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Peter Boylan
05-11-2015, 02:48 PM
I've been thinking about what makes a great dojo for me. I finally figured out how to put it. Much to my surprise, the elements I'm looking for don't include beer fridges or silly hats (as nice as those things are). I put my thoughts together in this blog

http://budobum.blogspot.com/2015/05/what-makes-great-dojo.html

What do you look for in a great dojo?

Cliff Judge
05-11-2015, 08:56 PM
Beer!

Bitbull
05-13-2015, 08:25 AM
Beer would split all over the mat! :p

I would say good people that likes a beer after practice. In fact i believe the only reason to practice is to have a beer later. :D

Demetrio Cereijo
05-13-2015, 09:14 AM
Beer would split all over the mat! :p

No if proper technique is applied.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-xLahIaaMnU

:)

ze'ev erlich
05-14-2015, 10:19 AM
The Late Fujita Masatake Sensei (8th dan aikikai and 12 years deshi of O-Sensei) used to mention four main points for a good dojo:
1. A clean place.
2. A picture of O-Sensei visible from each part of the dojo and hung high enough so it can be seen while practicing.
3. People practice without talking to each other.
4. Waraku 和楽 : Harmony and happiness supported by good etiquette (he used to quote about it from the teachings of Confucius)

bbs
05-17-2015, 07:43 AM
3. People practice without talking to each other.


I've always wondered about this point. We talk on the mat all the time, but it's always about how to refine the technique. Not idle chatter.

JP3
05-17-2015, 06:51 PM
I like my beer taken AFTER the dojo, actually - except on a good multiple rank-promotion day. Then it's OK to have a casual celebratory 1 or 4 before heading to the favorite beer-drinking spot.

On the blog post though, I make it a point to try to do those things that Peter wrote about. Some are really easy if one makes the smallest effort, others not so much. Some are habit, some difficult.

JP3
05-17-2015, 07:47 PM
FollowI wanted to add to the post above, left to grab a couple-3 of our vids from Wasabi to illustrate the fun-factor of everyone learning and post them... and found out I can't just edit. So, another post from J3...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X-fLyphWfrI

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vwZ2c_L1FeI

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CI6XvGP0HoQ

Peter Boylan
05-18-2015, 08:36 AM
The Late Fujita Masatake Sensei (8th dan aikikai and 12 years deshi of O-Sensei) used to mention four main points for a good dojo:
1. A clean place.
2. A picture of O-Sensei visible from each part of the dojo and hung high enough so it can be seen while practicing.
3. People practice without talking to each other.
4. Waraku 和楽 : Harmony and happiness supported by good etiquette (he used to quote about it from the teachings of Confucius)

I'm not really comfortable with that #3. Why should people not talk to each other? The dojo I like best, and where I find the most real learning going on, there is gentle, quiet, communication going on between partners. Budo isn't for training military units developing a general, uniform skill level. It's for developing individual skills within groups with a wide range of skill levels. The aspect of the technique that I am working on will be very different from the aspect that a relative beginner is focusing on, and both will be different from someone with twice my experience. There is a place for silent practice, and a place for verbal communication. Dojo that are all silence, or that are all talk, are equally problematic to me.

Cliff Judge
05-18-2015, 09:50 AM
I'm not really comfortable with that #3. Why should people not talk to each other? The dojo I like best, and where I find the most real learning going on, there is gentle, quiet, communication going on between partners. Budo isn't for training military units developing a general, uniform skill level. It's for developing individual skills within groups with a wide range of skill levels. The aspect of the technique that I am working on will be very different from the aspect that a relative beginner is focusing on, and both will be different from someone with twice my experience. There is a place for silent practice, and a place for verbal communication. Dojo that are all silence, or that are all talk, are equally problematic to me.

Well, Budo absolutely was about treating groups of people as if they were some sort of military unit, with success metrics based on the uniform skill level of the entire class. For a small but important part of its history. This attitude had a heavy influence on the Budo culture that formed various places in the West with the expansion of gendai budo.

