How do I pick a good karate/martial arts school?

With little or no experience in martial arts, it can often be a difficult task to select a good and appropriate martial arts school. The only way to properly check out a school is by visiting it, however when you visit it you can look for the following things:

  • Accreditation. Check out what associations & recognised bodies that the school is associated with. If the school is associated with an international karate/martial arts organisation it is more likely to have a standard and tested curriculum.
  • Facility. Don't be fooled by appearance alone. Whilst a dirty or untidy studio is not acceptable, a fully-equipped & commercial looking studio may not provide quality instruction. The most important thing in a dojo is the people, not the furnishings.
  • Ask questions. Before class and after class ask both the instructors and students questions. Such questions like: what do you most like about the class? why do you train here? what can this school help me achieve?
  • Instructor's Certification. Ask about the instructor's certification. If you feel unsure about whether the person is telling the truth or not (probably get out of there), but you could also ask to see proof/documentation.
  • Visit different schools and see which one you prefer. Most instructors would prefer to know that you have chosen their school because it fits you, rather than you leaving at a later date as you found something that 'fits you better' because you never looked around first.
  • Do not focus purely on their rank. Being a black belt, or a 7th degree black belt does not necessarily mean they are a good teacher. However, a school owner should generally be a 2nd degree black belt or higher in order to ensure they have a good knowledge base of the system.
  • Lineage. Do not be afraid to ask about the instructor's instructor. Where he/she trained, or how long they have been training. Authentic schools, especially Karate dojo should have no problem in listing their instructors, or tracing their lineage back to solid sources.
  • Contracts & cost. If your school is part of a professional gym, you may be required to sign a contract for 6 months or a year, however if the school is not you should avoid signing contracts. Payment should be per class or on a monthly basis. Expensive classes does not necessarily equal quality.
  • Trial lesson. All schools should provide a no-strings attached trial lesson or trial week.
  • Watch a class. Schools should not keep 'closed doors' and reputable schools will most likely allow you to watch a class before you even do your first FREE lesson.
  • Sport-based or self-defence based. Whilst these don't necessarily have to be separate, they often are. You should ensure that you know what you want to get out of martial arts primarily. If you want to compete in tournaments, ensure you ask the instructor about this. However, no school should force you to compete for promotions or a like.

What do I need to know for my first karate class?

We prefer that potential students contact the dojo before arriving for their trial class to ensure that you can be accomodated in that particular class. In addition, you need to:

  • Arrive at least 10 minutes before the scheduled start of class.
  • Wear loose fitting clothing, such as a trackpants and t-shirt if you do not have a karate gi or martial arts clothing.
  • Have an open mind and be genuinely interested in learning traditional Karate.
  • Be aware of our expectations of students and have thoroughly read our website, specifically the About Us and Classes sections.
  • If you have any health concerns, please discuss them with a doctor and let the instructor know before the class.
  • Come prepared with any questions for the instructor.
  • Remember that there will be some language and cultural differences, but to not be worried about it, as everyone had to learn at sometime.
  • For adults, remember that Karate is a martial art and form of self-defence and not an alternative to going to the gym for a workout (even though you will get a physical workout), and that we do not practice karate for sport.

Please see the getting started page for more information about beginning karate at our dojo.

If you plan on coming along to a class, we would appreciate it if you could fill out the form included on the getting started page. It will save time when you arrive.

In addition to the above information, here are some interesting articles and links you can read about getting started in martial arts.

How much does karate cost?

Visit our fees page for more information.

What is karate?

Karate is a martial art and form of self-defence that originated in Okinawa hundreds of years ago, and was greatly influenced by martial arts systems from China. Karate literally means empty (kara) hand (te) and it refers to the use of hands, feet and the body as a weapon. However, Karate is more than just physical aspects, through hard training and dedication it provides cultivation of the mind and focuses on development of the principles of Bushido, such as the mind, body & character.

Learn more about the history of karate on our history page.

