Subject: 9 – When You Visit
Here are some general guidelines to consider when visiting the schools you have an interest in.
First, call ahead. Make sure that visitors are welcome. Some schools are particular about what classes visitors are allowed to watch. Advanced classes may be “off limits” to the public as well as “private lessons.” It should be a “red flag” if the school will not allow you to watch any classes before paying money though. Further, some schools feel that simply watching a few classes can not adequately give you a feel for their art. They may encourage you to take an “introductory” class (sometimes at no charge).
Next, be aware that most martial arts schools have rules of etiquette. This almost always includes not wearing shoes inside the school or in certain areas of the school. They will often provide a rack or shelf for shoes just outside of the “restricted” areas. Never step onto the mat in your street shoes. This can track dirt, pebbles, gum, grease, and other substances onto the area where people may soon be having their faces smooshed.
Also, be aware that many schools will have beginning and ending ceremonies that they may ask you to stand during. Some may ask you to bow whenever crossing the threshold of the school.
When you go to observe a class or visit with the instructor, wear clean, casual clothes.
If you’ve been invited to join the class for a training session, or think it’s a possibility you might be asked to join once you show up, then bring a t-shirt, shorts, and loose sweat pants to work out in. If you have martial arts experience in some other (or even the same) style, and the uniforms are roughly equivalent shapes, it would probably be acceptable to wear your uniform, however it may be considered extremely rude, or at least confusing, to wear any belt colour other than white. Ask the instructor about what to do on this one. It might be that your red belt is just a pretty ornament in their school, or it might indicate that you are the respected founder of an acknowledged style. They may loan you a white belt, request that you wear none at all, or not care in the least.
As always, be polite. If someone offers a hand to shake, then take it. If someone bows, return the bow; try to emulate the bow they give you. Be quiet during the class. Don’t make noise or draw unnecessary attention.
If you are visiting the school in the company of a friend, don’t converse with each other. If you must do so, keep conversation to a minimum and in a hushed tone. The object is to not interrupt the class or distract the students who have paid good money for their instruction.
Further, show up early, before class starts. This will give you a chance to observe “pre-class” interactions important to understanding the atmosphere of the school. It will also give you the opportunity to talk with the instructor and students. Write down a list of questions you want to ask and bring it with you. If any other questions occur to you as you watch the class, write those down so you can remember to ask the instructor after the class is over.
As a general rule of shopping etiquette, don’t discuss the other schools you’ve been to or heard about. If you must discuss other schools, be sure to avoid derogatory remarks about them. Avoid discussing the quality of their instruction, etc. If you are asked about any prior experience in martial arts you might have, go ahead and tell the instructor what your experience is. This will help him understand what you know and may give him a base to start your training from. Avoid comparing the two arts.
Finally, don’t try to impress the instructor or students with your knowledge of martial arts or foreign languages. It usually backfires.
Subject: 10 – Should I Study More Than One at a Time
It is not uncommon for more then one Martial Art to interest a potential student. The logical question is, “Can I” or “Should I study them both?”
This is a matter of some debate and opinions differ. The prevailing wisdom is a bit of a compromise. It is generally recommended not to study more then one art at a time or, failing that, to get a good foundation in one art before branching out, or “cross training,” in another. The feeling is that the two arts are likely to conflict with each other. They may require differing ways of moving your body, differing postures, differing positions, and offer differing solutions to given situations. These differences could serve to confuse and frustrate the new student as he endeavors to apply what he has learned in his classes.
After you have developed a good base in one art, you can then explore other arts without undue confusion or overlap.
There are, however, some noted exceptions to consider. You may want to consider cross training in arts that have very little overlap, that complement each other well, or that fill in gaps you may feel are missing.
Another consideration is the instructors. Some instructors encourage cross training or even teach multiple arts themselves while other instructors strongly discourage cross training and may be upset to find a student cross training. If cross training interests you, you should talk with the instructors of each art to see how they feel about it before you start taking classes there. They may already have a program in place or may be able to make recommendations.
Further, cross training, even if it is advantageous and encouraged will usually slow your advancement in each art far more then if you were to dedicate all of your training time to just one.
Finally, as hinted at earlier, you should consider your personal resources. Can you afford to pay for two different classes and all the associated fees for each? Not only money, but, more importantly, your time resource. You will need to dedicate a certain amount of time to the practice of each art, both in class and out, in order to see advancement. Do you have the time to dedicate to each?
Some examples of arts simultaneously trained include Tae Kwon Do with Hapkido, Muay Thai with Brazillian Ju Jitsu, and Boxing with Judo.