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rec.martial-arts Newbie Guide
Section - 5 - How Much

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So how much is all this training going to cost?  The short answer is: it
depends.  Schools are free to charge whatever they want for their
instruction.  How much they charge is a function of how much they think
their instruction is worth, how expensive goods and services are in that
area, and what their expenses are.  Small "Garage Dojos" with little
overhead have been known to charge as little as $20 a month per student,
while instruction at other studios in comparatively expensive cities (such
as New York) could cost hundreds of dollars per month.  The issue is
further complicated by bringing in differences in national location.  In
other words, what is reasonable for a big city in Germany is not
necessarily equal to what would be reasonable in a big U.S. city. Thus, it
is not really possible to accurately predict how much you will be expected
to pay at any give school in any given location.  However, currently it is
not seen as unreasonable for schools to charge between $40 and
$75 a month.  In some rare cases, instructors will not charge at all.  This is 
often true for groups that meet in the park, such as some taiji (Tai Chi) 
groups.  Further, it should be noted that the PRICE of the instruction is not
always a good indicator of the QUALITY of the instruction.  More on this in
"What Not To Look For."

Doubtless, you have noted that I've been speaking of monthly charges.  This
is the most common way to pay: month by month.  However, there are other
options with most schools.  Often you may receive a discount for paying
ahead in 3, 6, or 12 month blocks.  Some schools offer contracts.

A short discussion of contracts is warranted.  Many martial artists are
wary of school contracts.  Contracts have been known to be used by scam
artists in the past or, occasionally by legitimate martial artists who will
"stick it to you," enforcing payment terms of the contract should you wish
to be "out" of it for whatever reason.  However, there are many legitimate
uses of contracts by martial arts schools.  They can reduce costs for the
instructor and free him from tedious billing issues that can distract him
from teaching martial arts.  Don't let the option of a contract dissuade
you from any particular school but be wary of schools that _require_ a
contract (and will not give you a month-to-month option) or contracts that
guarantee "black belt" within a given time frame.

You should note that training fees may not be the only fees associated with
your martial arts selection.  Other fees often include fees for rank
testing. How much you pay for rank testing varies from art to art and from
school to school.  Usually, earlier ranks are less expensive and more
advanced ranks are more expensive.  You might be asked to pay $15 for your
first test and work your way up to $100 or more for your "black belt" test. 
Some schools charge you the testing fee regardless of whether or not you
pass your test while others only charge you the fee if you actually pass.

Another "hidden cost" often seen in the martial arts is that of equipment. 
Some martial arts require you to purchase a uniform (often the "white
pajamas" Gi).  Inexpensive uniforms for striking arts such as karate can be
had for $20, heavier-weight uniforms for grappling arts such as judo start at
$50.  Prices for the divided skirt and top used for some other arts such as
kendo start at around $100.  Advanced students can pay as much as $200 for a 
high-quality judo uniform, $400 for a high-quality kendo uniform.  Your
instructor should be able to help you find an appropriate uniform or point you
to where you can buy one. But your equipment costs may not end there.  You may
be required to purchase safety equipment such as sparring gloves, shin pads,
and head gear, or you may be required to purchase various "weapons" used
during practice such as staffs, swords, or knifes (usually a training "safety"
variety).  Take heart though.  Most schools have "loaners" available until you
can purchase your own.

You may also be required to join an organization and pay membership fees. 
These are typically an umbrella organization that certifies the instructor
in their martial art.  They can point you to affiliated schools that will
recognize your hard won rank and continue your training should you be
forced to move or be traveling abroad.  These membership fees or dues are
typically on the order of $20 - $50 a year.  Some organizations have a
lifetime membership program (or are lifetime memberships by default),
others are variations or only require yearly dues for "black belt" rank and
above.  Your instructor will be able to tell you the details of his
organization, should he be a member of one.  Be sure to ask about parent
organization dues before you join a martial arts school.

OK, so now you're paying all this money for training, equipment costs,
dues, testing fees, and the like... how do you know you're not getting
ripped off? Well, like everything else, shop around.  Find out what other
schools are charging for these goods and services.  Some "red flags"
include schools that require you to buy only their branded uniforms and
gear, require you to sign long contracts, have no "move refund" option in
their contract, or high-pressure sales pitches.  If it feels like you're
buying a used car and the salesman insists you sign the contract now, smile
politely and head for the door.

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Last Update March 27 2014 @ 02:11 PM