Taekwondo is one of the most popular and studied martial arts in the world for both children and adults. One of the appeals is the shorter time frame to black belt and the more condensed set of techniques to learn. Even with the shorter time to learn the system the costs can add up quickly. So, what is the costs associated with getting all the way to a black belt in Taekwondo?
The average total cost to get a black belt in Taekwondo in the United States is $9,675 . This includes all tuition costs, testing fees, gear, and association dues. This is the total cost for training for 3 years, which is the average length of time is takes to earn a Taekwondo black belt.
What do all of these cost look like and how could it be so expensive? The answer to that is what I plan to go through next for you. I will break down all of the costs and explain the legitimate reasons for it along with a few things to look out for. This site is meant as a resource for parents, but anyone looking into TKD will benefit from this guide.
Table of Contents
Here’s How Much It Cost’s To Get A Taekwondo Black Belt
To break down the monetary investment necessary to reach the first major goal of Taekwondo (earning a 1st dan black belt) there are several factors that need to be taken into consideration. As well, Taekwondo is not nearly as unified and standardized as some may think.
There is also the fact that some styles of Tang Soo Do and Hapkido use the name of Taekwondo for for their systems for the recognizability in the general public. Some may not be aware of the issue, but this changes costs since these systems take longer to reach black belt levels.
This same thing can happen with smaller organizations or offshoot associations.
First I will start with the total number breakdown so that you can get the whole picture. Then I will go more in depth into many of the categories to take away some of the mystery so that informed decisions can be made.
Total Cost Breakdown To Get A Black Belt In Taekwondo
|Costs||Low End||Upper End||Average|
The lower end numbers will contribute to the cost of earning a Taekwondo black belt in smaller markets in usually in less populated areas. These will have lower overheads themselves and most of their student populations will have less income to devote to Taekwondo training.
Of course this means that the upper end numbers will be for the larger markets, usually located in the suburbs of larger metropolitan areas. There is always variance, but in general this will be the case.
For a detailed look at why these prices may seem so high, I have written an in depth look at the expenses a martial arts instructor and school must contend with. Read all about it in my article Why Do Martial Arts Cost So Much?
How Much Does Taekwondo Cost? Tuition Explained
There are several factors that go into how much tuition you will be paying each month for you or your child to train in Taekwondo. Factors include style, association, the caliber of the facilities, and the location.
Of these categories, location is the number one determining factor for most tuition rates. The exact same instruction and quality of facilities in two different cities or towns can make a huge difference.
The average price of tuition, the most expensive cost by far, of Taekwondo in the United States is $5400 over a three year period. A period of three years is needed on average to attain a 1st dan black belt. This cost includes twice per week attendance in most schools.
The retail rental rates for dojang space is dependent on the income of the area and housing prices. The higher these two are the more the rental spaces will be for TKD instructors. This means higher tuition for students.
There are exceptions, but in general the market size directly corresponds to the population levels as well. Larger cities usually have segments of the population that have more disposable income, the housing prices are higher, retail spaces are pricier, and thus Taekwondo tuition rates go up.
Cost Breakdown For Tuition Rates For Training in Taekwondo
Since the cost of tuition for Taekwondo schools is dependent on the area, let’s look at each size of an area to get an idea of what your costs would be. Tuition remember has a lot to do with the average income, housing prices, and retail rental costs in a given location.
There are three sizes we will look at in terms of population:
Taekwondo Tuition Costs In Smaller Cities
Tuition in these less populated areas where the population is less than 100,000 in the town and surrounding area will be the least expensive. Prices will range from $50 per month in a local community center to around $100 per month in a retail building.
Taekwondo Tuition Costs In Medium Sized Cities
In cities where populations range from 100,000 to 500,000 the tuitions jump quite a bit. They can also range depending on location in the city and the income levels. Generally speaking you will be looking at a tuition rate of $100 per month to $200 per month.
Taekwondo Tuition Costs In Larger Cities
Here keep in mind we are not talking about in all parts of these major cities. Most lower income to low-mid income areas will have tuitions in the medium sized city range. Here we are talking about suburbs and city areas where incomes are higher and real estate is at a premium. The tuition in these areas can average around $250 per student per month or more.
Taekwondo Association Membership Fees
Some may be unclear the difference between an association and an organization in the martial arts.
