Choosing a martial arts school for your child

If you’re a parent looking to sign your child up for martial arts classes, the options can be overwhelming, especially if your only knowledge of martial arts stems from watching Daniel defeat the Cobra Kai in The Karate Kid. But have no fear, you don’t have to be a martial arts expert to pick the right school for your child however, there are some things that will be helpful to know walking into the process.

First, know that different schools have different focuses, regardless of what arts they teach. Some schools focus on competition and the sport aspect and other schools are more traditional. This is important for you to know as a parent because it can have an impact on the time commitment you’re making for your family.

If you’re signing up for a school with a strong competitive program, you might be looking at a time commitment similar to that of signing up for club sports teams. This can be great if your child isn’t into team sports but they have a strong competitive drive.

More traditional schools will be a lot less sport focused and will tend to focus on the martial artistry; the culture, the technique, and the purpose of the art. If your child needs more individualized attention these schools are a good option to explore.

The second thing that’s important to know as a parent is what the culture of a school is like. Before you bring your kids into a school, do some research and find a few schools that look promising. Go in person and check out their classes and talk to the instructors. These are the people who are going to be spending a significant amount of time with your children. If they’re good teachers they’re also going to be teaching your children about respect, self-defense, honor, and how to properly use the techniques they’re teaching them. You want these lessons to be coming from someone you respect and trust.

Make sure that you get a good vibe from the instructors and that you like their teaching style. Not every school will be a good fit, and not every instructor works with every family. Talk to the instructors about what they expect from their students both inside and outside of class. Observe how they interact with their students and how their students behave around them. Do they know who each and every one of their students are, or just thee upper ranks?

Once you’ve seen a couple of schools and have found one you like. Take your child in to a sample class. Remember, it’s not necessarily about what art you’re signing your child up for, it’s about what they’ll be able to take away from the program. If they can learn from and look up to the instructors they’re more likely to stick with it for years to come.

The third thing to look for in a school is whether they treat children like children. There’s a fine line to walk teaching kids discipline and respect while also treating them like the children they are. A school that’s too strict will burn a kid out too fast. A school that’s not strict enough will never teach a child what they came to learn. This is really important for parents to look at because it will give you a gauge for how well the school responds to normal issues that come up with being a child, injuries, schedule changes, and school conflicts. A certain degree of flexibility is necessary when working with children and not every martial arts school has that.

The fourth and final thing to keep in mind is that martial arts should be FUN for your children. There will be challenges for them, and hurdles to overcome, but if they don’t genuinely enjoy martial arts then there’s no real purpose to their study.

Good luck in your search and let us know if you have any questions about choosing the right school for your child! Here are some questions to have in your back pocket when visiting schools and talking to instructors…

  • How long have you been practicing martial arts? How long have you been teaching?
  • What sort of training do you have outside of your rank? (i.e. first aid and CPR, first  responder training, other martial arts, personal trainer certifications, etc.)
  • What separates your kids program from your adult program? How do you handle blended children/adult classes?
  • Are your instructors background checked?
  • What sort of time commitment would we be looking at if we come to your school?
  • Do you use contracts or is payment month to month?
  • What’s your philosophy about discipline?
  • What are the principles of your martial art and how do you teach them?

-Juliana Rose

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