One of the most frequently asked questions we have from new martial artists or prospective martial artists is "how do I find a good dojo?". There are a few key things to look for and we will address them on this thread for a guide to all new users here. Feel free to contribute to this list.

The first thing to do, is to see what available to you. What is in your area and do these places offer what you are looking for? By that, do they teach grappling if you want to learn to grapple, or do they teach striking with the hands and feet? Some schools may teach both. So decide what you want to use to defend yourself, then find a school that caters to that idea.

After you have chosen your prospective school, ask for a time that you may sit in and watch a class. Many dojos will allow you to do this. If they do not, I would find another school. Also, this is a free service. Many schools will even let you participate in a class for free to let you get a feel for it.

Once you have arrived in the dojo, observe the relationship between the instructors and each other, and the instructors and the students. You want to learn from someone that you can respect and that will respect you. One that you are comfortable asking qustions and one who will take the time to answer your questions. Someone you can speak freely with. Another thing to observe is the student/teacher ratio. You dont want a class thats too big. The more one on one time with the teacher you can get the better.

As the class goes on, pay attention to the movements and techniques. Are these things that you would be comfortable doing? Do they look like things that could work effectively for you? Can you make it work against resistance? Remember, if it ever comes to having to use your training, the enemy is going to fight back. Also, take a look at the Dojo Etiquette. Some schools require that you bow, that you wear no shoes and various other things. Make sure these are all things you are comfortable with, as you will be expected to perform these things each time you enter the Dojo.

If you have decided that this is the school for you, stay after the class and talk to the head instructor. See about class fees and testing or belt fees. In many traditional systems there is a monthly payment, as well as payments for belts and gradings. Make sure that these amounts arent outrageous. Also, if any waivers or contracts are required, make sure you read it very carefully. Also ask about equipment or uniform fees as well.

Last but not least remember that its the artist, not the art, that makes self defense effective.

(Edit: We've had a lot of posts recently about what arts are right for various people. Chen's advice is sound and should answer most questions. - TimBlack)

Edited by TimBlack (05/29/07 06:55 PM)