- An association (sometimes called a federation) is a business that collects and stores data about students and allows schools the rights to use their name on certificates and advertisements. They also host and sanction tournaments, which can be a big business in itself. Examples: WT, ITF, ATA, USTKD, etc.
- An organization can refer to both, but usually points to actual franchises, business partnerships between schools, or a chain of schools owned by a single owner. Some smaller organizations may have their own association built into their chain of schools, but usually they are separate and serve different functions. Example: Premiere Martial Arts
Some associations have their own line of franchised schools and combine the two terms. Some franchise organizations adhere to a specific association and some break off and form their own version.
What Are Taekwondo Association Membership Fees?
Membership fees as they are many times called are costs that you may or may not encounter with your local Taekwondo school. They are normally paid yearly and reasonably priced, but some would argue that they serve little purpose.
Association or federation fees are extra fees that are usually charged yearly in order for schools and sometimes individual students to be members of national or international data collecting organizations. Depending on the group, these fees range from $25 to $75 per year per student.
Sometimes these associations are the body that ‘certifies’ belt rankings, but more on that later.
Let me note here that there is nothing wrong with instructors making money. That is not the point in disclosing this type of information.
Letting parents and students know the cost they and instructors incur is the best way to thwart some unscrupulous schools and organizations from taking advantage.
Believe me, I have heard and seen some horrible fleecing going on especially when parents aren’t informed. They are wanting the best for their kids and without proper information, some dishonest instructors take advantage of that desire and tack on some outrageous fees.
World Taekwondo (WT) Association Membership Fees
World Taekwondo (WT formerly known as WTF) charges very reasonable annual fees for member schools or individuals for membership and competition eligibility as well as their brand of certification for dan ranks and now even color belt ranks. Students are most likely enrolled through their school, but it is possible to register as an individual.
What Is The Difference Between WT and Kukkiwon?
Here is a Quick Reference guide to the difference:
- WT stands for World Taekwondo (formerly WTF or World Taekwondo Federation).
- Kukkiwon is the headquarters of the WT located in Seoul, South Korea.
- The South Korean Government established The World Taekwondo Governing body located at the Kukkiwon headquarters.
WT Membership Fee Structure
Fees charged to students for membership in WT vary from from one school owner to the next if they choose to pass on the cost to students. There is a set amount that WT charges per student and by regulation, instructors are not allowed to charge over the price cap.
|WT Membership Type||Term||WT Direct Charge Per Student||Extra WT Allows Instructors To Add|
|Child Student (12 and under)||1 year||Free||Undisclosed|
|Teen And Adult Student||1 year||$3||$7|
|WT Tournament Athlete||1 year||$30||$15|
With the WT in partnership with the Olympic committee and being a popular kicking emphasizing brand of sport Taekwondo, it has become the leader for its art around the world.
International Taekwondo Federation (ITF) Association Membership Fees
Due to internal strife and division from its original founder General Choi Hung Hi, there are two organizations that claim the same name. One is centered now in North Korea after General Choi’s death in 2002. The other has regional headquarters around the world.
Both organizations allow for either group or individual membership and the cost is around $30 per year per student. This can vary depending on the economic status of the region in which the student lives.
American Taekwondo Association (ATA) Membership Fees
The ATA charges an annual fee for students to be a member of the association. This fee is different in different schools since pricing structures in each ATA school is set by the owner.
Yearly membership fees range from the base $25 to some instructors charging $50 per year per student.
Independent Taekwondo Associations Membership Fees
Schools that are a part of smaller associations and federations on regional, national, and international scales all have similar pricing structures for Taekwondo student membership fees. These fees range from $25 per year to $75 per year on average per student.
Taekwondo Belt Testing Fees
Belt testing fees are broken down into two different categories for Taekwondo and for most styles for that matter.
The two delineations are:
- Color belt ranks – These are considered beginner or student ranks. There are a several colors and many systems, schools, and instructors will use different progressions.
- Black belt ranks – These are the dan ranks and instructor levels come at this level.
Fees are varied from school to school and association to association, but color belts and black belt testing fees are usually very different.
I break down all the belt rankings and colors along with their associations in my article on Taekwondo Belt Ranking Order.
