What Is A Martial Arts Instructor DBS Check And Who Needs One?

As an association we take safeguarding children and adults at risk incredibly seriously.

We have one of the highest standards of vetting and enforcement in relation to safeguarding standards to not only help you run the most professional club possible, but also to ensure a well regulated environment which is as safe as possible for participants. A DBS Check forms a key part of this.

What Is A DBS Check?

A DBS (Disclosure & Barring Service) Check is effectively a report on a person’s criminal history. There are different versions available – Basic, Standard and Full depending on the level of vetting required. Each check will search for an applicant’s criminal record, searching additional types of register and record from basic through to enhanced.

Clubs and instructors based in Scotland need to follow a slightly different system, known as the PVG (Protecting Vulnerable Groups) scheme, so the DBS process might not be appropriate. Learn more.

Worth Knowing
The 'DBS' (Disclosure & Barring Service) was previously known as a 'CRB' (Criminal Records Bureau) check before the name changed on 1st December 2012. Both are effectively the same and the change of name comes from the merging of government departments. There's no specific check available for martial arts instructors - everybody requiring a DBS undergoes the same vetting as other non-martial artists requiring vetting.

The Different Types Of Martial Arts DBS Checks

As per the above, there’s actually not a specific check for martial arts, so DBS checks fall into the below three general types;

Basic Disclosures are typically applicable to fairly standard roles – such as visa applications, alcohol / premise licenses etc. For martial arts instructors it’s unlikely to be sufficient, although it may be appropriate for treasurers or other committee staff who do not have access to vulnerable adults or children. Anyone can apply for a Basic Disclosure for themselves. A basic disclosure will only search unspent convictions.

Standard Disclosures are more thorough than basic, and will disclose unspent convictions as well as Spent convictions, Cautions, Warnings and Reprimands. A typical example of a professional who might require this would be a solicitor, traffic warden or someone in the security industry. Whilst this is a much more thorough check, if you or a member of your club is undertaking unsupervised access to children and/or adults at risk, you might want to consider the enhanced disclosure.

Enhanced Disclosures are the most thorough available DBS check. They’re broken down into enhanced (with Childrens or Adults barred list) or enhanced (without Childrens or Adults barred list). Which one you need depends on what you’re doing, but effectively if the Childrens or Adults barred list is not included, the enhanced check advanced the standard disclosure by also checking for any additional police information. This might include Acquittals, Findings of innocence, Other Police intelligence (including allegations) among other things.

It’s really important to note that it is actually a criminal offence to request a standard or enhanced DBS check for yourself or a member of your club if it is not legally justified. 

This surprises most people and seems a bit strange, but it’s really important you bear this in mind before making any applications. We can help with this.

Also to the surprise of many, you can’t request a Standard or Enhanced check for yourself. This must be requested by an ’employer’ (or other ‘sponsoring’ organisation – such as our association). This means you’ll need to be registered with a countersignatory or umbrella organisation to request a Standard or Enhanced check. All members of the BMABA, including our free affiliate members, can access DBS checks for themselves or their club using our countersignatory status.

Who Needs A Martial Arts DBS Check And Why?

Whilst the effectiveness of a DBS check is only ever really valid for the date of issue (we’ll cover this in the FAQs!) having the correct checks in place form a key part of your safeguarding obligations, as well as our regulatory requirements.

Without a DBS check there is absolutely no way an organisation, employer or association can be certain of a person’s criminal record. Whilst everyone is entitled to have a conviction spent by law removed from certain processes – such as job applications (see faqs for more on what this means), there are certain protected roles which require sight of this. This makes good sense, of course. If you’re teaching unsupervised contact with young children there are very few who would argue whether or not someone has been convicted for an offence against a child has a bearing on their suitability to teach!

If you or a member of your club are likely to be working frequently with under-18s and has sole supervisory care of a group then it’s likely  an Enhanced DBS Check inclusive of the Children Or Adults Barred List will be required to ensure you or your club member are suitable to be in direct unsupervised contact with this vulnerable group.

If you or a member of your club are in contact with any under-18s or adults at risk, an enhanced check (with or without the barred list check as required) is still likely to be required.

Making sure you have the correct checks for your staff (and this does include volunteers or administrators) is an essential part of your legal duty of care to safeguard your club members.

Remember to bear in mind when considering your club’s safeguarding arrangements that in the eyes of the law, anyone under the age of 18 is classified as a child/young person and is vulnerable by default. Likewise, you must consider any potential exposure to adults at risk / vulnerable adults as this group will also need proper safeguarding provisions.

Access DBS Checks For Your Club

Exclusively For BMABA Registered Instructors

Only registered BMABA members can access our specialist safeguarding advisors and DBS checks. Additional fees for checks are payable, but you can join for free to gain access to the checking service.

Costs & Fees

There are two really important points we want to make clear now in respect of costs and fees surrounding DBS checks;

  • We do not make money on DBS Checks.

