Some of the factors you'll be looking for in evaluating a martial arts school, or dojo, are the quality of the school (based on its reputation and longevity) and the location and quality of the physical premises. More specifically:

  • Find out the ratio of students to teachers - if your sole means of training is through large classes taught by a single instructor, it may be more difficult to achieve your own personal goals.

  • Try to get a sense of how long it should take you to learn the basic skills and to advance in the martial art you have chosen.

  • If competition is a concern for you (either positive or negative) find out how much emphasis the school puts on inter-student competition, such as tournaments.

  • If sparring-trying out your offensive and defensive skills one-on-one with a fellow student-is or is not your thing, find out what the school's position is on this. In some schools sparring is a prominent element throughout your training; others restrict it to a small part of intermediate and advanced training, while some do no sparring at all.

  • If you are a woman, you may want to know what the gender ratio is at the school. While a few schools may have a 50-50 split, most do not. Some schools offer additional all-female classes.

  • You want to make sure that there are classes for people in your age range. If all the classes are for 5-year-olds, you'll want to get out of that class fast. Those kindergarteners are tough!

  • Drop by the school itself so you can check out the physical premises. Does the building provide adequate space and safety equipment? Does it have a padded floor? A roof? You may also get a sense of the general spirit of the school (whether students are happy there, etc).

  • If you're lucky, you might find a school that gives you a free first lesson. Take advantage of these offers to get a sense of the quality of teaching in the school and of the particular emphases of that dojo.

SoYouWanna know more? Check out our full-length article SYW study martial arts?