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R.A. Robertson
07-23-2009, 11:14 AM
1) Why do you want to learn aikido?

2) Why have you chosen this dojo over your other options?

3) Do you have sufficient control over yourself and your life circumstances to make a commitment to training realistic? Are your job or school obligations likely to interfere? Does aikido fit in a balanced way with your social life and your hobbies? Does your family or home situation support you in your training?

4) These are the times that our classes are available. [Explain schedule.] Can you commit to at least two days/evenings of training per week? Can you arrive on time in order to change your clothes and help with preparations?

5) This is our location. [Give address and general directions.] Do you have reliable transportation and is this facility accessible to you?

6) These are our fees, and this is our payment policy. [Explain current fee structure and payment schedule.] Can you foresee any difficulty in meeting your fiscal obligations in a timely manner? Is this an expense you can afford without hardship? In addition to regular training, can you budget for one or two seminars per year?

7) Here are our uniform and equipment requirements, and when you are expected to have acquired them. [Explain, and discuss the particulars of dojo hygiene.] Will this present any difficulty for you?

8) This is our attendance policy. [Discuss.] Your participation is not only for yourself, but also for your teachers and fellow students. While we are not interested in intruding on your personal life, we care about your well being and will want to know if you cannot make your appointment with us. Please convey to the group via the instructor of record if you cannot make a class. Here is how you may reach us. [Give contact info.] If you need to withdraw from training, please provide ample notice. Do you agree to communicate with us accordingly?

9) Do you have any previous martial arts experience? Aikido? How long since you last trained? If you are still training, or have been training within the past year, can you provide written affirmation from your other instructor that you have left on good terms and have their blessing to train elsewhere? If you have no prior experience, can you provide three letters of recommendation?

10) Do you have any medical condition, any physical or mental limitation that you would like us to be aware of so that we may better provide for your safety and optimal training?

11) Here is our Dojo Mission and Goals statement. [Give handout or Student Handbook.] Is this compatible with your own philosophy and values?

12) Our dojo is a service-oriented organization. We do not train in aikido as sport or fitness or recreation only, but to improve ourselves and practice service to one another and to our community. Is this agreeable?

13) This is an overview of our rank and grading system. [Handout, or show in Student Handbook.] As with any educational endeavor, you may expect to be graded and to have homework. Moving through the grades in a timely manner is not for personal glorification, but to prepare you for assisting, guiding, and teaching others. Additionally, it helps us assess if we are attending to your progress appropriately. Can you set goals and make patient and reasonable progress toward them?

14) You are being provided with a copy of or access to our Student Handbook and our Policy and Procedure Manuals. Do you agree to familiarize yourself with them and keep current on any updates and revisions?

15) We are delighted that you have chosen us for what may become a lifelong relationship. Is there anything about yourself, any special qualities, that you feel would make you a valued member of our community?

16) Do you have any questions or concerns at this time that you'd like to discuss?

Name of Prospective Student:
Name of Interviewer:
Date:
Admission Approved (Yes/No)

7/7/09
Ross Robertson
Still Point Aikido Systems
Honmatsu Aikido
Austin TX, USA

www.stillpointaikido.com (http://www.stillpointaikido.com/)

aikilouis
07-24-2009, 01:08 PM
I fail to see the point of this cross examination.

chuunen baka
07-27-2009, 10:11 AM
9) Do you have any previous martial arts experience? Aikido? How long since you last trained? If you are still training, or have been training within the past year, can you provide written affirmation from your other instructor that you have left on good terms and have their blessing to train elsewhere? If you have no prior experience, can you provide three letters of recommendation?

I've read this clause a few times and I still can't work out if it's supposed to be a joke.

Jeremy Hulley
07-27-2009, 11:11 AM
I don't see the problem with heavily vetting potential students. It is a good idea for an instructor to know something about what a new studnt brings to the dojo..

jss
07-27-2009, 12:32 PM
IIt is a good idea for an instructor to know something about what a new studnt brings to the dojo..
At least you'll get someone who knows most of the right answers. If they believe in them perhaps is a different question...:rolleyes:

Garth Jones
07-27-2009, 02:04 PM
On their website, Still Point Aikido states that they closed to the public as of May 31st of this year and that they are a private dojo. They only take new students after an interview, which presumably includes the questionnaire.

I would personally find such a list of questions, and their tone, fairly off putting, but it is their dojo and their rules. They will, I suspect, only get a small number of people who are all right with their entrance requirements and commitment level, but that's probably what they want.

I certainly understand the frustration of having beginners wander in, train for awhile, and then vanish without letting me know they won't be back. That being said, many of our best students were not too sure how deep their interest in aikido was at the beginning but they have become more dedicated as they have trained. Many years ago, I was such a student, yet here I am.

jss
07-27-2009, 02:22 PM
On their website, Still Point Aikido states that they closed to the public as of May 31st of this year and that they are a private dojo. They only take new students after an interview, which presumably includes the questionnaire.
Thank you for looking that up. For a private dojo it makes sense.

Shadowfax
07-27-2009, 02:32 PM
As a new student with zero martial arts background, looking for a Dojo, I would find that list of questions a bit intimidating and would either answer them all and go to the dojo feeling very off balance or I would simply have not tried even going.

Given the private status of the dojo listing the questions I can understand the need they might have but it may also cause them to loose a potential member who like me starts out very unsure and maybe not appearing the type to stick with it to someone like me who falls in love with aikido and considers it a necessary part of life.

The choice I made to join my dojo was based on the very inviting friendly and upbeat correspondence from Sensei Garth Jones as well as the equally reassuring and inviting attitude of Sensei Tara Meyrs.

I don't see the questions as right or wrong to ask. Certainly if it had been on the list of the ones I was looking into this would have put it low on my list of places I would wish to take a closer look at.

senshincenter
08-01-2009, 04:28 PM
We run a very similar dojo model, though I hesitate to call myself a "private" dojo - we use the very similar phrase, "Non-commerical dojo."

We've been running this way since about 1999/00, and we continue to grow and grow. We do have a drop-out rate, but it is almost non-existent.

We don't use a questionnaire but we are interested in this same information - most of it anyways. One way out of expecting students to know the "right" answers to these questions, and/or to get around the almost meaningless value (my opinion) of prior experience, rank, and recommendation, if that is what you want, is to offer a Dues Free Trial Period (in contrast to the regular "One Free Class!"). Ours is a month long (four weeks). In that time, we all get to know each other at a much more informed level. That is an invaluable thing when you are trying to make a decision based upon future commitment. To help this along, we also have a maximum acceptance of five new trial students at a time.

Our place has often been described as very inviting, and community-based, but serious. We've never put off people or rubbed them in a wrong way but for those that were pretending they wanted to train when in fact they didn't really. That said, yes, true, our dojo is not for everyone, though everyone is welcome to step up to the expectations.

We have other such requirements, and we also have other absences (e.g. wholesale mark-ups, federation/membership charges, contracts, ranking exams, etc.), that make the whole thing work together in a way that it is productive and prosperous for all involved and not close-minded, repressive, and/or restrictive.

