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09-10-2002, 05:51 PM
Hi all,

I am looking for space to rent for a dojo and have been diligently searching all over my area. I've talked with a couple TKD guys about possibly renting some space from them, but nothing has worked out yet (they have been great, and very welcoming). I just ran into a situation that struck me as a bit odd, and I want some feedback from those of you out there with this type of experience:

There is a space that is perfect, 1100 square feet of open space with a bathroom and a very reasonable price. The only problem is that it is at the end of a strip mall that already has a karate studio. I thought I'd contact the karate instructor to see if he would have any objections to my looking into it, and he reacted very negatively (he was nice, but abjectly against it) and said that it is like having two pizza parlours in one shopping mall, and that he teaches many martial arts and that aikido is one of them (although he's been to seminars, he's never trained under an aikido teacher). Needless to say, I dropped the idea of renting in that building, and was very polite with him, thanked him for his opinions, and went my way. He told me that there is an unwritten rule that martial artists do not set up shop within 15 miles of each other (not really doable in todays world), even if they are different styles. Anyone heard of this? Any suggestions for future viewings of buildings? It seems that the least expensive spaces are already filled with martial arts (actually, that is one of the tenants that shows that a mall is in decline, when it rents to a martial arts studio), so I feel a little at a loss here.

Please give advice, and if I screwed up by even considering a place that already had a MA in place (even with asking the chief instructor first).



Kent Enfield
09-10-2002, 06:17 PM
Wow, what a dork.

It sounds more like he's worried about losing market share than anything else. No other schools in a 15 mile radius means one school per a little over 700 square miles.

I know this doesn't help the situation as it is now, but I would have looked into renting the place. If I ended up getting it, I would have introduced myself as a new tenant, rather than going to ask permession before doing so. (I know, you were just trying to be nice.)

As it is, if that location ends up being the one you want, I'd rent it and just ignore the guy.

09-10-2002, 06:18 PM
You did nothing wrong - I'd still rent the place. He's is afraid of competition, and afraid his students will leave once they see real aikido.

And within 15 miles, we probably have dozens, if not over a hundred, martial art schools in the city.

09-10-2002, 07:00 PM
Hehe, 15 miles my tuchas :p Around here you can't go 2 miles without seeing another Taekwon-Do dojo (almost literally) and I live in a suberbs :) ...hard to find any other styles though...very strange...
You were right to ask though; It's always good to be polite. Especially with potential competition :) Though if he really does teach Aikido as well, it might be best to leave it alone...

Kevin Wilbanks
09-10-2002, 07:06 PM
That guy is definitely a major dork. I'd get a couple dozen Aikidoka together, go in there during prime time and say: "Hey... you guys. Your martial... no good. What you call this? Grandma dancing?"

[other Aikidoka laugh and point mirthlessly]

Then point at the teacher and say: "We teach you about martial arts. We're going to... beat you up!"

Then have everyone attack their students randomly, making sure to tear stuff off the walls, etc... Make sure to stay out of the initial melee to save yourself for the final showdown with their teacher...

Kevin Leavitt
09-10-2002, 07:12 PM
Need to make sure your lips are not moving at the same time and sequence as you are talking.

09-10-2002, 07:42 PM
...and bring a machine that goes 'thoop! thoop! Whoopwhoopwhoopwhoop!' during the appropriate strikes. :D

09-10-2002, 08:00 PM
Seriously, the guy's just trying to keep his little piece of the pie. In our building, Club Olympia hosts Judo, Karate, TKD, boxing AND Aikido. We all get along pretty well and occasionally support each other.

Rach; if the price is right, I'd really recommend that spot; strip malls are great for location; that's why so many dojos use them, IMO.

Another thing I've gotta say: You said "that he teaches many martial arts and that aikido is one of them (although he's been to seminars, he's never trained under an aikido teacher)." Based on my own experience, the guy sounds like a JOAT (Jack of All Trades), not a true Karate sensei. I personally wouldn't talke his word as law in this.


09-10-2002, 08:02 PM
Unfortunately the martial arts attract their fair share of wankers same as in the other areas of life.

He is one of them.

While it would be nice to get along, someone who is trying to teach aikido after attending a few seminars & never training under a decent instructor is not only a wanker but is endangering his students with his ignorance and will drag the reputation of aikido down with him when genuine martial artists see what he can do & it isn't much.

Rent the space & show the people of your area what real aikido is like.

Kevin Leavitt
09-10-2002, 08:22 PM
My karate dojo in a small town...we have typically rented our space out to other MA. We had a hard time typically paying the bills in a traditional school that we welcomed the support from others.

Never had a problem with competing schools....in fact it helped!

We would have a policy that allowed each others students to attend classes if they wanted with little or no charge. Which was wonderful.

As a side note, we always encouraged students to check out the other schools in the area to make sure that the student found the best school for them.

Then again, we didn't charge "contracts" for a year, go to competitions, and the like.