A lot of Aikido dojo - I'd say most - operate with the teacher demonstrating something, then everyone pairing off and practicing. The role of the teacher is to pass something to the class during the demo. If everybody's working on perfection of a formal kata you don't need this at all so you don't see this in koryu bujutsu.

You also might as well chuck the model if everybody is going to pair off and the senior partner is going to immediately start telling the junior to do something that is different or interferes with the junior's chance of learning something from the instructor demo. Or if both partners just start analyzing back to what they are familiar with.

kewms
05-18-2015, 05:58 PM
You also might as well chuck the model if everybody is going to pair off and the senior partner is going to immediately start telling the junior to do something that is different or interferes with the junior's chance of learning something from the instructor demo. Or if both partners just start analyzing back to what they are familiar with.

So don't do that. That's not the same as being completely silent. For the senior partner to stand there like a tree while the junior partner tries to figure everything out on his own doesn't strike me as very helpful, either.

Katherine

Peter Boylan
05-18-2015, 09:31 PM
Well, Budo absolutely was about treating groups of people as if they were some sort of military unit, with success metrics based on the uniform skill level of the entire class. For a small but important part of its history. This attitude had a heavy influence on the Budo culture that formed various places in the West with the expansion of gendai budo. .

Actually, historically budo was about training and developing individuals. The mess that we got stuck with do to the invention and glorification of the idea of bushido in the 20th century was all about promoting the military of Japan and had nothing really to do with budo. It's notable that the military only actually used and twisted a few gendai budo such as kendo and karate into forms useful to the military. They left the koryu almost entirely untouched. And Judo somehow managed to avoid the worst of it, though it did not escape the era without negative impact. Aikido seems to have absorbed the least desirable portions of the teaching model.


A lot of Aikido dojo - I'd say most - operate with the teacher demonstrating something, then everyone pairing off and practicing. The role of the teacher is to pass something to the class during the demo. If everybody's working on perfection of a formal kata you don't need this at all so you don't see this in koryu bujutsu.

You also might as well chuck the model if everybody is going to pair off and the senior partner is going to immediately start telling the junior to do something that is different or interferes with the junior's chance of learning something from the instructor demo. Or if both partners just start analyzing back to what they are familiar with.

I would wholeheartedly recommend chucking the model. It has no basis in any sort of effective teaching pedagogy, and is the kind of thing that has been soundly rejected as an instructional model anywhere quantifiable results are required. I'd say a decent teaching model would more than double the learning speed for most aikidoka.

Cliff Judge
05-19-2015, 08:48 AM
Actually, historically budo was about training and developing individuals. The mess that we got stuck with do to the invention and glorification of the idea of bushido in the 20th century was all about promoting the military of Japan and had nothing really to do with budo. It's notable that the military only actually used and twisted a few gendai budo such as kendo and karate into forms useful to the military. They left the koryu almost entirely untouched. And Judo somehow managed to avoid the worst of it, though it did not escape the era without negative impact. Aikido seems to have absorbed the least desirable portions of the teaching model.

That's one way to look at it. You may be putting "seams" into history that don't really belong there. The koryu exponents who created Kendo did so with an original intention of national unity and using the mythical "warrior spirit" to strengthen Japan for the future.

And koryu were all about forming small group cultures.

Anyway, Judo was a standout art in that Kano experimented with discussion and lecture as a component of training but that was a real innovation. My point is that the traditional Aikido approach is, well, traditional. You are definitely right that it is pretty clumsy and challenging. But you do get into the area of, what is left of Aikido if you start to change the traditions?


I would wholeheartedly recommend chucking the model. It has no basis in any sort of effective teaching pedagogy, and is the kind of thing that has been soundly rejected as an instructional model anywhere quantifiable results are required. I'd say a decent teaching model would more than double the learning speed for most aikidoka.

