With all the reasons people go into martial arts, getting the right martial arts school (or martial arts instructor) is one of the barriers to entry for the sport. Choosing the right martial arts school starts with some research that you should go through before signing the contract for classes. Here are some questions you should ask.
What Styles Do They Teach?
Not all martial arts styles are a good match for all practitioners, and the line between martial arts and high energy yoga exercises is something of a blurry one. Softer styles (such a Wing Chung) tend to be a bit harder to find schools for, largely because martial arts is marketed to a specific demographic. Think about what kind of martial art you want to learn, and what your goals are. Hard striking style, or a style that focuses on redirection and blocks? Do you have balance problems that will make high kicks dangerous, or any other physical constraints to run?
What Age Levels Do They Teach?
The bread and butter martial arts class, from the perspective of martial arts schools, is aimed at children between the ages of 10 and 14. Many many parents use martial arts schools as structured after school activity for their kids, where they'll learn something that gives them focus and self discipline, and maybe keeps them from being bullied. Talk to your martial arts instructor about this; there are differences between schools aimed for kids and martial arts schools aimed at adults.
Are You Comfortable With The Instructors?
Not all people who teach martial arts at a martial arts schools should be teaching them. Not because they aren't good martial artists, but because they're not exactly versed as teachers. Always ask to watch a few classes before you sign up, and look for things like who they focus on when they teach. You're looking for teachers that focus on the students who are having difficulty mastering the subject matter; it's always easier to teach to the interested. It's more challenging to teach to the students who are having some time learning the process.
How Well Maintained Are The Facilities?
Most martial arts schools are put into spaces in strip malls, or in other multi-use places. There should be a place where students can change into and out of their exercise gear, with lockers. It's unlikely that you'll find one that has showers that can be done. That said, you want to look for signs of ill repair - this is one of the handful of ongoing expenses of running a martial arts school, and there's no excuse for a dojo in poor repair.