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Veers
09-12-2002, 08:18 PM
Well, finally got over to the dojo to talk to the instructor about fees and such what. We talked for 45 minutes (he, myself, and my dad).

Ok, he said since he's had so many people leave after a month or so, I'd have to pay for the first quarter up front and then also the last quarter of the year up front, too...for a total of $395 up front (no payments until the first 3 months are up, then pay for the next three, then the next three, and then the last three of the year are already paid for). He said the last quarter's payment is a deposite and I can get it back if I need to quit before I get to it, but I have to notify him that I'm leaving. (which makes sense to me). The deposite did strike me as a bit unorthidox, but the price is fair, and I can go to any of the 5 classes a week (probably will make 2-3 depending on work).

He put a big emphasis on the school part of it, too. We get a book and memorize the vocabulary and such and there are two tests a year that you can take if you think you can do them.

He said that from what he'd heard me say and how I looked (physically, I guess he meant) that if I wanted a challenge (and I do) that it'd be for me.

Oh, also, he's independant from the Japanese family somthin'-or-other that owns aikido stuff...don't remember what he said and I didn't get it...somthing like the people who own the license or whatever. He's an authorzied teacher, but he does things a bit different (such as letting students train with weapons in their first week) but still teaches "pure" aikido.

Anyway, there's the scoop...your thoughts? "Go for it"? "Nooo!"? "Look around some more"?

Of course this all hinges on a job schedual...

batemanb
09-12-2002, 08:51 PM
400 bucks up front, not me. I pay 60 up front per quarter, but then I have a plethora of dojo`s to choose from. Back home in the UK, we pay by the class, the most I would be prepared to do would be to pay a month up front. His reasoning for up front payment is that so many people leave after a month, why is that? I would be tempted to have a look round some more, whilst I haven`t met or seen the person concerned, sounds a bit too off for me.

rachmass
09-12-2002, 09:04 PM
My home dojo offers a special, only for folks who haven't done aikido before. This special is for three months at a reduced rate, with a gi thrown in. The reasoning is that it takes at least three months of training to know whether this is really for you or not. Now of course, if you don't want to do the special, you can pay by the month too, the special is just an incentive to try aikido a bit longer.

The commitment that this teacher is asking for sounds a bit unrealistic and a bit much. I agree with what Bryan said about "so many people leave after a month, why is that?" and that he requires more money up front. Attrition in aikido is quite high, but give people the option to do one way or another, not just you have to come up with one large sum up front.

Best wishes in your dojo search! I hope that you look at a number of different aikido dojos, and sign up with the one which you feel most comfortable (by watching the classes, the students, as well as the financial burden that it places you under).

Rachel

Greg Jennings
09-12-2002, 09:04 PM
$65.83 a month isn't extraordinarily cheap but not that over-the-top either.

Being independent but "authorized" is a little strange.

Did you ask how much he charges for testing fees? If he is independent, testing fees, association fees, etc. would go straight into his kitty. You'd get at $3 belt and a $0.10 paper certificate for it.

Best Regards,

batemanb
09-12-2002, 09:15 PM
$65.83 a month isn't extraordinarily cheap but not that over-the-top either.
I don`t have a problem with that on a monthly basis, but I think what he is asking for up front (six months) is way on the steep side
Did you ask how much he charges for testing fees? If he is independent, testing fees, association fees, etc. would go straight into his kitty. You'd get at $3 belt and a $0.10 paper certificate for it.
I very nearly wrote the same thing, then decided that I new nothing about him so I would give him the benefit of the doubt, but the thought still nags.

isshinryu88
09-12-2002, 09:24 PM
He said that from what he'd heard me say and how I looked (physically, I guess he meant) that if I wanted a challenge (and I do) that it'd be for me.
Have you watched any of his classes? I wonder about his "challenge" comment. Aikido requires a degree of fitness, but I'm not sure how much I would describe it as challenging. Unless of courese he means more along the lines of working on balance, timing, etc.

Over all, the monetary end of it doesn't sound too out of the ordinary. Is it a contract? Be careful of the wording. I belonged to a club that had some outside organization take care\of billing. Their contracts said that you could cancel them, but the fine print limited that to if you moved 50 miles away from the dojo or were completely incapacitated for 3 months.

I agree with the concerns regarding his "independence". I think you should check out another school just to be safe.

Good luck in your hunt.

Jessica
09-12-2002, 09:24 PM
It sounds like a bit much to me. However, if you like it, I'd be sure to go to a trial class before committing to that payment.

Kevin Wilbanks
09-12-2002, 09:24 PM
People are probably going to start calling me Makiavelli, but I wouldn't put up with that kind of thing. The only reason for extra money up front - deposits, payment in advance, "initiation fees", etc... - in any kind of dojo or health club membership situation is to try and force you to pay for something you aren't going to use. The only reason to do that is if they are trying to wring more money out of their teaching/club gig than it is actually worth on the market. If you pay for one month and quit at the end of one month, how is that a hardship for the teacher/owner? That line of reasoning is pure sophistry. It is an attempt to cover up the fact that they are trying to take advantage of you.

I understand a sensei asking for a committment, but only after he/she has established some basis for respect and committment. I'd say he's off to a bad start. To ask you to commit that much money before you have had a chance to experience the training for a while is not reasonable.

I suppose there is a chance that he is a good Aikido teacher, but has adopted some unfortunate business practices for reasons that are not a direct reflection of his character. However, at this point, that is not something you have experienced. What you have experienced is someone trying to pressure you into giving up a whole bunch of money for something he assumes you probably won't use.

I would go in there with one month's dues in cash. Tell him you don't believe in initiation fees or deposits. Pull out the cash and say you are willing to try it for one month, and at the end of the month, you will decide whether you want to continue, and you will be willing to negotiate further payment terms at that time. Volunteer no further contingencies and make no other concessions. If he says no, take your money and leave. Remember, he's the one that turned this into a money negotiation before the Aikido even started, not you. If he's willing to lose you as a student because you are assertive about protecting yourself and your resources, you don't need to learn anything he's teaching.

K.

Erik
09-12-2002, 10:33 PM
I'm not so bothered by the money, particularly the monthly rate, which is low in my world, but this part got me:
Oh, also, he's independant from the Japanese family somthin'-or-other that owns aikido stuff...don't remember what he said and I didn't get it...somthing like the people who own the license or whatever. He's an authorzied teacher, but he does things a bit different (such as letting students train with weapons in their first week) but still teaches "pure" aikido.
How is he independent but still an authorized teacher? My question would be who authorized him or more accurately who taught him? I normally don't get worked up about lineages but this doesn't read quite right, although it could be perfectly fine.

Edward
09-12-2002, 11:48 PM
My simple advice that I have repeated so many times on these forums: Go find a dojo affiliated to a major organization where your rank will be recognized country or world wide, and dojo standards quite uniform. Independant dojos can offer many interesting things, one of them is very low membership fees since they do not have to pay anything to their mother organizations. If this is lacking, you have to see what outstanding techniques and abilities this teacher is offering which are better than the other dojos.

Jim ashby
09-13-2002, 03:26 AM
Find another Dojo. If he really worries about the dropout rate, so should you.Don't take any of the "well we train really hard here, it's not for everyone that's why people drop out blah blah". Trust me, find somewhere else to train.

Have fun.

Veers
09-13-2002, 07:04 AM
Greg, he charges nothing other than the quarterly fees.

Kev, he said it's hard on the class when people up and quit because then they spend a few classes waiting and holding back to see if the people show up again. You can leave, but you just have to give him notice. As far as the taking advantage part, he stressed several times he wouldn't ask things he couldn't do (or help do) himself; therefore he makes no money off the payments (he said currently he's taking out of his own pocket to pay for the rent and bills).

As far as credibility as a teacher, he's a 4th (soon to be 5th) dan who's been teaching for 7 years. I'll consider your suggestion about the one month up front.

Erik, he's a member of the Okinawan Karate Federation, Southern U.S. Kendo & Iaido Federation.

Edrward, I don't care about rank, much. His dojo doesn't have competitions, though he maintains a belting system (blue brown black). He said he is recognized to an extent but I didn't ask about that.

Jim, he said, "So the newest movie comes out and everyone decides they'll be the next Bruce or Steven and they come in and say, 'hey, this is really work!' and decide it's not worth it." He didn't say people can't keep up, he just said if you're not willing to work at it and pull a few muscles in the first week or two, don't bother signing up at all.

Thanks for the feedback...it's not like I need to make a decision tomorrow, though, so I have time to think on it and look around some more.

JJF
09-13-2002, 07:09 AM
Never join a dojo without first having a free trial session. In my opinion demanding money before letting a potential student participate in the training once or twice is dubious. Then again I've had bad experiences with 'contracts' and 'up-front' payments before, so I might be biased....

Also you should try out a couple of different dojo's before you make your choice. It's good common sense actually. Few people would buy the very first car they see in the lot.

BTW I'm a bit concerned about the 'not affiliated but authorized' situation, but I would need a little more info. on that before I can call my judgement.

Somebody said something along the lines of: "it's better to search 10 years for the right teacher, than to practice 10 years with a wrong one". Allthough it seems a bit harsh there is a good chunk of truth in it.

rachmass
09-13-2002, 07:23 AM
Hey Jonathan,

Look up the fellows credentials if you can on the web, normally through his parent organization. It's another way to be sure. A fourth dan will usually show up on the roster.

Any other aikido dojos in the area for you to check out as well? If so, please take the time to look them up too and pay them a visit.

All the best on your training!

Rachel

Veers
09-13-2002, 07:38 AM
There're two, and I had planned on visiting them, too.

Hmm, quick search reveals he's not on the SUSK&IF website, and OKF doesn't have a member/dojo database, so I'll e-mail them.

rachmass
09-13-2002, 07:48 AM
Hi Jonathon, I got curious and tried to look up these organizations on the web. Couldn't find them, do you have their urls?

Greg Jennings
09-13-2002, 07:53 AM
Those orgs mean exactly zero in the aikido community anyway.

I don't think there is necessarily anything wrong with being independent.

So, if he's independent, who is it that's giving him his promotion?

