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where do you go to learn karate or something else?

I get a lot of questions and request from people wanting to join and train in the martial arts for the first time and are clueless on what to do or which art to take. Its only natural to ask friends and even martial forums. Here’s a standard response for you.

Finding the right school, style and instructor can be a very discouraging and perplexing endeavor.

I can easily say “oh, take Shorin ryu because….” but I won’t. Why ? Well for one, I don’t know you. Second, telling you about my art is like telling you how Baskin and Robins new Ice cream flavor of the month taste like, You may like and decided to buy it in a one gallon container, because I am telling you what it tasted like without you sampling it first.

Then later you are going to end up like many people who are moaning and crying about how they cannot get out of some contract because some “relative” told them how the “Ice Cream” tasted like without them sampling it at first.

However, I can suggest the following steps to assist you in your search:

First thing first, Ask yourself .

– Am I willing to spend the time and money to venture into this “new” lifestyle ? Or Am I just having a Jet Li / Jackie Chan / Power Rangers / The Last Samurai moment ?

You really need to seriously think about this.

What style is good for me ?

Get a phone book ( Available FREE from your local phone company ) , Take it home and start looking for the listing under “ Martial Arts Instruction” or “ Martial Arts”. You should find about 2-3 pages of Schools currently doing business in your area. Some schools have big ads that grabs your attention the moment you opened the phone. Don’t neglect schools that are simply on the basic two lines listing. You will never know what hidden “treasure” you might stumble upon.

Next step is to list the schools and their styles that appeals to you. Since you are new to the Martial Arts it is also a wise idea to check out a style or system that you have never heard off, as I am sure you have never heard of arts like Matsubayashi Ryu , Kobayashi Ryu, Shito Ryu..etc. List them as well and find out more about them.

Then click on this link: type in the styles that you listed. I am 100 percent sure that google will give you detailed information of the type of martial art styles that are being offered in your area.

Do not read one website as the only source of that style. Read as many as you can. It pays to do your homework before you do your legwork.

Finding the Dojo

Once you narrowed down your martial arts style search and still feeling enthusiastic about training. Now comes the hard part. To begin with, return to the primary source ( the phone book). Now that you have a clear fundamental understanding of what style of martial arts maybe good for you. List all the available dojo with their address and phone numbers.

Now don’t rely of the phone books alone as the only source of locating dojos in your area. Utilized the power of the information superhighway (AKA the internet). Click on and type in keywords such as Karate ( type in city) or wushu (type in city)..etc

There are dojos that do not advertised or used phone books and the internet to acquire new students. Often these little schools rely of words of mouth or basically are non-commercialized schools.

Just because they are small does not mean that they aren’t any good. Funakoshi’s ( Founder of Shotokan) first dojo was his backyard.

So by now you probably have list that are now 2-3 pages long. The next course of action is to give the Dojo that appealed to you a call and see if they give out try-outs for free or pay the minimal tryout fee’s.

I would strongly suggest to try out these schools for a least a month before you make a commitment. Trying out for one day training session is not enough. If you have to pay for a monthly fee ( Hopefully very small indeed) Just do it ! It is worth the investment.

Calling in and Making Appointments Etiquette

So after all the hassles of researching for the “perfect “ Dojo. You have finally decided that you now vowed to the gods and dedicate your entire lifetime to the art (just kidding).

You stare at the phone and as your finger nervously pressed the school’s number , you may be doubting and asking yourself “ What the heck am I getting myself into”.

Don’t worry its normal. But there are certain things you need to understand before you call. That is basic calling etiquette or in layman‘s terms “Common Courtesy“. You want to make a good first impression as to avoid sounding like an uncivilized primate.

– Phone calls should be limited only to basic information and setting up appointments. It is not a chat line for martial arts talk.

– If you are using your cell phone. check the battery in your cell phone before calling -if there only one bar left on your battery indicator, for the love of Miyagi’s mom, don’t call.

-When calling in don’t start with “yah, how much for training ?” have a little courtesy . Say something like “Hello my name is “Somebody” and I am interested in your school. Schools do not need arrogant prospective students and chances are they may not even care to give you an appointment to visit and try out.

– Just because you made an extended research on the style, Do not act like you know everything there is to know about the school. Learn to be a good listener. There is nothing more annoying than a student who gets preachy about martial arts to an experienced instructor.

I remembered a prospective student who trained in Aikido for 2 weeks come in for an appointment and just literally interrupts me with “Aikido does this and that” and “How come Karate does not do what Aikido does“. I told him that last time I checked the signs in front of our dojo. It says karate !

– When setting up appointments, make sure you really desire to show up. 80 percent of callers that seeks appointments to come to the dojo to try or even just to visit never shows. Don’t be a flake ! Even if you are not sure about enrolling in that dojo, just show up !. Bottom Line: Don’t be a FLAKE !

– When ending the call, learn to say “thank you“, trust me it isn’t that hard. The person took the time to assist you. Don’t act like they owe you the world.

At the Interviewers Office

It takes a lot of courage to get into your car , turn the engine on and drive towards the unknown territory. Perhaps during your drive, you may be having a mental battle of nagging doubts and trying to come up with gazillions of lame excuses to not show up. You are constantly wishing for some divine interventions to stop from going.

Unfortunately , nothing bad happened and you finally made it to the Dojo’s parking lot safe and sound. Whew ! The hard part is over ! Hold on buddy ! It isn’t over ! In Martial arts its only over when you are dead.

As you walked in you may think that the dojos has the attitude of “Mi Casa, Tu Casa” ~ Not quiet. Sorry, that is reality. You may be a guest, but this ain’t a workout gym where you are free to do as you please. Here’s a basic courtesy that may help you.

– When entering the dojo for the first time, greet everyone you see. Just because not everyone is wearing a black belt does not mean they don’t deserved any courtesy from you. I always teach my students to show courtesy when new people are walking in the dojo. We try to make it comfortable for them.

– Don’t walk around the dojo while waiting. Dojos are not museums, liquor stores or malls. Wait for someone to show you around. I remember one person who came down while I was at my office on phone call. He simply walked in and started walking around the Tatami with his shoes on. Yup ! oil stains and tar were forever etched in our tatami.

– When introduced to the head instructor , Try to offer your hand or bow first and then introduce yourself. Unless you’re the pope, we can bend the rules a bit.

– Wait to be seated ! And for crying out loud Sit up straight ! You are sitting on a chair not a lazy boy recliner.

– Turn off you cell phone during interview ! In case you forgot to turn off your cell phone, don’t answer it , just mute it as it is really considered very rude and distracting while in the middle of the interview.

If any of the above is too much work for you, chances are you aren’t that serious in the first place.

Hopefully this small suggestions helps and let us know of the outcome.

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