Things to consider before joining a martial arts club

Can you commit to training regularly?

The teacher wants you to

If you can’t train almost every week, the instructor probably won’t be impressed. If your attendance is worse than fortnightly, you’ll usually be considered a disruption to the class.

This doesn’t just go for martial arts, it goes for most adult learning classes. Because the teacher wants to be able to plan lessons, and when you’ve missed a few, things get difficult.

The teacher would love to be able to move you on in sync with other club members who’ve joined around the same time as you. It’s a co-learning challenge and also a teambuilding thing. Your absence demotivates others, and the teacher probably won’t like this. I’ve been in clubs where irregular attendees have been asked to leave due to shoddy attendance. That said, some teachers will openly say they don’t mind when you train, and will remain overjoyed to see you even if it’s only once a month.

Your personal development depends on it

Not only will your teacher be unimpressed if you can’t train weekly, but your training is likely to suffer. So much so that it’s practically a waste of time doing it at all if you can’t train regularly.


Does the club teach bullshido?

Most experienced martial artists tend to be either open-minded and welcome participating in various clubs to the full extent of their syllabus, or they’re very narrow minded and refuse to do anything other than their own club’s style. Absolute beginners, however, rarely have a clue what’s good and what’s not. So here’s some tips:

  • Go with your heart. If it seems strange and awkward to you, it probably is. But if it seems amazing – if the moves seem instinctive and highly sophisticated yet simple at the same time, you’ve probably found a good style but consider if there are still some elements of bullshido involved.
  • Avoid cults. Steer clear of clubs that are obsessed with belts or make it their mission to proactively instill a particular attitude in their students. A great teacher is not materialistic and does not push his attitude onto others. He’s very welcoming and nurtures freedom above all else. He doesn’t limit free choice.
  • Soft style is generally superior. Hard styles of martial art are generally associated with ignorance and insensitivity. Soft styles tend to make more sense. Sensitive styles tend to be smart. Having said that, avoid the fancy-pants routines because they’ll distract you from what’s really practical. Return to considering why you’re doing martial art, and also consider if you’re going to be picking up bad habits that you can’t get rid of for the rest of your life.