View Full Version : Fees Ranting (Caution)

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Rocky Izumi
05-17-2006, 01:26 PM
This is a rant so if Jun takes this off the forum, I understand. I have no apologies to anyone for the rant, however.

Okay, I got pissed off listening to all these people talking about how instructors shouldn't be charging any fees and that testing should be free unless the fee is going to some parent organisation.

While none of my income comes from the dojo, one might say I am a professional since much of my income and reputation in my consulting work comes from instruction in related things. Now, I pay dojo fees just like everyone else since the dojo is a club, but I do charge for testing in mudansha grades from Gokkyu up and place a bit of charge on the costs of gi that I bring in.

In the 25 years of teaching Aikido, I have had to support the dojos in which I taught by the tune of up to US$1500 a month out of my salary. Right now, even though I charge more for the gis than I bought them, I still don't recover enough to cover the shipping, cost of holding on to them until someone buys them, tariff, and for other costs involved in bringing them in. The same goes for everything I do for the dojos.

When the fees paid aren't enough to cover the rent, I pay the rent! When there isn't enough to pay for the utilities, I pay the utilities!
Most instructors in Aikido pay to teach.

No matter how much we charge, it isn't enough! If the market will bear our prices, then it is appropriate pricing. (My wife says I keep losing money and I am not charging enough.)

The costs include our going to seminars and summer camps to improve ourselves and our teaching. My wife pointed out to me yesterday that I cannot afford to go to summer camp this year since it costs me about US$7000 each time I go with airline fares, residential fees, camp fees, hotel bills, food, helping students who go to pay for things, etc.

If I get advanced, my certificate fees for an advancement in rank are in the thousands of US dollars, not tens of dollars. And I have no choice in the up-grading. My Shihan decides that and I just pay the fee.

I have to keep at least four keiko gi going and two hakama that are rotated each week. I go through three Keikogi each year. I drive 45 minutes to an hour to get to the dojo four times a week and even after a late night have to get up at 05:30 to teach class. I have to go to the dojos on the other islands and it costs me up to US$900 a return flight. I pay for at least one of the flights a year myself since the dojos cannot afford having me there more than twice a year. If they are to learn, I have to go at least four to five times a year.

When guests come to my dojo, I end up having to foot the dinner bill and the drinking bill. When the Shihan visits, I have to pay for every one of his costs, whether he stays in a hotel or at my place. If he stays at my place, I have to do the cooking. I am thankful that my wife will do the washing and cleaning for me. I am the one that has to take time off from work to entertain the Shihan or guest.

So, all of you that complain about the high cost of monthly fees and testing fees, think about what your Sensei is doing for you and how much it is costing him or her. They are probably in shoes similar to mine. We are simply trying to cover some of the extra costs involved in doing what we do for the dojo and the students.

For those of you students who complain the costs of studying any martial art, my Aikido students try and go to summer camp each year. While they may not be paying as much as I do, it is costing each of them about ONE AND HALF MONTHS OF SALARY EACH.And they do it happily.

If you want to learn to become good in any martial art, it costs money. IT IS NOT FREE!!!!!! So quit complaining about the cost, no matter how high it is and go train.

Rock :grr:

At one time, I believed that I should bear all these costs myself in view of the help, work, and money that my instructors and Shihans spent in helping me and my fellow students progress to where we now are. I have come to realise in the last few years that my students owe me no such loyalty nor repayment so I have to look at my Giri to my teachers in the same way. All I want from my students is to learn their Aikido as best as they can and go teach it to others. That is enough. Whether they charge a lot or little of their students is of little consequence to me. What is important is that they transfer the learnings and do it well. If that is the standard of Giri I hold for my students, then to hold a higher one for myself is simple egotism. I am not a better person than they are so my ethics will be or should be no more important or better than theirs since they are my students.

Rock :cool:

Chuck Clark
05-17-2006, 03:53 PM

Brother, you and I sound like squeeky wheels on the same axle... we surely have come from under the same rock. My son, Aaron, made me promise about 15 years ago or so that I would stop doing similar things that you mentioned. I had done these things for many years because that's how I grew up and my teachers treated me. Aaron told me that he doesn't care if I don't make any money but that I should stop losing money. Sorta makes sense now. Since I made that promise I have paid the bills out of student payments and haven't lost any money (except due to my own brilliant decisions... how come they all seem like such a good ideas at the time????) to speak of. I get by and actually get along with my boss really well and am free to follow the muse.

There's a lot of spoiled folks out there. Funny, the first question most people ask is what does it cost and what do I get for my money. My answers are "just enough" and "the chance to learn"... those that like those answers ask to join our dojo and usually end up staying for quite awhile.

