Bryan's Blog on WRAL

April 2009

In the spring of 2008 I wrote a series of blogs on the WRAL web site, all about martials arts schools and contracts. In looking back at them I'm fairly pleased with what I wrote, as well as with the level of feedback received. So I decided to preserve the blogs (along with feedback) and post them on my martial arts site.


Table of Contents

Martial Arts Contracts

Martial Arts Contracts - Prepare!

Martial Arts Contracts - Interview!

Martial Arts Contracts -- Personalities

Understanding Martial Arts Contracts

Martial Arts Testing Cycles


Martial Arts Contracts

Published: 05 March 2008

I've heard some ugly stories recently about parents signing their children up for hideously expensive 3 year contracts with a Fuquay-Varina martial arts school. The chief instructor was dismissed, the owner is now teaching classes, and NO ONE likes the guy. So people are stuck with a contract the owner won't let them out of and the children no longer want to attend class.

I used to belong to that school -- I was an unpaid instructor there for several years -- so I have a good feel for the situation. But I'm not going into that -- instead I'm going to address How to Find a Martial Arts School

First thing to do when looking for a martial arts school, either for yourself or your children, is read the Martial Arts Newbie FAQ:

http://www.faqs.org/faqs/martial-arts/newbie-guide/

In future posts I will be posting my thoughts on the subject ...

5 Comments

I have found very few schools that are even slightly decent. The best one I have found is a Muay Thai school in Garner. There is however a traditional Tai Chi school on Six Forks, that is more about fundamentals and form.

Ashen-Shugar
March 5, 2008 11:18 a.m.

I would NEVER!!!! sign any long term contract for an activity for my kids. What if my kid decides that this is not for them? I'm not going to force my kid to do something that has no enjoyment to them. I've seen way too many kids playing sports that were there only because their parents wanted them there. Sorry that these folks got roped into this situation but hopefully it's an eye opening experience that they won't venture in again.

Yogi Bear
March 5, 2008 11:19 a.m.

I have run into a situation where my son really likes Taekwondo, but the place where he has been going will not allow him to advance on the plan he is on. They charge over $100 a month for yearly contracts. It is cheaper if you go with 2 or 3 year options, but still over $100/mo for even the cheapest. I have overheard parent that wanted to get out and were told that the only options to get out of the contract are if a parent is transferred out of town (proof required) or the child is injured/sick(log term illness, not just the flu) and cannot continue. That is why I hesitate to even sign a 1 year contract. My son loves it now, but what about in 6 months? will he still want to go? It is very frustrating.

Myrrdin
March 5, 2008 11:21 a.m.

Tree years rong time even for adult.

Repeat Offender
March 5, 2008 11:24 a.m

I would never sign a contract for martial arts...I have been to a couple of very good schools in johnston county, but when we moved refused to join any because of the contracts they wanted signed.

OALA
March 5, 2008 12:33 p.m.


Martial Arts Contracts - Prepare!

Published: 10 March 2008

In my last post I mentioned the Martial Arts Newbie FAQ. I consider it a must-read for everyone interested in martial arts for themselves or their children. That's step 1 in preparation.

Step 2? Make a list of schools to interview. The internet and the Yellow Pages are great sources of information. The criteria include what is important to you. School style, travel distance, etc.

Once a list is made, do more research. If the school is member of a Federation, check it out. Read their info on their web site. Get as much information as possible.

Then google both the school and the federation. Look for people who had problems with either.

This is where each person must be careful -- is a negative post legitimate or it is just sour grapes? Some times all we can do is make our best judgment.

The goal is to narrow the list down to 3 to 5 schools to interview. This process should eliminate schools -- keep narrowing it down.

Step 3 is the actual interview. I'll publish my ideas on that in my next post ...

20 Comments

before you join a school...find out if they are entering a local tournament and go to it. See how they kids do in the standings and how the sensei acts with the kids...you can tell a lot at them tournaments. find out how active the school is in those types of things.

strolling bones
March 10, 2008 4:21 p.m.

