Choosing a Martial Arts School

 in London - Sherbourne Martial Arts Academy: SMAA


Feel like getting into shape through Martial Arts training?  I often get calls from people looking for martial arts schools (Karate, Kobudo, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu & Self Defense), and the questions I receive are plentiful.  There may be questions on class format/structure, and timing/availability of classes, but the two most frequent concerns revolve around:


1 - Cost - How much does it cost?

2 - Location - Are you close to my home?


Clearly these are legitimate considerations to factor into the equation.  However, they do not consider the quality of training you, or the children you care for - will receive.  In Southwestern Ontario childrens’ monthly rates can range from $80.00+ tax to $150.00 + tax and more. Adult monthly rates usually range from $100.00 + tax to $180.00 + tax.  Of course there are clubs that operate outside these ranges - but, these are the general rates you will see in the local Ontario region.


So how do you know the value of the product that you are purchasing?  What is it that determines quality martial arts training for you? By answering these questions, you may be better able to discern the variances that exist amongst martial arts schools in your area and come to your own conclusions based on what you value.   


Aside from price and availability, the key elements to consider in choosing a quality martial arts school are:  1- Instructional Practices; 2- Lineage; 3- Authenticity; 4- Legitimacy; and 5- Time tested training and application. For the purposes of gaining a deeper understanding of the elements you should look for if you happen to be seeking quality martial arts training, let us examine the 5 categories listed above.


1 - Instructional Practices:  Encompass not only curriculum, but instructional methods that foster student growth and development: academically and on a social emotional level.  Instructors need to possess and apply the emotional intelligences necessary to read and gently push students toward the successful achievement of proximal goals.  These goals cannot be set too high, and they must be properly scaffolded to continually challenge the student, while keeping the goals within grasp. Setting unachievable goals will only frustrate the student, and eventually break the student down (rather than building-up the student).


2 - Lineage: The value with lineage in the Martial Arts comes from historically valued lines of quality Martial Arts teachers who have lived, taught, and developed a particular Martial Art over many generations.  Lineage is not everything in a particular art, but having a long and established lineage of quality instructors provides an indication of the depth and intergenerational thought around the development of the art.  Different perceptions from different instructors (with different life experiences) during the course of many generations will always provide value and insight to any Martial Art. At SMAA and the WKKJO we have lineage in both Karate, Kobudo, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and Self-Defense dating back hundreds of years and to the origins of these practices.  This lineage provides a platform for deeper thought and differing perceptions regarding practices and applications.


3 - Authenticity: Is closely tied to Lineage, and a long established Lineage often speaks to the level of Authenticity.  Authenticity can mean many things, but the primary attribute of Authenticity is that the Martial Art has depth of thought and introspection, and the techniques have been well-researched over many generations and developed through “practical” application (not simply “theory” of application).  The Authenticity of any Martial Art can be evaluated by researching and assessing that the Lineage has depth and is valid. Note that specific martial traditions are associated with each practice.


4 - Legitimacy: Can be assessed based on the training, certification and the demonstrated applications by the instructors and students attending the Martial Arts school.  Although participating in tournaments and demonstrations is not mandatory, these activities do cultivate martial spirit and inform the martial arts community that the school is present and actively engaged in continuing to forge their practices. Tournaments and demonstrations also challenge the students to develop confidence and push their boundaries (see the Instructional Practices discussion above regarding “goals” for the student).


5 - Time-tested Training and Applications: Is indicated by the culture of the school and whether the school uses old ways to find the new.  This is also closely tied to the concepts of Lineage and Authenticity discussed above. Although time changes all things, the focus on time-tested applications is that each generation builds on the foundations laid down by the previous generation, in order to update and develop new approaches. Even modern Combat Sports competitors understand the benefits of studying the old masters of the sport in order to develop their current (modern) technique.  As an example, Mike Tyson was a famous Boxing champion, but many do not know that he is also a very knowledgeable Boxing historian who studied and understood the techniques of the old Champions from by-gone years. Tyson’s approach demonstrates the importance of remembering the past, when looking towards the future when developing technique and applications.


You can easily use these elements to create a checklist and rate each one from 1-5 to provide an overall evaluation of the martial arts schools you are considering.  Adding or deleting categories to assess in the overall evaluation is up to you as your selection should reflect what you value.


However, if price and location are your focus, be prepared to accept less than adequate martial arts training.  As is the case in any field (Mechanics, Doctors, Lawyers, Teachers), all are not created equal, nor offer identical service within their field. The one for you may not be the closest one to your house.  It’s the same with Martial Arts Schools. You generally get what you pay for and the best school may cost a little more and be a little bit of a distance from your house. Or you might be fortunate to find one that meets most or all of your needs at a relatively low end of the price range, that is fairly close to your home.  


SMAA is located in Hyde Park (London, Ontario) and we offer programs at very competitive prices.  Our programs have the deepest lineage in our region and our applications are keeping pace with the current developments in martial arts in each discipline, as well as MMA.  


Come by to talk with us and try out a class for a free.  

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