10 Signs of A Bad Martial Arts Instructor (Avoid at all costs!)

Martial arts offer some of the most amazing physical and mental health benefits to both children and adults. But it’s important to learn from martial arts instructors that are legit, know what they are talking about, and able to put their words into practice. 

In this article, I list out the 10 signs of a bad martial arts instructor that you should avoid at all costs from experience!

signs of a bad martial arts instructor

10 Signs of A Bad Martial Arts Instructor

1. The Instructor is Arrogant and Self Centered

One of the key qualities of being a true martial artist is being humble and respectful. If the martial arts instructor is cocky, arrogant and full of themselves, it’s a clear sign that you’re dealing with an egomaniac who probably only learned the physical side of martial arts, but not the philosophical side which is equally as important. 

You should be able to tell within the first conversation if an instructor is arrogant and cocky. If you do come across one, turn around, walk right out the door and never go back there!

2. The Instructor is Badly out of Shape

I am not saying a martial arts instructor should have six pack abs and the body of a Greek God, far from it.

In fact, one of the best martial arts instructors I’ve had the luck to practice under was my judo sensei, who was a middle aged man with a beer belly. He could spar a few of us non stop and throw us onto the mat multiple times without breaking a sweat. 

What I mean by badly out of shape, is an instructor who breathes heavy after demonstrations of a few techniques, who can’t last a couple rounds of sparring sessions, basically an instructor who is not able to put their words into practice. 

3. The Instructor is Abusive and Condescending 

This one should be self explanatory. You shouldn’t put up with anyone that is abusive and condescending, never mind a martial arts instructor. 

You can spot this type of instructor quite easily during practice. They use excessive force while doing demonstrations on students, putting them through so called “toughness training”, where the instructor beats on the students for no benefits at all! 

Another type of abuse which is not as easy to spot is mental abuse. Watch out if an instructor belittles students for doing techniques wrong or slow to pick up new techniques etc, also the subtle condescending remarks. 

4. Over Exaggeration of Ability and Capabilities

We’ve probably all seen it in tv shows or movies, where a martial arts master fights off 10 plus assailants at once, where the martial art is so deadly that one slap on the back could seriously injure the opponent, where the master is so invincible and super durable that nothing seems to affect them. 

Just to be clear, the above scenarios only happen in tv shows and movies. If a martial arts instructor is over exaggerating their ability and the martial arts’ capabilities, and try to sell you their “deadly martial art” that’s somehow gonna make you invincible, run as far away from the instructor as possible, and run fast!

signs of a bad martial arts instructor

5. Guaranteed Black Belt and Fast Track Promises 

This one is painfully obvious, as some dodgy martial arts schools even openly advertise guaranteed black belts. If you see it advertised on the window or their website, don’t even bother checking the place out. 

Another way to tell if you’re already in the martial arts school, is if you see there’re so many black belts in the class, and especially if you notice their skill level is not that impressive. Of course this is hard to tell if you haven’t got any experience. 

Nonetheless, any instructor that promises you a guaranteed black belt or fast track to success, you should walk away without hesitation.

6. No Philosophy or Ethical code

One thing separates reputable martial arts from dodgy martial arts is that the reputable martial arts are guided under a philosophy and ethical code. 

A good martial arts instructor should not only teach the physical side of martial arts, but also the philosophical and ethical side, as the two sides go hand in hand. 

In other words, a good martial arts instructor should teach students how to strengthen the body and also teach self control, self discipline, respect, honor, humility, positive perspective to strive for the best and achieve set goals, just to name a few. 

7. Disrespecting Other Martial Arts or Instructors

As mentioned above, some of the most important qualities of being a good martial arts instructor include being humble and having respect for oneself and others. 

If you find your instructor constantly talking down other martial arts or other instructors whilst boasting about their own, then you should already know what to do. We should steer well clear of such people full of ego, never mind learning anything from them. 

8. No Sparring Sessions 

Sparring is one of the most important aspects of improving your skills in martial arts. A martial art without sparring is no different than choreographed dancing. You can learn all the techniques in the world, but without putting them into practice, they don’t mean much. 

There’s a famous saying in boxing: the bag doesn’t hit back! You can learn how to throw a perfect jab and right hand but you’ll never learn “how to box” unless you spar against a live resisting partner who will also punch you back. 

Also watch out if the instructor allows sparring but doesn’t spar themselves from time to time, and only does demonstrations. You want your instructor to practice what they preach right? Especially if you’re paying your hard earned money. 

signs of a bad martial arts instructor

9. Bad Hygiene

Hygiene is one of the areas that’s important but often overlooked, probably because it’s not directly related to the martial art. 

If your martial arts school is dirty and carries bad hygienic practices, not only is it disgusting to train in, higher chances of contracting bacteria, disease and viruses, but more importantly, it shows the martial arts instructor has no respect for the martial arts they teach, and the people that train at the school. 

10. Money Hungry 

I’m not talking about the standard, transparent fees martial arts schools charge. It’s perfectly normal for a martial arts instructor to charge a certain amount of fees for their services, as long as it’s not an exorbitant amount of course (you can always check a few schools and compare their prices). 

What I’m talking about here for example is where some martial arts instructors also charge “membership fee” on top of the standard training fees, or hidden charges like cleaning fees, or that you must buy the martial arts gear from them, etc. Note I don’t mind instructors selling their own gear, but I do have a problem when they “force” students to only buy from them. 

Another thing to look out for here is if the martial arts instructor keeps trying to convince you to sign up to a lengthy contract, tempting you with lower monthly fees. Or even worse is that if they only offer minimum yearly contracts, and no paying month to month options. 

Paying monthly is bound to be more expensive, like pretty much with any other payment plan. But you need to be very careful here, as once you sign a lengthy contract, if for some reason you don’t want to continue, you could be asked to fork up a few hundred dollars of cancellation fees. 


It’s vitally important to pick a good martial arts instructor to reap all the benefits martial arts have to offer. And I hope this article can help you stay clear of bad martial arts instructors and help you find the perfect martial arts instructor to help you on your journey of becoming a true martial artist! 

Read our other articles like the amazing benefits of judo and benefits of BJJ to help you decide which martial arts to try out.