I have been doing Martial Arts since I was 6 (I am now 38) and I have trained in every type of school.
From the spit and sawdust boxing gyms to the church halls and leisure centres, I have also trained in the purpose-built premises as well.
And I have discovered one thing; that the premises mean absolutely nothing when it comes to the school.
For example every Sunday in Manchester, England you can go to a Scout Hut that you would never find unless given exact directions.
Inside you can train for just £5 with some of the best Judo players Britain has ever produced.
I have also paid £10 to train with ‘an elite team of grapplers’ for an hour and tapped each one out like white belts (and I am not that good).
My point is this, never judge a book (or Martial Arts school for that matter) by its cover.
And in this article, we will give you the keys to knowing if your current Martial Arts school is great.
Let’s do this
1. Your School Is Full Of Smiles
I once went to a school where every session felt like I might get mugged on the carpark by my fellow students.
Some schools are like the Cobra Kai, and they should be avoided like the plague.
Sometimes a school ends up attracting the wrong type of people because the instructor is the wrong type of Martial Artist, like attracts like.
I have been to schools where the instructor has told his students to ‘injure’ guest/ travelling students to send a message out.
I know, what an a#####e, but that’s a true story.
So what is a sign of a good school?
Yes, smiles are the one true indicator that the school is full of great people.
So if you get to class and your training partners and instructors smile and say hello as if you are a long lost friend, then this is a sign your school is a keeper.
2. Your Instructor Teaches (Not Chats With His Mates)
Some instructors coach, others like to talk to their friends about how good they are, debate the best UFC fighter and show of their latest tattoo.
If your instructor spends less time teaching and more time talking to others, then you might want to consider what exactly are you paying for.
A great instructor will go around the room multiple times during each drill or exercise and make sure you are doing it as taught.
They will correct your errors when required and support you and that is what a good coach does.
3. Your Martial Arts Instructor Is Experienced
I don’t care if you are a purple belt, zebra belt or you just tie your shorts with old string, what matters is the experience and not the grade.
I know of a world champion BJJ player who was tapped out by a no grade grappler in a no gi tournament, pre-Facebook era of course.
How did he do this? He had been catch wrestling for his whole life, and the guy couldn’t care less about grades.
Often what we always forget is experience in life and martial arts matter.
Now there is an exception here; time does not = experience
You might have trained for just a year, but a year with some coaches is like 10 years with others.
What you are looking for here is tangible experiences.
Not the ‘I just got certified online’ type of experience either!
So if your instructor is a veteran, was taught by the best, or has won/ competed in events you are on to a winner with your school.
4. You Are Improving
I have been to schools where the only thing the coach is interested in is the medal winners.
This is frustrating for anyone because you won’t be a medal winner unless you improve.
So a sign you are going to a good martial arts school should be that you are improving.
Now you might be thinking ‘hey everyone improves’ and yes that might be true to a degree, but we all know McDojo’s that dish out belts as long as you paid the fee.
So the question is ‘are you improving’?
Now if you can’t compete (because you train self-defence/ Krav Maga etc.) the only way to assess yourself honestly is to get on the old sparring gloves and do a few rounds with your partner MMA style.
Yes, this is not perfect, but if you can’t stop a person taking you down in the gym, you won’t stop it in the street, if you can’t land a punch in the gym you won’t land one in the street and so on.
But if you are improving you will notice that over time things become easier, you catch your training partners with shots and holds more often, and they catch you less.
So if you are getting better STAY at the school because you are on the path to an amazing transformation in your life, the path to becoming a Martial Artist.
5. Your School Practises Respect
A trip online to the land of Facebook will teach you amazing things.
You will learn that Martial Artists can be among the biggest bullies online, sad but true.
However amongst this backdrop of trolling are some of the finest and most honest Martial Artists you can find. These Martial Artists practise what they preach.
For many schools, the code of respect runs deep because Martial Arts are actually about ‘finding ways not to fight’ rather than destroying the first person to cross your path.
Martial Arts is about control and with control of your mind comes respect.
Respect for yourself, respect for others and of course respect for the planet.
So there you have our 5 signs you have found a great Martial Arts school.
Now you have a choice, you can simply carry on and read something else on this site, or you can share this article if you are currently training at a great school.
Not only will the Martial Arts teacher thank you for this (a little appreciation goes a long way)
But they will also know that they are doing a good job and that their students know this too.
So please share if your school ticks the boxes
Thanks for reading