If you’re thinking about taking up martial arts and you’ve started to look into the practicalities, you may have been shocked to discover how much martial arts classes can cost. You might be thinking “this is a major cost, is it worth it?”
So, why do martial arts classes cost so much? Martial arts classes cost so much because they are running a business. When you attend martial arts classes, you’re not just buying the time of an instructor. You’re also contributing to the rent on the building, the insurance to cover you against harm, the heating, cooling, equipment, and so on.
Is it worth it? Well, when you examine the benefits of your martial arts program, you may think it’s cheap even at twice the price! Let’s break down the pricing versus the benefits of martial arts classes.
How Much Do Martial Arts Classes Typically Cost?
Here are the typical martial arts dojos and studios pricing structures:
- An annual membership fee. This is your fee for belonging to the dojo or studio. It doesn’t include much more than an ID card and your right to sign up for lessons. This fee ranges between $50 and $200 for the majority of dojos. Though this may be higher if the membership fee also includes a uniform.
- A weekly, monthly or quarterly fee for lessons and classes. If your class is run in a public space, like a community center, you’re going to pay less for lessons than if you join a private space. Public spaces offer fees of around $50 – $100 a month. Private spaces can be anything from $75 – $200 a month.
- You may be required to join a martial arts federation. This won’t normally cost much more than $100 a year.
These prices relate to the adult rates for most dojos. Children’s memberships are usually discounted substantially and vary depending on the age of the child. 5-year-olds will normally get a better deal than 15-year-olds.
You may be able to negotiate a family discount if you sign up more than one member of your family (some studios will advertise this discount, but others will expect you to ask).
It’s also worth asking a new studio if they have an introductory deal, many dojos will provide a week or two’s free classes if you are thinking about paying for a membership with them.
What Should You Get For This?
You can expect to get regular sessions each week that you can attend with other students of a similar ability level.
They may or may not provide a uniform and often the membership fee reflects the additional costs.
A good dojo should also have safety gear on hand for sparring.
You should also expect them to provide an instructor at all times when people are working in the dojo and that this instructor (or another member of staff on hand) should be qualified in first aid techniques in case anything goes wrong.
Related article: Can You (Should You) Eat Before Martial Arts Class?
What Might You Have To Pay Extra For?
There are things that might not be included in your regular fees for your dojo and these may include:
- Uniforms. The good news is that uniforms are not normally too expensive. If you can buy a uniform online, you’re going to spend less than $100 including any pants, jackets and belts you need for one set. The thicker and more durable the material is for a uniform, the more expensive it is. So, a judo uniform may well cost more than a karate uniform.
- Shoes. Not all martial arts require shoes (and most Eastern martial arts do not) but if they do, you need to buy and maintain shoes just for use in the dojo. How much these cost rather depends on the shoes you choose to buy.
- Sparring gear. Anything from boxing gloves, to leg guards, to mouthpieces and headgear – can be bought by the serious student. Buying your own gear means it fits you properly and offers the best protection. A gumshield is an essential for sparring and you really wouldn’t want to use somebody else’s.
- Ranking/Certification. Some dojos expect their students to pay a fee for assessment each time they progress from one belt to the next. These fees can be quite substantial and may be as much as $250 and sometimes more.
Related article: Why are martial arts practiced barefoot?
How To Save Money on Martial Arts Costs
Here are two good ways to save money when taking up martial arts:
- Hunt around online for the best uniform prices. Companies like “Martial Arts Mart” are known to sell off end of line products at a discount. You might also be able to find second hand equipment that is suitable.
- See if your local YMCA offers martial arts. YMCA has a reputation for offering the lowest cost martial arts training (and it’s of good quality too).
Otherwise, martial arts pricing tends to be fairly static within a particular town or city. That’s because the overall costs of running a dojo tend to be similar.
You should carefully research any dojo with fees that are much higher than the norm (this tends to be McDojo’s looking to take as much cash as possible in as short a time as possible) or much lower (this suggests that the dojo doesn’t know its costs well enough and may be at risk of closure).
A Tip Before You Commit To Paying A Martial Arts Dojo
Whether or not they offer a trial membership, any dojo should be happy to let you observe a class before you make a commitment.
This can help you understand whether the tuition style will suit you and you can see what the attitude of the instructor and your fellow students will be like.
Martial arts training is an investment and thus, you want to make sure you’re getting the best bang for your buck.
What Are You Paying For In Your Fee?
There is quite a bit that goes into running and maintaining a good martial arts dojo and while your investment of $50-$250 a month might feel steep, you’re paying for quite a lot of things that you may not immediately appreciate:
- Curriculum development. It might be a shock but there is no overall martial arts governing body in the world. That means each dojo, except in a chain, operates independently. Every instructor needs to develop a program of tuition and this can take hours of effort and testing. You don’t see this work but it’s essential to delivering a martial arts education that’s worth having.
- Instructor development. A good dojo has well-qualified instructors that is they hold (at a minimum) a black belt from a respected school of that martial art, they have some form of formal teaching qualification, they hold a first aid qualification and there are many other qualifications that can help manage a dojo. All of this learning costs time and money. A good dojo will also expect their instructors to keep investing in learning to maintain their skills and to develop new ones.