Best Regards,

rachmass
09-13-2002, 07:56 AM
I've never heard of them either....

opherdonchin
09-13-2002, 07:57 AM
Well, I'm going to go the other way from almost everyone here. Almost every dojo I've been involved in has had a very high drop out rate and that has been perceived as both 'normal' and 'difficult' by the people involved. Almost every dojo I've been involved with, the instructor is either not living off the dojo or else is having trouble making ends meet. Certainly, I have more respect for senseis who can really make it clear to me that money is not what AiKiDo is about, but just because the sensei needs to eat and live doesn't mean he isn't a good teacher.

I do agree that watching / participating in a class would be very important before I coughed up that kind of money.

Also, if you can look up his affiliation or let us know what style he claims to be 'authorized' in, that would be helpful.

Veers
09-13-2002, 08:05 AM
Thanks Opher...

Rachel...

Okinawan Karate Federation (http://www.okf1956.org/)

and

Southern U.S. Kendo & Iaido Federation (http://www.nckf.org/auskf/skif.htm) (see? he's no listed there)

Veers
09-13-2002, 08:06 AM
Oh, and Greg, I don't know, I didn't ask.

Oh, and Opher, he made it very clear that it's not about the money, but the commitment.

rachmass
09-13-2002, 08:17 AM
Hi Jonathan,

Thank you for sending the links information on both of those organizations. Neither of them claim to be Aikido oriented organizations, so where is this fellow receiving his teaching certification and ability to grade without being tied to an actual aikido organization?

Where in Texas are you?

Rachel

Veers
09-13-2002, 08:28 AM
Hm, good question...he left it at that ("that" being those two orgs) and I didn't think it was that big of a deal...I mean, if he teaches it, who cares if he gets world recognition?

Anyway, I live in Corpus Christi. There are two other dojos in town...according to the dojo search on this site. None of them are in the phone book.

Also, let me scan his borchuer so you can see that, too.

Veers
09-13-2002, 08:40 AM
Ok, if any of you are biased against orange, lol, get over it, this one was on top, he had all the colors of the rainbow.

http://pwp.clearsource.net/mlyons/cover.jpg

http://pwp.clearsource.net/mlyons/intro.jpg

http://pwp.clearsource.net/mlyons/tech.jpg

http://pwp.clearsource.net/mlyons/whatis.jpg

http://pwp.clearsource.net/mlyons/menphy.jpg

http://pwp.clearsource.net/mlyons/osnesei.jpg

rachmass
09-13-2002, 08:46 AM
Hey, thanks for sending all that for everyone! Where are his credentials on the flyer? Usually a teacher states what his/her rank, affiliation, lineage (okay, not in this order), as well as teaching certification is. That is something that I would like to know if I were going to train with this person.

Veers
09-13-2002, 08:51 AM
They aren't on it...but like I said, I could ask him if it comes down to that being the biggest deal. However, like I said, if he can teach it and teach it well, I don't really care about his lineage and stuff...his record, sure, but not his affiliation (with, of course, the excpetion that he's not a rogue and a bunch of Japanese with SMGs'll pay us a visit).

His record sounded good, only one broken bone in 7 years of teaching (several stretches and sprains, but nothing else serious.)

Then again, I'm learning about this, so, I know what sounds good to me (that is, he did, aside from the up front payment) but that doesn't mean I know what is for me. :]

Kevin Wilbanks
09-13-2002, 08:56 AM
I just ran a Google search, and you've got 2 USAF dojos there, one under Tohei from Chicago, and one at A&M under Yamada. You really should go watch classes at both and talk to them about dues and stuff before you even think about giving this guy money. The fact that he's teaching 3 or 4 martial arts at once would be a major turn-off for me - especially since Karate is so different in terms of body dynamics and type of ingrained response to attack.

Kevin Wilbanks
09-13-2002, 08:58 AM
Also, that stuff about how many injuries and how unusual it is to let students use weapons in the first week sounds like advertising hype to me. Nobody at my old dojo or the club I've trained with here would feed you such lines. Try the other guys, so you have some kind of basis for comparison.

Veers
09-13-2002, 09:02 AM
He doesn't teach them...only aikido...so, yeah, I don't really get why he's a member of those.

Yeah, I will check out the other guys for sure. Can you link me to their sites or information or something, or just give me string you searched with so I can get it? Thanks.

Leslie Parks
09-13-2002, 10:27 AM
Independent dojos are not necessarily of lower quality or led by rogues, although unfortunately these conditions certainly exist. One could probably have high quality technical instruction, but led by a rogue...at some point one needs a foundation of character. The reason for independence could be for a myriad of reasons...so ask. I suppose we sound like a suspicious lot. This guy could be a good and well intentioned instructor. If he is, go for it. But check it out.

Given that this person is saying that he is certified to teach, as everyone else keeps pointing out, one must ask BY WHOM? Neither Kendo, Iaido, or Karate organizations have the authority to issue instructional certification for Aikido. Is he certified in these other arts and just using words to imply something that is not true? Or did he have prior certification from an organization that he subsequently left? (which would call that into question.)

Other pertinent questions:

Who is this person's instructor? What kind of relationship do they have?

Who is going to issue that 5th dan he is talking about?

Has he ever been a member of a legitimate organization? If yes, why is he not now? Is he planning to affiliate at a future date?

BTW, in review of the flyer:

In the intro page, "The curriculum and international certification available in our school of Aikido is not easily found elsewhere." so ????? who is it with?

"He said he is recognized to an extent but I didn't ask about that. " ASK and check references.

rachmass
09-13-2002, 10:42 AM
Leslie makes very good points, as do all the others! Check him out thoroughly. BTW, being a USAF person myself, I would really look into those two dojos that Kevin mentioned a good look-see.

Erik
09-13-2002, 11:52 AM
Came across this link:

http://www.creationcenter.com/boards/aikido/messages/35.html

I can make an argument for not being affiliated. I can even make very good arguments for it. So, the more I think about it, the less I sweat that. The real question is who taught him.

Deb Fisher
09-13-2002, 12:22 PM
I have to agree with Opher - aikido is a commitment and time consuming and a lot of people quit doing it. If I were trying to make a living off a dojo, I wouldn't do this whole deposit thing (it's a little intense) but I would run a new to aikido special that involves paying for many months at a time. The monthly dues are less expensive than my dojo, which requires either an automatic deduction from ccard or checking account or paying for 3 or more months at a time, so all this sounds reasonable.

I guess my question is how does it feel to you? Does it feel reasonable and right? That's all that seems to matter.

Veers
09-13-2002, 12:48 PM
Yeah, Erik, he seemed like a great guy, very honest and I hardly had to prompt him for anything. Ok, so you can look at it two ways, he's honest and willing to help, or he's just got a salespitch down pat and hopes to pull in as many as possible with it. Personally, I think it's the former.

Anyway, to whoever said something about weapons training that early...why not? Aikido is based partly on sword techniques, so it's a good idea to understand that.

memyselfandi
09-13-2002, 01:09 PM
I think the point was that many dojos start weapons work early so his dojo ain't so special ;) (I could be wrong though...)

About the deposit thingy; from Veers description, it seems to me that he may need that deposit to stay afloat (the paying out of his pocket bit). While this makes it somewhat understandable, it also brings about another question. Why is he so unpopular that he needs that large a deposite even after teaching for 7 years? And no, I don't mean to imply anything, it just seemed like the next logical step...

just my $.02 (pretty worthless actually :p ...)

Erik
09-13-2002, 02:23 PM
About the deposit thingy; from Veers description, it seems to me that he may need that deposit to stay afloat (the paying out of his pocket bit). While this makes it somewhat understandable, it also brings about another question. Why is he so unpopular that he needs that large a deposite even after teaching for 7 years? And no, I don't mean to imply anything, it just seemed like the next logical step...
According to the trade magazines most martial arts dojos have a 7% turnover, per month. At first when you think about it that seems high. Then when you think some more and realize how many people come and go it really seems about right. I know a lot of dojos which are still struggling along after more than 10 years.

There's another side to it too. The instructor has to be there everyday. A couple of weeks ago I showed up to teach and the only sound was one bokken swingin'. That bokken being the one held in my hands. It's a small group and that happens sometimes. The following week I was sick and couldn't make it. I sent off an email but apparently we couldn't swing a backup so we didn't open. I heard through the grapevine that one of the students was upset about it. OK fine, we said we'd be there, we weren't so I can understand it and we did fail. At the same time where was he the prior week?

Kevin Wilbanks
09-13-2002, 02:30 PM
Veers,

You should learn to use Google. It isn't difficult. I typed in the search words 'aikido' 'corpus' 'christi'.

Veers
09-13-2002, 03:46 PM
Thanks for nothing, I did that after I replied earlier. I don't want to take at the university, and that other place is too expensive.

JMCavazos
09-13-2002, 03:49 PM
We are located in the Rio Grande Valley. One of my aikido mates (yondan) visited that particular dojo and was pleased with what he saw! He had only good to things to say about the sensei and recommended that if we were in the area, we might stop by and train with him.

So I tend to believe that the sensei's aikido is "real" aikido.

Now, about the fee..... I feel that for South Texas that fee is extremely high. Most dojos in the area charge around $40 per month. I also don't like the long term contracts. I teach at a fitness center and the charge is about $33 per month. Not only do you get aikido 3 times a week, but you have access to a weight gym, aerobics, yoga - and no long term contract.

That's the only thing that I would be concerned about.

Kevin Wilbanks
09-13-2002, 04:21 PM
Thanks for nothing, I did that after I replied earlier. I don't want to take at the university, and that other place is too expensive.
No problem. I'll make it a point not to burden you with my irritating assistance in the future.

Veers
09-13-2002, 05:31 PM
It wasn't irritating. *shrug* no hard feelings, just that if you're going to help, ok, if not, I don't really need your sarcasm, is all. I just didn't know if you included USAF or other keywords. I figured on "corpus christi aikido" but wasn't sure beyond that. That's all.

Brian Crowley
09-14-2002, 07:28 AM
I have lived and worked in a number of different cities of various sizes over the last 8 years and asking for that much cash up front is not a standard business practice in any of them. The instructor's explanations sound like BS to me.

