I will use your question to go into a bit of detail on the matter of schools.
When it comes to being a martial artist in a martial art, I’ll be blunt, and I’m not sorry about it.
This is a personal opinion, so please, spare me any hate. (I’m speaking to everyone in general).
A school I would avoid is a school where everything is money, aside from the monthly fee, equipment quota, quota for events, belt testing fees every three months like clockwork, planned trips every year, so that’s another monthly quota there for trips, federation fees. Well, basically if you get reminded that you have to pay this or that all the time.
If class is always a competition or competition oriented all the time. If all they talk about is the next tournament this or that. That’s a school to avoid, unless competition is all you’re looking for.
If you’re required to have a class uniform, a uniform for fighting in competitions, another to compete in kata, another for “formal” occasions, that’s also a no.
If their belt system is white, white with a stripe, white with two stripes, and so on, and you have to pay for each little stripe added, or there’s a whole testing process just for that, that’s another no.
If all you learn is how to fight, even if it’s self defense, but ALL you learn is how to fight. That’s a no, as well.
If all you need to do to get your black belt is memorize a set of kata and a set of techniques, that’s another no.
Now, it’s not that what I consider a good school doesn’t or shouldn’t compete. Many do; but in a good school, you learn that there’s a big difference between tournament fighting, dojo fighting and street fighting, and each is practiced and developed differently.
In a good school, you learn history, you learn compassion and humility, you learn that fighting is not an option until there are no more options. You learn that a belt is nothing. You learn how to live your martial arts, rather than merely practicing techniques. You learn to develop character and confidence without boasting. You learn loyalty and honor.
You learn that teachers are just like you, only with experience. There’s nothing godly about them. And the respect they command is earned through respect, not demanded through fear or simply because his/her belt is black. You learn that a teacher is as much a student as you are.
You earn your belt when you’re ready, not buy it at set times.
Now, none of this makes a school good or bad in and of itself. It all depends on what the student is looking for. If it’s competition the student wants, then that’s fine, but the student NEEDS TO UNDERSTAND that a MARTIAL ART and a MARTIAL SPORT, are two completely different worlds. You can’t say you know self defense if all you do is train for competitions, and just as much, you can’t say you can compete if all your training is in self defense. Both aspects are completely different.
Also (and I add this because I’ve seen it too much, and lately I’ve seen it here on tumblr, too), you don’t just quit a martial art whenever you want. When you’re a martial artist, that stays with you in your daily life, in your character, in your actions, even if you don’t physically practice.
If you can just train for a while, go compete, reach a black belt and then quit, or as some have said “retire”, and your life goes back to “normal”, you were practicing a martial sport, not a martial art.
If a martial sport is the case, that makes a person an athlete, not a martial artist.
Edit: Almost forgot. No, training at only one school doesn’t mean you’re biased. Some people do their research well, others are lucky enough to find a good school from the get go. Either way, with time, you start learning and seeing the differences.
Sure, starting at a school for the first time and claiming your school is the best, complete and in the right above all others, after the teacher gave you one good advice, one week into training, then that opinion is biased. It has happened, though.
Best. Answer. Ever.
Main reasons I don’t formally train anymore are my high school standards.
At my old school….
No fees other than monthly.
Any uniform from any dojo was allowed.
Gradings were not scheduled after kids levels, and even then it was an opportunity. As in if you were ready, you were told to prepare , then attempt. And people failed. Often.
You owned your staff and sword, and could buy them anywhere. Discounts for buying via the sensei. Sensei recommended staff; doweling. (Good enough for learning kata, but not flexible enough for true iado).
No black belt grading without demonstrating ALL kata, including prearranged sparring. Usually 1year prep, min. And you must teach/volunteer with the younger students regularly.