Here is more information on our membership practices:

http://www.senshincenter.com/pages/dojoinfo/membership.html

I am glad to see what Ross has done here. More folks should try it before they knock it or feel they understand it. Underneath this model is not only a commitment to the art, to one's own practice, but also to one's students. Ross is putting forth a model that should be admired, perhaps even envied.

dmv

Janet Rosen
08-01-2009, 07:18 PM
As a newbie, a lot of the questions wouldn't have made any sense to me and, by my nature, rather than challenging or asking, I'd have quietly walked out. If Ross wan't to self-select that way, it's certainly his right.

Shannon Frye
08-01-2009, 09:37 PM
Imagine, if you would, this type of interrogation from your waitress the next time you go to a restaurant. By 'weeding out the rif raf", they can better cater only to those people who know already what they want.

While Aikido isn't for everyone - remember that not everyone takes away the same 'lesson' from aikido. Not everyone is looking for martial eficiency - or philosophy - or self awareness - but should be given the chance to make that decision for themselves. I don't envy this model - it's horrible. It's commercial and militant.

I thought the 'message" of aikido was universal harmony of all people, not a "members only" sign.

d2l
08-01-2009, 11:35 PM
My school started a mild questionnaire. Only because we wanted to stay closer with people who were/are interested in self defense. Not M.M.A. However its just a couple questions and a waiver. Nothing like "what you had for breakfast on Saturday, June 19th, 1995. " The posted form seems like a touch much. But then again, it's their prerogative. Don't like it? Don't try to be part of them then. Simple as that. :)

senshincenter
08-01-2009, 11:36 PM
Imagine, if you would, this type of interrogation from your waitress the next time you go to a restaurant. By 'weeding out the rif raf", they can better cater only to those people who know already what they want.

While Aikido isn't for everyone - remember that not everyone takes away the same 'lesson' from aikido. Not everyone is looking for martial eficiency - or philosophy - or self awareness - but should be given the chance to make that decision for themselves. I don't envy this model - it's horrible. It's commercial and militant.

I thought the 'message" of aikido was universal harmony of all people, not a "members only" sign.

I understand it's just an analogy, but there can be a lot said for pointing out that a dojo is not like a restaurant, and even more for pointing out that a dojo is not for folks that want to treat it like a restaurant.

Universal harmony may be a tenet of Aikido training, but the underlying point of training is that one has room for improvement, which suggests that one is not already capable of things like universal harmony "as is," which means one must strive to become other than he/she currently is, which means training by definition is about not being for everyone.

In the end, training IS about transformation. Transformation by any means implies a dropping off, a chipping away, a purification, etc. What one is after, as I understand it, is commitment: the seed and sapling of all achievement in Budo (all transformation through Budo). If you are capable of commitment, the questions are as obvious as their answers. If you are not sure of your commitment, the questions become foggy, as do the answers. If you are without any commitment, the questions will undoubtedly rub one the wrong way. In which case, one knows he/she is not at the right dojo for them; as the dojo knows this or that deshi is not the right student for the dojo.

It is not a trick. It's almost of Law of Nature: Like attracts Like.

d

Karo
08-02-2009, 05:00 AM
I'm not sure this questionnaire lets you select who you think you're selecting. It will not give you people who are committed; it will give you people who have strong opinions about their own ability to commit. These two groups are not the same, although there is probably an overlap.

I take my commitments very seriously; and exactly because I'm serious about my commitments, I wouldn't even try to apply to that dojo. Aikido is one of the most important things in my life, but I wouldn't be comfortable with any external pressure to commit or prove myself. I like to walk my own path.

Karo

Peter Goldsbury
08-02-2009, 06:49 AM
This is a very interesting question.

From previous correspondence with Ross from earlier columns and from a look over the dojo website, I think it is easy to form a fairly clear impression of the kind of dojo members Ross is looking for--and this is fine. I can remember a lengthy and quite heated discussion a few years ago over Paul Linden's decision not to admit women members to his dojo. Yes, the two cases are not the same, but they are similar, in the sense that the head of the dojo has a very clear idea of the kind of training he wants to achieve and, in Ross's case, the kind of outside activities that are intended to flow from training in the dojo.

The Japanese, on the other hand, love questionnaires. For example, when I book a cheap hotel travel package at Hiroshima Station, along with the tickets and hotel vouchers come a hotel brochure--and two questionnaires, one for the hotel and the other for the travel agent who sold the package. So I think the average Japanese would be quite unfazed at the intensity of the questions asked on Ross's questionnaire. In fact it would be taken as a sign of extra 'care'.

However, I do not think for one minute that such a questionnaire would serve to weed out potentially unsuitable dojo members and we do not follow this practice in my own dojo. We do, however, have an interview with every prospective student and the kind of questions asked in Ross's questionnaire inevitably come out in the interview. I myself never do it, for, in Japan, the Dojo-cho is expected to be above this sort of thing and so our dojo secretary, who is rather more fluent in spoken Japanese than I am, conducts the interviews. It is all very friendly, but she does, also, ask the searching questions. Usually, there are three possible results of the interview. (1) You are just the kind of person we are looking for; (2) Well, you are welcome to try for a month (dojo fees are payable monthly); (3) Best to move on, for we are not the dojo droids you are looking for.

We do not advertise, but we do maintain a dojo home page that is regularly updated--and we find that this is noticed.

The result is that we have a hard core of committed members, but this hard core changes. The younger student members, who have the time to train regularly, move away to new jobs (so we have a big problem of finding a suitable dojo in their new location), but they tend to be replaced by newcomers, usually by word of mouth.

One of the reasons why we do not use a questionnaire is that we are one of very few Aikikai dojos in Japan where none of the instructors is Japanese and this is a major cultural obstacle. For some prospective members, this is very attractive; for others, inevitably non-prospective members, this is distinctly unattractive, since we are regarded as 'black ships': foreign interlopers who contaminate the purity of Japanese martial culture.

PAG

aikilouis
08-02-2009, 07:54 AM
In fact posting the questionnaire just like that is not enough. What misses is the purpose for which it is being submitted to potential students, as well as the expected consequences of answering this way or another.

For example, is experience of other martial arts a plus or a minus ? If we miss class, has one to expect a phone call from sensei reminding us of our "duty" ? If one does not "deliver" what we "promised", what are the possible consequences ? How much of it can be held against me, and for how long ?

Without further information I tend to think, like Karolina, that answers will be more revealing of the student's current perceptions than of his future commitment.

I don't believe in aikido as some sort of public service where everything should be done to attract more people in the name of a philosphy of inclusiveness. However I would put more trust in a more personalised mutual commitment based on a short time of practise than in a bureaucratic selection.

senshincenter
08-02-2009, 11:16 AM
At this point, there are many different perspectives being mixed together.