Keep the faith and take care,

Rocky Izumi
05-17-2006, 04:45 PM
So Chuck,

When you coming down here for a vacation of sun and surf? You don't even need to pay anything to teach a class :)


Rupert Atkinson
07-09-2006, 05:05 PM

I think most of us end up paying a small fortune to indulge in our Aiki hobby. All my salary in the 1980s went into training. When I think about it now, I must have been mad. In the 1990s I took control - teaching=minimal fees, no more gradings=cheap, BUT IT STILL COST A SMALL FORTUNE. Now, wandering.

Anyway, I'd like to join your dojo ... or one like it :)

Rocky Izumi
07-10-2006, 10:27 AM
Thanks Rupert,

If you are considering coming to the Cricket World Cup next year, email me before you come and we will be sure to show you a good time and some good practice.

That goes for all of you Aikido fanatics (Aikifanatics?) coming for the Cricket next year. Cricket during the day and Aikido at night. How much better could you get?


R.A. Robertson
07-10-2006, 04:08 PM
Hi Rocky,

I've been professional for about 15 years now. I don't make much money, nor do I have a spiffy building of my own. We train in a rec center, and pay a percentage of our take. My teachers only ever asked that we train sincerely, and share what we know. I've never felt an obligation to pay anyone else's way, although I am perfectly happy to work with those who have a financial disability.

I've never charged for test fees, because I don't like mixing income with rank decisions. But that's a personal, individual choice.

I do think we all have to take a look at aikido's place in the world. There are many ways to make it sustainable, but we all have to consider economics as a realistic aspect of budo.

It took me a long time to arrive at a fee structure that was both fair and flexible, and that would give me no reason to begrudge the contributions of any individual.

So now I mostly complain about the students I don't have, rather than the ones I do.

I know my situation's different from yours, but I just thought I'd add a little input.

Like any technique, don't put more into it than is necessary for the outcome. With refinement, we should all learn to get good clean returns on minimum effort. I'm still working on it too.

All the best!

Austin, TX, USA

Rocky Izumi
07-11-2006, 08:41 AM
Well, we just raised our monthly fees from $30 Bbds (US$15) to $50 Bbds (US$25). Looks like one person will have to quit and another is selling vegetables to me and the other students to make up the fee money. We may lose a couple more because they are having more financial difficulties.

Larry Feldman
02-02-2007, 10:39 AM
Rocky -

I teach in a gym, partly to avoid the costs of a storefront, so I do not face all the financial pressures you do. But there is no way to put a pencil to to the time and money I have put into Aikido and the pay I get.

Not to depress you, but if you figure out your hourly pay, you probably would be violating minimum wage laws - I am sure I am.

Somehow the spiritual aspects of what we do sometimes overrides this idea that we should get paid for our expertise. I am not sure you can find any other 'job' that requires so much training and expertise, with so little pay.

My rates are substantially below others who teach Aikido, I used to justify it by the fact that we only met a couple times a week, but comparisons to other schools or other arts may help you set your rates more appropriately. We are adding class times now and the gym said I have to raise my rates - they didn't care how much, just that if I offer more time, I needed to charge more.

That said I have never had someone not make a seminar because they could not afford it, I have instituted 'I lost my job rates' - free, and helped out anyone
who had financial problems until they could get them straightened out. I discount the rates for students and police officers. (Many people who I let practice free because they lost their job were embarressed about not being able to pay and stopped coming). This may be the best way to deal with the increase you have to institute. You are a good man to fret over losing students over money, so don't.

On the Gi's - I am a reluctant seller of GI's, after I got tired of my students buying junk for $75 and thinking they got a deal because it was on the internet. I may only make $5 a Gi, but I don't lose money on them. My concession to the beginners is that they don't need a Gi to practice for the first 2 months, and if they continue they will need to get one. If I had a permanent school I might also have a trade-in policy for student's quiting and just resell used ones.

FWIW, I used to skydive, and my first parachute was an old military surplus piece of junk. At one point it needed a patch, so the local rigger who knew I was a student, patched it for me for $10, which was cheap at the time. I told my father what it cost, and my Dad (who grew up in the Great Depression and was tough with a buck), who I expected to tell me what a great deal I got. Instead he told me that that man didn't charge me enough, and what would I do if he wasn't around to help me in the future - that I should have paid him more to make sure he could survive.
I was shocked that my Dad said those things, but he was right. The rigger was of course looking out for me, a young kid, just a student etc. But the bigger message was that if you can't afford to teach -your students will have no teacher.