Fleecing black belts

Thousand Kicks

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I am a little confused by people's responses that these Dan gup tests keep black belts focused and/or are maintenance tests in preparation for the next dan test. At my school, the head instructor has final say on whether any student can test, colored belts or black belts. If you are attending class regularly and putting in the effort your instructor should know if you are ready for the next test. A maintenance test, at least in my eyes, would mean your instructor is not sure if you are ready (i.e. has not been paying attention to your training), or as the OP said, is trying to generate additional revenue.

If in the span of time between dan tests you can't find anything that you need to improve, then you're not being honest with yourself. No maintenance test is going to help with that problem.
 

sfs982000

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Our school does Mid-tem testing for black belt ranks. Beginning at first degree to go to second degree you have to have a successful midterm test from second to third degre 2 succsessful midterms, etc.... The midterm tests have a set fee which in my school is cheaper than most testing fees.
 

msmitht

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I have seen this practice and find it both interesting and despicable. Mid level testing is good for black belts as it keeps them on their toes, so to speak, but should not be a means of generating revenue. There was a school in Los Angeles that made Black belts take 4 in term tests that each cost $160. The tests for poom/Dan were 1k, 2k,3k...etc.
 

Earl Weiss

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Which 7 year old are you referring to?

A black belt should be able to manage their own path but with guidance from his instructor and those more senior.

quote_icon.png
Originally Posted by Earl Weiss You are expecting a lot from a 7 year old ;)

Any 7 year old
 

SJON

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As a brief aside, I wonder if you could enlighten me.

Is this highly commercial model the norm? I mean, do most schools in the US operate fixed-duration contracts, black-belt clubs, special leadership courses, etc., or is it just a particular type of school?

How about in the UK? Perhaps Andy could fill me in on this. When I was training in the UK (this was nearly 20 years ago) most clubs operated out of church halls or other hired premises, charged on a cash-in-hand class-by-class basis and were run by masters who had a day job.

How about in other European countries? Gnarlie?

Here in Spain most clubs belong to professional gyms, and the master is usually the owner. Payment is usually monthly and can be cancelled at any time. There is no obligation to grade, and no obligation to get KKW homologation of Dan grades. My own Dan grades are under the Spanish national federation and under an independent master, and I chose not to get KKW homologation for any of them, nor was I under any pressure to do so. I don't recall ever testing for "half grades" between coloured belts either (I did in the UK, though).
The only way BB's are fleeced here is via the obligatory refereeing courses that are a requirement for each Dan grade, and the way the instructor courses are set up.

Cheers,

Simon
 

Daniel Sullivan

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As a brief aside, I wonder if you could enlighten me.

Is this highly commercial model the norm? I mean, do most schools in the US operate fixed-duration contracts, black-belt clubs, special leadership courses, etc., or is it just a particular type of school?
I cannot speak for the rest of the US, but in the DC Metroplitan area, Northern VA, and Maryland in general, it is the norm. I see enough bellyaching about it on the web from people all over the US to confidently say that it is fairly common in most of the US, though I won't go so far as to say 'most' due to lack of firsthand information.
 

andyjeffries

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Is this highly commercial model the norm? I mean, do most schools in the US operate fixed-duration contracts, black-belt clubs, special leadership courses, etc., or is it just a particular type of school?

How about in the UK? Perhaps Andy could fill me in on this. When I was training in the UK (this was nearly 20 years ago) most clubs operated out of church halls or other hired premises, charged on a cash-in-hand class-by-class basis and were run by masters who had a day job.

This is still the case. Most clubs in the UK (with literally a handful of exceptions coming to mind) operate out of hired premises for a few classes per week and are either cash-in-hand class-paid basis or at most, monthly automated payment. Most instructors do it as a labour of love, making minimal money (if any) and have a day job.

That certainly describes me. We've had monthly payments for years for adults (no contract or anything, just if you want to train, you pay each month). We switched to automated (standing order) payments about a year ago and it's made a considerable difference.