    HOW & WHY?
    BMABA are a registered countersignatory for the purposes of vetting and submitting DBS checks. We also use a third party DBS specialist to collect the details needed for the application and to submit this electronically to the Disclosure & Barring Service. This means our members can access DBS checks rapidly, with results back significantly quicker than the paper-based form applications via a secure, easy process. Whilst the base cost charged for DBS checks covers some of our basic third party costs, it doesn’t cover staffing and the time required to check evidence and submit applications. We charge the lowest possible fee to support our pledge to make DBS checks and better safeguarding provisions more easily accessible to small and medium size clubs.

  • We validate and submit checks in-house

    HOW & WHY?
    Whilst we might use a specialist DBS check service to collect the details needed for a DBS check, we still have the authority and responsibility to vet the evidence submitted, and the applications, before submitting them to the Disclosure & Barring Service. This means we can keep your data and sensitive information safe, and provide you with a direct update on progress.

What are the costs for martial arts DBS checks?

There’s no specific check just for martial arts, but the below is based on you or your team member being classified as a BMABA instructor or club volunteer.


If you or the DBS applicant earn any income from the role requiring the DBS check (excluding reasonable expenses) then it’s likely you’ll be classified as requiring a paid role. This includes running a club which charges fees if you receive any amount of income (aside from reasonable expenses).

  • £38.00

    Standard Disclosures

    For paid roles

  • £65.00

    Enhanced Disclosures

    For paid roles


A voluntary role is only suitable for someone engaged in an activity in which involves spending time, unpaid (except for travel and other approved out-of-pocket expenses), doing something which aims to benefit some third party and not a close relative.

  • £20.00

    Standard Disclosures

    For voluntary roles

  • £25

    Enhanced Disclosures

    For voluntary roles


In order to apply for any of the above DBS checks, you will need to be a registered BMABA instructor.

You can register for free to access a check for yourself. If you require a check for a member of your club’s staff – be that an instructor or a volunteer, you’ll still require membership. Volunteers can be registered with our association completely free of charge, and you can register instructors or yourself with or without insurance.



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The DBS Check Process

The DBS check process is quite straight forward, albeil it a little long-winded. It make sense that it is; after all, there’s alot of information to process on you and for the check to be effective, different police forces need to all be asked to provide confirmation of any convictions from their area.

Here’s a brief overview of how the process for a martial arts instructor DBS check application will work for BMABA registered members;

  1. Apply For The Check Online

    You can apply for and pay for the DBS check online. Whether it’s for just you, or your team, the online system can take care of setting up the applications and collecting the necessary payments.

  2. Complete The Online DBS Application With Our DBS Provider

    You’ll receive a link to complete a secure DBS application form online. This will collect your basic details ready for us to check.

  3. Submit your ID & Proof of Address

    We’ll provide you with all the information you need to submit proof of address and ID to us for validation. We then check your DBS application in-house before submitting it to the Disclosure & Barring Service.

  4. You Will Receive Your Check

    Although official guidelines state 4-6 weeks, most of our member’s find their checks are back with them within one week. DBS checks will go straight to your door and the BMABA will be able to confirm the check’s status automatically.

Please do bear in mind that we need to see proof of address (two forms, issued within the last 3 months if it is not an annualised document) as well as photographic proof of ID for every application. There’s no exception to this rule – it’s a legal requirement.

In order to apply for a DBS check you will need to be a registered BMABA instructor.

You can register for free to access a check for yourself. If you require a check for a member of your club’s staff – be that an instructor or a volunteer, you’ll still require membership. Volunteers can be registered with our association completely free of charge, and you can register instructors or yourself with or without insurance.

Martial Arts DBS Check FAQs

Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks are not always straight forward, but it’s important you understand your obligations and get the right checks. We’re committed to safeguarding in martial arts and as such we’ll do all we can to help clubs of any association access the correct checks to help safeguard their members.

I Don't Teach Persons Under 18, Nor Adults At Risk. Do I Still Need A Check?

Most probably not. If you’re just teaching adults at eighteen plus who are not at risk and you do not have unsupervised access to anyone under 18, nor any adult at risk, chances are you do not require a check.

We’re happy to offer guidance on this if needed.

Do I Already Need A DBS Check In Order To Join Your Association?

It’s not a condition of your membership application to present a DBS check to us for inspection, but this doesn’t negate any legal requirement to hold a check already. You must hold the relevant level disclosure if you work with children or vulnerable adults. That includes a vast majority of martial arts instructors.

Whilst it’s a condition to receiving an instructor’s license that you must hold an enhanced disclosure to teach children (anyone under the age of 18) or vulnerable adults you DO NOT have to already have this when joining us.

We’re here to help you get up to speed in respect of your professional teaching. Whilst you must hold the relevant DBS checks to teach vulnerable adults and children, whether or not you’re a BMABA member, we don’t request proof of DBS checks at the point of registration. If you’re already teaching and think you need a DBS check but don’t already have this, we welcome your application provided you take swift and immediate action to start an application upon your membership being activated.

I Have Children In My Adult Classes, Or Teach 16+ Only. Do I Still Need A Check?

If you’re teaching sixteen and seventeen year-olds then yes, you’ll still need to treat them as ‘children and young people’ under the law, as they’re under 18 years of age.

