I Paid my Money. Where’s my Martial Arts Instruction?

We as Americans often get caught up in the “Power of the Consumer”.  Americans collectively have tremendous power to shape the economy and the culture by what they buy.  Some however, take this one step further. Some insist that you have an obligation to them because they will buy/have bought your product or service.  Its the “I bought you, I own you” mentality.  Nowhere does this mentality clash more than Martial Arts schools. 

I have often considered the value of my Aikido training over the years, and the gratitude and obligation that I have to my instructors.  In traditional schools such as Aikido of Nebraska and others, the student must understand that what he is paying for has nothing to do with the Martial Arts Instruction.  How can that be, you say?  Like many things in the Martial Arts, it is steeped in the culture and tradition of the arts themselves.  Your Martial Arts Instructor has often sacrificed a great deal in order to provide you with quality Martial Arts Instruction.  Your Instructor has trained years to get to the level necessary to teach, has sweated, bled,  and suffered through injuries, often taking a toll on his/her family, job, friends, and finances because of his/her training. Have you suffered through injuries, finances, and years of arduous training to teach at your job?  Such a personal sacrifice is beyond value; hence the idea that you can’t “buy” instruction, it can only be given to those worthy enough to understand what they are recieving.

Now, it is simplistic to think that martial arts schools are “above” the concept of money.  It is not wrong even, for a school to make a profit, provided that they are providing a valuable service to the community.  Every school has expenses, including the time of the instructor.  But remind yourself that what the student is paying for, in terms of dues, has to do with providing an environment suitable  to training in the Martial Arts, not the instruction itself.  That aspect is beyond price.  I am still indebted to my instructors for sacrificing all that they did to give me the instruction I recieved.  It is far beyond what I could have paid them.  They gave me a piece of themselves. For that I am forever grateful.

Todd Roberts