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irishwhistle
White Belt
White Belt

Joined: 30 Jun 2012
Posts: 7


PostPosted: Sat Jun 30, 2012 1:08 am    Post subject: New karate mom with questions Reply with quote

Begging your indulgence. If anyone here knows about Southern California karate dojos, it would help. Even if you don't, here's the issues... bear with me here...

I went around to a few dojos for my son and got sucked into a free sample class up the street. I foolishly let them buffalo me into keeping an unnecessary ghi that had only been worn for long enough to check the fit, and then only the jacket, after my son said he didn't want to keep up the lessons after their free sample class (my daughter decided to continue). They told me they don't believe in contracts but offer a discounted rate if you pay for a full month or year up front. I call that a contract. Technically, it's not, but it's certainly a commitment. They kept telling me the program should be tailored to the student whenever I asked for monthly rates, only to reveal after a week's worth of lessons that they have a pretty open system in which you choose which days to come for one flat rate!

They further have told me that my 6-year-old child will need certain items for class, including: sparring gear - head $50, hands $40; patches for the ghi he said he didn't believe in marking, $27; a photocopied, outline form, picture free, unlaminated, manual in a cheap 3-ring binder for $50; a DVD to go with the manual - $50; a gear bag with their logo - $20 (reasonable); and a couple of other items including a coupon for a karate birthday party. I really don't see a karate birthday party as being anything but paid recruitment for them. They have, because all their students "need" all this stuff, bundled it just to be nice... just $300 for the lot but he'll knock off $100!

When he did talk about price, sitting me down for a meeting after my kid had had a couple of lessons, he declared that most dojos in Orange County cost around $169 a month, but his special deal would be $140. The random two (one big and popular, one small and hot) I visited before coming to his very conveniently located dojo both told me it would be around $100 a month.

So I guess what I'm trying to say is... I think martial arts would be good for my daughter. She's got some self-control and respect issues that have already caused problems in school, and first grade is coming, and she really seems to like martial arts... but 6-year-olds are very changeable and this is a lot of money. I want to compare dojos, but I don't want her to bounce around from school to school, and I think this dude was counting on that. I just can't see paying $50 for a cheaply produced, complicated manual for a 6-year-old, among other things, and after all this I'm feeling fairly cynical.

I'm not sure what to expect in these cases, but more and more in my slow way I'm seeing that this school is all about the bottom line. However, the first one I visited had some things I'm not sure about either, thought they willingly told their rates and materials costs to me.

If you're still with me, I have a couple of questions. I've already figured out that kid's sparring gear does not have to cost $90 for head and hand gear. It's all online. But what about belts? The first school said they cost $60 and expected the student would likely earn a new one about every 3 months! The second school asks $50. But I'm seeing them in the karate gear shops online for $10! Do you have to get them through your dojo? If the first school is correct, that's approximately $200 a year more than necessary!

Also, how in the world do you find a dojo that has real values to pass on to a struggling little girl if they play little mind games with you to keep you in the dark until your little darling has settled in? I have three kids. I asked about price because I need to know. For all the good it can do, if I don't have the cash, I don't have it! Every dollar I spend has a dozen different directions it can go and he's getting cute with me. Sigh...

Alright, I've griped, I've asked, I've probably left out something important. The post is too long already.

Anyone have any insights? I'm really lost here.
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JusticeZero
Black Belt
Black Belt

Joined: 02 Apr 2005
Posts: 2166
Location: AK
Styles: Capoeira Angola

PostPosted: Sat Jun 30, 2012 11:44 am    Post subject: Re: New karate mom with questions Reply with quote

