How do you pay for your classes?

cdunn

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Read the contract. See what, if any, ways to cancel it are provided. If there's no cancellation possibility... think carefully about signing it.

Contracts aren't evil in and of themselves. They're good for the business; he's got bills to pay, and knowing he's got money coming in is kind of important for him! A year is probably about as long as I'd suggest signing, unless they allow you to cancel it in a reasonable manner. I'd definitely be reluctant about signing a lengthy contract without experience in the system and school. They also protect you from variation in the fees, and spell out what you get for your money.

I would like to emphasize this point. You can go back and forth forever about if it's 'right' to commercialize a martial art, but when it does happen, the contract is awfully important to keeping the business running. These can be the difference between keeping open and closing down in the bad attendance months.

But enter into it with your eyes open. Know what you're getting, and what your options are. Make it worth the money.
 

thesandman

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Attempting to live as a martial arts instructor myself, I sympathize with people who feel the need to have contracts and set payment schedules. I am confused by attitudes that seem to look down on instructors who ask to be paid a living wage for their efforts. Do people feel as though their martial arts isn't worth the money or commitment?

I myself do not ask for contracts. My students pay month to month, cash or check, amount depending on how many classes they wish to attend per week. I have this flexibility though because I teach out of locations that I do not own. My rent is payed by the hour and other than gas and insurance I have no real other overhead.

Additionally, a student has never been turned away because of an inability to pay. Arrangements can always be made.
 

SageGhost83

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I signed a contract before, but I will never do it again. Now its either pay cash or I'll pass. I think that it is interesting how contracts affect the training. When I trained with my first sensei in college, there was no contract and the only fees that I had to pay were a $10.00 ISKF membership fee and $20.00 testing fees. He borrowed the dance room on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Since there no major financial obligations, we were free to just focus on training and not have to worry about making payments or refunds or contracts or anything like that. It was the best training that I have received. Now, when I graduated and moved away, I explored multiple Taekwondo Dojangs, but nearly every single one of them focused almost exclusively on shoving a long, unfair contract down my throat. I simply turned and walked right out of the door on most occassions, but I eventually settled on one particular school. I signed a more reasonable contract, but it wasn't exactly cheap. I guess that $108.00 per month is pretty expensive when you are used to paying, say, $10.00 for a semester and $20.00 for your tests. At least it isn't $180.00 per month. I won't even go into detail about how I had to purchase a ridiculously expensive "school" dobok with "mandatory" patches - sold separately of course, ridiculously expensive sparring gear, and insane test fees on top of the contract itself...and this was one of the cheaper schools. The training started out pretty well, but it eventually started going down hill. Sanbunim hardly showed up, and people that we had never met were coming in to teach classes. When Sanbunim was there, he could never devote any time to speak with us one-on-one and help us refine things that we needed a little extra help on. We were pretty much rushed through most classes so that either Sanbunim could return to his office to handle financial matters or because one of the mystery teachers "had someplace that he had to be", So you can imagine how fun this was...I also witnessed a student get promoted on the spot for nothing other then he had been there for awhile and he had payed a certain amount of money over time...I am not saying that money automatically screws things up, but I have noticed a clear difference when the instructor doesn't have to worry about finances as much when he teaches. More time can be spent on the things that really matter, and the training doesn't have to be geared towards wowing peole so that they will stick around. I left that particular dojang and I got hit with $150.00 contract cancellation fee plus having to pay two additional months worth of training because of a clever loophole in the contract. If you feel comfortable with them then by all means put your John Hancock on the dotted line, however, I will avoid them like the plague! I prefer garage dojos and YMCA's after my little experience. I think that the best training occurs when the instructor wants to teach the art because of his love for the art, not because he wants to run a school and make a living from his art, and the best students are the ones who are there because they want to be there, not because they are financially obligated to be there.
 

SageGhost83

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Ithe contract is awfully important to keeping the business running. These can be the difference between keeping open and closing down in the bad attendance months.

And this is what makes me cringe. No cdunn, you don't make me cringe, but "the business" does. When a martial art becomes a business then it is no longer a martial art - it is a business. There will always be a focus on doing what must be done to advance the business, because that is the nature of business.
 

thesandman

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When a martial art becomes a business then it is no longer a martial art - it is a business. There will always be a focus on doing what must be done to advance the business, because that is the nature of business.

Here I have to respectfully disagree. Most "commercial" martial arts schools are privately owned and operated. They are created normally by people who have a passion for their art and want to do it full time. 90% of these fail because of how expensive it is to keep a place of your own running. I think it's taking too much away from people to accuse them of not practicing a martial art simply because they are trying to make a living doing it.

We also have to ask ourselves, do we want an instructor that teaches as a hobby? People who have a "real" job? Or do we want people who have dedicated themselves to their art? I'm not trying to take anything away from people who do teach part time, but I don't think we should look down on people who try to do it full time.