- The questionnaire is not enough.
- The questions in the questionnaire are not good or relative to Aikido training.
- The questionnaire will only draw people that think they can be or are committed but may not necessarily be so.

Because the questionnaire is "not enough," it should not mean that it is useless and therefore should be dismissed. It could be the beginning of a process. For example, in our dojo, though we do not use a questionnaire, or even an interview process to make ultimate decisions, we do ask a person if they feel they can meet the two day per week training minimum and if they can meet the Intended Training Schedule protocol at the very beginning. (We do not ask if they can meet a Dues Responsibility.) If they say, "yes," and should we have openings, they go right into the trial period - where they work to develop an intimacy with the dojo (and vice versa). If this intimacy is not developed enough for either party to make an informed decision, the trial period is extended to a suitable length. In this way, those first questions work as an initial context to help all parties involved IF the person MIGHT BE capable of commitment to the training. Perhaps the questionnaire is part of a larger system like this. If it is, as it is for us, it may be wiser to draw folks to the dojo that are fine answering they can meet a training minimum than those that are repelled by the question.

If folks feel the questions themselves are negative, they should be considered thus in an interview as well, or even over a month long period. To that, what can one say. This dojo is not for you. That should not be a bad thing, as a dojo commitment is indeed a very intimate relationship, and thus is in the end a very personal thing. For us, we do not judge other ways, only our own departure from our own chosen way. We advertise the other local Aikido dojo for folks that are more well-matched for a dojo of their nature. In fact, during the Trial Period, folks are requested to attend the other local Aikido dojo (if Aikido is what is drawing them to our dojo), or other schools in the area (if training is what is drawing them to our dojo), so that they can make better informed decisions.

R.A. Robertson
08-28-2009, 02:37 PM
Thanks everyone for all the comments. I really do appreciate the diversity of perspective.

It's interesting that no one asked me if I actually use this form, or it it's just another one of my columns meant to reflect what's on my mind and (hopefully) to provoke some feedback.

In fact, this column represents a draft of something I've been considering for a while, but have not yet used.

When I started aikido in 1979 with Bill Sosa Sensei in Dallas, we were first required to observe a class, and then set up an interview with Sosa Sensei. There was no intake form per se, but the interview was clearly a screening process. We were made to understand that we were applying for admission in a school, and that acceptance was at the discretion of the headmaster.

I did not find the process in any way off-putting, and I had to respect the amount of time that Sosa must have spent with each prospective student. Given that he doubtlessly weeded out some, and others self-selected out, the amount of his attention to the intake interviews far exceeded the amount reflected by just the number of students on the mat.

In our public facility, we were required by law to accept all comers, and I was extremely happy to comply. I would love to make aikido accessible to all who seek it.

Now, however, in our private setting, we have a limited number of slots available. We are on private property. The conditions are greatly changed, and there needs to be a way to communicate very clearly what the expectations are, what the limitations are, what the requirements are.

Of course, this goes both ways. If a prospective student came to me with a written list of questions they'd prepared in advance for me, I'd be blown away by their thoughtfulness. Students must choose us, and we must choose them, if it's to be a meaningful, healthy, and productive relationship.

Furthermore, I do think that all dojo have a selection process. It may be informal to the point of invisibility, it may take months or years to unfold, but it's there. I understand deeply that this model can work very well, having been immersed in it more often than not. At the same time, this can leave beginning (and advanced!) students guessing at hidden targets, and never really knowing how to fit in with the dojo culture.

I'm certainly not presenting the interview and intake form as the solution to everything, nor do I think it's right for all dojo environments. But for those who find the idea offensive, I'll be interested to know which doctors you go to, which dentists, which colleges and universities you've attend that do not require their own pertinent kind of intake form.

In my opinion, an aikido dojo, or any school of budo, is no less a serious matter, and it reflects no insult to those inquiring after us to treat it so. If we are serious, it does not mean that we must be sober, somber, and harsh -- to the contrary! -- but it does mean that our approach to relationships ought to be thoughtful, mindful, respectful, and above board.

There is a range of selectivity that's appropriate for different settings. But I'm not sure I'd want to be associated with any that have none, and the longer I do this, the more I appreciate it when the criteria are made explicit.

To me, it only seems like a courtesy.

Again, thanks so much to everyone for the thoughtful feedback.

Best,

Ross

Garth Jones
08-28-2009, 03:59 PM
Ross,

Thanks for putting your intake form into perspective. I was, as I said earlier, a bit put off by the tone - but that doesn't mean that a selection process (on the part of both student and teacher) is not a good idea, it is. Personally, I like the idea of the interview much better, although in my experience, for whatever that is worth, it is often hard to decide on first meeting who will or won't be a good, long term student (of anything, including aikido).

In certain extreme cases it may be clear right off, but I think it takes awhile for somebody to either settle in well, or not. Some clubs I have belonged to (not martial arts) have a formal probationary period to handle this. The final decision on membership may be after a month, or even a year. Generally, though, I have found that people who do not really belong in our dojo simplly do not keep training. So far I have not had to ask anybody to leave.

I understand that you have limited space in your facility and that you are trying to select for students who will be good members and train regularly. We all want that, I guess, but some of the aikido people I know (me included) were not at all sure at first if the art was for them, but after awhile they were hooked. Your selection process (by form or interview) does not leave much room for that sort of student, but maybe that's all right, given that you are small, private dojo. As you said, there is a range of selectivity for different settings.

I really like your "approach to relationships" thought. If more people had that attitude the world would be a better place.

Cheers,
Garth

PS I recently had a student who approached me with a list of questions about the dojo - I was very impressed and that person is now training seriously.

Shannon Frye
08-29-2009, 10:39 AM
Then again, you could always ask for a recent back statement and a physician documented midi-chlorian level exam.

