Don’t do business with Jack Butturini of Martial Arts America or any other karate studio/instructor that requires you to sign a 3 year contract. Think about the length of time you are asking your child to commit to a specific interest! My 12 year old has spent nearly ¼ of his life practicing karate two and three times a week. Interests wane for children. A responsible parent should encourage the child to explore different interests, and yes, a responsible parent should encourage commitment but within reason.
My son started taking karate in the summer of 2005 (earliest post). He is burned out and hasn’t gone to a single lesson for the past 3 months. He achieved his black belt and is done. He lost his motivation before the black belt testing but showed great resolve in completing the task he had begun and I found that both honorable and mature.
Today I asked Jack Butturini to absolve me of the remaining time on our contract as I find spending $175 a month to receive no services in return a little ludicrous. His studio has moved 3 times since we started with Martial Arts America (formerly Jack Butturini Karate) each time becoming further away and more inconvenient and he is now preparing for a move to his fifth building. One of the moves was damage control to remove his name from the studio after a party at the Butturini household was busted with minors allegedly being provided alcohol by the adults (see also and commentary at Dr. Helen). While others badmouthed him, I stood up for his character and the philosophies the school taught. People were unquestionably released from contracts but we stuck with him. Today, as he laid his inability to release me from a contract on the shoulders of the owner of a billing company (SEP) which will have me dishing out another $1925 for no services rendered, I decided I could no longer give the same character reference. As such, I officially retract any supportive commentary I have given Jack Butturini and Martial Arts America.
I also admonish the karate industry itself as a thieving, conniving, bunch of unscrupulous bloodsuckers who under the guise of "character development" seek to empty your wallets in contracts and testing fees. I make that statement after talking to parents of students in a variety of karate studios around town all of which ultimately seem more interested in selling uniforms, testing fees, and locking you into a monthly fee and contract comparable to leasing a car than they are in your child’s development as a martial artist.
I think karate and the other martial arts are wonderful for children. I think it develops discipline, agility, grace, balance, and muscles. I do not think parents should be baited into a long term serious economic commitment by stringing a child along for 30, 60 or 90 days then dashing their hopes "unless mommy and daddy sign this piece of paper." If you cannot find a studio with shorter commitments such as quarterly or monthly, then give up on karate and do something longer lasting such as Boy Scouts. Now if you excuse me, I have to go close a bank account and prepare to be sued. [Update: Readers request clarification of this statement. That was snarky. Although I considered it for one angry moment, I would not close that account.]
Update: Stormare Mackee recommends Wheeler’s Karate in Powell off of exit 112 who has 6 month contracts at roughly $80 per month.
Update: To be more clear on the figures, Noah has not attended a class for 3 months, 3 x $175 = $525, so the total I will end up paying out is $2450 to not attend his school and this is why you should never attend a single day at any studio which requires a long term contract. If you get rooked into a trial period, the child will be hurt; see paula’s comment: "…The kid was devastated…"
Update: Be sure to read Toni McSorley’s comment! Sounds like a school doing the right thing!
Update: I received an email asking if my statement that "I have to go close a bank account and prepare to be sued" meant I don’t plan on honoring my contract with Jack Butturini. To clarify, that was a snarky comment made in jest. I admit I considered it but doing so would be against my nature. I asked the billing company to move the bill date from the 20th to the 5th of the month.
They increased my bill from $175 to $190(They adjusted it back down to $175), that account is open, and as long as the IRS has not seized it, they’ll get their hard earned money. There is a medical clause which applies to my son that allows exiting of the contract but based on Jack Butturini’s comments I really don’t expect him to be open to that. My motive of this post? Simply to warn other parents to be cautious of placing their young children into such lengthy contracts. Think about the last time you joined a gym and later found yourself paying monthly fees and not going. This is the same thing.