Why is it that we expect to pay less for martial arts training than we do for our cellphones or cable TV?
 

SageGhost83

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Here I have to respectfully disagree. Most "commercial" martial arts schools are privately owned and operated. They are created normally by people who have a passion for their art and want to do it full time. 90% of these fail because of how expensive it is to keep a place of your own running. I think it's taking too much away from people to accuse them of not practicing a martial art simply because they are trying to make a living doing it.

We also have to ask ourselves, do we want an instructor that teaches as a hobby? People who have a "real" job? Or do we want people who have dedicated themselves to their art? I'm not trying to take anything away from people who do teach part time, but I don't think we should look down on people who try to do it full time.

Why is it that we expect to pay less for martial arts training than we do for our cellphones or cable TV?

Yes, and I don't doubt that there are some good ones out there, however, I don't doubt that there are a lot of bad ones out there, either. I definitely don't look down on people who teach full time. I was getting at the slippery slope angle. I am sure that most schools start out with noble intentions, but when profits and business enter into the equation and your school isn't earning enough greenbacks the desire to sell by whatever means necessary to keep it afloat is all too tempting. What I was saying was that an instructor who doesn't have to consider these things or teaches strictly for the love of the art would be able to devote more of his/her time and attention to teaching the art itself and not have to worry about advertising or paying the overhead. Many instructors simply teach out of their own homes/garages or they teach at a community center or something and they don't have the strain of having to afford rent and utilities on their own building. they don't have to worry about getting students into their teaching area, either. I don't look down on full time teachers. Teaching full time is a very challenging task, especially in our society. I just believe that whenever you turn martial arts into a business there is a strong and undeniable probability that the business will take precedence over the art. Why? Because that is the nature of business. More often than not, when you take something and turn it into a business and have operating costs and so forth, you need to make enough money to keep it going. This need often takes center stage, especially when your very way of living depends on it. People need to eat and pay their bills, and they are going to do whatever they have to do to ensure that their cash flow holds true. Therein lies the slippery slope my friend. They start out well enough, but business is ugly. As far as paying for martial arts, I didn't know that they had a monetary value attached to them. I was always taught that the only thing that you should have to pay is your own blood, sweat, and tears. I look at my own training and what I have gained from it, and I couldn't possibly put a price tag on it because it is priceless. It is not like martial arts are products that you purchase at Wal-Mart or something. The best training that I have recieved required very little money, but a whole lot of dedication, old school dedication :lol:.
 

SenseiBear

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... What I was saying was that an instructor who doesn't have to consider these things or teaches strictly for the love of the art would be able to devote more of his/her time and attention to teaching the art itself and not have to worry about advertising or paying the overhead...
...whenever you turn martial arts into a business there is a strong and undeniable probability that the business will take precedence over the art...
...especially when your very way of living depends on it. People need to eat and pay their bills, and they are going to do whatever they have to do to ensure that their cash flow holds true...
... I was always taught that the only thing that you should have to pay is your own blood, sweat, and tears. I look at my own training and what I have gained from it, and I couldn't possibly put a price tag on it because it is priceless. It is not like martial arts are products that you purchase at Wal-Mart or something. The best training that I have recieved required very little money, but a whole lot of dedication, old school dedication :lol:.

This said it exactly - I have respect for someone who loves MA so much they want to try the difficult task of making it your livelyhood; but the realities of business often require some sort of sacrifice to be made - Not just high fees, but perhaps more students, or needing to follow the MA fad of the month, or (for me) having kids in class... Or any number of things - in addition to my instructor having to worry about more stuff than our training...

And not even that those are bad things - many people like some or all of those things - I just enjoy the atmosphere I trained in - Classes were small and long, rules were strict, and a certain amount of dedication was required... Things he couldn't do if he had to live off what he made.

And it isn't that I don't want to pay for martial art instruction, I would gladly pay my instructor many times what I do... He has said he used to teach for free, but found that in the west, we often don't value what we don't pay for...
 

Mr G

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I live in a town of 2800. I am confident that my dojong would not exist if it was not run as a business. My Sahbumnim is not getting rich, but he is able to be available for us because it is his business. It is his livelihood. He seems very interested in our success, in part because it represents his success.

I did sign the contract, but only when I felt that the school was legit, and was going to be able to meet their end of the contract.

The contract represents commitment. Both of the student, and the school.

Isn't commitment important in the art?
 

jks9199

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Here I have to respectfully disagree. Most "commercial" martial arts schools are privately owned and operated. They are created normally by people who have a passion for their art and want to do it full time. 90% of these fail because of how expensive it is to keep a place of your own running. I think it's taking too much away from people to accuse them of not practicing a martial art simply because they are trying to make a living doing it.