Doc Dority
12-01-2009, 09:31 AM
Hello,
I think there is no "right" or "wrong" nature to the use of a student intake questionaire. It largely depends on how one choses to screen and evaluate a potential student. I'll weigh in on this subject ,as we do use such a tool. My school is a very traditional "back yard" or "closed door" setting , similar to the schools I trained with in Indonesia. My primary art is different but the issue of how to evaluate a prospective student is similar. In Pencak Silat , especially in SEA, it is expected that there will be some sort of screening process. Also, I am a practicing physician with easily verified credentials , training backgrounds and registry with the DEA and DPS as well as other organizations. Yet, for me to get priviledges to simply work at a new hospital or clinic I have to accomplish extensive questionaires and submit piles of paperwork . Later to be able to continue to work at those facilities , although my training and such has not changed ,I have to reaccomplish the whole recredentialling process including the extensive questionaires and submission of documentation. So, I don't really think a simple questionaire is such an ordeal for a sincerely interested student to have to have to complete.
If a student can't handle your request to answer a few simple, straightforward questions , I'm not certain they will be able to follow your other requests with regard to more daunting training requirements. Pendekars of our system have a number of different ways to evaluate a student and some do use the questionaire. The questionaire may be used with other more subtle tests to evaluate the student when they have no idea they are being evaluated. Of course this is done in a culture where the student seeks the teacher , rather than the teacher seeking the student. An associate of mine does not screen his students before they enter his school but he has admitted that every one that came to him , having refused to fill out my questionaire has turned out to be "a knucklehead". Every student that has taken the time to fill out the questionaire has been worth inviting to train and they have stayed longer than one or two classes of "sightseeing". If an applicant takes umbrage at having to fill out a questionaire it is really of no concern to me. I have a pool of knowledge he or she would like to tap into. At the end of the day I still have that knowledge , but depending on that individual's response he or she will or will not be on the way to having some of it as well. I am not running a restaurant. Showing up with a wad of cash in your hand does not entitle you to a right to my knowledge. You must show me some character traits that insinuate that I can share knowledge that can be used appropriately or can easily be perverted to inappropriate use. A little polite acceptance of my relatively benign request combined with the patience to fill out the document is a good start. Our respective arts are more than physical. We can ( and do ) weed out students with a daunting training regimen. Some people can persevere over physical tests just as some can "Know the right answers" for a questionaire. The Questionaire is a tool that has to be carefully considered and combined with other more subtle ways to evaluate a student.
The presentation of the questionaire has a lot to do with how an applicant recieves the request. It does not have to come across in a threatening manner. I make it known that this is an opportunity for them to tell me what they are seeking and why. Also we are interested in any challenges they know may create obstacles to their training such as injuries and handicaps. We explain this is questioning is to help both parties decide if we can honestly meet their needs and goals. The wording of the questionaire can provide the prospective student with an insight into our schools world view as well. For instance, I make it known that we do not require a student to reject his previous trainers' teachings nor do we demand that they train exclusively in our method as long as they "empty their cup" when they train with us. I do like to know if the prospective student has his/ her other teacher's blessing to train with me. I emphasize that we are willing to work around a student's handicaps but we need to know of them to maximize their safety in training. I emphasize there is no need for essays when a yes or no will suffice . I emphasize that there is not necessarily a "right" or "wrong" answer but I just want a truthful , sincere answer. One person mentioned the consideration that people are only screened out if they can't give the "right" answer. What is the "wrong answer" to questions regarding travel/scheduling issues, handicaps, injuries, etc? The "truthfullness" of those questions answers are not hidden long. Only truthful answers help the student and teacher work together to overcome these obstacles.
One of the reasons I use the questionaire ,as well as considering a few other things in my screening process, is that my "school" is at my home. We all know that martial arts , regardless of style, attracts wonderful people who merit our time , attention and energies and it also attracts the "nut case". I don't feel I can afford to have the latter showing up on my doorstep.
I teach an art that can be very dangerous in the wrong hands. I'm certain you would say the same of Aikido. The questionaire is part of my responsibility to the community not to put skills and tools in the hands of those who would use the art irresponsibly or innappropriately.
The skills we teach must be trained with patience, control and consideration for one's partner(s) , so screening is part of my responsibility to the safety of my students.
Some students later have told me, the fact they had to fill out a screening questionaire gave them the impression that they were applying to something that was serious, meant business and was a bit exclusive. They fely these were "positives".
I will admit the "Student Intake Questionaire" while being ( at least for us) an important screening tool , it is imperfect.

With Respect,

Doc Dority

Doc Dority
12-01-2009, 10:13 AM
As previously stated , I believe Student intake Questionaire is imperfect . It has to be used in conjunction with other evaluation processes. There will always be "problem children" who slip through but the questionaire , I believe , helps minimize the frequency of such things.
Additionally , from a purely "defensive" point of view, the questionaire shows that I have tried "in good faith" to screen and evaluate those who I give my knowledge. If a student ....or ex-student... creates some sort of irresponsible or malevolent mayhem out in the community ,at least I can show that. Also ,if a student hides his /her risk factors for injury and our training exacerbates the condition , I can show that I was not given the opportunity to take appropriate precautions for that student's safetly.
If you have specific ethical or behavioral expectations for your students, I think the questionaire is a good place to broach those. If their rejection or acceptance of those are important to you , you should know it sooner rather than later. If the student "tells you what you want to hear" , at least their deception is documented. If he /she becomes a problem in the school or community , that documented deception provides a justification for the student's dismissal.
With Respect,
Doc Dority

Kevin Leavitt
12-01-2009, 02:46 PM
Interesting. I assume the questionaire is meant to be a verbal cue sheet to facilitate a dialoque during the interview/information process.

I think it is a useful guideline and done with the correct amount of tact and "compassion" that these are all good points to cover.

It not only ensures that the dojo can assess the student, but that the student may assess their own decision about what they are going to undertake.

I don't think we do this enough. In someways even though the questions are very direct and may seem rude, it is also being very honest to the student the level of committment they need to be prepared to make in order to not only avoid wasting the dojo's time, but also their own time and money.

Many different ways of running a dojo and I think actually that Aikido is more of an advance practice than maybe some other arts (or at least it should be!) and that it is a life long process that requires a great deal of committment. Most of us don't know this starting out, and I think establishing this upfront is actually at least a more honest way of doing it.

R.A. Robertson
12-18-2009, 03:42 PM
Hello,
I think there is no "right" or "wrong" nature to the use of a student intake questionaire. [\]

Doc,

Welcome aboard! Wonderful to see you contributing here. You passed my screening quite some time ago, and hopefully, I yours.

Please give my very best to your students, and I hope we may train together again soon.

Ross

R.A. Robertson
12-18-2009, 03:51 PM
Interesting. I assume the questionaire is meant to be a verbal cue sheet to facilitate a dialoque during the interview/information process [\] .

Kevin,

The head of the nail must be aching mightily, because you, sir, have smacked it directly.

What matters most to me is that people understand that they/we are being initiated into an ongoing dialogue. We cannot be passive customers who pay a fee and get a performance or service. Nor can we behave like clients who expect to have everything custom made to our satisfaction.

We need to understand that we are joining a team of people who are collaborating in creating something. The team may be led by someone with a great deal of experience and expertise, and it would be foolish to ignore their instructions -- but worse, to imagine that we have nothing more than money and going through the motions to contribute.

Thanks for stating things so well.

Ross

yankeechick
12-27-2009, 09:34 PM
This is lengthy, please provide respectful feedback. I disagree with formalised questionnaires like the one posted here.

This is why:
Some months ago I visited a dojo in NYC; I was training with a very informal, poorly structured Sensei. I looked for a well organized dojo with good techinical acumen, and an environment where every man in the place would not try to objectify me by sleeping with me.

The dojo I visited in manhattan had a lengthy, intrusive questionnaire; very similar to the one posted here. There is nothing wrong with getting some information on a current student, for emergency contact purposes, etc. It is good to establish a collaborative dojo environment as well, by encouraging authentic communication and commitment. Also, to have a bi-latereal discussion, so that both parties can get an idea of each's expectations and abilities.

