How to Choose the Right Martial Arts Program for You
by Grandmaster R.S. Chontas
More people are choosing to study martial arts because it offers
double-edged benefits: both physical fitness and self defense.
In light of recent news in Baton Rouge, this is especially
appealing to women. Most enrollment figures show that forty to
fifty percent of the enrollees are women. Whether you are male
or female, the task of choosing the right school for you can be
confusing and intimidating. Some key questions can help you
make that decision. Keep in mind as you are determining your
goals that there is no quick fix for self defense and security.
For those who are willing to invest the effort in physical
fitness, there is the added advantage of knowing a skill that
helps to provide some measure of personal safety as well.
What school is right for me?
Currently, Baton Rouge offers two types of martial arts:
Sports-oriented martial arts schools and traditional martial arts
schools. The sports-oriented classes typically charge more for
tuition and expect less of their students, focusing on the physical
aspects of training. While there is still some emphasis on self
defense, it is not the priority of the training. Traditional
martial arts schools most often charge less for tuition, yet also
expect more of their students. By expecting more of their students
than the physical aspects, these schools also cause practicioners to
learn spiritual and mental discipline, both essential components of
practical self defense. These schools combine the physical fitness
necessary to practice with genuine self defense techniques that will
be practical in the real world.
What should I expect when I visit a martial arts school?
As a prospective student, you should be prepared to view one full
class session. No one should purchase a martial arts program
without having been able to watch class first. If the instructor
will not allow you to watch class, perhaps you should respectfully
say "thank you," and go on to visit another school. You should not
expect to take a class for free. Training requires time, and new
students require more time than old ones.
How long should I be expected to enroll?
Years ago, schools required most students to sign one-year to
two-year contracts upon entering the door. At present, martial arts
programs are so varied and diverse that students should
hesitate before signing any long-term contracts. Reputable schools
offer an introductory program, usually no less than two months, nor
more than six. Many of these programs are complete packages,
including a uniform, a promotion test, and other essentials that
students need to attend class. Beware of schools that offer
'discount' introductory rates, yet have hidden fees for
supplies and materials. Always ask the question, Is there
anything else I need to purchase to train martial arts? Steer
clear of programs that offer a two-week program with a free uniform,
for these schools will afterward expect minimal enrollment of one
year, and will usually have other hidden fees as well, besides the
actual tuition. A good school will also offer family and group
programs to be used to lower the cost of training. Take time to ask
questions, and get a quote in writing concerning fees and other
How long will it take to reach a level of proficiency?
As a great master once taught me, nothing easy in life is worth
having. Self defense is no different. Whatever you put into your
practice is what you will get out of it. As with any physical
fitness program, you should expect to practice two to four times per
week. The student who comes four times per week will obviously
excel more quickly than the student who only comes two times per
month. Some people can defend themselves well within six months;
others can take years. It all depends on the individual's
spiritual, mental, and physical attributes.
Should I worry about getting injured?
As with any physical program, there is always a chance of injury.
According to the American Medical Association, martial arts practice
has the lowest percentage of injuries for a contact sport program.
In the twenty-four years that I have been involved wiin martial
arts, 90% of the injuries that I have seen have been self-inflicted,
largely due to improper execution of technique, combined with
students attempting techniques that are beyond their ability. Even
these injuries are, for the majority, sprains, strains, and minor
While many people are interested in martial arts, too few take
the time to investigate martial arts practice. The hardest
thing to do is to walk through the door. After that, the rest
is easy. Make sure that you look into schools that will be
convenient to attend on a regular basis. Many schools offer
classes directly after the work day, as well as on weekends.
Most martial arts instructors are dedicated to their craft, and
to perfecting their art. They usually are compassionate and
caring people who will go out of their way to help others
achieve their goals and dreams within their lives, teaching
their students to be assertive and respectful, never aggressive.
In these precarious times, it is reasonable and logical for
people to practice some form of self defense in order to add an
extra level of personal security. Take the time to do this for
yourself, and you and your family will be more peaceful and
secure in your own lives.