Entering into Wing Chun (or any martial art for that matter) is an exciting step towards your martial arts goals. You will devote your time and effort into making a better version of yourself. So how do you go about choosing a Kwoon? A “kwoon” is the Chinese term for a training hall for martial arts—think “studio” or “dojo”. With the popularity of the Ip Man movies and a flood of social media recommendations, how do you decide the fakes from the legitimate? Use these 9 tips to help you find the right place to choose a kwoon and begin your training.
Choosing a Kwoon – 9 Key Questions
#1 How Long Has Your Instructor Been Training?
While the general rule in choosing a kwoon is the more time they’ve spent training, the more experience they have, you still need to do your research into how long they’ve invested in the martial arts. Black sash or similar high-ranking instructors often stop at their top rank. Remember when they stop their learning yours is stopped too. Look for instructors who continue their training and are still personally active in teaching.
#2 What Type of Training Will You Be Doing?
The type of martial arts training you engage in is up to the instructor’s interpretations of the art. Do they exhibit the ying or the yang side of the art? Is it breathing and flowing or high action, bone crushing, devastation? You want to be up front with your instructor about what you want to get out of your training. If you’re there for self-defense, make sure your instructor isn’t primarily concerned with fitness and well-being. While a holistic approach is possible, every instructor has a focus.
#3 What’s the Cost or Catch?
You don’t want to be told one thing only to have your credit card statement tell another. Beyond the typical enrollment charges, are there belt testing fees, uniform fees, weapon training fees, etc? These additional costs can add up quickly. If they keep adding up ($110 to test, really?) your instructor might be scalping you for unnecessary fees. Ask for prices of everything upfront to help keep things clear and out in the open.
#4 Photographic Proof
Photographs and videos are pretty good records of how the Kwoon and instructors fare. Do they practice what they preach? You’ll be able to catch a glimpse of what goes on before even stepping into the Kwoon. Testimonials also provide a running account of what students have gained—the more the better.
#5 How Long Will It Take Before I’m a Black Sash (or Equally High Rank)?
This question may sound ridiculous, but it’s actually a good one to ask. This helps pick out the con-artists who are trying to make a sale sound too good to be true. Sweat, tears, bruises, and even blood, typically go into a goal of instructor level. Saying everybody usually reaches a significant rank in about 2 years is probably an indicator that your training is more about your ego than your skills. Everybody enters training at a different level and devotes various amount of time. You should look for an instructor who tells you the truth: Everyone is different, but goals be achieved depending on how hard YOU push. If you’re still curious, go to talk to students already in attendance. They can offer some great off-the-record advice and feedback.
#6 Is There an Out?
This is an extension of Tip #3. Know the cancellation policies of your contract. Common contract cancelations range from 30 to 90 days. There should not be a cancelation fee charging you when you quit. If you want out, why should you be penalized for it?
#7 What Gear Do I Need?
You want to start off on the right foot. Getting the gear you need is typically a mouthpiece, open palm (MMA style) gloves, and head gear. As you advance, more equipment may be required (but is likely not mandatory—see Tip #8). It’s good to know what’s coming in the future, so you can plan your pocketbook accordingly.
#8 Are There “Mandatory” Activities?
For many Kwoon’s this is an unspoken rule. At a certain time, for testing or competition purposes, sparring becomes mandatory. Even if instructors say it’s an encouraged activity, eventually pressure will mount for you to participate. Don’t get to this point. Again, ask what is required as you move up through the ranks—especially in regard to sparring and other physically demanding activities.
#9 Google is Your Best Training Buddy
Yes, the Internet search engine can help you become a martial arts master! Even when all your questions are answered, put in a little bit of effort for your own research. Fifteen minutes of Googling can save you years of wasted time. The key here is take away your instructors’ title (ex: Sensei James, James; Sifu Yuri, Yuri) and Google their name. It’s likely that additional articles, video, or even photographs can help you make that decision to wisely pursue your martial arts goals. Remember that choosing a kwoon is also choosing your instructor. Do your homework!