HOWEVER:
1. One pays a market rate fee to train; a fee that is not inexpensive. So if I pay for a service, I have the right to some relative privacy and not to be questioned/interrogated about my ability meet attendance requirements. The dojo environment and one's personal comittment determine how frequently one attends class. Also, as we know - this is not fuedal japan. There are times when one has life obligations to attend to AND one should not have to justify it or explain it to anyone, unless one chooses to.

2. The dojo I visited acted like they were doing me a favor, by ALLOWING me to visit and observe the required two classes. I did have the pleasure of being there to listen to a high ranking Shihan lecture them about their lack of serious training, lateness and weak technique. He then spent the remaining two hours of the seminar taking them through the basics of kokyuho (actually can be complicated to execute effectively), atemi and other basic techniques. He chided them about Aikido being an effective "Martial Art", that it works and they should train with some sincerity, discipline. He also lectured them about being unnecessarily harsh with the Uke. He then shook his head, as he watched them practicing. Because right after his lecture, they went on to do the very things he lectured them against. These are the people who gave me a hard time about joining their dojo.

I also had the occasion to listen to this dojo talk about their need for students, because they were failing financially. Any wonder why?

My point is that dojos should spend more time on a quality training environment with solid teaching, ethics and integrity. And less time with these egocentric dojo questionnaires.

Thank you for reading my two cents.

Maarten De Queecker
12-28-2009, 02:23 AM
Maybe it's because I'm european, but I find dojos who let possible students do intake exames incredibly elitist and arrogant. I can safely say that the survival chances of such dojos in Belgium would be nihil, mainly because martial arts have an "open-to-everyone" status, and closed elitist dojos (and its teachers) would be looked down upon.

After two years I still can't answer some of the questions. E.g. I don't know exactly why I'm practicing aikido, it's a riddle to me.

IMO such dojos are in direct oposition of O'Sensei's idea of creating and spreading a martial art for the whole world.

RED
12-28-2009, 08:44 PM
My dojo's intake questionnaire :

1- Do you want to learn Aikido?

2- Do you need us to provide you with a gi?

tarik
12-31-2009, 02:11 AM
There are other perspectives.


HOWEVER:
1. One pays a market rate fee to train; a fee that is not inexpensive. So if I pay for a service, I have the right to some relative privacy and not to be questioned/interrogated about my ability meet attendance requirements.

The training in my dojo is provided free of charge. Any payments made are to defray the costs of maintenance of the dojo. I choose who trains with me solely on my own terms. Those terms might be arbitrary, but they are growing more and more deliberate over time. If anyone has a problem with it, there's plenty of great dojo they can go train in. I'll even give them a referral.


2. The dojo I visited acted like they were doing me a favor, by ALLOWING me to visit and observe the required two classes.


I AM doing people a favor when I allow people to visit and observe classes. If I decide it's necessary, I'll make them observe two or three or four or more two hour classes. If they don't stay the entire class, they aren't welcome to come back, unless there's a solid reason and they discussed it with me before hand. It certainly doesn't do me or my students a favor to have guests. It's pretty simple; what I am doing is not for sale. Anyone is welcome to visit, but not everyone is suited to the training and not everyone is allowed on the mat until I decide that they are. That might be in the first 20 minutes or it might be never.


My point is that dojos should spend more time on a quality training environment with solid teaching, ethics and integrity. And less time with these egocentric dojo questionnaires.

Thank you for reading my two cents.

Maintaining that quality training environment is exactly why I don't allow just anyone to visit. In fact, I know plenty of great people that I'll still train with in other environments that I won't allow near my students.

I don't have a questionnaire, but I do ask people a lot of questions.. if I need to. Most of the time they leave after a single class, something that I've become profoundly grateful for over time as the ones who stick around for 3 weeks are much more a waste of time. The ones who choose to stick around longer are definitely a surprise for me.

Maybe it's because I'm european, but I find dojos who let possible students do intake exames incredibly elitist and arrogant.

I can safely say that the survival chances of such dojos in Belgium would be nihil, mainly because martial arts have an "open-to-everyone" status, and closed elitist dojos (and its teachers) would be looked down upon.

As for elitism, I know I'd be MUCH happier with a surgeon or similar professional who comes out of an elite and renowned university rather than some chop shop.

I find elitist organizations produce a pretty high quality of education. I can't claim to be doing that, although I do believe my students are learning a lot more than they did in their prior environments. If that's arrogance, then I can live with that, but I think I've enough accumulated enough personal knowledge and authority to trust that it isn't.

I like the path I'm on and have no intention of changing it. In fact, although I don't have a questionnaire and don't have a formal 'exam', I would say that I am getting pickier and pickier about who I will even invite or allow to come visit when I make contact with people. I can safely say that I'm happy with my survival chances.

IMO such dojos are in direct oposition of O'Sensei's idea of creating and spreading a martial art for the whole world.

Ironically, I spent a decade in a dojo with the attitude that not only was everyone welcome, but that everyone should try aikido and take that experience with them into the rest of their lives. I still believe that to a large extent, but frankly, aikido is NOT for everyone.

Best,

yankeechick
12-31-2009, 09:30 AM
There are other perspectives.

The training in my dojo is provided free of charge. Any payments made are to defray the costs of maintenance of the dojo. I choose who trains with me solely on my own terms. Those terms might be arbitrary, but they are growing more and more deliberate over time. If anyone has a problem with it, there's plenty of great dojo they can go train in. I'll even give them a referral.

I AM doing people a favor when I allow people to visit and observe classes. If I decide it's necessary, I'll make them observe two or three or four or more two hour classes. If they don't stay the entire class, they aren't welcome to come back, unless there's a solid reason and they discussed it with me before hand. It certainly doesn't do me or my students a favor to have guests. It's pretty simple; what I am doing is not for sale. Anyone is welcome to visit, but not everyone is suited to the training and not everyone is allowed on the mat until I decide that they are. That might be in the first 20 minutes or it might be never.

Maintaining that quality training environment is exactly why I don't allow just anyone to visit. In fact, I know plenty of great people that I'll still train with in other environments that I won't allow near my students.

I don't have a questionnaire, but I do ask people a lot of questions.. if I need to. Most of the time they leave after a single class, something that I've become profoundly grateful for over time as the ones who stick around for 3 weeks are much more a waste of time. The ones who choose to stick around longer are definitely a surprise for me.

As for elitism, I know I'd be MUCH happier with a surgeon or similar professional who comes out of an elite and renowned university rather than some chop shop.

I find elitist organizations produce a pretty high quality of education. I can't claim to be doing that, although I do believe my students are learning a lot more than they did in their prior environments. If that's arrogance, then I can live with that, but I think I've enough accumulated enough personal knowledge and authority to trust that it isn't.

I like the path I'm on and have no intention of changing it. In fact, although I don't have a questionnaire and don't have a formal 'exam', I would say that I am getting pickier and pickier about who I will even invite or allow to come visit when I make contact with people. I can safely say that I'm happy with my survival chances.

