Thoughts on belt testing fees

Discussion in 'General Martial Arts Talk' started by wab25, Feb 26, 2020.

  1. wab25

    wab25 Black Belt

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    In my organization, the kyu rank belts are handled strictly by the dojos. The dojos I was a part of, and the school I run... we don't charge anything for belt tests. Some have an actual test, others just award the new belt when the student is ready. We don't even charge the student for the belt. (they are nothing fancy, just a generic belt of the appropriate color)

    For Black Belt, the organization gets involved. They charge $100 for all Black Belt exams. That covers the students background check, and certificate. The tests are done at different venues which usually need to be rented out, there are three examiners, one caller, and someone to read the students kata manual (each student is required to write all their kata down, to create their own manual). The test can take a few hours.

    I am currently cross training in Karate. A couple weeks ago, I was asked during class to demonstrate two kata. Note that this is a normal thing that sensei asks periodically of all the students. Last week, at the end of class, I was called up and given a brown belt. A few days later, I received an email stating that the brown belt testing fee was $50. (the belt was not that nice) At Black Belt, the testing fee goes up into the hundreds, yet all testing happens during regular class, with just the regular school instructors.

    I know some Martial Artists pay fees in the thousands to test at Black Belt levels. I have found schools, where the testing fees are "low"... the first test is only $10, the fee doubles for each successive test as the student progresses, with 10 ranks between white and black, and 3 levels for each rank...

    What kind of testing fees do you guys have where you train?
    What does the student get for the fee?
    How does the fee benefit the student? the school?
     
  2. Flying Crane

    Flying Crane Sr. Grandmaster

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    So the guy tossed you a brown belt when you didn’t even realize you were testing, and then followed up with notice that you owe him a testing fee? For shame.
     
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  3. skribs

    skribs Senior Master

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    I'd never considered belt testing fees for schools that don't even test. The way it happened to you is a surprise fee and I'd be royally upset by it if this happened to me.

    The first thing I want to say about fees in general is that it's very difficult to compare school-to-school. I think our Brits on here would say that school tuition costs are somewhere between free and 10 pounds per month, where most Americans might quote you monthly fees in the 80s or 90s or even into the hundreds. Location is a big part of it, too. An American in the midwest will quote you less than someone in NYC.

    The second thing is that if all you're looking at is belt tests, that doesn't give you the total package. If you have three schools that expect you to test every 3 months, one school may have $120 monthly and no test fees, another may have $110 monthly and $30 test fee, and another may have $100 monthly and $60 test fee. You'll pay the same at all 3 schools. If you test every 1 or 2 months because you learn faster, it may benefit you to go to the first school. If you take 6-8 months per test instead, it may benefit you to go to the third school. However, you'll probably end up at the school you like better (unless your budget is tight).

    My school has around a $95 monthly fee. Our belt tests get progressively more expensive, with Dan tests being much higher:
    • Beginner belts are $40 per test
    • Intermediate belts are $50 per test
    • Red belts are $60 per test
    • Black belt gup tests (intermediate tests between Dan ranks) are $70
    • 1st Dan is $720 total. Each Dan rank after that is $100 more than the last (around $820 for 2nd dan, $920 for 3rd dan).
    However, with the cost of the Dan test is a new uniform (the uniforms are $125-175 depending on rank), an embroidered belt (probably around $40-50), and 3 semi-private lessons with other black belt candidates ($120). That means there's $400 left for the test, to be divided between the organization's fees, miscellaneous items for the test (i.e. boards), and then school profit.
     
  4. Flying Crane

    Flying Crane Sr. Grandmaster

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    Ok, with ten ranks from white to black, and three “levels” (whatever that means) at each rank, makes for thirty tests to first black? Is that how they are doing it? Because if the first one is $10 and each successive one is doubled from the prior, that very quickly hits some astronomical numbers. If only one student went through and paid all that, the instructor’s family would be well set financially for some generations to come.
     
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  5. skribs

    skribs Senior Master

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    I can't tell what you things cost at my first TKD school (because I was a kid and didn't even realize my parents paid for me to go to TKD), but I remember our belt system. 7 colors before black, each belt color had the solid belt and then 3 stripes. We used tape stripes around the belt tip. So white belt with 3 yellow stripes, then you get your yellow belt, then 3 orange stripes and then an orange belt, and so on. White - yellow - orange - purple - green - blue - red - brown - black. It took 28 tests to get your black belt!

