I got a bit fired up today reading Michele's blog post: Should they have been allowed to quit karate? about whether a pair of sisters who had been signed up for a year's worth of karate classes by their dad, and were miserable, but were forced to persist. You can read my reply in the comments, along with several other perspectives, but the issue got me thinking about my own attitude to people starting and stopping training at my own club ...you can start at any time. There are no beginners classes, or special intake periods. Just give me a call, drop me an e-mail, or turn up and have a chat and check out the class. If you like what you see, and I think you're ok you can come on the mat and do a try-out class or two before committing to membership.
If you are primarily interested in any or all of self-defence, personal development, improving your all-round fitness, sophisticated technique, and like one-on-one training the chances are good that you will really like our class.
On the other hand, if you are mainly looking for something more competition-oriented, bloodthirsty or spectacular, you will probably be happier elsewhere. That's not to say that we don't have competition, and can't dish out damage, or that our style is devoid of impressive moves; they just aren't our main priorities. Instead I encourage you to look elsewhere -- there are lots of schools around, and if you look around you should be able to find a better match for your needs.
In the same way that you can start at any time, you can stop too. There are no lock-in contracts. Most students pay for a block of lessons in advance to get a small discount, but that's not the point. I want people training week-in week-out because they want to learn and develop, not to "get their money's worth". In this respect I am helped by the fact that my club is a labor-of-love rather than a business, and that my students are all (at this time) adults. The rent charged by the university is also modest, so there is little financial pressure to grow numbers, and in turn we keep prices affordable (especially for students of the university) and also use club funds to subsidize membership, insurance and equipment.
You can start at any time, and -- if needs dictate -- stop. Many students have to leave to return to their homes overseas when they complete their university studies, or travel for work, and I'm always a little sad to see them go. On the other hand, it's really good when, after a hiatus of months or years, they return and pick-up where they left off.