No Hidden Fees Home
Contact Us

No Hidden Fees
Kenpo Jiu-Jitsu
Studio Locations
News & Events
Photo Gallery
Martial Arts History
Belt Requirements
About Us
Favorite Links



Hit Counter

Karate & Other Martial Arts Rip-offs Share

 The Biggest Rip-off in Martial Arts Today:
Belt / Testing / Advancement Fees

bulletWhat are Testing Fees?
bulletYour Legal Rights
bulletHistory of Belt Testing
bulletPractical & Moral Issues

Fees Relating to Your Level of Instruction
(belt level or skill level)

At many studios "extra" hidden fees (they are hidden because they are either completely undisclosed, or not clearly fully explained, when you first sign up, yet required as part of your training in order to advance in knowledge) like belt tests and/or other fees associated with advancement in levels of learning, class or skill level can double or sometimes even triple your actual training costs, adding up to hundreds or often thousands of dollars extra per family member, per year.  The higher you go in training, the more expen$ive your training becomes.

We strongly disagree with the idea of having to pay more money just so that you can move up in level of instruction, or having a permanent rate increase per month because you are learning more advanced material, or require a more advanced instructor to teach you, or because the advanced classes are smaller, and especially not being allowed to advance until you pay a fee.

At our schools, you will NEVER have to pay a fee in order to advance to your next belt (knowledge) level or skill level (often referred to as “Testing Fees”, which are an additionally required separate fee from you monthly dues, and are per family member; and increase or become more expensive the higher the belt level).  Nor is advancement at Tracy's ever based on time or attendance (at most studios you must attend a minimum number of group classes per week or you can not advance until a certain number of classes or time has passed).  At Tracy's, your advancement is never based on money, time or attendance ... instead, your advancement is based solely on the time-honored tradition of knowledge and skill.

For a detailed explanation of hidden advancement fees at most other studios, read on ...

"As recently as a decade ago, belt testing fees were unheard of in Japan and China ... charging for both lessons and additionally a belt-testing fee was an idea whose inception came in America."

Your Legal & Consumer Rights

WARNING:  Buyers beware … you are the consumer, and you have rights.  Just say “NO!” to hidden, undisclosed fees like belt testing fees and other hidden advancement fees.

If you are a new student researching a studio to possibly enroll in, be sure to request a fully detailed disclosure of their policy on any hidden required fees, and get very specific on the question, “What is the TOTAL actual cost, of all required fees for advancement, for all belts and levels of instruction combined at this studio, in addition to the studio's regular instruction fees?"

If you’ve already enrolled at such a studio, you would be well advised to request an immediate refund of your testing fees, and of your entire enrollment contract, because the instructor or studio violated your agreement, and your consumer rights, if these additionally “required” hidden fees were imposed upon you after you enrolled, and not before.  At the very least, you should demand all testing or advancement fees should be refunded from the past and waived for all levels in the future if this was not disclosed to you before enrollment.  If they object, you can easily take them to small claims court for a modest filing fee, not to mention reporting them to both state and federal income tax agencies for tax evasion.  You would likely be not only entitled to a full refund of your entire course of instruction, but of all hidden fees you’ve had to pay, and your court filing costs as well.

Why Belt Testing or Advancement Fees are not "Traditional"
A Brief History of Belt Testing

Belt test fees were originally created about 50 years ago as a way to evade income tax and to allow schools and instructors to disguise the true monthly costs of training.  Cash (not checks or credit cards) was always demanded, and the belt was the student’s only receipt.  If a written receipt was demanded, it never appeared in the school’s books.  A tax audit of the school would never reveal the belt test fee, so the money was never reported.  This "unreported" income gave the studio an unfair competitive advantage in both hidden income and allowing false advertising of their true rates.  Little has changed in 50 years.

