What are some signs that an instructor is just in it for the money?

Discussion in 'Beginners Corner' started by watching, Aug 24, 2018.

  1. watching

    watching Green Belt

    Joined:
    Mar 22, 2018
    Messages:
    108
    Likes Received:
    39
    Trophy Points:
    68
    Location:
    United States
    Hi everyone, I'm wondering what your thoughts are about an instructor's intentions. I'm not so much referring to a McDojo but to an instructor who comes off as disingenuous or too "business."
    I know that not every sensei can be expected to teach out of their garage and charge minimal fees, just teaching for the pure love of the art but, what are some telltale signs that an instructor is only seeing dollar signs?
    I've kind of been getting these vibes from one of the two head instructors where I train. For example, the kid's program seems like a belt factory and kids are always testing (and parents are paying testing fees). I get that it's a business but I don't know, maybe I'm too accustomed to the way my previous sensei operated. He was not running a commercial school at all. I am happy with my training and the level of knowledge that my instructors have so maybe I'm just being too picky?
    From what I've observed the adult program is much more individualized and students learn and progress at their own pace. For example, one student in the adult class has been a yellow belt for over a year.
     
  2. Flying Crane

    Flying Crane Sr. Grandmaster

    • Supporting Member
    Joined:
    Sep 21, 2005
    Messages:
    10,978
    Likes Received:
    1,634
    Trophy Points:
    263
    Location:
    San Francisco
    I would say if he stops teaching and gets an MBA or a law degree or some other route to a high paying job. Which, I would say for most people, teaching martial arts probably is not.
     
    • Funny Funny x 2
    • Like Like x 1
  3. Kung Fu Wang

    Kung Fu Wang Grandmaster

    Joined:
    Sep 26, 2012
    Messages:
    6,326
    Likes Received:
    1,530
    Trophy Points:
    263
    Location:
    Austin, Tx/Shell Beach, Ca
    For example, you have learned a form for 3 years. But the teacher just won't teach you the last 3 moves of that form.
     
    • Funny Funny x 1
  4. watching

    watching Green Belt

    Joined:
    Mar 22, 2018
    Messages:
    108
    Likes Received:
    39
    Trophy Points:
    68
    Location:
    United States
    lol no, this student has learned all of his material for his next rank but he attends irregularly and when he does come he often can't perform the material well enough to test if he remembers it at all.
    There are three of us who all started around the same time about a year ago and we've surpassed this guy who has been there 1-2 years longer than us. That's what I mean by the adult classes being more individualized. We progress at our own pace whereas the kids all progress at the same pace as long as they show up for class.
     
  5. Anarax

    Anarax 2nd Black Belt

    Joined:
    Aug 16, 2017
    Messages:
    826
    Likes Received:
    239
    Trophy Points:
    58
    Location:
    New Mexico
    Some people don't know any other craft or trade and have found themselves stuck with teaching martial arts as their primary source of income. That may drive some schools to focus on the profit margin more than others for that's their only revenue stream for the school.
    I think tuition should always be relative to how many class hours are available per week/month. That being said, schools that charge $150 a month or more for an average amount of training hours a month is excessive.

    This is a bit of a grey area and is difficult to call. Some instructors are just more lenient on promoting kids than they are adults.
    The instructor I've seen do this I deeply respect and isn't in for the profit motive. He lets certain instructors teach there for free and he's very lenient on students paying late if they don't have the money. However, I've seen the most money hungry/shameless instructors promote kids a bit faster as well. It really depends on the individual instructor.

    I can't speak for his promotional double standards when it comes to children vs adults. However, I can say that there are certain behaviors that both types of instructors can exhibit, but their motivations behind them can be different.
     
  6. _Simon_

    _Simon_ Master Black Belt

    Joined:
    Jan 3, 2018
    Messages:
    1,045
    Likes Received:
    348
    Trophy Points:
    123
    Location:
    Australia
    Hahaha imagine that! A student is begging to know the last 3 moves, and the instructor is holding a rolled up scroll with the remaining moves a few metres away, saying... "... just a few more hours of training... just a feeeew mooorrrre....."
     
