View Full Version : Visting other dojos

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09-06-2007, 11:33 AM
Hi, all -- I could use some opinions from some senior people on this one. I'm quite junior, been training for a year and a bit but just finally got around to testing for fifth kyu. I like my dojo just fine; however, I have an unusual work situation that takes me away from home for three days a week, when I am in Boston overnight. Most weeks I can manage to train three times a week, all at my home dojo, but it's a bit of a strain -- it means that the "quiet evening at home" really does not exist. Somewhere down the road, it would be nice to have the option to occasionally train at a dojo in the Boston area (there is one in particular that my dojo has some connections with), not only for the benefits that there would be in training with some other people, but also just for the practical benefit of getting to sit on my own front porch in the evening now and then.

So, my questions are:

- What do you think is an appropriate point in one's training where you'd be ready to visit another dojo?
- How would you handle the diplomatic aspects of the situation?
- Is this something that you think you could do on an ongoing basis (once a week, maybe, or once every two weeks) without being really rude to your sensei?
- What are any other downsides or pitfalls that you might encounter in this situation?

Thanks for your thoughts,

Ron Tisdale
09-06-2007, 12:11 PM
Hi Mary, good questions. Although my home dojo is Yoshinkan, I train with an ASU dojo that is very kind to me on a pretty regular basis (weekends when I'm in town there). My answers will be based on that experience.

- What do you think is an appropriate point in one's training where you'd be ready to visit another dojo?

This varies depending on the person. If I remember correctly, either you have trained in aikido before or judo...I don't think training once a week or less in another dojo that you have a relationship with should be any major problem. My answer might be different for someone else.

- How would you handle the diplomatic aspects of the situation?

I contacted the instructor privately (we already knew of each other) and asked his permission to come by and train since I would be in the area. I offered to pay a mat fee, but he refused several times (as long as I pay dues elsewhere), and I think it would be rude for me to insist. On my first class there, I did not hide my rank, but wore a white belt to see where and how I fit into their practice. Once comfortable, I asked the instructor if it was ok to wear my yudansha rank. It was. He also said it was ok to wear the white belt for the first class or so.

I try to be very polite, not hurt anyone, help as much as I can at the dojo (sweep mats, be friendly, give friendly advice but don't teach, etc.). Common sense kind of things. We are hoping to get the folks there down to my home dojo to thank them for their kindness to me.

- Is this something that you think you could do on an ongoing basis (once a week, maybe, or once every two weeks) without being really rude to your sensei?

I let my instructor know what I was doing, why I was doing it, and I continue to pay dues there, and train as I can there. So I don't view what I do as rude to him in anyway. He's Japanese, so he may well not tell me if he thinks otherwise...but I think he is comfortable enough with me to let me know if I disappoint him.

- What are any other downsides or pitfalls that you might encounter in this situation?

Some dojo insist on you doing very specific things in very specific ways. For example, they might insist on bowing in a certain way, or clapping at the start or end of class. Stuff like that doesn't bother me in the least, so I do as they do.

More problematic might be a dojo that insists you perform a specific type of ukemi for a specific throw (say, koshinage). Some people insist you must grab the front of shite's uwagi (or whatever) when taking that ukemi. Personally, I like that kind of detail on ukemi to be left up to me. I don't feel comfortable grabbing women in that area in the heat of a nice koshi...so I don't. Never been hurt with koshi *yet*. ;)


Marie Noelle Fequiere
09-06-2007, 12:21 PM
The very first step is to talk with your Sensei. For various reasons, some instructors do not like their students to train in other dojos, but if your school has connections with the one that you would like to visit, there should be no problem. Should there be a problem, Sensei will discuss it with you.
I think that the most important thing is to keep the atmosphere of trust with your instructor.;)

09-06-2007, 12:52 PM
It's important that your instructor understands that your desire to do this is out of natural curiosity, and not out of disrespect to him, or to his lineage. It is prudent not to bring his name up as you travel, and not to discuss those things he is not comfortable with