When someone says it's not about the money, but then demands an unusual amount of money under some other pretext ("this way we only get comitted people") I am suspcious.

You are entitled to ask what style of Aikido this person studies, who is promoting him etc. Why not learn a little more about him and where he is coming from ?

Brian

Veers
09-14-2002, 03:39 PM
Well, I e-mailed the OKF about him, and they sent me this:

It is with great pleasure that I have the opportunity to write to you in response to your inquiry into Mr. Dan Vella of Corpus Christi, Texas. The following will apply:

1. It is true that Sensei Dan Vella is a member in good standing of the Okinawan Karate Federation (Aikido Division) and has been for a number of years. His dedication to the Traditional Martial Arts is outstanding and without comparison in his field. We are very proud to count him as one of our members.

2. Further, if you have the opportunity to study with the man, please do so immediately. While his school and enrollment is small, this should be a very good indication that he is a strong and exact instructor. He is to be considered a man of Honor and lives by the old principals of the "Masters" who have passed on before us.

3. For the record, we only list the State and Counrty Representatives at this time, however, sometime within the very near future, it would be our intent to list all members within our database. We maintained our headquarters in Scottsdale, Arizona for almost seven (7) years and are just now finishing our Website and new additions since we have relocated to Las Vegas, Nevada.

4. We are pleased that you have take the time to contact us and we are further pleased that you provided us with the opportunity to relate our posture to you in this matter. We know that the selection of a Sensei or Dojo is extremely important in any individuals life, therefore, we understand and can appreciate your posture in this matter.

SUMMARY:

Our recommendation to you is to seek out the teachings of Mr. Dan Vella and learn all that you can. Keep a very close eye on the philosophy of this man and his chosen discipline. You will not regret one moment pursuant to your choice.

We want to take this opportunity to thank you for your time and consideration in this matter. Should you desire any further information on this individual and his Martial Arts, please do not hesitate to contact me personally at this headquarters. I respond to almost all of the inquires, as the Okinawan Karate Federation is a very close family of Traditional Martial Arts Practitioners who are dedicated to the true knowledge and methods of teaching.

::End::

So that answers the question about the federation buisness.

Anyway, I think I've made up my mind...if it works out, I'll go to his dojo unless I find somewhere else that offers similar practice scheduling at a major cost difference. Seeing as I'm willing to commit for at least a year, I'm not worried about the depostie thing. There's no reason I wouldn't be able to do it for a year there (and if I don't go out of town for college, even longer). I mean, I've heard nothing but good about this guy...so anyway.

Richard Harnack
09-14-2002, 04:58 PM
Well, finally got over to the dojo to talk to the instructor about fees and such what. We talked for 45 minutes (he, myself, and my dad).

Ok, he said since he's had so many people leave after a month or so, I'd have to pay for the first quarter up front and then also the last quarter of the year up front, too...for a total of $395 up front (no payments until the first 3 months are up, then pay for the next three, then the next three, and then the last three of the year are already paid for). He said the last quarter's payment is a deposite and I can get it back if I need to quit before I get to it, but I have to notify him that I'm leaving. (which makes sense to me). The deposite did strike me as a bit unorthidox, but the price is fair, and I can go to any of the 5 classes a week (probably will make 2-3 depending on work).

He said that from what he'd heard me say and how I looked (physically, I guess he meant) that if I wanted a challenge (and I do) that it'd be for me.

Oh, also, he's independant from the Japanese family somthin'-or-other that owns aikido stuff...don't remember what he said and I didn't get it...somthing like the people who own the license or whatever. He's an authorzied teacher, but he does things a bit different (such as letting students train with weapons in their first week) but still teaches "pure" aikido.

Anyway, there's the scoop...your thoughts? "Go for it"? "Nooo!"? "Look around some more"?

Of course this all hinges on a job schedual...
1. Find out clearly what his organizational affiliation is. In my case I am an independent instructor, but I am affiliated with Seidokan Aikido. He may simply be telling you he is not a franchise operation.

2. What is his rank? Not that this will tell you anything, it will however give you some measure of how long he has been training. Be careful if he tells you something like 9th or 10th dan in Aikido. There just are not that many running around in the US. I am only aware of one 10th dan in the US and his was awarded to him by the organiztion he founded.

3. The first and last quarter deposit is unusual. Ask what happens to your last quarter deposit if he closes down. He may not have thought this through.

4. His sales pitch sounds like one promoted by certain contracting agencies. It is not necessarily bad, but it sometimes leaves a bad taste.

5. Lastly, back to the rank thing for a moment. If he is teaching other things besides Aikido, what are they and what is his rank in each? Years ago we had a guy in the larger metropolitan St Louis area who claimed to be a thrid degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do, Aikido and something else (I have forgotten what). What he actually had were three shodans "earned" from the time he was a child (TKD child shodan)over a period of 10 years. However, once he got his various shodans he stopped training in that art in order to collect another shodan. Hence three shodan = Sandan. By the time he got through misrepresenting himself and his training, he finally left town under cover of darkness to never be heard from again. Consequently. when his students found out that their ranks from him did not mean squat and that their training also did not amount to what he had told them, they were fairly well done with the martial arts in general.

This is all in the category of "be careful". A legitimate instructor, regardless of "sales pitch" will be able to answer all of these questions and show their certificates (if they are not already hanging up).

Good luck.

Kent Enfield
09-14-2002, 07:38 PM
Mr. Lyons,

You found the Okinawan Karate Federation website, but maybe you didn't read the whole thing. To be honest, I didn't either. (I skimmed most of the history section.)

Before training with this guy, please read and consider the following from the OKF website:Question: Do I have to appear before a Certified Promotion Board in order to be considered for advancement as a Black Belt?

Normally YES...However the OKF has just recently introduced a New Testing Program that involves the submission of a quality video tape illustrating and containing the proficiency of the individual that desires to be considered for Rank Advancement. With the high cost of travel and uncertain employment schedules of most individuals, it is most often very difficult for an OKF registered Black Belt to travel to our headquarters for promotional reviews.That's right. To get rank from this organization, all you have to do is send in a video tape of yourself (and some cash). That doesn't sound very legitimate to me, especially since the organization is a karate one that gives rank in any martial art.

I still can't figure out why he'd claim rank from the SUSKIF, as it awards rank only in kendo and iaido, just like the rest of the All US Kendo Federation.

Brian Crowley
09-14-2002, 07:41 PM
Jonathan,

This Okinawan Karate Federation looks like a scam to me. Check out their "membership application":

http://www.okf1956.org/forms/memberApp.cfm

They also sell black belt certificates, titles, and host of other crap. For the right price it looks like you can get all kinds of impressive credentials - and they do not appear to require much in the way of qualifications. I'm pretty sure that for a couple hundred bucks you too could have a membership and a very nice title.

To my mind, the fact that he belongs to this organization is another hit to his credibility.

This guy MIGHT be fine, but frankly the very few things that you have posted put up a lot of red flags to me. I advise you tread VERY carefully given how much money he is asking for up front.

Brian

Veers
09-14-2002, 09:16 PM
Richard, he's a 4th Dan.

Kent, I will be sure to ask other Aikido instructors in town about him.

Brian, he told me his sensei's name, but I don't remember it. Ok, so they sell stuff giving the impression that they're throwing it about. But like I said, affiliation doesn't really matter to me. It's his skill at teaching that does. I'm just still trying to decide if he's worth the up-front risk.

Again, Seeing as I'm willing to commit for at least a year, I'm not worried about the depostie thing as far as loosing it goes. There's no reason I wouldn't be able to do it for a year there (and if I don't go out of town for college, even longer)

DaveO
09-14-2002, 11:56 PM
Johnathan:

Shortly before I graduated from high school and joined the Army, I signed up for a beginner's course in Jiu-jitsu in what is considered one of the largest, most well-respected dojos in town. Back then, I knew nothing about MA or fighting, and the sensei's name was quite well-respected, but even then, after a couple classes I could tell I was being handed a line. Phrases like: 'Jiu Jitsu was created by monks as spititual awareness' and 'a more peaceful version of NinJitsu' were used. On the mat, said sensei would say things like: 'Success is won by total peace. Meditate on this.' We'd then sit with our eyes closed for forty-five minutes. No exaggeration. So, I stopped going, and joined a Karate dojo instead.

But I didn't read the fine print.

Students were required to pay by the month, but the contract was annual. I recieved my call-up to Basic Training, proceeded through it (16 weeks) and Battle School (16 more weeks) and wound up at my Regiment after a 6-week Base Defence temporary posting to find a huge suprise waiting for me. I'd been sued - in absentia - for a years worth of classes I never took; over $900. Since I hadn't responded to payment requests for months, (This had gone to my future Regiment, not to me, in typical Army style) I had to fight off a bad credit rating for the next seven years.

Jonathan, the reason for this sob-story is simple: The Sensei I dealt with was on the surface a real nice guy, friendly, a great salesman. He appeared a consummate professional. He was - at collecting fees. In the years since, I encountered numerous students of his who demonstrated shocking lack of ability and, I must say courtesy, in the MA. I also ran in to one or two with similar stories to mine. One girl; who quit after being diagnosed with diabetes, was sued as well; while she was in the hospital. Remember too, this is considered one of the most respected dojos in town - having a big advertising budget will do that for you.

How does this relate to your situation?

Read the OKF's description again - the phrases are flowery, overblown and formulaic. They're exactly what you'd expect from a used car salesman; not an answer to a serious query. It provides no information at all on the sensei, just heaps of lavish praise for someone they don't have listed. Any bets on whether or not the OKF takes a cut of his fees?

He may be a 4th Dan, but I'm more than a little suspicious about his credentials; both how he got them and how he uses them.

In the final count, Johnathan, the majority of the people voicing their concerns to you here are at least Shodan rank; please respect their judgement in this matter. You might be willing to lose the money; that's your choice, after all, but don't lose it foolishly. While an independent Dojo can be on the up-and-up and very good, the possibility for chicanery is too great. If you want to learn Aikido, learn it from an accredited Dojo, where you can be sure of the curriculum AND the Sensei.

IMHO, of course.

