I took Shidokan for several years, and was very happy with my dojo and my sensei. I recently had to move for work, and I know from experience that these are two of the most important parts of your advancement. What considerations need to be taken into account when searching for a place to continue my training?
Jack has some very good points.
- Observe a class, or better yet, join in if you may. This is crucuial.
- Don't sign
anything, without trying it first. If they don't allow trial classes
or even spectators, this is not the place for you.
- Also, be careful about signing long term contracts, especially if there's a clause in it that forbids you to practice somewhere else.
- Speak to the instructor. Prepare a few questions, to make sure this is the dojo for you. For example, if you are a tournament fighter, you want to know if this is an area they focus on. Also ask how long the senior students (say, the brown belts and shodans) have been practicing. This way, you can give a rough estimate of the quality of teaching and the dedication of the students, and whether or not this is a belt factory or not.
- Ask about the pricing plan. Make sure it's within your budget, and that there aren't any strange hidden fees.
- Ask about their grading criteria. That will also give you an indicator to whether or not they are serious.
- It's also a good idea to ask about their opening times, and whether or not you are allowed to practice individually while the school is open, like doing bagwork etc.
- Realize, that even though you hold rank in Shidokan, you are a beginner in the new dojo. Some dojo may transfer your rank, especially if it's within the same organization/style, while others make you start over (possibly with shortcuts to a more suitable level).
Here are some things I have done before joining a new dojo:
- Find out if you can observe a class. This is great opportunity to observe the environment of the dojo and get a sense for the teaching style of the instructor(s).
- Ask to speak to the sensei before joining. Explain your martial arts background and experience so the instructor will have an idea of where you are coming from.
- Try to meet some of the other students (if you are not allowed to observe a class drop by just as the class is ending). Ask them what kinds of likes/dislikes they have.
Most dojos are going to be at least a little different from the place you are coming from. Everyone has their own style and intrepretation of how a dojo should be run and how techniques should be performed. Expect to have a little learning curve as you adapt to the new environment.
Another couple more tips:
- Try find out about the lineage of the school. If the master won't reveal who taught him/her, maybe this is not the right place. Also, are members of the school active participants/judges in competitions and various associations?
- Ask if they have a long-term development programme. My kung fu school has the entire curriculum mapped out and you can see exactly what you will be learning at which level.
- Assess whether the physical demands are a good match for you. Some schools are simply more intense than others, even within the same style. Watching a class should give you a good idea if you're fit enough or if it's too slow for you.