Friday, January 28, 2011

Which is the Best Martial arts for Children in Phoenix?

Which is the Best Martial arts for Children in Phoenix?
Which Martial Arts School is Best for Adults Self Defense, Fitness or Kickboxing?
Here are some tips on selecting the right martial arts school and choosing the best martial arts instructor for you or your child. 
by John D. Nottingham 
Whether you want to get fit, earn a Black Belt, have quality family time, meet singles and positive people or just have a change in lifestyle, martial arts training may be right for you.

Martial Arts is a rewarding and inspirational study that builds the mind and body.  Phoenix offers numerous instructors and schools featuring a variety of styles including Taekwondo, Karate, Japanese Jujitsu, Brazilian Jiu-jitsu (BJJ), Kung Fu, Krav Maga, and other self defense.  

More Than Fighting, Kicks and Punches
Students can kick, punch, knee, elbow, box and grapple their way to fitness while learning something valuable that could save their life.  The traditional martial arts styles often emphasize development of character, where an individual learns to fight for inner peace.  

Is Martial Arts Teaching Violence?  Will My Child Become More Aggressive?
Classically speaking, traditional martial arts discourages fighting and violent behavior, emphasizing that our biggest opponent is within each of us.  It is our own ego, self doubt, fears and limitations that we battle - not necessarily an attacker.  Martial Arts attendance usually provides an outlet for aggressive behavior and energy, channeling it in a positive direction.  

Studies show that martial arts improves focus, respect, grades in school and much more.  Numerous articles have been written by experts recommending martial arts for children with ADD and ADHD.  Martial Art classes are also a great way to cross train for adult and youth sports.

Each martial arts school will have a specialty.  The best way to discover the benefits and particular teaching style and school culture is to try it out.  Do a bit of research online, talk to friends, then go meet the instructors and students.  If you like it, try a few classes.  Any reputable school will let you try it or offer a low cost trial course to make an informed decision.  It benefits everyone for you to find the right martial arts school for you or your child.

Martial Arts Belt Ranks
In addition to teaching martial arts and self defense classes, most modern martial arts schools will use different belt colors for goals, progress and incentives.  They are important tools for feedback, evaluation (for the instructors as well), motivation and matching up various skill and experience levels for competition.  Colored belts are most often used by Japanese and Korean based systems such as Japanese Karate and Korean Taekwondo.  Kung Fu or Wushu systems will often use colored sashes to denote rank, time or progress in curriculum.  Keep in mind that color belts and sashes are not standardized from martial arts school to school or style to style.

Every Style and School Has a Specialty
Empty handed combat comes in many forms from learning to kick and punch, knee, elbow, clinch, grapple to traditional and modern weapons.  Most of that is determined by the instructors education and experience rather than simply the martial art style.  Regardless of the system or style, each will help develop knowledge, fitness and skill.  Some may emphasize cultural traditions while others may emphasize martial arts competition tournaments, specialize in children or emphasize realistic street self defense.

In the end, ones ability to kick, box, grapple, block, strike effectively is a function of the individuals hard work, dedication and will to gain the experience.  There are champions from each martial art, regardless of style.  

An old martial art maxim says,  "There are no superior martial arts, only superior martial artists."

Which Style of Martial Arts Is Best For You?
You will hear this sentiment echoed by any mature and secure martial arts teacher.  Substance and your individual skill is more important than any particular martial art style. From Aikido, Escrima, Ninjutsu to Krav Maga, Muay Thai Kickboxing and Jeet Kune Do, the martial arts are as diverse as flavors of ice cream.  Should you choose Taekwondo, Karate, Wushu, Jiu-jitsu, Judo or TaiChi?  The key is to choose a martial path that suits your goals and dedicate yourself to it.  You can really give yourself an edge by doing some searching on the web and read about various martial art styles.  Keep in mind that many modern professional martial arts schools mix martial arts, especially if the teacher has been training a long time or the school has a large staff.  

Location Is Important
Keep in mind that the martial arts schools physical location can be a very important factor in choosing the right Karate, Taekwondo or Martial Arts school (Dojo/Dojang/Kwoon) for you or your child.  Depending on drive times and traffic, it may present an obstacle to your progress.  However, some schools and instructors may be worth the drive.  

Investigate All Options and Ask Lots of Martial Arts and Service Questions
Take the time to visit the school in person.  This gives you the chance to ask your questions concerning trial courses, beginner classes, advanced lessons, fitness, Taekwondo uniforms or Karate equipment, UFC events, Chinese Kung Fu weapons supply, Kick Boxing styles, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu schools, street self defense, belt level training, mma seminars, Japanese Karate self defense styles, International tournaments, fitness instructing, bully training, local martial arts academy classes, after school martial arts, learn and train in person options, competative Bjj courses, fight instructor specialists, personal training, cardio kickboxing, boot camp, fitness classes and anything else you're interested in.