Dave

G DiPierro
09-15-2002, 02:21 AM
Veers,

This dojo has sounded suspiscious since your first post and almost all of the additional information makes it seem more so.

Certification is more important than you might think for reasons that will make sense after you spend a few years in the art. I am wary of the endorsement of the Okinawan Karate Federation, especially since they are a Karate federation. The letter you received from them just doesn't sound right to me. Some quotes:

"2. Further, if you have the opportunity to study with the man, please do so immediately." Why immediately? So you don't have time to change your mind?

"While his school and enrollment is small, this should be a very good indication that he is a strong and exact instructor." By what crazy logic? The best aikido teachers have large schools with many advanced students.

"He is to be considered a man of Honor" Maybe that just means that he is currently paid on his organzation dues.

"and lives by the old principals (sic) of the "Masters" who have passed on before us." And which "Masters" would those be?

He claims on his flyer an affiliation with "Aikido Hombu Dojo." Acutally, this is rather clever since there is no such thing. By not specifically mentioning an Aikido organization, he cannot be accused of false advertising. Or perhaps he meant that the OKF has it's own "Aikido Hombu Dojo." Now that would be really clever.

Even if you don't care about this lack of certification, how would you go about judging his skill in teaching? Have you observed a class or two? Have you talked to both senior and junior students to see what kind of people they are and what they think of the dojo? Have you observed the way he treats his students and the way they treat each other? The whole point of certification is that more experienced people must evaluate a teacher because less experienced people do not have the neccesary knowledge to do so for themselves.

The issue really isn't the deposit, it's whether you want seek instruction from this person. For example, his statement "if you're not willing to work at it and pull a few muscles in the first week or two" really worries me. I have trained with teachers known for having very hard and aggresive styles and I can't imagine anyone ever pulling even ONE muscle in the first week or two, let alone "a few." Beginners can get injured accidentally, but I just can't imagine how it would be posible for them to practice in such a way as to get THAT kind of injury THAT early on, at least not by doing aikido. Nor can I imagine why they would want to.

Personally, I recommend finding another dojo, one that is at least affiliated with one of the many recognized styles of Aikido.

Kevin Wilbanks
09-15-2002, 06:45 AM
You guys are talking a fine line of sensible advice, but I think you're missing the big picture here. Look at the overall thread: you're talking to a peevish kid who isn't really looking for advice. He asked for opinions on the place, and when they came up mostly negative, he argued with everyone and defended the place. He's already admitted that he has dismissed the other two dojos with legit connections in town out of hand. I think y'all are wasting your wisdom.

Mel Barker
09-15-2002, 07:03 AM
Go for it! Experience is the best teacher. Perhaps you will acquire some.

Brian Crowley
09-15-2002, 09:13 AM
Jonathan,

Keep in mind we are giving advice based on limited facts. I don't know this instructor, all I can tell you is that the facts provided throw up red flags to me. I would have to meet him and view his classes to make up my own mind.

I would encourage you to watch and/or participate in as many classes as you can before committing. Most reputable schools don't care how often you watch and most will let you participate at least once (usually more) without actually paying. Just for some perspective, I had one instructor of a fairly large dojo tell me, "try us for a couple weeks and see if what we do is what you are looking for before you sign up." What a great attitude !

In relocating I have often watched 3-4 classes and participated in as many before joining. One quick story:

I visited one school in which I really liked the first instructor I met. When I came back to practice again I met the senior instructor who I was less comfortable with, so I decided to try a couple more classes before officially joining. In one of those classes I could smell alcohol on this instructor's breath and at one point he threw one of his students in such a way that he landed painfully on his head. I don't think it was intentional, and the student was ok after a few minutes, but I felt this confirmed my initial unease about this instructor and I would not go back. If I had paid for 6 months of lessons in advance when I first watched a class (which I should add they did not ask for, as this is fairly uncommon practice) I would have been in the uncomfortable position of either asking for my money back, eating the funds, or staying with the class - all bad options.

No one is questioning your level of commitment to training (except your potential instructor). We understand you plan to train for at least a year. The only decent advice I can give is that there are many red flags and you should visit this and other schools as often as you can before committing.
Richard, he's a 4th Dan.

Brian, he told me his sensei's name, but I don't remember it. Ok, so they sell stuff giving the impression that they're throwing it about. But like I said, affiliation doesn't really matter to me. It's his skill at teaching that does. I'm just still trying to decide if he's worth the up-front risk.

Again, Seeing as I'm willing to commit for at least a year, I'm not worried about the depostie thing as far as loosing it goes. There's no reason I wouldn't be able to do it for a year there (and if I don't go out of town for college, even longer)

rachmass
09-15-2002, 10:53 AM
certification is different from organization to organization. In the USAF-WR, teachers who have certification (fukushidoin/shidoin) must undergo actual certification testing. This ensures that the teachers really are clear with their technique and their teaching ability. In the USAF-ER, it is applied for, but under the discretion of Yamada and/or Kanai Sensei, both of whom will know the teacher in question. It is not handed out lightly to my knowledge. These teaching certificates have weight. I would imagine that other similar organizations have similar critera for their certified teachers. It is certainly not something you just pay for and get. Of course, if it doesn't matter to you, then it doesn't matter to you. It does to me, but then that is just my $.02

best wishes to great training!

Erik
09-15-2002, 11:09 AM
Or perhaps he meant that the OKF has it's own "Aikido Hombu Dojo." Now that would be really clever.
They do have a Hombu dojo but Hombu basically means home. Lots of arts have a Hombu dojo.

Veers
09-15-2002, 11:31 AM
Kevin, I already told you my reasons for dismissing the two you found. As I said already, I will talk to the other two dojos I found in town and will be sure to ask them about Mr. Vella. Yes, I agree this OKF things sounds pretty fake, and doesn't mean jack, so I'll ask him about it. I'm reading your advice and trying to apply it. A lot of it makes sense and some of it doesn't. Simple as that.

Giancarlo, he didn't mean that they'd get hurt in the first week...any more than using muscles they hadn't lately (like throwing a baseball too hard after a period of inactivity with those arm muscles). He meant he'd had a few pulled muscles over his teaching carear.

Summary, I'm not going to go sign up blindly! Anyway, about what I said about affiliation not mattering...certification DOES matter, though I'm not as worried about the affiliation (it matters, but's not the biggest deal). Like I said, I'm going to look around some more, and if this one turns out to be the one that fist my schedule, I will GO WATCH his classes and ASK TO TRY A COUPLE before I join.

Veers
09-16-2002, 03:30 PM
Update on the OKF thing...I got an e-mail from them again today and it blew my doubts (about the OKF) out of the water. If you guys still want to kick that dead horse, e-mail the guy. So, I take back what I said about it being fake...I was uninformed.

opherdonchin
09-16-2002, 05:39 PM
You want to share that e-mail with us?

I know we're all saying the same thing, but here is me saying it:

1) Watching a class (and, if you have to pay 6 months up front, two classes) is essential to evaluating an instructor. Not only in terms of the 'quality of his art,' which you may not feel qualified to judge, but also in terms of how suitable that teacher and his style are for you in particular.

2) Knowing the pedigree of an instructor may not mean anything in the grand scheme of things, but it's a great way for us (your studio audience) to get some information when we've never met or seen the guy. Recommendations from other, credible, instructors is also helpful that way.

3) AiKiDo is, for most dojos, a community larger than the individual dojo and the individual teacher. Most students of AiKiDo point to seminars and other larger community gatherings as a place where they really made their biggest strides. Access to such a community is an important part of what a dojo offers, and an independent instructor may have more difficulty with this than others.

4) You should go do whatever feels right to you. If you like this guy and feel you ahve something to learn from him, all that lesson will cost you (if you are wrong about him) is some money. I mean, you could get injured, but that's pretty unusual even in lousy dojos.

5) OKF AiKiDo division sounds wildly bogus. If this is an AiKiDo organization, it isn't even on the map as far as I know.

Mike Collins
09-16-2002, 06:16 PM
Well, it seems to me that you've gotten a whole raft of opinions and facts. But ultimately, you'll probably end up doing what your gut tells you to do. So spend some time seeing what your gut REALLY feels, and do that.

Or don't, it's all okay with me.

Best of luck young man. Have fun.

rachmass
09-16-2002, 06:27 PM
Hi Jonathan,

Everyone here has been offering you their opinions and advice, as you did ask at the very start of this thread:

Anyway, there's the scoop...your thoughts? "Go for it"? "Nooo!"? "Look around some more"?

So, please, take what you will from all this advice, but do remember that you asked for it and people here have been very thoughtful with their answers and have made very valid points. Ultimiately it is your decision what you do, where you train, and how you proceed.

Best wishes to you in your training. I hope it works out well.

Rachel

Veers
09-16-2002, 06:38 PM
Did I every deny that you guys were trying to be helpful? No...I know you're trying to help my decision and maybe save me some heartbreak. And I thank you for it.

Opher, as for your point summary...

1) Watching class(es). I think that's really a given and I had planned on that.

2) Pedirgee. Ok, thanks for clearing up why some of you made such a big deal of it.

3) Community. He does do demonstrations around town. He and his class also do community service projects. As far as seminars go, I don't know.

4) Follow your gut. Well, actually, this can have bad consequences at times (though that's a different matter all together) and that's why I brought this before you...because my gut was telling me "this is it," but I didn't want to rush into anything.

5) OKF. I sent you an e-mail.

Rachel, yeah, I realize that, I just wanted to get a few ideas from people who live it.

Jessica
09-16-2002, 06:51 PM
I have not read this entire thread so sorry if this has been said, but I would also (aside from everything that's been said) try talking to some of the other people who train there.

Best of Luck,

Jessica

Brian Crowley
09-16-2002, 07:22 PM
Jonathan,

My curiosity about the OKF is peaked. Why not post the email here ?

Brian

batemanb
09-16-2002, 07:29 PM
I have just sat and read all the posts here after 3 days away from the computer (gotta do something now I`m back at work:)). Since my first post in response to the original request, I see nothing but the same level headed advice coming from all corners. On the other hand, I see Veers constantly batting that advice in the opposite direction. It appears to me that he has made up his mind regardless.