As recently as a decade ago, belt testing fees were unheard of in Japan and China, and even now they are rare there.  The relationship between the instructor and student was one of respect, trust, honor and integrity.  In the monasteries of ancient China the student dedicated himself to the work of the monastic order in order to learn.  He was for all practical purposes an indentured servant.   So likewise in the secular world, Kung Fu students became the servants of the Kung-Fu Master, working his fields, cutting his wood, cleaning his house, and doing his bidding in order to learn from the Master.  From this tradition came the great families, the Gar (Gah).  In 13th Century Japan, Kendo instructors received similar honors, except they were often paid by lords to teach their bodyguards and even their armies.  As other martial arts developed in Japan, it was the wealthy that sought out instructors and paid what came to be called “gessha,” which is the equivalent of a monthly tuition.  The instructor made an honorable contract with his student to teach him a particular technique or method.  When instruction was complete, a test, the “nishansen” or “itsuhou” was given.  There was an equally honorable alternative to this in the instructor who taught for free, and charged a “fuiku,” (meaning a fee for raising up a child) for a “shuuryou” (completion of the course) test.  The student then received his “shuuryoushousho (diploma) or more recently menjo (rank certificate).  Thus, the student only paid if they completed the course.  In each case the student knew exactly what they would learn and what their instruction would cost.  There were no hidden costs.  Both the instructor and the student received honor when the student achieved rank.  Charging for both the instruction and the completion tests made one lower than a “Yojimbo,” which was lower than a prostitute.  According to Oriental culture, a prostitute only sold her body—whereas the instructor who charged for both lessons and the completion tests sold their integrity and their soul.

Not surprisingly, charging for both lessons and additionally a belt-testing fee was an idea whose inception came in America.  It came into being in the early 1960’s when the highest tax bracket in the United States was over 90%.  Most Karate schools were charging $8-10 dollars a month at the time for group instruction, and a $5-10 dollar tax-free belt test fee allowed the instructor to substantially increase their spendable income.  The belt test fee moved to the school when the Koreans made belt testing an integral part of their systems.  Among the first to adopt the “new tradition” of a required belt testing fee for advancement were the followers of the Reverend Sun Yung Moon (Moonies), who were the pioneers of Tae Kwon Do in America.  Ed Parker reluctantly followed the advice of a Korean friend and brought belt testing fees into his Kenpo system.  Tracy’s refused to follow, and chose instead to follow the time honored tradition of testing for knowledge and ability, not for money.  This became one of the many early sharp divisions between the Tracy System of Kenpo and Ed Parker’s American Kenpo.

Modern Belt Testing & Advancement
The Practical & Moral Issues

Several Karate and Tae Kwon Do instructors have written to justify charging for belt tests and advancement.  Their reasoning ranges from “the teacher is worthy of their hire”, to “everyone’s time is worth something”, or “I have to charge more for my time because I'm the most experienced instructor in the studio”, and “My advanced classes are much smaller so I have to charge those students more for their classes.”  Without exception, they have all failed to recognize the difference between teaching and testing.  They further justify a “cash only” policy through a spiritual relationship between the student and the one testing, which is unencumbered by a formal business transaction.  They also state the basis of cutting down on paperwork.  They see nothing wrong with charging for lessons, then additionally charging a testing fee to determine whether they have taught properly or not.  This is virtually unheard of outside of the martial arts.  And it only exists in the martial arts in the first place because those charging belt test fees are either morally bankrupt, or they are so morally impoverished as to never have had morals to sell out.

Imagine going to a school, college, or an institution where you not only have to pay for your tuition, registration fees, uniforms and equipment, but every time there’s a test, you have to pay extra for it.  And you are not allowed to advance to the next level of knowledge unless you take the required test.  That is precisely what happens in many karate schools today, and the practice has become so commercialized that it is now possible to “buy” your belt … based solely on the paying of your fee.

Ed Parker used to say, jokingly, that he would promote anyone to black belt who would pay him $1,000, but the only way the person could ever wear the belt was in his bedroom at night with all the lights out.

Tracy’s established the belt system that has been imitated and bastardized throughout karate ever since.  The traditional white belt was to be worn by any student.  The belt was simply a part of the uniform, designed for the sole purpose of holding the top together.  The first awarded belt was yellow, then orange, purple, blue, green and then brown belt.  The three degrees of brown belt were distinguished by the number of black stripes on the tip of the belt.  The sole purpose for awarding colored belts was to distinguish rank, or level of instruction.  This made it both easier and safer for any instructor to teach you in their class if they knew what material you were working on, and who to pair you off with to work on individual requirements.  Each colored belt in the Tracy System has a set number of required techniques and forms, and each belt represents the knowledge one has attained in a progressive step towards black belt.  This is standard throughout the Tracy System.  Where other Kenpo systems later lacked the number of techniques, they simply lowered their standards.  Other Karate and TKD (Tae Kwon Do) styles use arbitrary standards that are often not standards at all.  Some systems do not even allow a beginning student to wear a white belt.  Instead, they must earn that by paying to take lessons and then paying for a belt test.

