of martial arts. However, the surviving founders of the style, many in their ninety's at this time, meet at least annually and award certain documents to practitioners worldwide. My colleagues for whom I consult in Nigeria have been pleased to have receives some of these awards.

The related Ji Do Kwan school or kwan (house) was disbanded in the late 1960s, but surviving masters meet regularly, according to the same postcard picture sent every year. My emails and phone calls to the government yielded only the information that officials and staff have never heard of the group. Still, I admire the founders who are still active.

Brought to America in 1970 by a master that began training in the 1950s, this style may be the most obscure, yet the one most fought over in America as to its history and ownership. Find out the politics involved with whatever type of martial arts you are considering.

Advice - Be cautious about involvement in obscure styles, newly "invented" styles, and martial arts politics.

"Riding Alone for 1,000 Miles." This is what some martial arts tests feel like.
"Riding Alone for 1,000 Miles." This is what some martial arts tests feel like. | Source

Cost of Classes

Some schools require 1,2, or 3-year contracts for classes, paid up front with no refunds possible. Others offer shorter contracts, while some use no contracts. Some schools add belt rank testing into the contracts as a hidden cost and others explain fully that the costs are included in the contract. Some schools require additional belt rank payment in addition to the contract.

Some schools require frequent tournament participation and entry fees are often $60+.

Some tournaments are worthwhile, some are only moneymakers.

Many a child and adult beginner has experienced a broken heart and quit when, after winning a trophy as Champion they learn that the sponsoring federation is only one of a thousand or more in the USA, and the trophy that cost less than $10.00 is meaningless.

Many schools sell sparring gear in set packages that can be expensive and must be replaced several times as children grow, which is to be expected. I must say how that the worst thing I ever saw in martial arts is a tournament was sparring between a 3-year-old boy and a 2-year-old girl inminimal gear as the parents and older students around the ring screamed, "Hit him! Hit her!."

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Selected Major Benefits of Martial Arts

I entered martial arts for help with a sprained back and later, for a compound-fractured ankle that resulted in immobility. The arts helped impressively. This training solved every issue connected with both of these conditions.

The variety of instruction and exercises, along with in-depth practice sessions, and the faith that they would work, resulted in much more than the modest price of my first classes suggested possible.

Health improvement, endurance and flexibility, discipline, self defense can all improve during martial arts training.

Self resolve is another key development in this training, perhaps most visible in the survival training level of some martial arts. I passed my 4th dan examination outdoors in a snow-and-ice January and February over the span of six weekend days.

Many students have experienced unexpected good results in the practice of martial arts. You may have heard about some of them.

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Beware High Costs and Religious Requirements

Martial arts training can range from free classes in a college club to short-term classes in recreation centers at small costs to high-priced contracts at commercial schools. Avoid locking yourself into a three-year contract as one of my friends did for his nephew - the lad attended one class and refused to go again. My friend lost $3,500.

Martial arts are not religions in themselves, but many have involved religions very closely, especially some practiced by certain monks and nuns in Asian monasteries. However, these martial arts have been applied for self defense and moving medication, which is not always a religion. Find out about this before signing up for classes. Some consumers have a problem with doing Eastern meditation in a martial arts class, for example. Other look for Christian martial arts, but what they likely seek is a Christian instructor. Still, some of these latter teachers do include Bible Studies and prayer. The range of the menu of martial arts offerings in America is staggering,

Martial arts are over 6,000 years old, according to recorded documents and artworks. Egyptian tombs of similar age show wall paintings of martial arts forms or kata as they performed by soldiers.

The arts did not begin in India or with Hinduism or Buddhism, as many would have you believe. Egyptian styles predate them. Writers who continue to myth have read old materials on the subject or listened to speakers who know only those outdated sources.

Beware of classes that require a religion ro be practices and beware of classes that use instructors under the rank of 4th Dan, because of inaccurate training, lack of knowledge of first aide and CPR, and lack of experience. At times, an older teenager might lead a class of small children, but older and more experienced instructors are on the property for assistance, if needed.

Nuns in Chicago have been trained in self defense by local Instructors.
Nuns in Chicago have been trained in self defense by local Instructors. | Source

Olympic Fever Can Be Detrimental

At the height of the Olympic Fever over Taekwondo entering the Games, everyone wanted to call their classes by that name.

One class in Michigan combined Taekwondo and Isshinryu and called itself Taekwondo. Unfortunately, they also uses the name of a major TKD organization, of which they were not even a part of. In order to have a shot at the Olympics in TKD in America, students must be a member of the AAU and USA Taekwondo.

My associates in Nigeria are funded by the government sports authority and regulated. In America, consumers must pay for classes and hope they have selected a good instructor and association.

Decide what is important to you in martial arts and look for a well qualified, experienced, honest instructor and a class that fill your needs as much as possible.

Always revisit the beginning and keep your martial arts training alive and growing.
Always revisit the beginning and keep your martial arts training alive and growing. | Source

© 2015 Patty Inglish

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Comments 7 comments

CatherineGiordano profile image

CatherineGiordano 21 months ago from Orlando Florida

My son studied karate for a few years in middle school, mainly because it was an after school program. He liked it, but I don't think it was a serious school. Everyone got raised in rank regardless of how well they performed. Voted up because you provide valuable information for someone who wants to be a serious student of marital arts.


mckbirdbks profile image

mckbirdbks 21 months ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas

Hello Patty. This article is filled with good advice for the beginner and novices just at the start of their training. It must be difficuilt to know what your goals are at the start of a journey such as this. This training I believe would do so much for a persons confidence. I am sure it helped you with the discipline necessary for you to achieve all that you have.


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 21 months ago from North America Author

@CatherineGiordano - I am pleased to hear that your son had a good time in martial arts. Giving everyone automatic rank promotions is not always a good thing, but at least the students had the chance to give it a go. My first classes, through, were probably too serious at times.

@mcbirdbks - The discipline and hard work helped me overcome challenges, for sure. I did a stretching class for people for several weeks one summer - just 2 hours one day a week with encouragement to practice at home and that also helped build some discipline and good health. There are many ways to go. Good to hear from you!


Kristen Howe profile image

Kristen Howe 20 months ago from Northeast Ohio

Great hub Patty on what to expect for martial arts classes. Remind me not to cross you and your path someday. Voted up!


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 20 months ago from North America Author

You just made me laugh! Thanks for your witty comment and vote up!


Dr Billy Kidd profile image

Dr Billy Kidd 19 months ago from Sydney, Australia

Excellent information. I had not thought about the health benefits--I was already in shape when I studied Karate.

I did night reconnaissance training in a forest with one instructor. He said you have to learn to put on "your armor" so you don't feel any pain.

I eventually left training when I found out that my instructor--teaching street fighting--got into bar fights.

Like you said, you just never know.


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 19 months ago from North America Author

Bar fights! That reminds me of a karate studio here that participated in bar fights and left their business cards on the bar afterward. Not smart - they were all arrested one night.

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