My daughter has been wanting to go into martial arts for a while now so I appreciate the info, thanks bones for the follow info as well. That makes sense to see how they perform outside the class. Thanks!!

Lovemyjesus
March 10, 2008 4:24 p.m.

I'd say that if they have a CONTRACT, then don't take your child to that school.

Contract? Why does anyone need one of those? I mean, you can participate in many other sports and recreational activities without a CONTRACT that involves monthly payments, and no option to quit.

Black belt 'factories'. That's all they are.

/end rant

meh_whatever
March 10, 2008 4:33 p.m.

My daughter has been in Martial Arts for over a year and half here...the contract she has is we pay for 3 years and she is a lifetime member...can quit and go back any time. Also contracts cover the schools behinds...some people would come and join and not pay for classes...just like dance schools and such. Everyone has to CYA now a days.

LoveMyJesus...if you are close to Oxford or Creedmoor I can suggest a good one.

headlong
March 10, 2008 4:45 p.m.

Schools do not need contracts, they are a way to make $$. Kids often change their minds about what they would like to do as an extra activity. Especially if a child has never taken a karate class before, even just going for a night would not give them enough information to decide if they want to stay in it for the long term. When I lived in Johnston County, I attended a great school. No contracts, reasonable rates, it also had kickboxing and you could attend both the karate and kickboxing class for one monthly fee. When I moved, the owner of that school recommended one that was closer to my new home. If they are asking you to commit to a long term contract I highly advise against it, unless your child knows this is what they really want to do- or else you will be out a lot of money.

OALA
March 10, 2008 4:57 p.m.

Im out towards fayetteville headlong, so it would be too far a drive. Appreciate though..

Lovemyjesus
March 10, 2008 5:01 p.m.

Not sure what is in your FAQ, but a lot of people have preconceived notions of martial arts that are completely false. Properly taught, almost any martial art is a good form of physical and mental exercise. There is no quick process, it takes time and a lot of dedication on the part of the student. I think child-focused programs can help teach children respect and control and self-confidence. So the first thing you need to figure out is why do you want to take martial arts? When I studied, it was originally to learn how to fight, but eventually I found I really learned to NOT fight.

One thing to remember: martial arts schools are essentially businesses, which is why they have contracts. In order to remain viable as a source of income, they have to "encourage" financial participation. I didn't learn in a school but in a "club" where it was monthly pay as you go. About 70% dropped after 2 months but we didn't have to pay rent/salaries.

thefensk
March 10, 2008 5:01 p.m.

LMJ- there is a good one in spring lake if you are close enough to there.- let me know and I can find the information for you.

OALA
March 10, 2008 5:04 p.m.

I would look at the class sizes. Vision Martial Arts in Fuquay has had a lot of problems lately, but before that even arose the class sizes were too big for the smaller kids to get enough help. Having allot of memebers is a good thing in most cases, but when class sizes soar, it means the little ones get over looked. I had a 1st Grader that was a blue belt, but always needed extra help, and he just did not seem to get it anymore.

poohperson2000
March 10, 2008 5:12 p.m.

Some of the local schools also have LONG contracts. 3 years is a long time, instructors change, interests change. Do not sign a 3 year contract for a 5 year old.

poohperson2000
March 10, 2008 5:14 p.m.

Winemaker,

You probably helped my son at some point, and for that I say thank you! Wish I had not so blindly entered the situation, and I think your blog will do allot to help others understand how to find a good and safe place to learn martial arts.

poohperson2000
March 10, 2008 5:18 p.m.

I understand that they are businesses. I think they should charge up front for the month or what have you. I think it is fine if they offer you a lower rate for more months or a lower rate for a year or more.

I just think that any school that doesn't feel that it has a good enough program to offer that people of all ages will WANT to continue attending should not be in business in the first place.

I'll liken this to my experience with chiropractors. They want to give you a 3-year treatment plan, pay up front, and then what if you really, truly don't feel that it works for you? You're out the cash.

