Finding a School

Today throughout the world there are many legitimate martial arts school but unfortunately there are even more illegitimate schools. These schools want nothing more than to make as much money as they can off the student and become nothing more than a black belt factory. These schools have given Karate, Taekwondo, and other Martial Arts systems a bad name. So with all these illegitimate or unqualified schools out there how can one find a
quality school

What to look for!

The first thing to do is to find every school within your area that you are willing to commute to. Remember the quality school may not be in your immediate area and you may have to travel a little to get to it. You can find these schools via The Yellow Pages, Local Newspapers or even better The Internet Search Engines

  • The Yellow Pages: Don’t be overly impressed by The Yellow Pages add. Just because an add is bigger does not make a school better.
  • The Local Newspaper: These are usually promotional adds to bring in students and maybe worth checking in to.
  • The Internet Search Engines Most cities have some kind of service that provides a search for business within the community. Check and see if your does. You may be able to find a school that has a homepage with information about the school or at least the location of a school in your area.

Call each school to see what style or art they are teaching and what there hours of operation are.

  • You must find a school that has the hours of operation that you will be able to make. If you can’t get there because you work during these times or you won’t be able to get your child to class until after the class is started then it won’t be worth your time.
  • You must decide what you are looking for out of the school.

Do you want a school that stresses sports and tournaments.
Don’t think just because an instructor has a lot of trophies they are a good instructor. They may be fantastic at completion but may not have the talent to teach. Look at how their students perform and how many trophies that the students have.

Do you want a school that stresses self defense and practical street techniques
Talk to them about the techniques they teach and why there style is effect in the street. It is very difficult for to decide if these techniques will work but if you use common sense and think about what they are telling you it will help. (Don’t allow the instructor to demonstrate on you!)

Do you want a school that teaches weaponry.
Check to see the validity of the weapons. Some schools will take there empty hand forms (kata) and put a weapon in the students hand and say they are teaching weapons. If they are teaching any of the Okinawan weapons that you see on our pages they should have formal names of all the forms and they should know the history of these weapons.

Watching or participating in couple classes.

Ask permission to come watch a couple of classes (make sure you watch at least 2 but more is better) The more classes you see the better indication you can get on the substance of the classes. You may also want to ask if they offer free trial classes and if they do don’t hesitate in trying them out. These classes should be structured classes. They should have a routine to the class. Warm-ups, basics, advanced techniques and cool down period. Watch to see if the head instructor teaches the classes or if a senior student is teaching the class. Understand there will be times that a senior student will assist an instructor in teaching of the class but ensure that the instructor is keeping a watchful eye on the student.

Ask to see the instructors certifications. This should include his Rank and who he was certified by. Find out how long the instructor has been teaching and where he has taught at (if other places are involved). Understand this does not absolutely make them a good instructor but 90% of the quality instructors have at least 15 or more years teaching experience but some with less time may be excellent. (Watch the classes!)

Look to see who the instructor is affiliated with. Some schools may affiliated directly with Korea, Okinawa, Japan, China, or other areas throughout the world. This is not a prerequisite on there abilities but it is good to have affiliation with a Federation or governing body. If not see who is the instructors teacher is or was.

Be careful of a promise of a black belt in a certain period of time. Each student progresses differently, Some may take 2 years (training 5 to 7 days a week) and some may take as long as 4 years. It all depends on how hard a student works. The instructor should stress the importance of training and knowledge versus belt rankings. No mater what you wear around your waist, it is the knowledge and abilities through hard work and training that keep you alive when you have to defend yourself. Most students are tested approximately once a quarter except as they reach higher levels there may be 5 or 6 months between testing. Most systems run 10 Kyu’s or Ranks to achieve black belt. This is the normal progression in most styles but some are slightly different. At this rate the average student should take approximately 3 years or longer.

Contracts are common in this day and age but make sure your willing to make the commitment before you sign on the dotted line.

Lastly you should feel good about the instructor and what you see going on in the school. It should be a controlled disciplined environment, with an instructor who truly cares about his students. Physical Fitness, Morals, Self Confidence, Nutrition, Responsibility along with all the Karate, Taekwondo, / Martial Arts training should be taught. I also believe that it is important that the history, custom and protocol from each style should be a part of the curriculum to ensure the student receives the total package.

I wish you the best of luck in finding your Martial Arts School and please if you have any questions or comments please email me at craig(@)

Shihan Craig Hodgkins
Rokudan (6th Degree Black Belt)
Chief Instructor and Owner
West Penn Kenshin Kan Karate & Kobudo Dojo
Pittsburgh, PA