Well, we manage to get by, but we are not making big time bucks...but that is not our intent...it is to train.

There is the business of MA....then there is the art....it is a good thing when they can co-exisit and support each other....but it is not always the case.

I think if you talk to most marketers and acutally do some casual observation around most towns...you will find that competitors will typically locate close to each other.

Location, location, location.

Look at grocery stores, auto dealers, and chain restaurants....right no top of each other...gotta ask yourself why?

More than likely this guy feels that he has more to loose by having you there than to gain. IMHO, it is short sited on his part. I think his business would actually benefit since you would probably attract different profile students anyway...so you could be mutually supporting in many respects.

Just like car dealers, every customer is looking for a different car...that is why they co-locate...makes it easier to compete against dealers that don't!!!!

09-10-2002, 08:25 PM
Hi all !

Thank you all for your replies. You all say very valid things, in particular the comment about the JOAT, and not really being a teacher of Aikido. On the other hand, I really don't want to go put myself in a spot, no matter how nice and inexpensive it is, where I am going to upset someone. Just doesn't seem very aikilike to me. I am sure something will come up that is suitable, and I'll keep plugging away at finding a space. I really appreciate all of your thoughts, and encouragement, and am just glad to know that I wasn't being a knob here.



09-10-2002, 08:31 PM
Kevin, your post came through just after I finished writing my note, so I wanted to tell you that I agree with you. I talked to the fellow and said that it wasn't like two pizza parlours, but like a pizza parlour and a taco stand (or some other similar type of analogy), but he said it wasn't, and couldn't I understand his point. While I couldn't really understand what he was getting at, I did have to back off.

By the way, I am not looking at starting a dojo as a money making proposistion, I just want to make it something that doesn't bankrupt me, so that I don't spend too much money every month supporting it (gee, I have a husband and child to think about too). It is to widen the area of Aikido in our community, not to have it so localized, but available in a wider metropolitan area.

Something will show up! Hopefully there's some Michiganders out there reading this post who are in the area that I am trying to locate, who have some ideas. Maybe theres a karateka out there reading the site who is looking to share a space....so many possibilities!


09-10-2002, 08:38 PM
Thank you all for your replies. You all say very valid things, in particular the comment about the JOAT, and not really being a teacher of Aikido. On the other hand, I really don't want to go put myself in a spot, no matter how nice and inexpensive it is, where I am going to upset someone. Just doesn't seem very aikilike to me. I am sure something will come up that is suitable, and I'll keep plugging away at finding a space. I really appreciate all of your thoughts, and encouragement, and am just glad to know that I wasn't being a knob here.
Hi Rachel!

Is Burger King aikilike when they open up next to McDonalds? No, that's competition you say? Is it? I encourage you to look up the recent thread on dojos in Florida. Personally, if it were the only place, I'd give the guy the finger and open up.

By the way, the dojo I help out at is in this situation. Unfortunately, the dojo-cho won't do certain things and it hurts him. One of the competitive Aikido dojos is, well to be blunt, they are pretty awful technically, unaffiliated and as far as I know their founder never even studied Aikido. In this case, they have the local rec dept and he won't list with it. It's not aikilike. Gee, I wonder if it's aikilike when their black belts find out they have the skill-level of a 4th ky, no one recognizes their rank and the rest of the aikido world can do technique with their left hands. Seriously, they only practice on the right side.

Sorry for the grumpiness. I'm just tired of people claiming what they ain't. Bad aikido is one thing. I can live with it. The other is something else.

Deb Fisher
09-11-2002, 12:50 PM
Hello Rachel,

1. Like everyone else, I have to vote DORK

2. I also think that you're right - it isn't "aiki" or whatever to go ahead and take the spot next to him after you've talked to him and he's proven to be such a dorky bad neighbor. Not because he's wrong and you're right, but because surely you don't want to pick a fight with a bad neighbor - that sounds like a small drawn out daily dose of evil, like a huge, aching pimple that refuses to go away. Unless this is the only deal in town (doubtful), the only reason to set up shop anyway is to Prove Him Wrong, and every time I've been motivated by the need To Prove Something, I've made myself profoundly uncomfortable and wasted a lot of energy.

You've already talked to him and he already balked. Do you have time to put up with his whiny business on a regular basis?

3. I have to second the Kung Fu Movie Response.

Kevin Wilbanks
09-12-2002, 07:53 PM
For some reason I was just thinking about this again today as I was driving home. What gets me is this: not only is the guy claiming to teach Aikido on the basis of only a few hours of instruction, but he actually had the hubris to imply that the instruction he is offering mitigates the need for a real Aikido dojo to someone experienced enough to open one. Amazing. Not only that, but he made up some bogus '15 mile rule' to avoid admitting his fear of competition, and probably to get some kind of leverage over you by making you feel ignorant. I have to agree that you would probably be better off without such a jackass as a neighbor.