That's bull!

They charge for the 'belt tests', too. What's that all about? Belts are cheap, I mean, they're just cloth, and they help hold up your pants.

;)

meh_whatever
March 10, 2008 5:19 p.m.

thefensk...I totally agree with you!!! It is a lot of dedication. It shows you to defend yourself BUT also shows a lot of respect towards others. Before we even signed my daughter up we asked her several times...are you sure this is what you want??? You must be dedicated 3 years at least. We let her make the decision and she has stuck to it very well. She practices daily at home and 2 nights a week classes. Not sure how she does all she does between running Track for school, Karate, and keeping on the Honor Roll!!! I am very proud of her!!!

headlong
March 10, 2008 5:25 p.m.

meh *LOL* The Belts do not hold up your pants silly one...they are like a Badge of Achievement. I am not making fun of you or anything...just thought it was funny.

headlong
March 10, 2008 5:29 p.m.

If you're in Sanford, Black Belt USA on Lee Ave. is the best school I have ever been to. No contract, WONDERFUL teacher, Master Vincent is very good with explaining to children (and us idiot-headed adults) how to do each move, and then practice, practice, practice it, very reasonably prices, and no belt test fees. If you're close by, definitely check them out.

IteachforJesus
March 10, 2008 6:31 p.m.

Just a clarification: when I made the statement about them being a business, it was an explanation, not a defense.

I am sure they would justify it by saying a student should be prepared to commit that long to gain some proficiency, and in an ideal world that would be true. But in reality, they should just charge by the month, or at the most, by the quarter. They could offer the longer term contracts for a discount, but they shouldn't make everybody commit to it. In fact, if nobody did, they'd have to change the way they do business.

I am not sure about belt test charges. In our club environment, intermediate belt tests were included, but we usually had to bring in someone from the outside to sanction black belt tests but those were scheduled a long time in advance. Because of the extra expense I think there were some extra charging there. But then again, it was overall very cheap and there was nobody making any money off the club.

thefensk
March 11, 2008 9:17 a.m.

The FAQ I mentioned is not "my" FAQ -- I didn't create it and have never contributed to it. It's been out on the net for at least 10 years -- I remember reading it before joining Allen's TKD in Cary (now part of Vision TKD) in July 1999. I reference it because it's good, general information.

http://www.faqs.org/faqs/martial-arts/newbie-guide/

winemaker81
March 12, 2008 9:16 a.m.

Pooh,

I was with Vision TKD in F-V until the end of November 2004. If you were there at that time we probably met.

winemaker81
March 12, 2008 9:20 a.m

Strolling Bones -- in a future blog I was going to mention watching how the instructor treats students. Hadn't thought of tournaments, though. Thanks for the idea!

winemaker81
March 12, 2008 9:21 a.m.

Also, I'll be addressing contracts in a later blog ...

winemaker81
March 12, 2008 9:27 a.m.


Martial Arts Contracts - Interview!

Published: 12 March 2008

One idea behind martial arts is that the instructor chooses the student. Watch the Kung Fu series and any of a bunch of 1970's Hong Kong chop sockey movies for ideas in that line of reasoning ...

But this is the USA in the 21st century. Martial arts can be a lucrative business so the buyer must beware!

After a list of schools is made, plan for interviews. Treat the entire process as if you're planning to hire someone to do work for you. Why? Because that is *exactly* what you are doing -- hiring someone to work for you.

Plan the interview. Think of questions to ask, things like:

Note that so far there are no questions about financials! I prefer to get the other information and then hit all the financial questions at once. It helps me keep track of things better, but certainly is not mandatory.

Some studios zing people for extra fees, some of which are absolutely ridiculous in price. Find out about ALL extras!

There will probably be a sales pitch. This is a personal opinion, but any time ANY business tells me they'll give me a deal but I have to make the decision then, I leave. I will NOT be pressured about making a large decision. This is not choosing chicken or fish for dinner!

