The heart of any martial art is the teacher. Don’t be blinded by theatrics, a slick advertising campaign, or a belief that more money equals a better school. “Just because the school costs more doesn’t mean you’re getting the Rolls-Royce of martial arts,” says Nick Gracenin, owner of the Martial Arts Center in Sharon, Pennsylvania. “Most styles are highly suitable for children, so it isn’t the style that’s important, it’s the quality of instruction that you look for.” Here are some other considerations and strategies for parents to bear in mind.
Rely on word of mouth. Martial arts schools are neither regulated nor accredited. Nor are the instructors required to go through a government child safety clearance and a criminal record check, says Gracenin. Some schools may obtain such things on their own, but even many reputable schools do not. So you need to do some research: on-site visits and interviewing instructors and other parents are all exceptionally important tasks.
Watch and learn. Visit several schools in your area and observe the beginners’ classes. Pay attention to the instructor’s overall demeanor: Does he have a natural ability to relate to children? Do the classes have a healthful, respectful climate? Does the instructor show enthusiasm and openness with the pupils? Is the class size too large? Preferred class sizes are 10 to 15 students but bear in mind that some experienced instructors can handle as many as 30 students at a time with qualified assistants.
Parents should be allowed to observe any class at any time. No exceptions. If you are scouting schools with your child, check out the beginners’ class. “Kids may be excited and want to see the advanced classes first, but young children can be intimidated by the intense physical activity they see and decide it’s not for them. They should understand that high level skills are attained through dedication and time,” Gracenin says.
Ask about emergency plans. Whether or not they’ve ever dealt with an emergency, instructors should be able to tell you which hospitals are in the immediate area, and what steps they’ll take if someone needs medical help. If they hesitate or seem unsure, check them off the list. And find out whether the instructors and staff are certified in CPR. They should be, even though it isn’t mandated by law.
-Borrowed from Better Homes and Gardens editorial