39 COMMENTS

  1. Your ability to pay should not be used to hold a rank you have earned hostage. The school should have been upfront about this. If you like Tracy’s Chinese Kenpo or not you have to say that the business model of low monthly fees, no contracts and no belt testing fees is nice. (Those schools however are full-time)

  2. Wtfffffffff leave that school no respectable school would charge you for belt promotions, I didn’t pay for a blue belt promotion and all the kids I started with who recently got their purple belts didn’t pay either….that’s straight b.s.

  3. I dont know where you are,but no legitimste school charges for promotions.they are earned as real brazillian jiujitsu professors take jiujitsu very seriously.

  4. I would find a different school. I’m fortunate in that my school cares nothing for that. We have something special at Guetho Texas!

  5. Charging for belt promotion? That is straight BS.. Your belts are earned and handed to you by your professor at no charge…. I would find another school…

  6. Every Gracie school I have trained at tends to pull **** like this out of their ***. I’m sure there are some respectable Gracies, but Relson’s schools and Gracie Barra schools are nothing but businesses out to get as much money from you as possible.

    • You clearly have not been promoted at a Gracie Barra as there is no charge for any promotions. i would suggest you get your facts right before bad mouthing gym’s.

    • I train at a Gracie school. Now while my instructor doesn’t require us to pay for belts (thank god), he’s a complete ******* hypocrite about it. He’s stingy but at the same time plays favorites and hands out belts willy-nilly to slobs that don’t deserve it and just show up out of the blue for one class.

  7. As a lifelong martial artist I can tell you BJJ rank is unlike any other art I’ve achieved rank in. It is very common to have testing fees in other arts. But, I’ve never seen testing fees or promotion fees in BJJ. In some schools instructors require students to buy their own belts. Most of the time though, the school buys the belt and promotes the student with it. As I plan to open a school next year, that is my intent. BJJ rank should be a surprise to the student and should only come when the skill develops to the appropriate level. It also shouldn’t cost the student anything.

  8. Nothing in this world is free. The instructor is entitled to earn a living as well as maintain a business etc. so $250 over 18 months is $13.88 US. How many of us toss that much at something without a thought? The authors bullet points only cite a few of the many possibilities that exist. A final observation, did the author ask what additional fees etc vs assume? So the instructor does a seminar and are we to assume it’s free too?

    PS: the author should have someone proof their work and or know when to use there, their etc.

    • I see you post as Anon. If this practice is defensible then post your name. And please let us know about those other scenarios. I’m all ears. If it costs the gym $13.88 extra a month to stay in business then raise your fees and advertise that you don’t screw around with hidden fees. In the long run people will appreciate your candor.

      P.S. Yes once or twice I may have used “there” instead of “their”. Let’s not let that take away from the discussion here. You should have an apostrophe on the word “authors” because you are attributing ownership of the bullet points to the author. Additionally vs. is an abbreviation and thus should have a period afterwards. The word “the” in your post script comment is lowercase it should be capitalized. Snark intended.

      • I don’t own a academy but I do teach at one for free. I do however own a small business (single employee, namely me) and know very well the trials of keeping the financials in the black. I would say that most academy owners fall into the small business owner category and have the same issues and want to be “successful” as well as live somewhat comfortably as do most people. Although $250 is a bit high in some areas the whole picture of the situation really hasn’t been painted.

        Your writing and responses indicate you have made a huge number of assumptions on a host of things. I guess you have a decision to make, pay the fee or not. The truth of the world is that belt fees exist, much like other things in the personal service industry for good or bad. It’s odd that it took this long for you to become aware of it. Even more odd is to post the issue on a BJJ web site. This community is fairly small and with little to no effort someone could or does know the academy and instructor and mention this to them. Can you say awkward? Good luck…….

      • I left a comment below – and (in my humble opinion) I believe $250 is much too high under any set of circumstances. But I doubt that these fees are hidden, particularly if you sign a contract up front – which agreement includes that equipment, uniforms, testing, and competition fees are not included in the tuition. Most decent schools use contracts, mostly because they contain a waiver of liability provision, but also so that they can count on and budget costs based upon projected tuition. I won’t post my name – because I don’t really want or need extra snark in my life right now – but I feel that raising everyone’s tuition to pay for the promotion costs of the few is unfair in principle. Why should my hobbyist 4 year blue belt have to share promotion fees for my competitive students? Moreover, and especially in metro areas that are SATURATED with schools, if you are not charging at or near the lowest in the area for base tuition – you will not be in business long – no matter how good your curriculum, facilities, or instruction is. I’m sorry, man. That’s a fact. I don’t see anything wrong with a belt fee that will REASONABLY cover the costs of the promotion cycle. Depending on the number of students being promoted, and the nature of the other goodies that we provide to the students, family, and friends who attend our graduations, we’ve found that this price is usually in the $50-$75 range (we charge less for kids for obvious reasons). The fee isn’t outrageous considering that very, very few will experience promotion more than 3 times in any 6 years of training. On very few occasions, when someone has privately let us know that they cannot handle the fee – we’ll waive it in exchange for some help around the school with something.