Important -- take notes and get anything financial in writing! You will be interviewing multiple schools and will need to compare them. Don't rely on your memory.

Before or after the interview, watch several classes. Watch children and adult classes, low rank and high rank. Watch how the instructor treats the students -- ALL the students. The instructor should treat all students with respect. If that isn't so, leave.

Also watch how class is conducted. Is it organized, or is it feeding time at the shark tank? A group of people is punching and kicking ... if safety isn't an obvious concern, that's a bad sign. With beginner and children under 10 this can be difficult to enforce 100% of the time, but an effort should be made.

There are things I haven't thought of, but this gives everyone a starting point for planning their interviews.

A parting thought ... Martial arts is supposedly big on manners and respect. Most of the time it is. But respect is a two way street -- anyone who fails to treat the school personnel with respect isn't going to get any in return. Remember that while you are hiring someone to work for you, you are hiring *skilled* help. Treat everyone in the school with the same respect you expect them to give you.

4 Comments

I know I said this before, but I would ask about class sizes, if there are any limits, how often does the class schedule change, etc. Also be careful of tiered programs, some places do leadership, master level, and basic. Often times the with leadership or master you get more classes, but figure out if you are really going to make it there more than twice a week. Also be wary if you do not care for the business owner, but you like all the other intructors. Those other instructors may not stick around forever. DO not use it as a baby sitting service. You need to sit through the classes and watch what is going on, even if you have a teenager.

poohperson2000
March 12, 2008 10:41 a.m.

Great points and tips. I train with a non-profit club. It's a great family atmosphere (9 years old and up through adults). The classes are separated by age and/or skill level with everyone starting in a separate beginners class for three "semesters."

It is fairly laid back but mutual respect is always there on both sides. After training here for almost two years now, I wouldn't want to go anywhere else.

Great blog - bottom line is do you homework and find a school that fits your personality and your goals (as well as your wallet). I would be very wary of contracts...

fl2nc2ca2md2nc
March 12, 2008 10:45 a.m.

Pooh,

Thanks for the additional ideas. If I get feedback on this one like the last one, I'll end up putting 'em all together and posting either an update or an addendum.

winemaker81
March 12, 2008 11:03 a.m.

fl2nc2ca2md2nc,

Glad you like it. You've given me an idea -- at some point I need to post a blog about school types. I started this with the idea of 2 or 3 blogs ... I figure a dozen now by the time I'm done ... assuming no more ideas surface. :-)

winemaker81
March 12, 2008 11:05 a.m.


Martial Arts Contracts -- Personalities

Published: 27 March 2008

When choosing a martial arts school, pay attention to the personalities of the owner, the chief instructor, and any other instructors. You and/or your children will be spending a lot of sweaty hours with these people! If you really dislike them the situation will not turn out well.

When first meeting them everyone should be on their best behavior. This can make it tough to really get a feel for them, so be prepared to take your time in judging their personalities.

A HUGE negative for me is "money grubbing". Yes -- martial arts is a business. People are generally in the business to make money. I expect that and don't have a problem with people trying to make money.

I do have a problem with the school trying to ram a lengthy and/or expensive contract down my throat. If it proves not possible to discuss the school and how it runs without talking about contracts, I'd leave. It makes it clear what the owner's first priority is, and teaching martial arts ain't it!

Contracts is a separate subject for a future post ...

IMO the best way to judge personality is to invest the time and watch several classes. Assuming the school is large enough to have multiple instructors, watch different classes for different student categories taught by different instructors. The goal here is to judge not just the personalities of the employees, but of the "school" itself.

What to watch for? Four big ones are:

Respect. Are the instructors respectful to everyone else? Do they not allow disrespectful behavior among the students?

Safety. Is horseplay or other unsafe behavior tolerated or even accepted? Especially in a large class care must be taken to avoid accidents.

