It costs some money!

Ken Shamrock, four-time mixed martial arts wor...

Ken Shamrock, four-time mixed martial arts world champion and Marine Corps Martial Arts Program subject matter expert. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A researcher found that most people choose a martial arts school primarily because they know someone else who goes there, a friend or neighbor, next in order of selection priorities was distance, after that was cost.  A long time martial arts school owner tells me the first question a caller ask is “how much is it?”

Ask school owners what they think most peoples criteria for selecting a martial arts school is, and their answers won’t match the research.  Most instructors think it’s their individual greatness, their championship wins and such.  Others think it’s the superiority of their style.  Some will credit marketing genius.

Proximity is a biggie, especially for beginners.

Even though they get sold on how important commitment is going to be to growth, and how often they can come, they know they’re really on the “let me TRY this out and see” phase and travel is also an investment: “So, only $100 a month, great! (thought bubble) “and that’s 3 gallons of gas at $4.00 each, times 3 times a week, times 4 weeks to a month, it’s really gonna cost me $250 to take this class, plus an extra ninety minutes travel time each time…” Oh yeah, this is a great school and all, but the YMCA is walking distance to my house, and even at the same price per class, it suits me better.”

It costs some money!

I, and many others like me have gone against the grain on this as students.  I have traveled 400 miles to train for a weekend with an instructor at their school, and paid the cost of a luxury hotel stay on top of the hotel stay.  I know others that regularly go cross country to do the same.  Having the disposable income to do it is a factor, I wouldn’t do it if it meant no groceries for my family for a week.  There’s also a little bit of a vanity factor ” I’m going to train with Master so and so, it’ll look like we’re buddies, and since he is recognized, that means I deserve recognition too!”  This is stuff that more advanced students do.  Yes, getting a higher degree of skills instruction is part of it and so may be the fact that there is no worthwhile instruction nearby.  I’ll say this, it’s gotten beyond my financial means to train with “Master” anymore, I can’t afford them.

Does that mean there’s never any quality affordable instruction nearby?  Or, that if an instructor is not famous or in a photo with a famous one, his stuff is no good?  No.  For beginners, anyone who knows a little more than you and can teach is a great start.  I have known some amazing martial artists, who by default and sometimes by choice are largely unknown practically anonymous.

Does that mean that if it’s good it should cost an arm and a leg, and you should pay it?  No.  There’s an old Zen story about a monk, cutting his arm off and giving it to the master in order to try to get instruction.  As they say in NLP, the map is not the territory.  Don’t let that be your guide, either in cash or blind and exclusive devotion.

Interested in martial arts and there’s a small place nearby?  Go check it out. take the free classes, then tell the instructor what you liked, AND WHAT YOU DIDN’T LIKE if anything.  Discuss the cost.  If it’s beyond your reasonable means and you are still interested, ask for an affordable fee.

A real teacher loves to teach and will not pass up a potentially good vessel for the knowledge they have to impart. If you are a a good vessel, they should want you. A teacher is not a teacher without students. Otherwise that knowledge will go to a schmuck who will waste it and not represent him well as a teacher.

I know about area demographics, overhead, and costs of living.  Still, instructors; you might do better by making instruction more affordable to your neighbors, and not set fees on what you think you’re worth, as opposed to what good students can pay, and I did say “good” students, as opposed to merely “prosperous” students.  Back to that Zen story, the monk sacrificed something essential to get the training, but the point is that he was WILLING to give a lot of himself for the training.

As an instructor I need a little cash, but what I really ask for is an open mind, humility, determination, trust (not blind or unintelligent obedience) and consistency.  When I find the right mix of these qualities in a student, money becomes secondary.  I have also had the blessing of receiving from instructors – when I had no money to give.  To which I am forever grateful, and seek to pay it forward just the same.

On the other hand, if I don’t like you or trust you, all the money in the world may not get me to teach you.

Check the Myself & Martial Arts Instruction tab above or click here for more information about the Rick Vargas Kali Silat & Self Defense training group that meets at Black Lightning Martial Arts in Debary, FL

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