It’s no secret that martial arts changes lives. Just search on google and you can read story after story of adults who have changed their lives by starting martial arts lessons. As a longtime martial artist myself the one remark that I hear most often from adults is that…“I wish I would have started as a kid!” The reason adults makes this statement is because they summarize that If they had started as a kid and had been doing it all this time they would be in amazing shape… and frankly be able to kick some serious butt! The truth is that anyone can do martial arts (regardless of their age).
Martial Arts is for everyone, but not every school is for everyone.
Tips for Choosing a Martial Arts School:
- Cleanliness Martial Arts and Jiu-Jitsu in particular is a close contact, body-to-body martial art. In other words, you’re going to be touching people and they’re going to be touching you. It’s not just a cleanliness issue, it’s also a safety issue. When a school isn’t cleaned and sanitized daily you run the risk of skin infections like: ringworm, impetigo and staph. When looking at a school there should be an overall culture on cleanliness in the school. This means students who keep their gear, uniforms (gi’s) and bodies clean. Another important factor to consider when looking at whether a school is hygienic is whether students are using flip flops on non matted surfaces. You should never see students walking into restrooms barefoot and then walking onto training surfaces. Remember, if a barefoot touches a restroom floor and then touches the mats there is a spread of germs. Most martial arts school require the use of flip flops in restrooms and locker rooms. If a school offers showers this is a huge plus. When you can shower directly after training you eliminate any risk of skin infections.
- Safety If you’re a 40 plus year old adult and you’re just getting started it’s important that you feel safe and protected in this new environment. This is especially true if you come to the mats with old injuries or bumps and bruises. Remember, you’re starting martial arts to get in shape and learn a new skill…NOT get hurt. An easy way to gauge if a school is a good match for you is to visit it and see if the students look like you. If you’re a 40 year old male or female, do you see other male and females your age training in class? If everyone in the school is a 20 year old college student, you may want to reconsider if this is a good fit. It doesn’t necessarily mean it isn’t a good fit, you just need to be mindful when making a decision. Most schools have safety measures and policies in place to ensure safety. Don’t be afraid to observe a class and ask questions before making a commitment.
- Commitment Like most things in life, martial arts requires some commitment to get good and to achieve desired results. If you were going to learn to play guitar, you would need to practice regularly and be committed towards some desired outcome. Your expectation wouldn’t be that you could get good in a short period of time…you realize that success is a process. This doesn’t mean that you have give up your life for martial arts or guitar lessons. Most Jiu-Jitsu hobbyist can achieve good results with a commitment of 2-3 classes per week. For a complicated martial art like Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu you should expect it to take 6 months to understand the basic principles and to really create some momentum. After six months you’ll begin to see both physical and mental changes. Your body will adapt by becoming more flexible, stronger, you’ll develop better coordination along with a host of other great benefits.
- Cost / Fees Think of your martial arts training as an investment in your physical and mental health. Most of us would pay just about anything to be in great physical and mental health. They say you can’t put a price on good health… but it can’t break the bank either. On average most martial arts schools charge a base tuition of $140 – $180 / month with the average being somewhere in the middle. For a martial art like BJJ you don’t need any gear other than a uniform (Gi). Testing / Grading fee’s – Some schools will charge a fee to be graded for a belt test. These fees can vary depending on the belt level and association. Other schools simply build these fees into their tuition. Make sure you ask if you have to pay extra for testing or to be part of an association.
- The Culture of a School One of the most important aspects of a school that is least often talked about is the “culture” of a school. Culture generally can be seen as the accumulation of the beliefs, customs and rituals of a group. Some schools may be more geared towards MMA, some towards sport Jiu-Jitsu, self-defense… or some combination of them all. It’s important to first identify exactly what you’re looking for in terms of classroom content (self-defense, fitness, sport, etc.). In addition to classroom training, the general “vibe” may be important too. In other words, how do students treat each other on and off the mats? Is it a “survival of the young and fittest” type of school? Or is it an environment where everyone feels taken care of?
At the end of the day you want to find a school that’s right for you and leads you towards your goals, benefits and desires. Before making a commitment, try a free class, ask questions and talk to other students. As a martial artist of over 35 years I have seen countless students lose massive weight, improve their health, become more confident and disciplined. It’s true! Martial Arts really does change lives.