Identify Your Martial Arts Training Goals & Benefit Objectives

___   Competition: Do they participate in tournaments?  What kind?  Does it go national? International?
___   Self Defense: Do they offer a stand alone self defense program such as Krav Maga or specific self defense curriculum?
___   Fitness: Do the instructors have any kind of fitness certification to compliment their sports specific experience?  Do they have adjunct programs like fitness kickboxing?  Do they look fit?
___   Children: Do they offer separate children's programs, age specific curriculum and life skills curriculum?
___   Family time: Do they offer family classes or special family rates?
___   Weapons: Do they offer classical exotic or modern weapons instruction?
___   Emphasis: What is taught and emphasized grappling, striking, kicking, trapping (close range), complex movement, street self defense, MMA (Mixed Martial Arts), traditional (usually includes culture & philosophy), modern?
___   Contact: What level of contact are you seeking?  Full, moderate, light, no-contact?
___   Equipment: Does the school have the equipment and facilities you want?  Heavy bags, kicking paddles, focus mitts, mats?
___   Cleaning Standards: If doing MMA, Judo, Jiu-jitsu, Wrestling or other intense training (usually with mats), what is the policy for cleaning and disinfecting? Do they have a professional cleaning company?  What cleaning products and protocols are used to ensure safety?
___   Earn Black Belt Rank: What are the costs? How long will it take?  What is required? How do they test, train and certify?
___   Advanced Training: Can the instructors take you beyond Black Belt? What rank is the instructor?  Are they a Master with the ability to certify?  Where is the rank certification recognized?

What Does Your Martial Arts School Curriculum Teach? 
Then you will have a much better idea of what each martial arts school and instructor offer for instruction and various martial arts styles that make up their Self Defense curriculum.  Martial Art style is only one factor in how a school or instructor develops a teaching curriculum for students.  Some schools have multiple locations or belong to professional associations, chains or other factors that may affect your options for training.  It can be very helpful to belong to a national or international chain or organization, especially if you move or are relocated for a job.  

Martial Arts School Professional Associations
Some of the better known professional martial arts associations in the United States: NAPMA, MAIA, MATA, ATA, Black Belt Schools of America, and EFC Black Belt Schools.  

Objective Professional Certification
One of the most respected third party professional Martial Arts certification is the ACMA or American Council on Martial Arts, of which Film star/Grand Master Chuck Norris is a member.  The legendary Joe Lewis, Bill Wallace, Jhoon Rhee, John Graden (founder of NAPMA), Jim Graden, Kathy Marlor, Rob Colasanti are some of the hundreds of certified instructors. The American Council On Martial Arts (ACMA) is a non-style specific martial arts instructor certification program co-administered by the Cooper Institute of Aerobic Research, under the direction of Dr. Kenneth Cooper.  Similar to ACE for fitness certification, this is an indication, but not a guarantee, of a schools professional standards of training and service.

Student Service
It is important to check out their customer service as well.  Regardless of the style, from kung fu schools, advanced training, Muay Thai kickboxing, Bjj classes, Japanese Karate, Taekwondo instruction, Hapkido, Kenpo or JKD it is going to come down to the people who stand behind it, rather than a style.  If they have service problems, it may be because they are busy, which can be a good sign, or that you should take your business elsewhere.  

Look For Black Belts & Talk To Parents
Another tip is to talk to the parents of the students and look for the number of Black Belts around the school.  Loyalty of that type is earned over time.  Time in business can be a great indicator of a good martial arts school, but not always.  Check the price ranges and specials and consider to total costs associated with the endeavor.  It usually doesn't pay to be cheap when it comes to service.  Most good schools who will stay around and offer great ammenities and top notch instructors don't come cheap.  Consider paying a few more bucks for significantly greater value and a commitment to serve you.  

Beware of No Contracts and Binding Contracts Gimmicks
Despite the allure of "no contracts" marketing, consumer law protects the customer with a contract.  Get it in writing so you have some guarantees of service.  All agreements are contracts, however you will often have more protection and recourse with a written contract than with a month to month arrangement.  Nearly all professional services will have a contract - the key is to be aware of the terms and make sure that it affords you, the consumer, the protections and guarantees of service.  Beware that you read the contract and understand the terms.  Don't be afraid to negotiate the terms you like while affording the martial arts school the protections and professional respect it deserves.  

Solid Business Practices and Look for a Professional Reputation
Remember that the schools most likely to go out of business are the ones using gimmicky marketing like "no contracts".  The instructor has no commitment to you and may leave town at the drop of a hat -especially those with other day jobs (as they are at the mercy of their employer).  This can be devastating to students, especially young children who form a trusted bond with his or her teacher.  This does not diminish starter programs, community or after school trial programs, but you can usually expect to get what you pay for.  Schools claiming "No contract" are also often ripe with hidden fees and undisclosed charges of martial arts equipment, tournaments, testing fees and other tricks.  As the old saying goes, "Get it in writing!".

In Martial Arts, the truth is that lower price may be an indication that the school isn't as good and has to try to compete on price rather than value, service and reputation.  

It may look more appealing up front to save a few bucks but it can also leave a bad first impression or experience.  Buyer beware and go into it with your consumer eyes open.