Despite rejecting the other two dojo`s in town, I would recommend watching a couple of classes in both of those dojo`s before watching a couple of classes in your intended dojo, that way you will have some benchmarks to compare against. Can`t help thinking that you are missing a good chance if yuo don`t train in a dojo affiliated with Yamada Sensei, but you gotta do what feels right for you. On a final note, I earn a higher than average salary and am pretty comfortable financially (at the moment), but I still wouldn`t outlay that kind of money in advance, and I wouldn`t be saying "that I`m not worried about the money", but that`s just me.

Veers
09-16-2002, 08:23 PM
Bryan, I didn't bat it all aside. Just the parts I though unreasonable or was unable to comply with. You'll notice in my replies that I said I'd take some of the advice, and work with what I couldn't.

Brian, if I must. Please keep in mind that I did not mention any of you in the e-mail, but merely said I had talked with some people about it and they had a low opinion of the OKF.

::e-mail::

Dear Sir:

I thought it best to contact you directly as it appears that some of "questionable" individuals who have not been around long enough to qualify with their "personal opinion" have once again entered this arena, wherein they are not qualified.

Please be advised that the OKF prides itself as being a Traditional Martial Arts Organization and if anything, we have personally refused membership in the OKF to individuals who appeared to be self-promoted or their rank is questionable in nature. We have been in existence in the United States since 1972 and are one of the oldest and most respected of Martial Arts Organizations in the world today. The OKF was originally formed in Okinawa and recognized through Japan in 1956 under the direction of the late O'Sensei Hohan Soken. We just celebrated our 30th Anniversary in the United States of America.

Contrary to belief, our Organization is more real than most of the contrived Martial Arts Organizations that are in existence today. Most of these organizations support the ego or ("rank/title") of those who formed the organization in the first place. We are not stranger to many organizations that have come and gone, however, we are still here. As for myself, I do not know of your age or even who you are (as you have refrained from any identification pursuant to your inquires). At least have the courtesy to identify yourself in order that we can place a name with your communications. Further, there is no requirement for me to defend myself or the OKF in these matters.

Unfortunately, for those who do not travel the way of Traditional Martial Arts, they lack honor and direction. This is not our fault. I have been around since the early 60's and my reputation speaks for itself. As with any individual like myself, there is always a "love/hate" relationship. Those who love me understand my philosophy and honor. Those who hate me, fear me more than anything as I assume the position of not adhering to their "innuendo's". The proof of any Martial Art is when the practitioner is willing to step on to the mat and demonstrate his/her knowledge and expertise. The rest is all conversation.....again this is my opinion, however, I have been in the Martial Arts for some 52 years now. If nothing else, I know where all the bodies are buried and who actually is real and who is not.

I just wanted to defend the honor of the OKF, as it was handed down to me from O'Sensei Hohan Soken, who was and is still considered one of the all time great Masters of our time. Need I say more. The enclosed statements were in defense of those who would have the "audacity" to indicate that the OKF "looked rather fake".

Who made these statements. Do these individuals even have the common courtesy to meet me face to face and tell me this, or are they more comfortable hiding behind their own ego? Put yourself in my place.

The OKF created an Aikido Division as we have been actively involved in all aspects of the Martial Arts. We have a Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Okinawan, Kobudo, Aikido and even an American Division. These divisions were created for the Martial Artist who was dedicated to his discipline and knew what he was teaching. Far too many instructions today actually believe that having a Black Belt entitles them to "teach". IT DOES NOT.

In the case of Sensei Vella, I issued his membership as I have personally visited with him as I lived in Corpus Christi, Texas for more than seven (7) years. Again, I know where all the bodies are buried. I personally have studied Aikido for many years, as this discipline is required if one is to become a true student of the arts. You should already know this. Further, if you are content with accepting the opinions of those who would seek to "criticize" the OKF and make such statements, why then do you not seek instruction from these individuals? They....who are they? Do they even have the courage to place their opinions in writing and approach me directly? I think not.

Please understand that I have been down this road many times before. To quote a very good saying from a good friend of mine: "I have been to the Bar-B-Q before". Go back and tell these individuals who believe that a Membership within the OKF can be had for a price, that I personally welcome their application, complete with copies of their certificate and extensive backgrounds. Once we review these submissions, then and only then do we consider them for membership. Believe me, we turn down more memberships than we issue. However, we have been around for 30 years....that should tell you something...

You have every right to be aggressive, in the right context. However, since you have elected to remain unknown, it is difficult not to respond to your aggressiveness. My Master once told me that people never talk about other people who are unimportant in their lives or people who not create a direct threat to their own posture. Need I say more?

We would be more than pleased to provide you with the entire contents of the portfolio of Mr. Dan Vella, upon receiving the full and proper disclosures from you and your Martial Arts Associate, whoever they might be. No Mr. Vella is not about to be promoted to 5th Dan. He is about to be tested for 5th Dan and said testing will take place through me directly in attendance. I look forward to returning to Corpus Christi, Texas to see a great number of old friends. We might even have time to visit some of these Aikido Schools that seem to have a very low opinion of myself and the OKF. I am certain that they would more than welcome my presence.

You should already know that although I am a former United State Marine that I am well educated and a gentlemen when it comes to the Martial Arts. I give respect where it is due and I disrespect those who would disrespect me and not have knowledge of who or what I stand for.

You might question yourself as to why Sensei Vella asks for a large sum of money upfront. It could be to discourage those who would seek instruction, only to secure his knowledge and then leave. I am certain that if you have a "sincere desire" to learn and gather knowledge, that you and Sensei Vella would be able to negotiate an attractive deal for you and his small school. Also, for the record, his school is small and he does not have a 100 students like most commercial schools. Not that I do not approve of these commercial establishments, but these are the true "money mills" as we call them in our business.

However, based on the fact that you seem to adhere to the "innuendo's" and "hearsay" of certain other Aikido Schools who appear to maintain a sincere "jealousy" towards the OKF, I would respectfully suggest that you attend their classes, prior to requesting to join Sensei Dan Vella. Unlike other organizations, the OKF stands behind each of its members. Especially those members who have been forced to vacate their own parent organizations and become part of a Traditional Martial Arts Family rather than "bow down" to the powers to be. I have encountered many men and ladies who have become "legends in their own minds" and actually believe that they are great and their system is the best in the world.

However, every Martial Arts System is only as good as the Sensei that teaches or interprets that particular system. It makes no difference if it is Aikido, Judo, Kung-Fu, Karate-Do or Kobudo.....the teaching is still the same. Therein is the truth behind any system. The two great founding Masters of Aikido have been long removed from this physical world. However, their teachings continue to live on. Only in the case of some "American Masters" they actually believe that they have become what their students believe they are. Think about that one for while.

I do what to take this opportunity to thank you for writing to us in this matter. I believe that you have chosen the right direction, except that your diplomacy needs a great deal of work and it is my opinion that you are greatly influenced by those who would seek to be great by making other appear to be small. Words like "fake" have no place within my vocabulary. If you attack that OKF, you attack O'Sensei and myself. This cannot and will not be tolerated under any circumstances. Especially, since you and your unnamed associates to do not care to identify yourselves. This tells me a great deal......

You can elect to remain nameless and faceless in these matters. It is your choice...not mine to tell you what to do. I do not have knowledge of you as an individual or human being, therefore, I am not qualified to judge you. However, if I did know you and considered myself qualified to judge you, then by all means I would identify myself in order that my statements could be verified and utilized in the proper manner.

We have been in contract with Sensei Vella and he is well aware of this matter. He can identify you through your inquires and interest pursuant to your request for instruction. Again, if I were in your position, I would also make inquiries into this matter. However, as I have clearly stated in this communications to you, I would have utilized more diplomacy and engaged in a different type of strategy than the ones that you employed. Just a suggestion. Again, this is only my opinion, I could be wrong....

Sincerely yours,

Glenn R. Premru (Soke)

Okianwan Karate-Do Federation

CEO/Chairman of the Board

Email: grpsoken@aol.com

Website: www.OKF1956.org

::end::

Edward
09-16-2002, 08:39 PM
That was the most hilarious letter I have ever read :)))))) Now I am convinced that Okinawan Karatedo Federation is The right organization to issue not only Aikido grades and memberships, but also judo, kung-fu, taekwondo, and all the other MA, even the American ones. Sounds very logical to me!

Edward
09-16-2002, 08:43 PM
I also visited the website of the OKF and couldn't help but noticing that the Grand Master is a 10th Dan.......

I also noticed that Dan grades and others are in the online shopping section. You can become a Shihan for just 200$. That's even cheaper than Aikikai hombu's shodan passport.

Looks like the right organization to do 5th Dan aikido examinations....

Kevin Wilbanks
09-16-2002, 08:43 PM
Ahahaha! That was the most extensive, convincing self-condemnation I've ever read. Enjoy your new cohorts, Veers.

Veers
09-16-2002, 08:49 PM
You really think he's just lying through his teeth, don't you? Once AGAIN this does not mean my mind's made up. Once again, I will look around and compare. Give it up, Kevin.

Kevin Wilbanks
09-16-2002, 09:26 PM
"Lying" doesn't begin to describe that letter. It's a paranoid, self-incriminating diatribe of epic proportions. He repeatedly indulges in everything he condemns. It's overlong by at least an order of magnitude, and lashes out in random directions - not only at you and us, but at plethora of unseen phantoms. Surely they're at the gates right now. Oh my!

rachmass
09-16-2002, 09:29 PM
Okay, okay, stop the back biting here.

Jonathan, go to Google, pull up "Aikido organizations", and see what comes up. Study what they have to offer too.

I like to know how teachers are connected to the source, O'Sensei. What is their lineage? It IS important.

Again, whatever you decide to do is really up to you. You just got a lot of people putting in their two cents because you ASKED FOR IT!

I am not afraid of my lineage! I am happy with all the teachers I studied with! They have all given me so much to learn from. I really truly hope that you will have that same experience. I bet everyone who is writing in to talk with you here feels the same way.

Brian Crowley
09-16-2002, 10:17 PM
Wow. Kind of quirky response from OKF. Almost hard to believe it is for real.

