January is a popular time for people to make changes, sometimes this involves the desire to get fit or learn something new. If martial arts is something you're looking to start, or you're looking to change your style, there's a few things to consider when choosing the right fit for you.
This list is not exhaustive, but covers the main points we think you should consider when looking for a new martial arts club.
Is it the right martial art?
It may seem obvious but it is definitely the most important thing to think about. Being the cheapest or the closest to home are not as vital as choosing a class which teaches the right martial art for you.
Take into consideration what you are trying to achieve. Your current strengths and weaknesses, and what you are actually interested in will impact which martial art you should choose.
Talk to the clubs you find about what you want to get out of your training, their answers will help you to decide which is the best fit.
What is the clubs / instructors lineage?
Where and when, and by who was the instructor awarded his black belt? In this day and age, acquiring a black belt can be a simply online transaction.
Find out who taught your potential new instructor and check into their background. There is so much information now online, you should be able to find evidence of what you are told.
Be wary of young teachers with extremely high grades. For example, it would be extremely rare for a 25 year old to have reached anywhere beyond a 2nd dan/degree black belt.
Does the club have a syllabus / curriculum?
All martial arts club should have a curriculum style syllabus which lines out exactly what should be learned between each belt / grading.
There should be a progression from the first rank (usually white belt) all the way through to the senior grades an up to black belt. It's worth taking a look at a clubs syllabus before joining, to ensure you are comfortable with the content. It will also give you a good idea of what to expect in lessons.
What organisation is the club affiliated to, if any?
Most mainstream martial arts are managed by National and World Governing Bodies, for example 'British Judo Association', 'British Taekwondo Council' and the 'World Taekwondo Federation'.
In these cases, check that your club is affiliated. Look out for accreditation such as 'Clubmark' which means the club has been recognised for having the correct policies, qualifications, insurance and health and safety checks in place.
Just because an organisation is not affiliated, it does not make it a bad club. Some will have their own policies in place, but there may not be a suitable governing body in place. It is important to do your homework and if they do not have any affiliation, ask why.
What are the safeguarding policies?
Following on from the above, look out for Clubmark accreditation, if that's in place then you can have peace of mind that safeguarding checks have been done.
However, for clubs with no accreditation, it is vital to check that insurance, health and safety checks and most importantly DBS (formerly CRB) checks are completed without fail.
You may find the club has signed up to Sport England's Safeguarding Code in martial arts (more info - https://www.safeguardingcode.com/) If they haven't, feel free to ask, why not?
Is there a positive environment?
To ensure you maximise your enjoyment and your development, be careful to choose a club where the instructor creates a positive environment, and does not try to control you.
A controlling instructor may tell you that you're not allowed to train at other clubs or to ask too many questions about things like technique or club rules. Club rules are not written down and therefore students never really know what they are. The instructor changes them as he or she sees fit.
The instructor may overreact to perceived betrayals or disobedience, sometimes making an example of the violator in front of the whole class. If the instructor frequently loses control and yells at students, this is not the right club for you, or anyone.
Have you gave it a try?
Most clubs will offer a free trial or a first lesson free. There is no harm in having a go and seeing whether you enjoy a lesson or get something from it.
Sometimes this is the best way to find which club or style suits you best.
Finally, good luck!