My first martial arts inspiration was Ralph Macchio in the Karate Kid. After watching that movie, I dreamed of learning martial arts. In college, I eventually followed my dream and joined a Tae Kwon Do class. Since then, I've had the opportunity to meet many different instructors and explore different styles. The journey has been wonderful! This article will give you some simple steps so you can pick the martial art that's right for you.
What are you looking for in the martial arts? What is your overall goal? Here are some common ones:
- Get in better shape (fitness)
- Inner peace/Calm
For example, if you want to focus on getting in better shape you may want to focus on arts that have a lot of movement or exercise, such as Tae Kwon Do or Kickboxing. Similarly, arts like Aikido or Tai Chi are known for being more peaceful and calm with slower movements. Finally, arts more focused on self-defense include Krav Maga and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Of course, many styles have elements of all of these. However, most tend to focus on one or two areas. Also, every instructor may have his own focus based on his preferences and experience.
Once you have an idea what you are looking for, you might want to do a little research into the specific martial arts offered in your area.
Research Your Area
In this step, you've already considered a general direction you want to head in, such as self-defense or fitness. You now have to see what's available in your area. There are three main areas I would recommend researching:
- Phone book
Recommendations are the best way to find a good instructor. If your friends, family, or co-workers already practice a martial art in your town or city, ask them about it. You don't necessarily need to join that particular school if the style does not fit your needs, but you can get some information such as the training environment, the instructor's personality, and the types of classes offered. Many martial arts studios offer a free class or free trial period.
The internet has become a great source of information. Not only can you find what styles and schools are in your area from yellow page directories, often the school will have a website. From this you can gain a lot of information. For example, you can often see a description of the classes offered, a bio of the instructor(s), and maybe pictures of some of the students in the class.
Finally, the phonebook is the oldest method to locate a school. You can see almost all of the schools in one or two pages. Most of the schools may have style listed in it or it may have a more general name. This is just a starting point for your research.
Once you've seen what is offered through these three sources, you can narrow down your list based on your goals and some initial impressions from doing some research. Then it's time to make some calls and visits.
After you've narrowed down your choices, the next step would be making contact. This could perhaps be the most fun part of the process, because you can actually talk to the instructor and visit the classes and get a feel for what the training would be. There are a few things you should look for when doing this:
- The head instructor
- The training environment
- The other students
- Other factors
The head instructor is usually both the owner of the business as well as the main person that will be teaching you. Does he seem friendly and someone you'd like to learn from? Does he seem like he knows what he is doing? Does she seem professional in her treatment of the students. If possible, meet the instructor in person and watch him or her teach a class.
When you go to the school, take a look around. The place where you will train is also important. Is it clean and safe? Is there different types of training equipment? Not only does this give you a clue about whether you want to actually train there, it also gives you an idea of how professional and organized the instructor is.
When you watch or participate in a class, the other students will give you valuable information as to whether you want to train there or not. Are they friendly? Are they helpful? For example, if you are a woman trying to get in shape and you find that most of the people in the class are 20-something gym rats trying to punch your lights out, maybe it is not quite for you. Similarly, if you are a young guy trying to train to be a fighter in the ring and you see older people moving slowly in a Tai Chi class, maybe you're not in the right place. Remember that the students will be the main people you are working with. If you are not comfortable training with them, you may want to look elsewhere.
Finally, there are some other factors you have to consider. These would include:
- Class schedule
Once you've completed this step, there's just one last thing to do.
Go for it
Once you've found the right school, jump in and have fun. The journey in the martial arts is often an interesting and fun one. You may stay with one school for the rest of your life or you may find that your life brings you to many different martial arts experiences. I wish you the best in your journey!