The six questions to ask before enrolling in a martial arts school.
Posted: September 26, 2017
The six questions to ask before you enroll at a martial arts academy... and what you need to look out for!
Many people who visit a website or walk in to a martial arts academy aren't always ready to jump in to a paid trial or commit to becoming a Black Belt in their first visit. Some are looking for a "group-on" type of deal, some want to "kick the tires", and some have been in for the third time and need to over analyze things a bit more.
Martial Arts School owners come in many different categories - and that's completely different blog post - but when the time comes and you are ready to enroll yourself or your children in martial arts, we believe you should ask the following questions to make sure you're in the right place and don't fall into any traps.
1. Who teaches the classes and what credentials do they have?
When you meet with the staff in your introductory lesson or orientation, that may not be who is teaching the classes. You need to know if he or she is: A. Well qualified, and B. Are they going to be a good fit for you/your family. You definitely want to make sure that you won't be taught by a 13 year old "trainee" while the Owner or instructor is in the back office eating a meatball sub with his or her feet on the desk.
An added bonus is finding a school or organization where instructors have gone through a certification course of some type with a minimum of 300-500 instructor training and teaching hours. Remember, a black belt is not necessarily an authority to teach martial arts, and don’t discount those who don’t have a black belt but have the heart of a teacher.
2. How is the pricing structured after the initial trial period ends?
Many if not all schools offer a free or paid trial of sorts. This could be 30 days free + a uniform, or 6 weeks for $69, or even an extended trial period as a way to build the value of their program. This is even something very safe to purchase online if you believe it is a good value and it's never a bad route to go to see how you or your children enjoy the experience of the academy and see how it fits in to your schedule, etc. I do however; recommend doing some further homework on what's next before you make the decision to take the next step.
Does the academy offer a 6-12 week session, month-to-month memberships - similar to a gym membership - where you can give notice of cancellation at a given period, or is it going to be one of those big contract deals??? That should be a factor for deciding to enroll. We do not think contracts are bad, as the protect the students rights as well as the business, but be sure you know what you are signing up for and only do what you are comfortable doing and understand, there is a no refund policy in most cases unless they offer a guarantee.
Which brings us to the next question:
3. What if we want to quit?
Let's face it, the percentage of people who receive a black belt is significantly lower than those who put on a uniform and a crisp new white belt and try it out for a few weeks. Which is why schools offer trial programs. Our philosophy is, if it's not for you, it's not for you, let's have you leave as friends. However, if you feel this is a great opportunity to learn new skills, gain confidence and grow as a person, you should definitely continue experiencing those results. If you ever feel as if you aren't experiencing those benefits, it would be a good idea to sit down with the staff and discuss some new goals you can make progress toward.
4. Should we prepay the tuition for a discount?
This is something that many but not all academies offer. Most schools sustain by monthly membership revenue. In the beginning, it helps keep the lights on. However, some schools may offer this as an opportunity for savings at a given time of year like an anniversary, open house or holiday sale. You should do what you want to do with your money, I'll never tell someone how anyone else should spend theirs. That being said, my advice would be "never spend anything that you can't afford to lose." More or less, don't do a pre-pay option if it means A. taking on additional debt or interest from credit cards, or B. it will be something you regret in 6 months. In most cases there will be opportunities in the future as well. I never met another school owner that said, "No, you may not pre-pay your tuition in advance for a discount…"
5. What others costs and fees are associated with this program?
This question is essential. Especially before you plunk down cash or your card for several months of tuition and then they ask you, "How would you like to pay for your gear package next?"
I will admit, I made this mistake A LOT during the "young and dumb" days of my career. You're over excited that someone walks in and wants to sign up, you get them all registered and the leave with their uniform, and 10 weeks later you ask them, "How would you like to pay for testing?", and the blank stares ensue. A great school will not only explain the details of the membership, but do so in a transparent way, either a take home info packet with a master price list or they cover it in a presentation as well as give you an opportunity to ask questions. Here are a few fees to expect in addition to tuition:
• Testing fees
• Additional training equipment such as: sparring gear, training weapons, Uniforms, etc.
• Training Seminar fees
• Tournament registration
• Small Annual membership fees - kind of like Costco or Sam's club memberships - many larger organizations have this, some of the school owners pay this, and some do not.
6. How many times a week do we need to come?
This may not seem like a big deal... at first. As I've been saying for over a decade, "You will never hear me say your child needs to be here 4 hours a day, 6 days a week... Never!" Martial Arts was never intended to be that way, in fact in the beginning of your training, you should see how this integrates and aligns with your family's schedule. Start with 1-2 days a week and go from there.
A bonus class or two can be a great reward to a student who has shown Improvements at home or in school, as well as give a parent leverage when it comes to grades suffering or poor behavior at home. For instance, saying, "You have really shown a lot of extra effort and discipline with your Saxophone, let's do an extra Taekwondo class on Saturday and then get ice cream", is one of the many ways in which our parents reinforce positive behavior at home.
If I could offer some parting insight if you are struggling to find what discipline of martial arts or school to enroll in, I recommend investing in the 30-60 minutes to meet with an instructor or school owner to see if they are a good fit. If you get a bad vibe, simply thank them for their time and on to the next one until you find the right fit, even if it is across town. You have only to gain from martial arts training and we certainly hope this article gave you the tools to guide that decision.
For more information on our school, our instructors and our programs, visit: www.ChanhassenMartialArts.com