Quality. Do the instructors place their effort into teaching quality of technique to their students? This is a tough one -- children under 10 can be difficult to teach good technique, and with adults unseen injuries can affect their performance. Also beginners of every age will not normally demonstrate good technique. But the effort the instructors put into teaching quality should be visible.

Capability. Do the instructors know how to teach? Many national and international martial arts organizations have instructor certification programss, but it's still possible to find schools that don't know how to teach.

If these points don't appear important to the instructors? That's a bad sign.

If the first day looks positive, go back another day. Watch more classes. Put real effort into determining if you want these people to teach you and/or your children!

Also -- take notes. After leaving the school write down your impressions. Interview at least 3 schools and compare notes. That's a reason to visit prospective schools more than once -- what you experience at one may prompt questions at another. The direct comparison will help make the choice easier.

If none of the schools survives the first round? Pick three more and start over!

5 Comments

Winemaker,

Do you still train at Vision?

poohperson2000
March 27, 2008 7:41 p.m.

Didn't you post this same thing a week ago??

native son
March 28, 2008 12:17 a.m.

Pooh,

My sons & I left Vision TKD in F-V at the end of November 2004. We've been training in Soo Bahk Do since then.

winemaker81
March 28, 2008 7:41 a.m.

"Didn't you post this same thing a week ago??" -- native son

Very similar. The focus of this post is personality, but as I got into writing it I understood better how tightly determining personality is tied to contact with the school staff. That ties back to interviewing. I considered re-writing the previous post but decided to leave it and use this one to better organize my thoughts.

I've recently had contact with several people who signed their children up for 3 year contracts, loved the original instructor, can't stand the owner who is teaching now. AND can't get out of the contract. They all have told me they wished they had really understood what they were getting into.

Given the cost in money, aggravation, and unhappiness these decisions incur, I have no problem repeating the message.

winemaker81
March 28, 2008 7:52 a.m.

My biggest complaint among martial arts schools are the belt factories that call themselves dojos. In reality, if you attend these places, you will be nearly guarenteed a black belt within three years (whether or not you have any skill or ability). I broke free from these places and moved to the Chinese Kung Fu center in Raleigh. They teach kung fu forms, weapons training, tai chi, and other fitness and wellness exercises. It is fantastic.

yhwhoverptah
March 28, 2008 11:55 a.m.


Understanding Martial Arts Contracts

Published: 09 April 2008

Based upon what I've read and emails I've received, the average consumer has trouble understanding martial arts contracts. In this post I'm offering my perspective on contracts.

What a contract is

A martial arts services contract IS a legally binding contract. It is just as binding as a mortgage. When signed it means the student WILL pay for all agreed upon services. Many school owners are willing to take students to court to force payment, regardless of class attendance.

As much care should be put into understanding a martial arts contract as any other contract -- BEFORE signing it.

Why the school owner offers contracts

The reasons stated why the school owner wants students to sign contracts varies. Here's a couple:

The real reason: A contract ensures the school's cash flow. Doesn't matter if the student attends class or not -- the school gets money either way.

Granted, a school with no practicing students has a hard time attracting new ones, so the owner wants students to attend class. But a contract ensures an even cash flow regardless of attendance.

Does this mean every martial arts school that requires a contract is a greedy, grasping scab? Absolutely NOT! But it does demand investigation.

Why sign a contract?

I would sign another contract ONLY if I had enough experience with the school to give me a good feel that I would be treated reasonably *AND* I was getting enough discount on tuition to merit the risk. I would not sign a contract for more than 12 months (more on that below).

Contract length

Years ago MA contracts were typically for 3 to 12 months. Three months was reasonable risk for most people, and 12 months was what I'd sign after a 3 month trial. At that point I'd have a good enough feel to accept that risk.

Today? The schools I'm familiar with that require contracts all want at least 1 year, preferrably 3 year contracts!

Don't sign a 3 year contract. FAR too many things can happen in that time frame. Children lose interest. Adults lose interest. It's an MA industry fact that for every 10 students who puts on a White belt, only one will put on a Black belt.

