The cost of martial art tuition is a topic of vigorous disagreement around the world.
The data for this graph comes from my school’s Facebook page in 2012 where I asked the question which is the title of this post. The responses were interesting.
The top response, added by someone else, received 18 votes: Students should be able to pay on a “Per Class” basis. I set the other answers. (I’ve adjusted the data to include amounts added by others that were similar to those already set and rounded answers down when necessary.)
With the state of the economy and other things considered, it is not surprising that people value martial art classes so little. If I could, I’d set the price of gasoline lower than it is, despite the fact that I would have a very hard time functioning without it.
It is interesting that none of the people who answered $50 or Less was my student.
So, I don’t have a problem with the “cheaper is better” mentality. Consumers want a bargain for their money. That makes sense. What I can’t understand is why martial art instructors value their knowledge, ability, and teaching so cheaply.
Consider: in the distant past; martial art schools were communes of a sort. Based on the concept of Buddhist temples, family styles were passed down to students who lived with their teachers and helped support them for some years. The number of students a teacher had determined his wealth and 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 want to learn martial art for fitness, recreation, spiritual pursuit, and almost always lastly for self-defense. Despite the differences from ancient times, after a brief period of training, martial art students 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 pay money toward 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 when 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 a kid, and my dad had a problem of some sort at his favorite restaurant. It wasn’t huge, but it was something that happened more than once. The manager came out to talk 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 is the mentality that martial art students should have. They should want to pay enough tuition so that their school is around forever and doesn’t have to have their hand out, doing fund-raisers, and otherwise begging for money.
Unless operated as a charity or ministry, martial art school owners are small business owners. Business owners forced to ask for donations seems wrong. Would you contribute if your mechanic was taking donations for a new hydraulic lift or toolbox? How about your local pizza place soliciting donations so they could buy a new oven? I have asked for donations for projects 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.