Sunday, June 12, 2011

How to Select a School

In lieu of moving to a new school I felt that I should type up the information I got from Sensei Guinn about selecting a school to study at.

*note, you can also find a lot of really good information about finding a good instructor and a good school in Chapter two of Kane and Wilder's book Way to Black Belt. I highly recommend it.

When selecting a school:

Do research on different types of martial arts to see what you might want to learn and what you think would work for you. Do you want a striking art or a grappling art? Learn about several different types of arts before you make your selection. Pick one that appeals to you and go try it out. If you don't like it, you can always try another one. You can also look into the history of the martial art you want to study, and by learning the original context of your art you can learn alot about how it was used and what its strengths and weaknesses are. Some arts focus on footing and were created to work on slippery rocky hillside terrains. Other were designed for fighting in close quarters, alley ways of busy cities and such.

When looking for a dojo/selecting an art to study, be aware that schools with "jutsu or chaun" means "practical application" and will be (or should be) focused more on self defense application of the art. Schools with "do or go" means "the way" and will more likely be more focused on the spiritual aspect of the art. Keep in mind how you want to study before you pick a school. Neither is wrong, but (and I think Wilder and Kane mention this in their book, which is probably where I got this) They are just different means to the same end. With a Jutsu art you are studying the practical first and then reach the spiritual later as you understand and master the application, With a Do art you begin with the spiritual and then you begin to master the application as you understand the techniques. I might have that mixed up, but that sounds right. 

Once you actually go to visit, first and foremost look to the instructor(s):
-Is he/she knowledgeable?
-Does he/she know what he is doing?
-Do the students seem happy and knowledgeable?
-How does the instructor handle the class? Is he/she in control? Do the students listen? etc.
-Are the upperclassmen helping the lower classmen?
-Are the students working hard? Do they look like they are having fun? Are they happy? Do they seem fit? (If they are sweating, that is not a bad thing.)

In general, try a place for two or three months before you decide anything. No signing a contract right away. (Trust me on this, things may seem dandy at first, but the longer you are at some place, the more things you will find out about how the organization REALLY is) You should never have to pay for a trial class. If you do, they are most likely more commercial than anything, and you should probably stay away. Take advantage of as many free classes as they will allow you take. Never sign up for anything the day you go in. 

ALWAYS listen to your intuition. If you have a bad feeling, then get out. Don't stay, don't come back. I cannot stress this enough.  

If the instructor tries to tell you something that goes against common sense, it is probably wrong. Kris and Wilder also discuss looking out for cults as well. For example, "We break our bones so they heal up stronger than before!" ... seriously? You don't want to study at a place like that. Attitude is everything. Look at the attitude of the instructor and the students. You probably don't want to study some place where people are mean, harsh, violent, etc.

Make a journey of your training. Nothing learned is wasted. Even if you switch dojos a few times or try different arts before settling into what you like and what feels comfortable. Keep a journal. Take notes. Absorb all you can. Have fun. 

Thats it for now.

I have a busy time ahead, job searching and moving, hopefully I will have things sorted out by August at the latest, but I will try to keep posting in the mean time. 

Have a good week all!

~Samurai Girl Sahara


  1. If a school has been around a while, it should be top heavy with senior students. That means people stick around; they don't just get their black belt and leave.

    Also pay attention to the students. If you join a school, you're going to be one of them. How do you feel about that? How do they (on average) carry themselves? Do you admire the students? Is that a group you would want to be a member of?

  2. All the best with your move and the job hunt!

  3. Rick - Thank you! I meant to say something about the students but I spaced it out.

    Felicia - Thank you!!! ^.^