Not sure what to make of quotes like,"I personally have studied Aikido for many years, as this discipline is required if one is to become a true student of the arts. You should already know this." WHAT ? You can't be a "true student of the arts" without Aikido. Please - spare me.

"You might question yourself as to why Sensei Vella asks for a large sum of money upfront. It could be to discourage those who would seek instruction, only to secure his knowledge and then leave." What the $^%& does that mean ? By forcing you to pay for 6 months you won't be able to leave after you secure his knowledge ?! How odd.

BTW, apparently there is at least 1 person willing to openly criticize OKF and the current pres. This popped up when I did a search:

http://www.smoka-usa.com/premru.htm

http://www.smoka-usa.com/premru2.htm

All kinds of political agendas floating around obviously. Hard to know what to think based on "internet research" !

Best of luck with your search. I would love to hear anything else you find out about the OKF (good or bad) and what your final decision is about training !

Brian

Edward
09-16-2002, 11:08 PM
Whether the OKF is a genuine one or not is hardly the problem here. The point is that it is not an aikido organization. I understand that some dojos are independent, I have no problem with that. They usually mention their lineage and say that for such and such reason, they separated from the mother organization. But to state that this OKF will give the said teacher an exam for his 5th dan in aikido is hilariously outrageous!!!!!

nic an fhilidh
09-17-2002, 05:06 AM
You really think he's just lying through his teeth, don't you?
Yes, unfortunately, people will lie to you in this life.

This guy did everything short of threatening you for even daring to ask questions. The letter was fairly shocking. Why you'd even consider training with anyone affiliated with this scary behavior is beyond me, but good luck in your endeavors if you do.
Once AGAIN this does not mean my mind's made up. Once again, I will look around and compare.
I really hope you do. IMO, getting mixed up with someone who speaks like this, is simply begging for trouble.

Just curious - did you show this email to your dad?

- ┴ine

Veers
09-17-2002, 06:51 AM
Kevin, "He repeatedly indulges in everything he condemns. It's overlong by at least an order of magnitude, and lashes out in random directions - not only at you and us, but at plethora of unseen phantoms." You noticed that, too. Hmmm...

Rachel, ok, will do.

Brian, that's some rather condeming evidence. I'll think on it.

┴ine, yeah, it was rather, um, defensive. Why consider them? Well, I hadn't seen anything that showed that behavior before.

I also agree that that agressiveness towards us all in the e-mail is a turn-off.

No, I haven't shown him the e-mail yet, though he has read this thread (and wanted to know if I was always as short as I was with Kevin, heh). I will let him, though...mom, too, probably.

opherdonchin
09-17-2002, 09:41 AM
Jonathan,

I'm glad that you posted the letter on the thread. A lot of people were much more forthright at expressing the discomfort that I felt when reading it. I guess, like I said to you, that I felt more like the guy was sincere but defensive than like he was actually lying. It seems to me that he really believes that there is no difference between all those arts he mentions, and that he really believe he is transmitting and marshalling some great tradition.

Still, that letter would not increase my interest in training with him, and I would question why Vella found it appropriate to associate with him.
BTW, apparently there is at least 1 person willing to openly criticize OKF and the current pres. This popped up when I did a search:
I found these links just as bad as the letter, actually. A pox on both their houses.

Leslie Parks
09-17-2002, 10:22 AM
I have nothing to say about OKF. I don't know them, the head or anyone in the organization. As I said in my earlier post, quality, independent dojo with instructors of good character do exist. I do not say whether this is one of them.

Public Demonstrations are a both a marketing and an educational tool. 'Look how cool this art is! Come and join!' That is not a bad thing or a good thing. If you didn't know Aikido existed, how would you know to start?

For further research into different organizations, here are two resources that are a bit more organized than the google search.

1. Aikidofaq-North American organizations-this lists well known organizations under several lineages ie. Aikikai, Ki Society, Tomiki, Daito Ryu, etc.

http://www.aikidofaq.com/guide/nam.html

2. Aikiweb- Affiliations

http://www.aikiweb.com/general/affiliat.html

Furthermore, try contacting affiliated dojo elsewhere in Texas (outside of the Corpus Christi area) or in the South, see if they can provide any recommendations/information. The Aikido world is smaller than you think, and there are many people who "know where the bodies are buried".

rgfox5
09-17-2002, 11:46 AM
IMHO, you can watch a class and make your judgement solely from your impressions. Did you like the attitude, how did the senior students act, did they strut around or not, were people nice to eachother, was the training vigorous or not, did anyone get hurt. Did the teacher appear skilled and effective, graceful and coordinated. Did you like the class?

What organization he's with or was with, who cares? Your impressions are all that matters. The monthly price is fine, but ask again if you can have a trial month please, before you commit to hundreds of $$.

bcole23
09-17-2002, 12:34 PM
SCHWEET!! Thanks for the great info! I just started my own karate dojo here in Idaho. I'm calling it "Cobra Kai Karate". The OKF has awarded me a San dan rank and a shihan dai teaching certificate, they should arrive with 10-15 days.

And since I currently hold a 3rd kyu rank in Aikido, they've also awarded me a dan rank in Aikido!

"I'm in the moneeey.. I'm in the moneeey.."

I'm amazed that places like this are allowed to exist. I read every single word on his website and looked at all the materials. This seems to me to be a very good salesman who studied for quite some time, but barring having anything to really show for it just makes some scam that is meant to look like something legitimate.

However, I'm in total agreement that rank is only an indication of perceived ability and affiliation is just that. It's actual ability that matters. But think on this, a persons ability isn't just in physical things, it's in intelligence, character, and spirit. Anyone belonging to this affiliation is very lacking in one or more of these areas.

I'm sure the people of the CobraKai were very proficient also, go train with them.

opherdonchin
09-17-2002, 12:42 PM
I don't like the way some of the comments about Mr. Premru's organization are being expressed. Remember, please, that this is a public forum and our ability to show respect for other martial artists is a key factor in the way others will assess us as martial artists. (We have absolutely no evidence that Mr. Premru is not an outstanding martial artist and entirely sincere, despite expressing himself somewhat strangely.)

I sympathize with the people who respond to him negatively. I found his two letters distasteful, myself, but unless someone has real personal experience, they should be careful what they say. Indeed, even if they have real personal experience, they should probably be careful of what they say and how they say it.

G DiPierro
09-17-2002, 02:20 PM
Jonathan,

I think you misinterpreted what was said here. Nobody ever claimed that the OKF was fake. It seems clear to me from their website and letter that they act as a sort of clearing house for students who have left the organization in which they originally learned their art. It is not uncommon for students to leave teachers and organizations for one reason or another, but usually an Aikido student will move from one legitimate Aikido organization to another. The idea of joining a Karate federation is abnormal.

However, the fact that Premru himself lived in CC for several years might go a long way to explaining how Vella became involved with the OKF. He probably didn't just find them on the Web. Nevertheless, that he is no longer affiliated with a recognized Aikido organization is troubling to some of the members of this forum. The main reason for this is that there is no certification from a qualified authority as to Vella's ability to teach Aikido. Premru might be a good karateka (I don't know), but this does not make him qualified to evaluate Aikido instructors. Normally, to award 5th dan in Aikido, one needs to hold at least 6th dan. It usually takes at least thirty years of practice to attain this rank and requires maintaining a good relationship with one or more shihan. Appartenly, Vella was not able to maintain such a relationship with the teachers from whom he learned Aikido. We have no idea who this was and what level Vella reached under them. The only thing we have to go on is the 4th dan ranking he has from Premru. Nobody here puts much value in that, and Premru's email, much like the other information you have shared, only serves to reinforce our opinion.

Perhaps I was wrong when I suggested that the mention of "Aikido Hombu Dojo" on the flyer was intended to mislead. Maybe Vella meant to indicate that he holds rank through the Aikikai Hombu Dojo. If so, you want to know what this is as it is the only rank that you can be sure was awarded to him by a qualified Aikido instructor. If you can provide this information, along with teacher under which he received that rank, we would have a much better picture of what Vella's actual experience is. If he holds no dan rank whatsoever through the Aikikai (or other major Aikido organization), then you have to wonder on what basis Premru can promote him to from 0 to 5th dan. Nowhere in that long email does Premru ever mention an Aikido qualification of any significance. "Many years" of study and having some friends at the local dojos are not sufficient.

After reading that letter, I was curious about Premru, so I did a little research. I found this page (http://216.239.51.100/search?q=cache:Q_PhQiutzRgC:pub17.ezboard.com/fdiligizerduediligence%3Fpage%3D13+%22Glenn+Premru%22+-karate+-martial&hl=en&ie=UTF-8) which contains a thread regarding Premru's business dealings. The content has been deleted, but it is easy to get the gist from the titles alone. This post (http://pub17.ezboard.com/fdiligizerduediligence.showMessage?topicID=8975.topic&index=2) is representative of a similar thread. Apparently, we aren't the only people who distrust Premru.

I think Rick Fox's comments apply to himself and the rest of us here that already have experience with Aikido, but for someone with no experience it is hard to know what to look for. As I mentioned before, this is the primary justification of rank and certification. I think that it is clear from your posts here that Vella's sales pitch and Premru's email were effective at selling you where they would not have been so for the rest of us. That is OK, as you shouldn't expect to be able to evaluate these people without any experience. I think that you showed good judgment by posting here for advice.

Many of us think that the best thing for you to do is to find a dojo that is affiliated with a known Aikido organization. Ultimately, though, we can only advise, and you will have to make the best decision you can for yourself based on the available information. If, after thouroughly checking out all of the schools in town, you still decide to go with Premru and Vella, it may turn out to be the right thing for you. Even if it doesn't, it may simply be true that you need to find this out for yourself.

opherdonchin
09-17-2002, 02:51 PM
Hey, I finally found some information on Glenn Premru that puts him in context. You have to actually search on his name to find him in the page, but this link (http://www.usadojo.com/historyamericanmakarate.htm) makes it seem like he was a reasonably well known (at least locally) Karate performer in the mid-70s. The rest of the page is sober and their description of AiKiDo was fairly accurate, so I'm willing to accept their description of Premru. Too bad they don't say what happened to him after that.