Ironically, I spent a decade in a dojo with the attitude that not only was everyone welcome, but that everyone should try aikido and take that experience with them into the rest of their lives. I still believe that to a large extent, but frankly, aikido is NOT for everyone.

Best,

Tarik,

There are other perspectives. I whole heartedly disagree with yours. I am happy that I am not the one who has to decide who Aikido, or any Martial Art is for.

I wish you the best with your training. I hope you will grow and your perspectives open up, to understand the limitations, negative impact and generally destructive results behaviours like what you, endorse promote.

Best regards.

Maarten De Queecker
12-31-2009, 11:18 AM
There are other perspectives.

The training in my dojo is provided free of charge. Any payments made are to defray the costs of maintenance of the dojo. I choose who trains with me solely on my own terms. Those terms might be arbitrary, but they are growing more and more deliberate over time. If anyone has a problem with it, there's plenty of great dojo they can go train in. I'll even give them a referral.

I AM doing people a favor when I allow people to visit and observe classes. If I decide it's necessary, I'll make them observe two or three or four or more two hour classes. If they don't stay the entire class, they aren't welcome to come back, unless there's a solid reason and they discussed it with me before hand. It certainly doesn't do me or my students a favor to have guests. It's pretty simple; what I am doing is not for sale. Anyone is welcome to visit, but not everyone is suited to the training and not everyone is allowed on the mat until I decide that they are. That might be in the first 20 minutes or it might be never.

Maintaining that quality training environment is exactly why I don't allow just anyone to visit. In fact, I know plenty of great people that I'll still train with in other environments that I won't allow near my students.

I don't have a questionnaire, but I do ask people a lot of questions.. if I need to. Most of the time they leave after a single class, something that I've become profoundly grateful for over time as the ones who stick around for 3 weeks are much more a waste of time. The ones who choose to stick around longer are definitely a surprise for me.

As for elitism, I know I'd be MUCH happier with a surgeon or similar professional who comes out of an elite and renowned university rather than some chop shop.

I find elitist organizations produce a pretty high quality of education. I can't claim to be doing that, although I do believe my students are learning a lot more than they did in their prior environments. If that's arrogance, then I can live with that, but I think I've enough accumulated enough personal knowledge and authority to trust that it isn't.

I like the path I'm on and have no intention of changing it. In fact, although I don't have a questionnaire and don't have a formal 'exam', I would say that I am getting pickier and pickier about who I will even invite or allow to come visit when I make contact with people. I can safely say that I'm happy with my survival chances.

Ironically, I spent a decade in a dojo with the attitude that not only was everyone welcome, but that everyone should try aikido and take that experience with them into the rest of their lives. I still believe that to a large extent, but frankly, aikido is NOT for everyone.

Best,
So basically, you see yourself as a master in the art? It sure looks like it, seeing as how you decide who can join class and who can't. You even make them waste six hours of their life watching you guys have fun.
If I were to look for a new place to train and the instructor would say to me "why don't you watch for a couple of lessons so I can see if you meet the requirements to be my disciple" I would leave immediately. Such a person can teach me nothing since he is too stuck up with his own ego.

Yes, you are arrogant.

You and your disciples don't enjoy guests? What kind of stuck up people are you? So if someone shows interest in aikido and comes visit your dojo you guys look down on him instead of welcoming him? Way to go!

People like you are the people I loathe. Stuck up, arrogant, deluded idiots.

And no, I'm not in the least bit sorry if I insulted you. My respect for you is zero.

piyush.kumar
12-31-2009, 12:06 PM
If i may,
Knowledge is priceless. One cannot put a price on it. And it depends on the teacher whether they want to spend their time imparting those teachings to everyone or those who they deem suitable enough. The bottomline is even if we spread this to everyone, there will only be very few people who are at a certain stage in life who would be receptive to it. I have tried it :). To let people know from my own limited wisdom of what they might look at. But one does not get it and i feel as if i let them down and let myself down. It takes a tremendous amount of patience to get past that point or perhaps i am getting something wrong right now.
Peace
Piyush,
P.S Like the point i just tried to make, some of you would get it, some of you would not, that is just another illustration of this :D

tarik
12-31-2009, 01:19 PM
There are other perspectives. I whole heartedly disagree with yours.

And that's why they make chocolate and vanilla.


I am happy that I am not the one who has to decide who Aikido, or any Martial Art is for.


I think you misunderstand me. I don't decide that at all. That's their decision. I decide who I am willing to put a personal investment in. Moreover, I decide that WITH the potential student, not despite them. And some of them have decided it for me. In fact, that is more often the way it works out.

If I think it's more appropriate for what they want out of their training, I will happily recommend my old dojo to them and will probably train with them in that environment from time to time (I don't visit often any more).


I wish you the best with your training. I hope you will grow and your perspectives open up, to understand the limitations, negative impact and generally destructive results behaviours like what you, endorse promote.

Do you realize how condescending and presumptive your assumptions about the effects of my actions are? You don't have any idea about how negative or destructive my perspectives are, I assure you.

In any case, I am not offended or affected by your opinion, I'm just offering the perspective that while something like a questionnaire or other selective process can certainly be carried into a destructive or a negative level, they can also be valuable tools for a group of people who DO know exactly what they are trying to get out of their training.

You are not only welcome to believe and follow your path, I encourage it.

So basically, you see yourself as a master in the art?

Not remotely. If I wasn't clear about that, let this be the clarifying statement.

It sure looks like it, seeing as how you decide who can join class and who can't. You even make them waste six hours of their life watching you guys have fun.

It's my dojo. Hell, it's in my home. It's my life and my families life. It's my liability, my time, and my students time. I reserve to right to be as picky as I need to be to protect all of that. If you see that as a waste of your time, I submit that you have no respect for me already. If you can't respect that, why should I waste MY time?

FWIW, I seldom (almost never) have had to decide that someone cannot join class. The requirement is to watch pretty much self-selects people for me. People who have watched have thanked me because once they watched, they realized that they were not interested. Others, whom I was sure would not be interested, have surprised me by telling me they wanted to enroll.


If I were to look for a new place to train and the instructor would say to me "why don't you watch for a couple of lessons so I can see if you meet the requirements to be my disciple" I would leave immediately. Such a person can teach me nothing since he is too stuck up with his own ego.

Well, I've never said that to anyone nor did I say it above. I tell people who are interested, "Come and watch some classes and then let's discuss whether this training is for you or not". I'm willing to make the watching period as long as it needs to be. 20 minutes or 20 years is fine with me.

Yes, you are arrogant.

You and your disciples don't enjoy guests? What kind of stuck up people are you? So if someone shows interest in aikido and comes visit your dojo you guys look down on him instead of welcoming him? Way to go!

I don't have any disciples (your word, not mine). I have fellow students. They are my students simply because I know a bit more than they do, but we are students together.

We welcome guests whenever they choose to visit, and we don't look down upon them at all. However, when someone visits, if I don't know what their training is like, I won't let them train with my students until I have some idea of how they train. If that's offensive, well, they don't have to visit.


