I get a lot of requests from out of towners to find a martial arts school in an area away from Flagstaff. Well, I appreciate these questions, because I understand that it means that you respect my opinion and have a desire to train at a place like Water Mountain.
What I am going to do is talk about the major factors that should go into your decision to train. My answer has been very successful for me and the many people I have worked with over the last 30 years.
A Story About the Most Important Selection Factor for a Martial Arts School
Let me start off by telling you a little story.
For the most part I walk to and from the training studio to my house each day.
The trip distance is about 3.5 miles one way. This is not a particularly long trip, and I find it to be a good opportunity to get a little additional aerobic activity. The route I walk has several restaurants and fast food joints. Well, on Thursday (9/4) night around 9 PM I was walking back. My day started at 6 AM, and I had only had a chance to eat breakfast, so I was hungry.
At 9, in Flagstaff, most of the restaurants have closed and only fast food joints are open. I didn’t feel like fast food, and there is a chain restaurant called Sizzler that was still open.
I went there thinking, “How bad can it be?” Well, I should have eaten fast food.
Sizzler is a combo buffet and plated meal restaurant. I ordered Chicken Fettucini and the salad bar. My meal total was $20. I have no problems paying $20 for a meal (or much more), if the meal is actually worth $20.
What I got was a salad bar that was in disarray, with poor selection and that had not been refreshed. I also got a Fettucini that had been microwaved (you never microwave pasta), an almost flavorless white sauce, and a substandard chicken breast thrown on top.
During my meal, the wait staff complained to each other about having to breakdown, about the hours they had to work, and about each other. They also started to breakdown the salad bar within 5 minutes of me being seated.
On top of that, I was served late. My meal should have taken 8-11 minutes, tops, to prepare from scratch. Since it was reheated, it should have taken 5.
Lets look at my experience. I frequent restaurants and have done so for years simply because the long hours I work reduces my ability to shop and prepare my own food. I also know how businesses work, and am knowledgeable in the operation of restaurants.
First, if you dont want a customer to be present after a certain hour, dont seat them and then resent his or her presence.
Second, the experience of being a customer doesn’t include being in the middle of cleaning and breakdown if the customer is there during normal business hours.
Third, I don’t need the experience of my meal tainted by the disagreements of the staff. The staff shouldn’t allow personal grievances to intrude upon my experience. In fact, they shouldn’t even be visible on the floor except to render service.
Fourth, the cook certainly did not provide me with a meal that was worth the money I had paid. The function of a restaurant is to provide me with a value that I can not easily reproduce myself.
The reality is that Sizzler had in performance closed an hour before I got there, but just wanted to milk me for some short term cash. I had stomach pains and generalized weakness for 3 days following that meal directly linked to the meal. Definitely not worth it.
What exactly was the in a nutshell thing that is important to you?
Sizzler didn’t care about my experience in any way. Zero. They cared about my money, but that was it.
2 Better Experiences That Should Be Modeled By Martial Arts Schools
I periodically eat at the Crown Railroad , a diner. The CR is a small chain. The food is always of medium quality and huge quantity. The service is of medium quality. The cost is about $10 per ticket. They stop seating at 8:30 PM and they will start doing minor breakdown at 8:30. The wait staff is not brilliant, but your food is attended to and you are attended to. Overall, they care about my experience, and it is medium experience.
The value provided is equal to the money charged.
Close by is Mama Luisas, an Italian restaurant. ML is probably the best Italian in Flagstaff with dishes that average $16. Most meals have run me a little under $20 a person.
I know the owner, he has trained with me and was once a martial arts school owner. He runs an operation that is about a 4 of 5 star. The staff is definitely concerned about your experience, and your food is consistently of high quality. I eat there periodically, but not often, primarily because of the hours mismatch. Breakdown has never occurred while I was there. The value provided exceeds the money paid for it.
These three different experiences are the EXACT SAME
as what you will find for martial art schools.
The thing to look for in a school is whether the school cares about your training experience. The style you train in, the teacher, all of it is secondary to whether or not you deal with people that care about your experience.
I’m not saying that you need to find your second Mommie. I’m not saying that your school needs to be filled with your close friends. I’m not even saying that the staff needs to care about you at an emotional level. The school has to be designed to actually provide you with a good experience. Every other consideration for school selection is secondary.
At Water Mountain, this idea is so important that I do a walkthrough each day to make sure we are prepared to provide a good experience!
Value, Money, and Location–Other School Factors
What I find with Americans in general is that there is virtually no understanding of the concept of value. I think this is largely due to the fact that America is dominated by corporations that have cultivated mass buying impulses, and Americans have very little knowledge of trade and barter. Trade and barter makes a person understand value very quickly.
First, decide how much you value the training that you want.
What is more important and less important than the training? What is more important and less important than the benefits that you will get? With those two decisions in mind, you can make some other basic decisions:
- How far am I willing to travel?
- Am I willing to move?
- If you are cash or time strapped, things that are of less value can be sacrificed to give you the time or cash to train. Decide to actually do that. If you are not willing to sacrifice the thing, then you know that thing is more important than your lessons.
- Do you need to get yourself some beginner experience to make a better value decision?
- Is what you’re seeking really entertainment training rather than training for personal development?
Keep in mind entertainment or personal development may have nothing to do with intensity of training. Personal development can be intense or gradual. People also do extreme sports to entertain themselves. The sports have little practical value. There’s nothing wrong with that.
Make sure you get a product that fits what you actually want. Don’t buy Mexican food and then complain because it’s not the Chinese food that you want.
If you value your training enough, move to where you find a school that fits you. If you are cash strapped, get another job or go without until you can afford the training that you want. If you are time strapped, sacrifice other commitments.
There is no magic solution that keeps you from having to understand what you value in your life and what you don’t. The idea that a magic solution exists is corporate conditioned thinking.
The Final Point in Martial Arts School Selection
I will finish with a lesson from decades of sword training.
The single biggest lesson from sword training is learning to make a decision–an absolute decision. The person that doesn’t decide or refuses to decide is doomed to low performance. In the days of sword combat, doomed to a quick death.
Master Mikel Steenrod
P.S. If you are looking for what martial art you should select, that’s a different and more complex issue. I have written an extensive, Free ecourse to educate people on the must know factors. Click HERE