    • Funny Funny x 1
  7. Druid11

    Druid11 Yellow Belt

    Joined:
    Nov 10, 2016
    Messages:
    35
    Likes Received:
    14
    Trophy Points:
    23
    I think it's generally a YMMV kind of thing. The school I go to tests kids more frequently as they have more belts and also receive stripes on each belt. So there's not a direct correlation between what an eight-year-old green belt should know and what an adult green belt should know. That's done to allow kids to have shorter more manageable goals and feel like they're making progress. That being said, my school doesn't charge for testings so it's obviously not to make money.

    While frequent testing for a fee could be a way for the school to be making money, it might be done for the same reasons that my school does it, to give the kids (and their parents) a sense that they are making progress. I suppose it depends how much is being charged for the testings. Are they nominal and just used to cover what it costs to hold the testing, or are they fairly expensive and the school is making money off of them? My school had an informational table at a local fair recently and I had talked to a girl who stopped taking TKD because her parents couldn't afford the testings anymore and the school wasn't flexible on the fees. That I think is very wrong.

    More concerning for money being a money making scheme to me, is when a school has a lot of extra "clubs" or programs they either pressure you to join or flat out require you to join at a certain point. "Black Belt Club(s)" where you either have signed a long-term contract (often multiple years) or pay extra each month seems like scams to me. Especially when you asking someone relatively young to sign a long-term contract. What happens if they lose interest, or break their leg, or have to move across the country? Also "leadership clubs" that teach you to become instructors are often something you have to pay for. Those I also find a bit sketchy. My school has one, but once again there are no fees associated. The idea is that they teach you to teach classes and in return, you give your time in helping around the dojo with classes and you are never guaranteed to become an instructor. The only thing you need to get is an 8 dollar patch on your uniform.

    That being said, if you like your classes and feel like your getting something out of them, then great. If you don't feel like you're being bilked out of money then I don't see a problem. And even if the primary goal of the head instructor is to make money, it doesn't necessarily mean he(or she) is a bad instructor. On the other hand, if you start to feel like you're being overcharged for what you're getting out of it, then I would say it was time to move on. And it may be that the instructors at your school just aren't that interested in really teaching kids and are just using that side of the business to allow them to teach adults. I think that's a shame as kids can get a lot out of martial arts if they're given good instruction, but it doesn't necessarily affect you so...you'll have to decide how you feel about that.
     
    • Like Like x 2
  8. mrt2

    mrt2 Blue Belt

    Joined:
    Mar 1, 2018
    Messages:
    274
    Likes Received:
    120
    Trophy Points:
    98
    I started 6 months ago, and have already gone past 2 students who 3 were belt ranks above me when I started. So I think you are correct about adults moving at their own pace, where children, as long as they show up test regularly. But, I have already seen several of these children not pass, and even started a thread about it yesterday. I think the pressure to test regularly comes from the parents, but it could also be the culture of the school. If it were up to me, kids would not test at such regular intervals. Many of them get to mid to high color belt ranks and they should stay there until their technique improves. And if it doesn't, they probably should not test.
     
    • Like Like x 1
  9. Martial D

    Martial D Senior Master

    Joined:
    May 18, 2017
    Messages:
    2,105
    Likes Received:
    651
    Trophy Points:
    213
    That's the game man. Kids programs are what keeps the lights on and allow them to teach their usually much smaller adult class, the real training. Leasing space is expensive.
     
    • Like Like x 1
    • Agree Agree x 1
  10. drop bear

    drop bear Sr. Grandmaster

    Joined:
    Feb 23, 2014
    Messages:
    15,712
    Likes Received:
    3,540
    Trophy Points:
    308
    The thing is there are proffessional marketing packages instructors buy as well.

