Fleecing black belts

dancingalone

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The problem is that the school is PRESUMING that the student sees value in it. My examples of things that add profitability but don't add value for me personally:

Some of my money-maker pet peeves:


  • certification overload - you can now become certified in instructorship, weapons, joint locking, self-defense, just about anything. So far as I can tell, this just meant that you took a test from your teacher in whatever subject we're talking about and you paid a fee to get some paperwork affirming you passed. Eh? Whatever happened to the regular old belt test?
  • differentiating uniforms based on what program you're enrolled in - so people in the BBC might get to wear blue tops with their white pants, and those in the MC get to wear all blue, etc. Meanwhile, if you're just a basic program loser, you have to stick with the all whites. It's distasteful to me because I think the dojang/dojo should be a place where we are free from outside social distinctions and whatever personal respect or distinction we have should be earned through our deeds there rather than based on our money or our titles outside.
  • mandatory special seminars - additional study should be encouraged, but I don't like forcing students to sign up for extra lessons otherwise they don't get to advance with their classmates that did. For much the same reasons, I don't like "BB Review" seminars - that's called regular class in my book.
 

Gwai Lo Dan

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  • differentiating uniforms based on what program you're enrolled in - so people in the BBC might get to wear blue tops with their white pants, and those in the MC get to wear all blue, etc. Meanwhile, if you're just a basic program loser, you have to stick with the all whites.
Please enlighten me as I have never been to a school with a separate BBC. If you are not in BBC, does that mean you are not looking to test for a BB? Or is the BBC really for the "4-5 times per week" membership versus 2-3 times per week?
 

Daniel Sullivan

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Please enlighten me as I have never been to a school with a separate BBC. If you are not in BBC, does that mean you are not looking to test for a BB? Or is the BBC really for the "4-5 times per week" membership versus 2-3 times per week?

There is a local school that does this. It actually is a karate/ninjutsu school. If you're in the BBC, you wear a black gi. If not, white. I've visited the school and trained there a few times. I had no issues with the teaching or the material, and the staff were excellent. They don't overload you on tests and certs, but they definitely have the club and uniform thing going and a huge banner that reads, "We are a blackbelt school."

It doesn't seem to interfere with teaching or learning and there is no differentiation between the material you learn from club members to non club members. If I recall, regular members can train twice a week for the monthly rate (not unusual in my area) and club members can come as often as they wish.
 

Daniel Sullivan

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Training at a commercial school...would be impossible for us!!! We train at odd hours and with specific trainers for different things!!!!

i have been reading this thread and the whole idea of a commercial school just would not work in a serious sport environment!

During the very demanding parts of our training period a lot of people drop out or don't attend regularly!!! There are basically only a 4 athlete group that trains together!

They have been running regularly on their own for years!!!! We just started running with endurance athlete that is going to teach them how to run properly and periodization before meets and tournaments! Just so many different type of way to train in martial arts!!
Probably not a commericial/non-commercial issue. More of a school flavor issue. A commerical school could have a very strong competitive program. The odd hours is more of a scheduling issue.
 

dancingalone

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Please enlighten me as I have never been to a school with a separate BBC. If you are not in BBC, does that mean you are not looking to test for a BB? Or is the BBC really for the "4-5 times per week" membership versus 2-3 times per week?

A Black Belt Club can be either thing you describe. I'll explain the first option.

I've seen a few competitors offer a basic program which will take the student up 2-3 geup levels at most. It's considered the beginner's program and frequently has a limited number of offered classes, like 2 a week. Thereafter if you want to advance you have to sign up for the BBC or higher. Though in theory, students are permitted to stay in the basic program indefinitely, if they are fine with practicing the same material over and over again; in reality, most people switch over to a higher package rather quickly if they didn't already pick it upon enrollment.

There's a certain pricing psychology in play here. You offer a lower price that you advertise ("as low as"), but once you get a prospect in the door, they're immediately upsold on the BBC. I mean, people always want the 'best' for their kiddos, right?

The funny thing is that beginner's classes can be great assets for your school if they're run properly. They shouldn't be treated like low offerings, and at the same time, they shouldn't be changed at whim to whatever the teacher wants to do that night or geared towards any more advanced students that showed up. My beginner's class is decently popular because people know we'll be doing some calisthenics, working the basic movements, and then pounding on pads and heavy bags. A good, no frills workout where you will sweat and get better even if it is geared towards 'beginners'.
 

Earl Weiss

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The problem is that the school is PRESUMING that the student sees value in it. My examples of things that add profitability but don't add value for me personally:

1) Mandatory uniform with the school's name printed on it. A standard TKD uniform is not allowed, which would otherwise let you move between schools more easily. The printing probably adds $15-20, and of course the cost is passed along.

I agree with most of what you said. Our uniform style is spec'd by the national org. It is not school specific and yes it costs perhaps $15.00 more than a plain uniform ($50.00 retail all in) but I think that the darn thing easily lasts 5 years except for kids who outgrow it, the extra cost over time is nominal.
 

