- Most studios are like gym memberships, in that they require a contract and auto deduct a monthly fee whether your child attends or not. It generally takes 18 months to two years to reach the level of black belt, so be certain your family is serious about the endeavor. This becomes a major, though worthwhile, investment.
- There are often special incentives upon enrollment, so look for free uniforms or other deals.
- Be aware of additional costs that are incurred with normal progress into the program, such as:
- Equipment costs – a complete set of sparring pads can cost around $300, and most studios require new equipment so they can be assured of its suitability and safety.
- Testing fees – depending on the testing organization, fees can range from $40 for lower level belts to around $100 for higher level belts. Testing occurs every two months.
- National academy dues – around $25 but they often include the entire family, so no extra fees for additional siblings.
- Uniform patches/personalization – Regulations apply to uniforms, which require certain patches for the national academy, the local studio, and the student’s name. The uniforms are around $30- $45 for each piece (top and bottom) plus $25 to have patches and name applied.
- Early/late testing, private lessons (see below)
- Studios are indoors and climate controlled, so at least this sport doesn’t have you dragging stadium chairs to sit in the rain. Be aware that you will be spending a lot of time in the studio, ideally three 45-minute lessons per week. Look for comforts like wi-fi and good seating, since you’ll be camped out during this time.
- Students advance in rank based on attending a minimum number of classes per test cycle and testing successfully. Students go through a series of forms for each test and are rated by a panel of judges. Students also spar with one another, earning points based on factors such as strikes and blocks. Missing some required classes? Private lessons are available for $30 -$45.
- Testing is scheduled several weeks in advance; however, it is bound to overlap occasionally with other obligations. Most studios do offer early or late testing within a few days of the scheduled testing date. This requires an additional fee, perhaps $25 – 30. If your child has to re-test (not uncommon), you are not charged a second testing fee.
- Punctuality is essential so select a location you have a chance of reaching despite traffic headaches. Remember the kids have to be in uniform – including cups or hair bands and mouth guards- with gear ready. THIS IS NO SMALL FEAT.
That said, most people who reach the level of black belt never regret their efforts. It’s a universally respected, lifelong accomplishment.
A word of caution about possible overconfidence. I left the kids sitting at a table in the food court to grab some ketchup about 15 feet away. “Stay right here, I’m going to grab some ketchup and I’ll be right back,” I said. “Don’t worry about us, Mom,” they chimed. “We’re YELLOW belts!“