Which Style is the Best?


One question I am always asked by adults, parents, and youth is what style of martial arts is the best?

Of course, I am partial to my style of martial arts and my dojo, but like a zen riddle, the answer is no answer.

Martial arts is not a “one size fits all.” Different styles specialize in one aspect or another. Therefore the answer to this question might be different for each school.

In the worst case scenario you might hear something like, “Our martial arts style is deadlier than all the others and we always win in tournament competition.”

Maybe that makes an effective sales pitch for students who don’t know better, but it is dishonest. This is a good sign that you should walk away. The most important thing to watch for is that they do not insult other styles/schools or boasting that their style/club is supreme.

Actually there may even be a number of individual circumstances and restrictions for every person interested in martial arts training.
Sometimes there is a limited selection of clubs or training times.

If you live in a city or town with only one martial arts club, then you only have one choice. In some bigger cities there may be more selection. However in a large city like Toronto or Montreal, the time and distance to travel to your preferred style or club may be an issue. So many people will settle for the convenience of proximity. If the club only trains on Mondays and Wednesdays and you have other commitments on those days, then you may have to select another style or club that trains on the times and days that are suitable to your schedule.

Q A question to ask yourself is “Why do you (or your child) want to learn martial arts?”

A. If a person is only interested in self-defence, then a traditional martial arts club that emphasizes basics, kata, kumite and sparring are not going to meet that person’s expectations. A lot of parents don’t really know what they want their kids to get out of the martial arts. In some cases parents want their child to learn discipline or self esteem. While martial arts training can develop such benefits such as confidence, discipline, self esteem some clubs will just teach you karate techniques. It is helpful to understand each other’s expectations at the outset, which could avoid confusion later on.

Q. What is the facility, instructor or students like?

A. Visit the club.
Some have a bare bones studios with outdated equipment. Some schools have the latest martial arts and fitness equipment with sparkling clean change rooms and facilities. All of these will factor into the membership fee of each school. You have to determine what you are willing to pay for and what type of environment you will feel comfortable training in.
Also watching classes will reveal how safe the instructors run their sessions with adults or children. For children sometimes it is more worthwhile to drive your child to a martial arts school located further away if it has a great program for kids even if it is more expensive than a studio closer to home that is geared more towards adults. You want martial arts to be a positive experience for your children, not a negative one. Ask if the club provides a free trial lesson to see if they like it.
Try to talk with the instructor after the class is finished or make an appointment to meet with the instructor. Through a one on one conversation you can get a feel for the school. Listen for what the benefits are presented to help you in your decision of where to train or take your child. Most people could not care less if the system is 1,000 years old or just formed last week. You want the style/club to provide a positive experience for you or your child. Also do not be impressed with how many trophies the instructor has won or how many stripes are on his belt or how many patches on his uniform. You want to know that the instructor cares about you or your child’s progress and well-being.

Q. So how do you choose a martial arts school that meets your needs and is one of which you can feel proud?

A. These steps show you how:

– Check your telephone directory to see what kinds of schools are listed within a reasonable distance, or ask friends or colleagues. Sometimes the best schools advertise by word of mouth. Some martial arts schools teach in community centers, school gyms and even church basements.

– Phone the schools and ask whether they’re affiliated with a larger organization, such as the International Tae Kwon Do Federation or Karate Ontario, or the World Karate Federation. If not, standards and methods for advancement may be inconsistent.

– Determine your martial arts goals. Are you interested in tournament forms or self-defense? Do you want to become a black belt or to attend classes simply for the exercise?

– Stop by several training halls to watch classes. Many schools have an observation area, so you can watch during class. Ask permission first.

– Ask for permission to talk with students and instructors. Find out how students’ experiences have been with the school and whether the instructors’ styles will support your goals.

– Assess the quality of teaching. What is your impression of the head instructor? Do instructors expect and show respect and courtesy? What is their experience?

– Determine the school’s emphasis. Does it advocate control or heavy contact? Does it stress tournament competition? How formal or informal are the classes?

– Ask friends and work associates whether they’ve heard anything about a martial arts school you’re interested in joining. Also check with the Canadian Council Better Business Bureau or your local Chamber of Commerce.

Tips & Warnings

– Ask if there is a month-to-month payment option when you first join a school. It becomes a probationary period you can use to assess the school as a student. While many martial arts schools require fees on a month to month basis, there is a trend towards annual contracts.

– Be sure to ask questions about all fees, including registration fees, federation fees, Black Belt Club fees, testing or grading fees for advancement, required equipment costs. All of these additional costs will add up.

– Ask what happens if you have to freeze your membership due to extended illness or injury or even vacation .

– Ask the same question of every other school and compare the prices yourself. If they do not tell you all the costs upfront, providing full and open disclosure, then be wary.

– Consult your family physician before beginning any exercise regimen. Also, remember that the practice of martial arts can be dangerous. Exercise caution at all times.

– Make sure that you do some preliminary research before committing to any particular club, do NOT sign a contract right away, take your time, go home, discuss with your family physician, spouse and children. Think about it first.