Guest post by Bill Jones, BJJ black belt under Pedro Sauer, owner and head instructor at Top Level Martial Arts in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio. If you would like to learn more about Bill or Top Level Martial Arts, visit http://toplevelmartialarts.com
In general, finding a Jiu-Jitsu academy is an easy thing to do. Just type “Jiu-Jitsu” in Google and you’ll be inundated with options. Finding the school that is right for you or your child…well that’s a different story. Of course most websites are going to be set up to make the academy or dojo look good; if it’s not, that should be your first red flag. If a school doesn’t even take the time to make themselves look good, how much time or effort are they gonna put into you?
With over thirty years experience in martial arts I have had the wonderful opportunity to be on both ends of the spectrum; both looking for a good martial arts school as well as providing a wonderful martial art experience for my own students. Here are my top 7 tips to finding a great martial arts school. They are in no particular order and are all of equal importance.
FREE LESSON: It’s extremely rare that a school isn’t willing to provide at least one free lesson. In my opinion, that should be a top criteria for you. After all, we’re not talking about walking into an inexpensive endeavor. Most academies are going to want you to commit to 6 or 12 months (or even longer). The least they can do is provide you with a free sample. When’s the last time you purchased a car without a test drive?
COMFORTABLE ENVIRONMENT: You should feel comfortable when you walk in the door. Are the instructors welcoming? Are the other students welcoming? Do you feel like you belong? These are important factors considering you’ll be spending several hours per week in the academy. If you don’t feel like a member of the group, you may not be in the right place.
CONVENIENTLY LOCATED: Of course, this is very subjective. The academy location should be easy for you. To get good at martial arts, you need to train on a regular basis. If you’re constantly battling convenience in order to show up, you may end up quitting. That won’t help you or the academy. Make sure you can get to the school easily.
LIKABLE/ PERSONABLE INSTRUCTORS: This is another subjective thing, but you want instructors you don’t mind being around. This is especially true if you chose a martial art such as Gracie Jiu-Jitsu, where you’ll spend more than 10 years on your journey to black belt. In your trial lesson, pay attention to the way the instructor treats you and, more importantly, his other students. The instructor will probably always be nicer to you because you’re new. But be sure he/she’s respectful to everyone equally. Also, be sure you enjoy the teaching style and methods. Do you like the “Drill Instructor” type? Do you prefer someone that’s laid back? Only you can answer these questions.
CAN THE SCHOOL MEET YOUR GOALS?: This is extremely important. Any good instructor will probably ask you why you’re joining to start with. This is because they want to know if they can meet your goals. If your goal is weight loss and you’re not doing anything with any intensity, it’s probably not for you. If your goal is only self defense and you’re doing forms…it’s also probably not for you. Be sure to ask questions that will help you know if your goals can be met at your academy.
BEWARE EXTENDED FREE TRIALS: This is the opposite of #1. Any school worth it’s salt will greatly value what they teach. So be wary of schools that offer full months and longer of free lessons. This could be a warning sign that they are just trying to get warm bodies in the doors. Of course, this isn’t always true, but it could be.
INSTRUCTOR CREDENTIALS: As the instructors for their lineage. This is often showcased on their website, but not always. It’s important that you ensure you have a well credentialed instructor. There are no laws governing who can and can not teach martial arts in the United States. There are many “fake black belts” out there who are just trying to make a quick buck off of people who wouldn’t know better.
In the end, choosing the right academy for you comes down to meeting goals and your comfort level. Take your time in choosing a good school. Never judge a book by it’s cover, though. I’ve seen little “hole in the wall” schools that are run amazingly and giant “big box” schools that are just looking for warm bodies to support their overhead. Check on the instructor’s credentials and, most importantly, have fun while you’re there. Learning martial arts can be a life-long journey and the most fulfilling thing you ever do if you make sure to find the right place.
See you on the mats,
Top Level Martial Arts
Bill Jones is the owner and Head Instructor of Top Level Martial Arts in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio. He has over 30 years of experience in martial arts, holding 4 black belts and multiple instructor certifications. He is a Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Black Belt under Master Pedro Sauer. Contact Bill at 330-770-4304 or via email [email protected]