Choosing a Martial Arts Class for Your Child

Below you can read the Preface, Chapter Headings and the First Chapter of my e-book, Selecting the Best Martial Arts Class for your child, available at Barnes and Noble. 



By temperament I am a person who really enjoys solitude and quiet moments. When I work, I often prefer to be by myself, work at my own pace and decide how best to approach a project. But experience has taught me that I have much to learn from the wisdom of others and am able to benefit from the hard work of those who have gone before. This book would not have been possible without the wisdom and efforts of many wonderful people. First and foremost, to my wife Susann, who has stood by my side for nearly 29 years, believing in and encouraging me in all my efforts. No man could ask for a better partner, Thank You Sweetheart! To my children who also have helped and encouraged me, Thank You!

My Martial Arts studies are forever linked to my Best Friend and Judo Partner, William F. Clarke. Bill achieved Sandan in both Judo and Tae Kwon Do. He passed away some years ago, the Good Die Young. I hope to meet him again one day in that place where the mats are always perfect.

I also want to extend a special Thank You to Robert Carver, the Administrator and Benevolent Dictator of Thanks to his efforts a wonderful online community exists where I have met and learned from many wonderful Martial Artists. Our discussions over the years have ranged from all topics A to Z. These have opened my eyes, forced me to think about ideas that would not have otherwise occurred to me and broadened my knowledge about the Martial Arts. Thank You also to Russ Ebert who graciously offered his advice and skills for the cover photo of this book. He volunteered constructive ideas and worked on the rough photos yielding a better finished product.

Selecting the Best Martial Arts School for Your Child

Chapter 1) You Are the Expert
Chapter 2) Checklist for Safety
Chapter 3) Which Martial Art Is Best
Chapter 4) Training Multiple Arts at the Same Time
Chapter 5) Checking Out the Instructor
Chapter 6) Martial Arts for Special Needs Children
Chapter 7) Martial Arts and Religion
Chapter 8) Martial Arts a Family Matter
Chapter 9) Training at Home by Video
Chapter 10) Rank and Advancement
Appendix A) Description of the Various Martial Arts
Appendix B) Martial Arts Websites for Further Research
Appendix C) Short Biographies of Important Martial Artists
Appendix D) List of Martial Art Styles and Country of Origin
Appendix E) Suggested Reading

Selecting the Best Martial Art Class for Your Child

By Dennis P. McGeehan

Author’s Introduction

Why should you purchase this book? Why should you take my advice? I hope you are asking these questions BEFORE you spend your money.

OK, the price of this book is not huge, but the decision you are trying to make is pretty important. Your kid has asked to take Karate or Kung Fu or Jujitsu class. You are more familiar with Baseball, Football, Dance, maybe even Gymnastics or Piano. You know next to nothing about the Martial Arts (M.A.). Perhaps you’re my age and watched Bruce Lee kick butt on the Green Hornet. Or you followed Kwai Chang Caine on his journeys. Or maybe you know the Matrix or Jet Li! Or perhaps you’re a fan of M.M.A.. But what does you really know about Martial Arts and more important which M.A. school is right for your child.

Let’s start with the first question above; Why should you purchase this book?

You should buy this book because after reading it, you will be able to help your child decide which Martial Art school is right for them. You will be in a position to make informed decisions about the suitability, safety and integrity of the school and the instructor.

That should be reason enough to buy the book, but what about the second question? Why should you take my advice?

OK, first off I’m a Dad. I have eight kids of my own, currently ages 14 to 26. I have been there with them in all of their activities; Scouts, Church, Dance, Soccer, Basketball, Volleyball just to name a few. I have met great coaches and teachers and unfortunately also my share of idiots. Fortunately the idiots were not given the chance to cause major harm to my kids, but the kids (now adults) will sometimes still complain about how badly they were treated by the Coach. Concerning my children, the worse thing that happened to them was they were lied to and used by an adult who was stoking their own ego. Unfortunately far worse things can happen and it is the purpose of this booklet to lessen the chances of either small or great harm to your child.

I am also a Judo Instructor. I have taught all my kids some judo. Some to this day still really enjoy it and would probably be practicing if they could fit it into their work schedule. Others found out they did not like it and moved onto other pursuits. I have studied and taught Judo for over 40 years. That’s a long time, but you need to realize I started to help teach a class when I was a teenager. I did a lot of learning when I first started teaching, and I have tried to continue to learn all these years. It is that experience I will share with you in this book.

Those are the reasons you should buy this book if you are asking; Is Martial Arts Right for My Child? What Martial Arts School is Right for My Child? Along the way you may also discover which Martial Art is right for you.

Chapter 1 – You Are “The Expert”

If you and I were sitting in a restaurant having coffee together and you asked, “Which Martial Art is best for my son or daughter?” I would have to answer honestly, “I don’t know!”

What! Why don’t I know that answer? Because, I don’t know your child! Heck, I may not even know their name. How can I tell you which martial Art is BEST for them when they are a complete stranger to me.

You, on the other hand know your child very well. You know when something is bothering them, even though they say everything is fine. You probably know their favorite color, their favorite food and what they like to do in their spare time. You also know what they hate to do; homework, clean their room, mow the grass, etc.

