From the Archives: Martial Art Tuition

I’m sharing this article because it is the way that I would like to do things. Not everything in this article is still correct, but I wish that it was. However, it is still my policy not to turn anyone away simply because they cannot afford tuition. Please see the Scholarship Program for full details.

Thursday, 16 December 2010

I’ve talked about this before, but I want to revisit the topic again for those of you just tuning in.

Martial art school owners have unique relationships with our students. We are at different times, teacher, shop keeper, drill sergeant, mentor, advisor, salesperson, building supervisor, collection agent, and friend. It can be uncomfortable especially for a person like me who are not outgoing. My goal is to keep things as simple as possible and yet maintain a professional relationship with my students and parents.

Towards that end, I have structured Kuk Sool Won™ of Muncie as a joint endeavor between my students, parents, and my own family. I hold financial and all other responsibility for the business, but I see all of my students as partners in the operation of the school.

In the past we have had school meetings where we discuss plans for the future of the school and how to achieve them. Our sixth anniversary will be on April 1. Maybe that would be a good time to do renew this tradition. Perhaps we’ll wait until May so we can have it outdoors.

The topic at hand: I really don’t charge for classes or testing or anything. My bottom line is that the information and lessons that I have to teach should be freely available to everyone.

The reality of the situation is that in order to survive, we need money. Tuition goes towards the support of the school. From that, I cover testing (up to black-brown belt) uniforms, facility costs, marketing, salaries, etc. This is SO different from the way that most businesses operate that it can be difficult for people to understand (or even believe).

We have recently dismantled our tuition schedule and left it up to the individual to decide what they can pay. I give a ballpark figure and most people decide to use that one. Some pay more, some less. All in all, it works well for us and I don’t see it changing much in the near future.

In case you were wondering, the model for this business plan is the old martial art schools and temples in Asia. Aspiring students would come to learn and wait at the gates. They would either be accepted or rejected. If accepted, they would come and live at the school. They would help in the garden, kitchen, clean and so on, and learn a little bit at a time. Eventually, as newer students came in to do more of the day to day work, more time was spent training. As students progressed, they helped with the teaching and maybe even became the master themselves one day.

I’m not ready to build a school on this model exactly yet, but the one we’re working from is a start.

Referral Credit

Brother and sister begin practicing at Kuk Sool Won of Muncie.

The toughest part about running a martial art school is getting new students in the door. The newspaper is all but dead; most people use ad blockers on their browsers, billboards are crazy expensive, and I refuse to advertise via text message or autodialers.

I depend on my blog and word of mouth as my main means of finding new business. With our location problems, I honestly haven’t worked very hard to generate new business in the past few years.

Continue reading “Referral Credit”

Students or Members?

As I work on longer, more involved blog articles, I wanted to take a moment this weekend to share some perspective with my students and parents. I have shared this before, but it’s important. Thanks for taking just a minute to read this post.

Your instructors here at Kuk Sool Won™ of Muncie work very hard to make your classes interesting, fun, informative, and challenging. We spend a lot of time working hard on our own martial art so that we are in a better position to help our students on their martial art journey. We train and exercise physically, study, and seek instruction from lots of sources.

We operate as a small business and depend on regular tuition payments to keep things flowing. Just like your household expenses, lots of our expenses are automated. When expected tuition is late or withheld, it causes all sorts of problems.

Take a moment to consider whether you are simply a martial art student or the member of a martial art school? Students might be concerned with paying for a certain number of martial art classes while members are concerned with the bigger issues of keeping the doors open and the lights on for another month, and paying salaries and educational costs. Members want the school to succeed and do everything they can to make that happen. Without our members’ timely tuition payments, we simply can’t do the job that we want to do.

We are very grateful to all of our students and members, past and present, for choosing us to be their source of martial art instruction. With every student that comes through our doors, every new member, we become better instructors and better martial artists. We want to do our best for you, just as you practice hard and give us your best.

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


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