How to Evaluate a School

Posted by: John W. Zimmer
Under: karate
26 Sep 2007

How can a prospective student figure out if a karate or self-defense school is any good? This is a perplexing question facing many folks. Some people start taking karate only to discover that they cannot fight their way out of a paper-bag, but look cool. Others discover they still don’t have any idea how to mount a successful defense but think their Sensei could!


The first thing a new student should examine is their goals. Do they want to know self-defense or sport karate? Are they more comfortable with formal or americanized training methods? Formal methods require lots of bowing, titles, and discipline whereas americanized methods generally don’t have much of this. Do they like group or private lessons? Are they in shape or do they need conditioning along with their program. After the prospective student has an idea of what they are looking for, it is time to start evaluating schools.


I tend to view buying karate lessons the same way I make a large purchase, systematically! Get a list of questions to ask every close school. Additionally ask the schools in the telephone interview what they think of their competitors. Take notes and after the prospective student has a feel for the schools that may meet their requirements – drop by to see lessons on a busy night.


If you get a good feeling from some of the schools while dropping by – take some introductory lessons to see if the karate school is for you or your children! 


My opinion is if you are looking for karate lessons – go to a school that practices semi-contact karate when sparring (the name for practice fighting in the school). The reason I prefer semi-contact over full-contact is to keep injuries down while learning. You can always opt to start full-contact training after you get a black belt but initially – learning how to defend yourself can be accomplished with semi-contact just fine.


If you are looking for a formal style for exercise or beauty – consider old-school styles that practice non-contact sparring. Many movie stars come from these styles and are very fluid in their forms (dances with karate). Additionally these stylists are in great shape and can defend themselves in most situations. I am bias as I think a person tends to fight the way they train but viva la difference! 


Some styles like Ti Chi tend to focus mostly on the exercise components of karate/kung fu. These are the folks doing the slow, fighting dances in parks… They look impressive but if your goal is self-defense or fighting – I’d steer clear.


If you just want to fight in the ring, there are a lot of choices  that partially include, MMA, Jui Jitsu, Full-Contact Karate, Boxing, Wrestling (not WWF), Pride, and UFC. Mostly sports-minded individuals that already have some fighting experience like the competition and would be good candidates to start in a school that offers these choices.  

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One Response to “How to Evaluate a School”

  1. Which One Should It Be? Choosing a Martial Arts School « On My Own Two Feet Says:

    […] How to Evaluate a School (My Self-Defense Blog) […]