I also have many other articles on Taekwondo the you may like:
- Karate vs Taekwondo: Is One Better?
- How Many Years Does It Take To Learn Taekwondo?
- 5 Invaluable Lessons Taekwondo Can Teach Your Kids
Taekwondo Color Belts Testing Fees
Here I will let you in on a little secret.
The only real certification of any rank in Taekwondo in most every association large or small is the dan ranks.
The color belt ranks are even designated by many Karate instructors openly as variations of white belt. I have not heard as many Taekwondo instructors openly use this terminology, but in practice they all know it to be the same situation.
Many associations simply don’t record color belt ranks on an international or even national level. The exception here is the WT which is trying to make an international standard in all aspects of TKD. They record color belt rankings with student profiles though this is not the same as dan certification.
Taekwondo color belt testing fees range from as low as $30 to as high as $100 for each exam depending on the area and the instructors fee schedule. Taekwondo students always pay testing fees. These are either charged separately with each exam or included in higher tuition costs.
The fees charged for color belt rank tests are primarily there for the instructor and his or her time. These are not sent to associations in most cases, though some chain schools and organizations require large portions of these fees to be sent to their main office.
The ‘certification’ of color belts is by the instructor of the school or organization and not normally by an association.
The exception here again is attempts by federations and association like the WT to record them, though certification may be a strong word for gup or kup rankings.
Instructors can buy inexpensive certificates that are ‘official’ association certificates to hand out to students, but these are usually well under a dollar for the school if they buy them in bulk. There can be other cost as well if boards and belts are provided.
I am not stating that testing fees are illegitimate for color belts, only that the fees collected are used differently than for black belt rankings. Instructors are entitled to get paid, so any monies made on color belt testing for business operations is how they stay open.
Just keep in mind what the fee is going toward so that you can be on the lookout for overcharging.
Taekwondo Black Belt Exam Fee
Taekwondo black belt testing fees on the other hand in a majority of the cases are not kept in their entirety by the instructor. Associations do in most cases record students that reach the dan rank levels and charge fees for doing so.
The normal price a student will pay for a Taekwondo 1st dan black belt test is $500, which includes the new black belt, personalized certificate, boards to break, and even in some instances a new uniform. Each dan rank above the first dan level comes with a higher exam fee.
In some instances, the certificate given to the student is required to be purchased from them as well. These may be of higher quality and the price will reflect it.
What do these fees look like in some of the major Taekwondo associations and federations?
Kukkiwon (WT) Black Belt Testing Fees
Here is another place you will bet to look behind the curtain. Kukkiwon is the certification wing of the WT. They register all legitimate black belts in the organization along with instructors, coaches, refs, and other tournament officials.
In order to become a black belt in the WT the Kukkiwon headquarters in South Korea charges a fee. This fee is paid by the registering instructor, not the student. The student pays a fee for the testing and certification to the instructor which is normally $500 or more depending on the dan rank.
Again, I am not stating that a markup is illegitimate. These are businesses with cost, risk, and all that comes with a small business. This is just so that you can be informed and know if you hear of a $800 or $1000 black belt testing fee that something is amiss.
Here is a list of the fees paid to Kukkiwon by instructors for students being certified as dan level black belts in the WT.
|Dan Rank – Black Belt Level||Certification Fee Charged By Kukkiwon|
|1st Dan Black Belt||$70|
|2nd Dan Black Belt||$90|
|3rd Dan Black Belt||$120|
|4th Dan Black Belt||$150|
|5th Dan Black Belt||$300|
|6th Dan Black Belt||$350|
|7th Dan Black Belt||$450|
|8th Dan Black Belt||$275|
|9th Dan Black Belt||$275|
ITF Black Belt Testing Fees
As there are multiple associations here using the ITF name and most schools in these groups set their own pricing structure, there is no one price that one can expect universally.
Black belt exam fees in the ITF range from $150 to $700 depending on the instructor, the city in which the school resides, and which dan rank is being sought. Portions go to the instructor and school and portions are sent to the headquarters responsible for certification record keeping.
The market usually dictates that these schools and instructors stay in the same range as the WT and ATA. These fees will be similar with other Taekwondo schools in their general area.