irishwhistle wrote:
They told me they don't believe in contracts but offer a discounted rate if you pay for a full month or year up front. I call that a contract.
We don't. =) We call that "pretty normal for no contracts". in America, "by the month" is pretty standard, and a mat free tends to be pricier if you are going to a number of classes. A "contract" would be "We think you will see lots of great results, so here is a two year contract that obligates you to pay every month for classes, even if you break your leg or move out of state, with a $$$ cancellation fee for early withdrawal." Think weasel cell phone contract or lease.
Learning a skill tends to be a commitment. Commitments have rewards, in this case if you already know you will be attending the class for a long time, the bulk rate is lower than the mat fee.
Quote:
you choose which days to come for one flat rate!
Again, pretty typical for a martial arts school. We train to do martial arts, not oversee a complex fee schedule. Again also a reason why the bulk rate is less than the sum of the mat fees.
Quote:
..my 6-year-old child will need certain items for class, including: sparring gear - head, hands; patches; a photocopied, outline form, picture free, unlaminated, manual in a cheap 3-ring binder for $50; a DVD to go with the manual - $50; a gear bag with their logo - $20 (reasonable); and a couple of other items including a coupon for a karate birthday party. I really don't see a karate birthday party as being anything but paid recruitment for them. They have, because all their students "need" all this stuff, bundled it just to be nice... just $300 for the lot but he'll knock off $100!
Yeah, that list sounds pretty unreasonable. I wouldn't have a student have to buy all that stuff; depending on the art I could see the gi and the sparring gear, but paying for a manual? Optional at most and i'd only ask to recoup cost for copying and let them get their own binder; DVD? NOT a requirement definitely, gear bag? "You'll probably want a bag to put your stuff in. I can sell you one, but you can use whatever." Birthday party??? Tahwha???
Quote:
how in the world do you find a dojo that has real values to pass on to a struggling little girl if they play little mind games with you to keep you in the dark until your little darling has settled in?
All I can say is - shop around, do your research, stop into various schools to try out classes. Do not give them a penny on this class. (Possibly a mat fee in some places but no uniforms etc.) Demand straight answers. Ask us questions if you are confused by what they say.
Be a good example to your child by having them see your process of finding what works best, instead of what is glitzy. Once you find a school that is a good fit, they can settle in.

I think you pretty much nailed it that that school that is making outrageous claims is mostly about milking you for money rather than giving you good skills.

Check out community centers and the like. Martial arts schools do not pay well enough, as a rule, to pay for the space it needs without either situating the school in very scary and low rent places or soaking the students for extra money, so a lot of people teach in parks or yoga studios and the like.

Attend with your child. I can't stress this enough. A lot of people treat martial arts schools as a form of daycare dump. This act in itself waters out a lot of the benefits. Martial arts are a skill. the benefits come because learning a skill is difficult, and it is a neverending spiral of refinement that must come from within; you have to learn how to critique your own performance and constantly work on improving, not just in class but also outside of class. A family that trains together is all on the same page and can bounce feedback off each other to continually push themselves upward and forward and build stronger habits and ethics. A family that has one kid in it who goes to a special room to learn, then spends the rest of their time in a setting that might not reflect those values will not see near as much effect.
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evergrey
Brown Belt
Brown Belt

Joined: 21 Jun 2010
Posts: 734

Styles: kyokushin

PostPosted: Sat Jun 30, 2012 2:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I wouldn't sign my kid up for that, personally. Sounds like they take you for all the money they can!

As a contrast, here in NorCal my dojo charges $70 a month, usually with a deal like $50 for the first month, with no contract, just fees are monthly. Kids can go to up to three classes a week. The dogi is free. Ranking is $25 a rank, not because of the cost of the belt, but to get a little more income for the school, which is very inexpensive. Ranking happens every 2 to 3 months but usually kids don't go up for rank every single ranking- only when they are ready.

Also, what style of martial art is this? I suggest that you also do some research into different styles.

I would happily put in a recommendation for a dojo to you, though I do not know what they charge for anything, if you're open to ideas? If you are anywhere near Torrance, CA, I suggest you check out Yamaki dojo. I have a friend who goes there (his kids do too) and they are very good. Shihan Yamaki is a living legend in martial arts, and what is taught there is very good, very solid.

Don't get suckered in to a school that charges a ton for every little thing! Do a google search for "what is a McDojo?"

Check out schools on Yelp, but remember that people can be biased.

And finally, best of luck!
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"If you can fatally judo-chop a bull, you can sit however you want." -MasterPain, on why Mas Oyama had Kyokushin karateka sit in seiza with their clenched fists on their thighs.
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tallgeese
KF Sensei
KF Sensei

Joined: 04 May 2008
Posts: 6852
Location: McHenry County, IL
Styles: Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Bujin Bugei Jutsu, Gokei Ryu Kempo Jutsu, MMA, Shootfighting, boxing, kickboxing, JKD, Pekiti Tersia Kali

PostPosted: Sat Jun 30, 2012 3:44 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

First up, irishwhistle, welcome aboard KF! Next, you've gotten some great advice already from Justice and evergrey. I'm not sure I can add much to that. Some of the "requirements" seem unreasonable for the age and the fact that she's a beginner.

