I once wrote a post about the cost of Diabetes supplies and how financially devastating it would be to someone who isn’t lucky enough to have medical coverage. I won’t get into the specifics, since I’ve posted on it before and it can be read here. But there’s no denying that there’s been a noticeable increase in the cost of things, even in JUST the past twenty years. I remember buying my first car when I was 16 years old (that’s the reward of working at a young age, I was able to purchase my own first car) and gasoline prices were in the 50 or 60 cents/litre. When I got fuel for my SUV yesterday, the current cost was 132 cents/litre. Crazy, right?
This increase in cost has affected everything, from food to commodities and leisure products. But it wasn’t until recently that I discovered that it had affected the martial arts world, as well. And why wouldn’t it, right? The costs associated with running a dojo have undoubtedly increased with the years, same as everything else. I’ve just been fortunate enough that it’s never affected me. Between time and circumstances, I was always in a position where inflation never came to my attention, at least not where karate or martial arts was concerned. Until recently.
When I joined karate in 1989, I was paying a monthly tuition of $20/month. That’s it. I bought a GeneSport cotton karate gi for $40 and there was nothing else associated. Of course, Sensei was always the kind of instructor who never charged for anything. He basically charged JUST enough tuition to keep the lights on. That’s it. There was no entry fee, membership dues besides monthly tuition and no charge for sport insurance or any of those things. Obviously, I’m not hear to argue the necessity of those costs in a modern dojo; I’m simply pointing out that they didn’t apply to our dojo.
During the last ten years that I trained in Norther New Brunswick, Sensei announced that due to the school board increasing rental costs for the gym we used, he would have to increase our tuition cost. The irony is most of us were wondering how we would afford a more expensive monthly tuition to keep training. Sensei announced he would be increasing tuition to $25/month. I remember thinking, “Wow, that’s it?” He even asked us if that was okay with us, and we were all fine with it, but I can’t help but wonder what he would have done if we’d all said we weren’t fine with the increase.
Besides that 5-dollar increase in monthly tuition, I’ve never had to worry about increase cost of studying karate. That is to say, besides my own indulgences, such as purchasing a Tokaido or Shureido gi, or purchasing a custom belt with my name on it, when I graduated Shodan. But those are not necessities to studying martial arts. Otherwise, Sensei never charged us for belt tests, certificates or even his time. On reflection, I have to say that I got really lucky in finding him, as the character of one’s Sensei dictates how the pupil will grow or even whether they stick it out.
In 2009, I moved out to Saskatchewan where I joined the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and attended training for six months in Regina. When I completed my training, I was posted to the Province of Saskatchewan and have been here ever since. I was posted in multiple places within the Province but as I was never anywhere for longer than a few years, it made it difficult to commit myself to a local dojo or even open one of my own, which would have been my preference. But in 2016, I transferred to Regina and ultimately retired from the RCMP. We’ve been living in Regina ever since, and the city actually has better than a dozen martial arts schools of varying styles.
For the first time in almost ten years, I found myself searching for a place to train. I had gotten so used to training on my own that it was a bit surreal. I visited a number of dojos, but joining a martial arts school is a very personal and individualized process. Most people don’t understand that different people will be suited only by certain styles. But after visiting some schools, I settled on one and was taken aback at the prospect that monthly tuition was $60/month. This was almost triple what I had been paying a decade earlier. Despite that concern, I joined the club.
I trained with this club for almost two years when issues at work and with the house caused some financial hardship to the extent that I could no longer justify using $60/month for something that I could rightfully be teaching on my own. I made the difficult decision to step away, since I had made friends in this dojo. Luckily, the head instructor’s perspective was in keeping with Sensei’s and he agreed to allow me to train without tuition, given my rank and contribution to the club. It was extremely generous and I accepted.
Then, the pandemic hit and we tried some different things. We used to have training over Zoom, which allowed us to have group exercises and such. But i don’t think I need to explain that martial arts requires contact. I was looking forward to the dojo re-opening with the conditions lessened in our Province. But it doesn’t seem to have happened. The club’s website still indicates it’s closed with no indication of when it may open and no correspondence has been received. Which is odd, but it is what it is.
So I once again started looking for a dojo in which to train. Interestingly, I found a school of traditional karate, which would have been alright. Then I got roundhouse kicked in the face with the reality of inflation. monthly tuition was listed for adult pupils at $95/month! Are you fuckin’ kidding me??? That’s almost $1200/year JUST on tuition, not including the fees for sport insurance and the “mandatory” memberships to certain karate associations. And we all know how I feel about THOSE. Needless to say, it appears as though I’ll be training on my own for the foreseeable future. ☯