What to Look for in a Martial Arts School?
At Ronin Athletics, we always invite prospective students to try a free class, both because we’re confident in what we do here and because we understand that you need to experience the learning process to see if a martial arts school is right for you. We also always invite people in to watch a class and to get a sense of the atmosphere. We believe that our students and instructors are a better selling point that any sales pitch we can make.
Some of you reading this aren’t from New York, and some of you might be, but are still shopping around. You’re obviously all invited to take a trial class with us here at Ronin Athletics, but we also wanted to make life easier for you by talking about a few things you should pay special attention to when finding the martial arts school that is right for you. We firmly believe that martial arts is a lifelong learning process. We love seeing others who are excited as we are about combat sports, and who love it as muc as we do. So even if you aren’t joining our school, we want you to find a place that will make you want to keep with you, get better and contribute to the community.
The first factor is teaching philosophy, the second is environment, and the third is the people. All three are interwoven and intertwined, but all play a part in one’s learning experience, one’s enjoyment of combat sports and one’s development as a martial artist. By thinking about these factors, I hope you will be better prepared to make your choices regarding a gym, and maybe even get a little insight into how we do things here at Ronin Athletics.
Every martial arts school and combat sports gym has their own way of teaching, of imparting information to their students. This will flavor how the classes are structured, how individual techniques are presented and where/when learning occurs. When you watch a class, you should think about how an instructor is doing what they’re doing. Are they being detail oriented up front? Are they walking around and paying attention to students’ mistakes? Are they explaining things clearly? Think about what the instructors are teaching and how they explain it. See if you understand what they’re trying to teach you, if their methods gel with your learning style and whether they’re resposive to questions. Some gyms are more focused on producing prize fighters, while others are only interested in producing dollars for the owners. Some like our own, are about providing a strong fundamental framework and allowing students to build from that base. Other schools are focused on only teaching and practicing one particular approach. All of these are valid, but are obviously better fits for some.
The environment: This is a more nebulous concept than the other two factors, but is no less important. When we talk about a gym’s environment, we’re talking about a bunch of different pieces that contribute to the larger whole. The cleanliness of the gym, what music is being played, if any, how gear is set up, unspoken bits of etiquette and how the space is utilized. You shouldn’t sit there and try to go down a checklist of what works and what doesn’t, or what you like and what you don’t. Rather, take a bigger picture view and see how the gym feels, if it’s relaxed or disciplined, whether it’s tightly regimented or whether its informal. Except for obvious red flags like a truly dirty gym or complete chaos, there really is no wrong answer, it’s just about how things fit. For example, here at Ronin, we have a friendly, informal environment. Though the classes run on time, and there is a bit of ceremony in how we bow out of classes, for the most part there’s a lack of formality at the gym. Most folks call the coaches by their first names, and there isn’t any sort of strict discipline, except that required to make the classes run efficiently. But you might be looking for something that is more formal or something less formal, either way, by paying attention to the environment, you’re more likely to find a place where you will want to stay.
The people: I think this is the most important thing to consider when joining a school or a gym. For most of us, martial arts are a leisure activity. We’re spending money and effort to enjoy something in our spare time. To make that as fun and as worthwhile as possible, we need to surround ourselves with the right sort of people. When looking at a prospective school, think about how friendly the students and coaches are. Look to see if they’re happy, if they’re having fun and if they’re welcoming. You can also get a sense of the gym’s environment by looking at those that surround you. Is everyone super intense and athletic and looking to be world champions? Do people look like they know what they’re doing? If everyone is out of shape or if everyone looks like UFC fighters, that will tell you something. I will say, that we personally think that the students at Ronin are the best around, and we believe they’re a crucial part of what makes Ronin special. We have folks from all walks of life coming together and working hard to get and stay fit, and to be better at our shared passion for combat sports.
I’ve been careful to not make any recommendations and to not say anything is wrong or right, because at the end of the day, only you can make that judgment. I do hope that I’ve given you something to think about, and will make your decision process easier.
Remember if you’re looking for an MMA school in the NY area to book a trial class with us!
See you on the mats.