Before joining a martial arts club of any style, Karate, Judo, Ju-Jitsu, Tae Kwon Do and so on, you
should ask to see the basic 5 documents that any martial arts instructor should be able to produce if
asked (listed below), this will help you decide if the class you are joining will be a safe training
In addition to the 5 documents you are advised to check that your club in is membership to a reputable United Kingdom based National Body with high standards and more importantly that the grades you will receive are registered with them and will the club allow you to check this?
Members of smaller less known or even independent groups often find problems when they move to another group / club, so make sure you ask the question "who is my grade registered with?". Some 'Instructors' don't think that this matters but students and parents quite often do.
When questioned about the 'transferability' of the grades they award, independents will usually state that no matter where you attain the grades they won't be accepted by other groups or clubs. This is in fact not the case as most of the larger well known National Bodies will accept grades awarded by each other on production of the membership licence/book. This is known as 'ratification' and is why it is important to check that your grades are registered with a well known and established National Martial Arts Body, after all you would not accept an academic qualification if it was not nationally registered so why should the Martial Arts be any different??
Before your read on it must be noted that a Black Belt, although an excellent achievement, does not in any way constitute as a qualification to teach. In comparison holding a driving licence does not make a person a driving Instructor does it?.
It is important that everyone is aware of the qualities that ALL Martial Arts Instructors should have. If an Instructor cannot produce ALL of these when asked then you should reconsider your options. Some may not carry these all of the time, but should be able to produce them by the next lesson if requested to do so. DON'T TAKE THEIR WORD FOR IT. If they cannot produce the documents at all, then chances are
they haven't got them.
The 5 documents consist of:-
1. A Black Belt (also know as 'Dan or Degree') in grade and no less. This belt will be solid in colour throughout (this may vary for higher graded Dan / Degree grades so always ask if unsure) and will have been awarded by a known and traceable source. They will usually be registered with a National Martial Arts Group and be listed on a data base. Always ask for the contact details to allow you
to check. An example would be www.blackbeltregister.co.uk
It is also strongly advised to check the holders grade history to ensure they have served the correct time between grades. Any person wearing anything other than a black belt and referring to themselves as an 'Instructor' or running a class alone should be checked.
Andrew Morrell, President of the CMAA says:
"The CMAA fully supports the 5 documents in that we believe for an Instructor to run a club alone he / she must hold no less than 1st Dan or equivalent showing at least 3 to 4 years experience. Students have the right to be taught by genuine black belts who have served their time and not by a person wearing a 'special instructor belt' who has only themselves been training for a short period. In comparison a person cannot become a driving instructor unless they themselves have at least 3 and half years experience. In the end the student will make their own informed decision".
2. Evidence of training as an Instructor due to the fact that a black belt, although an excellent achievement, does not in any way constitute a qualification to teach. Martial Arts are one of the largest sporting and recreational activities practiced in the U.K. As such everyone has a duty of care to ensure that Instructors have had training and understanding in areas of work such as Safeguarding (Child Protection), Health and Safety etc due to the amount of access and unavoidable physical contact they have to Children and sometimes Vulnerable Adults. This training should be with a National Martial Arts Group not simply 'awarded' by their own Instructor. Training should include Health & Safety, First Aid, Risk Assessments and Safeguarding. An example would be www.martialartsinstructor.co.uk
3. Indemnity Insurance. The certificate should be the original from the broker NOT one printed on a Martial Arts Group letter head, unless that Group is a registered broker themselves. It is important to note here that most UK Insurance Companies don't offer cover to persons below the rank of black belt. With that in mind any person below black belt claiming to be insured should be checked out direct with the Insurance Company (not the Martial Arts Group) to verify under what criteria, if any, the cover has been issued. Ask them for the phone number to allow you to check direct. Check that the minimum age the club accepts children from is approved by the insurance company providing cover to the group/club. The reason for this is due to the fact that the most Instructor's insurance only covers him/her to teach children above a certain age. Ask for verification of insurance cover, you should be able to check this on line with the National Martial Arts Group they are registered with, failing that ask for the telephone number of the insurance company providing the cover.
4. Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checked every 2 years to ensure suitability to teach children and vulnerable adults. Visit www.dbschecked.co.uk for more information on the DBS.
5. A clear pricing policy with no hidden charges. This is normally given as part of a welcome or information sheet handed to you when you first visit the club and should include lesson fees, membership and licencing, gradings and equipment.