Other things to consider include a change in instructors and the possibility of the school closing. Most contracts include a significant portion up front, so if the school closes that money is lost. If the instructor changes and the new one is disliked or not as good? Sorry -- the student signed a contract for X months!

Read the fine print

Read the contract in its entirety. If there is anything you don't understand, ask for clarification. If the explanation sounds too different from the printed contract, ask for the clarification in writing. If there is anything in the contract you don't believe is in your best interest, ask to strike that clause.

Bottom line -- get in writing *exactly* what has been agreed to and do not sign unless you get it. This includes written clarification and stricken clauses. Keep a copy in a safe place.

But be reasonable in asking for changes. The contract has to represent both parties' interests. But if the school says, "this is the contract, take it or leave it"? Leave it.

If the offer sounds too good to be true? It probably is. Check the details to see what the catch is.

If it's a high pressure sales pitch, e.g., "this offer is good only if you sign today!"? Walk away. The goal is to get the student to sign before thinking it through. That is NEVER in the student's (or the student's parents') best interest.

Most schools offer a trial period, any where from one class to one month. If the school doesn't advertise one, ask. Never hurts to ask. DO NOT sign a contract during the trial period. This goes back to high pressure sales. Take advantage of the period and "test drive" the school.

Listen to instincts, intuition, inner voice -- doesn't matter what anyone calls it. If something deep inside raises a red flag -- listen to it. It's happening for a reason. Doesn't mean its right, but it's something that should be investigated.

My current situation

I currently belong to a Soo Bahk Do school. It's a small school -- the owner is the chief instructor. He doesn't offer contracts, although he's thought of doing so while continuing to offer month-by-month enrollment. My sons and I have been here 3-1/2 years and love it.

I have the good fortune to have found an experienced instructor (35+ years of Soo Bahk Do training) who always acts with integrity. If he decides to offer contracts, I will follow my own advice. I'll think it through and sign it ONLY if it's in my best interest.

This is not because I don't trust him -- I believe he will only offer a contract that has integrity. Rather, I will follow my own advice because I believe it a good personal practice.

4 Comments

Where is this school of yours located??..Might like to try it out..

wolfmandan
April 9, 2008 3:23 p.m.

Wine,

The problem is you think you trust someone (and you know who I am talking about), and then you get burned. You find out that the man that collects the money, really only cared about the money all along. My experience has changed my opinion on participating in Martial Arts. At least if my kid has a bad soccer coach it is only for one season. Also it was a while before I met the owner of our school. We dubbed him Mickey Mouse right off the bat.

poohperson2000
April 9, 2008 5:19 p.m.

"Where is this school of yours located?? Might like to try it out.." -- wolfmandan

Soo Bahk Do of Cary, web site: http://www.thebannardcenter.com/

Note that the class listing on the site is no longer correct -- it's being updated. Currently the children's class is 6:00-6:30 T,Th and the adult class is 6:30-7:30 T,Th.

winemaker81
April 11, 2008 12:06 p.m.

Pooh!

Yeah, there are enough bad school owners in the martial arts industry. But there are also good hearted one.

That's why I'm posting this blog -- there are good people in the industry, ones whose care is the art and their students, not how much they can make off the marks, er, suckers, er, students. People just need warning of what to avoid and tips on how to find a good school.

Don't let your experience with *one* school turn you off.

I've been working hard to avoid advertising for the school I belong to in this blog, trying to use it to inform people. Before you give up check my last comment, call the studio (my instructor is a chiropractor, phone is his office which is where the school is), and check it out. If it's not what you and your son want, keep looking until you find it.

winemaker81
April 11, 2008 12:14 p.m


Martial Arts Testing Cycles

Published: 14 April 2008

From my own experiences there is a wide variation in martial arts testing cycles and fees. In this post I address Gup (colored belt) testing cycles -- testing fees and Dan (black belt) testing are subjects for a different day.

A testing cycle is the period between tests, in my experience ranging from 2 months to 12 months. Fairly wide variation, huh?

