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Since I was young, martial arts have triggered my interest, and lately I attended some "try one for free" lessons in various gyms in my town. I come from a competitive level in a totally different sport (free climbing), so I know how serious training is.

I've been disappointed by all these lessons. Omitting the teachers that present themselves as the True Future of Martial Arts, besides those who clearly aren't that competent and physically fit (I don't ask for perfection since I'm a total beginner), I believe that's ridiculous to offer one hour long lesson, included the time for the locker room. This is for people who just want to persuade themselves that they are doing some physical activity.

Browsing a bit, it looks like that the Italian average is, sadly, this. Is my impression right? If not, is there any name of teacher that I should look for?

I intentionally don't state what MA I'm interested in. For me, good training is better than the subject. My preferences anyway are no weapons, completeness (e.g. not only defense), no "crystallized" practices that lack effectiveness.

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not a real question. this question just seems an attempt to solicit debate. Also, asking for good teachers in a whole country is overbroad other than matter of personal opinion. –  tacone Mar 10 '12 at 21:25
    
@tacone Italy is not that big, so it's not overbroad. –  Trevoke Mar 10 '12 at 22:13
    
"Browsing a bit, it looks like that the Italian average is sadly this". That's why I am speaking of a whole country in the question. And there I speak in a dubitative form because I'm aware that it's probably an excessive generalization, but I've been frustrated by the attitude of these teachers. –  Lorenzo Pistone Mar 11 '12 at 18:30
    
I still don't get what's the real question being asked here. –  tacone Mar 11 '12 at 21:08
    
Renowned schools or teachers. –  Lorenzo Pistone Mar 11 '12 at 21:37
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3 Answers 3

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Choosing a teacher can be very important, but as you are a beginner you don't have to be too fussy initially, you should be prepared to experiment and trial a few different schools. But personally I think you are looking at this the wrong way. There are a number of things to consider:

  • the classes are only an hour long. This could be the result of a number of things. Maybe the teacher can only hire the premises for an hour at a time? Maybe an hour is the sweet spot for his class length? Maybe all the other students are perfectly happy with hour long classes? Personally, I would agree that this is short, especially if it includes time get get changed and warm up. But that doesn't stop you from either doing more classes, or training in your own time - fitness and conditioning is definately something you can do in your own time.

  • present themselves as the True Future of Martial Arts. IMVHO it doesn't matter whether this is sales talk or ego talk - in both cases it is demonstrably false and they are arguably teaching for the wrong reasons. It is only fair that teachers make money, if they are good then they deserve it (and it costs money to run classes or schools). But if a teacher claims to be the shiz then I would walk away, they have the wrong attitude and will be imbuing that attitude into their students.

  • those who clearly aren't that competent and physically fit. While being physically fit is a desirable attribute, it isn't essential unless it is a sport or tournament based art. In general physical fitness synergises with your martial arts training, but it isn't a core part of the art. I've seen people of all shapes and sizes doing martial arts - just because a black belt is fat and cannot run 5km doesn't mean they can't kick your butt.

Instead of looking purely at the teacher, I think you should also study the students. Are their moves crisp and clean, do they look well taught? Is there a good vibe in the class, are people enjoying being there? Do the senior students interact well with the juniors? Is the training facility clean and tidy and well kept? Is it well equipped? Checking these points off the list will give you a better overall idea of the capability and competency of the teacher.

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Great answer. I would add, to the list of things to look at, my favourite: are the higher-ranked students obviously much better than the newer ones? It can be really hard, especially for an inexperienced martial artist, to tell if a student is 'good' - but it's often pretty easy to see when someone is clearly better than someone else. If the experienced students outshine the newer ones, you know the training is effective. If the black belts don't look much more competent than the white belts, something is wrong. –  Rophuine Mar 16 '12 at 5:12
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@Rophuine certainly that's a good thing to look for, but what you also need to take into account is that some martial arts condition students to be submissive to higher ranks. That's even harder to tell, but generally what you'll see if that hasn't been done is a few talented lower ranking students able to do well or beat the majority of higher ranked students, while in general rank and ability line up as expected. –  Robin Ashe Aug 11 '12 at 1:58
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Offering a one-hour lesson is the standard in the US as well.

To make a profit, martial arts teachers need to offer many different classes. They could be organized by age (children / adults) or rank (beginner / intermediate / advanced), but they need to be able to cater to many audiences. Remember that most of the people who come in have a regular job and a life and cannot dedicate that many hours to the training - they would simply have to stop training. And the school would close.

If you truly are serious, then take the one-hour lesson. Do your homework. And offer to come in and help teach after a while. That is how you will increase your time spent in the school. That is how you will put your training under real scrutiny.

Though there is always the option of offering the instructor to pay for a multi-hour private lesson if you're interested.

Edit: Here is a reference - following a personal bias of mine, because I have never met this teacher, though I have met the grandmaster of the style, and this man is allowed to teach: One of Master Park Bok Nam's students teaches in Padova.

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I see your point, because I'm busy as well with uni, and I'll keep it in mind. I believe that there should be the choice though. Also, I think that it's impossible to have a proper physical (not technical) training with only an hour of exercise twice a week, as it's the common in my town. –  Lorenzo Pistone Mar 10 '12 at 15:20
    
Twice a week is maintenance... Three times a week is improvement. I agree with you. This being said, if you're serious about the arts, and come from a competitive physical background, you should be able to train on your own. –  Trevoke Mar 10 '12 at 15:26
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Many very good martial arts schools are focused on teaching technique - and will leave physical fitness up to you. Most students at my school come twice a week, and while you can definitely see major technical improvement over time, you won't see their fitness improve at that level. You're expected to do your own fitness work. That said, while I was studying at uni I sometimes fit in 8-10 hours of classes a week - and that definitely kept me super-fit. I used to help teach the junior class, then do two adult classes in a row: look for somewhere you can do consecutive classes if you want that. –  Rophuine Mar 16 '12 at 5:16
    
@Rophuine I fully agree. Including a fitness component in classes just gets redundant for those who are actually serious about improving it and developing it (I've seen a few talented martial artists leave some classes because too much of the class was devoted to conditioning, which they were already doing on their own time, likely explaining why they were that good). –  Robin Ashe Aug 11 '12 at 2:00
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This isn't really a problem just for Italy. Martial Arts have this myth that they can be practiced regardless of physical ability, so they're a popular physical activity for those who don't want to engage in real physical activity. It's like walking, but less boring (for some people). Obviously compared to a sedentary lifestyle, it's better than nothing, but that's clearly not what you're looking for, while it's exactly what other people are looking for. As such, instructors will cater to their largest market.

Depending on how large of a municipality you live in, that might be all that's on offer, and in that case, you're unfortunately screwed. If you're really serious about it you could try to track down someone who lives within a few hours and train with them once a month, while practicing by yourself, and then introduce a more serious MA program to the area.

On the other hand, you might just have to keep looking around until you find a club that suits you. It might be quite unexpected given what a particular style might be known for.

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