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Aiki-lost 05-09-2006 09:03 AM

We need dojo help
 
OK, this is a long story, so I'll bullet list it here. I'm doing this to partially get people's advice, and to partially organize my thoughts on the subject. Here goes;

- Started training over 10 years ago under sensei A
- Sensei A was a very good teacher
- Sensei A was not good at marketing dojo, thus we moved a lot
- Sensei A stopped teaching and moved
- We bacame a satelite dojo for sensei B
- Sensei B also great teacher (one of the best actually), very highly ranked, nice guy
- Sensei B also not good at business side of things
- Sensei B travels a lot to earn enough through seminars
- Because of seminar schedule, dojo (main and satelite) sufers from poor attendance and usually barely squeaks by on the bills
- I took a job closer to main dojo because Sensei B is there more (at satelite once a week)
- Head students at dojo (mostly case with satelite, but a little at main) don't want to be involved in business, so nothing gets done to promote or build programs
- Yesterday satelite dojo closed because gym we rented closed
- We now have no money, no leads, and very little leadership

Goals;
* To have Sensei B around more to gain more training
* To be able to promote dojo(s) properly in order to sustain both the dojo, and Sensei B

Any ideas? Aware of any grants? Approaches?

Eric Webber 05-09-2006 09:40 AM

Re: We need dojo help
 
Just some rambling thoughts:
1. If the students want to train, they need to take some responsibility for it. I would emphasize this immensely. That said, tap the resources of the dojo to make things happen. Have the students who are good at marketing do the marketing, promoting do the promoting, business run the dojo, etc. (If Sensei is not a control freak, this should be a good way to get things rolling; if Sensei is a control freak, you'll need to dance with him/her for a while before making it happen.)
2. Travel with Sensei to get more time together.
3. Maybe have Sensei work specifically with the senior students who are teaching when he's not there on how to be dynamic teachers, rather than just good aikidoka. Delivery is what captivates, subject matter usually comes second. That way Sensei's absence won't be as much of a hinderance.

Just some thoughts, hope they lead to something helpful, best of luck.

Aiki-lost 05-09-2006 09:49 AM

Re: We need dojo help
 
Unfortunately, the majority of the students see their responsibility ending once they've paid their dues. Everyone has full time jobs and family, so taxing more energy out of them is quite nearly impossible. They more or less see it as a club, and not a dojo. There are 2 students at the satelite dojo who, in emergency situations like this, will act. They're also the teachers for the nights Sensei isn't around.

As far as Sensei allowing us to run things, he already has, hence the problems we're experiencing now.....

Amelia Smith 05-09-2006 10:12 AM

Re: We need dojo help
 
Well, sometimes you just have to take the bull by the horns. If you've been training for over 10 years, I'd say you're at the point where you can take some responsibility in the dojo. I think that you and the 2 teacher-students and any other dedicated &/or long-term students of the dojo should call a 10-15 minute meeting after class one night and talk about how to keep the ship afloat. Club, dojo, it hardly matters what you call it -- you need to keep it open so you have a place to practice!

I would make up some flyers to post around, and see if you can get a short piece about your dojo in a local paper. Also, you might talk to local high school gym teachers about refering students to you who are interested in martial arts. Then appoint a bookkeeper.

Mark Freeman 05-09-2006 10:42 AM

Re: We need dojo help
 
I agree with Amelia, with 10 years of practice under your belt, you should be in a position to do something yourself.
I do not know your position regarding organisational teaching certification, but if you were to take on that role, you may find your practice improves in ways unimagined ( I know mine did ).
It can be hard to make your own thing happen, it took me about a year before I wasn't subsidising the cost of the rent. Perseverence and self belief will get you along way.
Good Luck

regards,
Mark

emma.mason15 05-09-2006 04:23 PM

Re: We need dojo help
 
wow ..... you sound alot like us ....
we have a VERY good sensei at the teaching side of things ... and he suffers terminal bad luck when it comes to buildings! ... we were renting once place ... got booted out ... rented another place .... werent allowed to stay for security reasons .... now renting titchy space in community hall and theres barely enough room to swing a junior .... let alone hoof a senior!
so at the moment the plan is to see if the local (and very good) karate club would like to joint rent a very LARGE space. thus hopefully providing everyone with what they need!
so maybe it would be an idea to approach some other clubs and set up a martial arts centre?
just a thought!
em x

Just Jamey 05-09-2006 09:33 PM

Re: We need dojo help
 
Quote:

OK, this is a long story, so I'll bullet list it here. I'm doing this to partially get people's advice, and to partially organize my thoughts on the subject. Here goes;

- Started training over 10 years ago under sensei A
- Sensei A was a very good teacher
- Sensei A was not good at marketing dojo, thus we moved a lot
- Sensei A stopped teaching and moved
- We bacame a satelite dojo for sensei B
- Sensei B also great teacher (one of the best actually), very highly ranked, nice guy
- Sensei B also not good at business side of things
- Sensei B travels a lot to earn enough through seminars
- Because of seminar schedule, dojo (main and satelite) sufers from poor attendance and usually barely squeaks by on the bills
- I took a job closer to main dojo because Sensei B is there more (at satelite once a week)
- Head students at dojo (mostly case with satelite, but a little at main) don't want to be involved in business, so nothing gets done to promote or build programs
- Yesterday satelite dojo closed because gym we rented closed
- We now have no money, no leads, and very little leadership

Goals;
* To have Sensei B around more to gain more training
* To be able to promote dojo(s) properly in order to sustain both the dojo, and Sensei B

Any ideas? Aware of any grants? Approaches?
Boring background details:
Started practicing Aikido back in the summer of 1999 in Iowa. In 2002 I moved to Wisconsin to attend graduate school, while working full time. I also continued training with a very fledgling satellite dojo. It was a college campus club that had started the previous school year, but had halted over the summer. When I arrived and started practicing in the fall I was the ranking student. Our head instructor drove up from Chicago to teach class. Now that is a bit of a drive, so he was coming up once a week.

