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Frequently Asked Questions about Martial Arts

  1. Aren't martial arts dangerous?
  2. What should I look for in a martial art school?
  3. What exactly are "Tae-Bo," "Cardio-Karate," "Cardio-Kickboxing," and the like?
  4. Why do people bow in martial arts?
  5. How long will it take to earn a black belt?
  6. Will I get to break boards?


Aren't martial arts dangerous?
The answer is yes and no. As with any other physical activity, there is always an element of risk. For example, full-contact sparring may leave you with bruises or injuries. Since students are instructed and expected to control their techniques, however, serious injuries are very rare. You may also feel the effects of training in your muscles from time to time, but that is quite normal.

Students are prohibited from engaging in activities that may result in serious injuries on their own. Such activities are permitted only under the instructor's supervision

All matters considered, martial art training is no more or less dangerous than any other contact sport, such as football, wrestling or hockey.

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What should I look for in a martial art school?
There is no easy answer to this question. First, you should consider your requirements. Are you looking for a certain style? Do you simply want to enjoy whatever you practice? Do you have certain geographic requirements? What about class schedules?

Look at the school's head instructor. The instructor is a very important element. A good school is always lead by a good instructor; if you are part of a good school, not much else matters. How do you know that you are looking at a good school and/or instructor? Here are some tips:

  • A good school generally does not advertise heavily. Stay away from schools if they seem to be doing more business than teaching.
  • Holding a very high rank does not necessarily mean that the person is a good instructor. A young instructor (25-30 years old) should not be claiming an absurdly high rank, such as 9th degree black belt. If you are a true martial artist, rank does not and should not matter.
  • A traditional instructor's uniform is usually very simple, consisting of a top, a bottom, and a belt. A uniform is not a costume; being flashy is not what the martial arts are all about.
  • A good instructor would not push you to join the school, but instead provide you with enough information to help you in your decision to join the school. If you are required to sign a contract before joining, make sure that all of your questions have been satisfactorily answered and are put in writing. See A Word about Contracts for more information.
  • A good instructor would be more than happy to let you try a class or two for free. He would not attempt to dissuade you from looking at other schools either.
  • A good school generally charges you a modest tuition and permits you to come as often as you like.
  • A good instructor would not sit behind a desk and let his juniors run all the classes. The chief instructor should teach most of the classes himself, with occasional help from his assistant instructors.
  • A true martial art school would not offer "martial art" aerobics, such as "cardio-karate," "kickboxing," and the like.
  • The training should be physically demanding.
  • The skill levels of the black belts in the school must be very high.
  • A good school would not have a large number of children (under the age of 16) with high ranks. Junior black belts should be very rare. They would also need to retest once they become adults.
  • A large number of children with black belts in a school is a strong sign of a "belt factory." This often means that rank promotion is taken lightly or crassly used as a business tool to retain students and/or bring in additional income.
  • A good school generally does not demand more than a minimal fee for promotions, which will cover costs of belts and a few other items.
  • A good instructor would never ask for money to teach you a particular technique.
  • A good instructor would insist on good manners. He would also prohibit students from fighting or using techniques outside of the school, except in self-defense.
Be aware that many martial art "schools" today are businesses first and schools a distant second. If you attend one of them, you may not be getting what you believe you are getting. Look at the points above and compare.

Good luck in finding a good school!

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What exactly are "Tae-Bo," "Cardio-Karate," "Cardio-Kickboxing," and the like?
These exercise programs are the result of the latest aerobics craze. Students who participate in these programs wear shorts and other loose exercise clothing of their choice. They usually are not interested in wearing uniforms or testing for ranks. They also do not want to spar, perform self-defense routines, or learn forms (also known as kata or hyung). Bowing is not required.

Some martial art schools may offer these activities because they often bring revenue. Problems occur when such schools condone these programs as martial arts or self-defense training. These activities do NOT teach you meaningful self-defense techniques. People are often mislead into thinking they are performing martial arts and/or self-defense training. This is simply not true. Furthermore, such notion will leave them with a dangerously false sense of security.

These programs, if taught properly, would certainly provide you with plenty of cardiovascular exercise. They may also be a lot of fun and provide you with a chance to socialize. Please keep in mind, however, that they do NOT teach a martial art or any self-defense techniques.

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Why do people bow in martial arts?
Most martial arts are originated in Asia, where bowing is a greeting and also a gesture to show respect. This social function of bowing serves similar function to a handshake in the United States. It is a social tradition, which helps the art maintain its connection to its origins.

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How long will it take to earn a black belt?
The time it takes to earn a black belt largely depends on factors such as individual ability and frequency of training. Roughly, students who train regularly at LVTKD take minimum of 6 years. If students do not train regularly, it will naturally take much longer to earn a black belt.

You should not be, however, caught up with the idea of a black belt. Rank does not and should not matter to a true martial artist. A black belt is nothing but a milestone in your training. Being a black belt does not make you an expert in hand-to-hand combat. It does not necessarily mean you are more skilled than other students of lower rank either. It merely means that the person wearing it has achieved a certain proficiency, maturity and knowledge level in the eyes of their instructor.

Train hard, learn as much as you can and enjoy yourself. If you happen to earn a black belt along the way, that's great. Keep training hard. A good reference for what a black belt really means is Living the Martial Way by Forrest Morgan.

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Will I get to break boards?
People somehow associate board breaking with martial arts. Breaking a board is simply a way to demonstrate the power and focus of a striking technique. Thus it is performed at public demonstrations or at testing, but very rarely otherwise.

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