I have been asked before how I chose aikido as the martial art I wanted to train. The truth is, I didn't.
I never painstakingly researched the relative merits of different of martial arts. I never asked for a lot of input from experienced martial artists on what would suit my goals or my body type. I never took introductory classes in different martial arts to see how they felt.
What I did do was go online and look at the web site of every martial arts training center within 20 miles: taekwondo dojang, judo dojo, kung fu center, whatever. If what I saw looked interesting and there was an e-mail address provided, I shot them an e-mail asking for more information.
My questions were, I thought, pretty reasonable ones. What styles did they teach? How much did they charge? When were their classes? As it turned out, nearly all of the people I contacted were unwilling to part with even this most basic information. The responses were all the same: come on in, see a class, and we'll talk about it.
I, for one, didn't want to devote an evening to seeing a class and listening to the instructor's pitch if I didn't think the program would fit my budget or my work schedule. So most of these places never heard another word from me.
A funny thing happened, though. The e-mail I sent to a small nonprofit aikido club got a reply in an hour-and-a-half. The reply gave detailed information on the club's class schedule, fees, and monthly dues. The dues were reasonable and the classes were mostly at times when I could attend, so I decided to go see a class.
I liked what I saw at that class, so I went to another class. I liked what I saw at that class, too, so I decided to join the club.
In the end, I chose a dojo, not an art. Rather than trying to judge the relative merits of the different arts available to me (something I was wholly unqualified to do), I went to the place where the people had been forthcoming and honest with me.
I suspect I am not unique in this. How many other would-be martial artists are out there who have decided not to pursue the martial arts because every instructor they contacted came on a like a used car salesman? If more private martial arts establishments dealt with people as openly and honestly as that small nonprofit aikido club, I might be paying twice as much or more for karate or jujutsu somewhere else.
Private instructors, are you listening? I could be paying for your kids' braces right now if only you'd been willing to tell me what, when, and how much.