The first thing that probably comes to mind when you think “how should I choose a kung fu school” is “what style do I want to study?” But there is much more to choosing a school that just deciding on a style. Unfortunately, it’s not just as easy as finding the kung fu style you like and then going to the nearest school of that style and enrolling in classes.
The best way to choose a kung fu school is to find all the schools that are of a martial arts style that interest you and are within a reasonable distance from where you live, and go visit them one at a time and get a feel for how each school is run.
The first thing to look at is the environment of the class. Does it seem like an environment in which you would feel comfortable? Is it too competitive? Is it not competitive enough? Talk to the teacher and find out what their teaching and training philosophy is. How much time do they spend on forms? How much time do they spend on drills? Do they spar? Is it realistic?
You also need to decide what you want out of the class. Are you just looking to get into shape? Are you looking to be able to defend yourself? Do you want to compete in tournaments? Do you want to learn flashy-looking kung fu forms? Make sure the class is congruent with what your goals are. For example, if you just want to learn some cool looking forms, you probably wouldn’t be happy training at a school where the focus is reality-based combat. And if you want to learn to defend yourself in a street fight, you probably wouldn’t want to pick the school where most of the time is spent training forms.
It is also important to consider the attitude of the other students and the school as a whole. How are the egos? During training, is it a contest to see who can hurt the other person the most, or is it an encouraging environment where each person strives to improve themselves but also tries to help each other? How is the ego of the instructor? Is he “too deadly to train with the students” or does he actually demonstrate his techniques and train alongside the students? It’s often overlooked, but it is important to make sure you get a good “vibe” from any kung fu school where you are considering training.