I REALLY liked this passage from their description of AiKiDo, though: Despite what many people think or claim, there is no unified philosophy of aikido. What there is, instead, is a disorganized and only partially coherent collection of religious, ethical, and metaphysical beliefs which are only more or less shared by aikidoists, and which are either transmitted by word of mouth or found in scattered publications about aikido.
:D Couldn't have said it better my self!

Jorge Garcia
09-17-2002, 05:19 PM
Jonathan- I lived in Corpus Christi from 1973 until June of 1998. I met Dan Vela at the Corpus Christi Aikikai in August of 1995. He was wearing a white belt at that time and was training under one of the two teachers that taught there, Larry Salazar. When I met Sensei Salazar and asked him what his rank was, he said Shodan. I later found out that Sensei Larry had black belts in other arts but not Aikido. At that time, the dojo was divided between Sensei Larry who wanted to do Seagal style and didn't believe in testing or organizations and Sensei Eddie Martinez who was under Akira Tohei sensei of the USAF. They eventually split and I didn't see Dan again for a while. When they resurfaced, it was about a year later and they were at the CC Athletic Club. Dan was now wearing a hakama and they were billing him as "Master Dan Vela-weapons master who had studied weapons intensively with some of the best in the world". At the time, I thought it funny since we had almost started at the same time and I was only a 4th kyu (USAF) while he had made Master. Sensei Larry was a student of Seagal but was not a member of any organization. Neither Larry nor Dan believed in testing or organizations back then. Then, Dan and Larry and a split and I have not heard of Dan again until now. My opinion is that Dan has probably been doing Aikido for probabaly 8 to 10 years. He struck me as an average journeyman type who has been around a lot of unaffiliated dojos including a few eccentric personalities. He has had good teachers and has been to Aikikai seminars but has been a ronin of sorts.

The old Corpus Christi Aikikai has since closed. There in Corpus, you have a lot of long time established Tomiki Aikido schools. Both Larry and Eddie started there before switching to the Aikikai under Aikido of Austin. Today, there is a USAF dojo that is a club at Texas A&M, CC that meets twice a week. The club sponsor is Dr. Rick Ricard who is a dear friend of mine. I would recommend him to you. Also, there will soon be a new dojo opening up under Joel Molina, 1st Dan. Joel practiced with Dan Vela and knows him. In fact, we are having a seminar on Saturday, October 12. Joel's teacher, Shihan Hiroshi Kato, 8th Dan, a member of the Aikikai Hombu Dojo for 49 years from Tokyo, Japan will be teaching. I hope you can make it Jonathan and meet Joel. He has been in Aikikai Hombu Dojo Aikido (USAF) since 1994 and is now directly affiliated with the Aikikai under Kato Sensei and the Shinkikan Aikido Dojo in Houston, Texas. Take a look at www.shinkikan.com for more information. By the way, Joel said he was inviting Dan to the seminar.

Best to all,

Jorge Garcia
09-17-2002, 07:51 PM
In the previous post, I mentioned that "Joel had practiced with Dan". I meant that Joel had practiced in the same dojo with Dan when we were all white belts back in the mid 90's

The truth is that all those guys ran in circles that exagerated their ranks or claimed affiliations with all sorts of people. There are a ton of people in Corpus that have dabbled in various martial arts and all know each other. Unfortunately, that doesn't give them any extra credibilty. Some of them are pretty good. Others have had their skill diminish over the years because they talked more about martial arts than practiced them. The two people I have recommended, Rick and Joel are both people who have been active on the mat, as students, for the last decade. Hope to see you at the seminar. You can get Joel's info off of the Shinkikan website. Look under "staff".

Best to you.

Veers
09-17-2002, 08:21 PM
Cool, thanks for that information, Jorge. Mr. Vella told me he's been doing Aikido for 17 years (not 10) and has been teaching for 7.

Would you, then, reccomend him as a teacher (personally, aside from the OKF deal) in the case that I did not or could not join Joel or Rick?

I have looked at the TA&MU-CC classes, but don't think their schedule will fit mine for classes (not to mention we're on the other side of town).

As for the other one, the ShinKiKan, I will probably end up calling them, but they ask $175 for regestration and $85 for "Regular Membership," (does not state whether quarterly or what) and that's a good deal of money.

Also, about this seminar, where is it? I might be able to make it, but I don't know (school).

G DiPierro
09-17-2002, 08:52 PM
Jonathan,

The dues are monthly, though I assume that is the price for the main dojo in Houston. I can't imagine that they will be charging $85 a month for classes with Joel in CC. Also, the $175 gets you a gi, bokken, and jo - about $100 worth of stuff you will need anyway - and includes the first month's dues, so it's not a bad deal. It's not like they are asking for 6 months of dues up front or anything.

Also, you should by all means attend the seminar, even if just to watch. In fact, if you don't make it onto the mat a few times somewhere else before then you might be better off watching anyway. It should give you a good idea of who's who since anyone who does Aikido in CC would be a fool to miss it. You can meet Joel and his teachers in person and see how they stack up on the mat compared to Vella and his group. Joel will have home field advantage with Kato Sensei teaching, but that's one of the perks of bringing a Shihan to town for a seminar.

Jorge Garcia
09-18-2002, 05:36 AM
Jonathan,

Giancarlo is right. The price mentioned on the website is for ShinKikan in Houston. I'm sure that Joel will charge less in Corpus although you must understand that a Dogi costs about $65 and a good bokken and jo cost about $100 almost anywhere you go. We make the students buy them with us because the dojo gets the small markup price plus it saves the time of driving all over Houston looking for the items.

Check the website for the location of the seminar over the next few days. It will be at the place where Joel practices jujuitsu. Its a martial arts plaza of sorts and the instructor/owner has given Joel permission to start an aikido school there. I will ask Sensei Sasha to post the address.

As for recommending Dan, I can't do it because I really haven't seen his Aikido since 1997 and I don't know what he's doing now. It wouldn't be fair to him for me to evaluate him because of that. I would say that you would have a big advantage with Joel though because unlike many schools in the US, our Kyu rankings (as well as the Yudansha {black belt}rankings) come directly from the Aikido World Headquarters, Hombu Dojo and they carry the signature of the Doshu (Leader of the way) Moriteru Ueshiba. This means that as a kyu ranked person, your ranking would be good in any legitimate aikido school in the world. Also, with Kato Sensei as his teacher (and critic), you can be sure that Joel will have the best supervisor available. Kato Sensei received his first six black belts from the Founder and his last two from his son, Kisshomaru Ueshiba directly. He has known the current Doshu since he was a small child. Kato Sensei would directly conduct all your exams in Aikido and I don't think many in Corpus can compete with that. It is a rare privilege for those who can appreciate it. I recommend it to you.

Best regards,

Jorge Garcia
09-18-2002, 06:20 AM
Jonathan,

I want to also clarify something. I mentioned Kato sensei's affiliation and credentials for a reason. The fact is that when you are looking for an aikido school and you find someone practicing under the name of a little known organization, it usually means that they joined that group to get rank in a way that is easier than the "regular" way. In USAF or any established Aikido group like Aikido Association of America or the Schools of Ueshiba-they don't just hand out black belts. You have to work long and hard for them and sometimes, people that aspire to rank don't have the patience (or ability) to do all that is required so they create an organization or they join one that is easier to get rank in. The truth is that if you get any rank in Aikido from a Karate group or anything unusual like that, no one will recognize your rank in the "regular" established groups. In USAF, the largest group in the US or the AAA, I guarantee you they will start you from scratch if you transfer over. I wouldn't spend time and money on a mat for years if I couldn't get a rank that was recognized by the major Aikido Schools. Here in Houston, there are a lot of guys teaching "Aikido" but I have always been careful to associate myself only with the recognized schools because my time and money is too important to waste. You can learn martial arts anywhere with anyone but you can't be sure of what you're getting out there. Take a look at the recognized aikido organizations on this website. That is a good guide for starters or ask the guys on this forum. From what I have read, they will confirm what I am telling you.

Best always,

Jorge

Veers
09-18-2002, 07:48 AM
Yikes, I don't have $160 to blow on a seminar that I'd just sit around and watch at. I dunno, any way, seeing as I'd just be there to watch, listen, and learn, I might be able to get in for less than that? I found the calandar, but, yeah, it doesn't say where, just when.

Thanks for the information, again...I will call Joel some time soon (I guess he should know where it is). Also, I see your point about the ranking and such, and I think it's a good one...especially since I might be leaving town for college in a year or so and so would want to be recognized if I were to join an out of town dojo.

opherdonchin
09-18-2002, 08:43 AM
If you are just watching, they won't charge you anything.

rachmass
09-18-2002, 08:45 AM
Hi Jonathan,

I've never heard of having to pay to WATCH a seminar, only to participate. Call the organizers to find out.

Best wishes on this, it seems that you are taking everyones comments under serious advisement.

Rachel

Veers
09-18-2002, 09:21 AM
Oh, ok. I was about to say... Heh. ^_^;

Jorge Garcia
09-18-2002, 03:12 PM
The price at Shinkikan Houston is higher than most of the weekend seminars in the US. Our seminars are really more akin to the USAF Summer Camp. We have two intensive seminars per year where we train from 14 days to a month. There are usually unannounced daytime classes for those who come from a distance.

The Corpus Seminar will be $70 for the day or $30 per session and yes, watching is free.

G DiPierro
09-18-2002, 03:31 PM
I would like to clarify a remark I made in post #85. When I said "anyone who does Aikido in CC would be a fool to miss [the seminar]," I was referring only to the mainline Aikikai-influenced styles, not the Tomiki people. I don't know enough about that organization to include them in such a strong statement, though I expect at least some of their students will be in attendance.

Veers
09-25-2002, 10:02 AM
Oh geez, the OKF put me on their mailing list...bad move, Glenn.

One other thing, Jorge, will you be at the seminar, too?

Jorge Garcia
10-13-2002, 10:07 AM
Oh geez, the OKF put me on their mailing list...bad move, Glenn.

One other thing, Jorge, will you be at the seminar, too?


Yes, I was there and had a chance to meet Jonathan and his friend as well. They are two fine young people and I think they enjoyed watching the seminar. We also had the privilege of all having dinner with Kato sensei at a nice restaurant that night. It was a great time!

