11 questions you must ask before joining a martial arts school

11 Questions You Must Ask Before Choosing a Martial Arts School

Carlton DoupEducational, KungFu4Kids, KungFuNorthwest, MarysvilleMartialArts, Parenting, Taekwondo

Wondering how to choose a martial arts school in Marysville, or anywhere else for that matter? Start by asking these important questions.

1. “Can we try a class or two before joining?”

Why it’s important: This is a BIG one! In fact, we have an entire article “Watch Out for the One FREE Class Trick!” dedicated to this question. Long story short, offering one or two free classes is usually a sketchy practice full of high-pressure sales tricks.

Click Here to Read the Full Article! You’ll be glad you did!

Where we stand: In order to give you and your family the time you need to make an informed decision, we offer a six-week introductory program that includes a uniform ($50 value), training shoes ($25 value), an online onboarding course for parents, and comes with a 100% money-back guarantee.

2. “How long have you been in business at your current location?”

Why it’s important: It’s not enough to simply ask how long a school has been in business. You will often find that a school has been in business for 10 years, but moved three or four times. This is a red flag! Martial arts that change locations every few years usually do so because of lease issues. You should generally avoid any school that has been at its current location for less than 10 years.

Where we stand: We have been in the same Marysville, Washington location since 1996. In 2005, we even bought the property. We will be here for a very long time.

3.What are your school’s hours?”

Why it’s important: This is a trick question. You can already assume most schools will be open in the afternoons when classes are usually taught. What might not be so obvious is that many schools are “part-time” schools that open only in the afternoon. What this usually means is that the instructor works a full-time job elsewhere, shows up a few minutes before classes are to start, then has to juggle teaching, answering phones, paying bills, and everything else that goes into running a professional school.

Where we stand: We are a full-time, professional martial arts school. Martial arts is all we do. We do have several part-time instructors and support staff, but our main instructors are here for you all day.

4. “How are your classes separated? Age? Rank?”

Why it’s important: There are several ways schools split their classes. Most split their classes by rank (experience level) while others split theirs by age group. This is an important distinction. The idea of grouping students by experience level sounds like a good idea but having a too-wide age range in class is a BIG mistake. Four-year-olds, six-year-olds, eight-year-olds, and ten-year-olds all learn in VERY different ways. More important than what they are learning is how they are learning it. It’s crucial, especially at younger ages, for students to be taught in the way most conducive to their age and learning level.

Where we stand: Not only do we group our classes by age, but we take it a step further. Our classes are grouped by grade levels. The different groups are pre-K, K–2nd, 3rd–5th, Middle School–10th grade, and 11th grade–adult. By doing this we are able to ensure students are in the proper learning group based on their personal level of development.

5.How often will I or my child advance?”

Why it’s important: This is another trick question. Anytime someone gives you a precise answer, politely hang up the phone or walk away. Every student is different and learns at a different pace. Some schools like to promise a black belt in three years or less. BEWARE THE 3 YEAR BLACK BELT PROMISE! This is never a good thing! Sure, McDonald’s can crank out a cheeseburger in just a couple of minutes, but how does it compare to the Red Robin burger you have to wait 20 minutes for?

Where we stand: Every student in our school advances at their own pace, based on their own merits. It’s possible, but rare, for a student to earn their black belt in only a few years. It generally takes closer to five years.

6. “What are your rates and fees?”

Why it’s important: Almost all of us are on a budget. Rates are important but should not be the determining factor. It’s important to visit the school and get a clear vision of what the rates are paying for. It’s common to find a school with only a slightly higher rate yet much greater value. Even more important are the “fees.” Lots of schools will sign you up real quick—it’s not until later you discover all their hidden fees. The trickiest are testing fees. They often start around $50 but quickly increase as students test for higher ranks. Many schools even charge $500 or more for black belt testing.

Where we stand: We are consistently up front and transparent with our pricing. Give us a call or text and we will be glad to give you all the information you want. As far as testing fees are concerned  . . .THERE ARE NONE! We will never nickel-and-dime you!

7.Am I required to sign a contract?”

Why it’s important: NEVER join a school that requires you to sign a contract. If you ever decide to leave, they will probably stick you with cancellation fees that can range into the thousands. You’ve got to love fine print. If you ask them why they require contracts, they will give you several “salesy” sounding reasons why it’s “in your best interest.” Believe me, the only person’s interest it’s in is theirs.

Where we stand: We offer lessons on both a month-to-monthand quarterly basis. We also offer seven- and twelve-month contracts at reduced rates. If you decide to quit before the contract is up, we ask only that you pay the difference between the standard rate and the discount you received.

8. “What qualifications do your instructors have? Do volunteers help teach classes? What are their qualifications?”

Why it’s important: This is important especially if you are looking into a part-time school. Oftentimes, part-time school owners are so busy they assign “senior students” to teach while they return phone calls and pay bills. Unfortunately, just because a student has been in class longer than the others does not mean they are qualified to teach. This results in poor quality and ensures that each generation of students is worse than the last.

Where we stand: All of our instructors are professional martial artists. They are all rigorously trained and tested not just in the martial arts, but also in how to teach. All volunteers we allow and support must demonstrate an exceptional level of skill, participate in our ongoing Leadership Team training course, and participate in our ongoing Future Instructor classes. They are always under the supervision of our staff instructors.