If you’re teaching as part of a mixed setting with adults and children in attendance it’s slightly different. In this circumstance, it depends on whether you ultimately have access – unsupervised – to anyone under the age of 18 or anyone deemed to be potentially vulnerable. If the answer is yes then you must ensure you meet the DBS checking requirements.

Our specialist and expert safeguarding team can help answer this for you and work through any specific details when your membership goes live or before if you contact us in advance.

Do DBS Checks Expire?

Technically no, but yes.

Although there is no expiry date on a DBS check it’s generally accepted that DBS checks become outdated within 3 years of issue. We deem this a reasonable compromise between asking instructors to undergo what is (for small clubs) quite an expensive check too often balanced with the obvious need to have as up-to-date criminal record check as possible for our instructors.

As an association representing some of the most professional instructors in the UK we insist that all of our members have a valid check completed every 3 years, unless you are on the update service. More information on this can be provided directly by our safeguarding and Umbrella DBS nominated provider.

Do I Need A DBS Check To Teach Martial Arts?

This depends, and is sort of answered in the first FAQ but we’re asked it alot. Whilst this varies from organisation to organisation, with some associations offering shocking levels of safeguarding, we’re serious about helping you be a professional instructor.

If you’re working with children (anyone under the age of 18) or adults at risk we’ll insist you hold an enhanced disclosure, in line with the law. We will also insist you exercise your legal duty of care to ensure any other instructors, staff or volunteers within your club or business are suitably vetted.

If you’re not working with this group and are instead working with just adults (who are not at risk) you might not need a check. We can assist if you’re not sure.

Can I Join The BMABA If I Have A Criminal Record?

It’s possible, but it does depend on the nature, conviction and time elapsed since. Please see our eligibility guidelines for further information. We do not discriminate against any applications on the basis of criminal records or convictions and, accordingly, only refuse membership applications where we feel it is appropriate in the interest of safeguarding and protecting our members. You’ll always be afforded complete confidence with any disclosure made, and it’s really important you do make this disclosure to us before joining. This is a condition of membership.

We’re here to help with questions and queries.

Access expert guidance and speak with our dedicated team for queries on membership, insurance, eligibility, us or just about anything else you might need.

We’re not based from a kitchen worktop, nor do we employ call centres overseas to answer generic FAQs for us. We have three locations throughout the UK including our Headquarters in West Sussex. BMABA boasts over 1,250sqft of newly refurbished top-spec office space for our dedicated staff and everyone you speak with here – be it via email, live chat, Facebook or phone – is part of the team and not an outsourced agent.


01798 306546

We’re always happy to speak with new and current members by phone.

Lines are generally staffed between the hours of 9.15am and 4pm Monday to Thursday, and 9.30am to 1pm Friday. Occasionally you may not be able to reach us if we’re all tied up elsewhere (you’re calling a real office, not a call-centre!) but we provide an answer phone service 24/7. Please leave a message and we’ll be happy to call you back as soon as we’re free.

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There’s nothing wrong with smaller martial arts associations. In fact, we think it’s good for competition and variety. Unfortunately too many are one-man bands run from kitchen tables, and not professional set ups with staff.

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Founded in 2012 by the now Multi-Award Winning Social Entrepreneur & Life-Long Martial Artist

Frustrated by a lack of affordable, professional alternatives to the associations Giovanni Soffietto had dealt with when participating and then teaching Thai Boxing and Karate, BMABA was founded.

Focused on professional standards and ethics rather than belts and titles, BMABA boasts the pedigree of a life-long martial arts expert come award winning social entrepreneur as it’s Chief Executive Officer. It’s fair to say we’re well qualified and backed by an industry giant.

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From template grading certificates and documents through to a free club website and national club listings. Whether it be advice on club structure and marketing or membership marks and qualifications. DBS checks, first aid qualifications, coaching certificates, instructor licenses, insurance, business plans, equipment, graphics – you named it, we cover it under just one simple, affordable membership.

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We know parents, students and venues don’t always understand exactly what qualifies you. We help by providing superb, professional certification that ensures you look the part. Be it a Dan Grade, Instructor License or Insurance Document, all of our digital and printed certificates will meet the mark and be accepted across the UK.

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From first aid, safeguarding and coaching through to concussion awareness, club colours and marketing – BMABA are a household name in martial arts for providing high-quality, affordable access to training and qualifications for martial arts.

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Our response and support throughout the Coronavirus Pandemic confirmed to the industry the way BMABA treats it’s members.

We provided daily updates, dedicated online training hubs, access to a free COVID instructor qualification, subsidised insurances, a self-funded Covid Recovery Scheme, mediation services with local authorities and interpretations of DCMS policy. We increased our operational hours to ensure a 7 day a week response and invested more than ever in our systems, processes and memberships. This is what an association should be doing for its members we believe. As our slogan goes; “To High Places By Narrow Roads“.

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We know there’s a lot to think about, and we can help.

We have absolutely no interest in enticing you to switch to BMABA if we’re not the right fit. We know that won’t last and isn’t good for you or us. Instead, we can offer a confidential switching process to help you price up whether or not it’s worth while, whilst also getting answers to any questions you might have.