How do I pick a martial arts school for my child?

This is the most common question I get from parents.  

Although I live In NW Austin, and own GKX Martial Arts. Not everyone I talk to lives in the area. So if you are looking for Martial Arts in here in Texas or anywhere, here are my suggestions.

1.  Shop around! 

Martial arts instructors are experts at getting your kids super excited and want to come back. Some instructors use the kids to guilt the parents to sign up, and the parents, not wanting to be the bad guy sign the contract--- so go alone for the first visit!

Don't go to a McDojo-

If they promise you a Black Belt or any belt in a certain amount of time- RUN!

Visit them and first watch how the instructor interacts with the children.  

Assess their energy - is it negative or positive?  Can they keep control of the class? Watch their body language. What techniques do they use to discipline the children? Is their tone demeaning or does it redirect the children’s focus in a positive way. Do they teach at the child's level, or do the instructors teach a watered down version of an adult class

2.  Are they prepared?

When deciding between a couple schools - assuming distance and pricing are very similar (although the old saying “You get what you pay for” really should be taken for account if its just a price point issue.) and it is not an issue of inconvenience, also look at how the class is run.  Is there structure?  Does there seem to be a lesson plan.  Do they appear to have a specific set of goals in mind with the techniques or drills that are being taught.  

You want to avoid an instructor that either has little experience with running a children’s class, in which case they should have a written lesson plan just like  a new school teacher who prepares the night before (which I have no problem with because it demonstrates preparation).  New teachers are cool - they just need to have focus and structure.  An experienced instructor could be easily distracted or uninterested.  So make sure the ones with the experience, that can shoot from the hip and create their class plan on the spot, are able to stay on course and maintain enthusiasm throughout class.

3.  Proper training.

Do the children take part in physical exercise as part of their training.  

Avoid schools where the first thing they do is drop into splits.  This form of static stretching is not good for the muscles.  Children can suffer muscle injuries with poor training.  

Although few martial arts instructors have extensive education in the fitness industry, the good ones without education and certifications are at least smart enough to be reading books on athletic training and therefore know how to properly condition the body for martial arts.  
Push ups, sit ups and even splits are par for the course.  But it is how they are implemented into a martial arts class that make them a successful part of the overall program.  

A proper warm up should be your child’s first activity to increase blood flow to the large muscle groups and get the joints prepared for their intense training.

4.  Budget- Stay away from Contracts!

Get all the details of the payment options and monthly auto payments written down on paper before you leave.  If they tell you that your child has to try a class before they give you that information. LEAVE! If they have a contract for memberships and not month-to-month. LEAVE!

Although my school is uniqe in the idea of “Service Based” martial arts, with no contracts, or aggressive sales tactics and no upgrades; there are several schools around that are catching on to the new way of operating a martial arts school.

Discuss the extra costs:  
uniform, extra uniforms, sparring equipment, belt testing fees, how often are tests, tournament fees and are they required.  

There is nothing wrong with these fees - every school has them.  You must have the uniform, proper sparring gear and understand how often your child will be taking a rank test.  
All of these add up.  For many families unfamiliar with the martial arts system, beyond the monthly school tuition, it could sideswipe you and end up turning you off.  Martial arts school have light bills to pay too -   

Is it better to know it all up front and be given an estimated time frame when the average child ends up at these growing stages so you can budget and assess if this hobby fits into your family budget.

As you can see I did not mention anything about a style of martial art.  I feel there are so many amazing styles.  I have trained in Kenpo, Judo, tae kwon do, kung fu, wushu, Shotokan, jiu jitus, krav maga, jeet kun and several others. Heck, our style we teach at GKX, 'Goju Kenpo' incorporates 7 different styles into one!  I know that I had instructors that were better than others.  Some of them I would never send my kids to. And some were just sleezy salesmen that just wanted to get every dime from me.  
It is not fair to punish a style or art form.   

These questions guide us in choosing instructors for GKX and how I look at instructors in other hobbies for my children.  

When all this assessing is over -

you will realize which instructor you want to have influence over your child.  

The role of a martial arts instructor is very powerful on a child.  They are no different than a school teacher and sometimes mean more to a child than their favorite school teacher.  

The role model you choose to expose your child to the martial arts, needs to make you proud as well.