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Mary Eastland
10-17-2012, 09:50 AM
Our classes have been small. Our dedicated students have been with us for a long time. We have a small core who train regularly. New people don't stay so much anymore. I am so grateful for the people who keep coming so Ron and I can continue train.

It seems like a new trend is for people just to go to seminars. Well, it is nice to see people there. I am putting it out to the universe that I would like our dojo to continue to grow and thrive.

How about your dojo? How is is going there?

Janet Rosen
10-17-2012, 11:19 AM
December will be two years since our founder/chief instructor died.
Immediately after her passing, a bunch of former students, including some fairly senior folk, reappeared on the mat; however, they quickly faded away.
Our core group remains quite small - this is a small town in the heart of a very rural area- however we have a small, regular influx of newer students periodically thanks to our beginner's and kids' classes being regularly listed via the three times a year local recreation guide - folks can sign up via the city rec dept. for discrete four week sessions w/o technically "joining" the dojo or buying a gi. We normally pick up one or two "keepers" for the adult classes this way.
And thanks to three volunteer instructors, our kids' classes are generally well attended, which besides continuing our role as part of the local community definitely helps pay the bills.

Janet Rosen
10-17-2012, 11:21 AM
It seems like a new trend is for people just to go to seminars.

I'm curious about this, Mary. Are you saying that you find people don't show up for regular training at the dojo, but somehow keep their skill level up enough to instead just attend seminars from time to time?

aiki-jujutsuka
10-17-2012, 11:59 AM
I have the interesting situation at my dojos in that I'm alittle like the spare wheel. As our arts require partners to act as tori and uke, I don't have a regular/grading partner. There have been a few uni students who have joined us who have come as a group so stick together; there is also a couple of teenagers who've joined and a couple of guys I've graded with before who've either left or don't attend regularly anymore. It can be frustrating, especially when coming up to a grading. I've been doing well just recently as there has been another brown belt whose regular training partner hasn't been around and I've managed to train with him, but there's no certainty we'll train together regularly in the future.

Walter Martindale
10-17-2012, 12:10 PM
I have the interesting situation at my dojos in that I'm alittle like the spare wheel. As our arts require partners to act as tori and uke, I don't have a regular/grading partner. There have been a few uni students who have joined us who have come as a group so stick together; there is also a couple of teenagers who've joined and a couple of guys I've graded with before who've either left or don't attend regularly anymore. It can be frustrating, especially when coming up to a grading. I've been doing well just recently as there has been another brown belt whose regular training partner hasn't been around and I've managed to train with him, but there's no certainty we'll train together regularly in the future.

That's interesting.. With the exception of Calgary (Aikido Bozankan) in the mornings, and Aikikai Hombu in Tokyo, all the dojo I've practiced in have switched partners quite regularly during practice.

Does your dojo not encourage practicing with as many different people as possible? After all, one needs to be able to "aikido" anyone, not just a regular partner..
Cheers,
Walter

aiki-jujutsuka
10-17-2012, 12:16 PM
Yes we switch partners occassionally, sometimes a few times per lesson, but especially when we are approaching a grading, it is generally encouraged to have a regular training partner. It has worked to my advantage in the past when my instructors have given me one-to-one support and training. There are a few guys I train with but sometimes it can be frustrating when you want to establish a partnership for gradings.

Walter Martindale
10-17-2012, 12:46 PM
Yes we switch partners occassionally, sometimes a few times per lesson, but especially when we are approaching a grading, it is generally encouraged to have a regular training partner. It has worked to my advantage in the past when my instructors have given me one-to-one support and training. There are a few guys I train with but sometimes it can be frustrating when you want to establish a partnership for gradings.

I see. I've done it both ways - practice with someone over and over and .... oops, he can't make it to the grading so... um... Who's available? I've also "uke'd" for someone going for his shodan when he didn't have a partner lined up.
Last two of my gradings have had multiple partners without much pre-selection. Vastly different people, too, in the nidan test. The shodan grading was just a queue of 5 guys, one after the other, with the examiner calling out all the requirements.