I'd look around. I'd suggest the things that Justice suggested trying. Defiantly shop around. There's enough out there you'll find something that fits. Just find the vibe that you're looking for. If you get some school websites, post the links if you like and we'll take a look.

Good luck and keep us posted.
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irishwhistle
White Belt
White Belt

Joined: 30 Jun 2012
Posts: 7


PostPosted: Sun Jul 01, 2012 12:42 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

First off, thanks for the replies! And yeah, technically it's not a contract! But it achieves similar results after a fashion, if you find yourself thinking you might want to terminate lessons but keep thinking of the awkward chat with the slick salesman who also has his reputation invested... It can deter cancellation. Most people will shy away from that confrontation, and tend to fasten the phrase "paid in full" in their minds to a thing and feel they must get their money's worth. It's silly, but I do it and I see others do it as well.

I hadn't actually objected to his having a flat rate for days you choose. That only makes sense, and it was the same as the first dojo I visited. The trouble was that this dude insisted, as did another instructor, that the program should be tailored to the student, immediately after each time I asked about cost. Then after all that, it turns out they do things the same as everyone else and know darned well what it costs, because the only tailoring in the program is based upon how much Mom will pay up front... but to hear him tell it, they invented that way of doing things and the other schools in the area are just starting to get smart and do things the same way. His school has the best karate, you won't find a price like this, teaching like this, etc... and don't get me wrong, I do expect a school to have the attitude that they offer good martial arts, otherwise why run the place at all? And I understand the turnover can be high and it costs money to run the joint. But the runaround was just wrong, and telling me later that most schools in the county charge around $169 was a bald-faced lie.

I guess it's plain that it's a McDojo (which is a wonderful name for it... the "Mc" speaks volumes wherever it is placed) and the first I visited was as well. I've been watching the little 1/2 hour classes (yeah, called "Little Ninjas" just like one of the examples on the McDojo site I found) and it's pretty light stuff, one or two punches or blocks, a tiny lecture, one or two kicks, though they do spar... one or two punches each. And they teach them to use terms of respect. Unfortunately, I just don't see how I can afford them, and no longer feel much confidence in the school after the hard sell. Maybe that's good business, but it comes across as a lack of integrity.

That's not to say that the "family" martial arts places aren't likely the best fit for this kid. Maybe when she's a little further into it, she may have sufficient interest and drive to enter a school that really challenges, but as you know she's little. She starts each class huddled against my legs until Teacher calls her over to line up, for example. So I will look around for a more affordable substitute, but may still keep it simple. I will have to find a way to explain to her that she won't be able to defend herself much with it because it's not that kind of karate... Y'know, that's why my son decided not to pursue it? He found out he was not to use his karate on his family or friends, and admitted he'd wanted to use it to defend himself against his teenaged sister! She doesn't pound him but they do get into scuffles. I wonder if I can find classes in diplomacy instead...

Anyway, I wish I was closer to Torrance. I'm more in the Yorba Linda area. But I looked up the Yanaki Dojo and was impressed with the fact that it was the first of many dojos, for I looked up a lot more than I visited, to list prices. Some would tell about offers and specials but none, not one, in this area was willing to post the regular class fees. And surprise! They only charge $90 for kids! Of course, that's not the only consideration, but it has force.

Thanks for the solid advice. Now I have research to do before they decide to charge us for another month.
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JusticeZero
Black Belt
Black Belt

Joined: 02 Apr 2005
Posts: 2166
Location: AK
Styles: Capoeira Angola

PostPosted: Sun Jul 01, 2012 12:44 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Let us know if you have any other questions!
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evergrey
Brown Belt
Brown Belt

Joined: 21 Jun 2010
Posts: 734

Styles: kyokushin

PostPosted: Sun Jul 01, 2012 10:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

You are welcome! I know some people down that way. If you'd like I could ask around a bit... though I will tell you now that everyone in the martial arts has a biased opinion, lol!
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"If you can fatally judo-chop a bull, you can sit however you want." -MasterPain, on why Mas Oyama had Kyokushin karateka sit in seiza with their clenched fists on their thighs.
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irishwhistle
White Belt
White Belt

Joined: 30 Jun 2012
Posts: 7


PostPosted: Mon Jul 02, 2012 10:21 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

evergrey wrote:
You are welcome! I know some people down that way. If you'd like I could ask around a bit... though I will tell you now that everyone in the martial arts has a biased opinion, lol!


