Your First Day of Martial Arts Class: What to Expect (and What Not to Expect)

Chris Wojcik

Jan 27, 2022

Your First Day of Martial Arts Class:

So, you’ve decided that you want to take a leap into the world of martial arts.

You’ve decided that today, or tomorrow, or some other day soon, you’re going to go take your first martial arts class.

Congratulations, you’ve already gotten past one of the hardest parts of the journey - the first step.

The next step is to actually get into a class, meet your new instructor, meet your fellow classmates, and learn some techniques!

This is what you can expect on your first day of martial arts class:

Even if you’re an adult, get ready to feel a little bit lost.

When you come into the gym on your first day, even having an athletic background is usually not enough to help you feel comfortable on the mats.

However, you won’t feel like a fish out of water forever, and you’re also going to be surrounded by a lot of great people who are going to be willing to help you out on your journey. They were once beginners, just like you.

If you feel like you’re in an environment where other students are not helping you out and not making you feel welcome, you’re in a bad environment, and you should probably find a different school.

However, we’ll talk more about that in a bit.

Make sure your instructor is approachable.

On your first day of martial arts, it’s easy to feel a little bit out of place.

I mean, how often do you ever actually see people lined up, wearing gis, and bowing to each other before they start trying to fight each other?

Not super often, I’ll bet.

Your instructor is the leader of the class, but it’s important to make sure your instructor is approachable. You should feel comfortable talking to them.

It’s important to understand that bowing, calling your instructor “professor” or “sensei”, and lining up at the beginning and end of class are not things that martial artists do because they’re in a cult, but they’re done in order to maintain structure and discipline in a class.

This is especially important if you’re bringing your child to class.

Your child’s first day of martial arts will look a bit different than yours.

For kids, martial arts class looks a bit different.

In some ways, the class is much more challenging for kids, because typically, the biggest issue for a kids class is getting them to pay attention!

Because of this, your child’s instructor will likely have different strategies in place to incentivize paying attention, such as having the students line up during technical instruction, rewarding good behavior with games, or worst of all, push-ups (or sitting out) for students who are disrupting the class.

It’s incredibly important that when your child goes into martial arts class they’re ready to listen - just like an adult. Martial arts require maturity and focus.

This is important because etiquette and respect are essential aspects of martial arts, but also because not listening in martial arts class can lead to injury.

Most techniques are harmless, but if you aren’t listening when chokes or joint locks are being taught and applied, you could hurt yourself or your partner.

This goes for the kids, but it’s an issue for the adults as well.

Some red flags to look out for at your new academy.

Not all martial arts academies are created equal.

Here are just a few signs that the dojo or gym that you’ve visited might not be a great place to train:

The instructor is rude or angry toward his students for seemingly no reason. Martial arts academies are built from the top down. Bad leaders make for bad gyms.
The gym is dirty. You don’t want to train somewhere that is unsanitary, especially nowadays, with all of the different diseases hovering around.
The gym has “sketchy contracts”. Most gyms will allow you to take at least your first class for free. If your gym is trying to get you to sign a “contract” on your first day, it’s probably not a gym you want to be training at.
No women. If you go into a gym, and there are only young guys in their 20s who look like they’re getting ready to fight in the UFC or world championships, you want to tread lightly. The best training environments for beginners are diverse with both beginners and experienced practitioners.

With that, here are some green flags.

There are a lot of really great martial arts schools around.

In fact, I’d bet that most martial arts academies will be able to give you what you’re looking for.

Here are a few green flags that I notice every time I visit a new gym for the first time:

The instructor (or someone else) greets you when you walk in. If you’ve been in a gym for more than a few minutes, and no one has even said “hi” to you, that’s a problem. Unless people are in the middle of a lesson or training session, most training environments are full of incredibly friendly and outgoing people.
The gym is clean (or cleaning equipment is visible). This is self-explanatory. Clean gyms are better.
You don’t feel like you have to protect your wallet in the gym. Martial arts classes cost money. That’s just how it works. However, if the gym owner is trying to nickel and dime you for cash, something’s up.
The environment is diverse. The best gyms have people from all sorts of backgrounds, ages, shapes, and sizes.

Closing Thoughts

We hope you’ll be able to take a few tidbits from this article with you as you head down to the academy for your first class.

Martial arts academies can be a place for people to learn about themselves, grow, and become the person they’ve always wanted to become. The key is finding the right environment.

Hopefully, this article has helped you find out just what environment is right for you.