But learn what?

I agree with you, that "sensei demonstrate, students find partner and try to do it" is a TERRIBLE model for transmitting correct technique. You can go entire classes without working with the instructor one on one. You can get on a plane and fly to a seminar and hopefully you get your hands on the shihan a couple of times, but is he going to spend an hour focused on you to make sure you get something right?

You can wind up having the instructor nod and smile and say, "that's it! That's perfect!" and have NO IDEA what he is talking about, so no ability to reproduce it.

But you do develop skills over time. There is something about the brownian motion of constantly pairing off with different people with different ideas of what is going on and trying to figure out what the teacher just showed you. It can be a creative practice in a way that kata training or even competetive training just can't be.

They just aren't the same skills your teacher has. And there are things you can never really learn this way...there is a sharpness of technique you need to go to kata training for, and an ability to manage a combative situation that competitive training is really good for.

There is a spiritual aspect to it in Aikido too - which some people can certainly take or leave - where the instructor is supposed to be "channeling" Osensei directly to you, and you are having a sort of pure experience on that mat, working out for yourself what you just observed.

Terrible terrible way to teach correct technique. But Aikido people tend to discount the idea of technique anyways.

jonreading
05-19-2015, 09:24 AM
First, there are several teaching methodologies that would not support a learning environment devoid of verbal instruction. Arguing what was done as why is should be done is not necessarily a strong argument. I think a whole other thread awaits discussing the merits of what we would call the traditional method of aikido instruction. For the record, I find a system of instruction that is based upon someone who does not understand aiki showing something to students who do not understand aiki is rarely going to produce a student who can express aiki.

I like to focus that discussion on the behavior of the dojo. Does a dojo provide a good learning environment? If talking is necessary to learning, there should be talking. If bringing in a karate person to teach striking is necessary, there should be a karate class. I think most people do not train enough to approach aikido class as a "do it long enough and you'll figure it out," style of education. This is not acceptable as a timetable to excellence, so I generally support alternative teaching to expedite the learning process.

I think the primary role of a dojo is education. But, aikido is almost as much a social club as it is a learning environment and I don't want to mistake talking for socializing. There are people who train that have as much interest in the social or pseudo-philosophical outlet aikido provides as the technical curriculum it teaches.

Cliff Judge
05-19-2015, 09:49 AM
For the record, I find a system of instruction that is based upon someone who does not understand aiki showing something to students who do not understand aiki is rarely going to produce a student who can express aiki.

Based on innumerable previous discussions, Jon, my interpretation of what you refer to as aiki is technique. And I 100% agree with you that the traditional model is really really bad for teaching technique. You are inviting each student to reinvent the wheel every time they get on the mat, and if you want them to develop certain technical skills - the ability to create certain physical effects in the universe - they are probably never going to get it.

I like to focus that discussion on the behavior of the dojo. Does a dojo provide a good learning environment? If talking is necessary to learning, there should be talking. If bringing in a karate person to teach striking is necessary, there should be a karate class. I think most people do not train enough to approach aikido class as a "do it long enough and you'll figure it out," style of education. This is not acceptable as a timetable to excellence, so I generally support alternative teaching to expedite the learning process.


Sounds okay to me, but this is innovative thinking. Most dojo are not learning environments mostly, they are training environments. Personally I like the distinction, your mileage may vary.

In general, I guess my point is that there are elements of traditional training that should be carefully examined before being discarded out of hand. Particularly the things that make us uncomfortable - those are often the things which become the most valuable in training.

jonreading
05-19-2015, 11:42 AM
Cliff-
You are correct, right now I am inclined to classify aiki as a technique series. This is consistent with Sagawa, Kuriowa and Sunadomari, to name a few. That is to differentiate aiki waza from say, jujutsu waza. following from that generalization, it is then possible to have a kata, shiho nage for example, that could be performed either within aiki waza or jujutsu waza. We'll see how that holds up...

