I thought I would share this article by From our friends at Aikido Chuseikan of Tampa Bay! Guy express very clearly some of his thoughts for picking the right martial art school. If you are reading this article you must have some interest in the arts and maybe even in aikido. We offer intros for adults and children and you can sign up for one of our adult intros  or sign your child up of an intro  I hope you enjoy the article. You are about to make an important and lasting decision. You intuitively understand that picking a martial art has more implications for long-term mental and physical health then just picking a gym or fitness activity. You probably don’t know much about the various arts other than what you see on TV and movies, and probably are trying to make your decision based on price, proximity, and marketing materials. How do you make sure you were making the right decision and not a mistake you will come to regret. Young man confused about picking the right karate school.How do I choose the right martial art school for me and my kids Martial art styles and affiliations should not be treated like brand names. Coke and Pepsi work hard to deliver the same experience and flavor whether you were buying a can of their product in New York or Istanbul. Martial arts, however, are transmitted from individual to individual, and the experience is defined by the talent, insight, instructional capability, integrity and character of the individual teacher. Picking a style brand name is no guarantee of the quality you will receive. The important tip is very simple don’t make your decision based on a style or art, or even what your friends and neighbors are doing. Make your decision based on finding the right instructor!

Find The Teacher Who Will Inspire You

To make the right choice, start by visiting every Karate, Aikido, Tae Kwon Do, Judo, or Jujitsu school that you can find, and interview the teachers and students. Do they seem like the type of people you want to spend time with, call friends, or emulate? Do the instructors seem like they have the ability to inspire you, push you to new limits and motivate you, challenge you, show you how to have fun and passion for what you do, and inspire you to keep coming back to class week after week, year after year. Do you have a strong gut feeling about the individual and the school Ask about what values the teachers promote, and ask yourself if those are the values you want to instill into yourself and your children. Ask the teachers where they themselves train and improve their skills; the best teachers train and study their entire lives, and do not rest upon the ego gratification received from just being a teacher. With that out of the way, there are some other things that can be useful to consider as well.

You Are Joining a Community

You will be learning as much from the other students as you will be from the teachers. Consider the school members and community. Trust your instincts: does it seem like the students are motivated by pride, respect, trust, ego, the need to prove themselves, or showmanship Ask the members and students what benefits they receive from training there; is there a diversity of ethnicities, genders, and ages in the dojo Does the school look like it teaches things only young people can do, or do they teach things that can be practiced for an entire lifetime Does the school convey a sense of community, belonging, teamwork, and mutual support, or does it convey a sense of competition and everyone out for themselves.

The Space Reflects The Spirit

Carefully examine the physical environment where you or your children will actually be training. How clean is it Does it show an emphasis on trophies, or spirituality. Does the space instill a sense that you’re doing something special and important, or does it feel like just a place to work up a sweat. A wise person once said, first, we build the spaces around us; then, the spaces build us.

Don’t Let Money Define The Relationship

How does the school organize memberships and dues Do you feel like you are being given a hard sale, like at a car dealership or a fitness club Are you being pressured to sign up for a long-term contract before you feel you have even determined if the dojo is the right place for you. Do you feel that the teacher is focused more on making money than improving the lives of their students. Dojos are expensive to operate, and teachers have to make a living too, but you can usually get a sense of whether or not you mean more than a paycheck to the owner of the school.

Don’t Be Dazzled By Rank

Don’t be too influenced by the rank of the teachers; ranks really are not comparable across styles and organizations. It is much easier to quickly receive high rank in very small organizations, than in large international associations with thousands or tens of thousands of members. Some organizations give different meaning to the various ranks, and award them based on different requirements, abilities, and experience than others. There are also many very respectable-seeming, international rank and diploma organizations that allow paying members to receive rank certificates in various arts with very little actual training. Sometimes, junior teachers have a fresh outlook and enthusiasm which can be more infectious and rewarding than instruction from seasoned and tired teachers.

Great Schools Attract Diversity

Finally, one of the best measures of the quality of a Dojo is the diversity of martial backgrounds of the students who train there. It is very easy for any school or organization to become very insular, and convince themselves that what they practice is more realistic, affective, or of higher quality than anywhere else, without any objective evidence to back up those self opinions. Over time, the best Dojos tend to attract veterans of many martial arts, styles, and occupations including police officers and military veterans. Their students frequently participate in seminars of different organizations and styles. Their teachers and members often have rank and experience in previous martial arts than the one that they are currently teaching or training. In highly diverse schools, you are less likely to hear that is wrong, this is right and more likely to hear explore this, keep what is useful.Environments that attract and tolerate a wide variety of experience and knowledge are more likely to provide high-value, high-quality instruction and are less likely to drink their own Kool-Aid  too much. Selecting, and committing to a martial art can be a daunting process. As many people drop out of martial arts because they made the wrong first choice as for reasons of personal potential, aptitude, or interest. Chances are you are not really knowledgable enough to make an informed decision when you start down the road of becoming a student. But a little detective work, trusting your instincts, and knowing what questions to ask yourself, the instructors, and the students of the schools you?re considering can help you be comfortable that you are making the right decision!