    • A bjj belt is not a McDojo belt its real 100% sparing tested. it is an honour and privilege to accept and to award a £$20 piece of material.
      A school need funds to run but a school that considers selling belts is no longer a bjj school its a joke!

    • Exactly. Some of us actually work in the martial arts field. This does not mean we work for free. We have bills just like you. So, whether the instructor charges a lower affordable monthly tuition and a test fee like 90% of most professional martial arts schools in the world( not garage dojos with teachers who have other jobs and 5 students, but actually have large mat space, dressing rooms, partners for you to train with and other nice things your house doesn’t have) or he charges a higher monthly and no test fee he has to keep the ins, rent, taxes, his payroll and other instructors, program directors and cleaning staffs payroll( because you don’t plan on sanitizing the mats all the time for free do you?) and something for retirement since he probably wont be able to do it like Master Helio till he’s 98. A legit instructor will always make sure his student earns the belt, but he just may have to pay the instructor a test fee which their association many times gets all or a percentage of to officially rank someone and if any is left over for the guy it’s like a bonus or reward for eventually helping you improve by spending hours sweating with you on the mat and helping the student reach his so very important goal of eventual improvement and promotion. Also the instructor many times sacrifices his body especially as he gets older and what’s that worth and what’s the cost for the Professors doctors, chiropractic adjustments, tape and tiger balm? So guys! If you love your BJJ help the teacher make a frickin living. All fees however should be explained up front.

  9. Having belt promotion prices as hidden fees is no acceptable – one should know what the fees are upfront.

    That said, charging for belt promotions is an old practice in many martial arts and there is a solid rationale to it:

    People who benefit the most are required to contribute more.

    As a white belt, new to the art, you know the membership fees, but you don’t really know what you are buying. When you get your blue belt however, you have spent one or two years on the mat, trained extensively with your coach and you should have a much better idea of the value of the service you are getting, and so are in a better position to decided whether or not it is worth paying more.

    Also, a belt promotion involves (or at least should involve) additional effort on the part of the professor.

    Once he thinks you are getting close to ready for the next belt, he should start paying more personal attention to you. He should be checking that you know your requirements and that you don’t have any glaring hole in the curriculum – do you know your self defense moves? Your butterfly guard is good, you play it all the time, but can you pull off a closed guard pendulum sweep if you want to? etc.

    And of course any hole found in your game should be corrected before promotion time, so your professor may have to adjust his lesson plans in the month(s) leading to the promotion to cover the missing bits in your game so that when he says “you are ready for X belt”, you are. There could also be some one on one coaching. Then there might be the belt test itself and organizing the promotion ceremony, possibly in addition to the normal school schedule.

    Depending on what the belt promotion really entails for that specific professor, he might have been spending more than just a bit of time working especially on your blue belt.

    Looking at your case, you are being promoted after 18 months of mat time, which is not unduly fast. You “train regularly, work hard, lose weight, increase your cardio, become stronger, get submitted countless times, learn to defend yourself, and on occasion you are able to submit and control some of the higher ranked students”.

    Sounds like a legit blue belt to me. If you don’t trust your professor’s judgement or don’t feel that you are really learning at that school, it’s a different issue, but in all cases, I think you should talk to your professor and tell him what’s on your mind – respectfully.

    My personal preference is for free belt promotions, but I can understand that different schools have different pricing systems and the pricing system doesn’t make them good or bad.

    This year, I received my judo black belt from the Kodokan. Got my competition points and passed the kata examination. Several Senseis had a meeting and decided I had done enough to earn my Shodan and they told me so.

    Then I was asked to pay about $60 for my first dan certificate, because that’s part of how they finance their organization. A second dan is more and high dan grade can be quite expensive, or so I am told. That’s the Kodokan, the same school that taught Judo to Maeda Mitsuyo and gave him his belts. The same Maeda who then taught Judo to Carlos Gracie and Luis Franca. As you can see, paying for belt is not a new practice and your instructor is following a tradition older than BJJ itself.

    I don’t know your professor, and I think $250 is a bit steep, especially if you didn’t know it was coming, but talk to him, and at worst, you can always refuse and change academy if you no longer trust your professor.

    • Dude you have no idea. the fact you talk about you first dan cert says McDojo.
      We are BJJ, he are rea, we get belts from real 100% sparing not katas .
      Go roll with a 6 month bjj white belt and be humbled you kata certs mean nothing but wasted money.
      Your not qualified to talk about bjj.

