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How Much For Shodan?

Shodan is a right of passage in many Karate dojo. Along with the belt and certificate (and recognition), there might also come a bill. How much should a Shodan cost?

My answer might surprise you. A Shodan should cost whatever the Sensei and student agree. As long as they agree, any price is OK. Some Sensei might charge several hundred dollars (or more) and others might charge nothing at all. The value of the Shodan is not based on its cost in dollars.

Can you imagine a student who says that he really wants to learn Karate. So the instructor says, "In that case, your Shodan will cost more!"

The value of the Shodan (belt) is not based on its cost in dollars -- it is based on the sweat and hard work that the student puts in to earn that rank! In fact, the cost in terms of effort is always much greater than the cost in terms of dollars.

But I want to repeat, as long as the Sensei and student agree on a price, it is OK. Problems result when expectations are not clear and fairly applied.

If a student complains to me about how much a belt costs, I would say, "Then why did you pay it?" The student was not forced. I assume that he knew about the cost when he was training. If the student agrees, fine. If not, then perhaps he should train somewhere else.

For me, costs are a necessary evil in Karate. Sensei have to pay expenses. Many fine Sensei I know make no money at all teaching Karate. In fact, many spend their own money to pay for the dojo expenses.

Charging for rank is common and I have no problem with it. In my own dojo, I do not do so, but we are strictly non-profit and I do not teach for a living. I make a living as an attorney and teach and practice Karate for enjoyment. So I don't need to charge for promotions in order to defray dojo expenses. I am very fortunate in this regard.

But if I did have to charge, I would make a schedule and distribute it to the students. That way they would know and there would be no surprises.

Some people think that I am very traditional because I do not charge for any ranks. But then my good friend does not give any ranks at all. I am so modern compared to him!


Charles C. Goodin