ATA Black Belt Testing Fees
Similar to the costs associated with the ITF, black belt testing fees are set by the instructor and ultimately dictated by the market they are in. There are portions that are sent to the ATA headquarters as part of the certification process.
The fees for taking a black belt exam in ATA Taekwondo is between $150 and $500 depending on the level of black belt sought and the area in which the school is located. There are other costs in the ATA like Black Belt Camp which is a preparatory program for black belt candidates.
The ATA has a reputation for being a family run style of school and sometimes instructors offer discounts on testing fees if multiple family members are attending grading exams.
Independent Taekwondo Association Black Belt Testing Fees
Schools that are a part of independent federations have a wide range of cost associated with their testings. Some include testing and raise tuition, while others charge it with each test.
There are some schools that charge mainly for the materials like belts, boards, and certificates, and some that chare $500 or more. There is not really a standard when speaking of independent or small associations and schools.
How Much Does TaeKwonDo Gear Cost?
To be honest, this is a shock to many parents. The cost of these foam pads can run quite a bit more than they expect. They are in some rare cases like with the ATA included with the first membership, but usually they are limited to a couple of pieces and base quality.
Most Taekwondo sparring gear will cost around $300 for a complete set. These sets can include mouth piece, head gear, chest protector, hand pads, and foot pads. Some extras are the pads for shins, elbows, and forearms. Athletic supporters are usually extra and up to the student to obtain.
Most all Taekwondo tournaments in most every association will require sparring gear, though the pieces and type vary. For even light contact sparring, this gear is mandatory even in most dojangs (TKD training hall).
Is Taekwondo An Expensive Sport?
Part of getting to a black belt in many forms of Taekwondo requires at least minimal participation in sport tournaments. These tournaments are thrown for several reasons:
- They are a good way to experience performing techniques on a resisting opponent in the adrenal state (fight or flight mode).
- Tournaments help instructors gage student progress, not by win loss records, but through overall performance.
- These events are highly profitable for schools and associations. This tends to be a main reason for their continued use even if other benefits are important.
Yes, Taekwondo can be an expensive sport. The cost of tournaments in Taekwondo can run anywhere from a $30 entrance fee to an over $100 entrance fee and required ‘special’ expensive uniforms and gear. These events are sometimes pushed every few months by schools and organizations.
Be careful when choosing to all your child or even yourself to participate in these events. Some are well run legitimate competitions, but some are money grabbing opportunities that could possibly turn you or your child sour on the whole sport.
The ones sponsored by the WT have more international competition focus and are usually well regulated. This can be said on a more hit and miss basis about most of the other organizations. With the Olympic name attached to the competitions hosted by WTF schools, they tend to be more careful with how they are rund.
This not to say that you won’t find good and inexpensive tournaments in other organizations. This is very possible. So, just be aware that like many sports, the more you get involved, the more the cost potentially can rise.
Is Taekwondo worth the money?
This type of training for you or your child is a large investment. This comes not only in the form of your money, but also your time. So, is it all worth it in the end? Is Taekwondo worth the money?
Taekwondo is worth the money if unrealistic expectations of outcomes are not held. Taekwondo is a sport kicking based style that is great for kids, teens, and even whole families for sport, art, and basic self defense. Taekwondo can be a waste of time and money if other goals or imposed upon it.
Taekwondo can even be used as an effective component in other martial sports like MMA, Kali, and kickboxing. Its focus is more narrow than some styles so in reality, other systems should be studied to compliment it at least in the future.
Personally have have several black belts in Taekwondo, Hapkido, and Tang Soo Do. These similar styles all base their striking on a very upright stance with high fast kicks. In my many international competitions I used many techniques from many styles. Two KO’s that I scored came specifically from a TKD style of kick that I perfected for my strategy.
This is echoed by many competitors in many sports. Styles of martial arts are good for what they are designed for and fail when used for something they weren’t intended to do. Keep in mind that this is a sport based kicking style and train it in that way, and it is well worth the money.
The Taekwono Black Belt Cost Takeaway…
There you have it. I hope that this helps you in your pursuit of a black belt in Taekwondo. The costs should be counted before starting anything. This goes for generals in battle all the way to moms and dads looking at enrolling their family in a local Taekwondo school.
Now it is up to you. You know the costs, now what will you do?
Read more about Taekwondo here…