This article is from the Martial Arts FAQ, by Matthew Weigel email@example.com with numerous contributions by others.
Go, watch some classes (without participating), then ask to
participate- see if the behavior of the students changes by the fact
that there is a new person in their class.
What follows is a quick and dirty check list, to which you can add
your own points, based on what you consider important. Remember:
these questions and suggestions are just guidelines, not hard and fast
rules. There will always be exceptions. But if you look in these
domains you will have a solid ground to choose from.
- How good are the students?
This is more of a measure of the quality of the students as students
than their skill at martial arts. See if you can picture yourself
with these people. Are they attentive, respectful, interested in
being there? Those are all good signs...
- Is there a mix of upper and lower ranks?
This is not always obvious in the styles without belt rankings, etc.
It is generally a good sign if advanced, intermediate and beginning
students are practicing together. Check the approach the higher
ranked students take to you- their help will probably be very
important in your advancement in the Art you choose.
Some schools have classes separated by rank though. Ask.
-Is there a mix in the type of people in the class?
Although this doesn't necessarily mean anything if it is not present,
it is a good sign if there is a mixture of males and females, older
and younger people in the class. It is a pointer to the efficiency
of the Art if it can teach a wide variety of people together.
- Do they move the way you would like to?
This will give you some sense of what you can achieve. Look to the
senior students and see if they move the way you want to move.
- Do they help one another?
In a small class this may not apply, but in larger classes it is a
good sign if the senior students support and assist the junior
students. This kind of personal attention will aid you greatly in your
- Do the senior students seem fit and relaxed?
This will give you a sense of the atmosphere of the school. If the
senior students are uptight, nervous, unfit, out of shape, or unhappy,
it may be a sign to move on. However, do not be put off by a single
occurrence, i.e. because on THAT day the senior student was in a poor
mood. It should at least prompt you to look carefully though...
- How common are injuries?
As most martial arts involve vigorous physical activity and contact,
injuries will occasionally occur. However, if injuries are common
and/or serious, there is likely a problem in how training is
supervised, and you will probably want to look elsewhere. It will be
difficult to tell what the frequency/severity of injuries in the class
is in one or two visits. Ask the instructor.