Veers
10-13-2002, 03:04 PM
Indeed I did (enjoy watching), and indeed it was (a great time), and I'll be sure to keep in touch with Joel...he got my # and said he'd keep me posted.

Hehehe, my friend and I came home and tried some of those techniques out...just a few, (don't remember the names) but we got them down pretty well...the one where they grap your shirt and you twist their arm back to face-plant them, the one where they get you in a choke hold and you flip them (that one's fun!), and the one where they grab your wrists from behind and you turn around and drop 'em (that one's easy, unless they're strong enough to keep your arms pinned). Couldn't remember the one where you get the back of the neck with one hand, elbow under their chin, and flip them...too complicated to just watch and learn, I guess.

For the rest of you, I've decided not to join Vella's dojo, even as a "last resort." (actually, if it were to come to "last resorts," I'd probably drop it anyway)

Jorge Garcia
10-15-2002, 08:21 AM
Just for everyone's information, Joel did personally invite Mr. Vela to the seminar. Mr. Vela responded that he no longer would have any dealings with the Aikikai or anyone related to them. He referenced "problems" when the dojo he was a member of was under USAF, Midwest region. He also said that he was now a Shihan himself and a 4th Dan. He told Joel that he would not allow any of his students to attend the seminar but that he would come to "check it out". He did come and watch the first half and then left.

At lunch, I was privileged to meet a man who had 50 years in some style of Karate. He said that a friend had brought him the flyer about the seminar. He was shocked that Kato sensei was coming to Corpus Christi. He said that he had met Kato sensei in Japan in 1970 and that Kato sensei was considered a "master" even back then. He couldn't believe that anyone over here wouldn't want to train with him. He really enjoyed himself and had a great time talking to Kato sensei about old times. Apparently, Kato sensei knew many of the Karate people in Japan that this man had studied with and they discussed it at some length. He is a large black man and was expressing amazement at the way Kato sensei was able to move him about effortlessly. It was a refreshing experience to meet a non aikido practitioner who had such a joy and openness that so often is lacking in those who claim the art of O'Sensei.

ramart2
10-24-2002, 11:30 AM
Jonathon, take the money and help Joel open his own dojo. He was a very good student and has continued his practice. CC needs a good instructor to keep up the lineage of Aikido in Corpus. I recommend him highly. Everyone needs to have a beginning, and as Tohei Sensei told me on his initial visit to CC, Starting a dojo is easy, keeping one open is hard. Joel can be the wonderful link to Kato Sensie, and Mr. Jorge.

Whence I started Aikido many years ago, I would make the trek up to San Antonio every weekend to practice with Mr. Kevin Templer, a fine instructor in the San Antonio area, and ultimately through him, I met Mr. Birdsong, and Mr. Tohei.

Good Luck and congratulations on finding Aikido- It is worth it!

REM

Jorge Garcia
10-25-2002, 03:19 PM
Thanks for the encouragement and nice words. I agree that Corpus needs a quality aikido dojo of the mainline style. Hey, they could use more than that! I hope Dr. Ricard does well also. I heard he will be testing for black belt soon. I am glad to know that perhaps he and Joel will be able to cooperate in the AIki spirit like O Sensei would have wanted.

Man of Aiki
04-11-2006, 09:16 PM
Getting to this one about 3 years too late, I see.

Johnathan, if you read this, I want you to know you made the right decision not to join Sensei Vella's school.

You see, I signed on and joined that dojo in March of 2005, just over a year ago. I attended for just over one 'semester', at which time Sensei Vella was charging:

$70/year Association Fee
$250/semester fee (A semester being 3 months)

At the time he was calling his school the Kuden Shugyo Dojo (and also the Sanban Kaigan School of Aikido), and was claiming Affiliation with the Hombu Dojo in Japan.

The registration form and release of liability I signed to join the school stated in many places things like "Any and all payment to SKAA (Sanban Kaigan Aikido Association), Hombu Dojo and Chief Instructor/Headmaster, Dan Vella Shihan that I make.....yadda yadda yadda.

The words 'Hombu Dojo' and 'Dan Vella Shihan' appear in this release form about seven times.

Now I mostly enjoyed my time training there. It was fun to be doing Aikido again after such a long layoff, and Sensei Vella was a really nice guy and I like him.

But I found out that he has no affiliation with the Hombu Dojo whatsoever, and as Jorge Garcia discussed, he very likely isn't really a 5th Dan.

My first Sensei in Aikido was Larry Salazar, another guy that Jorge mentions. My second Sensei was Hector Chavez, who was one of Larry's students until he broke away to train under Larry Reynosa Sensei at Makoto Dojo.

Now these guys have talent, and they know some good Aikido. But they have consistently mis-represented themselves over the years.

They also don't teach very well. Hector is a fine teacher and I learned more from him than I did from Dan and Larry put together. Larry would never really explain anything, he'd just call Hector up, throw him 10 or 15 times with a technique, and then that was it. Copy that. Hector was the one that actually went around correcting people.

My 3rd month training with Sensei Vella, I had a young hispanic fellow I was training with that was a brown belt under Dan's system that often had to stop and try to remember basic steps to an Ikkyo or a Gokkyo.

I saw that several times, and I was out of shape so I just went along with it, happy to be training again but by the 4th month I was there it was becoming apparent these younger kids I was training with who were brown belt level couldn't even do 3rd Kyu level Aikido.

They kept telling me to 'slow down' and 'not so hard'. I was actually going half-speed with them. They were like robots. Hector taught me to flow through the techniques with an unbroken rhythym, but these guys had be taught to mechanically stop after each step.

Shiho-nage: I'm used to full power, full speed yokomenuchi that's coming right for my temple. Time and time again they are throwing some half-hearted swipe about a foot in front of my face. In slow motion no less.

So I start the technique and in one motion take their arm, unbalance them, lock the elbow, step in, pivot and bring the arm over and take them down.

And they hop up and go 'Too fast! Slow down!"

So then it's my turn to receive the technique, and as I've been taught for over 4 years, I go slow for them, but my hand really is coming for their temple, and there is some force behind it.

"Too hard! Not so hard!"

And they don't blend at all, they just reach out, yank my arm down without unbalancing me, stop,,,,pivot...stop...bring the arm up and over....stop.....then cut down.

These were BROWN BELTS?

I was having serious doubts by now and did some checking. That's when I discovered that Dan Vella's Sensei was Glenn R Premru.

And I did some checking on-line.

And found stuff like this:

http://www.viewusedcars.com/smoka-usa/premru2.htm
http://www.viewusedcars.com/smoka-usa/premru3.htm
http://www.azalmanac.com/AzMostWanted031304.htm
(That's right - Dan Vella may have been promoted by a wanted felon)

Yeah, it's the same guy all right
http://www.collectivesociety.com/teachers/premru.html

Gee, and he's in Arizona, too (look halfway down the page and notice how just about everybody named here is a 'GrandMaster' of some kind)

http://www.bushido.org/whfsc/whfsc14.htm

http://216.109.125.130/search/cache?p=Glenn+R.+Premru&prssweb=Search&ei=UTF-8&fr=FP-tab-web-t362&x=wrt&u=www.e-budo.com/forum/archive/index.php/t-29117.html&w=glenn+r+premru&d=dFp_zRbfMS3H&icp=1&.intl=us

BTW, here's a copy of an e-mail in which Premru impersonated a bank fraud investigator, something that was probably part of his scam that led to his being arrested by the U.S. Postal Service:

http://www.goldhaven.com/discussion/messages/1401.html

(Take a close look at footnote #7 on this page.
http://webhome.idirect.com/~glska/page_42.htm

"In November 2002, Glenn Robert Premru was arrested for mail fraud in connection with bogus martial arts certificates issued under an elaborate mail order scheme. As a result, the credentials of every member of the Okinawan Karate Federation and affiliated organizations under Premru have been discredited."

Yikes.

And all that happened in 2002, about 3 years before I walked into a dojo where the Sensei claimed to have been elevated to 5th Dan by this guy.

Just goes to show folks, even in Aikido people will lie and misrepresent themselves to you.

Brian Cates
manofaiki2003@yahoo.com

Perry Bell
04-11-2006, 11:30 PM
Richard, he's a 4th Dan.

Kent, I will be sure to ask other Aikido instructors in town about him.

Brian, he told me his sensei's name, but I don't remember it. Ok, so they sell stuff giving the impression that they're throwing it about. But like I said, affiliation doesn't really matter to me. It's his skill at teaching that does. I'm just still trying to decide if he's worth the up-front risk.

Again, Seeing as I'm willing to commit for at least a year, I'm not worried about the depostie thing as far as loosing it goes. There's no reason I wouldn't be able to do it for a year there (and if I don't go out of town for college, even longer)



Hey Jonathan,

Reading between the lines it appears to me that you have pretty much made up your mind and would like to train with this teacher.

Your only query is that of expense, if that is the case then you must decide is this teacher worth the money? You say that affiliation does not matter and that rank is of no significance I agree with you I know a lot of people claiming to be high ranking with all the paper work but their martial arts stinks, so if you trust this teacher is a good one then cost should not come into it, why go to a cheaper dojo with poorer quality teachers, when for a little more money you can have a great teacher and know you are getting a good education.

IMHO I think you should go with your gut feeling, thats the feeling that comes form the part of our being that knows, if it feels right do it, if it doesn't don't, but don't put money in front of what you want most, and in this case its a good education.

Please don't think I am advocating for this teacher I don't know him I don't even live in your country, all I base my information on is that my Karate instructor was affiliated with all the right places, and in the end politics chased him away, he has 7th dan in Karate and a 3rd dan in Kobudo but when I came to him I did not know that, I trusted in my gut feeling that it was right I would not have cared if he was a no rank, what he taught me was good and it worked, I have been with him now for 30 years, and he still is not affiliated with any org's in Australia, yes we are in Japan and in Okinawa because we find the people we associate with over there don't care for the politics but care a lot for the teaching, I pay lots of money each year just to fly to Japan and Okinawa to learn fro 4 to 8 weeks a year, and its worth every cent.

Good luck with your search,

Take care, be happy

Perry :)