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lbb
03-09-2014, 12:12 PM
I'm putting together a draft of some materials for my dojo to give to new students, to try and answer questions students might have on several topics. Some of these, I have to admit, are questions that they don't always ask but that we wish they would (such as "how can I help out around the dojo?"). The rest are ones that we get a lot, but that are worth addressing in a straightforward fashion (what's the deal with rank, when/how do we test, etc.).

I've got a good list of high-level topics to start with, I think. These are:

Welcome
About our dojo/our senseis/our organization
Training (why it's important to train regularly, on-mat eqiquette -- I'm not sure where to fit off-mat etiquette -- and general health and safety)
Being a dojo member (responsibilities, how members sustain the dojo)
Rank and testing


Where I'm stuck right now is on the proverbial first page -- the welcome. I want to say something along the lines of "congratulations, you've started your aikido journey", and some stuff about the journey ahead, but I'm not coming up with anything. Given that the details of training concerns will be addressed elsewhere, what would you say (by way of welcome) to someone who's just had their first experience on the mat?

SteveTrinkle
03-09-2014, 01:29 PM
hello, what's your name?

lbb
03-09-2014, 04:04 PM
hello, what's your name?

Hey Stephen, those words below the subject line? Well...

Ah, never mind. Clearly no point.

Cady Goldfield
03-09-2014, 04:35 PM
Mary,
Maybe instead of "congratulations," (which I think of as more something you'd say after someone passed their dan ranking...), just saying "Welcome!" (with the exclamation point to emphasize how happy you collectively are to bring this new student into the dojo) would be a very ... well, ... welcoming first line.

So, perhaps:

Welcome! We at the (YOUR DOJO NAME HERE) are (happy/pleased/delighted) that you have joined us to begin your journey in Aikido. The path can be lifelong if you choose, and we hope that you will enjoy the challenge, growth and joy that Aikido training offers.

If at any time you have questions about your practice, progress, dojo etiquette, or any aspect of Aikido, remember that we are a very supportive community here. Ask! Your sensei and sempai once stood where you now stand, at the threshold of the art, and we are happy to share what we have learned.

(Here's where you can sneakily slip in a line about what the new student can do to help out...):

Likewise, we hope that you will soon feel at home here. In fact, we encourage all new members to take pride and have a stake in their school, as we do. Please feel free to ask what you can do to help out around the dojo. Trust us, it will be appreciated, and you will feel good!

....etc.

Just some off-the-top of my head, but I think the main point is to keep it light and friendly in the Welcome section... all the "meat and potatoes" serious stuff comes after in the body of the material.

Michael Hackett
03-09-2014, 04:37 PM
One of our initial conversations always seem to revolve around frustration. We often tell newcomers that aikido is really simple, but not easy and one of the hardest athletic endeavors they will probably ever try. With that we explain that they will likely feel frustrated at "not getting it" immediately and to just relax (no, not the usual "relax", but rather the idea of don't worry) - it will come to them. If not today, maybe tomorrow and maybe next week, but it will come and we've all suffered the same frustration. Basically, a general hang in there type of conversation.

Cady Goldfield
03-09-2014, 05:10 PM
Michael,
I was thinking of that too but thought "don't want to scare them away before they even know what they're in for..." ;)
But you're right, the "plateau" thing should be mentioned, I just wouldn't put too much emphasis on it. Maybe one or two sentences next to the one about feeling free to ask questions about their practice, etc. would be enough to let them know that there will be days when they feel like they can't put one foot in front of the other correctly... and that everyone has those days, and they get through and past them. :)

lbb
03-09-2014, 05:59 PM
Cady and Michael, thanks so much for the great ideas! I think that frustration definitely needs to be addressed, to let them know that they're not alone in this -- maybe a brief reference in the "Welcome" near "Your sensei and sempai once stood where you now stand" (because I agree with Cady about presenting something that sounds too daunting right up front), and in a little more depth in the "Training" section. And then, maybe a new section, called something like, "Now that you've been training for a month..." to address the frustrations and the "what next" after someone's gotten past those first few classes. What do you think?

Cady Goldfield
03-09-2014, 06:49 PM
Yeah. That sounds like it would work very well - just a small mention in the Welcome, then go more in depth in the section about training. The whole thing about "Welcome" is just that - welcoming a new student, not heaping too much info too soon on someone who's just coming in the door.

You know how when a person buys a big-ticket item like a new car, they constantly validate their decision for weeks after? It's part of the ritual of having made a Big Decision, and the person wants to remind themselves they did the right thing. Along with enjoying the new-car smell. The "welcome" section of a student manual/brochure is kind of like that. Letting them feel good about their decision, knowing they're welcome and not to worry... and giving them a chance to enjoy the new-keiko-gi smell for a little bit before getting into the heavy stuff. :)

Michael Hackett
03-09-2014, 07:41 PM
Mary, that sounds like a good array of thoughts. I haven't found the frustration conversation to be all that intimidating, but again, it is based on conversation and not the written word. Essentially what we tell them is that all this new and different and foreign stuff will soon become second nature.

