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I don't want the cheese,
I just want to get out of the trap
                         Spanish Proverb

Contracts in Martial Arts Schools

On this page:
Contracts In Economic Hard Times | A Way Around Contracts

There is no current trend in commercial martial arts more lucrative than contracts. This is the ultimate cash cow for schools. This brilliant marketing scheme was borrowed wholesale from the health and fitness gym business. Gyms routinely sell excessive amounts of memberships (far more than the facility could ever hold) on the firm and unshakable knowledge that most people won't use the facilities. The person may show up religiously for a month, maybe two, before other issues interfere and attendance dwindles. The beauty of this system is that the person has signed a six-month or year-long contract. So even though he or she is no longer attending that person is still paying! 

Remember the high turnover of students in the martial arts? The highest attrition rate is with people who sign up, take a few classes and then decide that it is not for them! Unfortunately with a contract, you're locked into paying! And, with the "deals" that schools offer on long-term vs. short-term contracts, the rate you are usually paying is the highest available. Because it made sense -- not knowing if you'd like it -- to take the shortest contract time available, you're paying the highest per unit cost. That means the school, knowing that you will probably drop out, is making the most money off you that it possibly can in the shortest period.

Contractual Obligations In Economic Hard Times
The simple fact is that in these economic hard times, many martial art schools will be going out of business. For years these McDojos  provided poor quality martial arts training at outrageous rates (up to $200 a month for a 'guaranteee' black belt in one year(1). They managed to survive on 'karate moms' bringing their children to these programs  -- often for what basically amounted as a form of unlicensed child care.

With a high enough student base these schools were often willing to let parents buy their way out of contracts. In the current economic crunch, however, these schools are not going to be so generous ... especially with dwindling enrollment and escalating overhead.

Remember these are legally binding contracts and very few people bother to read them carefully before signing. Since many of these schools will be fighting for their continued survival, not only are they going to be less willing to let you buy your way out, but they sell your contracts to collection agencies. And yes, there are collection agencies that specialize in martial arts contracts.

A Way Around Contracts
Especially with children -- since you never know how long their interest is going to last -- we strongly recommend you avoid initially enrolling them in a school that has extended contracts. If the martial arts bug bites, then, yes, you can take them to such a school.

But there are still many month-to-month programs available through rec centers, cultural centers, churches, gyms, YMCA/YWCAs and non-commercial schools. You just have to look for them, instead of looking no farther than the school closest to the supermarket.

We also recommend this strategy if your work requires extensive travel and overtime or your family life commonly makes demands that would result in you missing classes. The nice thing about month-to-month programs is that if you can't make it for a month, then you don't have to pay for classes you will miss.

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1) And that isn't even including the 'unexpected' fees that crop up such as specialized equipment (supposedly only sold at the school), testing fees and 'required' seminars. In the end a one year contract can easily run you up to $3,000 for that 'guaranteed' black belt. Return to Text

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