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How to Find a Great Taekwondo School

Take a deep breath. Even if you are brand new to the world of Martial Arts, you can find the right school if you follow these simple guidelines.

Focus on the people; the experience, character, and disposition, just like you would in searching for a new doctor, dentist or accountant. Since you most likely aren't an expert in those areas either, go about doing some research like you normally would for any professional.

Where to Look for Info. You should be able to get the basics about the owner/head instructor from the internet, online reviews, local news, etc. But we all know that you cannot believe every glossy blurb or "testimonial" given online either. The longer someone has been "in the business," no matter what the business, the more real information there will be on them, good or otherwise. Since you are researching Taekwondo Schools and Martial Arts instructors, rather than a Medical practices and doctors, there won't be a license or certification to review. Other ways of verifying experience and good standing within the Martial Arts community, could be awards given, information on the school or instructor which has been published in magazines or books, as well as demonstrated leadership within the Martial Arts. What you shouldn't really find online or hear in person, is anything negative to speak of. Granted, in any business, disgruntled & unhappy customers do exist, as people can sometimes be difficult to please, but it should be a very low number in comparison to the positive.

What to Look FOR.

Experience & Credentials. Typically, in a solid Martial Arts school, a mid to high rank martial artist will be running it. Meaning, at least a 4th or 5th degree black belt. The higher rank an instructor is, the more experience and skills they will have as a teacher, which goes far beyond simply possessing strong skills as a practitioner. In a school where there is an 8th or 9th degree running it (like Grandmaster Dunn at the JTF Taekwondo School), you or your child can know that you have access to the very highest levels of expertise, information and training possible.

Ethics and Moral Character. If you are looking for yourself or your child, a strong moral character is likely the "true north" on your martial arts school compass. A few years ago, when I was searching for my own son's first martial arts school, it was number one on my list. In other words, you want to learn who you are dealing with. Check them out. When you look for information on the school and it's owner, it goes without saying that you should not pull up a police record or a tainted background! Instructors at reputable schools should all have clean background checks. You certainly expect your child's school teacher and doctor to have them. In my book, that should go for any adult person who has regular and significant interactions with my child.

Demeanor and Disposition. To continue with our previous Doctor illustration, the "bedside manner" or personality and temperament of the instructors who will be working with you or your child, is of great importance. To get a sense of it, talk with the school owner or the highest level instructor who you or your child will be taught by. Do you feel listened to? Are they friendly and open to your questions? Remember your elementary school teacher - "no question is a dumb question." If you feel cut short, or that instructor is condescending or it seems like they are a bit too "ego driven" in attitude, move on. Same goes for the overall "feel" of the interactions between students and instructors who are out on the mat during class time. If the instructor does seem rushed, and they are in the middle of teaching class, ask for when a good time is too come back and talk (so they aren't distracted). As you are evaluating a school, do discern between firm commands of an instructor (martial arts do involve a level of discipline and focus after all), and unnecessary harshness. You'll be able to tell the difference as you keep watching the instructor/student interactions. Good parents themselves know that they frequently need to be loving and firm at the same time. It is always a balance.

Your Final Steps.

Observe, Ask, & Watch. Of course a Taekwondo instructor can have a bad day (just like a parent can) but the truth is, Martial Arts schools are truly in the "people business." They know (or should know) that you are brand new and lacking in knowledge in their area of expertise. Feel free to ask them about their teaching philosophy and style, especially if you are enrolling a child. You should be made to feel comfortable, welcomed and have your questions patiently answered. They should also without hesitation, embrace you observing a class or two with your child. Potential students should be left with a positive feeling when they leave the school.

Try it Out! After doing your research, talking with staff and observing a class or two, give the school a try. Most schools provide a free or low cost, no obligation "trial period," for a week or two that can help you or your kids get a real feel for the school. This is a great thing to take advantage of, especially for a child student or if you have never taken Martial Arts before. After you have been there for a few lessons, or your child has, you should have a pretty good sense of whether that particular school is a good fit!


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