That said, it is also true that you are as responsible for your training as your instructor is, so your wishes are also important. It is often useful to broaden one's perspective. When you spot a dojo you are curious about, arrive well before class, and in your street clothes, as it is presumptuous to show up in your gi. Introduce yourself to the instructor (or a senior student) and let them know you are traveling, and would like to sit in on a class, either as a participant, or as a spectator. This is usually just a formality, as most are eager for you to join in, but it is the respectful way to do it. If you are going on the mat, make sure you gi is clean, and that you are as well. Follow the dojo rules, use common sense, and try to emulate the way things are done there, because if they want to know "how you do it at your dojo", they will ask. Be courteous, and respectful. You will probably be asked after class for your impressions, so be prepared, and once again, be respectful. Thank the instructor for being so generous, and leave the door open for another visit in the future.

Remember, it's their house, and when in Rome...

Upon returning to your home dojo, discuss with your instructor what you learned on the road, and do not demonstrate on the mat anything you learned without the blessings of your instructor. Have fun!

09-06-2007, 08:28 PM
Ron's advice was very good. When in Rome do what the Romans do. Never come on someone elses mat and correct or instruct anyone. It's the instructors job or other authorized yudansha, not yours.

My worst experience with that was I invited another school in the area to participate in a yudansha training class. I was making a point on a technique when the other instructor rudely decided to make a point as well by essentially coming up, interrupting me, and instructing. I was so dumbfounded at his rudeness that I was speechless. On top of it his point was ridiculous and did not make any sense in the context of what I was demonstrating. It was my mat, my class, etc. I would never assume I had the right to do that in another's school. Be humble and you'll be fine.

Eric Webber
09-06-2007, 08:49 PM
I agree that Ron's advice is sound and works well. I know the dojo he visits and and have seen the interaction, it is a really great example of what training in aikido should be: people sharing training experiences with open minds and hearts, regardless of home dojo or afficliations. I would emphasize that communication is key, with both your sensei and the sensei of the dojo you intend to visit. Perhaps have your sensei provide an introduction if they know each other? Other than that, get on the mat and have a good time!

Janet Rosen
09-07-2007, 12:43 AM
From a practical point of view, to add to the above posts...I think once you can do basic rolls and falls safely, and are able to let folks wherever you visit know what your skill level is/not, it is great to go out and visit and see the differences/commonalities.

09-07-2007, 04:16 AM
Agree with most of what has already been said, especially about feedback being asked. One other question which threw me the first time but which I've been asked on several occasions now is "what do you want to gain out of visiting us". A couple of times this was definitely a "what are your intentions towards us" but generally they're just being interested in what you're wanting out of visiting them to see if they can help.

Normally, any annoyances that you meet because of dojo wandering aren't caused by the instructors, it's the zealous mid-late level kyus who are convinced their style/dojo/colour mat is the only true aikido and yours is an inferior product. Smile, nod and agree politely if you meet this, arguing with them is like arguing with any zealot or drunk, really not worth the hassle.

All in all, I'd recommend it - it's good fun and most dojos can give you someting to chew over (occasionally you have to spit it out and rinse afterwards, but that's another story)

09-07-2007, 08:52 AM
This is really interesting. I don't live in the states anymore, so I'm sure the advice everyone is giving is good. In Osaka, people visit other dojos regularly. Say hello to sensei, mention where you usually train, and that's it. I guess it's not that simple everywhere though.
Practicing at various dojos is really good in my opinion.

09-07-2007, 10:01 AM
You should, whenever you are ready, venture out to other dojos. Training at one dojo can build a complacency with your regular training partners. You will find techniques that you can do at one dojo cant used or pulled off at other dojos. So it is a very good test of your abilities to make a technique work both at home and abroad so to speak. So I highly endorse efforts to train at other dojos regardless of what organization they belong to. Heck, I would recommend cross training with another martial arts but that is entirely new can of worms to open. It is my point of view, that no one organization, teacher, dojo has all the aikido answers. Its worth wild to go out and sample the pieces that each has and put together for yourself what Aikido means to you. The core of martial arts are internal first, fix and work on the self. It is only then can you influence others.

Good ole (sweaty)Ron has set forth a darn good piece on how to deal with your current situation. Its very sound advise. He certainly been a round the block a few times and has great insight.