When an instructor charges for lessons and additionally charges for a belt test, they are often motivated to promote the student just to keep them, and to get them ready for the next belt test fee.  If the student fails the test, they are unlikely to continue; so few students fail their tests.  Instructors who teach for free, and only charge for testing for advancement tests, are, by their nature, unmotivated by money or advancing unworthy students.  Their interest is in producing students who have earned their belt through arduous study and effort.

Instructors who charge for both lessons and belt test fees argue that their students pass their tests because the student is not permitted to take the test until they are ready.  But that raises the question, why would an instructor charge for a test they know the student is going to pass because they are ready?”  Why even have tests in the first place if the instructor knows the student has learned the material required for the belt?  Why not simply promote them when they're ready?

It’s obvious—to get more money from the student!  These are the hidden costs of the system, detectable only by its stench.  Most schools sign students to expensive, long-term contracts (1-3 years!) without disclosing that belt test fees are mandatory … that the student will NOT be able to advance to further knowledge beyond a level without first paying to test for that level.  These hidden fees can cost the student as much as the entire course he or she is taking, as there may be as many as 50 tests costing $30 to $50 each, before brown belt or red belt in a Korean system.  Testing fees for degrees of brown belt can range between $60 to $100 dollars each.  And testing for black belt can be as high as $1,000 dollars or more!  This is simply for an instructor to witness that you are ready to advance!

This policy is even less defendable where the karate system is a sport and promotes competition.  Why should one pay for a belt test, when his or her advancement is determined by competition?  Judo set the honorable standard for awarding belts through competition, but some Kenpo and Karate systems, and Tae Kwon Do and most Korean systems in particular, refused the honorable path.

When avarice overcomes honor, it cheapens the art.  We need only look at the government corruption that is exposed around the world each day to realize that honor is being sold.  Today, one can go to China or Japan and after paying several thousand dollars, receive a certificate for the highest rank in a Kung Fu or Karate style. The time honorable practice of charging for a hand lettered certificate, produced by a professional calligrapher, has given way to selling belts and issuing mass-produced certificates that carry the conviction of the proverbial three dollar bill.  These certificates are not worth the paper they are printed on.  Where in the past instructors and students paid substantial sums to attend ceremonies that included banquets, and rituals in which expensive regalia was worn, today, the student pays the same money just to receive their belt advancement … and an unembroidered, plain ordinary belt only costs a studio between $5 to $10 dollars at the most.

The reasoning is simple:  The instructor, or the organization, is devoid of meaningful tradition.  The student wants to advance.  If they have the knowledge and skills, then they rightfully should be advanced.  But rather than give what for centuries was given freely, they must pay to get their advancement and their belt—and pay big.  And where cash is demanded for the belt test, it is all illegal, tax-free income for the instructor.

While belt-testing fees are the mothers of Karate and martial arts rip-offs, they have spawned their own evil child of rip-offs: selling and awarding black belts to children.  Only outside the Orient can you find children as young as only 3 and 4 years old being awarded black belt ranks, as well as lower belts with as many as 6 tips (stripes), camouflaged belts, chartreuse belts, pink belts, and when they run out of colors, they mix the belts one half one color, the other half another color, to which they give different colored stripes.  There is even the distinction now being made between the shading of a particular belt, such as a “light blue” and a “dark blue” belt, each with another separate fee.

It seems there is one standard for the country where the martial art originated, and a different standard for the western world.  The standard established in America by P.T. Barnum in 1871, when he stated “There's a sucker born every minute.”

More coming soon ... 


Information on Martial Arts Instruction & Training with us in California in:
 Vacaville - Fairfield - Vallejo - Davis

Back Next

Instruction/Training Our Locations Davis, CA 95616 Vacaville, CA 95687 Fairfield, CA 94533 Vallejo, CA 94590 Coming soon...


Home ] Instruction/Training ] [ No Hidden Fees ] Kenpo Jiu-Jitsu ] MMA/Shootfighting® ] Studio Locations ] Schedule ] News & Events ] Photo Gallery ] Martial Arts History ] Belt Requirements ] About Us ] FAQs ] Favorite Links ] Facebook ] MySpace ] YouTube ] Flickr ]

Questions or problems regarding this web site should be directed to
Copyright © 2007 Tracy's Karate Studios. All rights reserved.
No portion may be reproduced without permission.
Last modified: 01/04/12