An estimated two-million martial art schools are in operation in the United States alone. Some are small and operated out of the instructor’s garage while others may be franchise chains. Some of these are honest operations taught by highly skilled martial artists while others are outright scams.
How is a person who has no knowledge of the martial arts industry supposed to sift through and find a great school without getting ripped off? The answer is quite simple if you are willing to go on a little journey.
The best place to start is to take a look at the industry as it is today. Then look at some of the most popular types of schools that are in operation. Through focusing on what to avoid rather than what to seek out you will stand a much greater chance of finding you are looking for.
The industry is supposedly self-regulated. This is almost laughable with over four hundred associations and federations in existence and each having it’s own regulations. Major associations did not even exist until the 1920’s when Japan’s government started to standardize martial arts to curb the amount of people who attained a black belt.
Any major organization will have some type of politics within the rank and file of the association. This leads to a spit, and one association becomes two with different requirements and regulations. To add to the confusion look at all the martial art styles that exist. Each one has it’s own associations or federations to “govern” the style. To make matters worse the associations may or may not recognize another association even though they both “govern” the same martial art style.
Fully investigate any association or federation to insure they are serving you before paying any money to them. You can spend years and thousands of dollars to attain a “registered” rank. If you move to another city and find another school, which teaches the same style your rank may not be recognized by that schools association.
Moving beyond the mess of associations, we find a bigger mess in martial arts schools.
The Big Picture
A popular theme being widely promoted are contracts, belt testing fee’s, rank registration fee’s, special programs or classes, and lots of belts. Over the past decade, the cost for martial art lessons has gone up while the quality of instruction has gone down. There is hope as there are some schools that outright refuse to penalize their students for moving up in rank.
Understand that any person may purchase a black belt and open a school. If they want to look legitimate, they can join an open “professional association” watch a few video’s and purchase some pre-made curriculum.
The “professional” association will provide almost everything the school needs to sell the school to a prospective student. They will get press releases, advertisements, posters, phone sales scripts, pre-made seminars, and even a professional looking web-site. In short, they are purchasing a ready made martial art school in a box.
These types of schools usually do not last long. Unfortunately, it comes at a cost to students being injured. Improperly trained instructors do not know how to instruct and how to watch for potential injury techniques. Failure to be able to explain how to prevent injury or what can cause an injury is a telltale sign of a non-trained instructor.