When is it time to leave your martial art school?

By Syl Peterkin, RCM Boxing/MMA/Judo/Jiujitsu Correspondent

There are times when you have reached a peak, a decline or a plateau in your training. This may be due to a number of reasons including physical, psychological, or even financial. This is not to say that these are your only reasons but ask yourself these questions or consider these factors to ensure your training is up to expectations.

Does the instructor push you past expectations?

If you feel that you have reached a plateau physically or mentally there might be a problem. If you have been attending class consistently you should be growing. Your instructor is there to train you and guide you to newer and higher goals. Techniques should become muscle memory and newer or more refined techniques introduced. If the case is that your instructor can no longer provide this for you, it may be time to have a talk with your instructor about your current and future goals.

Different Focus Than What You Desire?

If your school has marketed itself as a competition school, there might be a problem if you haven’t even seen (been to) one competition after a year. If you took up your martial art as self-defense and your school has a focus on competition; there might be a problem. Moves like jumping guard, pulling guard, and cart wheel kicks might be great for competition but can get you seriously hurt in self-defense. A key sign for you to take notice is if you want to learn grappling, striking and key attacks you are being taught things like butt scooting.

Bait and Switch?

There are times when you are the victim of a BAIT and SWITCH. Meaning that after you had signed up for a school; promises that were given out or were originally made are no longer being offered. Examples of this including the primary instructor you were promised is no longer the instructor. The facilities have not improved according to what was initially stated. The school now requires mandatory equipment to be purchased. Teaching days or times have switched which no longer allows you to attend classes as often as you are used to.

Inability to Get Promoted?

Let’s be honest here, most people go to a school with a desire to one day reach a black belt. There might be something wrong, if you have been regularly attending class, going to tournaments, beating individuals in the school in sparring, and still not being promoted. Sometimes the teachers rationale for holding back promotion might be legitimate (the person simply does NOT show the ability of what they deem to be necessary for a promotion). Some instructors will slow down promotions because they realize that many students will leave after receiving their black belt. The lack of national standards is dependent on the style and national affiliation. What is a good measure of a person’s promotion rate? A person in the school you attend, who came in before you or right after you. Who attends the same amount of classes as you, has the same skills as you and has the same training background as you. Typically people get promoted around the same time. Depending on the school that a person attends promotion rates should be uniform.
Your instructor encourages you to move to another school.
There are times when instructors realize that they cannot offer you what you need and specifically instruct you to go to another school. This can happen when a school teaches primarily for self-defense and you have competition goals. It can also happen when the school is a competition school and you desire self-defense. Another reason is you require more training than being offered at your current school.

Life Gets In The Way

Scheduling – Sometimes its college, sometimes it work, sometimes its family but quite certainly life gets in the way of your training. Your schedule is no longer compatible with the class schedule. Does this mean you should continue going to a school that is no longer convenient. Is paying $225.00 per month worthwhile for attending class twice a month? If you are running into this situation, consider speaking to your instructor. Inquire about lowering your rate, freezing your contract, or even cancelling your contract (if you are on a contract).

The Financial Cost

Martial arts can in fact become quite expensive. Depending on your location the price of a school can range from 125 to 225.00 per month. This may or may not include additional costs such as tournaments, which can range from 30.00 to 100.00 each, mandatory seminars, testing fee’s, equipment fee’s, transportation fee’s, etc. Martial arts training can become very expensive. So much so it may put a challenge to your financial well-being. Unless you are thinking about becoming a professional fighter 225 per month for a single individual might not be realistic. The price may not be realistic if you are working a minimum wage job or have other higher costs such as a mortgage. The first thing you should consider doing is speaking to your instructor and possibly negotiate a rate that might be more amenable to your financial condition. Offer to help out at the school (clean, give out flyers, bring in more people to train at the school) in order to have lower rates. If the instructor declines your offer, you must weigh what is the best decision for you?
The second possibility exists that you might have found a school that has a considerably better rate that at another school. If the difference in price is $30.00 per month but you are travelling 10 miles out further out the difference in the cost of gas might not be that much of a difference. If the schools are 2 miles away from each other the cost difference might make a difference.


In most schools where physical training exists injuries do happen. In contact sports and activities such as martial arts this can occur as well. Some injuries are simply freak accidents, while other injuries can be fully prevented. If there have been a large number of injuries in a short period of time or continuous injuries, there might be a problem. If this is the case, it might be time to consider moving to another school.

Problems With Another Student?

If you have a problem with another student, be an adult and speak to them about it. If nothing has improved, then it is time to take it up a level. This does not mean fight the other student. It means to speak to the instructor to express your problems and ways to resolve it. If the problem isn’t resolved to your satisfaction, it may be time to leave your school.

Before You Leave Your School

If any of these problems have occurred, you do have the option of speaking to your instructor. Maybe this problem can be rectified or fixed. Now if you are on the edge about leaving also consider the following before moving on to another school.
If you are under a contract be sure to understand the terms of the contract. If you cancel the contract, you might have to pay a cancellation fee. If you can’t cancel the contract, get a copy and read the terms to see under what conditions you would be able to cancel the contract.

Problems with leaving your school

Even if you are studying the same style, the newer instructor may not respect your previously earned rank and make you start at a lower rank (thus taking away your earned accomplishment.). Be sure that your rank and ability to get promoted is discussed BEFORE enrolling in a new school.

Train At the New School First

Get an idea of who you will be training with and if the school is a good fit for you. Ask for a month to month or if you can purchase a few months prior to signing a long term contract. There is no reason in going from a bad situation to a worse situation.

Outsider Status

You may be looked like an outsider from students in your newer school. Some people will say don’t worry about this and focus on the training. Things are simply not that easy. When you train and have unwilling partners or people who perform techniques wrong your training can be equally affected. This can have a detrimental effect on your progress.
The answer to some individuals who move on to new schools is to outperform the other students at the new school. This can seriously backfire on a martial artist as individuals in the school will isolate the martial artist. They may also try to injure the student who is out performing them. They may consider the person to NOT be a true member of the family (thus making your training unnecessarily tougher).

Being Labeled A Traitor or Creonte

The argument amongst leaving schools is that you will be labeled a traitor or creonte#. Some schools will market themselves as lifestyle groups, teams, families, state that they put time and effort into your development. As a student though you put in training and paid your tuition. The term creonte is especially big within the BJJ community. This term has been big ever since Jorge Gracie, the first Brazilian to master BJJ, left the original Gracie clan to start his own schools. Carlos Gracie claimed that it was because Jorge wasn’t practicing pure Jiu-Jitsu, while Jorge claims that Carlos was taking too much of a cut as Jorge’s manager. Jorge would go on to spread BJJ to many different parts of Brazil, while Helio and Carlos focused on Rio de Janeiro. There are always two sides of a story when this comes around. Carlos’ and Helio’s clan have primarily written Jorge out of the history books due in large part to his creonte status. The truth is somewhere in between. The point though is that being labeled a traitor or creonte may be a collateral damage.

In the end, life is short, and time is limited. Find the best school for you, which can also give you ample amount of training. Don’t necessarily be afraid of leaving, but be aware of some of the consequences of leaving.




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