It’s this type of in depth information that will help you decide which Martial Art is a good fit for your child. So it’s time for you do some detective work.

In choosing a school, your first task is to determine what schools are close enough for your child to attend. Sounds simple enough, but I have to tell you it’s often overlooked. Someone wants to study Kendo, which is a Japanese sword art, but the nearest Kendo class is more than 100 miles away. Believe it or not as a Moderator on a Martial Arts website I get questions like that all too often. Often the person says they can’t make class so how can they study the art of their dream. The answer is, “You can’t!” Simple, maybe brutal, but true. If you can’t make it to class, you can’t learn the art.

This has really become an issue in the age of the internet where people think they can study Martial Arts at a distance. You Can’t Do It!

Martial Arts is not like studying Math or Science or History, those you can do at a distance. Questions about a tough concept can be asked by Instant Message and E-mail for more thorough explanations, but correcting a posture or a foot placement does not work at a distance, it is a hands-on process. If you try to learn at a distance you will learn incorrectly, then in the future, if you ever train with an instructor, they will first have to break you of all your bad habits. In truth you will have slowed your learning immensely.

Beyond which schools are available in your area, you will want to match the school with your child’s desires. Are they looking to enter competition so they can win trophies? Then choose a school that stresses that feature. Are they interested in self defense? Then choose a school that teaches that. Do they like to punch and kick or do they prefer to wrestle? Each art stresses one area over the other and each school will teach different techniques. Even schools that offer competition, self defense, striking and grappling will not necessarily offer them equally. Your very first step is to visit the schools in your area and watch two or three classes with your child to see if what they do in class is right for your child. You should observe at least two classes, because schools will teach different techniques on different nights. Observing only one class does not really give a good perspective. Two, even three classes is better.
At this stage the only question you should be asking yourself is, “Is what I am seeing a good fit for my child?” You are the only one who can answer this question. If you feel in your gut that what you are seeing is totally wrong for your child, move onto the next school. Trust your instincts!

When visiting a school for the first time, please try to arrive five to ten minutes before class begins. This will give you time to introduce yourself to the instructor and the reason for your visit. Do not try to act differently toward the instructor than you would any other business person you would have contact with. Simple respect and courtesy from you and the instructor is what should happen. If you know the person’s name, address them as Mr. or Mrs. or Ms. whatever, save the titles for later. By this I mean don’t automatically call an instructor Sensei or Sabummin or Master. Normal, everyday polite usage is sufficient. If immediately upon introducing yourself the instructor corrects you and insists on being called Master or Sifu or other such nonsense, I consider this a large Red Flag and a reason to maybe look elsewhere. During your visit please sit quietly while class is in session. Take notes if you see or hear something that puzzles you. After class, approach the instructor and ask them any questions you may have. No questions are stupid and any instructor who evades giving straight answers to straight questions raises another Red Flag.

While you’re making these initial visits, take time to introduce yourself to the parents of the other students. They can a wealth of information about the quality of the school. Listen to what they are saying and the tone they use when talking about the instructor and how they relate to the class. Is what you’re hearing a good match for your child? Parents, whose children have trained for months or years at the school, are a very good resource, just please do not talk so loud as to interrupt the class.

If after visiting several schools you think you have decided on a good fit, you should ask the instructor if they offer a week or two of free classes. Most schools do. Only by stepping onto the training floor and doing the moves, will you or your child really know if they like the class. Do not immediately run out and buy a special training uniform, sweats and a T-shirt should be sufficient for most classes. If you are studying Judo, a T-shirt and a heavy sweat shirt that can withstand being tugged on are sufficient. I tell my parents do NOT buy a judo suit until after the first 10 weeks of classes. By then the child and parent will know if the child will continue the classes. At this point the purchase of a uniform can be justified.

A word about footwear. Most Asian Martial Arts will train barefoot. It’s traditional. I strongly urge you do not allow your child to train in their stockings. This can be dangerous. The chance of a slip or fall is increased greatly when students train in stockings. Kung Fu or Wu
Shu students usually wear special footwear. All others are normally barefoot, if the mats are clean there in no hygienic concerns. Your child’s clothes and body should of course be clean
(yes it can be an issue at times). Keep toenails and fingernails trimmed short to prevent scratching others. I also urge you not to allow them to wear any jewelry when training. This
includes rings, ear rings, necklaces, hair combs and especially any piercing. The risk of injury to them and others is too great and totally unnecessary. Take it off during class and put it back on after. In my class this is a hard and fast rule and even includes wedding rings. Why?

Scenario: Your training and you have left your ring on. You are grasping your training partner and try to pull and turn them. The cloth of their jacket wraps around your hand and the finger with the ring is twisted. An accident – yes they do happen. The finger begins to swell but the ring remains the same size. If you do not remove the ring you could lose your finger because the blood will not be able to flow, it is blocked by the ring. At the hospital the staff may be forced to cut the ring off, it’s better than cutting the finger off. As for pierced ears, what would happen to your ear if the stud got caught on a piece of cloth and pulled hard – Yech! Not Good!

Remove All Jewelry!

Schools that do not follow these basic safetyrules are inviting trouble for their students, so No socks, No Jewelry. Period!

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One Response to Choosing a Martial Arts Class for Your Child

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