Wednesday, October 11, 2017

The Martial Arts Student Bill of Rights

Beginning training in the martial arts, especially as an adult, is pretty difficult.

There's a lot of misconceptions out there about what it entails.  Some of that is due to how martial arts training is portrayed in popular media, but it's also due to poor communication from the martial arts community as a whole.

This post is my attempt to clarify to potential and new martial arts students what I think they have a reasonable right to expect in their training.

DISCLOSURE OF ALL FEES

This includes tuition, "mat fees", equipment fees, costs associated to required equipment (cost of gis, martial arts weapons, etc.), testing fees, belt fees, and the estimated costs of tournaments if they are a required part of training.  This disclosure should happen prior to the beginning of training, and if there is a contract involved, fees should detailed in the contract that is signed.



Speaking of a contract, if there is one, then the fees and process for ending the contract before the term is up need to be clearly defined before the contracts is signed.

DISCLOSURE OF REQUIREMENTS FOR RANK ADVANCEMENT

A student has a reasonable right to know what is expected of her in order to earn rank.  This does not include any kind of guarantee, such as "You'll earn such-and-such rank in 6 months". It just means that it's reasonable to expect to have an outline of what a student needs to learn in order to gain rank, including if participation in tournaments is required.

REASONABLE PRECAUTIONS FOR STUDENT SAFETY

Students have a right to train in an environment where precautions for student safety are taken into consideration. 

This is a highly variable term so it's hard to say exactly what this looks like for each style.  But, this includes:
  • Using equipment in good repair
  • Making sure the training area is clean and free of debris or other items that could cause injury
  • Using safety equipment when it's available (such as training weapons)
  • Having in place training rules for student safety (such as not allowing horseplay or not allowing people to swing around weapons when they are not actively training with them)
  • Not allowing students to be harassed, bullied or abused by anyone associated to the school.
Safety first.

THE STUDENT/INSTRUCTOR RELATIONSHIP

A student has the right to know what ranks and/or instructor certifications a martial arts teacher has legitimately earned.  Instructors should not claim rank not earned or lie about their qualifications to teach.  An honest 2nd Degree Black Belt instructor in a single style is better than a dishonest Grand Master in 7 different styles.

A student has the right to have a method to contact the instructor outside of class, and to have phone calls, emails, or text messages returned within a reasonable period of time.



A student has the right to expect the training schedule to be clearly communicated and adhered to. Classes will begin on time, end on time, and not be changed at the last minute outside of extenuating circumstances (such as sudden illness, accident, natural disaster, etc.).

A student has the right to know if he or she will be trained by other students, and not the instructor. This is actually not uncommon; there's plenty of martial arts schools where higher ranked students work with lower ranked students, and the instructor might not be directly training individual students every class. Students should have the right to know if this is something that is normal in the school they attend.

So what do you think? Are these reasonable things a student has the right to expect from an instructor?  Did I miss anything important?  Let me know in the comments!