    Around the time I got my green belt, they changed to a new system. You got the solid belt, then a belt with a white stripe down the middle, and then a belt with a black stripe, and then the next color. I don't know if they still did the tape stripes for white belt, but that may not have had any intermediate ranks. At that point it would have probably been 19 tests or so.

    I found on the KarateMart site you could order belts of basically any color with any color stripe. So you could in theory have something ridiculous like:
    1. Solid white belt
    2. White with yellow stripe
    3. White with purple stripe
    4. White with orange stripe
    5. White with green stripe
    6. White with blue stripe
    7. White with red stripe
    8. White with brown stripe
    9. White with black stripe
    10. Yellow with white stripe
    11. Solid yellow stripe
    12. Yellow with purple stripe
    13. Etc. a bunch
    14. Brown with black stripe
    15. Black with white stripe
    16. Black with yellow stripe
    17. Etc. a bit more
    18. Black with brown stripe
    19. Solid black belt
    In that case, it would only take 81 tests to get your black belt.

    If nothing else, it would be a great rank structure for April Fool's Day.
     
  6. Flying Crane

    Flying Crane Sr. Grandmaster

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    Sounds like a whole lot of financial padding to me. I think it’s unethical.
     
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  7. Flying Crane

    Flying Crane Sr. Grandmaster

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    I’m trying to wrap my head around this. The sheer number here is rather astounding, to be honest. From the discussions I’ve read, it seems that earning a black belt in TKD can typically take anywhere from two to four years, with a small number of outliers on either side, where it can be as little as a year and a half or as long as eight. Kudos to those on the high end.

    But from one and a half to four years with somewhere between nineteen and twenty-eight tests, it seems nothing gets done but take tests, and write another check. I find that astounding, in all honesty. Testing is nothing but a cash cow. If this is an accurate description of the business practices of any school, much less a large number of schools, that just makes me shudder. I cannot understand how such a program is successfully sold to new students. Caveat emptor takes on a whole new meaning.
     
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  8. JR 137

    JR 137 Grandmaster

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    In my area, TKD has a lot of tests. But the thing is most students are on the “black belt plan” where they pay one price for everything up to and including the black belt test (not uniforms though). So if the price is $4k, you pay $4k regardless of if it takes you 1 year or 100 years. And all the tests are included. That’s a good deal if you take 4 years or more, but not so much when they push you through in 2 or so.

    Our organization charges for tests. Colored belt tests aren’t outrageous (the highest is I think $60). There’s 9 colored belt tests. The first 4 or so are every 3 months minimum, then 6 months minimum, followed by 9 months between 2nd and 1st. Average time is 5 years to 1st dan. Every dojo charges the same amount, as was the potential for odd things to happen.

    Black belt tests are done at our organization’s headquarters dojo (honbu) by the head of the organization. They’re a couple hundred dollars. For being a few doors down from the Flatiron Building in Manhattan, his tuition is pretty cheap. IMO a significant portion of their income is from black belt testing. Doing some crude math, I don’t think they’d survive on tuition fees alone. When you’ve got several years between dan tests, the high cost is easier to swallow. For the tuition I pay, and adding kyu tests and black belt tests (when I get there), my cost of attendance is still quite low.

    Of course there are some places that take advantage of testing and nickel and dime you every step of the way. But not everyone does that. The best way to look at it is to add tuition, testing, and any other fees together for a time period and divide it up until you get a monthly cost. If it’s not worth it, leave. If you’re good with it, stay. Simple as that, really.
     
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  9. skribs

    skribs Senior Master

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    This was 25 years ago. He did change it to be less tests total midway through my stay there. I think it was more about a black belt being hard to get than about financial padding. Especially for kids. His attitude was that if a kid had a black belt, they needed to be really good and earn that belt. He was one of the outliers you mention in the next post. I was there for 4 years and ended up at green belt. I don't remember how often the tests were, but we weren't testing every month. That's 16 tests in 4 years, which is only a test every 4 months.
     