I'd suggest you make a point of getting used to not being used to anyone - but also being used to everyone. Practice with little folks, big STRONG folks, loose folks, TIGHT folks, fit folks and not so fit folks. Ask them to be relentless and to push, push, push until you can barely stand up. (of course this is very good training for both parties uke and nage because in practice you take turns. work until you NEED rest, and then work until you can't keep going.. harder to do than we think.)

aiki-jujutsuka
10-17-2012, 01:00 PM
Easier said than done. I've trained with most people in my dojo, I've helped the lower grades and the teenagers before. We did a Nidan session a few weeks ago where I partnered with one of the teenagers but his wrists were so weak that he crumpled in pain with almost every technique and I had to train very lightly with him. Not a criticism of him, he couldn't help his frame but it wasn't the most beneficial session for me. I've trained with some bigger guys, whose body frame is much bigger than mine and are much stronger than me, which has been good to really hone the technique to make it work. The hardest I think I've trained is when I've done knife defence - but there is less emphasis on ukemi in AJJ than Aikido and more emphasis on atemi, so training is done with great care to avoid injury.

lbb
10-17-2012, 01:00 PM
We have our stalwarts, but we could use more bodies -- sounds like it's a common theme. Martial arts practice is a minority taste -- while a lot of people might try it, few stick with it -- and since we are not located near a large population center, a small percentage of a not-large population gives us...you get the idea.

Eva Antonia
10-17-2012, 01:03 PM
Dear all,

at the moment I have the impression that our dojo is doing fine. What does "fine" mean?

I have seen dojos with much better attention, more students, several classes per day, lots of fantastic teachers and high graded students. These range from non-profit to professional ones; to count three - www.aikimode.com in Turkey, the Aikido Federation of Azerbaijan (www.aikiaz.ru) and last but no ways least, the Cercle Tissier (www.cercletissier.com). We are lightyears away from them, no way to compare.

But then in Brussels there is an aikido dojo at every street corner (alone four aikikai dojos in 10 min biking distance from my house), fees are very cheap and teachers are generally good. I've never seen dojos with the main instructor being 1st kyu or things like that. So, there is lots of competition, and in consequence most dojos are quite small. It's by the way the same for other martial arts.

So, for us, doing fine is having more than half of the students wearing a hakama, all of them being at our dojo for years, and also most of the lower kyus being permanent. Turnover and awol rates are quite low. We got five new white belts with the begin of this season, and all of them purchased a gi (token of commitment...). At normal classes, 10- 15 people show up. There are six kids coming permanently to kids classes, including one of my daughters. And we have four instructors/ assistant instructors between shodan and yondan, which is also fine. We have four classes per week, two for adults/ advanced students, two for children/ beginners. No one is very much in a hurry for passing exams, and there is neither exam stress nor exam fees (for the kyu grades, that is). Some people are not satisfied with training "only" four times per week and complement by training in another dojo. That's also fine.

I remember having dire straits with at first our dojo being under construction (renovation of the university sports complex we belong to) for 18 months, then our main instructor falling ill and having to give up after some months. That cost us something like half the number of students, and there were times we showed up for training with two people, the highest ranking being 4th kyu or so. So at that times I thought our dojo was menaced with extinction, but luckily we got over this, fusioning with another dojo that had problems with the place it rented.

And since then, I'd say, it's improving slowly but continuously. I hope it'll remain like that and if maybe some day we could host more seminars it would be even better. I wish the same to you all!

Best regards,

Eva

Janet Rosen
10-17-2012, 01:35 PM
Turnover and awol rates are quite low. We got five new white belts with the begin of this season, and all of them purchased a gi (token of commitment...).

We have a wry joke that we discourage newbies from purchasing a gi as, rather than being a token of committment, too many seem to buy the gi and then never come back :)

Mary Eastland
10-17-2012, 02:34 PM
I'm curious about this, Mary. Are you saying that you find people don't show up for regular training at the dojo, but somehow keep their skill level up enough to instead just attend seminars from time to time?

We have several people who have moved away from the Berkshires but still come back to our seminars. 2 of them have opened a dojo and train there...some just come to seminars. We also have a club and a class at MCLA and a class at Berkshire Community College and a small dojo in Pittsfield which is about 20 miles north of here.

phitruong
10-17-2012, 02:50 PM
We have a wry joke that we discourage newbies from purchasing a gi as, rather than being a token of committment, too many seem to buy the gi and then never come back :)

you too? quite a few folks who bought the gi then neverheard from them again. very strange. now, we just tell folks to not bother with the gi, until you have trained for a few months.

methink, it's a cultural thing. there are folks who don't want to do martial arts, because they associate that with UFC/MMA violent. then there are folks who want to do martial arts, because they associate that with UFC/MMA violent. then there are folks who don't know what they want but afraid to try something new, because it might change them. then we have folks, because of various life issues, who can't or won't.

it's hard to get folks that are really interested and committed. maybe aikido just isn't sexy enough and guys in funny skirt aren't helping or attractive looking (except for moi). :)

Janet Rosen
10-17-2012, 04:06 PM
you too? quite a few folks who bought the gi then neverheard from them again. very strange. now, we just tell folks to not bother with the gi, until you have trained for a few months....
it's hard to get folks that are really interested and committed. maybe aikido just isn't sexy enough and guys in funny skirt aren't helping or attractive looking (except for moi). :)

hmm...maybe we need to get the newbies right into haks, take them away for just keikiogi at first grading, and then at shodan you get to just wear your street clothes :D

SteliosPapadakis
10-18-2012, 08:35 AM
The dojo has been doing fine.
We also accommodate a Zumba (!) class after the lesson...

