In the desire to keep our kids safe we often put them in karate. While learning karate might do just that, it's important to join the right dojo. Many think that means the dojo with the right system or style (did you get your free Self Defense Comparison Guide from the home page), the right location, the right price, or the right hours. But we mean a dojo that's safe.
It’s easy to hope and assume the dojo around the corner is, for sure, safe. Why wouldn't it be? But hope isn’t an effective strategy and, unfortunately, this most often is not a reliable way to determine if anything is safe or unsafe.
While You can be sure that any person working with children through your child's school or another organization serving kids has undergone and passed a background check, a dojo, though, is a business. It's run by a business owner. Even the most humanitarian of owners is still looking to earn a profit, and a decent background check can be an expense that doesn't make the budget.
Beyond unchecked staff, let's look at Masters, Sifus, Grandmasters, Senseis and the like. It's a generally accepted fact that it takes 10,000 hours of experience to become an expert. That's at least a decade of training. What kind of person is willing to dedicate that kind of time and energy into learning how to defend themselves? Most often it's a person with a history of trauma.
You don't have to be a therapist to understand that trauma victims often perpetuate abuse, and a dojo can be an opportunity for a person harming others to fly under the radar.
Hopefully you can see, you are selecting an environment that will be influential on your child during impressionable years as well as also putting your child’s safety and wellbeing in someone else's hands. You have the right, and responsibility, to make an informed decision.
It's important to note that just because a person (or dojo) is well loved by many - does not mean they are safe. We often can believe that it's not possible for a business that's open and operating to be breaking rules or laws. But it happens. And it can happen at the hands of people in authority, people in office and people who are popular in the community.
While it can feel defeating to realize that the systems and organizations in place for our safety can fail or have perpetrators fall through the cracks, we absolutely are not powerless. We can do the research and the footwork and not only intentionally choose where we invest our time, energy and money, but we can also report what we find that doesn't feel right.
Here are a list of suggestions that greatly minimize the chances of leaving your most precious loved ones with someone who might not have your or your children’s best interest in mind.
Ask too many questions. Know your priorities and have questions ready. You are interviewing a service provider and have the right to make an informed decision. Put safety on the top of your list and be sure any provider you consider does, too.
Ask if they do background checks on all instructors.
Do they drug test?
Have they ever suspected abuse?
If so, what did they do about it?
Do they have cameras?
Do children change on location?
Other factors that can make a dojo unsafe emotionally may include their culture and ideals. Ask about the goals of their programs. Make sure it sounds like it's a good fit for your child.
Is their programming more fun? More based on tradition?
Are their instructors experienced with children?
What happens if and when children are uncooperative?
And then there's also financial safety. Ask about contracts.
Are they month to month?
What is the exit clause like?
Most children enjoy martial arts for three or less months - and your contract may last a year whether you are showing up for lessons or not.
Pay Attention to how they answer. It's best to ask questions in person. How a question is received and answered can be more important than the actual answer to the question. Pay attention to their response, their tone, and their facial impressions. Most important is how you feel about what they say.
Do some research. Ask for a list of references and CONTACT THEM. Pay attention to how old the references are. Make a list of questions for them, too.
Were they ever concerned about safety?
Why did the relationship end?
Was there ever anything they were uncomfortable about?
Did the relationship end smoothly?
Check out their reviews online. Pay most attention to any one star reviews.
Absolutely be sure to get your own background check on the owner and/or head instructor from a reputable source, like a private investigator - NOT an online database. At Beating Disaster we personally use and recommend...
Provides thorough, detailed and verified background checks. Discounts are available for multiple background checks for hiring nannies, sitters or childcare. Ask for the Nanny package pricing!
Trust Your Gut. You have a lifetime of experience of what has been safe; that means you know when things are not safe, too. Concern, fear, intuition, apprehension, hesitation, or any unsure or unsettled feeling is your gut telling you something is not right. When it comes to safety your gut, not logic, will keep your family safe.
Give Yourself Permission to Make Safe Choices. Safety is inconvenient, and it can look ridiculous. But if you’ve done the above, you know how you feel about your options. Know that often the safe choice isn’t always the closest dojo or the one with the best program. But we can make that decision anyway because nothing is worth more than our child’s safety.
Hopefully these suggestions give you the information and permission you need in order to take steps to ensure you not only feel good about the dojo you selected for your child but are confident that it's safe, too.
Also know, it's never too late to ask these questions even at the dojo you may already be attending.
Some ADDITIONAL RESOURCES that may be helpful…
Provides in person and online training and coaching specifically for mothers and children on prevention, protection and defense, including the Mama Bear Membership.
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