    Who are the definition of in it for the money. And so can give off that vibe a bit.
     
    • Like Like x 1
  11. JR 137

    JR 137 Senior Master

    Joined:
    Apr 26, 2015
    Messages:
    3,664
    Likes Received:
    2,059
    Trophy Points:
    403
    Location:
    In the dojo
    I’ve got a thought (yeah, it doesn’t happen often :) )...

    I’d imagine many MA instructors teach kids just for the money, and their true MA passion is in teaching and training with the adults. A lot of people look at teaching kids as a necessity rather than why they opened the doors in the first place. Not that they don’t put any effort into it, take it seriously, nor have some fun with it, but I’m sure quite a few would scrap their kids’ programs if they wouldn’t take any financial hit at all.

    Maybe it’s just me, but I think when most people start contemplating teaching MA, they’ve got visions of teaching serious adults. Teaching kids may grow on them, but I’d be willing to wager most didn’t set out to teach kids and most wouldn’t lose sleep at night if they lost the kids’ program without losing money. Maybe line up 100 random MA school owners and bring them on Maury for a lie detector test :)

    If I were to open a dojo, I’d dread teaching the kids’ classes. I’d only be doing it for the money. Gotta be honest here. I wouldn’t short change them and I’d genuinely give it the attention they deserve, but I wouldn’t do it if I could get away with adults only. Having kids’ classes is a no-brainer financially. Not having them is a no brainer if you can easily live off of it.

    How many adults-only dojos can stay afloat, let alone turn any sort of profit? Not very many. The only ones I see doing that successfully are a select few MMA gyms.
     
    • Like Like x 3
  12. _Simon_

    _Simon_ Master Black Belt

    Joined:
    Jan 3, 2018
    Messages:
    1,045
    Likes Received:
    348
    Trophy Points:
    123
    Location:
    Australia
    Yeah I do think that may be the case hehe. Not all the time, but that makes sense in ways. An instructor I trained under recently seemed to just be exhausted from teaching the kids and seemed to want to get it out of the way hehe. He definitely put in the effort but I think teaching serious students/adults (so to speak) is where his passion lay.
     
    • Like Like x 1
  13. kempodisciple

    kempodisciple Senior Master

    Joined:
    Jan 4, 2012
    Messages:
    3,857
    Likes Received:
    935
    Trophy Points:
    263
    Location:
    New York
    I've brought this up a couple of times, but you can't state a certain price is expensive/excessive. It depends a lot on where you live. Where I am, when I was looking for a new school, most schools were at least $130 (the 3 I liked were 145, 150 and 166.67, IIRC), and the few that weren't, didn't have classes on certain days. So they would only be $90, but I would only be able to go 1-2 times a week at most (based on their scheduling limitations, not my own).

    So for you, $150 is too much. For me, it's slightly above average.
     
  14. Anarax

    Anarax 2nd Black Belt

    Joined:
    Aug 16, 2017
    Messages:
    826
    Likes Received:
    239
    Trophy Points:
    58
    Location:
    New Mexico
    Martial arts schools are a business like any other, offered services must be comparable to the price of tuition. That's why I specified "an average amount of training hours", I should had specified with no additional facility features(gym equipment, showers, etc). How many monthly training hours did the $145 $150 and $166 schools offer? Did they have gym equipment for members to use? Open gym hours? Showers? Private locker rooms? I'm not saying any school more than $150 is excessive, but it must be comparable to what is offered.
     