      • Mr. Hitchens, I address no other points but the issue of katas in Judo. The Katas in Judo are meant to preserve historical principles, and kata practice in Judo is required by almost every Judo organization in the world. However, most Judo players regard the kata a bit like many people regard broccoli. They will eat it when it is put on their plate and told they must eat it, but they otherwise might end up avoiding consuming kata in preference to the other parts of Judo (particularly randori, uchi komi, and nage komi practice). In BJJ there are an infinite number of flow drills, and set up chains (your opponent resists the choke, you armlock, he resists the armlock this way, you sweep). Each one of those flow drills is by definition a kata. A kata is just a predetermined sequence of movements used as an educational device to help teach principles, strategy, or tactics. In Judo, kata is usually meant to imply the formal Kata of the Kodokan (and the kata developed by key figures like Mifune that for some reason were not added to the official Kodokan syllabus). But, any series of movements in a sequence used for teaching is technically a kata. We use them in BJJ, too. We are just usually very informal about it, and knowingly consider that the variations are infinite.

  10. ICON only charges a set fee. Not by belt. It’s not $250. They charge for a belt, certificate, and a fee that goes to the main school to pay for visiting professors and managing the overall business.

  11. Belt: $6.00
    Certificate:$0.50
    Frame:$15.00
    Fee:$228.50, or $278.50, or $478.50?

    Don’t get me wrong, i did pay $100.00 for a blue belt and i know for a fact that the Black Belt that graduated the same day as I did paid $200.
    But $250 to $500? $500 for a Brown Belt? Does that include a Leandro Lo DVD at least????

  12. Belt fees or not hopefully people get to the point of just training. If someone else gets promoted before you or not, congratulate them. If you could not afford or want to pay for a belt fee, take it upon yourself to let your instructor know and thank him/her for even considering you for a promotion. I did used to get caught up in emotions like that during my first few months of training, but I decided to let that go and just enjoy the journey. It is something to think about for those interested in opening an Academy or who have one already though.

  13. Bloody hell i feel sick and angry that this question is being asked.

    Belt promotion is zero £$ apart from your coach buy you a new belt!!

    Change schools as even if they are teaching you good bjj they are failing you on bjj and life ethics.

    ANY SCHOOL THAT CHARGES FOR A SKILL PROMOTION IS NOT A BJJ SCHOOL ITS A BUSINESS.
    MOVE MOVE MOVE.

  14. MY NON-TECHNICAL FINANCIAL ANALYSIS OF BELT FEES
    You need to consider the overall cost to truly gain perspective on belt promotion fees. Academy A charges $250/month, Academy B charges $150/month and Academy C charges $100/month. If you spend 10 years training to earn a black belt, then the amount of tuition you can expect to pay over ten years is as follows:

    Academy A – $28,200 ($235/month) A Reddit user was quoted $235/month for unlimited training based on a 6-month contract. This is probably the high-end of the market in Socal (where I live).
    Academy B – $18,000 ($150/mon typical for my area)
    Academy C – $12,000 ($100/mon low for my area)

    Every market will have its own high, mid and low markers for tuition but this is based on what we see here in SoCal. Also keep in mind that there may be registration fees, uniforms costs, etc that could influence the tuition. What’s included with the tuition? Gi, no gi, Muay Thai, MMA, fitness classes, gym equipment, circuit training, nutritionist, laundry service, showers, fitness trainers, etc. There are many many variables.

    The highest belt fees I have heard of are through the Royce Gracie Network and I haven’t received confirmation that this is correct from anyone in that network but I have read them posted in forums. They were as follows:

    Blue $200
    Purple $400
    Brown $800
    Black $1600

    If you find yourself in this group of practitioners and you are paying moderate to high monthly tuition, then you should ask yourself what are the compensating factors. For some people that aren’t on a tight budget the convenience, brand and training partners are enough compensating factors. Others may need many more compensating factors and some may not ever have enough compensating factors to justify high tuition and belt promotion fees.

    The total amount of belt fees on the high end would be $3000. I suspect that the fees are much lower at most academies that charge for belt promotions. According to Bjjsurveys.com, 79% of their 727 respondents (mostly North American males) indicated that they did not pay any belt promotion fees. Of the 21% that did pay fees, 83.2% paid $100 or less (most of these people paid less than $51). 17.7% paid over $100 and it is likely that these included seminar fees and federation registration fees.

    According to the survey, most academies that charge belt fees will charge $400 for all the belt fees through black belt. You have to ask yourself, “Does $400 over a 10 year period make a big difference when I am already paying $12,000-$28,200?” For most people that are going to pay $400 or less in belt fee promotions that would only come out to less than $3.33 when spread over the 10 year period. I don’t know about you but that seems negligible in comparison to monthly tuition. I would even say if you are paying $800 in belt fees over a 10 year period, its negligible.