My current school has 10 Gups (colored belt ranks), starting at 10th Gup and progressing to 1st Gup (rank prior to 1st Dan). [I'm leaving belt colors out of this discussion as it varies from school to school and is not important to the discussion.] The first 7 testing cycles are spaced at 3 month intervals. So students learn new material, improve previous material, then demonstrate at testing. If the student demonstrates well enough the next rank is awarded, either a new color belt or a stripe on their current belt to indicate the new rank.

Starting at 3rd Gup the cycle length changes -- the next two cycles are 6 months, and last one is 1 year.

What's the big difference? There is not a larger quantity of material learned -- if anything LESS new material is learned. Instead the student is expected to take what they already know and hone it, make it sharper. The focus is not learning yet another technique; rather improving everything they already learned and making it better.

During my MA career I've attended several schools that have this pattern of testing cycles. Initial testing cycles were 3 to 4 months, and overall it took 3-1/2 to 4 years (minimum) to earn a black belt.

Other schools use a 2 month testing cycle. Every 8 weeks a new set of material is learned. It keeps the student in a constant state of "moving forward", and results in excellent short term memorization skills. Each student develops a focus on learning new material and attending every possible class.

Sounds like I favor this? Absolutely not!

IMO this method's biggest drawback is that in the thrashing of constantly learning new material the student never focuses on improving themselves. The instructors are focused on teaching the never ending rounds of new material so THEIR attention is not on helping their students improve. Quantity is substituted for quality.

In a conversation with a friend a few years back I coined the term "material junkie". She mentioned that she was ready to learn new material, and I realized we were conditioned to crave new material like any addict craves their drug. We were not improving our technique, just learning new ones, and demonstrating technique just as poorly with the old and new.

I left such a school 3-1/2 years ago ... and in thinking it over I cannot see any benefit to the student from such short testing cycles.

5 Comments

That is a pretty good post winemaker. Different schools have different criteria / time frames. I also beleive the set in stone 8 week testing cycle is counterproductive. Where do you currently train / teach?

Chin-up
April 14, 2008 2:05 p.m.

I call such places "Belt-factories" since it seems that only a commitment of time (not to mention money for constant testing fees), and not a commitment of excellence or skill is needed to earn a black belt. I have moved from these dojons to http://www.nckungfu.com which has a different ranking system. Students start in their respective levels and learn a broad overview of their forms. After which they are moved into the advanced version of their class (with no testing fee) where they concentrate on the detail and right movements and stances. Finally, there is a comprehensive test that includes all forms and practical application (i.e. sparring).

The first 3 levels look like this:

Copper Eagle - Fist form, broad sword form, staff form

Silver Eagle - fist form 2, straight sword form, spear form

gold eagle - fist form 3, broadsword 2, staff 2, straightsword 2, spear 2, one competition form.

Typically to move through the first three ranks it can be upwards of 2 years

yhwhoverptah
April 14, 2008 2:22 p.m.

Check out this Dojo. http://www.nckarate.com My kids trained there. The instructor is Bill Henderson. He doesn't care how long you take to get your belts, but he does make sure you have good technique, or you don't pass. I aggree with this method. Some people have an aptitude for karate and some need more time. For the ones that need more time, they also get more instruction and one on one help. Being the best you can be, isn't about what color belt you have, it's about how good you are in the kata you are currently working on.

Network dude
April 14, 2008 2:48 p.m.

Our Aikido dojo is USAF (US Aikido Federation) affiliated, and they have a minimum hours of practice requirement between ranks. You have to check in on the attendance page when you come to class.

Testing isn't really emphasized in any case.

davido
April 14, 2008 3:05 p.m.

I train at Soo Bahk Do of Cary (http://www.thebannardcenter.com/).

Also, I'm glad to hear some positive comments that other schools demonstrate concern for the art, not just the $$$. From looking at the web sites it's a wide variety of styles!

winemaker81
April 14, 2008 6:25 p.m.


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