In part 1, you picked a martial art of choice and compiled a list of gyms in the area, now it's time to go for a look. The optimal time to visit is an hour or two after the end of the local work day. This is the time when the locals come to sweat out the work day. When you observe the class, keep the following criteria in mind.
This is the easiest and one of the most important criteria to judge the martial arts studio. Are people conversing before the class starts? Are the people friendly? Is anyone smiling? Would you feel comfortable spending hours in this environment?
Unfortunately, the majority of the time the answer to these questions will be no, and the students will be coated with the distinct patina of douchbaggery. Flee the gym before it coats you too.
Is The Trainer a Fatty?
Don't trust a skinny chef and don't trust a fat trainer. Sure, fat guys can be good at martial arts, but a good trainer runs around on his feet all day long so even if he's cursed with fat cells the size of Tyra Banks' forehead, he will at worst be chubby. If the trainer can't kick above his waist and looks like fat Elvis straining over a toilet the place sucks.
The Respect Factor
The modern martial arts studio is not the Shoalin Temple, so all the "you must unconditionally respect and obey your master" bullshit has got to go. If the class constatly being interrupted for various forms of propriety, senior students chastizing newbies on the trainer's behalf, or any hazing of newer students occurs, it is a good indication that the trainers are more interested in self-aggrendizing than teaching. You're an adult, and you're paying for the training, so you don't owe the trainers any more respect or alliegence than they earn by being profesionals and decent people.
This is not to say that the class should not have a certain level of formality. Students should not interrupt the class, be required to wear a uniform, will probably bow upon entering the gym and salute (not the military solute, retard) their teacher before class. Other small rituals may occur signaling the students to leave their baggage behind and get to training. Basically, I could have summed up this section with four words: you want a balance.
Do not train in the dinky storeroom of a Chinatown restraunt regardless of how "authentic" the training is. Again, you're paying for a service, and the gym should have enough self respect to pretty itself up for you. You didn't hit on that girl in the bar because of how authentic her "training" was, you hit on her because her tits were spilling out of a bandana she mistook for a tube top.
The gym should be clean, large enough for comfort, and well ventilated (so it smells like a hint of sack rather than a face full of taint). Weights, elipticals, and boxing rings are also a sign of quality.
Be on the lookout for gyms with several young trainers. I know that this sounds counterintuitive since age does bring experience, but young trainers are a good sign of retention. Great martial arts studios recruit from inside the organization. Trainers start out as young talented students and are eventually hired as teachers after years of training. Young teachers mean that the studio was not only able to train somebody to an exceptional skill level, but inspire them to devote the rest of their lives to martial arts. Before you join a gym, ask the trainers how they got into martial arts and ended up where they are. If they started where they're currently training, get out your checkbook, pledge your first born child, and get your punch on.
You might have noticed a conspicuous omission in this guide (if you didn't, that just proves my point even more), I never mentioned analyzing the actual technique being taught. There are two good reasons for this. First, I'm assuming that you're new to martial arts, so asking you to evaluate technique is like asking an aspie to explain emotions. Second, even if you could spot some tight-ass-shit (technical term), that's not what you'll be doing. You're going to be flopping around like a fish and getting your ass handed to you for weeks if not months. Don't worry, it will be fun, but for you starting the journey is more important than the destination (cue cheesy music).