Chonin
10-26-2012, 04:49 PM
hmm...maybe we need to get the newbies right into haks, take them away for just keikiogi at first grading, and then at shodan you get to just wear your street clothes :D

Well I am simple newb getting ready for 6th Kyu. I don't wear a nifty hakama but my wife says I am wearing tighter abs and pecs outside the dojo.

That's good reason to keep at it.

How's my dojo doing? They build solid cores and everyone gets along.:D

Alic
10-26-2012, 10:48 PM
In the Vancouver Yoshinkan club we're doing pretty well for ourselves. A senshusei graduate as regular class sensei, and the dojocho teaching advance classes. A good solid core group of pretty junior students, some already shodan candidates.

I find that it's difficult to keep beginners around, even though us college kids keep bringing in friends and classmates. Mostly they tell me it has to do with work, classes, and/or significant others, but a nagging part of my brain tells me they're just being lazy and don't want to put in extra effort...

What do you guys think? Am I just being a douche and assume everyone's lazy, or is that why the new people don't come to training? Is there any way to combat the lazy factor, or should I just let the lazy ones slip away?

Janet Rosen
10-27-2012, 12:58 AM
What do you guys think? Am I just being a douche and assume everyone's lazy, or is that why the new people don't come to training? Is there any way to combat the lazy factor, or should I just let the lazy ones slip away?

Why make it a value/personality judgement like "lazy" instead of just thinking that most folks just aren't really interested in doing martial arts?

Peter Goldsbury
10-27-2012, 01:09 AM
Our classes have been small. Our dedicated students have been with us for a long time. We have a small core who train regularly. New people don't stay so much anymore. I am so grateful for the people who keep coming so Ron and I can continue train.

It seems like a new trend is for people just to go to seminars. Well, it is nice to see people there. I am putting it out to the universe that I would like our dojo to continue to grow and thrive.

How about your dojo? How is is going there?

Hello Mary,

Tomorrow we celebrate our 10th anniversary. We expect to receive about 50 visitors from other parts of Japan and we will have a training session followed by a short demonstration, and a party.

Pauliina Lievonen
10-27-2012, 05:46 AM
Why make it a value/personality judgement like "lazy" instead of just thinking that most folks just aren't really interested in doing martial arts?What Janet said. Is everyone who doesn't sing in a choir "lazy"? ;)

kvaak
Pauliina

Mark Uttech
10-28-2012, 07:57 AM
Onegaishimasu, George Ledyard Sensei once wrote that less than 1% of folks are SERIOUSLY
interested in learning the martial arts. I think dojos can rest easy: 60% of the poulation is aging to a serious point where they want to begin trying to save their lives and running isn't for everyone. There is a known story (from the 'Principles of Aikido') where O Sensei tells a 70 yr old beginner that he himself is over 80 and pairs up with him to practice kokyu tanden ho. There's plenty of innovation going on in the Aikido world.

In gassho,

Mark

Diana Frese
10-28-2012, 02:53 PM
Like everyone's post, but way cool Mark! just what I wanted to hear. I'll be seventy in a year and a half.:)

But I don't have my reading glasses on. I looked again and it was "innovation", yep, that's great to know, but what I first read it as, applies to me :"motivation!'

Thanks Mark, and thanks to the 70 year old beginner for starting a trend way back that I'm sure has always been in the background since then.

Nice to know that according to Mark, when I come out of Aikido retirement there will be plenty of people who don't mind practicing slow :D

Krystal Locke
10-28-2012, 03:04 PM
Diana, what are you waiting for? I'll train slow with you. Seriously, why aren't you on the mat? You are clearly still doing aikido intellectually and emotionally.....

Diana Frese
10-28-2012, 03:56 PM
Don't want to shock anyone, but I have used the Y situation as an excuse to try "scenario teaching" Not strict self defense scenarios but to get some principles across conveniently to newbies and not so newbies at the same time. Like teaching beginning irimi nage from a simple diagonal shoulder push in a made up bar scenario where people are leaning against the mirror wall. I call it the Star Wars Bar Scene, though none of that cool music available!

