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Old 01-23-2004, 09:40 AM   #16
Fred Little
Dojo: NJIT Budokai
Location: State Line NJ/NY
Join Date: Apr 2001
Posts: 631
Re: Re: Re: Great article.

John Hogan (Hogan) wrote:
He didn't happen to charge those same people again and again for testing for shodan again and again, did he ?
It is interesting to see the way in which the nominal fees charged for testing in aikido dojo so often lead to such questions as this, which seem to implicitly suggest some venality on the part of a particular school or organization.

In my experience (which does not include Shaun's old home dojo), kyu and dan testing fees are generally not treated as testing fees, but as certificate fees, and there is a great difference between the two. The former is a fee paid for the privilege of testing, the latter, a fee paid for issuance of the appropriate certificates following successful (by whatever criteria in place in the particular dojo) testing.

The bulk of the fees associated with dan testing go directly to the appropriate Hombu dojo in most circumstances of which I am aware and do not generate significant income for the students' home dojo. In this situation, those fees are certificate and yudansha passport production fees, not testing fees, per se.

My own perspective on such issues is strongly conditioned by my work as a university administrator. Naturally, students expect to receive their diploma at the time of graduation. At universities which charge a graduation fee, if a student applies for graduation from a degree program for a particular semester, but for some reason does not complete his or her program of study, that fee must be paid in every semester for which the student has applied for graduation.

Why? Because there is a cost associated with production of the diploma. The diploma is a legal document and in many cases a professional credential which must accurately reflect the date of completion of program of study and conferral of the degree.

If a student applies for graduation, a document must be produced. If a student fails to graduate, that first diploma must be destroyed and a new diploma must be produced. The fee is not a "graduation fee," it is a "certificate production fee."

The truth is that the fees associated with aikido training, even in the priciest dojo, are considerably lower than the costs usually associated with playing tennis, golf, or racquetball; taking classes in yoga, dance, tea, or massage; or going out to the movies a couple of times a week once you throw in popcorn and a soda.

In every dojo I've encountered, ways have been found to assist students with genuinely difficult economic circumstances. But in those same dojo, I've encountered a number of individuals who are happy to bitch about monthly dues and testing fees while knocking a cold one or four that they've bought without complaint by the bottle at the local watering hole for 3 or 4 times retail by the six.

The disconnect here is fairly obvious.

In the organization with which I am affiliated, I've seen only one increase in annual dues and kyu testing fees in the last
twenty years. Notably, those increases occurred not because of a top-down decision, but because of a strong push from yudansha who are involved in local dojo management and aware of the costs (as much in time as in materials) associated with management of membership rolls and certificate production. But none of them will see a dime from the increase. Moreover, the increases that were put into place by the organization's shihan were significantly lower than those recommended by dojo managers.

In dojo where there is a local "testing" fee in addition to the "certificate" fee, even that income is nominal when considered against the time required of the instructor to supervise the examinations, deal with the paperwork, and so forth. A differential local fee of ten dollars and a day of ten tests generates only $100. If the tests are only 15 minutes each, that's 2.5 hours. Paperwork is likely to be another 2.5 hours. If those times extend further to a total of 6 hours, even if the instructor pockets the money, that puts the range at somewhere around $15-20/hour. That's what a Salvadoran day laborer in my area makes.

In the case at hand, the difference in order of magnitude between Mr. Seagal's earnings from his movies during the period Shaun has referenced and his earnings (if any) from running a dojo is so huge as to make the question ludicrous.

Maybe somebody, somewhere, really is gouging students on testing fees. But I haven't encountered that someone yet.

Your mileage may vary,

Fred Little