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Martial Arts SchoolBelt selling Scam

T

Every good parent wants to teach their child to live by high moral & ethical standards. In order to do this they must be able to see clearly and not encourage getting their children false accolades. It is a problem these days as many parents want material for bragging rights instead of encouraging genuine achievement. Most do this blindly, giving opportunistic businessmen like Mario Guerrero, of modern Martial Arts, a chance to take financial advantage of their vanity.
Morals and ethics are basically about not being greedy, having empathy and making good, unselfish choices toward others. Our 7 year old son has lived by these standards all of his life. It is all he knows & he understands that his parents are honest and speak up when things are unjust. He is a well behaved child and a great student that every teacher and coach has loved since preschool. Last September there was a man outside of my son’s public school. He was soliciting students for a new after-school program at Modern Martial Arts, which had opened in the neighborhood. We had been interested in a new Martial Arts program for him and I was already in talks to put together a group of kids for classes at an adult gym. Our son went for a trial class and we initially signed him up for a 3 class package. There were few students so there was a push to sign up. The membership was $995 for 6 months unlimited classes, with vacation freezes and a uniform included. That was supposedly the entire all-inclusive package. Since we travel during school breaks, we asked if they would allow up to 4 membership freezes. We were told that this was not a problem. We were also told that students would be encouraged to come to classes as much as possible, with a minimum of 2x a week. On October 7, 2011, we agreed to sign him up, but for a start date of 11/1/11, since he had some other afterschool obligation in October. The contract was very short and basically just protects the owner, Mario Guerrero, for getting his money. We asked that everything we were told be put in writing on that form. A girl working at the sales desk wrote a paragraph in the corner, stating, “can freeze up to 4 times for up to 10 weeks total”, (we did not request the 10 weeks, it is what she wrote). Just 2 ½ weeks after starting classes at Modern Martial Arts, we received a letter stating that our child was going to be tested for his first martial arts belt advancement. The letter stated, “The Belt Test fee is $50. Test fees MUST be paid in full, and time slot assigned no later than November 22 in order to insure proper belt order. If you sign up after the assigned date, the test fee will increase to $60.” We were shocked!! First of all, he just started and only attended a few classes, so how could he be up for belt advancement? Secondly, no additional fees were disclosed in any way at time of the membership sales pitch or the contract signing. The letter was supposedly sent by Darryl Phipps (Mr. Phipps), my son’s instructor. I wrote to him stating, “To charge for belt testing seems very unethical to me. It sends out the clear message that the children are given belts for the financial gain of the school. Of course, all children want to get belts. Those belts should not be available for a fee but ONLY for hard work, dedication and skill.”
Mr. Darryl Phipps puts on a good show, commanding respect by only calling himself Mr. Phipps and getting “YES SIR!”, responses from the children. He gives the illusion of having what we most respect, which is, high moral and ethical standards, but in actuality he completely lacks integrity. He is the front man doing the dirty work for the owner of this money grubbing unethical business. The owner, Mario Guerrero, owns 4 of these Modern Martial Arts studios and he’s making a mint off of the children’s families with these hidden fees. He fills each studio 4 times a year with what they call, “Graduation”. This is where each family pays $50-$60 for their child to get the next color belt. It is a FAKE, a FRAUD, a SCAM, a SHAM!
We sat our son down and explained what was going on. He has a level head and understood completely. We told him to stick with the program and ignore the belt nonsense, for the contracted time. He was really dedicated and good at it, but the fact that we refused to buy belts and pay for their other ridiculous money making schemes, continued to be a sore spot. In order to save face in front of all the others that were blindly paying, Mr. Darryl Phipps gave our son a yellow belt (that they sold to the others), then an orange belt (that they sold to the others), and then he was given 3 strips on the orange (which meant he was going to get his purple belt). Mr. Darryl Phipps made the next “advancement” verbally clear to my son and others the week prior, I have video. My son only had 2 weeks left on his membership, so Mario Guerrero (owner) told Darryl Phipps (instructor) NOT to give our son the belt this time, and to say that it was because of poor attendance. It was an to attempt to hurt and humiliate our child before he left. It was a poorly thought out excuse because my son attended classes 3-4 times a week, while others come 1-2 times per week. So, even with any vacation time, his attendance was above other children’s attendance. Mr. Darryl Phipps really had no answer to this fact except the, “I just work here” excuse, which we had heard from him and others at this place before. Also, refer back to when our son first started at Modern Martial Arts. He was advanced to the new belt with a large crowd of other (also on video) after just a few classes. My son, and all those other 5, 6 & 7 year olds, must be reincarnated Bruce Lee’s, because I know people that trained for over a year, at ETHICAL Martial arts schools, and did not advance even 1 belt. When they did advance, there were no extra hidden fees.
Modern Martial Arts also holds some nonsense tournaments (extra fees, of course). My son wanted to go to one, but I warned him that it would be fixed. I even told him what child would get a trophy, that is, the child whose parents pay all the hidden fees. Guess what, just as I had predicted, that child did not do well, but he walked away with a trophy!
There are many things written, by moral Martial Arts teachers and business owners, about these corrupt practices. Just a sample are:
1.“What kind of message do you send out to students when a good deal of your income comes from bumping them up in rank? The message is, if you pay me, you’ll get your belt”.
2.“The only thing that should influence an instructors decision is a student’s performance in class and during their exam”.
3. Imagine going to a school and paying extra every time there’s a test. And you are not allowed to advance to the next level of knowledge unless you take the test you have to pay for. That is what happens at the commercialized martial arts schools, where you BUY your belt and everything is based solely on the paying of your fee”.
4. Ed Parker used to say, jokingly, that he would promote anyone to black belt who would pay him $1, 000, but the only way the person could ever wear the belt was in his bedroom at night with all the lights out.
5. WARNING: BUYERS BEWARE! You have a right to just say NO to hidden, undisclosed fees like belt testing or any other hidden fees.
Anyone can google all the Martial Arts children program scams. There are lots of articles and websites such a McDojo.com
Our son completely understood the scam, but he did care that his instructor, Mr. Darryl Phipps, was a sell-out. This instructor, to whom he gave full respect, threw him under the train to cover his own butt. At the last 2 classes he tried to humiliate my son in front of other children, by making them believe that my son had somehow failed at earning his belt when the rest of them succeeded. The reality being that their parents bought them those belts while we refused to be fleeced by Mario Guerrero. The children seemed confused that my son did not “earn” his belt and asked me about it, but I took the high road and said nothing. It is not in my interest or in my nature to hurt an innocent child’s feeling and blow their falsely inflated bubble. Their parents should explain that they buy those belts, at a very high price, from greedy Mario Guerrero.
After the last class Mr. Darryl Phipps looked scared that I was going to say something in front of others. Instead, my son politely said goodbye to the instructor that he respects no more and never wishes to lay eyes on again. Maybe Mr. Phipps might just be afraid to lose his job, so he does what he is told, no matter how unethical it is or who the casualties are. It is sad that he has chosen the path in his life where he is one of the swindlers.
Mario Guerrero usually avoids any communication about his slimy business practices, and has Darryl Phipps and a woman named Alessandra Aguilar, do his dirty work. The exception was in March 2012 when, after we tried again to reason with his people, he emailed writing that he wanted us to take $207 and “end the relationship”. Only half of the membership had been used and he wanted to give us $207 from the $995 we paid?! We refused that horrible offer. He then wrote, ”You are correct, every policy we have is not detailed in our membership agreement. Our policy to require kids to wear protective gear when sparring in not in there, our policy that kids don't share sparring gear is not in there, our policy that kids should not be left with us unattended is not there, our policy that kids buy and wear cups, mouth guards, and head gear when sparring are not there, our Parents Night Out cost and fees are not there, etc...(I think you get the point.)”
Yes, we got the point! That is the problem Mr. Mario Guerrero had with us. He wants customers that don’t get the point and just hand over any money he asks for.