Do you have beginner only classes?

For Juniors, we have four classes per week on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday where our beginners train together at 5:30pm, with our intermediate and senior grades playing a mentoring role. As they advance through the grades students will be able to progress to different classes and even complete a Leadership Training Program.

For Seniors, we have three classes per week on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday at 7:00pm. In these classes everyone trains together, however the content is delivered in a staged approach to ensure beginners are able to learn efficiently and effectively. Generally, white belts (beginners) train for the first hour of the class, and then the intermediate and advanced students continue on for the next half hour. Once students reach the brown belt level they are able to also attend our Tuesday class.

Additionally, the Wednesday 7:00pm class is also available to our orange belt Juniors and above.

For new students we do schedule an introductory beginner seminar where you will be taught basic etiquette, stances, blocks, kicks etc. These introductory beginner seminars are held at the start of each term, but many students also like to schedule a private one-on-one lesson when starting, and these can be booked by appointment with the Head Instructor.

For all our class times, please see our class timetable.

Do you have classes for kids?

Yes. We have classes that are specifically cater for children under the age of 14 years old. For all our class times, please see our class timetable.

What are the benefits of traditional Okinawan karate?

Matsubayashi-ryu Karate will provide you with a range of skills including, but not limited to: heightened co-ordination & reflexes, discipline, confidence, fitness & health, stamina, cultivation & life style development, culture & history, self-defence, stress management, flexibility and the skills that will enable you to protect yourself, and your loved ones.

For specific benefits other than those listed about, see our classes page, which expands on the benefits of Karate training for both adults, and children.

How many classes a week should I attend?

We require that all students endeavour to attend a minimum of two classes of formal lessons at the dojo per week. This amount of time will allow the student to develop and become familiar with Karate-do at a good rate of advancement. Training twice per week gives both the instructor and student a solid basis for learning new techniques and developing existing ones, training once per week does not allow enough time for this.

For all our class times, please see our class timetable.

How fit do I need to be to do karate?

There is no minimum fitness requirement as the class instructors will structure the lesson so that you are able to participate to the best of your ability, but ensuring you try your hardest.

What is the basic format of a class?

The classes are formatted using the 3 Ks: Kihon, Kata & Kumite (Basics, Forms & Partnerwork). The class will generally start with warm ups & stretches, followed by revision of basic techniques, kata practice, partner drills and practices which are specifically chosen for that class. For our adults classes, they are heavily based in the practice of practical karate.

The basic format of our classes are as follows: Formal bow-in, Warm-ups, Basic movements and foundation drills, Kata, Lesson of the day (self-defence, applications, drills, kumite etc), Formal bow-out. For children, we also dedicate a brief period in the lesson to a 'dojo discussion' based around proper behaviour, safety, anti-bullying, and using karate correctly.

What style of karate do you teach?

All of our dojos teach Matsubayashi-ryu, which is a branch of traditional Okinawan Shorin-ryu Karate-do. Our curriculum is set by the World Matsubayashi-ryu (Shorin-ryu) Karate-do Association (WMKA) located in Okinawa, Japan and influenced by Soke Takayoshi Nagamine, the second generation headmaster of Matsubayashi-ryu. Soke Nagamine is the son of the style's founder, Osensei Shoshin Nagamine. We also teach Okinawan Kobudo (weapons) to advanced students.

You can read more about our style of karate, on our history page.

I've done martial arts before - will you recognise my grade?

If you've done martial arts before, there are a few things we'll take into consideration. Generally, if your style is similar to ours and you would like to continue to wear your current uniform and/or belt then you're welcome to do so. For children we do a mini-assessment at 15 classes, and for adults the mini-assessment is at 20 classes. After this assessment you will be given a grade appropriate to your level and ability within our dojo and style of Karate.

Most students tend to choose to wear a white belt when joining our dojo, simply because there is such variety between martial arts schools and organisation. Recognition of grades will be on an individual basis and after discussion with the Head Instructor (Kancho).

