This article is from the Martial Arts FAQ, by Matthew Weigel firstname.lastname@example.org with numerous contributions by others.
This is an important element to be clear about. You don't want to
commit to a school if you can't afford it. It is impossible to address
what a reasonable price would be here, because the benefits offered,
the local economy, the quality of instruction, and the amount of
instructor time are all variables in the equation. The best way to
determine if a school is being reasonable is to compare what they offer
for their prices.
Find out if there are extra charges for going up in rank, find out if
there are organizational dues, tournament fees, mat fees, etc.
But do not be upset when a Martial Arts instructor charges money- they
need to eat and have a place to stay. In our culture money is the way
that happens. We do not feed and house wise old men, and unfortunately
the costs of a school, equipment, and insurance are frighteningly high.
[From Kirk Lawson:]
There are several options for those short on cash who still want to
learn a martial art.
First, many school's will work with a student who truly wants to learn
but is tight on cash. Talk to the head instructor. Frequently a deal
can be struck that involves cleaning the school or some such.
Second is the option to find what I call "Garage Schools." These are
instructors that teach out of their garages and basements. They almost
always have a "day" job and teach simply for the love of the art at a
vastly reduced price; Sometimes $20 a month or less. Sometimes these
Garage Schools teach through your local Park and Rec. program at
similar cost savings.
Third, for High school and college students, check with your Student
Association or similar body. Schools and universities frequently have
Martial Arts Clubs opperating through the school. You can usually join
these clubs at no or minimal cost if you are a student. Sometimes
these clubs are open to non-students as well. Further, some
progressive universities offer a Martial Arts class for credit as part
of the physical fitness curriculum.
Naturally, there are sacrifices in each approach. To cut a deal with
an instructor, you may have to eat humble pie by admitting that you're
in a tight spot right now. It's something that many are loath to do.
Finding a Garage School has it's own challenges as well. They usually
don't advertise and so you only hear about them by word of mouth. You
have to expend some effort looking for them to find them. Sometimes
they are upper rank black belts in another school that they themselves
travel some distance to train in. The advantage of a Garage School is
that the instructor is interested in passing on the art, not making
money, and the classes tend to be rather small. Thus, you typically get
a very high level of instruction. Finding a Park and Rec. program is a
bit easier, but you still have to contact the Park and Rec. program or
admin. to find out. You can usually do this by contacting your local
Civic Center or, for people entering a new area, check the contents of
your Welcome Wagon basket. With both Garage Schools and Park and Rec.
schools, you typically have a more limited selection and may not be able
to find exactly the school you want. In the university and school
programs, as with the Garage Schools, your selection is frequently more
If you are intending to spend a lot of time at the school you want it
to be accessible, and convenient enough for you to get their after
work, on weekends, etc.
Another thing you want to be clear on is when you can go to the school
and when classes are. Some schools are open almost all the time and
have lots of classes. In some schools you can only come when an
official class is being held. An open school is usually better for
obvious reasons- convenience, practice time, access to mats, etc.
-Commitments and Promises
This is an important thing to know about any school you will be
joining. Be very clear on what they will expect of you and what you
expect of them. Some teachers want to teach only people who are
willing to commit to them and their style, some are willing to
introduce you to their style and let you dabble, some will teach you
as long as you show up. None of these are intrinsically better or
worse, but you want to know where they are coming from so you and they
are not surprised.
Find out if you are required to attend classes, find out about being
late, find out what the policy is on school rules of behavior and
etiquette. Find out how you are supposed to interact with the teacher
and other students. There are many styles for all these things so
make sure you find out. The easiest way is to ask these questions.
There may be other questions you want to look at and specific
questions you have about an instructor, school, organization, or
style you are looking at. Know the questions you want answered and
you will find the perfect school for you!