I have had a few solid changes to my thinking about the education process over the years. Shifting my perspective from training aikido to learning aikido was one of those shifts. I found that doing something wrong many times was a poor substitute from learning something right once. But, I think that perspective places scrutiny on those instructors who have difficulty explaining what it is they do. It also jeopardizes the "all-knowing sensei" stereotype some instructors like to [ab]use; having been married for 13 years, I am used to being wrong most of the time.

That being said, I think some of the training is designed to preserve aspects of the art and I think that we often discard those elements out of ignorance or discomfort without consideration for the value they bring when done correctly.

Cliff Judge
05-19-2015, 02:07 PM
Cliff-
You are correct, right now I am inclined to classify aiki as a technique series. This is consistent with Sagawa, Kuriowa and Sunadomari, to name a few. That is to differentiate aiki waza from say, jujutsu waza. following from that generalization, it is then possible to have a kata, shiho nage for example, that could be performed either within aiki waza or jujutsu waza. We'll see how that holds up...

I have had a few solid changes to my thinking about the education process over the years. Shifting my perspective from training aikido to learning aikido was one of those shifts. I found that doing something wrong many times was a poor substitute from learning something right once. But, I think that perspective places scrutiny on those instructors who have difficulty explaining what it is they do. It also jeopardizes the "all-knowing sensei" stereotype some instructors like to [ab]use; having been married for 13 years, I am used to being wrong most of the time.

That being said, I think some of the training is designed to preserve aspects of the art and I think that we often discard those elements out of ignorance or discomfort without consideration for the value they bring when done correctly.

Good stuff.

What I would say is that talking on the mat between partners - about the material being worked on only, anything else is right out - is part of learning time, but at some point you need to get people to shut up and practice as part of training time. IMO.

I remember about 11 years ago going to a workshop to work on Saotome Sensei's two sword kata. I was trying to get this move right, and my partner kept stopping and saying "no its this" and then he would do my side. I was trying to get him to just stop for a second and let me get one or two in and he was ostensibly trying to help me, by not letting me practice what I was trying to do. My learning was being blocked by my partner not letting me train, and he was doing this by talking.

Riai Maori
06-04-2015, 03:15 PM
Such an enjoyment reading mind filling information from whom I consider some of the heavy weight giants (pun) on this forum who graciously share their wealth of knowledge. I am like a sponge. Arigato!

Tim Ruijs
07-09-2015, 06:09 AM
mutual trust
safety
good spirit
joy
best: teacher is dojo's best student

Hellis
07-09-2015, 06:37 AM
From my experience a good dojo has respect and discipline and a good atmosphere that you can feel as you enter the dojo. I have no problem with students speaking during practice, if it is to help each other and not about what was on TV the previous evening.

Henry Ellis
Co-author `Positive Aikido`
http://kazuo-chiba-sensei.blogspot.com
http://rik-ellis.blogspot.com/
http://britishaikido.blogspot.com/

Amir Krause
07-13-2015, 09:00 AM
A good dojo for me is mostly about "constructive learning environment" in adjustments with my own goals and views of Aikido, hence, what is best for me, is probably not best for some other guy.

For me, a constructive environment has :
- safety
- mutual trust (critical for safety)
- joy, both from learning and from the action itself
- willingness to share from the partners, trying to help me most (and vice versa). For me, learning process needs a verbal part, and I like feedback from both my "seniors" and "juniors" (and "you are doing it differently then before" is acceptable feedback too).

As to goals, while I don't plan on going to fight or participate in a ring, I do consider the concept of "fight suitability criteria" or "practicality as mirror" to be essential. This has implications on training partner intent when striking, their reactions to me, and also the techniques.
Some examples:
-> when uke strikes, he should do it aiming to hit me, not stop ahead of me (but I do trust him not to damage me).
-> A lock may place ones joints at risk, and causing pain is acceptable.
-> In techniques practice, Tori is responsible for technique to succeed, Uke is responsible for following the opportunity Sensei gave.

