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Decisions, Decisions (Part One)

There are many different kinds of martial arts schools, and choosing the one that is best for you – even once you know what style you want to train in – can be tricky. There are huge commercial schools, with a staff of paid instructors, hundreds of students, large classes, and many classes to choose from. There are smaller commercial schools, with less extensive schedules and fewer instructors. There are non-commercial schools, like ours, where the instructors are not paid, and classes are smaller. There are clubs which are sponsored by a university or community center. There are instructors who teach only private lessons, or only at occasional seminars. So once you settle on which martial art you want to study, how can you choose what kind of school is best for you? Commercial school owners may say that styles taught in non-commercial environments may be “fly-by-night,” with no clear policies to ensure their legitimacy. Teachers in non-commercial schools, or those who teach privately may say that the big commercial schools are “McDojos” – that they only care about money and do not offer quality instruction. The truth is, though, each type of school will tend to have certain advantages and certain disadvantages, and good instruction can be found in schools of all sizes and structures. Very large commercial schools may have classes seven days a week, morning, afternoon and evening, so one has a lot of options for attending. They may also offer training in several different martial arts. However, with a large staff of instructors, one may find that many classes, especially those for beginner and intermediate students, are taught by less experienced instructors, and one does not often get to take class with the more senior instructors. Also, a student may get little individual attention and support.

A smaller commercial school will usually have a pretty extensive schedule also, and the chief instructor may be more likely to be directly involved in the teaching, both through teaching class themselves and through guiding the junior instructors. However, being a business operating on a smaller scale, there can be a lot of focus on cash flow, with survival depending on keeping students “happy,” rather than on challenging them. Martial arts clubs are usually friendly and supportive, but often serve a constantly changing group of students, and that can make the environment less focused. One on one lessons are great, with the right instructor, but it is always better to be able to practice what one is learning on people other than one’s instructor. And while a seminar with a knowledgeable and experienced instructor is always exciting and inspiring, it is a special event, not committed training. Our dojo is a small not for profit school. We have class four or five days a week, and the instructors all have day jobs and are not dependent on teaching for their livelihood. This allows us to keep our training fees low. Each of our instructors has at least twenty years of experience in Eizan Ryu Jujitsu, as well as training in at least one other martial art, so they are knowledgeable and experienced. Classes are small, so there is plenty of individual attention.

While we may not have the most extensive class schedule or the biggest reputation, we have been around for over forty years, so we are an established dojo, well-regarded by those who know us. This set up works for us, because it allows us to maintain high standards while also giving each individual student the attention and instruction they need to progress at their own rate.

Are we doing things “the best possible way”? Well, for us, we are. Obviously, though, everyone has different priorities when choosing a martial arts school, so it is important to look around and to consider what kind of learning environment suits one best. Excellent instruction can be found in schools of all kinds, if you know what to look for. And our next post will discuss other things to take into account when choosing a school.

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