Jaeimseu

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The problem is that the school is PRESUMING that the student sees value in it. My examples of things that add profitability but don't add value for me personally:

1) Mandatory uniform with the school's name printed on it. A standard TKD uniform is not allowed, which would otherwise let you move between schools more easily. The printing probably adds $15-20, and of course the cost is passed along.
2) Mandatory tournaments.
3) Plaques, photos, embroidered belts, etc.. at Black Belt Testing. And of course, with the black belt, you need another new uniform with the school's name on it!
3) Mandatory equipment purchase from the school, under the guise of ensuring the right equipment is purchased. (You cannot purchase WTF-approved equipment from elswhere).

All of the above are under the guise of adding value, but it is really just passing more costs to the student while PRESUMING the student wants these things.

1) Most of the school's I've seen and all of the schools I've been a part of offered a free uniform with the first membership plan, even 1 month intro plans.

2) I've never seen mandatory tournament participation required outside of instructors, though it's often highly encouraged, especially if the school is hosting the event.

3) Most of this stuff is geared for kids. I think they probably see plenty of value in it. As an adult, you likely don't need all that stuff.

4) This is a tricky one. If the instructor wants the student's to be uniform in respect to gear, this is probably the easiest way to accomplish that. Hopefully, the prices will be reasonable compared to other sellers. I probably wouldn't require students to purchase from me, but I'd certainly request and encourage it. Every little bit helps, especially in this economy.

Sent from my SHV-E210K using Tapatalk 2
 

RTKDCMB

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The problem is that the school is PRESUMING that the student sees value in it. My examples of things that add profitability but don't add value for me personally:

1) Mandatory uniform with the school's name printed on it. A standard TKD uniform is not allowed, which would otherwise let you move between schools more easily. The printing probably adds $15-20, and of course the cost is passed along.
2) Mandatory tournaments.
3) Plaques, photos, embroidered belts, etc.. at Black Belt Testing. And of course, with the black belt, you need another new uniform with the school's name on it!
3) Mandatory equipment purchase from the school, under the guise of ensuring the right equipment is purchased. (You cannot purchase WTF-approved equipment from elswhere).

All of the above are under the guise of adding value, but it is really just passing more costs to the student while PRESUMING the student wants these things.

1) Its is pretty standard for a school to have its own uniforms with the schools name on it unless it is part of a larger group of organizations. A school is advertised by the quality of its students so it often helps if the general public can see the schools name on them. In my school we have our own uniforms that students purchase but we have no objection to someone getting one 2nd hand or wearing a plain uniform of similar style as long as it does not have another school's name on it. Uniforms are meant to be just that, uniform.

2) Its a free country, martial arts participation is voluntary so if tournaments are your thing then they should be voluntary as well.

3) Plaques and photos should be a gift from instructor to student, I have never seen them offered personally.Embroidered belts - I don't think I've ever seen a black belt that was not embroidered. With my school the belt is included as part of the grading fee. A black belt is something you are supposed to have for a long time so why shouldn't it be embroidered. We have instructors uniforms that are in the same style but with the black piping on the bottom made of a thicker material that cost 2-3 times as much as a regular uniform. However they are voluntary but most instructors will buy them because they look a lot better, last 3-5 times longer and have a much better sounding snap to them when you punch and kick.

4) Mandatory equipment - usually a big money grabber. In my school we do not compete in tournaments so there is no protective gear to buy. Students are not required to buy focus mitts or kicking shields but branch instructors will often buy their own wherever they can get them.

If a school is all about the money then they can use these things to squeeze money out of the students but for schools that don't some of the things you mentioned are not necessarily bad things as long as they are voluntary and not mandatory.
 

SJON

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Reading over a lot of what would appear to be the norm in the US, I can't decide whether in Europe we're incredibly backward or a lot less gullible.

Sure, the MA's do have a certain cult-like air about them even over here, but honestly, the kind of hard-sell, relentlessly marketed stuff I'm reading would have even school owners here - never mind the general public - in fits of laughter.

No offence. I find it genuinely bemusing. And amusing. And rather depressing.

Cheers,

Simon
 

Gwai Lo Dan

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3) Embroidered belts - I don't think I've ever seen a black belt that was not embroidered. With my school the belt is included as part of the grading fee. A black belt is something you are supposed to have for a long time so why shouldn't it be embroidered.

BY embroidered, I mean with the school's name and student's name. When the $20 BB is embroidered with the school name, making it a $50 belt, the cost is passed along via the high testing cost. If you are moving or changing schools, you then have to buy another belt. I'd rather save the extra $30 for embroidering and have a plain $20 belt.
 

RTKDCMB

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BY embroidered, I mean with the school's name and student's name. When the $20 BB is embroidered with the school name, making it a $50 belt, the cost is passed along via the high testing cost. If you are moving or changing schools, you then have to buy another belt. I'd rather save the extra $30 for embroidering and have a plain $20 belt.

