How Much Do Martial Arts Really Cost?

Before I started training in the Martial Arts I had so many questions.

“Will I like it…will I be good at it…is it fun…do I want to do it?”

But for some reason the first time I typed a search into Google, that’s not what I typed.

Instead I wrote, “How much does Jiu-Jitsu cost in Brooklyn?

See, most of the questions I had swirling in my brain were abstract and subjective.  What I needed was something concrete to focus on.

So I, like so many others, chose price.

I thought I needed to know that School A costs $100 per month while School B was $400.  It was tangible, digestible, and real- not abstract. But the other side of that notion is that it was completely arbitrary.

It turns out that all of the complex personal questions – liking it, is it fun, etc. –  have since been answered simply and clearly.

(And  – important to note – the internet didn’t answer those questions for me.)

Now nearly a decade removed from that original search, the idea of “how much do martial arts really cost” hasn’t gotten clearer…it’s actually gotten murkier.

What’s the big difference? Well, I’ve learned through this process of training that there’s a distinct difference between value and price.

What I was asking Google for was the price of training. What Google could never tell me was the value of the training…to me. 

Looking back, I couldn’t begin to tell you how much money I’ve actually spent on my training through the years when it comes to tuition, gas, parking (and the occasional ticket), train, books, uniforms, seminars, time, etc.

But I can tell you about the value of the training to my life: nothing short of priceless.

Simply stated, I can’t place a dollar amount on the confidence that I’ve built, and how that’s helped me thrive as a teacher, mentor, and family man.

And then I’d have a hard time calculating how much its worth to me to be in peak physical condition – with the discipline to eat well, and feel and look good.  I have plenty of energy to play with my kids, or train all day, or go for a run, or all of the above!

I don’t know how to figure out the “price” of the peace of mind that training has taught me to maintain.  I’m so much calmer, more thoughtful, and more generous than I was before I started.

And none of that takes into account that I am now focused on improving my life in every way I can. Like, I don’t talk myself out of success anymore.  I don’t aim low.  I don’t sell myself short. Essentially, my experience at Brooklyn Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu has been the cornerstone of years of ‘me getting better at being me.’)

I couldn’t guess the ripple effect that training would have on my friends and family. I mean, people around me are inspired to be healthier.  My kids are learning habits of health, fitness, and cooperation rather than junk food, laziness, and competition.

So when I look back to my original question, I think I asked it because I didn’t know what else to ask.

What I should have been seeking, what a simple dollar amount couldn’t tell me, was what the value would be to my life. I mean, how could Google encapsulate all that I’ve experienced since then…and then tell me what I should pay for it?

Because from where I stand, it’s no longer the difference between $100 and $400 or something in between. The “cost” is only a tiny piece of the puzzle. What I’ve gained through the martial arts has no price, because it can’t be bought – it’s the difference between having the life you want or not.


Professor Jason Lynch is a Black Belt in Jiu-Jitsu and the Head Instructor at BBJJ Clinton Hill.

Training Over 40? 3 Big Reminders For You

A friend of mine, who I haven’t seen in years, contacted me on Facebook. He asked me a question I’ve answered dozens of times as an instructor:

“I’m 40…can I really start training at my age?”

My unqualified response is – of course – yes. It’s never too late.

But there are a few important caveats for anybody who’s beginning (and these aren’t bad reminders for those of us who have been practicing for a while either…)

First, know that starting is usually the easy part. Staying takes work. In fact, it may take your 40 years of living to be able to do it. Now that doesn’t only mean that it’ll be physically demanding all the time, because you’ll have peaks and valleys. But managing the discipline, focus, new choices and thought models always asks something of us.

Next, it’s true that choosing your school can be the most important decision you make. This is true no matter how old or young you are. When it comes to the longevity of your training its important for you to look at the long arc, and the values of your school play a big role here. For someone who’s over 40, a “sport” approach to martial arts that favors athleticism, flexibility or speed might not be the best fit.

By the way, don’t envision yourself as a 40-year-old doing Martial Arts.  Instead, try to picture yourself as a 50-year-old doing it. And then as a 60-year-old. Why? Well, this thinking can help you prepare yourself mentally for a marathon rather than a sprint. Lots of the benefits of martial arts training accrue over the years; even if all you want is some self-defense basics, you might find that a few good things done repeatedly over time become great.

And don’t think of yourself like this:

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When this is more like what you’re going for:

 teimoc

Now, whether you’re 40 years old or not, if you’re considering martial arts – Jiu-Jitsu or Kickboxing or anything else – there are a few other things that really are worth mentioning:

1. Find a place that isn’t solely committed to training fighters. In fact, if you’ve been reading this blog, you know that we recommend you find a school that isn’t at all into fighting or competition.

2. Watch a class. Pay attention to the pace and the faces of the students. Are they being aggressive and competitive or are they being playful and having a good time? If someone accidentally gets bumped or bruised (it happens from time to time), does his or her partner care? This will give you an indication of the temperament of the school.

