Whether you're signing your child up for karate classes or you are about to start taking a self-defense program, martial arts schools often include more than just lessons. Understanding how training works, how the belt system works and what equipment you may need will help you to stay informed and make the most of the martial arts through a school like Master S.H. Yu Martial Arts.

Training Time-Table

There's no set training schedule that you'll find among every martial arts school. Depending on the type of martial art, your age (or your child's age) and your goals, you may have a different schedule than your friend who goes to the school across town. For example, your 4-year-old's pre-k karate class may meet once a week for 30 minutes, your 10-year-old's children's class may require two to three 45-minute-long sessions and your own adult class may include three or more hour-long classes.

The amount of training that you or your child does may also vary depending on special classes that school offers. Some programs provide extra training sessions or clinics or weekends or workshops on using weapons or breaking techniques.

The Belt System

Different martial arts disciplines have their own belt systems. An orange belt in one style may not equal an orange belt in another. Likewise, some arts have (or don't have) certain colors. If your goal is to get to a black belt, understanding the steps that you need to take to get there is key.

The martial arts school may divide students into training groups or classes based on belt rank. This doesn't necessarily mean that each color has its own class. Some schools differentiate between junior (or beginning) students and senior (or advanced) ones. The program may also ask senior belt students to help teach the beginners.

Depending on the belt system that the martial arts school uses, you may have frequent or infrequent tests. Moving up in belt rank requires passing a test. Some schools move from belt to belt, while others have strips or intermediate levels in between belts. As you move higher in belt level or move past a first degree black belt, you may test less often. The more advanced you become, the more training you will need in between testing periods. This will help you to build and refine skills.

Additional Equipment

When you sign your middle schooler up for football, you know that he'll need a helmet and pads. But, what about karate? Most martial arts schools require students who participate in sparring types of training activities to have appropriate safety equipment. This should include protective headgear, body, hand and foot pads and a mouth guard, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Not only do you, or your child, need safety equipment, but it must also fit properly. That means you'll need to switch out your child's equipment as she grows.

Understanding the ins and outs of the martial arts training process can help you to create goals and keep yourself (or your child) safe during classes. Whether you take karate, tang soo do, tae kwan do, jujitsu, aikido or another style of martial arts, making a long-term commitment means knowing when you'll train, how you can move up in rank and what you need to do so.