What associations are you affiliated with?

World Matsubayashi-ryu Karate-do Association (WMKA)
The Kodokan Matsubayashi-ryu Cummings Karate Dojo is the Canberra Branch of the Matsubayashi-ryu Karate Association of Australia (MKAA) the Australian representative body for the World Matsubayashi-ryu (Shorin-ryu) Karate-do Association (WMKA). The Cummings Karate Dojo is also a direct member of the WMKA, and is licensed directly by Soke Nagamine.

World Karate Federation (WKF) and Australian Karate Federation (AKF)
The Cummings Karate Dojo is also a member of the Australian Karate Federation (NSW Branch), the only national governing body of karate in Australia recognised and endorsed by the federal government and the Australian Sports Commission. The AKF is a member of the World Karate Federation. This accreditation also ensures coaches will be practicing instructors who are up-to-date and competent in coaching methodology, delivering a safe, responsible and high standard of coaching to their students in line with their responsibilities and duty of care as a coach.

International Ryukyu Karate Research Society (IRKRS)
Our dojo is also an associate member of the IRKRS (also known as the Ryukyu Karate Kokusai Kenkyukai) headed by Sensei Patrick McCarthy. This is a non-style specific research group open to the public aimed at bringing together a new generation of progressive learners seeking to better understand the history, philosophical and technical (including kata appliation) practices of the original martial art.

Australia Federation of Traditional Karate (AFTK)
The Cummings Karate Dojo is a member of the AFTK which focuses on the preservation of traditional karate throughout Australia by promoting a friendly relationship between members through workshops, seminars, and positive karate ethics.

How many people are in a class?

The Cummings Karate Dojo aims to keep classes at around 25 students with two instructors. We endeavour to keep the class size smaller to ensure a good instructor to student ratio, which allows the student to more effectively learn and personalised instruction. The advantage of having a small class size is that you get more direct supervision and instruction.

Am I too old to start karate?

Karate, unlike sports such as soccer or football can be continued for many years, and well past retirement age! Many senior karate practitioners & teachers have been well into their 60s, 70s and 80s. No matter your age, the health benefits of Karate will still be there. For more information, we encourage you to read the article 'Am I too old to start learning karate?'

What are the injury risks for karate?

The injury risk is dramatically lower than most other sports. Any contact that you have between two or more people will be closely supervised and controlled.

All instructors and assistant instructors have current Senior First Aid qualifications. Additionally, the Centre, it's instructors, and it's students are fully covered under its comprehensive Sports insurance policy. You can find a list of our policies on our policy page.

How long does it take to become a black belt?

There is no definite time period that can be said. The length taken will depend on how regularly you train, how hard and your dedication. The minimum time required is 3 years and the minimum age is 16 years old.

What if I have an injury or disability - can I still do karate?

As discussed in the fitness FAQ, the instructor will cater what (s)he is teaching to ensure that you are able to perform it to the best of your ability, and you will be able to work around your injuries, most likely being able to achieve the same result by an alternative method. If you do have an injury, ensure that you inform the Instructor so they can cater for it, and ensure that you do not obtain any further injury. Karate also develops muscle strength in most areas of the body, such as wrist, legs, ankles, back, chest and therefore can often help in assisting the recovery of a prior injury.

Do you have a rank or belt system?

Yes, we do. You can view it on our belts and grade page.

Are there dojo in other areas of Australia?

Yes. To view dojo and classes in other areas of Australia, please visit our Australian Association's website. To view dojo and classes in other areas of the world, please visit our World Association's website.

What do I wear?

For your trial program, we recommend you wear comfortable clothing that is loose fitting, such as a T-shirt and shorts or track-pants. You will not need to wear shoes. If you wish to continue with Karate after trying it out and completing your trial program, we will give you a free uniform and belt. You can enquire about this by contacting the specific dojo.