By Sifu Cathal Walsh
Thank you for requesting this report.
By doing so it tells me that you want to make the best
decision for your child. I
hope that this overview helps you to accomplish just that.
By the way, my name is Sifu Cathal Walsh (Sifu means Teacher)
and I am the founder of SHAKU Family Martial Arts.
In addition to over twenty years experience in the martial
arts I am also a former school teacher and principal.
I’ve been around children, education and martial arts
pretty well my whole life so what I am about to share with you comes
from years of practical experience.
The first thing you need to know is that martial
arts are neither good nor bad.
No one style or system is somehow better than another.
I know many fantastic Karate, Kung-Fu, Jiu-Jitsu, etc…)
schools that do a great job educating children and adults about
health and fitness, self-defense and character development.
Unfortunately I also know of many schools (teaching the same
“styles”) that do a huge disservice to their students.
Choosing to enroll your child in martial arts can
end up being quite confusing. All
the ads seem to say the same thing…we build confidence, we teach
discipline, respect and so on.
How do you know what’s real and what’s pretend?
And more importantly, which
school in your area will help your child become more
confident, focused and disciplined?
To begin with, please understand that not all
schools are the same. For
many years, martial arts have enjoyed a general reputation of
developing self-esteem, confidence, focus, discipline etc…) but
just because someone hangs a martial arts sign on their door does
not necessarily mean that these ideals are being honored.
Schools generally fall into five categories.
As you read through each one, think about your child’s
personality and goals in addition to what you want for your child
from a martial arts program. What
follows are oversimplified generalizations; many schools will have
elements of more than one category but will have a noticeable
“leaning” to one type…Trust your instincts!
– The Traditional Club
These clubs are everywhere!
They operate out of church basements, school gyms, recreation
centres and scout halls. Typically,
traditional clubs have a small student base and are fairly informal
despite the “traditional” title.
For the instructor, teaching is a hobby.
Don’t expect well organized curriculum, flexible scheduling
options, and developmentally
appropriate lessons. This
is purely recreational. Traditional
clubs close down as often as they open.
This can be a letdown for a child that is starting to
progress. I used to run
a traditional club when I worked as a full-time school principal.
I became frustrated by not being able to provide my students
the level of commitment necessary to help them achieve their goals.
The more successful traditional clubs usually transition into
professionally run schools (Category 5)
DISADVANTAGES: Lack of organization,
informal, prone to closure
– The Fight Club
Some schools are focused purely on the physical
fighting side of martial arts.
These schools will likely do very little to improve your
child’s respect, focus and discipline but they may teach your
child some “pretty cool” ways to dislocate a shoulder!
I’m not sure about you but this is not exactly what I want
for my nine year old son! When
entering this kind of club pay attention to your instincts.
The instructors will likely focus their conversations about
how “effective” their “system” is.
The facility will often be run down and a lack of cleanliness
and organization will be evident.
Ask yourself, “What lessons will these people be able to
teach my child?" After all, they will be your child’s role
cleanliness issue may seem minor but this is a very real concern as
sweat, skin and even blood can present serious health hazards for
your child. At
all our SHAKU Family Martial Arts Schools, our facilities are
thoroughly cleaned from top to bottom EVERY DAY.
It might sound a little obsessive but a clean facility is
part of teaching discipline and promoting good
health. Fight clubs are usually intended for the
twenty-something audience. Some
may use a “kids program” to subsidize their passion for
fighting. As a result,
their focus may not be entirely on what’s best for your child.
I do not recommend these types of places for children to
learn martial arts.
Your child may become the next cage fighting champion
DISADVANTAGES: See advantages!
Potentially harmful physically and emotionally
– The Competition Club
Some children (and adults) love to compete in
everything they do. It
is not surprising then that some martial arts clubs make this their
focus. These clubs tend
to spend a disproportionate amount of time on tournament
preparation; particularly with respect to forms or Katas (patterns
of rehearsed movements) and sparring (sport fighting).
The environment in these schools can become highly
competitive. The focus
is usually about preparing for the next tournament or competition.
The emphasis is on winning medals or awards.