People like you are the people I loathe. Stuck up, arrogant, deluded idiots.

And no, I'm not in the least bit sorry if I insulted you. My respect for you is zero.

I'm not insulted. But I will say that you look a bit foolish and over-reactive, from my perspective. You just don't understand where I'm coming from or what I'm doing. That's ok.

If i may,
Knowledge is priceless. One cannot put a price on it. And it depends on the teacher whether they want to spend their time imparting those teachings to everyone or those who they deem suitable enough. The bottomline is even if we spread this to everyone, there will only be very few people who are at a certain stage in life who would be receptive to it. I have tried it :). To let people know from my own limited wisdom of what they might look at. But one does not get it and i feel as if i let them down and let myself down. It takes a tremendous amount of patience to get past that point or perhaps i am getting something wrong right now.
Peace
Piyush,
P.S Like the point i just tried to make, some of you would get it, some of you would not, that is just another illustration of this :D

I get it. I would not use the word suitable, but I agree with your comment. Some people are ready, some are capable, some are not. It's that simple. It's not a judgment about who they are as a human being, it's a judgment about their readiness or ability to join with you in the kind of training you are engaged in.

I have a LOT of aikido friends whom I don't train with any more. Not because they aren't welcome, or because I dislike them, or because I think they are not worthy. It's their choice as much as it's mine because we want different things out of our training and so we have taken different paths. We still like one another and like laying hands on one another once in a while.

We each might think that the other is right or wrong, but we each understand that the others focus is deliberately different, even if we don't always understand why. I fail to understand why some people have no respect for that, but that's not really my problem, is it?

Best,

Mark Gibbons
12-31-2009, 01:30 PM
So basically, you see yourself as a master in the art? It sure looks like it, seeing as how you decide who can join class and who can't. You even make them waste six hours of their life watching you guys have fun.
If I were to look for a new place to train and the instructor would say to me "why don't you watch for a couple of lessons so I can see if you meet the requirements to be my disciple" I would leave immediately. Such a person can teach me nothing since he is too stuck up with his own ego.



I don't see where Tarik claimed mastery. Just that he was picky about who he trained with and taught. I doubt he has any disciples, probably some close friends though. His place, his rules.

BTW. I've met Tarik once, trained with him very briefly and exchanged emails. No other connection.

Many, many places want you to call ahead or watch classes before training. I don't think a teacher is required to waste any time on someone unwilling to spend 6 hours of their time seeing if what is taught do is right for the student.

I spent way more than 6 hours checking out dojos before I picked one. It's not a major investment of time considering you want a long term relationship.

Regards,
Mark

piyush.kumar
12-31-2009, 01:35 PM
@ tarik- No sir absolutely not. But an effort towards understanding another point of view endows you with something greater called patience :). Which is priceless as i am realizing nowadays. And i do stand corrected on the word suitable. Perhaps that was not a suitable word to use after all :D. But you understood and so it served its purpose. And yes, i do agree with you on the point that everybody have their own focus of what they want to achieve as regards to their training. But, in the process, the moment one closes one's mind, their further training is effectively at a full stop for that point in time. It takes a lot of vigilance to stop oneself from doing that.
Peace
Piyush

yankeechick
12-31-2009, 08:29 PM
And that's why they make chocolate and vanilla.

I think you misunderstand me. I don't decide that at all. That's their decision. I decide who I am willing to put a personal investment in. Moreover, I decide that WITH the potential student, not despite them. And some of them have decided it for me. In fact, that is more often the way it works out.

If I think it's more appropriate for what they want out of their training, I will happily recommend my old dojo to them and will probably train with them in that environment from time to time (I don't visit often any more).

Do you realize how condescending and presumptive your assumptions about the effects of my actions are? You don't have any idea about how negative or destructive my perspectives are, I assure you.

In any case, I am not offended or affected by your opinion, I'm just offering the perspective that while something like a questionnaire or other selective process can certainly be carried into a destructive or a negative level, they can also be valuable tools for a group of people who DO know exactly what they are trying to get out of their training.

You are not only welcome to believe and follow your path, I encourage it.

-------------
@Tarik,

I agree that theere is some misunderstanding here. I said the ideas that "you endorse"; there is a difference. An elitist place would understand this LOL...just kidding...

But seriuosly, it's good to hear that you are more open than your posting (gave the impression). And I can understand that you take your investment seriously.

I did not presume anything. You stated it in your posting. Others' picked it up as well. So let's be mindful of that.

I maintain my point that these decisions are best made as a dialogue. You supported that position, when you stated that you decide this WITH the potential student. That is my most significant point.

Randy Sexton
01-01-2010, 07:55 AM
Interesting discussion. Lots of food for thought.

On the other hand, how would you create a questionnaire that the potential student could ask the instructor to complete?

Doc

yankeechick
01-01-2010, 09:06 AM
Interesting discussion. Lots of food for thought.

On the other hand, how would you create a questionnaire that the potential student could ask the instructor to complete?

Doc

Indeed.

tarik
01-02-2010, 02:20 AM
I maintain my point that these decisions are best made as a dialogue. You supported that position, when you stated that you decide this WITH the potential student. That is my most significant point.

A dialogue can only begin if both parties are open to both listening and discussing. I find that requiring prospective new members to watch at least one class before allowing them to apply for membership facilitates that. For one, their willingness tells me a lot about their ability to listen and pay attention, for another, watching them watch, teaches me a lot about them, even before the questions begin.

Interesting discussion. Lots of food for thought.

On the other hand, how would you create a questionnaire that the potential student could ask the instructor to complete?


A potential student is usually far less equipped to ask all the right questions, but they can often ask very pertinent ones. When I first came back to aikido, however, I read a lot and watched several classes (even though it wasn't required), and had discussions with teh instructors (again not required in that dojo) before I made my decision.

Best,

R.A. Robertson
01-15-2010, 02:21 PM
Interesting discussion. Lots of food for thought.

On the other hand, how would you create a questionnaire that the potential student could ask the instructor to complete?

Doc

Sensei Interview Questionnaire

1) In your dojo, who cleans the toilets?
2) Why?

Ross

Janet Rosen
01-15-2010, 02:32 PM
Sensei Interview Questionnaire
1) In your dojo, who cleans the toilets?
2) Why?
Ross

Oh Ross I LOVE that.
And that I can think of a variety of answers I'd probably find acceptable in different situations makes it all the better.

tarik
01-15-2010, 02:51 PM
Sensei Interview Questionnaire

1) In your dojo, who cleans the toilets?

I do (or my wife does).


2) Why?

Because the toilets are in our house and we don't like dirty toilets (and the kids are too young to do a good job as yet).

:-)

More than questions, I would desire to sit and watch through several classes without interrupting to observe the training. That would answer a lot of my questions and fuel more.

Best,

yankeechick
01-16-2010, 12:42 AM
I do (or my wife does).

Because the toilets are in our house and we don't like dirty toilets (and the kids are too young to do a good job as yet).

