Find a Self-Defense School: Adults and Kids

Wahoo! You're ready to look into taking some classes! You attended one of our live training events and now want to seek out consistent training in your local community. You've always wanted to take a class or two (or three!), but never made it a priority until now. You trained in the past and are ready for a refresher. You're looking for a new way to have fun, learn a skill and make friends. You're ready to enroll your child in classes.

Whatever the motivation, jumping into the world of martial arts and self-defense can be intimidating if you're not already a committed member of that community. We're here to help you find a martial arts school, combat sports or self-defense training center so you can fall in love with training for the very first time, or all over again.

Step 1

What's the difference between martial arts and self-defense?

Martial arts, combat sports and self-defense are not the same thing, despite some overlap. Start by familiarizing yourself with the basic categories of systems. Here's a quick and dirty summary of each:

Traditional Martial Arts (e.g., Karate, Taekwondo, Judo, Hapkido, Kung Fu)

  • Based on aesthetics, form and tradition
  • Patterned, choreographed movements and forms
  • Same system for centuries, consistency is key
  • Promotion through a belt system is often one of the main focuses
  • Works best with evenly sized opponents
  • Takes a long time to become proficient
  • Opportunity for competition is available
  • For kids: emphasis on discipline and respect

Combat Sports (e.g., Mixed Martial Arts (MMA), Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ), Boxing)

  • Competition-based training and techniques
  • Fitness and conditioning are a big part of training
  • Intricacies of techniques are emphasized and repetition is plentiful
  • Skill sets focus on speed, accuracy, and power
  • Works best with evenly sized opponents
  • Can be used with effectiveness in real life, but techniques are created with sport, not street, in mind
  • For kids: emphasis on physical skills such as coordination and strength

Self-Defense (e.g., Krav Maga and Krav Maga-based systems)

  • Based on effectiveness and function, not art or aesthetic
  • System changes with time to reflect changes in modern-day violence, relevance is key
  • Will work regardless of size, strength, gender and athletic/fitness ability
  • Fewer techniques that are simpler to learn
  • Skill sets focus on power and nullifying threats
  • Reality-based techniques that are created for use in real-life situations
  • Students can become proficient very quickly
  • No opportunities for competition
  • Training can be intense
  • For kids: emphasis on self-defense and anti-bullying

Step 2

What are your main goals and motivations?

Knowing what you want, or what you want for your kids, to get out of the training experience is hugely important and can help save you time and money on your hunt to find a martial arts school or self-defense training center.

Looking for a new community of friends that you can have fun training with? That comes down to the individual school, instructors, and students more than the system itself. Check out Step 3 below for school shopping tips.

Want to get into shape but tired of the cardio machines at the gym? Combat sports and self-defense classes will emphasize strength and conditioning more than a martial arts school.

Intrigued by the history and beauty of martial arts and ready to challenge yourself through a belt system? Start with a traditional martial arts school.

Interested in learning effective personal safety and self-protection skills without committing to years of study? A school that offers reality-based self-defense, which is what we teach, is the way to go.

What type of benefits are you most hoping that your child gets out of training? Choose a Krav Maga-based school if you're primarily interested in self-defense and anti-bullying strategies. Looking for your child to learn physical and life-skills first and foremost? That comes down to the individual teaching style of each school, so it's time to go shopping!

Step 3 

Go shopping!

Enrolling in a training program takes commitment of time, money and sweat equity. Invest in researching your options thoroughly so that you choose the right fit. Read reviews online, ask around your community to see if you can chat with current students you may know, look at the school's website and social media platforms. Additionally, we think it's important that martial arts and self-defense schools be accredited by a governing organization, and instructors be certified by that organization.

Once you've narrowed down your list, it's time to try a class (or maybe just observe at first if you feel more comfortable that way). Most reputable schools will offer at least one free trial class. We suggest taking your trial class, or bringing your child, on a day and time you plan on attending regularly, so you can get an accurate feel for the instructors and students you'll be spending time with.

Everybody is different, and the perfect fit for one person might not be the perfect fit for you. Here's a short list of our suggested non-negotiables:

1. Safety

Trust can take time to build, but you should feel 100% safe from a physical, psychological, emotional, sexual and social standpoint the second you step foot inside a school. From the instructors to the students, the sales team to the membership agreement, it's a necessity that you feel safe and free from pressure. Instructors reserve the right to encourage as well as correct students, but you are in control of your own training experience from start to finish and are entitled to decide, free from shame and blame, which exercises or drills you wish to participate in.

2. Fun

This one is simple...if it's not fun, you're not to going to go. Pick classes that you look forward to and enjoy.

3. Ego-Free

Egos tend to abound in this space and can make for less effective, less fun, and less safe training. Look for instructors with humble confidence who choose to lead by example on the mat and not by accolades via his or her mouth. Remember that there are no guaranteed wins in competition and there are no guaranteed "fight enders" when it comes to self-defense. An instructor who teaches otherwise should raise red flags.


Phew! Are you feeling more confident? Hopefully we've provided knowledge and tools that will help you find a martial arts school or self-defense training facility that is the perfect fit for you and your family. Yes, there's a lot to think about, but ultimately, finding the right school is about testing out your options in person and choosing a community of members with similar goals who will welcome you and support your training process.

Can't find a Jarrett & Jennie school near you? We're working on remedying that, but in the meantime, remember that we travel and would love to chat about customizing a local event for your school, organization, business, or even your town. Book us!

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