3. Meet the instructor. Make sure they’re someone that has time for you. Ask them if they think you’re too old or too out of shape or too whatever. If they do, move on. Someone else will be willing to give you the attention that you deserve.

(And remember that not all black belts are great teachers, and not all great teachers wear a black belt. So you don’t need to obsess about what degree black belt or where it’s from, etc. First find out if they care about safety and about people.)

4. Some practitioners train like they have something to prove, rather than something to improve. Don’t do this. If you’re a younger person, you shouldn’t need to be one-upping your classmates. If you’re an older person, make sure you’re not pulling an “Al Bundy”, trying to relive the glory days of when you were a star athlete in high school.

5. Start slow and pace yourself. You’re excited to learn. And to know more. And to “get good.” But just relax and settle into a rhythm of 2-3 classes a week and you’ll get there faster.

6.  Keep in mind, if you are over 40, that there will be a lot of students younger than you…and who will be your “senior” when you’re on the mat together. Give them that respect. Listen to their coaching and their guidance. Chances are, if their instructor has coached them well, they’re probably right.

Fair enough?

If you’ve found the right place for you, you’ll have people you can trust. You’ll be able to assimilate with the culture of the school and you’ll do just fine.

Don’t forget that its important to enjoy your training above all. Not in a short-term, instant-gratification way, but in a deeper, more mature way.

I think you’ll agree with me when I say that it can be incredibly profound and rewarding. It can teach us lessons about life and our relationship with others that are hard to get anywhere else. It can help you get into and stay in the best physical shape of your life.

Earlier I mentioned that starting might seem challenging. So just get it over with. The next, and most important, step is delving deeper into the practice, learning more about yourself and getting fitter as you go.

What is a “Good” Student Anyway?

gene-dunn-dojo-good-student-brazilian-jiu-jitsuI’ve always loved being a student.

I like learning new things, so being a good student came naturally for me. Plus having a teacher for a mom helped. I got to see all the work she put into her lesson plans; I got to see first hand how much her students meant to her.

(In fact, when I was little sometimes I would get jealous of how much time she’d spend focused on her students. She always talked about what a great job teaching was, and how it might make sense as a career for me one day. Always the good student, I’d have my answer ready: “Not interested but thanks anyway, Mom.”

At the time I thought she meant it was a good option because of the schedule and the pay and the benefits. But it took me a while to understand that she had experienced something very profound – that changing the lives of others changes yours, too. More about that in a moment.)

So I had a good model early on. And since I had always thought of myself as a good student, once I began in the martial arts, I naturally continued to think of myself that way.

When the instructor would demonstrate a technique, I made it my job to focus on the steps, listening and applying what was said.

Giving it all in class, I was perpetually pushing my body to do more – more pushups, more sit-ups, more of whatever exercise we were doing at the moment – because my teacher told me to push myself.

I mean, I had to live up to being a good student, right? That’s what I thought being a student meant, do what you are told, learn what is being taught, follow the directions.

You give your teachers your time and focus and in return they give you knowledge and skills.

So I always thought of it as an exchange. If I held up my end of the deal, they had to hold up theirs.

Put differently…that my teachers owe me something if I do what they say.

But as I progressed in the martial arts here, I realized that I wasn’t being taught in that way. It wasn’t just an exchange of attention for information.

There was something else going on. Something behind the information…

…something in the philosophy.

The funny thing about being a student is you can hear the same message over and over again, but once you change something inside yourself the message seems to change, too.

You can take away a new lesson:

  • That being a good student doesn’t mean blindly following the lessons, but being open to change.
  • That the teacher’s job isn’t to give you skill or knowledge or anything else; in fact, it’s your job to be open and take what they share and apply it.
  • That our teachers don’t owe us anything, but what we owe them is being open to growth, to change.
  • That we need to be open to what they’re sharing so we can focus on creating something new.
  • That when we pass what we’ve learned along to the next group of students who come along, we’re doing for them what our teachers have done for us. 

I’ve come to believe that a truly great teacher wants to help their student surpass them. They want to help the progression of change and knowledge. So to be a good student we need to let go of feeling like we’re owed something and focus on what we can give.

And not only that, but looking internally on what we can give up so we can hear a different message, so we can create a deeper understanding of the lesson.

The practice of helping others out rather than expecting something from them, makes a great difference.  It also might be at the root of my mother’s enjoyment of teaching and what she hoped that I would understand.

And above all I have come to believe that this synthesis of doing and understanding, of working hard and staying open, is truly what it means to be a good student.


Ms. Nova Parrish is a California native who has been in Brooklyn since 2010. She started at Brooklyn Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu as a student and has been a dedicated staff member since 2012. She is a purple belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and brown belt in both Shotokan Karate and Muay Thai Kickboxing. She feels grateful for being able to share all the martial arts has given her with others.