    My belt promotion fees were $135 for blue belt, $180 for purple belt and $180 for brown belt and will be $200 for black belt. Monthly fees at the academy are $150 per month for unlimited training. So my belt fees add about $5.79 per month which isn’t a deal breaker for my budget. Paying $235/month plus $25 in belt fees ($3,000 high end) would really suck for me but I would still pay it, if I didn’t have other options.

    Of course, most schools that don’t charge have already baked belt promotion fees into the monthly tuition… TNSTAAFL. Maybe they just added an extra $5/month which over a 10 year period comes to $600. But wait… what happens if you quit before you get your blue belt. You already paid for at least part of that promotion fee because it was baked into your tuition. Sit on that one for a minute. maybe it’s better to pay the belt promotion fee? Haha! I don’t mean to ruffle your feathers – we are all in the same boat! Some academies separate the fees and some don’t. All of them have to make $X amount in order to survive so they may sell t-shirts or gis or private lessons or promote inhouse tournament or seminars with various profit margins to compensate for a lower tuition or no belt fees to help get them to that number. In one way or another they will need to collect enough to survive and make it worthwhile to continue. I applaud this… it’s capitalism. Let them make money so that they can continue to teach us. If you don’t like their way of charging you for their services, don’t sign up. We shouldn’t expect them to live in poverty so that we can learn from them. We don’t expect that from anyone else that helps us.

    ON ANOTHER NOTE….
    The PRINCIPLE of people paying belt fees seems to trip up some folks because they think they are buying a belt. It tripped me up the first time and then I began to consider why I was paying for belt fees. My blue belt promotion included a 1/2 day testing period (outside of regular class times) where we demonstrated technical knowledge, cage fighting skills against Muay Thai guys, teaching techniques and fitness evaluations. There were two black belts present and they closely examined everyone. All together my test took about 1.5 hours. I was shocked about the fee at first but I realized that the black belts and the Muay Thai guys deserved compensation for their time. These guys aren’t rich and this is how they are trying to make a living. I was only paying $85/month at that academy so in retrospect it was fine to pay the fee. Nobody was buying their belt – we were beat up afterwards! We spent 2+ years training hard for it. My purple belt came from a different academy than where I earned my blue belt but the testing process was similar (more difficult) and under the close eye of a handful of black belts and a coral belt. It was difficult to achieve the standards and the tests took 3 hours. a considerable time investment from each black belt and the Coral belt. My brown belt was earned from another academy (all of the instructors that promoted me are related – not gym hopping) and because I was already teaching for years, competing and had recently begun running an academy, they waived the testing process. I was somewhat relieved but then I felt unsatisfied and decided asked to take the test. I will tell you, it feels much better to receive a belt after testing. I would have been nice to not have any belt fees along the way but It’s not like those that promoted me are loaded with cash. The belt fees often times get shared by the instructors (none for me) because the life of a BJJ instructor/professor/master is not usually a financially rewarding path.

    RANT
    The self indignation that sometimes comes through some posts concerns me. On one hand, some of us practitioners have been fleeced but scoundrels masked as good instructors. I can understand their contempt based on what they have gone through. What irritates me is that some feel like it is owed to them to get the belt because they can kick everyone’s *** in their school and maybe even tournament performance is good. These people do not deserve the promotion – could you imagine the size of their ego if they were black belts??? I sometimes see that these people are also the people that complain about promotion fees and that just rubs me the wrong way. If I was in a position to consider their promotion, I probably would tell them their attitude keeps them from getting promoted. It seems so obvious to everyone but them. I get that some people struggle to just pay the monthly tuition and that does suck when you are slapped with a belt fee. It’s especially important for these people to keep perspective of the fees. Some instructors will allow students to pay the fee as a part of their monthly fee until it is paid off.

    My 2 cents…. 99 cents actually.

  15. Im glad the person writing this article felt the urge to explain how their college education allowed them to underatand in a far round avout way they were being screwed lol. I mean it doesnt take a degree to realize paying for a belt promotion (other than the cost of the belt) is fubar.

  16. $250 for a blue belt is head scratching. But I see NO REASON why people are so upset about paying a NOMINAL and MODEST fee for a belt promotion to cover the cost of the belt, overhead for running the facility, cost of certificates, and perhaps a few other awards/gifts for special accomplishments. If you have to pay $50-$75 once every 18 – 36 months for a belt promotion, then you are really not being taken advantage of. And NOBODY is getting rich charging $50-$75 to cover the cost of your promotion. Trust me.

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