There is no obligation to grade, and no obligation to get KKW homologation of Dan grades. My own Dan grades are under the Spanish national federation and under an independent master, and I chose not to get KKW homologation for any of them, nor was I under any pressure to do so.

For Kukki-Taekwondo in the UK, generally Kukkiwon certification is a must (either through British Taekwondo, our WTF MNA, or through other bodies).

I don't recall ever testing for "half grades" between coloured belts either (I did in the UK, though).

We have 10 kup ranks (in our club, although this is fairly standard in the UK). Every other kup rank is a stripe/tag - but this isn't considered a "half grade", but a full kup rank. We could use different colours for each of the 10 grades, but it's been long tradition to use something like "white, yellow, green, blue, red, black" with a stripe/tag alternating with the full colour belt.

The only way BB's are fleeced here is via the obligatory refereeing courses that are a requirement for each Dan grade, and the way the instructor courses are set.

We now don't have obligatory referee courses or instructor courses to sit Dan tests (only to be a referee or instructor, respectively). You must have attended a technical seminar in the year before you test (but the cost is reasonable).
 

SJON

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Thanks. That reminds me of another difference between the UK and Spain. Here the colours are white, yellow, orange, green, blue, brown, red/black for junior BB's (must be re-graded for adult BB), black.

Actually, now that I think of it, kids here nowadays do have what I referred to as half grades, but they don't use stripes, they use belts that are - for example - half yellow and half orange lengthwise, like the junior red/black belt. When I came to Spain I was a blue belt under a UK KKW-affiliated org that used a stripe system, but had to start again from white over here. Back then it was all "whole colour" belts in Spain, no tags, stripes or whatever, but that was ages ago. I don't recall when the "bi-colour" belts came in, but that could be seen as a concession to commercialism, I suppose.
 

oftheherd1

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In the Hapkido I studied, we had gup ranks. They were stages (or perhaps levels) of learning. There were 8 gups from white belt to 1st Dan, and 8 gups from 1st Dan to 2nd Dan. From 2nd Dan to 3rd Dan, there were again levels, but I don't recall them being referred to as gups. Each gup was tested at the end of learning for that gup. I seem to remember the tests were $30 each for a gup. Practice BB was $50, and the BB was $100. There was also a monthly fee, which I think was also $30. Now this was back in the 80s, so it doesn't really apply to today's ways of doing things. But I think my GM's son is probably doing the same thing in NJ where he has his school, just adjusting for inflation/cost of living.

So as I understood gup, it was a level. Every level contained new techniques. Some were completely new, others new, but built on previous learning. Some gups were completely grappling, some punch defense, some kick defense, some other things, such as knife defense, sword defense, or counters to previous techniques. I saw no problem with that. I was always learning new things, with what I saw as reasonable divisions in learning.

Divisions, whether called gup or something else, purely for monetary reasons is unfortunate. Even for maintaining interest. But perhaps that just says something about American society.
 

Twin Fist

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this is nothing but a revenue generation tool, and serves no purpose other than making money. this sounds like a ATA or KKW tactic
 

granfire

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One of the few very god tings of the ITA.
Tests were every two month, color belts 50 bucks, BBs 95.

To be eligible for BBtest you had to log in a certain amount of classes before the test - in that specific time frame between tests, so you were reasonbaly sure to be in some sort of a shape. From first probationary through - I am thinking 3rd - the $$ was the same. Not sure about further on up, since those were tested at the national tournament.

450 per test? Interesting....
 

Jaeimseu

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In the organization I used to belong to they started with "check-up" tests once a year for black belts, but these check-ups eventually became actual tests. I think several organizations do something similar.

Each rank between dans is designated with a title or number, so it's easy to figure out how much minimum time before their next dan test. For some orgs it's as simple as 4.1, 4.2, etc., but others have some funny titles (at least to me): 4 senior, 4 top senior, 4 high top senior...the higher the dan grade the more ridiculous the titles get.