Amir

dps
07-14-2015, 06:57 PM
No matter day or night, indoor or outdoor, rain or shine, wherever I am is a good Dojo.

dps

crbateman
07-18-2015, 02:09 AM
Air-conditioning! :D

Shannon Frye
07-26-2015, 10:52 PM
Aikido seems to have absorbed the least desirable portions of the teaching model.

I've read and reread this (and can't wrap my head around it) . Could you expand on what you mean by Aikido absorbing the least desirable of the teaching models?

Thanks!

Mary Eastland
07-27-2015, 06:57 AM
Air-conditioning! :D

Lol. We don't have it but we do have a lot of fans. I bet you really appreciate air conditioning in Florida. :)

Peter Boylan
07-27-2015, 08:52 AM
I've read and reread this (and can't wrap my head around it) . Could you expand on what you mean by Aikido absorbing the least desirable of the teaching models?

Thanks!

The old teaching model doesn't include a lot of verbal explanation and instruction, but it does include a clear progression of technique and kata to develop the student towards a clear goal of mastery. It also includes an emphasis on spending a lot of time training directly with teachers and seniors to be sure students don't develop bad habits and to ensure that they get the lessons the teacher wants them to get. This is all done in an atmosphere of deep respect to the teacher, while doing lots and lots of repetitions.

Aikido has thrown out the clear progression of kata for students, with everyone doing the same techniques together. The teacher is deeply respected, but no longer spends most of the time working directly with students. Beginners train with whomever they can catch. The teaching model is the instructor shows something a couple of time and everyone tries to duplicate it. Teachers rarely act as uke for students, so the students don't get the kind of feedback that makes the learning process effective. In many styles of aikido (but not all) there is no clear pedagogy of how to train students and effectively bring them along to the higher levels of skill. All that is left is someone senior demonstrates the techniques they feel like, and everyone else tries to duplicate it. Without a clear pedagogy, and without the critical feedback from the teacher and seniors, student progress is random and slow.

lbb
07-27-2015, 09:32 AM
The teacher is deeply respected, but no longer spends most of the time working directly with students.

What?

Teachers rarely act as uke for students, so the students don't get the kind of feedback that makes the learning process effective.

Whaaaaaaat???

Mary Eastland
07-27-2015, 11:22 AM
What?

Whaaaaaaat???

I could see where that is a problem. We train and teach at our dojo.
Mary

PeterR
07-27-2015, 11:54 AM
Laughs - I think Peter has fallen into the natural trap of trying to generalize the ungeneralisable.

Its an interesting problem. There are a lot of good coaching courses available that can massage the wealth of information obtained into something easier to transmit. There are styles of aikido that have very well structured curricula that seems to follow a lot of those theories and importantly teach you to teach as you progress. My personal opinion is that if you are going to teach you need to specifically learn how to - either through outside courses or as part of the style. If you are going to be the main teacher of a group for anything you really should go out of your way an examine your teaching skill level and try to improve where you can.

One thing that keeps coming up in Peter's blogs is the idea that teachers must take uke for students. Uke is definately a skill, and teachers often do (to demonstrate that skill) but I don't think that the uke role belongs to the senior partner has a real place in jujutsu arts - its more of a weapons thing. What is more important is to be able to coach both roles.

Pavel108
08-25-2015, 09:19 AM
I've been thinking about what makes a great dojo for me. I finally figured out how to put it. Much to my surprise, the elements I'm looking for don't include beer fridges or silly hats (as nice as those things are). I put my thoughts together in this blog

http://budobum.blogspot.com/2015/05/what-makes-great-dojo.html

What do you look for in a great dojo?

What a great post. I agree it is the people that fill the dojo with life. Friendship first, otherwise how to exchange on a technical level if you cannot on human level.