Back in 1989 when I passed for my 1st Dan the belts were about $60 and my grading cost about $150. My original belt was stolen while I had stopped training at the school and was doing another art. Then when IO came back to my original school I was given a replacement belt at no charge. I have heard that some school in America was charging $1000 for a 1st Dan test. So it varies quite a bit. Unfortunately belts cost money and they have to be paid for somehow. Most black belts that I train with are quite happy to have their name on their belts because it is something that is theirs.
 

Daniel Sullivan

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BY embroidered, I mean with the school's name and student's name. When the $20 BB is embroidered with the school name, making it a $50 belt, the cost is passed along via the high testing cost. If you are moving or changing schools, you then have to buy another belt. I'd rather save the extra $30 for embroidering and have a plain $20 belt.
Not automatically; the school could easily absorb the dealer cost for an embroidered belt, though after a 500.00 black belt test, I suspect that a mere 50.00 over a KKW registration fee (the total would be less than 150.00) would be considered reasonably.
 
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Rumy73

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Not automatically; the school could easily absorb the dealer cost for an embroidered belt, though after a 500.00 black belt test, I suspect that a mere 50.00 over a KKW registration fee (the total would be less than 150.00) would be considered reasonably.

What is the real cost of kkw registration? In my area, they charge $80-$100.
 

Daniel Sullivan

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What is the real cost of kkw registration? In my area, they charge $80-$100.

For first dan, it was about eighty dollars. While that info isn't recent, I seem to recall Puunui indicating that it was still rougly that. A former school owner that I knew said that she went through USAT and it was 100, so it probably is 80-100 depending on what channel you go through. I know that the KKW made stylistic changes to their certs and rolled out a school certification program about three years or so back, so prices may be different. But I'd bet that a KKW first dan is still no more than one hundred.
 

dancingalone

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I just learned from a new student that one of my competitors charges $500 and some change to test for chodan. This was enough of a hit financially to get him to switch schools even though he was mere months away from testing for BB there... Kinda odd since I charge $250 myself (don't charge at all for color belt tests) and you'd think the $250 difference shouldn't be too bad considering the big upheaval... but there you go.

No point to my story other than just to share. :)
 

Gwai Lo Dan

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I wish I could visit the national association on a "test day" and just test without all the fuss and cost. But that is not possible in Canada - I have to go through a school and pay $500-700 after tax.
 

WaterGal

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I'm going to add to my previous statement that charging people to be on the demo team is another thing that I consider to be pure price gouging. Even making them buy their own demo uniforms; as a business owner, these things can be deducted as business expenses.

While we don't charge for the demo team, other than to buy the uniform (and we went with a simple cheap one to save the students money), I do understand why people do.

Putting on a demo at a large local event typically costs $200-300. Plus you're working an extra 1-3 hours a week every week. It's a lot to do for free. I think it's worth it, but others may not.
 

WaterGal

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The printing probably adds $15-20, and of course the cost is passed along.

To be real honest with you, the printing costs like $3, at least with the guys we use. Shipping and sales tax are bigger costs. Though we give them one for free anyway.

2) Mandatory tournaments.

Agreed. Tournaments can be great and fun, but not everyone wants to do that. Schools should have it be available but not required.

Mandatory equipment purchase from the school, under the guise of ensuring the right equipment is purchased. (You cannot purchase WTF-approved equipment from elswhere).

Eh... I think it depends. If you're just taking classes, whatever, but if you're going to be doing demonstrations and tournaments to represent the school it's only right to have gear that has the school name on it. That's the approach we take, and honestly, most of the students/parents don't know what they need and are happy to have us handle it for them for basically the same price as they'd pay on Century/Dynamics website.
 

WaterGal

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Some of my money-maker pet peeves:
  • differentiating uniforms based on what program you're enrolled in - so people in the BBC might get to wear blue tops with their white pants, and those in the MC get to wear all blue, etc. Meanwhile, if you're just a basic program loser, you have to stick with the all whites. It's distasteful to me because I think the dojang/dojo should be a place where we are free from outside social distinctions and whatever personal respect or distinction we have should be earned through our deeds there rather than based on our money or our titles outside.

Yeah, I agree with this one. Uniform means "one form". The whole reason you have a uniform to make everybody look the same, to equalize everyone. Letting people with a more expensive membership wear a special uniform is..... distasteful to me, and I think would just cause dissension and drama.

We have a "black belt program", but that's just our name for the longer-term membership (i.e. long enough for most people to get a black belt). It's actually cheaper than the regular membership. There's no special uniform, or patch, or any way for anyone to know.
 

Daniel Sullivan

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While we don't charge for the demo team, other than to buy the uniform (and we went with a simple cheap one to save the students money), I do understand why people do.

Putting on a demo at a large local event typically costs $200-300. Plus you're working an extra 1-3 hours a week every week. It's a lot to do for free. I think it's worth it, but others may not.
I respectfully disagree. Demos are advertisement for your school. Your students are essentially participating in an advertisement. They're already paying to attend class and for the privilege to test. Cost of demos and equipment for them should be part of the schools advertising budget and written off at tax time. Not passed onto the students, who aside from pride and recognition, really don't get anything out of it.
 
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