Sent from my SHV-E210K using Tapatalk 2
 

WaterGal

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Let me tell you some dollar amounts. Bb gup test fees are $60 a pop. Bb are expected to test 10 times a year. Then add the average monthly fee of $125-$150. Finally, when Bb is ready to do a dan test, that will be about $600 or more. Taekwon Dinero.

$60 a test almost every month? That does seem kinda outrageous.

Our dojang does do some mini-tests between dan tests for the reasons I mentioned before, but they're only $20 a few times per year (our regular geup fee is $40, every 2-3 months). And even with the costs of boards, a certificate, etc, we're still earning a little profit off each test.

So while schools do have to make a profit on various things in order to stay in business and for the teacher(s) to earn a decent living, especially in expensive areas - there definitely is a point where it becomes fleecing the students. It sounds like that school had crossed that line.
 

mango.man

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My daughter's school did this and presumably still does. She attended from 98-06. BB's didn't have to pay for the tests but had to test at just about every color belt test and demonstrate that they could perform under the pressure and scrutiny of a testing environment. I think it was more about getting as many blackbelts to show up and assist with the testing of color belts than it was about testing the skills of the blackbelts. But they were evaluated and although nothing changed on their uniforms etc they were referred to as 1st Dan / 3rd Gup for example and they could not test for their next Dan until the proper time in rank requirement passed and they had completed 10 intermediary tests from 1st Dan / 10 Gup - 1 Gup.

As long as we didn't have to pay I was OK with it and with the goofy Dan\Gup designation.
 

Daniel Sullivan

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The OP has another thread that, aside from the specifics of dan/gup gradings, is essentially the same; bemoaning testing fees in the MD/DC/NoVA area. The following is my response on that thread:

I'm going to preface this by saying that I find the proliferation of testing fees and additional fees to be distasteful and by adding that I do not charge for testing.

One of the reasons for the increase in testing fees is unrelated to greed or a lack of integrity. I live and train in the area you are posting about and I spent many years in retail, both on the sales floor and in management. Landlords in this area are rent crazy. They would rather have empty space than charge a more reasonable rent. Buildings here literally sit empty for years because of this. When I was training with my last Korean master, I saw firsthand how the mall management squeezed more and more money from him. A good friend ran a bookstore next to the dojang, which is partly how I found the dojang. He couldn't afford it, didn't want to close or move, so he accepted a buyout offer from a larger bookstore.

GM Kim eventually got fed up and moved to warehouse space which had no foot traffic but which he could afford without going broke. My bookstore friend? The comic book store that bought his store told the mall to go screw themselves, closed the store and moved all of the inventory elsewhere.

If you raise the tuition, people leave. If you increase testings and add fees, they are more likely to stay, especially if you create some value, be it a grafted on weapons program or a special patch or whatever else. When retail space in this area is around twenty dollars a square foot (some are lower, some are much higher).

http://www.montgomeryplanning.org/r...s/documents/retail-space-monitor-apr-2013.pdf

That's eighty grand a month for a 4000 square foot studio. Many studios are smaller, but forty grand a month in rent for a 20,000 square foot studio (GM Kim's was slightly bigger is kind of puts things into perspective. Just to make rent, in a small studio in a mall with a tuition rate of 100/month would require 400 students. I don't know of any studio that has that many in my immediate area. So monthly testings, black belt clubs, and five hundred dollar first dan gradings make up the difference. Many commercial schools have some kind of pro shop and they make some money there too. If the studio is in a major mall, the rent is much, much higher than average.


Now, I haven't even gotten into payroll, but testing fees and pro shop are unlikely to make up the difference if you have fewer than 200 students. So here comes daycare, afterschool programs, and the like. All of this is just to keep the lights on and to allow the owner to make a living. Most studio owners in this area are not leading rich & famous lifestyles and many have families to support. Additionally, as business owners, they are responsible for their own health insurance. Most of these studios are two bad months away from closing their doors.

Me? I have a day job with great benefits and rent space at a ballet studio and a fencing salle. So I can afford to have sub-seventy dollar fees and no testing fees.

