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I'm sure many of us can attest to the difficulties of making a living through the martial arts. It seems to take more time than there is in a day. Even the most successful business models are lucky to break even. For those of us that play the art for the passion, monetary compensation isn't important, just sharing the knowledge is enough. In my experience taking money for doing what I love has always been unnerving to me. I remember in the old days Manong Leo would only charge a $5 floor fee to train in his basement for a two hour class, in addition to your annual dues which was at the most $10. If you didn't stay on top of your fees they could pile up to a hefty sum, and when some guys couldn't pay they'd barter for Uncle Leo's time. Some would do yard work, clean up the basement, take him to run his errands, bring him groceries, etc. Now I see some organizations charging thousands of dollars for seminars, instructor-ships and affiliations. It makes me wonder was Uncle Leo under valuing his art by charging so low? Or was it intentional so he could share the art with everyone? At the going rate I could probably charge up to $80-$100 an hour for private lessons, but I couldn't in good conscious take that kind of money. So I find myself bartering for goods and services. I feel more comfortable trading for my time, because I've found that some people would rather exchange their skill as a professional in their given trade for training. It has also proven to be more valuable in the long run than cash money. I've bartered for guns, ammo, knives, weapons, prepping supplies, tax and plumbing services and the list goes on. Now with bartering social network sites you can expand your base. Have many of you bartered for your knowledge in the FMA, and how has it worked out for you?

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Yep!!. There is of course the old doubt of undervaluing those who came before you, or for those whom what money they can make by sharing knowledge is financially important...but personally, I feel , particuarly for more dedicated students, who course  have normally  become freinds, what the hell???. A car ride here, a home cooked dish there to share after training......the tribe has many members and not all of them can be judged by thier ability to pay cash.... freeloading students though are as obvious as overcharging glory hunting Guros ...and both can be avoided much easier than a badly swung stick !!!. Good Topic...


What a great discussion post, I opened up my school out of pressuring from a friend, what started out as a few private lessons for one student soon grew into a handful of students. 

This was also during a time when my school loans came due and I was tight for funds at the end of every month.  What was once considered my hobby and passion turned out to be a saving grace that helped me pay the bills at least until I got back on solid financial ground.  Even though I was desperate to supplement my income through paid instruction I felt guilty for taking payment.

I have always kept fees small and I have no contracts, if someone wanted to pay me by bartering for instruction I would gladly accept because I am well enough financially to do so. If one of my students are down on their luck I reduce tuition or let them miss a couple of payments so that they at least have a place to train. Both GM Art and Guro Terry Joven would do the same for me when I paid for lessons and I will do the same. 

I agree that trying t make a living out of teaching martial arts is a tough business and many schools have to introduce many fees and gimmicks just to earn a profit, in the end the focus is on business and not passing down the art, I never intend this to happen to me, for me, I teach for the pure joy of passing along what I have been taught and I hope that my students appreciate what I am sharing. At the end of the day it is our school not just my school and we each pitch in to insure we have a place to practice the art. With this being said, I would gladly pass along some DeCuerdas to anyone who is willing to pull weeds from my yard, LOL.   

Dear Michael Cardenas,
"I teach for the pure joy of passing along what I have been taught and I hope that my students appreciate what I am sharing. At the end of the day it is our school not just my school and we each pitch in to insure we have a place to practice the art ".by M. Cardenas ...   well said, guro Michael ,we shared a common ground in teaching FMA.
Yours truly,

I had a deal with a professional videographer who was interested in taking lessons. So we decided on an hour for hour barter which consisted of an hour of training for an hour of video and editing. I trained the guy for 9 months and didn't charge him a bit due to our agreement, but after the 9month time period where he would come to class when he felt like it and canx last minute with some bullshit excuse, I received 15 minutes of video that wasn't even edited.. Needless to say, I was livid.. I figured up my expenses and time lost due to his inconsiderations and presented him a bill for over $3K.. He damn near had a heartattack and asked what the bill was for.. I told him and he said that he couldn't pay the bill, so I tore it up and told him that if he is going to agree to something he had best live up to his side of the deal.. The individual left a month later and never heard anymore from him.. Needless to say, that has soured my concept of bartering for exchange in items.. I haven't did a contract like this in a long while and can say that I will never do it again.

Joel - I agree with you and the other posters wholeheartedly. Although I have a fee schedule posted, by no means do I stick to it. My feeling is that if they want to learn for the right reasons, I'll teach them. Some of my students pay religiously, other not so. I understand these are hard times. I am just happy that I have students. I continue to learn from them as much as they learn from me. I have a good job that pays my bills and allows me to live a comfortable lifestyle. I don't have overhead costs to run my class other than  buying equipment, sticks, and printing postcards. I am not going to charge the same as other Karate schools in the area which is about $150/month. I too have a hard time accepting or asking for money. I have a new student who wants private lessons. He asked me how much per month? I told him the same as group lessons. I could've charged him the cost of one months group lesson for his one hour of private lesson, but it just would not have felt right to me. I have no contracts, no auto debit system, and no hard sell tactics. You are here in my class because you want to be here. Most of the money I earn goes right back into the school.

I have bartered with folks for for lessons. I have found that some people get this idea and others do not. The problem I have found is that some people will say if you do not charge a lot then you can not be that good. I say to them, they do not understand what quality is. In the Philippines many do not charge very much or just trade so that folks can defend their Barrio. Some of my trades have been good. I had one family train with me the mother came and cleaned the hall before each lesson, who son was and still is a very devoted student. I just did a seminar and a all day private with a student of mine in another state. I stayed for three nights with him and his family and was able to know him better as person. I think bartering allows you know the person better

I was asked to sponsor 2 foreign exchange students who wanted a martial arts family to host them. Since I was not a  family by their definition ( pax exchange program) I  had to take both students.  Well, they arrived here and had very little money to spend- only what they needed for their education. I worked out a deal with them early on- I would trade hour for hour if they wanted to train with our group or using personal time.  I became their Mr Miyagi. They helped around the house, did yard work, helped to clean the club , and even helped me to design and build a Japanese garden and pond. This arrangement worked out very well. We all benefited by it.

They have returned to Bulgaria and to S. Korea having spent 10 months training and enjoying what the backwoods has to offer.- a win win situation.

Hello Po...I have bartered many times to increase my knowledge base, but it was knowledge-for-knowledge...when I would work security details abroad, I came into contact with many Special Forces/Ex-Special Forces personnel.  I would teach them some FMA in exchange for some lessons in close quarter battle, or individual small arms skills, or precision rifle skills, etc...this enabled me to acquire a significant amount of skill sets for no cost (maybe some beers after training!)...regarding students that can't pay, I have had a few of those as well, but they were very dedicated, so I just told them to start paying when they were able to...I love FMA, and I live FMA, so I don't do it for the money...I am happy if the rent is payed.

My Tito Dan (GM Dan Rutano) never, ever charged me a cent.  The only thing he asked of me was never to do anything bad or stupid with his art, and to do my best to ensure it is passed on to good and deserving the end, I can honestly say that it has worked out really great for me...It even inspired me to create the Philippine Warrior Arts Society, where all of the instructors in the Society hold a Gathering on an annual basis and donate their time to teach a free seminar to the public so they are aware of the beauty, diversity and effectiveness of the Filipino martial arts...I am really humbled and grateful...

With respect to all...



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