Where I see it first is in the aiki taiso exercises we do at the start of every class. We slow them down if we have new students on the mat, but they seem to always be a little confused the first few times and then they pick up on it and it starts to click. I remember trying to do happo undo (eight direction exercise) the first few times and feeling pretty silly and I see that today with new students. We try to emphasize that they WILL get it and not to get discouraged.

I think in writing though, it would be wiser to gloss over the subject.

Good luck with your project!

jurasketu
03-09-2014, 10:11 PM
I always tell new people "Be gentle with yourself". I mean that physically, mentally and emotionally.

Walter Martindale
03-10-2014, 04:10 AM
how about something like:
Please be patient with yourself and with us. If you've been highly skilled in another activity such as a different martial art or a sport, it helps to remember that you took a while to develop that level of skill. You may not have realized when you were starting that you weren't automatically as skilled as you are now. It takes most people several years to acquire the skills displayed by the senior members of any dojo. You may be faster than most, average, or slower than most, but we are delighted to have you with us, so we can share our learning with you.

As well, discuss how aikido can have some dangerous movements, and how senior members have the responsibility to help newbies learn safely. We don't want to cause injuries to the people we train with, because if they're hurt we can't train with them. you'll be exploring the limits of your range of motion in several joints in your arms. Sometimes this can be painful. Because you're new and you may not have experienced these movements (such as "nikkyo" or the "second technique" please note that it takes very little force to be very effective, and it is important that you a) submit (by tapping the mat, for example) before it gets very painful when you are having a technique applied to you, b) move slowly (initially) when applying the technique on others so that you can stop when they "tap out". If you are patient, and learn well with slower movement at the start, you can speed up later after you've learned the "correct" way to move.

or something like that....

Malicat
03-10-2014, 06:50 AM
Where I'm stuck right now is on the proverbial first page -- the welcome. I want to say something along the lines of "congratulations, you've started your aikido journey", and some stuff about the journey ahead, but I'm not coming up with anything. Given that the details of training concerns will be addressed elsewhere, what would you say (by way of welcome) to someone who's just had their first experience on the mat?

Mary,

I would add a bit of Aikido history to the welcome page. Just speaking from personal experience, while I knew Aikido was a Japanese martial art, I didn't know much of anything beyond that. Additionally, after some background information about Aikido in general and who O'Sensei was, I would also include specific lineage info. While all new students may not know enough to ask about lineage, some of them will want to know.

--Ashley

lbb
03-10-2014, 07:39 AM
I would add a bit of Aikido history to the welcome page. Just speaking from personal experience, while I knew Aikido was a Japanese martial art, I didn't know much of anything beyond that. Additionally, after some background information about Aikido in general and who O'Sensei was, I would also include specific lineage info. While all new students may not know enough to ask about lineage, some of them will want to know.


Not the welcome, I think. If you start putting all the stuff you think they ought to know or might like to know under "welcome", it's just like marking all your tasks as "top priority". We all know what happens then. A separate section about aikido, or just a paragraph on the "about our dojo" section, should be sufficient, with references if they want to read further.

dps
03-10-2014, 08:44 AM
Introduce who you are, brief welcome, ask if they have any questions. Keep it short and simple.

dps

PeterR
03-10-2014, 09:57 AM
You have to love the internet - so - simple and linkable.

If you pass too much information at one it will not get read but a well designed web page will get you everywhere.

Brief intro and links to history and expectations - keep the verbal speeches to a minimum.

Currawong
03-11-2014, 12:44 AM
What I would have liked, which I couldn't get back when I started was: A link to some Youtube videos showing the basic techniques. Just watching them and imagining doing them could be quite helpful.

Suggesting a couple of basic movements they can practice at home, even just standing in hanmi might be good too.

lbb
03-11-2014, 06:34 AM
Hello Amos,

I think that's an area I want to stay away from. Although I recognize that new students frequently want (and ask for) some reference that will help them with the techniques they're learning, I think that videos are more likely to confuse than enlighten. It's Sensei's job to teach technique, and class is where we learn it. This document is only to welcome students to the dojo and to tell them some things that aren't braindead obvious about being a dojo member. In re: techniques, I think the best thing this document can do is encourage them to come to class, ask questions there (that's where they'll get the correct answers), be patient with themselves, and ask for help when they need it.

Janet Rosen
03-11-2014, 09:48 AM
Hello Amos,

I think that's an area I want to stay away from. Although I recognize that new students frequently want (and ask for) some reference that will help them with the techniques they're learning, I think that videos are more likely to confuse than enlighten. It's Sensei's job to teach technique, and class is where we learn it.