Ron Tisdale
09-07-2007, 10:41 AM
:o Yikes! I'm blushing...


09-07-2007, 10:54 AM
I guess it's not that simple everywhere though.It usually is, but it is presumptuous to simply assume so. Be respectful and formal first, and then adjust as necessary. No chance you will offend if done that way.

09-07-2007, 11:07 AM
I surprised you let me get away with the the sweaty Ron line

Ron Tisdale
09-07-2007, 11:38 AM
Hey, it's true! I sweat like a pig. Sweated on some of the best mats in the US and France!

Didn't sweat much in my 20s, but I do now in my 40's. Oh well. ;) Life is like a box of chocolates...you never know what you'll get!


Lan Powers
09-07-2007, 02:26 PM
Quote < Oh well. Life is like a box of chocolates...you never know what you'll get!

Older, and sweatier, I guess ? ;) I am in 40's too...aint it the truth?!!

09-07-2007, 02:53 PM
It's already been said, but I'd like to echo the idea that "when in Rome..." No one should ever impose their methods on another dojo. If we're too busy thinking about how different things are, we could very well miss out on how they're the same (or how those differences might even compliment each other).
I'm a big fan of the concept of "beginner's mind." When you're in a new environment, there just seems to be something unique about the way the mind can open up and learn. It can also be quite frustrating, but is part of the charm and dynamic of learning, in my opinion. I love my primary dojo and have nothing but good things to say about what I learn there, but I will always value (even cherish) my experiences at the other two dojo I have trained at, particularly the Himeji Shodokan dojo. It really envigorated my training incalculably!
All that said, as was also mentioned, I think it's a good idea to ask your current sensei's opinion. If nothing else he/she can make suggestions which might be quite insightful.

Mark Gibbons
09-07-2007, 03:22 PM
Training other places can be a lot of fun. My check list for kyu level visits:

Read their rules first. Many places insist on you observing a class before training. If you don't know the style or don't have a recommendation then watching might also be important for your safety.
Get permission before suiting up or getting on the mat.
Fill out a waiver. Almost every place has insurance issues.
Check on and pay mat fees. Don't wait to be asked.
Help clean the dojo, at least make a serious offer.
Wear a white belt (assuming Kyu status and you normally wear a colored belt).
If they line up by rank,and assume they do, be the last in line. Where that is can be tough to figure out.
While training, be the lowest rank person there. Shock the newbies.
Enjoy having the newbies and everyone else teach you. To their eyes you do many things wrong.
Never teach. Even when invited.
Be pleasant and friendly.
Keep ukemi completely non resistant and non challenging until invited verbally to step things up and then be very careful. Never accept such an invitation from a brown belt. :)
Don't hurt anyone. The guy charging in at high speed might be in their second class with no falling ability.

Just ideas,

09-09-2007, 07:31 AM
Thanks to all for your thoughts -- they're very helpful. I understand and strongly agree with the "when in Rome" approach, and I'm confident that I could handle that bit of diplomacy just fine. What I'm more concerned about is that my main motivation for considering this is to train less in my home dojo. See? Already it sounds bad. But it's not a matter of, "I don't want to train here," but, "I would like to have more evenings at home on the four days of the week that I get to actually live at home."

So, my reason for wanting to do this isn't curiosity, or cross-training, or anything like that -- it's so that I can even things out a bit more, so I'm not training Monday Tuesday and Saturday each week, but maybe Monday Thursday Saturday or something like that -- which would mean that I get to spent Tuesday evening at home. I just don't know what to do. Right now, I make every possible effort to make it to class every Monday Tuesday and Saturday, since those are the only days I can train. It's doable, it's just a real strain sometimes. So, I'm afraid it might sound like something of a snub, you know?

Mark Uttech
09-09-2007, 07:56 AM
I have always advised married people and otherwise busy people to train once or twice a week and try to test once a year. Aikido practice should not make you more busy. When you begin to really study aikido principles off the mat and learn to make every day things a part of your practice (the way you open and close a door, for example,) this is how aikido becomes something you are rather than just something you do. Having a home dojo in the formative years is pretty important .

In gassho,