If you don't mind the details, one person stands out in front and is told to wave hands around and act flustered while each would-be attacker uncurls from the "bar scene" wall and aims to push the "nage to be" So the attacker would keep coming if unopposed.

So second time around for each: Let the uke start to push the shoulder. Nage-to-be uses this to sense where uke is coming from, feeling the light push a bit.

Third time, let uke pass by as if nage is a swinging door, one hand indicating continue in uke's direction, but other hand behind uke's neck, gently turning towards wall with other people leaning on it. Uke ends up where he or she started.

"Here, have a beer you'll feel better." (Or a ginger ale or whatever they want)

If Phi showed up to help, I guess we would have had to have real beer, not imaginary. But all this was decades ago. He would have liked our old YMCA dojo. We always went out for food and drink after class. Usually Italian food. My favorite was eggplant parmigian',

Now you all are getting me nostalgic. But all this talk about haks, both of mine shredded (the indigo cotton kind) over two decades ago and too spoiled or too broke to buy cheaper ones later.:D

A few years later, we had a little loft dojo. We just wore sweats and shirts and some kinds of jackets etc. No rolling, most of us five had some injury and window wall was old and scary but I was amazed at what good Aikido they did if I do say so myself. We only had the space a few months but it was a great time for all of us.

SteveTrinkle
10-28-2012, 05:32 PM
In the Vancouver Yoshinkan club we're doing pretty well for ourselves. A senshusei graduate as regular class sensei, and the dojocho teaching advance classes. A good solid core group of pretty junior students, some already shodan candidates.

I find that it's difficult to keep beginners around, even though us college kids keep bringing in friends and classmates. Mostly they tell me it has to do with work, classes, and/or significant others, but a nagging part of my brain tells me they're just being lazy and don't want to put in extra effort...

What do you guys think? Am I just being a douche and assume everyone's lazy, or is that why the new people don't come to training? Is there any way to combat the lazy factor, or should I just let the lazy ones slip away?in the spirit of non resistance,if they want to come train,Illet them come,if they want to go,I let them go

Diana Frese
10-28-2012, 06:20 PM
Thanks Krystal, sorry I missed your post! I didn't see it before I posted again. Would you believe my husband and I were just talking today about trying to visit our friends' dojo if we can manage the transportation part. We visited a couple of years ago and they were very kind. Of course it helps to go to the early morning class where there are fewer people!:) We would love to train with you but haven't traveled in years. My hubby is from a different martial art but likes Aikido too. Sometimes we practice in the yard but for me it would be better a bit more regularly.....

Again, sorry I missed your post while I was typing. But my second post proves your point!

Jorge Garcia
10-29-2012, 10:18 AM
On November 1, 2012, we (Shudokan School of Aikido) are celebrating our 4th anniversary at the new location. Since 2004, we have been at the YMCA, and other places we shared with Karate and other kinds of martial arts groups. We came to this location with 29 students. As of this morning, we have 93 active students. We have held our dojo population in the 90's for over two years. When we arrived at this location, we had complete use of the facility so we started with 4 days a week and got it to 7 days a week as soon as we could. We then separated the classes so we now have 1 early morning, 1 mid afternoon, 3 lunch time classes and multiple night classes 5 nights a week. I believe we are now offering 20 hours of training a week.

We currently have 55 adults and 38 children. Our kids are very active and we have 4 classes a week for them. We don't do any advertising other than our website, and Facebook page that we maintain. The driving force of our kids program is the curriculum that we use and the number of classes that we offer them. The fact we were able to raise a student body has been because we have been at the dojo 7 days a week to sign up people, even before we had classes 7 days a week. We have the dojo in a neighborhood on a busy street so the visual is a good one and I think that is critical. If you have a good location but you're not going to be there to receive the students, then they can't be signed up. After 4 years, I am still at the dojo every day teaching, managing and signing people up.
It's a lot of work but all in all, we are grateful for the opportunity to live the dream, and have a great time dedicating all of our efforts to train, teach and promote Aikido.
Best wishes,
Jorge Garcia
Shudokan School of Aikido
Houston, Texas

robin_jet_alt
10-29-2012, 05:16 PM
Well, my dojo is struggling. The trouble is that we are all interested in training and getting better at aikido, but none of us want to go around promoting the dojo. We are rapidly losing members and everyone seems to want to set up their own dojo rather than training with us. It's a shame, because I think we have an excellent teacher, and I feel that I am really making progress with my aikido, and enjoying it too. I guess it's like sensei said. People just want to dance around in skirts and feel like they are invincible, and that's not what we offer.

