This has always been a topic for discussion. Some people seem to prefer to see it primarily as a "financial contract" rather than a commitment/investment towards their own or their children's self-improvement. Martial Arts as life education and Colleges/Universities as academic education will have no utility in anyone's lives without the right amount of commitment and dedication.
People still seem surprised and perhaps don't understand the reason behind an initial commitment for Martial Arts training. Besides improvement in fitness levels that will vary from person to person, one, two or three months of training won't offer absolutely anything else to the student. Only Martial Arts Instructors know what kind of devotion it takes to "transform" an individual into someone of effective self-defense skills and that as a vehicle to heightened character values.
The amount of effort that takes to "train" someone who many times was never exposed to any form of exercise, or children who never had much sense of discipline and respect implemented in their lives, is too great to not require a sort of "mutual commitment" as in I'll be here for you but you'll need to be here for yourself as well. This mutual commitment comes in the form of a legal document. Named "contract" by many, but we like to call it an agreement.
It isn't worth for any Martial Arts staff to commit time to someone who isn't "committed to commit" to their own goal. Because by default we are, that's what we do.
By signing an "agreement", we are actually helping the student stay loyal to his/her initial commitment. Statistics show that the longer the students train or the higher their rank is, the lower are the chances they will quit training. White belts have, by far, the highest drop out rate than any colored belts. Drop out as Brown Belt is a lot lower that Purple, which in turn is a lot lower than Blue and so on. Why? Because the benefits aren't short termed. After a certain amount of time, Martial Arts becomes a way of life. Your life will revolve around staying healthy to better perform on the mat. You get accustomed to accept challenges and perform under pressure due to an improvement in self-confidence from training.
Nothing motivates a human being more than reaping the results from the efforts they put it. Another reason: the more skilled you are at something, the more fun it is. The more fun you have, the more you like it. The more you like it, the more you commit. The more you commit, the more skilled you will be. It's an endless cycle.
The highest cancellation rate in Martial Arts occur within the initial 12-months, and mostly because of a lack of consistency in the student's training. All of our new members are required to sign up for a minimum of 12 months, but we are still very flexible and analyze every situation individually. Yet, the main thing is to always encourage and ensure every student gives him or herself the chance to commit to an uninterrupted initial 12 months of training (our policies allow students to freeze within the initial term only if they sustain a medical condition, or to terminate it if they move away).
Avoiding regular freezes within the initial term keeps the student focused on their goals, and it keeps them from losing momentum and therefore interest. Martial Arts is hard work, however the results attained come in direct proportion to the amount of effort put in.
Some people have had bad experiences with contracts before, but we are huge advocates of them in our industry. Our policies are very transparent and are designed to maximize material retention and results. There's a legitimate explanation and purpose for every policy in place. It's very unlikely a Martial Arts facility that preaches initial month-to-month training have contributed to as many success stories around their community as those schools that offer their Martial Arts training "product" as a mid to ong term program.
Still, the best thing before committing to an agreement or "contract" anywhere, is to do your own research and make a decision based on that. Unfortunately, there are indeed professionals out there with questionable ethics, and that's in every industry, but thanks to the internet and our own communication skills, we can efficiently protect ourselves from illegitimate, unethical businesses/Martial Arts schools.
Now, let's train!