So you’ve decided that joining a Quilting Bee or taking up Bridge, is out and the Martial Arts appeals to you – Great!   You are now on a journey that millions the world over, at some point also started.  The first step is always the biggest and the most important.

Now, you have to determine which branch of the Martial Arts strikes a chord with yourself.

Is it a sport or an art that you want to best invest your time in?  Competition bound?   To what degree of physicality are you capable of – light or more strenuous?   Is it for self defence or more of an exotic interest that you’ve always had.

As you can see, there’s lots to weigh in on with your decision to embrace the Martial Arts.

Some of the more popular options you have in the Arts are; Karate, Judo, Jiu Jitsu, Escrima, Tae Kwon Do, Boxing, Iaido, Kendo, etc., etc.

Once you’ve chosen your art of interest, congrats, you’re in for a worthwhile journey of self discovery!   I’ll use Karate as an example interest as it is my primary field of study in the Martial Arts.

Now it’s time to locate a reputable school to train (dojo). The dojo on the corner is the handiest but sometimes it may not be the best choice.  It’s here that you must do your homework.  The internet is helpful as are personal referrals.  Go in and ask questions – is the atmosphere conducive to serious study?  Are the students enthusiastic?   Are the dojo’s hours of operation helpful?   Are the rates reasonable?   Can you take a limited number of free introductory classes?  Is the primary focus of the Instructor on selling you a Black belt over a few years guaranteed?  Is dojo insured?   Who does most of the teaching (a senior student or the Teacher)?   Is there a traceable lineage to the dojo’s Senseis?

These are just a sampling of the queries you must ask in order to determine if this is the dojo for you.  To often many of us have heard the horror stories of Karate schools (or other martial art schools) where the manager’s focus is on your wallet or where a long term contract is signed and no one pays attention to your progress until contract renewal time is coming up.  Hopefully those days are gone but just be aware anyway!

You’ve picked a dojo?  Ah, but did you pick your Teacher??  Very important, I should say MOST important!  This is the Sensei that you will entrust to guide you up the mountain path through mental blocks, physical trials, injuries, lots of sweat and plenty adversity.

A good Sensei will lead by example, he/she will have a Teacher above them as they will also have to learn and advance their own knowledge and pass onto you.  Unless your Teacher is in Okinawa or Asia, they will have a Teacher ranking above them.

A good Teacher motivates, inspires and takes pride in their students and thereby develops a healthy training relationship also.   Without asking, a good Teacher has respect from everyone just by being a true Martial Artist sharing knowledge, philosophy and the history behind this very exotic endeavour.

Anyone can be an instructor leading a class, counting and showing what has to be done.  A Teacher shows and teaches why it works and works with you to achieve your full potential in this lifelong interest. I would venture that for every 75 instructors, there is one good Teacher!

A great Teacher is hard to find and you will know one when you find one. Maybe they are at the corner dojo, but odds are you’ll have to seek one out a little further away, but well worth the effort once found!

Kouun o oinori shite imasu!

Yours in the arts, Gary Christensen