Full Disclosure on Fees.  Is It Included or Extra?  
Specifically, how much will it cost if you chose to train up to Black Belt level.  How long will that take. (Most schools curriculum is designed to go to Black Belt in 3-5 years, although some take longer depending on the style and system and how often you train.)
  • Uniforms
  • Sparring gear
  • Books, videos or curriculum support material
  • Belt tests/promotion/advancement/certification/association fees
  • Seminars and activities
  • Upgrades, higher memberships such as "Black Belt Club" or Training
  • Private lessons? Required, optional, rates
  • Tournaments
  • Other requirements or costs

Certification and International Recognition
Ask if the school or instructors belong to any national or international martial arts organization.  It is often a good idea to call to verify the instructors credentials, reputation and references.  Does the school offer official belt rank certification recognized outside the school, for a transfer or internationally?  Does the school conduct its own belt promotions or bring in objective testing judges (such as Master Instructors) to evaluate skill?  Do students automatically get promoted if they pay or stay?  

Caution: Uncertified Illegitimate Schools and Instructors

Buyer beware of any instructor reluctant to show certification or any excuses such as, "it was destroyed in a fire" or "I'm in a secret society" and so on.  These are red flags and warrant further investigation.  Good instructors encourage background checks and investigation of their credentials because it will distinguish them from unscrupulous schools and teachers.  

Background Checks and First Aid Certification Required
Proof of a background check of all instructors is essential - especially if they are working with children.  This is one area in which parents should never compromise. 

Common Sense Credibility Check
Beware of the teen or younger instructor with more responsibility than their maturity can realistically handle.  Teen students "assistant instructors" are common in today's martial arts industry and can be helpful but they have their limits.  While they can be positive role models, they should not be an excuse for the lazy owner or instructor to neglect his or her responsibilities by putting an inexperienced person in charge just to get a day off.  

Another warning sign might be an instructor claiming to teach self discipline or self esteem but lacks personal fitness, hygiene or basic social skills.

Good Instructors Lead By Example
This tip is one of the best indicators of a good school with high quality martial arts instructors.  The leadership of a school dictates everything else.  Look to the leadership to see the future of the students.  Great instructors are passionate about their art as well as teaching others.

Usually, the best schools and instructors will also have a level of humility and modesty.  This is not only a sign of maturity, but and example of good attitude to set for students.  Instructors caught up in vanity, glory or other trappings will often name-drop, brag, intimidate, disparage, exaggerate claims to seek vicarious celebrity.  While good marketing says highlight strengths, and honest instructors will list their lineage and give credit to their teachers. It is a good sign when sharing achievements is done with a dose of humility and gratitude.  

Traditional martial arts virtue teaches that the modest instructor credits his teachers to honor them, not himself.  

Wise instructors will usually let their reputation, example, the performance of his or her students and good manners do the talking for them.

Student to Instructor Ratio - Personal Attention
This is really a factor of organization, instructor skill and school culture.  Quite frankly, some instructors can handle large groups while others cannot.  The key is making sure that individual students needs are met so that martial arts students don't feel like just a number.  Most reputable martial arts schools have multiple instructors and assistants on the floor - especially during busy times.  Furthermore, they will divide classes, offer one on one help or assign a mentor to assist.

Better Service and Instructors
Contracts allow schools an expected cash flow to hire better instructors, pay for training, better equipment and facilities.  Often, schools will lock in a specific tuition rate if you are willing to sign a longer term membership agreement (which can save you a great deal of money).  Professional martial arts schools typically have better scholarship and tuition assistance options for students as well.

Professional Martial Arts Schools
Professional martial arts schools usually have professional codes of conduct, require background checks, first aid certification and ongoing training.  They tend to be much more accountable to parents and students because of the contracts and that they are full time instructors dedicated to the students.

Often, professional schools (those with contracts) are not much more in tuition, sometimes even less, than other types of school structures because they don't have to hide fees.  If you do sign a contract, make sure you look for an "out" clause for moving, medical reasons or otherwise.  

Don't Be Afraid To Ask
Reputable schools will encourage you to ask the hard questions because they are interested in your long term success, happiness and earning referrals.  Contract schools often have former "no contract" school students in them because the "no contract" schools closed down or instructor left -leaving them high and dry-having to start over in a new school.  There is nothing morally superior about being broke, offering less service, being cheaper or closing down.  Look for stability, reputation, school culture, and an eye for service.

Ask and Get It In Writing
Make sure you have read and discussed the martial arts school policies from fees, cancellation policies, refunds, instructor screening and selection, scheduling, events, certifications to how they protect students safety and well-being.  Talk to them so you are informed.

What matters most is who is behind the paper and the instructors working with you or your child on a regular basis.
Martial Arts is a powerful tool for helping you become your personal best.  Most martial arts can be practiced at any age by men, women and children from all walks of life.  From fitness, fun, focus, flexibility, fun, friendships to the confidence that comes from knowing self defense, the martial arts can transform your life.  

So Which Martial Arts School in Phoenix is Best for Adults and Children?
The answer is the one that best meets your needs and objectives.  You have lots of options in the Phoenix area as well as the right questions to ask.  Now all you have to do is begin your martial arts adventure!

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