This external focus can overshadow the many internal benefits
of the martial arts. If
you ever saw the movie, The Karate Kid, the antagonist (Johnny)
trained in a stereotypical competition school. The
only thing that mattered was being better than the opponent. Most
competition schools (I hope) don’t take it to this extent but the
complaint I’ve heard time and again from many ex-competition
school parents is that only the “elite competitors” get
attention from instructors. At
our SHAKU Schools we recognize the value that competition has to
develop a student’s physical and mental skills but also recognize
it as only one component of a much broader set of physical and
Strong tournament component
DISADVANTAGES: Singular focused program,
not suitable for all types of learners
– The Belt Factory
Sometimes referred to as “McDojos,” there has
seen a rise of so called "belt factories" in recent
years. These are schools whom operate with low or no standards,
particularly when it comes to the awarding of Black Belts
They may look like a professional school but there are some
tell tale warning signs. They
usually operate more like daycare centers than a school (If you see
a 6 year old wearing a black belt you might want to ask them about
their examination requirements).
Trust your instincts. Belt
factories are also notorious for fees, fees and more fees!
It is normal to pay a registration fee and monthly tuition
just about anywhere but belt factories will charge you for a
multitude of other fees. These
include: weekly or
monthly progress or “stripe test fees”, belt promotion fees,
special equipment fees, mandatory seminar fees, private lesson fees,
quarterly review fees, activity fees, special event fees, demo team
fees, annual renewal fees, insurance fees, intra-mural fees,
birthday party fees, tournament entrance fees, etc…).
These schools have also been known to close unexpectedly.
Good schools will have been around and will have a known
reputation. Our SHAKU schools on Vancouver Island
and in Kingston have served their
respective communities for over a decade, teaching thousands of
Your kids will enjoy the entertaining “gym like” classes
DISADVANTAGES: Lack of substance and
integrity, prone to over and repetitive charging
– The Professional School
Well run, professional martial arts school owners
have made a decision to devote their lives to providing the very
best martial arts experience for their students.
As a result, they don’t teach martial arts as a hobby or as
something part-time just for fun (even if they may have started out
that way). They are
often very passionate, driven and accomplished martial arts
practitioners and teachers. There
are many distinctions that you will recognize when you first explore
a professional school as an option for your child compared to the
other clubs mentioned in this report.
From the way you are first greeted; to the quality of
instruction; to the organization of the curriculum and subsequent
assessment and promotion of students.
Professional martial arts schools will offer clean
facilities, flexible scheduling and consistent communication on your
child’s progress. Most
importantly your child will likely achieve the goals that you have
set for them! Furthermore,
the staff and instructors will all be properly trained, have
necessary first aid qualifications, and criminal record checks
professional schools, such as our SHAKU Family Martial Arts
schools focus on developing success skills for school, work and life
in the areas of physical health and mental discipline.
Respectful and courteous behaviour are taught and
modeled. Don’t expect
these schools to let you drop-in and “start working out.”
Professional schools will likely have an orientation meeting
and introductory class that will be scheduled by appointment.
So expect to phone ahead.
Deliver on what they promise, life-changing, goal oriented
DISADVANTAGES: Unsuitable for
"drop-in" or recreational only purposes
So to review, remember there are no good
or bad martial arts styles for your child; only clubs and schools
offering different experiences.
Try to find a school that best aligns itself with your
goals and the needs of your child. If you need more
information, please feel free to contact the SHAKU school nearest
you for more information.
Sifu Cathal Walsh is a former
school teacher and principal. He is also a former Education
Standards Coordinator for the BC Ministry of Education. He conducts
workshops for parents and educators on topics of school safety and
bullying prevention. He is the founder of SHAKU Family Martial Arts,
with locations in Ladysmith,
BC and Kingston,
ON. Got A Question? You can contact Sifu Cathal at
1-888-742-5810 or by email at SifuCathal@SHAKU.ca.
All our SHAKU™ schools are proud to offer a 30-Day
no-risk trial to enable students, parents and
instructors sufficient time to evaluate the suitability of our
programs. If you would
like to explore this option for you or your child, just FILL
OUT THIS FORM and an instructor will call you to schedule a
school orientation meeting. Please
mention that you found us on the web and you will receive a
complimentary uniform at no charge!