The argument could be profered that that is how martial arts should be, but the reality is that most studio owners become studio owners for the same reason that people study for and enter into other professions: because they want to work doing what they love. Why do we encourage this in other fields and discourage this in the martial arts?

Anyway, you seem to be on a soapbox about the area. That is fine, but you should at least acknowledge the economics of the area as well.
 

mango.man

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Here is what I replied to the other thread:

mango.man said:
When they tell you that little Johnny green belt's testing fee is going up because the Kukkiwon has raised their fee, that is when it is time to run away.

Yes I have seen that in writing as the excuse for raising testing fees on color belts. So sad to report that no parents or even adult students questioned such a thing.
 

msmitht

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As a brief aside, I wonder if you could enlighten me.

Is this highly commercial model the norm? I mean, do most schools in the US operate fixed-duration contracts, black-belt clubs, special leadership courses, etc., or is it just a particular type of school?

How about in the UK? Perhaps Andy could fill me in on this. When I was training in the UK (this was nearly 20 years ago) most clubs operated out of church halls or other hired premises, charged on a cash-in-hand class-by-class basis and were run by masters who had a day job.

How about in other European countries? Gnarlie?

Here in Spain most clubs belong to professional gyms, and the master is usually the owner. Payment is usually monthly and can be cancelled at any time. There is no obligation to grade, and no obligation to get KKW homologation of Dan grades. My own Dan grades are under the Spanish national federation and under an independent master, and I chose not to get KKW homologation for any of them, nor was I under any pressure to do so. I don't recall ever testing for "half grades" between coloured belts either (I did in the UK, though).
The only way BB's are fleeced here is via the obligatory refereeing courses that are a requirement for each Dan grade, and the way the instructor courses are set up.

Cheers,

Simon

Its the norm. Parents usually do not do their proper homework and just take their child to the closest school with the most convenient schedule. Black belt clubs(lol), overcharging for tests and poor standards plague schools in case.
 

Daniel Sullivan

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My daughter's school did this and presumably still does. She attended from 98-06. BB's didn't have to pay for the tests but had to test at just about every color belt test and demonstrate that they could perform under the pressure and scrutiny of a testing environment. I think it was more about getting as many blackbelts to show up and assist with the testing of color belts than it was about testing the skills of the blackbelts. But they were evaluated and although nothing changed on their uniforms etc they were referred to as 1st Dan / 3rd Gup for example and they could not test for their next Dan until the proper time in rank requirement passed and they had completed 10 intermediary tests from 1st Dan / 10 Gup - 1 Gup.

As long as we didn't have to pay I was OK with it and with the goofy Dan\Gup designation.

My old GM did the same thing with regards to having yudanja at geub gradings, and I suspect the motivation was much the same. Personally, I think it's a good idea.
 

jks9199

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Its the norm. Parents usually do not do their proper homework and just take their child to the closest school with the most convenient schedule. Black belt clubs(lol), overcharging for tests and poor standards plague schools in case.

And sometimes, they just want a martial art themed day care...

Minor soapbox rant...

So many of the commercial martial arts schools, which in the greater DC area seem to be rather dominated by TKD and its variants, are really just disguised day care services. They pick the kids up after school, have a "homework period", other activities and tuck a martial arts class in while watching the kids until the parents claim them. Except that they don't meet the student/caregiver ratios required, may not have done a background check on the staff, who may not even speak English proficiently... But they dodge the requirements because they are "martial arts programs" not "daycare centers." I don't mind the daycare aspect; it's a business call. I DO mind that they don't meet the requirments of a daycare center. And it's going to keep going that way until we have a tragedy...
 

Gwai Lo Dan

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Some interesting points about not meeting daycare license requirements. Here is a funny story from the opposite side.

I worked at a company that paid parents $15/day upon a receipt from any licensed daycare. So one woman got herself and her home licensed as a daycare, worked the early shift, and took care of 1 child after school: her own! The company soon changed its policy that it paid for "any" licensed daycare!
 
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