I agree. The curious can and will find this on their own. What they can only find out from the dojo they are joining is the specific nuts-and-bolts of things that really DO vary from place to place like
is there a way we line up and bow in?
is it ok if I show up late because something happened?
is it ok if I show up 15 minutes late every Thursday because of a work commitment?
if I show up late, how do I bow in?
is testing done on a set calendar schedule or "as needed"?
is there anything other than demonstrating techniques that is expected when testing for rank? If so, what?
how is a dojo not a health club or gym? is there something I should be doing?

lbb
03-11-2014, 09:51 AM
Yup, Janet, that's exactly the sort of thing I'm looking for -- the information that makes you feel uncomfortable if you don't know it, and feel more at home if you do.

Dan Rubin
03-11-2014, 11:51 AM
Have you asked for suggestions from your beginners?

lbb
03-11-2014, 02:00 PM
Have you asked for suggestions from your beginners?

Yup. I've asked for suggestions from many sources.

jdm4life
03-11-2014, 06:47 PM
I think there should be less emphasis on grading and ranks in general in true martial arts, especially aikido.

Janet Rosen
03-12-2014, 12:12 AM
I think there should be less emphasis on grading and ranks in general in true martial arts, especially aikido.

Whether or not this is true....entering students are curious about the dojo policy and norms and it saves everybody a lot of trouble to just provide the info up front.

lbb
03-12-2014, 06:29 AM
Whether or not this is true....entering students are curious about the dojo policy and norms and it saves everybody a lot of trouble to just provide the info up front.

Agreed. I'm planning to have a separate section on rank and testing -- not everything about it, just the information needed to answer typical new student questions.

Steven
03-12-2014, 05:42 PM
I typically say "Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die."

Oh wait, never mind. Wrong forum....

lbb
03-12-2014, 06:41 PM
I typically say "Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die."

I'd love to see you do this to a newbie in his/her first bokken class :D

Steven
03-12-2014, 06:53 PM
;)

I'd love to see you do this to a newbie in his/her first bokken class :D

Janet Rosen
03-13-2014, 09:36 AM
LOL!

phitruong
03-13-2014, 01:15 PM
I'd love to see you do this to a newbie in his/her first bokken class :D

it would be more interesting if the other person said "I am of the clan MacLeod. There can be only one!" :D

Cady Goldfield
03-14-2014, 06:13 PM
Both comments would require the newbie to be of a certain age to actually "get" the movie/TV references. ;)

ravenest
03-14-2014, 08:58 PM
I'm putting together a draft of some materials for my dojo to give to new students, to try and answer questions students might have on several topics. Some of these, I have to admit, are questions that they don't always ask but that we wish they would (such as "how can I help out around the dojo?"). The rest are ones that we get a lot, but that are worth addressing in a straightforward fashion (what's the deal with rank, when/how do we test, etc.).

I've got a good list of high-level topics to start with, I think. These are:

Welcome
About our dojo/our senseis/our organization
Training (why it's important to train regularly, on-mat eqiquette -- I'm not sure where to fit off-mat etiquette -- and general health and safety)
Being a dojo member (responsibilities, how members sustain the dojo)
Rank and testing


Where I'm stuck right now is on the proverbial first page -- the welcome. I want to say something along the lines of "congratulations, you've started your aikido journey", and some stuff about the journey ahead, but I'm not coming up with anything. Given that the details of training concerns will be addressed elsewhere, what would you say (by way of welcome) to someone who's just had their first experience on the mat?

I would outline exactly what the 'approach' was and what the essence of what you wanted to teach was. Sometimes a teacher doesnt do this and it is confusing for the student; is it self defense, is it a mediation, is it about one thing or another , or all of them.

Eva Antonia
03-17-2014, 03:25 AM
Hello,

when I came in as a newbie, the dojocho invited me to participate, told me the training hours, what to pay and where to buy a gi. That was all, and at the time sufficient.

Things about plateaus, the sense of working slowly or injuries came later. I wouldn't have understood them at the time I started, I'd probably have thought that they are stuff not at all related to me. It took me at least four years to understand the value of doing a technique slowly, and two or three to reach my first plateau, which was a very frustrating experience - and at that time, I was enormously relieved to hear from everyone that they had already the one or other plateau experience, too.

All the best,

Eva

ramenboy
03-17-2014, 11:38 AM
Hello,

when I came in as a newbie, the dojocho invited me to participate, told me the training hours, what to pay and where to buy a gi. That was all, and at the time sufficient.