:-)

More than questions, I would desire to sit and watch through several classes without interrupting to observe the training. That would answer a lot of my questions and fuel more.

Best,

I agree that watching a class is key....

Tim Lee
01-16-2010, 10:10 AM
I have been watching the comments on this posted column from its' beginning. In opinions we are all over the matte, so why shouldn't I contribute. I am really confused by some of the comments that people would be offended, or put off by a questionnaire or application to train, or interview. I liked I think it was Garth's comment that a student recently presented somewhat a list of questions to him before training. As teachers in our self defense disciplines people will roll in train for awhile roll on and some stay. For us, we stayed a long time.. Why was that, something about that dojo, it's teacher, it's location, class time, other students was a Fit for us. While never training there I visited Sosa's school in Dallas in the 70's, when you walked in the door, the school and its' teacher had an aura. It was a questionnaire in and of itself, you knew this place and its' teacher were something special. At that point in my life I was not up to that challenge. I teach in a public location and in a private location, The Divine Paradox. I am a member at large in a private location as well.... Hmmm... I find that in any one of the scenarios, I feel comfortable with the screening processes. The process in a screening process should be considered a biforcated process. Its' purpose is not just to weed out, but to help for a better fit. Ross teaches in Austin. There is a group at the University as well, maybe one or the other is a better fit. In my private group, if I am teaching from my home or from my teachers home, I have responsibilities that exceed my position on the matte to respect the other inhabitants property and safety as well. On the matte I know my responsibility to my students and their well being. If we go to Walmart and buy a bag of Apples, and you must write a check, there is an inquisition that I find offensive. Do I look like a criminal? Once finished with that process you go to the door and they frisk you again. Yes, I find that offensive. Does the store have a right to ask these questions of you? Yes they do.. You can just pay cash, but then they still look at your receipt at the door. So we have a choice go there or go somewhere else. There is another factor here that maybe some are missing... Should you contact Ross about training.. you don't get a blank impersonal stair with that eyebrow raised armed with questionnaire and large magnifying glass. You meet a warm considerate group and its' teacher, then if he ever decides to adopt the questionnaire he might ask you to look at it. So to put it in context presentation is everything, if you hold people at arms length and say here fill this out and slip it under the door. They are likely to slip it under the door and run like hell. In consideration of all this remember the human factors of introduction, etc. I am reminded of the line from Anna and the King.. "In Siam Sir it is considered polite to first ask questions of personal nature"..A lot of great responses on this thread are posted and evidence of how differently people can think and still have those things like Aikido that bring us together.:do:

Tim Lee
01-16-2010, 10:20 AM
I have been watching the comments on this posted column from its' beginning. In opinions we are all over the matte, so why shouldn't I contribute. I am really confused by some of the comments that people would be offended, or put off by a questionnaire or application to train, or interview. I liked I think it was Garth's comment that a student recently presented somewhat a list of questions to him before training. As teachers in our self defense disciplines people will roll in train for awhile roll on and some stay. For us, we stayed a long time.. Why was that, something about that dojo, it's teacher, it's location, class time, other students was a Fit for us. While never training there I visited Sosa's school in Dallas in the 70's, when you walked in the door, the school and its' teacher had an aura. It was a questionnaire in and of itself, you knew this place and its' teacher were something special. At that point in my life I was not up to that challenge. I teach in a public location and in a private location, The Divine Paradox. I am a member at large in a private location as well.... Hmmm... I find that in any one of the scenarios, I feel comfortable with the screening processes. The process in a screening process should be considered a biforcated process. Its' purpose is not just to weed out, but to help for a better fit. Ross teaches in Austin. There is a group at the University as well, maybe one or the other is a better fit. In my private group, if I am teaching from my home or from my teachers home, I have responsibilities that exceed my position on the matte to respect the other inhabitants property and safety as well. On the matte I know my responsibility to my students and their well being. If we go to Walmart and buy a bag of Apples, and you must write a check, there is an inquisition that I find offensive. Do I look like a criminal? Once finished with that process you go to the door and they frisk you again. Yes, I find that offensive. Does the store have a right to ask these questions of you? Yes they do.. You can just pay cash, but then they still look at your receipt at the door. So we have a choice go there or go somewhere else. There is another factor here that maybe some are missing... Should you contact Ross about training.. you don't get a blank impersonal stair with that eyebrow raised armed with questionnaire and large magnifying glass. You meet a warm considerate group and its' teacher, then if he ever decides to adopt the questionnaire he might ask you to look at it. So to put it in context presentation is everything, if you hold people at arms length and say here fill this out and slip it under the door. They are likely to slip it under the door and run like hell. In consideration of all this remember the human factors of introduction, etc. I am reminded of the line from Anna and the King.. "In Siam Sir it is considered polite to first ask questions of personal nature"..A lot of great responses on this thread are posted and evidence of how differently people can think and still have those things like Aikido that bring us together. I think the columnist has succeeded.

lbb
01-17-2010, 07:30 AM
I finally took a look at the posted questionnaire. I don't think that the real purpose of most of the "questions" is to get information from the student; instead, they seem to be either statements of dojo policy and the expectations that will be placed on students, or attempts to inform and caution the would-be student about the level of commitment required. I don't see anything in it that is intrusive (read the wording carefully on the physical/mental conditions question, for example). Offensive? Well, that's somewhat in the eye of the beholder. I don't think offensiveness is the real problem of this document; instead, I think that this is a document that is trying to do too many things at once, as follows.

- Clarify dojo policy as regards attendance, payment of fees, participation in dojo chores, participation in external service activities, etc. This is important stuff to be communicated, if you have such policies (not every dojo does), but I am not sure that a written document is the best way to communicate them (and I am quite sure that a "questionnaire" full of questions that really aren't questions is not).

- Get information from the student. This is the smallest, least important function of this questionnaire, and ironically, really the only function that requires asking questions. It seems that this function could be handled just fine with a simple registration form.

- Explain the effort and level of commitment that is required to train. Unfortunately, there isn't any way you can paint the full picture for someone who has never trained before. For example, you can explain that to learn and improve, it will require, on average, x number of days a week on an ongoing basis, but I think that can cut both ways. On the one hand, if someone has non-negotiable commitments that will preclude their training for that amount of time, you'd certainly think it best that they know that up front. On the other hand, even if they don't have such commitments, their evenings are most likely taken up with something that they enjoy. Forcing them to choose between aikido and American Idol, indefinitely, seems more likely to cause people to choose a current pleasure that they know over an activity that they have never experienced and whose enjoyment grows over time. It's only as people train that they learn what aikido is worth to them, and what they're willing to do to keep training (sometimes including finding creative ways to re-negotiate some of those non-negotiable schedule conflicts).

I do think it's wise to ask people to watch a class before joining, for several reasons (so that they know what actually happens in a class and get any silly movie ideas out of their heads, at the very least), but that's about it. The only truly informed decision that a not-yet-beginner can make is whether they're willing to step onto the mat for the first time.