On the other hand, I also agree with Kent: I would never have asked his permission. In my experience, asking permission should generally be avoided unless there is a clear protocol for it, or you are truly uncertain about whether what you intend to do is right or tolerable. If you are certain about your course, just do it, and put the onus on someone else to object or complain. Asking permission often elicits refusals that aren't legitimate: many people are terrified of anything new and unusual and would rather not have it, or their souls harbor a petty little bureacrat that gets a power rush from telling people 'no'.

In this case, if you had merely asserted yourself and taken the space, it may have annoyed the guy, but he may have kept it to himself. He may have even been polite and friendly in all your personal dealings, and confined his resentment to trash talking with his friends, or the development of an ulcer. Either way: not your problem. By asking permission, you made yourself small and gave him authority - establishing a dynamic that is to your disadvantage. You surrendered before there was even a conflict.

09-12-2002, 08:15 PM
Hi Kevin,

I dont believe that I made myself small and gave him authority, I believe I did as my teacher taught me, and followed proper etiquette with regard to opening a dojo and not stepping on someones feet. If he had a problem, it was better to know ahead of time, than to find out later and start a fight. It just doesn't seem worth it. The only one who was made small, was this "teacher" by his refusal to greet a fellow martial artist with respect.

As an aside, it *appears* and cross fingers on this one, that I DO have a space that has come up (behind a TKD studio who has no problem with me as a neighbor, and even welcomes me), and I'll know for sure after Monday when the building inspector comes out to see if it is okay for a certificate of occupancy for this use.

Thanks for your thoughts on this Kevin, and I do appreciate them, honestly. I just think that he (and unfortunately, his students) is the one who came out badly on this.

All the best,


Kevin Wilbanks
09-12-2002, 10:01 PM
Well, to each their own. But, I don't think he or his students came out badly on this. They were uneffected - just as badly off as they were before, because their leader is a knob. If anything, he probably feels emboldened. I see asking such a person for permission and complying with his unreasonable wishes as a potential loss for you and your students - especially if that was a better space. My way, there is a possibility that you might never have even been aware that he had any objections, and if a conflict did arise, you would have been in a much better position strategically. If I aspired to be a leader in pursuit of something I believed in, I would consider the objections of someone like him of trifling significance, and I would do what I could to see that he viewed the situation in the same way.

However, that's a whole leadership debate, and it looks like the incident wasn't that important to your enterprise. Good luck.


09-12-2002, 10:12 PM
Hi again Kevin,

Thanks for your thoughts and comments, I appreciate them.

You are right, it ended up being a non-issue anyway. One question I do have for you though is; how would you know this fellow is a knob if you didn't talk with him first? If I had just moved in, and then introduced myself to him, I would have set myself up for all sorts of problems. By making the overture to him first, I found out what type of potential neighbor I would be dealing with, and then had the option of trying to push forward, or drop the idea of that space. I guess I am a firm believer in that things happen for a reason, and that by his being adverse to me being there was a good enough reason not to want to be around. In any case, there are a lot of spaces out there, and maybe this wasn't the best option available. Maybe the best place is just waiting for me to sign a lease.....

thank you again for your thoughts and comments on this. I wish you well on finding a suitable situation in Jacksonville (I remember you were taking a break from aikido for awhile while trying to sort out how you would like to proceed). If you are ever up in the Ann Arbor area, drop me a line and please come and train!



Kevin Wilbanks
09-12-2002, 10:51 PM
In my view, it wouldn't matter whether or not he was a knob. Your renting the space, then saying, 'Hi. I'm Rachel. I just rented this space for my new Aikido dojo.", whenever it comes up, is no insult to him if he's a reasonable person. If he isn't, he makes himself a knob by objecting, in which case you can be too busy to listen to his rants and politely excuse yourself, and make a point of not properly remembering his name in the future. My overall point is that I think leadership is about pursuing your goals and serving those you lead, not popularity. In fact, taking heat for making unpopular decisions from the inside and outside is part of the job description. So long as you don't think this guy is a psycho who will resort to vandalism or stalking or something, I'd just treat him like a gnat, even if that's not how you feel. I don't imagine the initial bumps on the leadership path are comfortable for anyone.

Of course, this is all armchair advice. I'm not a sensei or leader of men... but I'm also not someone who is easily taken advantage of.

09-13-2002, 12:48 AM
Hello Ms Massey

I was reading this thread with interest and was somewhat surprised and dismayed by the Karate Instructor's comments. There are at least three dojos within about 5 kms (er..about 3 miles I think) of one of the dojos that I train at.

Anyway I just wanted to add my support to your search for a dojo and I hope that your latest efforts are successful.

All the best and my hopes for your future success.

Happy training :)

09-13-2002, 06:36 AM
Hello again!

I don't have anything more to add, but I got a bit of a chuckle out of Kevin and Rachel's comments to each other. That must be the way to tell there's real aikidoka in the room: that had to be the politest argument I've ever seen!! :D