Responses

  • Ma
    Mary Murphy MMA Jan 04, 2013

    Hi, my name is Mary Murphy and I'm the Director of Customer Care at Modern Martial Arts. I'm sorry to hear you left our program so unsettled. On average, students who are ready will graduate every three months in our basic program. As their ranks increase, graduations begin happening less frequently as it takes longer to earn the next belt. Students are not required to graduate in order to continue coming to class. If we feel a student is not ready to advance, he is not invited to graduation. Your son was invited to graduate, but because you expressed that the fee was a hardship at the time, we waived it for his first two belt graduations. Our intention was never to blindside you with "hidden fees, " such as our graduation fees or the purchase of protective gear as students advance in rank. Many sports require expenditures here and there over time. Recently, we've been working on a new student manual that will make our policies and procedures as transparent as possible when you sign up with us.

    We truly believe that our program is reasonably priced. During your time with us, you were able to attend 73 classes at a cost $995, which comes out to $13.63 per class.

    When you see Mr. Phipps work with the children, it's evident that he cares about all of them. His intention would never have been to humiliate your son, and we're all very sorry to hear that he interpreted it as such. You have always praised Mr. Phipps in public and even asked him to come to your son's school to work with his class. In addition, you have expressed to Mr. Phipps how positive an experience this has been for your son as compared to the other martial arts schools he attended in the past.

    Despite this experience with us, we hope you continue to encourage your son to pursue the martial arts. If you have any more questions or concerns, please get in touch with me at [email protected]….

    0 Votes
  • To
    TomB. Jul 18, 2013

    Glad I found it. This complaint hits the experience with this business right in the nose.

    0 Votes

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