Interested in beginning a martial art? That’s great! Which one? Hmm…no clue? Yeah, that could be a problem. It can be overwhelming when you look at all the different forms of martial arts practiced today. But the choice to begin a practice of any martial art is one that will positively impact your life for the long run. So as you begin your search for the right martial art and the right instructional situation, keep some things in mind. The particular art that you end up choosing is a very personal direction and commitment. It’s important to choose one that fits your philosophy, your abilities, your level of commitment, and will help you achieve your goals. If you appreciate martial arts for their structure, for their philosophy and spiritual component, then a free-fighting, tournament-driven school is not going to be a good fit for you. And if this is where you end up, you’re more likely to give up the practice because it doesn’t fit. Do your research and find the art that’s going to be best suited to your goals.
Once your path is chosen, you’ll need instruction. Depending on where you live, you’ll have different options. If there are multiple schools or instructors in your area who teach the art you’re interested in, that’s great! If you have fewer options and might have to travel to find someone teaching your discipline, you need to determine at the outset if that is something you’re willing to do. Frankly, travel increases the level of commitment required. Don’t do it if you’re not willing to spend the extra time and money to travel.
Different instructional settings will have different fee structures. Some schools will require you to join a larger, usually state or national organization which will have annual fees in addition to your program fees. Obviously you’ll need to purchase a uniform and the attendant belts and promotions. These expenses can be spread out over a year, fixed into monthly payments, and sometimes binding contracts will be required. Be wary of situations which ask you to sign agreements longer than one year. No-contract phones are popular for a reason!
If you were to survey martial arts students who’ve been a part of an instructional setting for years, you’d find they would tell you that above all else, the character of the instructor is crucial. Talk to people who’ve studied with your potential instructor. What do they say about him/her? Does the instructor’s interaction with students make you feel comfortable and eager to learn or are you anxious? Which organizations have credentialed the instructor? Are they national and recognized? The credentials of an instructor are important and telling, but not always an indicator of a good person. And this is ultimately what you’re looking for: a person whom you could emulate.
Finally, keep an eye on the instructional approach. There are good instructors who use little to no structure or etiquette, and there are equally good instructors who insist on formality and structure. Which approach suits you better? Would you be willing to forego an approach to get the instructor you want? These are important considerations in your search.
As you can see, personal preferences play a big role in the decision to begin a martial art, but so does good old fashioned common sense. Take time to interview students and instructors, observe many classes, and ask lots of questions. This is a big commitment and you want it to be one you can feel good about and stick with for years to come.