The Big 3 Considerations When Choosing a Martial Arts School For Your Child
Updated: May 11, 2020
So you want your kid to try the martial arts, but you don't have any clue of how to begin.
Well, my friend, your pal the Stick Chick is here to help you out. I'm a martial arts mom as well as instructor, so I have been there, done that.
There are other considerations that do matter when enrolling a child in the martial arts. However, when you get down to brass tacks, the three most important things to consider are proximity, schedule, and price. If any of these don't work for you, then no matter how good the school is, you need to choose a different one.
As an aside, don't forget to check local community center, recreation center, parks and rec departments, and YMCA/YWCA centers for martial arts programs. There are often good programs there that don't advertise much so you may not know they are there.
Proximity: It's usually the best idea to choose a school close to your home. With busy schedules and tight budgets, it's a practical and important consideration. The thing is, the taekwondo or karate or Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu school nearest you isn't going to be massively better or worse or different than the one ten miles away. So don't make it harder on yourself or your family than you have to.
Plus, choosing a school near your house increases the possibility that your child may have friends already in the school, which can help ease them into training.
Schedule: Most martial arts schools near you will have their class schedule posted online or you can get a handout at the school itself. So make sure the time(s) and date(s) of training are relatively easy for you and your child to attend.
I specify "you and your child" because I believe you should not drop off your kid and pick them up later if you can possibly avoid it (I know, sometimes there's competing schedules). Please attend and watch what they're doing. Your child will appreciate it and it gives you the chance to keep an eye on what goes on in class.
Don't forget to consider other sports or activities your child is interested in (such as sports or theater or band) in your choices when it comes to schedule. Are you sure it doesn't conflict with, say, football practice in the summer and fall?
Note: you may need to take a break in martial arts training during a season for sports or theater or whatever. If that's the case, understand that it will delay your kid's progress in the martial arts (not a bad thing, necessarily, it's just a fact). It may be possible to arrange training on a different schedule with the school (usually via private lessons), so don't forget to ask about that if you know a conflict will arise.
Price: The most expensive school in your area is not necessarily the right one for your child. The cheapest one is not always the best deal.
Try to estimate what is "average" in your area from checking with the schools you're considering so you have that in mind and can judge whether or not a place is "expensive" or "cheap". When discussing the price, makes sure all the fees are disclosed up front. Some common fees include testing and "belt" fees, uniform fees, mat fees, organization membership fees, Black Belt Club fees, and equipment fees. Know what is optional and what is required to be purchased for study. That "expensive" school may have all these things included, and that "cheap" school might not.
Most martial arts schools have a discounted or free trial period. It's not always obvious if a school is a poor fit until you've been in it for a few weeks, so use that trial period well.
As for contracts - some schools use them, some don't. I prefer shorter contracts but long ones are not necessarily bad. Make sure you completely understand all the terms, including what happens if your kid drops out (even temporarily for another sport - sometimes, you're obligated to keep paying the monthly fee even if your kid is on a break).
Beware any school that promises if you sign a long-term contact (several years) right now, they'll guarantee your kid will reach black belt in a given period of time. That's shady. How long it takes to get to the 1st degree black belt rank is highly variable and very dependent upon how hard your child works to meet the requirements, not just given out after having been in the school a given period of time.
Unless you live in a very small town or in a very rural place, there is usually more than one martial arts school around, and comparison shop them ALL so you get an idea of what's available in your area before you sign up your child.
If you are in a rural area or a small town, yeah, your choices are limited, but the Big Three Tips still apply.
Note what I did NOT mention as a top 3 consideration... did you catch it? I didn't mention martial arts style. For a child, that's not terribly important, so don't over-think this.
Parents, choosing a martial arts school for your child can be pretty daunting and confusing, so I hope this post helps. Let me know how it goes in the comments below!
Martial arts instructors, what other advice do you have for parents looking to enroll their kids in a class? Chime in!