- I wanted to practice more often, so I started leading a second class (with Sensei's approval).
- 9 months after I started, we lost our training area. I found a new location and worked out a favorable agreement that allowed us to continue training.
- Membership fell off significantly because we were no longer a free student club and a fee was introduced. So I designed a flyer and distributed them all over the local area, and gave them to the 3 other members to distribute.
- I wanted to practice more often, so I started leading 2 classes a week (with Sensei's approval).
- 3 months after we moved, we lost our training area. I found another location and worked out another manageable agreement.
- 1-1/2 year into our new location, they installed a hardwood floor in the training room. Our parent dojo has loaned us their demo mats. I organized the membership because we had to clean off the mildew.

We are now approaching our 3rd year at our present location. The membership is getting involved more and more with dojo functions.
We now have, from Chicago, our head instructor and 4 assistant instructors sharing teaching duties on Wednesdays. We have another instructor who lives in the area teaching Mondays. I still lead a class on Sundays, and we are finalizing details for an outdoor Friday class over the summer months. Our training area is moving over from a 750 sqft room to a 3000 sqft room addition.

So the point of my rambling post is this: the dojo truly is as strong as it's membership. If the membership involvement is lagging, the senior people should be the example for becoming involved. If you want enthusiasm from the membership, be the example for that enthusiasm. If leadership is weak, lead by example (ie - do what needs to be done without being asked). If you want to train more, get your Sensei's permission to lead a class. If you want help promoting the dojo, ask the members for help promoting the dojo (with your Sensei's permission).

Most importantly, keep training. Things aren't great, keep training. No formal place to train, meet outside informally with those willing and keep training. Frustrated with lulls and drop-offs in the dojo, don't let it stop you from training because, to pull out a gem, "life has its ups and downs." It might take awhile, but people will respond to your perseverance.

(If you would like more tangible help, I can send you our promotional material so you have a starting point to work from. If my Sensei doesn't have any objections, I would even be willing to discuss, over the phone or e-mail, past deals I worked out with various training locations.)

I hope this helps.

Kenosha Aikikai
Jamey Johnston

philipsmith 05-10-2006 02:20 AM

Re: We need dojo help
 
I guess it depends on the ethos of your dojo.

I can relate to the situation in that we deliberately have a"no business" ethos at my own dojo BUT in saying that all of our management committe members are or have been company directors or similar.

Our aim is simply to pay the bills and to keep mat fees etc. as low as possible.

Maybe this will help:

Try to establish a long-term lease or rental agreement. (It may require guarantees from some members who would act as Trustees for the dojo)
If you don't do this already get students to pay monthly fees up front, preferably by bank transfer ( we do this but students dont have to sign a contract so they can cancel at any time.)
Publicise your teaching schedule as far in advance as possible; that way people dont turn up to see the main instructor and get disappointed when he's not there.

Good luck

SeiserL 05-10-2006 08:02 AM

Re: We need dojo help
 
IMHO, you cannot save the business of the dojo is no one is willing to get educated and implement sound business strategies. Its like wanting to be successful at Aikido, but not being willing to train.

giriasis 05-10-2006 07:37 PM

Re: We need dojo help
 
First, talk to your sensei and see if he or she wants some help. Second, I agree with others just start doing things. Third, Lynn is right, nothing will work if the head of dojo isn't into making it better; however, they might have given up after years of apathy from the student population. All it takes is one or two students to motivate a down trodden sensei. Once they get more motivated, they will start putting themselves more into the dojo and then the rest of the students will start putting more in. And it will cycles upwards instead of downwards.

Oh, and finally, it might take a couple of years of prodding for things to start getting better, but have faith and stay motivated, you'll see results eventually, just take things one step at a time.

ramenboy 05-12-2006 02:14 PM

Re: We need dojo help
 
nice post, jamey!!!

great example!

are those mats ready?!?!?!!?!? hahahahahahahahahaha

c u on d mat
jvc

Just Jamey 05-12-2006 04:29 PM

Re: We need dojo help
 
Quote:

Jerome Cervantes wrote:
nice post, jamey!!!

great example!

are those mats ready?!?!?!!?!? hahahahahahahahahaha

c u on d mat
jvc

I had a hunch someone I knew would see the post. I haven't heard anything from the original poster to this thread. As I reread my post, I hope I didn't come across as too "preachy".

And...

No, those %@!# darned mats aren't finished. I need to win the lottery, so I could just buy a set. Did you hear that the athletic center is putting in a 3/4" puzzle mat flooring?

It's hard stuff that will make for a fast floor. There is some concern that it might be too hard. I'm hoping it will be a step up from the carpet we use to roll on. That would at least buy us some time. :D

ramenboy 05-12-2006 08:10 PM

Re: We need dojo help
 
kenosha aikikai is a success story...its a good example of growing a dojo. share it

jvc

SeiserL 05-13-2006 09:17 AM

Re: We need dojo help
 
Quote:

Anne Marie Giri wrote:
All it takes is one or two students to motivate a down trodden sensei.

It is amazing what a Ronin attitude can do and its very contagious.

What would you like to see done by others?
Do it yourself.


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