I'm really enjoying karate. It is great exercise, it is nice to be a part of a group, although it would be nice to have more members and perhaps some other adults. But the fees involved are increasingly making me think this is all just a money making scam. We are getting a legitimate service and I don't mind paying the monthly "thank you" money. And I can understand having a small fee for Gasshuku and even for a belt test if it involves renting facilities and calling in other instructors to be judges. I can accept that. However, I saw the fees for testing for black belt and 2nd degree black belt and up. It was outrageous! The fee to take the test for 3rd degree (3-dan) is 15,000 yen. That's just to take the test. If you pass the test, you have to pay an additional fee of 28,000 yen, if I remember correctly, to get your new belt and registration. I can't imagine any justification for this at all. As you go up to higher levels the fee only increases. I saw one fee, for receiving your rank, not for the test, that was over 70,000 yen!
I do want to earn a black belt, but I don't want to be fleeced doing it. It made me long for the days when I was a wrestler. You just practiced and learned new skills and gradually improved your wrestling. The only achievement "tests" were the actual tournaments. If you won enough matches, you got a medal and the recognition that goes with beating the other people in your weight group. I don't think I'll be taking another test this year. I am perfectly happy to take it slow. Besides, I need time to improve and build my strength and flexibility.
My current thinking for the kids too, is to not have them test at every opportunity. If they are practicing and improving then one test a year is enough. If they are working hard and getting better, there is a good chance they will be allowed to skip levels. This will save us money. I have heard of one kid in Muto-sensei's dojo in the city on the bay, who went straight to black belt. That's a wise student. I'm guessing he practiced for a few years or maybe for several years before he ever took a belt test. If you can do all of the skills required at the level required, then why not? I have heard of some instructors in the States who won't allow you to skip levels. This is almost certainly because they want to protect their money making ladder. If the students are paying a monthly fee anyway, and if they have the skills, then not allowing them try to skip levels is a sure sign that you need to find a new dojo.