Those with experience in martial arts will have seen the plethora of fake martial arts on the internet; the "martial arts" in these videos are commonly dubbed as "bullshido". Businesses that profit on these fraudulent schemes tend to prey on beginners looking to get involved in such sports, and exploit misconceptions surrounding martial arts set by modern media.
The intent of this article is to create a guide for picking a martial arts style, choosing a trustworthy school or gym, and avoiding fake martial arts scams. For the following topics, I have interviewed Karate YouTuber Sensei Seth, who has done a number of videos on his views about this, and has tons of expereince in coaching, training, and more.
Martial arts are varied. For starters, there is traditional martial arts, and modern martial arts (also dubbed combat sports). There are grappling and striking arts, each of which have their own strengths and weaknesses. So how exactly does one narrow down the styles that they would like to train in?
Sensei Seth goes on to recommend sampling a variety of martial arts styles and schools before making a decision. Different teachers have different styles of teaching and could emphasise divergent parts of the style's doctrines. This is also good advice when looking for a new school.
Something more to consider might be what your goals are. If you want to learn how to protect yourself, then it could be more suitable to lean towards more modern fighting styles as they tend to be easier to apply. That's not to say traditional martial arts aren't effective, but they do require a longer amount of time and dedication to be used properly. You might just be looking for something to get you into shape, in which case combat sports (Boxing, Muay Thai etc.) provide excellent physical conditioning.
Finding a reliable place to train can be much harder than choosing a fighting style. This is due to the innate difficulty in using the internet to confirm your personal perspectives. The first thing to do, would be to look around the web for reviews and people's experiences in the gym. Of course, people will have disparate experiences, so it will be neccesary to take them with a grain of salt.
'Bullshido' can take on many forms. Sometimes, the instructors talk about "ancient techniques" that have been passed down over "generations", or techniques which are "too dangerous to spar with". A key component to consider, which was mentioned in the last section, is the sparring. For some styles, it is common to not have sparring. Aikido, for example, tends to prefer Randori over sparring. But walking in to modern combat sport gyms with no sparring whatsoever, is a huge red flag. It depends a lot on the style being taught and the environment.
I have personally made sure to also take a look at the online presence of different schools before taking trial classes. The content on their facebook pages, or their website (if they have one). One time, whilst checking out a website for an academy I was thinking of trying out in, I came across a paragraph which claimed that the main instructor was a black belt in Muay Thai (Muay Thai doesn't have a belt ranking systems). It's always worth checking the 'about me' tabs on martial art schools' websites.
Some other common tropes that he went on to talk about were the aforementioned "secret techniques" and also, not allowing people who weren't part of the school to see what is going on inside and a lack of free trials.
Pretty much anything that makes them seem insecure about what they are teahing - Sensei Seth
Finding a good place to train, and a good style to train, can be very difficult. Once you amass expereince, it will be much easier to do so - you'll be able to tell whether a school is worth its salt almost immediately. However, as a beginner, it is best to rely on intuition, online reviews and guides to help you pick out what is best for you.