What are your goals with the training?
Is it self-defense? If so, look for a school with an emphasis on self-defense rather than sport or traditional martial arts.
Is it to earn a black belt? Training to black belt and beyond is the best way to anchor in the self-confidence, focus, and self-discipline the martial arts teaches.
If earning a black belt is your goal then find a school that has retained students for the 3-5 years it takes to earn a black belt. Watch the black belt classes. Are they impressive? Do they have the skill and presence you would like to develop? Look at the upper ranking students. (darker belts such as brown usually mean longer tenure). What kind of condition are the students in? Do they look healthy? Or, are they soft and out of shape?
Visit Schools and Watch Martial Arts Classes For Children or Adults Once you've determined your goals, set appointments to watch a beginner's martial arts class and then an advanced class.
You're looking for how the instructors interact with the students. Are they good teachers? Are they personable? Are they walking the talk of respect and courtesy? Do they look the part? Is this a role model you want for your child?
Watch the beginner classes to see if you're dealing with a good martial arts teacher. You want someone who's personable, explains things well, paces the class, has good classroom management, runs a safe class, and is professional.
Confirm Membership in the Martial Arts Teachers Association
Confirm that the school is a member of the Martial Arts Teachers Association (MATA). MATA membership indicates that the instructor is staying abreast of current martial arts teaching trends in the profession. He or she is studying to become a better instructor through continuing education.
Then watch the advanced students. Are they impressive? Are they in shape? Are they respectful? Are they disciplined? Do they line up quickly? Ignore the trophies or titles the school may have won. Keep the spotlight on what the instructor can do to help you achieve your goals. Talk to the students and their parents. Visit the school a variety of different times and see if what you see is consistent throughout the week.
What Does Martial Arts Cost?
Visit all the schools in your area. You do not want to choose a school simply because it's convenient or because it's inexpensive. Instructors who lack confidence in the quality of student they produce will have the lowest tuition. Rarely will you find the lowest priced school and the best martial arts school under the same roof.