Why is Martial Arts So Expensive?

Many people new to martial arts training are shocked by how expensive it is to train in the arts. The cost of instruction and supplies can put a serious dent in the pocket book. Surely, one has asked the question why it cost so much to train in martial arts. Here I hope to at least answer that question somewhat, to give an understanding as to why training is so costly and why it might be worth it, to help in your decision to take the arts seriously and proceed (or not) with your training.

Specialized Field of Study and Art Form

It’s important to understand that, generally, all very specialized fields of study and art forms are expensive in terms of instruction and supplies. Unless you are taking courses through some publicly subsidized school, you are probably going to pay through the nose for your training. This is also why even art students at college still end up paying out of their own pockets for paints, pencils, canvases, etc. that tally up the costs significantly. If you are passionate and have the money, you go ahead and pay for these things. If not, you move on. Some of the most reputable and skilled martial artists have charged heavy fees to teach students; Bruce Lee comes to mind. Then again, he had some of the richest students, people like James Coburn and Kareem Abdul Jabar.

Point is, if the art form is rare, the people who are dedicated are rare, then the expenses are going to be high.

bruce lee and yip man

Instructors Have to Make a Living

Teachers have to pay for the overhead of the building they use and still have to be able to pay the mortgage or rent on their own home, and all their other bills. To make matters worse, they are dealing with a field of study that has very few dedicated long-term students. He or she will typically have a few hardcore animals that train and then have a lot of people coming and going if he or she is lucky. Then you have the ones that make a huge amount of cash from over eager parents who are dying to see their 9-year-olds wearing black belts. Those are the McDojos. They make a lot more than your average instructor, but, then again, their instruction is low-quality, so you’ll want o avoid them if you’re serious.

Services Rendered

To be honest, you can’t get services like those given by serious martial artists. They are counselors, teachers, friends, fathers or mothers,  and brothers or sisters, often all rolled into one, plus they are giving you skills that could save your life. They are giving you life-changing lessons that stay with you, keep you aware and educate you on multiple levels. You learn to be watchful, get physically fit, make the best of friends and family, learn about life, get solid advice and have a life-long social network. You are doing more than just sweating and bleeding for your art. You are establishing a good life for yourself.

judo sparring


I’m afraid that if you really want to do something, you will find a way. If you love doing a thing, you will make it happen. Painters, writers, and other artists sacrifice time and energy where they don’t seem to have it, just to learn and perfect and perform their arts. Such things are true of all arts, and they can be expensive, in terms of time, money and energy.


If you really can’t spend a lot of money on training, there are some alternatives. Community centers often offer less expensive classes in martial arts; when I started training back in 1981, this was how I got my start, at a community center that offered classes for 5 or 10 dollars a month, which was pretty cheap even back then, for martial arts classes. Of course, the training might be somewhat limited since such facilities have liability issues. Also, some schools are run like non-profits and offer inexpensive lessons. The Dan Zan Ryu Kodenkan is an example of this and I trained at one of their dojos for a time. The style is excellent and so is the training.

Possibly you have friends who have training in the arts too, and you can hook up with them and learn some decent skills.


UFC champion Anderson Silva grew up poor in Brazil. As a kid, he didn’t have enough money for lessons, so he learned Jiu Jitsu from the neighborhood kids who could afford lessons. As he got older he was able to train in Muay Thai and Capoeira. He went on to be a spectacular fighter and UFC champion. He knew what he wanted evidently and figured out a way to make it happen.

Featured image: By Leelavathy B.M (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

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