  15. kempodisciple

    kempodisciple Senior Master

    Joined:
    Jan 4, 2012
    Messages:
    3,857
    Likes Received:
    935
    Trophy Points:
    263
    Location:
    New York
    But location is one of those comparable things. What you expect in a gym costing $150 a month, depending on where you live, is all of those things. What I expect, is classes I can attend every day, which is quite a bit of average amount of training hours (if I didn't work nights). Just looked it up, in my current school if I paid $166, and wanted to go to each of the adult classes/styles they offer, it would be 14 hours a week, no additional facility features besides a shared changing room (if someone asks if anyone wants an open mat session though, and one of the people with a key wants to partake, anyone in the gym is free to go and that generally happens a couple times a month/most holidays).
    The school that cost $150 a month would give me 6 training hours a week, which was part of the reason I didn't go with it. I don't remember what the school at $145 was.
    Meanwhile, if I went to a school for $90 around me, which is still expensive according to some other people on this site, they would have 3 training hours a week, roughly, again without any of those additional features. None of the schools I looked at offered showers or locker rooms, one offered gym equipment, but they're actually (IIRC) $200 a month.
     
  16. Anarax

    Anarax 2nd Black Belt

    Joined:
    Aug 16, 2017
    Messages:
    826
    Likes Received:
    239
    Trophy Points:
    58
    Location:
    New Mexico
    No, I'm not limiting myself to MA schools that only have those features. My point is there needs to be other features if they have a below-average/average amount of training hours a week but are still charging $150 or more. Having an above average amount of training hours justifies a higher tuition, which is what I originally said.

    56(14 hours X 4 weeks) hours for $166 month is approx $3/hour which is a great price. That's why I said the tuition should be comparable to the amount of training/class hours. 14 hours a week is above average for most schools.
     
    Last edited: Sep 1, 2018
    • Like Like x 1
  17. pdg

    pdg Senior Master

    Joined:
    Feb 19, 2018
    Messages:
    2,445
    Likes Received:
    639
    Trophy Points:
    213
    That might be an average figure where you are, but in a different area it could be really expensive, or really cheap (almost) irrespective of the hours on offer...
     
    • Agree Agree x 1
  18. kempodisciple

    kempodisciple Senior Master

    Joined:
    Jan 4, 2012
    Messages:
    3,857
    Likes Received:
    935
    Trophy Points:
    263
    Location:
    New York
    The you there was a general you. Not you specifically. My point though, is i can picture an area where you can pay 150 for 3 hours a week, and that be normal for the area. Prices change with cost of rent and cost of living.
     
  19. marques

    marques Master Black Belt

    Joined:
    Jun 7, 2015
    Messages:
    1,111
    Likes Received:
    353
    Trophy Points:
    123
    Location:
    Essex, UK
    Learning a style takes 5-10 years, plus travels worldwide, instructor courses, injuries... Being in this for money only is a silly idea. Wanting (some) money back, after all, is more than reasonable.

    It is hard to know when it is only for money. If the marketing is far better than the training, it becomes clear to me. Yet, it would be a subjective conclusion. Just my/an opinion.

    Once, I saw instructors hanging around with black belts and Lycra suits and big smiles. After checking their background and training, it was quite clear to me that they only knew about fitness (if!!) and martial arts was only another (fitness) option. But it was just my conclusion; the class was full of happy people...
     
    • Like Like x 1
  20. Anarax

    Anarax 2nd Black Belt

    Joined:
    Aug 16, 2017
    Messages:
    826
    Likes Received:
    239
    Trophy Points:
    58
    Location:
    New Mexico
    I understand where you're coming from, but I think that approach is backwards. Looking for a location first then adjusting the tuition after you've bought/leased the place isn't a great business model. I think instructors should know what their income is and only get a place that they can afford without a lot of students. If you need X amount of students to pay the bills and half your students leave is it fair to start charging the remaining students double? I think staying within a reasonable price point for a location is a good way to avoid those kinds of problems.

    There also needs to be a distinction between full-time(primary income) instructors and part-time. I understand that a full-time instructor may need to charge more for classes to make ends meet. However, if they are a full-time instructor they should be offering more class/training hours.

    Please look at my response to pdg.
    I understand, I didn't take it personally. I just wanted to explain my rationalization for pricing.
     
    • Like Like x 1

Share This Page