Real modern martial arts training should not be clouded in mystery. We don't meet for secret magic training sessions with secret magic scrolls to enhance our secret magic skills. Sorry if I ruined the martial arts for anyone just now.
Can You Watch Classes?
We encourage potential students to watch classes. We encourage parents to watch their kids in classes. We encourage significant others to come watch their loved one in classes. There are no secret magic skills an instructor is teaching to your eight year old that you can't be allowed to see. If a school discourages viewing... RED FLAG! As a parent myself, I'd run from a school that wouldn't allow me to watch the class.
What Are the Parent Organizations?
That weirdo in the Wal-Mart parking lot can go ahead and open up a martial arts school in his basement if he was so inclined. There are no regulations for operating a dojo. Unfortunately, there are frauds out there. One way to avoid fraudulent instructors is to look into the parent organizations associated with the school. These keep up quality control, provide ranking guidelines, and instructors normally need to be certified through them. If there are no parent organizations, at least question and research the instructor's credentials.
How Easy is it to Contact the Owners?
Brennan and I live in an apartment. We have cell phones. We don't live on some mountain top fortress in the middle of nowhere. When students or parents want to talk to us, we're there! I always try to respond to texts, emails, and phone calls right away. We also try to check in with students and parents on a regular basis. If the head instructor/school owner is never at the dojo and doesn't respond when you try contacting him/her, probably a bad sign.
Finding a good school isn't easy. There are still a lot of outdated notions about martial arts and training. Hopefully this series of posts will help clear some of that up. Even if you aren't from the Rochester NY area, the same points apply.