We also have to ask ourselves, do we want an instructor that teaches as a hobby? People who have a "real" job? Or do we want people who have dedicated themselves to their art? I'm not trying to take anything away from people who do teach part time, but I don't think we should look down on people who try to do it full time.

Why is it that we expect to pay less for martial arts training than we do for our cellphones or cable TV?
It's not that being a full-time martial arts teacher or even running a part-time martial arts school as a business automatically makes it somehow less noble.

The simple fact is that a business is a business. If the school owner, whether it's their full time job or a part-time set up, wants to stay in business, they'll have to attend to the business side of things. Which may mean altering what they teach in order to be sure that they get enough students to keep the doors open. Or it may mean focusing on contracts and other concerns that distract them from training.

Let me make a comparison with a restaurant. I doubt anyone opens a restaurant wanting to serve food people won't eat or that they don't like; they want to serve the food they love the way they think it should be done. But, if the customers aren't coming, they have to try something different. Maybe that's changing grandma's recipe for chicken stew... Maybe it's changing the prices or decor. The same thing happens with martial arts. Let me use the very prolific TKD schools in my area as an example. Many teach solid TKD; I'm not questioning their martial arts skills. But they've also developed a market by adding kiddie classes, "morphed critter theme" programs, and martial arts daycare. In doing so -- they've drifted from the "core mission" of teaching good TKD. Some have gone even further, adding belt testing fees, coupled with ever-increasing numbers of belts, and other things that led to the McDojo image.

One other point... Very few people are simultaneously both talented martial arts instructors and talented business people. And too few people who want to run a martial arts school ever take the business classes to do that side of things well. So, while they may "dedicate their life" to developing their art -- many also have to face the distraction of running the business with incomplete tools.
 

SageGhost83

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It's not that being a full-time martial arts teacher or even running a part-time martial arts school as a business automatically makes it somehow less noble.

The simple fact is that a business is a business. If the school owner, whether it's their full time job or a part-time set up, wants to stay in business, they'll have to attend to the business side of things. Which may mean altering what they teach in order to be sure that they get enough students to keep the doors open. Or it may mean focusing on contracts and other concerns that distract them from training.

Let me make a comparison with a restaurant. I doubt anyone opens a restaurant wanting to serve food people won't eat or that they don't like; they want to serve the food they love the way they think it should be done. But, if the customers aren't coming, they have to try something different. Maybe that's changing grandma's recipe for chicken stew... Maybe it's changing the prices or decor. The same thing happens with martial arts. Let me use the very prolific TKD schools in my area as an example. Many teach solid TKD; I'm not questioning their martial arts skills. But they've also developed a market by adding kiddie classes, "morphed critter theme" programs, and martial arts daycare. In doing so -- they've drifted from the "core mission" of teaching good TKD. Some have gone even further, adding belt testing fees, coupled with ever-increasing numbers of belts, and other things that led to the McDojo image.

Thank you! This is exactly what I was getting at. I am pretty sure that most people who start up a school do have noble intentions, however, the needs of the business become a major factor and their teaching is often altered or even compromised to meet the needs of that business whereas someone who taught out of their home or garage just simply for their love of their art or for the desire to share that art with others would be able to teach that art in a more focused way. They would be able to teach their art the way they wanted to teach it or the way that they were taught that art without having to water it down or change it around to satisfy the "customers" to keep the "business" going. Also, if the student didn't like what was being taught or they had to move away, then they wouldn't have to worry about the whole contract thing, they could just simply leave (after talking to the instructor about it, of course). The business side of things is one reason why we have blackbelt mills and why we see 5 year old blackbelts running around, too.

Commitment is important, but commitment goes a little deeper than a financial contract. If you are only showing up because you signed the contract, then are you truly committed to the art, or are you only committed to the money that you have promised to pay the school over a specified period of time? Many people train without signing a contract and they are deeply committed to their art, so a contract is not exactly a beacon of commitment. Commitment has to come from within, not merely from a financial arrangement. Don't get me wrong - I am not trying to put down teachers and students who do the contract thing, I am just saying that there are those on both sides of it who often are not operating in good faith due to the financial side of things.

And another thing - if the student is paying hard earned cash, who is to say that the student, as a customer, can't demand that things be done a certain way or that things be changed to meet their own view of how things should be? The student leading the teacher instead of vice versa due to the realities of capitalism and consumerism. If you want to retain students and keep your business going, then you have to satisfy your customers' needs and wants. Yet another reason why "the business" makes me cringe when applied to martial arts.
 

snoack

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I pay monthly. We have an annual agreement that I have to sign, but it's not a contract. Besides, my instructor and I are pretty tight and he wants me to teach more for him (do some now, planning on getting into it heavily this fall).

After I make it to black belt, I get to exchange teaching for tuition and work on my 2nd degree for free.
 
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