9. “Has your staff had background checks?”

Why it’s important: It’s important that anyone who is allowed to work with your children has undergone a background check. This seems like a no-brainer, but you would be shocked how many schools have never done a background check on their staff or volunteers. It’s also common for them to do a background check once and then not again.

Where we stand: All of our staff and volunteers are checked annually. As the owner of the school, I have my background check run annually as well.

10. “Are visitors welcome?”

Why it’s important: If a school does not allow visitors, or does not let parents watch classes, RUN! Don’t walk—RUN!

Where we stand: We love visitors, and parents are always welcome to watch classes. We have visitor seating for about 20.

11. “How do you teach the things you claim to teach, especially things like life skills and good values?”

Where we stand: All of our staff and volunteers are checked annually. As the owner of the school, I have my own background check run annually as well.

Why it’s important: Many, if not most, martial arts teachers seem to think that life skills and good values are something that can be taught by osmosis. They hang some scenic posters up at their school with words like “honor” and “respect” across the top. They have students repeat these words as part of a school creed. Then they wipe their hands and consider that part of their job done. Don’t believe me? Just ask them for a list of values they teach. Then ask them—one value by one valuehow they teach them. Be warned: the awkward silence is coming.

Where we stand: We are experts in martial arts. We know that when you want the best, you go to the best. That is why we have partnered with Dr. Robyn Silverman and her husband Jason Silverman to bring the Powerful Words Character Development Program to our school. Dr. Robyn, as we call her, is one of the country’s foremost experts on child, teen, and adult character development.


12. “How many locations do you have?”

Why it’s important: Conventional logic would tell you that a school with many locations must be successful. Sadly, that is not the case, especially when a school grows to more than three or four locations. Two things generally happen at that point. First, the quality declines, and the master that trained the first few school owners is simply not able to ensure that quality is consistent at all the schools. The second thing that happens is the schools become very “one size fits all.” When students are tested, they test with several other schools at one time. They are often judged by instructors who do not know them and have no idea how far they have come in their personal journey. The cookie-cutter approach is not how the martial arts were intended to be spread.

Where we stand: We are a single school, with the possibility of opening another nearby school. When our students test, they test in front of teachers who know them very well.

13. “Are you a franchise or part of an association?”

Why it’s important: This is another one of those things that may look good on the surface, but when you do a little digging, you quickly realize it’s not good.

Associations: There are lots of schools that are members of various martial arts associations. Some are good, and some are bad (like really bad). Generally, these associations, in exchange for hefty membership fees, provide schools with marketing, promotion, and curriculum support (read: designing curriculums for profit). Often the association exists only so that member schools can say they are a part of an association, bolstering their image. At the end of the day, they usually just increase the amount schools have to charge for tuition, with no real benefit for the students.

Franchises: Franchised martial arts schools, hands down, are some of the absolute worst. They are cookie-cutter programs, more akin to group fitness classes than to places of authentic martial arts learning, designed to make investors profit. Of course, there is absolutely nothing wrong with school owners benefiting from their years of training and hard work. Still, more often than not, franchise martial arts schools are not owned by long-time martial artists who have dedicated their lives to learning and teaching the martial arts. They are often described as “not martial arts schools with great marketing, but great marketing systems with martial arts schools.” 

It’s still important you join a school where you feel good about being a member. If you come across a franchise school that meets your needs, go for it!

Where we stand: In the beginning, our school was part of a group of eight independently owned and operated schools. Since 1999 we have been an independent, association-free school.

14. “What style of martial arts do you teach?”

Why it’s important: Usually, it’s not. Unless, of course, you have your heart set on a particular style. Beware of any teacher that tells you their style of martial arts is the best. That is like saying if you buy the best hammer, you can build the best house. It all comes down to individual effort and training.

Where we stand: We don’t believe that any student of the martial arts should be constrained by “style.” We teach a mix of Chinese (Northern style of Kung Fu and Tai Chi), Korean (Taekwondo and Jungyae Moosul), and Filipino (Arnis/Eskrima) martial arts. We want our students first to learn and understand the “systems” of martial arts so that they can competently develop their one personal style.

To be bound by traditional martial art style or styles is the way of the mindless, enslaved martial artist. But to be inspired by the traditional martial art and to achieve further heights is the way of genius.” ~ Bruce Lee

15. Do your students participate in tournaments? Are they required?

Why It’s Important: Some schools focus heavily on tournaments, some don’t, and some fall somewhere in the middle. Schools with a heavy focus on tournaments often require students to participate in order to earn their new belt, or they show favoritism to those students who do. Nothing is worse than seeing your child ignored during class in favor of another student who might help earn more trophies for the front window of the school. It is important to know because tournaments can be a big extra expense, and are definitely not for everyone.

Where we stand: We do occasionally participate in tournaments, however, they are completely optional and we have separate training times for competitors that they must take in addition to their regular classes.


If you have any questions, or if there is anything else we can help you with, please do not hesitate to call or text us at (360) 763-0073 or email us at frontdesk@marysvillemartialarts.com

Copyright 2021 – Kung Fu Northwest Inc.