- Instruction time. It’s not as heavy as instructor development but if you’re attending 3 x 2 hour sessions a week, then your instructor has to be present for 24 hours in every 4 week period (which is slightly less than a month). A skilled professional has to be paid for this time too.
- Dojo management. Somebody has to clean the dojo, somebody has to paint it, somebody needs to unlock it in the morning and lock it up again at night, somebody has to do the paperwork, etc. It might not seem like a lot, but many businesses need a full-time staff member to handle the business administration side of things.
- Insurance. Martial arts are about fighting and with fighting there comes a higher level of risk. Dojos will need to pay for ordinary business insurance and then a bit more to cover the risks of somebody getting injured or harmed at their liability during training, sparring or competition.
- Equipment. There may not be as much equipment in a dojo as there is in a gym but even a few floor mats can quickly add up in costs.
- Rent. Dojos are often in industrial buildings because it keeps the rental costs down and this is why dojos in nicer areas like shopping malls tend to cost more – the rents are way higher. But whichever way, a dojo needs premises, and this costs money.
- Utilities. Heating, lighting, water, perhaps on site cooking facilities, etc. must all be paid for from fees.
- Taxes and accounting. As a business, a dojo needs to pay for all the legal requirements of a business, like business registration, end of year accounts, etc.
- Banking. If your dojo accepts credit cards (and where doesn’t accept credit cards now?) then the bank takes a slice of the fee. They also probably charge your dojo for banking facilities too.
- Profits. While it would be nice to think that a dojo is run from a place of charity, the truth is that most businesses have to turn some sort of profit in order to be worth running. Dojos are no exception.
As you can see, there’s a bit more to running a dojo than just the cost of an instructor for each session. In fact, when you add up the time you can get out of a month’s membership – you will find your hourly rate falls to as little as $2-$8 which is not a ridiculous sum to pay for training at all.
Martial Arts As An Investment
Martial arts are not so much a cost as much as an investment in your future. The benefits of a good martial arts education far ourweights the financial cost.
The Benefits Of Learning Martial Arts
There are too many benefits that are attributed to studying martial arts to list them all. Here are just 15 of the major benefits:
- Learn values that have a noble purpose. A life without purpose is a life less likely to succeed. This may be the most valuable thing anyone can get from an education and yet, it’s sadly lacking on the school or college curricula.
- Learn respect. This includes both self-respect and respect for others. A respectful attitude makes it easier to do things well in all areas of your life.
- Self-discipline. In a world where everything and everyone competes for your attention, self-discipline is hard to come by, but martial arts helps to instill it.
- Stress relief. Working out helps to reduce levels of stress on the body. Given that stress is proven to be harmful to your life – martial arts can help you live longer.
- Confidence. Many people cite this as their favorite benefit. Being able to hold your head up and face the future with confidence makes life much easier.
- Enjoyable workouts. Let’s not forget the fact that martial arts workouts are usually a lot of fun.
- Mental toughness. That is the facility to work through discomfort and push yourself on to the next challenge. Learning not to quit or become discouraged in the face of adversity.
- Fitness. People in the 20XX’s are not, generally speaking, as fit as they could be. Modern life doesn’t lend itself to exercise naturally but taking up a martial art means that (as long as you attend regularly) you’re always going to do at least the minimum amount of exercise needed for healthy life in a week.
- Higher metabolism. The more often you work out, the faster you burn calories, all the time. Seriously, even when you sleep you will burn more calories than someone in a sedentary lifestyle! That means you’ll be thinner and easier in yourself.
- Endurance. Physical stamina helps us to tackle more challenges in all aspects of our daily life.
- Develop friendships. The dojo forges bonds between students and many friendships begin on the mats.
- Find role models. Positive role models who succeed in the aspects of the discipline that you enjoy and admire.
- Coordination and balance. These things form the basis of all martial arts and it can really help you manage day to day tasks.
- Flexibility. This is a massive benefit, particularly as you get older, flexibility prevents injuries when working or working out.
- Focus and goal setting. Martial artists learn how to set goals and then how to focus on them to turn their goals into reality. This skill may be priceless.
The Cost Of A Black Belt
Using these estimates – you can expect to pay about $150 a month for a martial arts education. This includes your membership fees, your uniform and any certification costs.
A black belt is roughly 3 – 6 years of education. So that is a total of $5,400 – $10,800 spent in fees over that time period.
A Simple Comparison
If you compare this to a university degree where tuition alone will set you back between $40,000 and $120,000 for a 3-year program then you can start to see the value in martial arts.
A university degree will give you job specific skills and it may provide some levels of confidence but many of the other benefits that martial arts provide are absent from a university education.
A non-graduate with a strong passion for martial arts would have enough purpose, discipline and drive to compete effectively in the job market with any graduate without a martial arts background (excluding in jobs that are only open to specific graduates – of course – martial arts can’t compensate for a medical degree).
How much would you say the benefits of a martial arts education are worth to you?
Why do martial arts classes cost so much? Martial arts classes are not as expensive as they might first seem, and they offer great value for money. It is true that they might cost more than you expect at first but this is because there are a lot of costs that go into running martial arts classes as a proper business.