Having recently made the decision to leave a martial arts school I'd been training at for the last four and a half years, I thought it would be a good idea to reach out to others who may be in a similar situation. You see, quitting a martial arts school is not the same as quitting a pool league or cancelling a gym membership (unless of course your classes are held by that gym). Whether you're at that school for competition, self defense, an interest in classical martial arts, or whatever other reason, the experience tends to build a connection. More to the point, it makes a student feel 0bligated to stay with it. This is especially true if you've already been with the school for a lengthy period of time. Of course there will be some who have more trouble with this than others. Some people look to accomplish a specific goal and then just stop. And those goals can be different for each person. Some want to get to black belt while others merely want to be able to reasonably defend themselves should they ever need to. Some times those two goals can overlap. In the following paragraphs, I'm going to highlight a few of the warning signs that it may be time to leave even if you haven't accomplished your original goals or if you've just been staying out of a sense of obligation as I mentioned before.
1. This is not what you signed up for.
Maybe you wanted to go into martial arts for a classical board breaking, kata performing, bowing, high kicking experience and instead, you got tournament minded sparring, grappling, sweating, and drilling with little to no culture involved. Or maybe you wanted a tournament styled class and got a self defense class which focusses on eye gouging, groin kicking, and weapons fighting (none of which would be allowed in a ring.) This is a clear sign that it's time to go elsewhere.
2. It costs too much.
Some times tuition fees go up. Some times people's financial situations change. Don't put yourself in the poor house so that you can take a few more classes. That being said, this is a good time to point out that schools can have very different payment systems. Some times you get wrapped up in a contract that has you set to make payments for a specific period of time regardless of whether you want to drop out or not. Be careful with these. Most places will at least let you observe before you sign up. And some times you will be given different options on how long your contract can be for. Take full advantage of both of these. Even if you decide that you want to stick around after your contract is up, you can always renew it or sign a new one. Don't let yourself get trapped if you can help it.
3. You're not learning anything new.
This one has happened to me before. Some teachers will do this on purpose and some just don't realize. If your only goal is to have another medium of socializing, this may not matter much to you. However, if you're into martial arts to improve on yourself and your ability and to learn new things, this can be a deal breaker. It happens some times where class structure changes. It all of a sudden takes longer to get to the next belt test, but strangely the material needed and in fact the standards of the tests are lessened. You learn less or even nothing new. I was in an advanced class after having trained several years in an art, but new comers were allowed into the class and were so far behind that we often times didn't do anything truly advanced let alone new for the entire class time. I reached a level where I knew all the black belt material and could perform it, but because of a new attendance policy put into place while I was away from class, I had to wait longer to test than those who had had their belt rank for a far shorter amount of time than I did. All the time I'd put into class since my last belt test, but before the policy change didn't count, because it hadn't been recorded and I wasn't there when the change was made. When something like this happens, you have to wonder if your teacher is trying to help you progress or just pad his or her pockets more. Also, regardless of your rank, if you don't learn when you go and that's what you're there for, it's time to stop.
4. You're not learning AND you're teaching more than the head instructor.... for free.
Luckily, I did not experience this particular problem myself, but I did witness it first hand. It was the same school as the previous paragraph. Not only were classes structured in an unreasonable way, but the head instructor was not present over half the time. This made for multiple problems. Some of the assistant instructors didn't teach the same way or even the same material as what was supposed to be in the art. And the better instructors became frustrated, because they were expected to come in and cover for the head instructor often and some times without previously being informed. This made them less prepared to teach and far more annoyed I would imagine. Also, they received no payment for their contributions. Now, I'm not saying that all assistant instructors should be paid or storm out of their respective schools, but keep in mind that the head instructor is being paid by every one of his or her students to teach them. If you're doing all the teaching, why is somebody else making all the money? And in fact, why are you still paying for classes which you teach? Occasionally is one thing, but when it gets to be as excessive as in my example, you should seriously start considering leaving.
5. It's not fun anymore.
This could happen for any number of reasons. Maybe the class environment has become disrespectful. Maybe you just can't relate to anyone there. Whatever the reason, martial arts is something that people choose to do. And if you're voluntarily choosing to spend your time and money on something, you should enjoy whatever it is you're doing. All this being said, martial arts can be a very rewarding endeavor. You just have to find the right art, school, and teacher. And if none of the examples here applied to you, then you may have found yourself a good fit. If that is the case, then I hope you can enjoy your classes and stay for a good long time. One of my martial arts teachers had a bit of a favorite saying that he used to tell me all the time. "Martial arts is a way of life." Well, it may not be to everyone, but it is to him and it is to me. So, don't let anything in this article discourage you from giving it a try for whatever reason you're thinking about it. Just be careful and don't settle for something that isn't what you're looking for.