View Full Version : What is a professional budo teacher?

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Peter Boylan
10-15-2013, 04:45 PM
I've been having a lot of discussions about what is a "real" budo teacher, and what is a "professional" budo teacher. As things have gone around and around, I sat down and wrote this blog post:

And then a friend reminded me of this excellent post by Rennis Buchner that is well worth reading.

Now that I've thrown these out there, what do you think makes a professional budo teacher?

Rupert Atkinson
10-15-2013, 06:23 PM
Professional has mostly negative connotation in martial arts due to its connection to $. Personally, I don't think it matters if someone makes a few $ for his skill but what is often seen is that those who make tons of money at it are often 'the worst types' that give the word professional a bad name. Somehow, the meaning of being a teaching professional is lost. Kinda odd when you think about it.

10-15-2013, 11:10 PM
Inevitably, there often seems to be a conflict of interest. There typically seems to be more pressure to get students in the dojo, perhaps to teach certain techniques that will attract and retain students than teaching a wider curriculum that is better for them and maintains the integrity of the art. In addition, there could be increased pressure to promote students in rank more quickly than typical to keep them coming back and ultimately, to keeps the lights on and make a profit.

Eva Antonia
10-16-2013, 02:04 AM

there are two different connotations to "professionsl". Either you say it in the depreciating sense of "mercenary", or you mean it as a praise - "this teacher has a very professional approach", meaning that
- he doesn't come too late and organises his classes well
- he always tries to give his best
- he does his best to understand capacities, needs and limitations of his students and tries to ensure that each one learns the most possible
- he tries to ensure an agreeable atmosphere in the dojo
- he doesn't let personal sympathies/ antipathies interfere with his teaching
- he always wants to learn and improve himself etc. etc.

Here in Belgium we have very many professional teachers in that sense, and I did not yet meet any professional teacher of the other category. Some teach for a pittance, some live off their teaching, but all I ever met are professional in the good sense.

Best regards,


Andrew S
10-16-2013, 03:14 PM
Interestingly enough, my aikido teachers are professional in both senses - probably because they teach for a living they have to show professionalism in the way they teach.

Dan Richards
10-16-2013, 05:21 PM
Peter, those are some interesting points you brought up in your blog.

I do think that people's business is their business, and they can run things as they choose.

I do think, though, one angle you could explore a bit more are the many dojos that run as a sort of quasi-business/charity. Where people are often asked to do things that raise money for the "club," when in fact, the "club" is really the wallet, as well as the financial obligations, of the dojo-cho/head instructor.

I've seen dojos hold car washes, bake sales, birthday parties, etc. - all in the name of the "club." When what it was really doing was supplementing the income to the owner - that they weren't somehow able to bring in through their regular business of holding classes and workshops.

I've also seen t-shirt sales as well as other types of "volunteering" that members get suckered into, all in the name of the "club."

If someone is a "professional" budo teacher, then they need to figure out a business model that truly allows them run their business as a professional. And not rely on additional forms of charity and volunteering in order to make ends meet. Because by doing that, they're not truly professional. In fact, they're more amateurs who can't get it together, and rely instead on deception towards their members and their community, and even themselves, in order to make themselves appear to be "professional."

I know of many clubs that have existed in very inexpensive and even free spaces, that allow for the club to build up over time. I've also seen clubs go into expensive strip malls, and even buy buildings. When the dojo-cho is on the hook to high rents and mortgages, they often, by necessity, begin coming up with additional responsibilities and activities, outside the normal range of training and dojo maintenance, just to keep their "business" afloat.

And people do need to see this, and to be clued into the fact that a dojo - if it's being run as a business - is essentially "owned" by the head instructor. It's not owned by the members.

I am all for people jumping in and being part of an organization. And many clubs are well-run with very little overhead. But it's when martial arts teachers somehow feel that what they do is any more special than teaching music or art classes, and that their students need to subsidize the owner's business, that we're getting into a range of people who are not acting as professionals, and are, in fact, preying on people and taking advantage of their students and their community.

10-21-2013, 08:19 AM
What makes a professional hockey player, chef, or writer? What is the profession one is getting paid for? The exchange of money, or trade for goods and or services is not the same as that person being qualified, it just means that someone has agreed to pay a determined fee in exchange for a service or skill. There are good pros and bad pros in any field.