Well, that's fine their bias comes from their opinion of their martial arts than from their love of money. Imagine what a person would think of a dojo or a sports team or any of those sorts of things if the leadership and the members didn't seem to think much of it themselves! I just would like to be dealt with honestly... and be able to afford the lessons! As it is with this dojo, if another of my kids wanted to go back into karate, I couldn't let them. And they need the exercise.
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vantheman
Blue Belt
Blue Belt

Joined: 18 Apr 2012
Posts: 251

Styles: Chinese Kempo Karate, Brazilian Jujitsu

PostPosted: Mon Jul 02, 2012 11:51 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Here is a good article that covers some things you should look for (and things you should avoid) when searching for a quality martial arts school: http://www.24fightingchickens.com/2006/02/01/how-to-shop-for-a-good-karate-club/ It should give you a good idea of what the real deal is like. In my honest opinion, the quality of the instructor is a very important thing to look for. You want one that is experienced, but one that treats their students well. You may also want to look for an instructor that has children on their own, considering the class is for your child. As for all of the crazy money spending they are asking for, I would advise you ask any school you go to for a complete list of all possible expenses you may need to pay.

Hope this helps,
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DWx
KF Sensei
KF Sensei

Joined: 17 Jan 2007
Posts: 6260
Location: UK
Styles: Tae Kwon Do & Yang family Tai Chi

PostPosted: Mon Jul 02, 2012 12:09 pm    Post subject: Re: New karate mom with questions Reply with quote

Welcome to KF irishwhistle

Wont repeat what JusticeZero and everygrey's great advice but will add:

irishwhistle wrote:
...But what about belts? The first school said they cost $60 and expected the student would likely earn a new one about every 3 months! The second school asks $50. But I'm seeing them in the karate gear shops online for $10! Do you have to get them through your dojo? If the first school is correct, that's approximately $200 a year more than necessary!


That's actually pretty reasonable. Unless they will charge you an additional testing fee on top, that $60 will include the instructor's time or and external examiner's time to come and conduct the testing. You're not paying for the belt per se but for the belt exam. In my school, colour belt gradings are charged at 30 which is about the same as the $50 and a 3 month grading schedule is normal too.

On the whole the fee's structure seems pretty normal for martial arts school as JusticeZero said and the pay in advance system is what most schools use. Even the prices aren't that way out there as I pay around $170 a month for 4 sessions a week. Does depend on your area but I don't think his price seems that high. The equipment on the other hand does seem a bit excessive w.r.t the bag, manual, DVD and bday party(!) but I wish my sparring gear was that cheap! I'd have to pay twice that for a basic kit, won't even tell you how much my competition kit costs. He may also require you to buy from him instead of elsewhere to ensure you get exactly the right type for insurance reasons.

Quote:
=irishwhistle"]I hadn't actually objected to his having a flat rate for days you choose. That only makes sense, and it was the same as the first dojo I visited. The trouble was that this dude insisted, as did another instructor, that the program should be tailored to the student, immediately after each time I asked about cost. Then after all that, it turns out they do things the same as everyone else and know darned well what it costs, because the only tailoring in the program is based upon how much Mom will pay up front... but to hear him tell it, they invented that way of doing things and the other schools in the area are just starting to get smart and do things the same way. His school has the best karate, you won't find a price like this, teaching like this, etc... and don't get me wrong, I do expect a school to have the attitude that they offer good martial arts, otherwise why run the place at all? And I understand the turnover can be high and it costs money to run the joint. But the runaround was just wrong, and telling me later that most schools in the county charge around $169 was a bald-faced lie.

You might find that a lot of martial arts school's are hesitant to talk money straight away. They're competing with a lot of other places for students and want to sell you their product before scaring you away with the price. Sometimes overheads on renting a space, equipment, affiliation memberships, insurance and everything else mean they have to charge what they're charging.

Martial arts are an expensive hobby and naturally you don't want to spend more than you have to. Shop around and try out different classes, but whilst making sure they are within your budget, be aware that often you might have to pay more for a good instructor and good school. Look at schools you can afford but then also look at the quality of teaching and the feel of the class. Pick an environment that will be good for your daughter and not just the cheapest.

Also FWIW, the Little Ninja classes aren't that bad and seem typical of most classes that will take kids that young. We have a similar program (which feeds into the main classes later) and yes it will be light stuff. At that age you can't hope for much more than teaching them basic motor skills and coordination and teach them ideas like respect and discipline - can forget stuff like kata and sparring. One or two blocks, kicks, punches seems about right.

Let us know if you've got any more questions.
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