In the past, practicing and teaching a martial art was an avocation, done because the practitioners enjoyed the challenge, the hard work, and the dedication required to perfect the art. A martial art was a way of life. Martial art teachers did not, nor did they expect to, get rich, or even make a living from teaching a martial art. They did it because they believed what they were doing enriched their lives and could do the same for others.
Now, the martial arts are a vocation. They are a business, with all the good and bad aspects of a business. For a business to stay in business, it must bring in more money than it expends. For a business to be successful, it must make enough money to make it worthwhile for the owners to remain in business.
For many schools the way to make money is to lock students into long-term contracts that must be paid whether the student attends class or not, create numerous ranks and charge large testing fees for each one, require school sponsored uniforms and equipment to prevent students from buying from cheaper sources, require that students attend tournaments, seminars, camps, etc. from which the school gets a cut of the profits, require students to learn extra stuff that is not included in the classes but which is offered in books or videos or on DVDs, and by offered all types of expensive items for sale that advertise the school on them.
Some businesses make something, such as Microsoft; some sell things that others have made, such as Wal-Mart; while others provide a service, such as a martial art school. To succeed as a service business, a business must provide a service the public needs or wants at a price they are willing to pay. For the service business to grow, it must keep new customers coming in, retain current customers, provide more services and new services, and provide all this at a price people are still willing to pay.
Martial art students come and go everyday for a variety of reasons. For a martial art school to succeed and grow as a business, it must advertise to attract new students, keep current students happy with the service they receive, and add new services or products to extract more money from current students. Many martial art businesses open every year, and almost as many close. Most commercial schools are more concerned about staying in business than they are in maintaining the tradition and purpose of the martial arts.
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