How much should martial art lessons cost?

The cost of tuition is an area of vigorous disagreement among martial artists and people paying for martial art classes all around the world. It would be safe to say that you probably think you know what I’m going to say here, but I doubt if you really do. Let’s dive right in and see, shall we?

To begin with, I collected the data for this graph in a decidedly unscientific manner. It comes from a question asked on my school’s Facebook page. Several months ago I asked the question that is the title of this post. The responses that I got were interesting. The top line is a response that was added by someone else and got 18 replies: Students should be able to pay on a “Per Class” basis. I set the other answers. (I’ve adjusted the answers just a bit from the original to include amounts that were added by others that were similar to those already set by me. I rounded their answers down when necessary.)

I suppose that with the state of the economy and all other things considered, it is not surprising that a lot of people value martial art classes so little. If I could set the price of gasoline, I’d set it lower than it is, despite the fact that I would have a very hard time functioning without it.

It is interesting to me though that none of the people who answered “$50 or Less” is my student.

So, at any rate, I don’t really have a problem with this “cheaper is better” mentality. Consumers will try to get the best bargain for their money. That makes sense. What I can’t understand is why martial art instructors value their knowledge, ability and classes so cheaply.

Consider: in the distant past; martial art schools were communes of a sort. Probably based on the concept of Buddhist temples, family styles were passed down from teachers to students who lived with their teachers and helped support them for some years. The number of students that a teacher had determined his wealth and probably said something about his personality and ability to teach.

As times have changed, the working model for martial art schools has changed as well. People have their lives to lead, and want to learn martial art as a form of fitness, recreation, spiritual pursuit, and almost always lastly as a self-defense system. Despite the differences from ancient times, after a very short period of training martial art students usually develop a sense of loyalty to their school and will do what they can to support it. Since spending time at the school cleaning, gardening and maintaining the grounds is not possible or even necessary, students usually pay a sum of money toward the maintenance of the school and the livelihood of the instructor.

Problems arise when people (both students and instructors) lose sight of what they are paying for. Are parents paying for “krotty” classes for junior? Or are they paying to ensure that the school will be there for as long as they want it to be? Which is a broader, more forward thinking approach? Which approach benefits more people?

I remember one time when I was younger, and my dad had a problem of some sort with an order at a restaurant. It wasn’t huge, but it was something that had happened more than once. The manager came out to talk to Dad and offered a discount on his meal. My dad replied, “I don’t want a discount. I want you to do better. Fix the problem so that it doesn’t happen again. I want you to be here when I want to eat here.” That, I think, is similar to the mentality that martial art students should have. They should want to pay enough for tuition that their school is around forever and doesn’t have to have their hand out, doing fund-raisers endlessly, and otherwise begging for money.

Unless they operate their school as a charity or ministry, martial art school owners are small business owners. Business owners forced to ask for donations just seems wrong. Would you contribute if your mechanic was taking donations for a new hydraulic lift or a new tool box? How about your local pizza place soliciting donations so they could buy a new oven? I have asked for donations in the past and always felt weird about it. I won’t do it again.

Again, students usually feel loyalty towards their schools, and do whatever they can to support them. This tendency of martial art students should be treasured and protected, not taken advantage of.

After I had done the survey mentioned above, I came up with the following choice of pricing options for my school. I also have a scholarship program for students unable to pay (or pay full price) for their program. Feel free to let me know what you think of the pricing or the blog in general.

Edited 6/5/2015

Tuition

Private Lessons: $65

One class per week: $65

Full Testing Fees

Two classes per week: $85

25% Discount on Testing Fees
25% Discount on Private Lessons

Unlimited Classes per week: $115

No Testing Fees
Free Private Lesson Monthly

Black Belts: $125

Free Private Lesson Monthly

Yearly Membership: $1199

Unlimited Classes
No Testing Fees
Free Private Lesson Monthly
Uniform Included
50% Discount for Additional Family Members

Testing Fees

Colored Belts: $40
50% Discount for Additional Family Members

One Reply to “How much should martial art lessons cost?”

  1. Yeah, that sounds like a fair payment schedule for those who run a school full time.
    I teach only two nights a week and just offer one flat rate of $70 per month.

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