For Love or Money
This article is one that I have written and deleted several times without actually publishing-until now.
This article will expose some ‘industry secrets’ and will likely offend those guilty of implementing these practices. So…with the disclaimer out of the way, here we go!
When I began training in Judo in 1984, I did so out of necessity and desire to learn to defend myself. Several years later, as I was stationed in Okinawa, Japan- I began training in Karate, and again, i did so with the desire to improve myself and my skill. My teachers (Schmitt Sensei-Judo) and (Takamiyagi Sensei-Karate) both had one thing in common; they absolutely loved teaching their respective martial arts. they were passionate about helping us (the students) achieve our goals. This was accomplished through leadership, inspiration, and and discipline. Every student was rewarded according to his/her efforts. Those that trained harder, practiced more, and proved themselves dedicated were shown the more intricate details of the arts. The amount of TIME and DEDICATION is how we payed our dues..not the amount of DOLLARS/YEN. Yes, we paid our monthly dues to support the dojo and sensei, but no amount of money could buy extra instruction, special treatment, faster promotions, or elite status.
Enter the western world of martial arts.
Does this sound like your dojo so far? Yes? Good! No? uh-oh, read on.
The trend in many martial arts schools/dojo over the past couple of decades has been to concentrate on the ‘business’ of martial arts first, and the education of martial artists second. It has become a maze of quantity over quality, sales pitches, long contracts, upgrade programs, and guarantees of frequent promotion. The new student is often brought into a basic or beginners program and a few months later pressured to ‘upgrade’ to a special program in which the members receive very little extra instruction and are allowed to wear a different color uniform or special patch to set them apart from the other students (read: make them feel really special). Of course, this comes at a price! These upgrade “clubs” often cost $30-$60 more per month, and, in my opinion only serve to create division among the students. The special club students look down upon the others students who can’t afford the ‘elite status’ of the upgrade program.
Why are these practices so successful? In my opinion, two reasons:
#1. People want to feel special; they want to be different than everyone else..maybe even have a sense of entitlement that they deserve more if they pay for it.
#2. People are impatient; we live in an instant gratification driven society, and people have become accustomed to getting what they want . Join the black belt club or masters club and learn more faster…for a price.
And the teachers and/or dojo owners are taking advantage of this from every direction. What drives them to change their standards from the work hard-get results mentality they were taught when they were students? Plain and Simple: Money. Black Belt Clubs, Masters Clubs, belt ‘graduations’ EVERY MONTH are simply income generators. Children and parents alike love to get recognition; fewer want to earn recognition. Rewarding mediocrity has replaced high standards of working hard to get results.
Is this now what we should expect as the standard? NO! Do your research; look around, and find a dojo that best fits your goals. I understand that these programs are here to stay, as long as people buy into the hype and support them. The old ways are not attractive to everyone; I understand that too. I am not saying that we as Instructors, should teach for free or dirt cheap, or that you as a student should expect free lessons. The money that is paid for dues is used to pay for the dojo rent, upkeep, and for the ongoing training of your instructors. I am saying that it is neither right, nor should it be accepted that the parents/students are progressively squeezed for more money at every turn!
Ask ONE question when approached with an ‘upgrade’: What is the value to me? Is the extra money being spent worth the results, or is the Dojo Owner just padding his/her pockets? If the upgrade includes extra training time and additional curriculum above and beyond the scope of the normal training, it may be valuable to you. If nothing additional is included, beware.
I began teaching in 1995, and opened the Columbus Dojo in 1999. I did so not for money, but for the love of martial arts, and the desire to share with others the benefits of traditional martial arts as I have been taught. In Okinawa, my Sensei had one price for children, and a slightly higher price for adults-regardless of rank. The black belt students paid the same as the new beginner. My dojo is the same way. Students can gain skill and earn respect and promotions only through hard work and dedication. No dollar value should ever change the principles of honor and integrity.
Train Hard, Get Results; you can’t buy skill.