Choosing a martial art back...

Specific considerations

PICK an art which suits you physically and mentally

Do you have a good build and physical attributes for the activity or can you work towards that. If the art requires close contact work with other students are you comfortable with that. If the particular art is very aggressive are you comfortable with that. If the art has very formal discipline are you happy with that.


IDENTIFY what you want from your training and pick a school which claims to deliver that

Do you want to kick & punch, contact or non-contact, more kicking or more punching, grapple, throw, use weapons, develop philosophically & spiritually, train more for self defense, for self improvement, for competition, etc
Do you want to de-stress, look cool, be part of a big or small group, be honest with what is important to you.


DON'T confuse fighting with self defence

Many schools purporting to teach self defence –"keeping yourself safe" actually teach fighting – "taking someone else on and beating them". Those steeped in the latter mindset are in our experience far more likely to be in trouble and get hurt. By contrast those whose behaviours are inspired by the "keeping themselves safe" mindset in our experience rarely get into altercations or get hurt. It is not that we do not teach highly effective physical self defence is just that we teach it as a last resort for the sake of the person being attacked. we have heard numerous times how someone who thought they "could handle themselves" wind up being badly hurt and shaken from the reality of the brutality that is true violence being wreaked upon them. It is our experience over many years that in most situations physical conflict can be avoided although of course one has to recognise when there is no choice and then act very effectively to protect oneself.


SPEAK to your friends or others about their experiences

Friends will usually try to get you to come to their school and may get offended if you don’t visit or sign up but they can be a good extra source of information. Don’t sign up just on their say so but question what they like about it and if that sounds good to you then consider trying it out.


CHOOSE your particular school based on your excellent evaluation of the head of the school

Given that you are comfortable with the nature of the art then nothing is more important than picking an instructor you will be happy to respect and learn from for many years, in some cases for the rest of your life. Do not get seduced by how impressive they are to watch but rather check out their teaching skills and character as you need to respect them. Remember, every teacher at every school in every art will be different. It is of vital importance you pick one who suits you.
Look for one who isn’t afraid to admit he doesn’t know it all, who doesn’t need to act as though he’s a tough guy and one that you are comfortable with.



The martial arts are a magnet for people who wish to make themselves important and ‘successful’ by controlling and using others. The etiquette of respecting the leader fairly unquestioningly which is common in so many martial arts makes it very easy for such people,

Such leaders will often seem to be very thoughtful and generous outwardly, but as time goes on the keen observer will note how they apply their often great charisma to advance themselves ahead of everyone else. They are often sociopathic tending personality types and such people can be very hard to pick so students may already be black belts before they catch on. This makes it hard for them to leave and start again.

The more advanced you get in rank, the more likely you are to be used and to know that you are being used by such leaders. Our advice is to move on if you can.


CHECK that the particular school really does deliver what you assume it will

Ask the instructor what the schools main focus is and make sure it suits you.
Beware a school that claims to teach everything.

Don’t just believe what is said to you. For example, almost all martial arts will tell you they teach self defense but most actually teach either sports oriented or stylized art for art sake technique. Worse still they may just teach straight out fighting methods which are not self defense and are just likely to get you in trouble. If you see people using high kicks or complicated precise technique for self defense then also be wary.

If the instructor tells you they have a particular rank, ask them who awarded it and then ask about the several ranks before that. If they have jumped to a high ranking quickly then their ranking is probably not properly earned. Instructors do sometimes buy rank or promote themselves. Ask then how long they studied under their masters. It should have been many years.

5th to 7th dan is a high rank for an instructor. Thoroughly check out anyone who claims to have a higher rank.


Beware fantastic claims that aren’t able to be properly substantiated or may actually not mean much.

An impressive lineage in no way guarantees a good instructor just as a not so impressive one doesn't necessarily indicate a poor instructor. Don’t be sucked in by clever marketing and great presentation. Many schools claim to teach the best systems and they market themselves so well that their students believe and propagate it. Students want to believe its true. If there was a superior method everyone would already be doing it.

The truth is that every person is different and there is not one best system for everyone.


Other considerations

Contact vs. Non Contact training

Some argue that regular “contact” training, where you actually make contact to certain allowed targets on your partners body, is more realistic for self defense training than non contact. In our opinion most contact training is in many ways less realistic for self defense, particularly as regards the striking targets allowed. For example, hand impact techniques to the head are usually disallowed. Thus you not only form the habit of not attacking the head which is one of the best self defence targets but on the defensive side there is no urgency to develop complementary head protection techniques against such attacks.

While it is an obvious advantage when defending yourself to be able to take a hit with less effect, it makes no sense to us that someone interested in their general health and longevity would allow themselves to regularly be hit on the basis that one day, possibly, they may be struck outside the dojo and deal with that better. This is not to say that it is not an advantage to know what it’s like to be hit and how to deal with that. But there are simply better and healthier ways of dealing with it than regular full contact training.

The other side of contact training is that a student should know what it’s like to make contact themselves with their technique. So make sure your chosen style if it involves impacting (punching, kicking etc) uses some form of bag or pad work.


Traditional vs Freestyle

Some instructors these days claim that traditional arts don’t work and make up their own ‘freestyle’. What this really means is ‘I made it up myself from bits and pieces I learned’. They are usually jacks of all trades and masters of none. Very often these instructors eventually search out someone who truly understands the meaning of traditional arts as they hit the wall in their own pursuit of a comprehensive style.

There is nothing wrong with eventually investigating a variety of martial arts but one needs to be really well grounded in one well tried and tested martial art first, otherwise you will never really understand the really deep skills/'secrets' of these arts


Check the Practical

Some practical things to consider are school location and proximity to home & work, training costs and your ability to pay dues and other fees, the class schedule and how it fits into your schedule and how flexible are the options it offers.
Other things may also be important to you like parking, and facilities



When you call a school, are all your questions answered well and honestly.
Each school should offer at least one free trial class before you sign up. However the wear a school that offers a number of free classes or even a free uniform as most likely down the road they will find a way to charge you a lot more than is usual.
When you visit a school, is the training safe.
Do students and teachers show respect toward each other.

Be prepared that many schools these days require a contract like a health club. Make sure you are clear on the terms of the contract if you do decide to sign one, and do not be afraid to walk out if you are uncomfortable with the terms.

Be very wary of schools that try to up-sell you to intensified ‘special’ black belt or other programmes and the like. While some of these may be legitimate, there are many scam artists in black belts out there. What does it say about a school and its teachers motivation when they are prepred to leave some students behind as second raters if they are not willing or able to pay an extra fee. Surely an organisation with real integrity would treat all student in the general body equally. If you do join such schools you should be very clear about what you are paying for up front.

The more commercial and large a school is, the more it will generally have to concentrate on the bottom line ahead of other considerations. Smaller schools by contrast will normally be run by someone with more passion for their art.

When all is said and done, trust your intuition.