Things about plateaus, the sense of working slowly or injuries came later. I wouldn't have understood them at the time I started, I'd probably have thought that they are stuff not at all related to me. It took me at least four years to understand the value of doing a technique slowly, and two or three to reach my first plateau, which was a very frustrating experience - and at that time, I was enormously relieved to hear from everyone that they had already the one or other plateau experience, too.

All the best,

Eva

^this... that's about all a new student can take in in the beginning... they'll be overwhelmed with how to put the gi on, which lapel goes over which, how to tie a belt, etc.

ill usually ask where they found out about the dojo, about aikido, if they've done other martial arts before. then, like steven, i'll launch into my Princess bride quotes, and by then, the first hour is over

lbb
03-17-2014, 12:57 PM
Jerome, thanks, that's very helpful -- of course how to put on a gi is obvious, and of course I completely overlooked it! What I'm really looking for is a takeaway for after the first class, not really before -- a "now you've actually tried it, here are some answers to things you may be wondering about". In your experience, what are the most common questions that come up after that first hour on the mat?

ramenboy
03-19-2014, 02:29 PM
hey mar,

do you have a ‘beginner’ program? at the end of each of the hour class in our course, there’d be a topic that we would address; introduction to who’s pics are at the shomen (o-sensei, nidai doshu, doshu, etc), importance of uke and nage, sempai/kohai relationship, importance of cleaning, sweeping after class, etc.

upon completion for the course, there’s the ‘welcome to the dojo’ speech: don’t be in a hurry. look at your dojo mates around you. you’ll be moving up together, which is a great opportunity to keep pushing each other up. helping each other move to the next level together. blah blah blah.

lbb
03-20-2014, 06:53 AM
Hi Jerome,

We don't have a beginner program, and I think it would help if we did. My old karate dojo was like that: ;if you want to start, you start at the beginning of the month, with the rest of that month's crop of newbies. The month's beginner classes have a curriculum -- after two weeks, you can join the Saturday morning basics class as well. It worked out well, I think.

TonyBlomert
04-03-2014, 06:51 PM
We did a similar "new student" packet and also included a hard copy of our affiliated organization's handbook. Over the years my experience was that these documents where either ignored altogether or read once and discarded. I say this because we consistently had students ask questions that these documents addressed after they had been training at the dojo for several years. I would refer these questions first back to the packet and usually received a response "I never got that or I never read it" from the student. (We also used a new student check list so we knew that everyone got the packet along with their first dogi) I'm not saying that you shouldn't hand out a well thought out package, just that in addition to covering things in writing once that it all needs to be repeated verbally frequently. In class by the instructors, by the senior students in passing etc. If your dojo doesn't already have a web page covering some of the FAQ you should add one. Also at my present dojo, we stay in touch with the students using a Facebook group. It seems like no matter how often you hammer away on topics i.e. examination requirements, tasks needing to be done, uniform care etc. someone will always be asking the question anyway. OK there's my 2 cents, best wishes.

JoelLM
04-03-2014, 08:39 PM
Hello Mary.

I'm not sure if this has been suggested yet but perhaps addressing what Aikido is not, I've come to understand that there seems to be a lot of misconception held by the general public regarding Aikido and Martial arts in general. Aikido will not turn you into a deadly fighting machine, Aikido is not sport driven, and so on, I'm sure there are more experienced individuals who know the "is nots" of aikido.

kewms
04-07-2014, 03:45 PM
I second the suggestion up above to have a content-rich web page. That puts all the information out there and allows students to find what they need, when they need it. I'd ideally keep the new student hand-out materials to no more than one sheet of paper (both sides if needed). Anyone motivated to read more than that will be also be motivated to look at the web page. Anyone who isn't will just file the paper away somewhere, where they won't think of it months later when they actually want the information.

Must have new student information:
(This goes on the one page hand out.)

* Welcome and intro to the dojo. One paragraph maximum.

* Dues cost and payment information. Cancellation policy? Weapons and uniforms? Family discounts?

* Class times, including any restrictions on who can attend class. If there are restrictions, how long does it typically take to "graduate" to the more advanced classes? Expected/recommended number of classes per week to make progress?

* Instructor/senior student information. Who are the people to ask with questions? (Mention rank signifiers like hakama here.) Which classes do they teach? Maybe a paragraph on the chief instructor, no more than a couple of sentences on anyone else.

And that's IT. Put everything else on the web.

Additional handouts that are useful to have around the dojo. Don't give to new students, just show them where to find when needed.

* Rank requirements. We have a couple of laminated sheets with the time and technique requirements for each test. Having extra copies that students can take is good, too.

* Seminar schedule. Post a calendar, noting any deviations from the normal class schedule.

* General information brochure. Primarily for visitors, but new students can also give them to curious friends.

* Dojo rules and training expectations. Okay, maybe give this one to new students, but only if you can keep it to a single-sided page or less. Otherwise it's off-putting.

Katherine