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  10. kempodisciple

    kempodisciple MT Moderator Staff Member

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    I read that as the back ground check is for black belt, not to attend. I agree it's unnecessary, but you likely wouldn't even know they do a background check for BB until after you've been there for four years.
     
  11. drop bear

    drop bear Sr. Grandmaster

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    If there was a special day. So say a head instructor flew in to do it. Then fine.

    If it is class time then it shouldn't cost.
     
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  12. wab25

    wab25 Black Belt

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    In our organization, Black Belt is an instructor rank. So any Black Belt can be an instructor, even if they are filling in as a substitute while the sensei is out. That being the case, every Black Belt is required to have back ground checks every couple of years. Since instructors have the potential to deal with kids and youth, its in everyone's interest to have the back ground checks current. Anyone that has been guilty of any sort of child abuse, sexual assault or domestic abuse is not welcome to be a Black Belt, or an instructor in our organization. We believe in taking steps to keep it that way.
     
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  13. dvcochran

    dvcochran Senior Master

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    Bear, how do y'all do it? Do you even do belts?
     
  14. dvcochran

    dvcochran Senior Master

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    Are your BB testing Kukkiwon Dan grades? Do you get a real Kukkiwon certificate (it is easy to verify)? If so a significant portion of the money goes to Kukkiwon. Not certain, but if memory serves $300 for 1st Dan and it goes up for each Dan grade.
     
  15. jobo

    jobo Grandmaster

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    belt test are part of their income stream, i suppose it depends on how much the brown belt is worth to you ? it only have the financial value you ascribe to it

    its certainly a bit unethical to test and charge with out telling you first. they clearly have no idea what your finical situation is, your kids may go hungry for all they know

    id be tempted to give them the belt back and keep my 50$ and my existing belt
     
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  16. wab25

    wab25 Black Belt

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    Yes... there were about 30 ranks from white to black. You paid a $150 initiation fee, when you started (got your white belt), white belt 1 was the $10, white belt 2 was $20, yellow $40, yellow 1 $80... At some point they stopped doubling... but you were charged $2500 for shodan, $3500 for nidan...
    Why does it go up for each dan grade?
     
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  17. jobo

    jobo Grandmaster

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    i would have though that was obvious, coz people are prepared to pay more for an honorary title than they are a less honorary titled

    its just plain manipulation of people for profit
     
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  18. skribs

    skribs Senior Master

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    Yes. I'm 99.99% certain they are official KKW grades. I've gotten mixed reports on what the costs are. I've heard $300 here, but other places have said it's only $100.
     
  19. dvcochran

    dvcochran Senior Master

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    Some of these post really emphasize how the model of attaining a black belt has been manipulated and changed. Naturally, theses changes will be absorbed as the norm for the next generation. Not a good thing IMHO.

    I started training in 1982 and testing for all Gup grades was $30. We have never changed the price. That includes a belt if there is a color change. We have only 9 Gup grades. Some Gups get stripes on the same belt color but there are No interim 'stars' or steps required for advancement. We go white, white/stripe, yellow, yellow/stripe, green, green/stripe, blue, red, red/2 stripes, red/3 stripes. No other interim steps.
    If you think of the cost of a belt ($6.00 avg. quality), building/equipment cost for testing time involved, and put Any dollar value on the time spent testing people, $30 is an above average deal.
    We/our GM is qualified to do certified Kukkiwon BB testings. That is a formality they require. Our GM charges $100 over the stated Kukkiwon fees for BB testings. They are listed on the Kukkiwon website. This includes a very nice embroidered belt (about $25 if memory serves).

    On a much lower scale we do Moo Duk Kwan BB testing for the Pan/AM region. I have noticed the divide between Kukkiwon certification and MDK certification getting wider, at least in our area/situation.
     
  20. W.Bridges

    W.Bridges Yellow Belt

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    In the first Karate/Taekwondo school i was at it was 3000. to be in the black belt club and that took care of all the test fees from white to 1st Dan. At the Kenpo school I was in it was 30 a month and test fees were 15 for collor belts and do not recall what the black belt fee was. The Taekwondo school that i attend now its 30 dollars a year membership and 15 for any other family member, test fees are 30. We are normally told when we are testing. the last test that we did the two students did not now but their parent's was in formed two weeks before that they was going to test so they could be there to watch.123
     

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