Dojo Shopping Blues
Due to scheduling conflicts, I'm back in the market for a new place to train in the martial arts.
It's hard when you're a newbie to "dojo shop", because you don't know exactly what you're looking for, so you don't have any good way to judge if what you see at any given martial arts school is what you really "want".
The martial arts world is big, and confusing, and honestly, what's "good" or not is a question that doesn't have a hard and fast answer.
When you're experienced, you have developed your own personal sense of what's "good" and what isn't, and what you enjoy training in (and of course, what you don't).
That doesn't make finding a new dojo an easier decision. It makes it... complicated.
This is especially difficult if you've moved from one area to another, like I have several times. Different cities tend to have different martial arts styles available, at least in the US. Styles tend to "cluster" together geographically (which makes a lot of sense if you think about it).
If you're in a pretty standard, popular-nationwide martial arts style - variants of taekwondo, karate, aikido, BJJ, kung fu, etc. - then it's really just a matter of finding WHICH studio fits your personal taste, schedule, and budget.
Almost every large city in the US has some of the big martial arts "chain" or franchised schools, such as ATA taekwondo, Premier Martial Arts, United Studios of Self Defense (USSD) and many others. So if that's what you're looking for, you'll be in luck, probably.
But if you study a less-popular style, or one that is highly localized to a specific area and doesn't exist outside of that area... you're gonna have to change styles, and that's when it can get difficult.
Take me. There's nobody teaching Presas Arnis here, so I'm going to train in a different style, probably NOT in Arnis. Thus, I have a specific set of things in mind I'd like to work on:
✔ A solid ground game, but I don't want to only train grappling.
✔ Training focused on sparring and training with resistance over forms/kata, although I don't mind those as long as it isn't the only thing we do
✔ Self defense and fitness focus versus sport/tournament focus
✔ Weapons training that isn't just "dances with weapons"
✔ Ideally, it'd be a place where my husband and daughter could train in the same school
✔ Also ideally, doesn't ask me to pretend I haven't trained before know some stuff
It sounds simple enough, doesn't it?
It's isn't (especially the weapons thing).
I'm not personally interested in taekwondo, and that's the style that is heavily represented closest to where I live, by a mile. I don't want grappling only, so that removes the two BJJ schools and the Judo school near me (although I'd like to cross-train in that stuff if it works out right). I'm not a fan of franchise schools myself; I don't think they're a bad thing, they're just not for me personally.
There is a ninjitsu a school I could get to but it's taught by a fraud, I'm not interested in learning shenanigans and bad Japanese, and I can't find its exact location anyway (NINJA SCHOOL guys).
Because of my commute, I have to be very focused on a narrow band of geography, so that eliminates some really attractive choices I simply can't get to in time, as, y'know, it's the reason I'm back dojo shopping in the first place!
I'm willing to drive a goodly amount of time for the right school, mind you, as long as I can physically get there on time.
Of course, the alternative is to arrange private lessons, and that's still on the table, but... I'd rather be in a class with a bunch of other people if I possibly can. I'd like a new martial arts community if I can get it, y'know?
I have a few options to check out, and I'll be doing that over the next few days. But right now, y'all, I got the dojo shopping blues.
How did you find a new place to train after a move? Was it an easy thing for you, or did you struggle like I am struggling? Let me know your thoughts!