Here is my 'student's eye' perspective of what I think makes a martial arts club good:
I think three things make a club work well: High standards from a good instructor; a dynamic and progressive ethos; and a good mix of students.
I really fell on my feet when I chose my karate club though I didn’t really know what to look for or what to ask. I was only vaguely aware that there were different styles of karate and I certainly didn’t know the differences between them. Where I live there are two clubs nearby, a Goju ryu club and a Shukokai club. My husband suggested that Goju ryu might be ‘too rough’ for me and suggested I do Shukokai. Not knowing any different I agreed and have never looked back.
So why is my club good? Well to start with I think the standard of training I receive is high. I am reassured of this because the club is externally validated by the SKU (Shukokai Karate Union). This suggests to me that all clubs in the SKU will have to provide training to the same syllabus and standard. My instructor has to attend 3 instructors’ courses a year in order to maintain his instructors licence so his teaching standard is also externally assessed. The SKU also provides brown belt and black belt training courses which will enable me (when I get my brown belt) to train with members from other clubs and reassure me that I am being trained to the same standard as others.
This is not to say that clubs not externally validated or affiliated in this way do not offer a high standard of training, it’s just that as a student with little experience it can be hard to know.
My club is also very active, lively, outward looking and progressive. There is always a positive buzz about the place – it makes you want to join in, be a part of it. There is a whole range of off syllabus stuff to do. The club arranges extra weekend sessions sometimes to concentrate on just kumite or just kata or even just fitness training. These sessions are serious but fun.
Our club is very family orientated. We have several families who train together, including mine. I think this family friendly ethos encourages more women to join and more importantly - to stay. We have roughly an equal split between males and females, even at the senior coloured belts.
We also have social events such as bowling, clay pigeon shooting, meals out, family games days and even a p...up in a private brewery! (Adults only). We are also planning to join up with another Shukokai club for a joint training session soon –swap training tips, see how others do it. I think it’s important for a club not to be too insular.
Most importantly though, my club feels safe. Supervision is high, bad technique is corrected and discipline is maintained. No one is allowed to be too rough and no one is allowed to be a diva. Injuries inevitably happen from time to time but they are minimal and minor.
What do you think makes a martial arts club good?
(Next post I will give my thoughts on what I think makes a good instructor)
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