JJF
10-30-2012, 04:30 AM
Stephen is right. It's no use forcing people to stick around. If they don't wanna train, nothing good will come from trying to keep them in the dojo. If they one day feel the urge to come back they will. Also peoples lives can change and sometimes it is necessary to stay away from the dojo for a while and then come back once your life situation permits or the urge becomes unbearable.

My dojo have been very small since it started in 2010. Now we moved to a better location, so we are gaining new students that seems to be very serious. The hard part is to include everybody and give time and attention to all. I expect the 'stick-to-it-ness' of my latest dojo mates will be lower than that of 'the original cast'.

I think Stefan Stenudd wrote a great article about this.

Good luck everybody

OwlMatt
11-02-2012, 11:01 PM
I have just joined a new club in the last few months. It used to be a Nippon Kan club but now is in a new location and is run by a sandan from the Hawaii Aikido Federation. So now, we're starting a Hawaii Aikido Federation club in Wisconsin. Go figure.

We have a small but dedicated group of students, and our facilities are modest enough that that's all we need to stay afloat right now. We just had our first HAF rank test.

hughrbeyer
11-03-2012, 09:48 PM
We're fortunate to be doing reasonably well right now. Two things that I think have helped:

We charge new students roughly 2.5 x the monthly fee to join up. That fee includes their first month, a gi, some one-on-one sempai time after class, and their first seminar. So it's not really much more than getting all those things a la carte, but it means anybody who signs up has already made a bit of a commitment. I can't tell that we have any fewer people signing up, and i think the people we do get stick better.

We're working very hard to treat new students well. Anybody can try out a lesson for free. Anybody who brings in a new student (and takes care of them) gets a free month when they sign and another if they stay three months. Taking care of them just means looking out for them, work with them a little after class, and so forth.

Between the two, we've got a pretty good mix of students on the mat--some higher-level folks, some kyu grades who have been with us a while, and some brand new.

lbb
11-04-2012, 10:51 AM
Hugh, how long has your dojo done the 2.5x thing?

Also, what you said about mentoring makes me think that we'd do better with both retention and integration if we did a systematic job of mentoring. It's all well and good to have handouts and such, but it's probably a lot better if a sempai takes the new student aside after class and establishes a personal relationship, answers any questions they have then (and maybe some unasked questions that they don't know to ask), and maybe asks when they'll be training next and tries to make a point of being there. Is that sort of like your approach?

hughrbeyer
11-04-2012, 04:41 PM
We've been doing the 2.5 x thing for about a year and a half. A few things happened at the same time, including a (wonderful) new student writing us a letter about how terribly we were handling new students. It was the best calling-you-on-your-bullshit letter I've ever read, neither defensive nor accusatory, but very very clear.

And it's not just one semapi per student--we have a few senior students who have taken it on at this point to make sure new students aren't abandoned and have some coaching on basic ukemi and so forth.

Chonin
11-08-2012, 01:17 PM
I cant speak as anything other than someone who is in their 5th month, yet as someone who makes a living in sales I see clearly why they drop out. They take their eye off the ball because, well, they had their eye on the wrong ball. I think it's crucial for the Sensei and Senpais to dial in to what lights that individual up. They need to ask what do I need to do or say to connect in the short time I have their attention to this individual What will make them WANT to come 3 times a week get tossed like a sock in the dryer. What will make an individual come in every week with the full knowledge it takes a year for modest proficiency and not quit? What makes a new person stick to Aikido when BJJ and MMA enthusiasts at Bullshido.net mock Aikido?

What lights me up about Aikido? It ain't the price but people who don't understand sales think it's always about the price. I could study down the street for $30 a month less but I chose this dojo. Why this dojo? Well on my gut I just clicked with this bunch. They take safety seriously and are very patient. They are also some of the most unpretentious down to earth people who handle their business efficiently on the mat. That's why I chose this dojo. I chose Aikido because The Art of Peace cuts through the BS of life. I dig the whole concept of Budo. I may not give it my best every session. That comes from the fatigue of putting in an 11 hour day of work and commuting, then racing off to class. Yet I really think this is something I'll stick with for a very long time and go at my pace.

Diana Frese
11-08-2012, 03:04 PM
Great post, Charles. Please note, everyone he has been there 5 months and writes great description of a great dojo and why he likes it. And his sales background helps him understand what attracts students to a good dojo. And he is willing to travel after an 11 hour workday.... sounds like a match: great dojo that looks out for the new student, and dedicated student who appreciates it! Wow Charles' post made my day.