Considerations for Joining a Martial Arts Program

The Philadelphia Judo Club

philadelphia judo club

Finding the Right Fit

Selecting a martial art and finding the right community to join involves several factors. While proximity is important, clubs have distinct personalities, styles, and approaches that can impact a student’s experience. Factors such as demographics, training intensity, instructors’ experience, competition focus, safety, and community should influence a student’s decision. However, new students often realize these factors’ importance after spending significant time in a club. Long-term contracts may pressure students into staying in a poor-fit club, leading to a bad experience that sours them on the whole martial arts experience.

finding the right martial arts gym


Factors to consider when selecting a martial arts club:


  • Proximity
  • Club’s personality, style and approach
  • Focus on competition, fitness, fighting, MMA, Judo, BJJ, etc.
  • Age and gender demographics
  • Frequency and intensity of training
  • Instructor experience and age
  • Competition experience
  • Class availability
  • Emphasis on safety
  • Sense of community


Potential issues with long-term contracts:


  • Students may feel trapped if the club is not a good fit


  • Bad experience can sour the entire martial arts experience.

Student Contracts and Their Negative Impact

We believe that student contracts are bad for both the students and the culture of the club in the long term. This belief was reached after much discussion and consideration. Intimidation and fear of legal action are not the kind of tactics we want to use to keep our students. We value the happiness and willingness of our students to be with us. A negative consequence of student contracts is it can lead to a selfish, antagonistic relationship between the student and the club and instructors. Trust is crucial for both parties, and when a student feels coerced or trapped, it can be difficult to establish that trust.

Factors to Consider When Choosing a Martial Art

A number of factors go into selecting a Martial Art, and even more into finding the right community to join. Most people end up just going to the closest club to them. They don’t usually have the experience in the community to see the differences in clubs. The idea that all clubs are the same isn’t really true. Clubs have personalities and styles and approaches that can be very different from one another.

Finding the Right Fit for You

Some clubs are more focused on competition, or fitness, or fighting, or MMA, or Judo, or BJJ, and any number of other things that impact a student’s experience. Proximity of course is important, because everyone wants the convenience of some place close by where they are, but, other factors often end up being more important. Does a club skew younger or older in their population, is there a strong woman’s program, the demographics of students, how often and how hard is the training, are the instructors younger or older, do they have competition experience, how often are classes offered, how much focus is there on safety, does the club create a sense of community or do people just use it as a place to train and then go home, are just a few of the many possible factors that should impact a new student’s decision on the club that is the right fit for them.

The Importance of Spending Time in a Club

New students often don’t know what factors are important to them, until they have a chance to spend significant time in a club. This becomes even more important when clubs add the pressure of locking students into contracts, that can range from 6 months to years. If it turns out that some of these unexpected factors make a club a poor fit, but the student feels trapped by a long term contract, it can lead to a bad experience for the student, and then, once they get out of the contract, could sour them on the whole experience. Taking the time to find the right club can make all the difference in having a positive and fulfilling martial arts experience.

Long term student relationships are our goal

At the Philadelphia Judo Club, our priority is building long term relationships with our students. We believe that having happy and satisfied students who feel welcome and comfortable in our community is the key to our success. While we cannot guarantee that every student will stay with us for the long term, we want to make sure that they have the option to do so without any pressure or coercion. We want our students to feel that they are part of something special, a community that supports them in their journey from white belt to black belt and beyond. Our history of nearly 75 years in operation is a testament to the success of our approach.

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