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Robert Calton 02-25-2009 05:02 PM

Dojo in southern Indiana?
Does anyone know of a Dojo or currently-teaching Sensei in my area - near Evansville?

You see, there used to be a Dojo here headed by William Kulhanek Sensei, but it shut down. I haven't contacted him to ask if he would still be interested in training a handful of people, because I'd imagine once the business side of it tanked, so would the drive for instruction. Is that the "rule" usually: no Dojo no teaching?

The only Dojo in this whole area is over an hour commute away, which isn't really feasible for me since I commute some distance in the other direction. :rolleyes:

Anyone know anyone?

Robert Calton 03-04-2009 06:28 PM

Re: Dojo in southern Indiana?
So, after not really finding much success, I'm considering writing a letter to the only instructor in the area to see if he would be interested in training a handful of people at some local facility that everyone could pitch in to rent (YMCA multipurpose room, etc.) a few times a week.

Does anyone feel that this is a bad, or disrespectful idea?

Joshua Sloan 04-23-2009 02:01 PM

Re: Dojo in southern Indiana?
Prior to moving to Lafayette, I was one of the senior students and founding members of the Hibi Shoshin Dojo, Aikido of Evansville, under William Kulhanek Sensei. The closing of the dojo was a great frustration and loss for all of us. It wasn't so much that the business side of things "tanked", but that there wasn't much of a business side to begin with; we did what we could to cover rent and utilities, and Kulhanek Sensei devoted a large portion of his personal assets to the running and maintenance of the dojo over the years, but, in the end, it was impossible to keep the dojo open.

I can assure you that Kulhanek Sensei has not lost his desire to teach as a result of the dojo's closure, and his motives for teaching were never profit-oriented; various times, I have discussed with him the possibility of re-opening the Hibi Shoshin Dojo, and, as of our most recent conversation, he would very much like to get back on the mat and begin teaching again. However, we decided to post-pone the opening of another proper stand-alone dojo until we could be assured of its financial stability and sustainability regardless of student enrollment and economic conditions.

However, having said that, I think it would be fantastic to see a revival of the school in any incarnation, even if it doesn't have its own building, and I like your idea of the student body pitching in to rent room and mat space somewhere for a few classes a week. When we first started training in Evansville, we rented mat space several nights a week in Morris Dynamics, the judo dojo, and such an arrangement might be possible again. I'm almost certain Bill would be willing to teach again if he knew there were interested students and we helped arrange for training space.

Do you know others in the area who would be interested in regular local aikido training? I still find myself in Evansville on a fairly regular basis; perhaps we could arrange a meeting between Kulhanek Sensei, you, and myself in order to discuss training possibilities and the possibility of re-opening the dojo?

In the mean-time, I don't at all think it's a bad or disrespectful idea for you to try contacting Kulhanek Sensei; I expect he would very much welcome and enjoy the correspondence. I'm not sure what contact information you would have for him, and I haven't looked to see if he has any updated contact information online, but if you have trouble contacting him, I should be able to put you in touch.

I'm very glad and excited to hear there is still interest in Aikido in the Evansville area! I'm sorry if this is longer or more rambling than you wanted in a reply, but I wanted to give you some of the background of our current situation.

Have a good day,

Robert Calton 04-24-2009 09:16 AM

Re: Dojo in southern Indiana?

I was very excited when I saw someone replied to the thread, so I'm glad you took the time to respond in detail! There are at least two of us who would be willing to coordinate regular, if not weekly training schedules, and also who are financially able to contribute to the rental of mat space, cost of dogi, instruction, and so forth. I'm sure that the handful of others I've asked who are on the fence could be pushed over, so to speak, if something were to actually be set up.

Where do you think it could go from here? Should I contact Kulhanek Sensei? Should we try and arrange a meeting with everyone?



Joshua Sloan 04-25-2009 10:27 AM

Re: Dojo in southern Indiana?

Thanks for sending me the contact info; I spoke with Kulhanek Sensei by phone this morning and passed it on to him, as well. He seemed excited to hear of your interest and anxious to begin training again, and I expect he'll try to get in touch with you when he can. It also wouldn't surprise me if he finds his way to this forum, now that he knows about it.

I should be back in the Evansville area next weekend, and Sensei and I spoke of the possibility of meeting up to discuss our options. If you or any other interested people are available sometime next weekend, it would be great if you could join us, but, if not, we'll still try to get the ball rolling to re-establish the school.

With regard to the question of the cost of running a school and training, there are some relatively fixed components and some which can vary drastically. You can expect to pay somewhere between $50 - $80 for a decent gi. Our mat fees were typically around $70/month, but that rarely added up to enough to cover rent and utilities; around $70/month seems to be about the average tuition in an Aikido Dojo, based on the schools I've trained in or visited while traveling. Having said that, I have no way of predicting what our fees will be until we look around and see what our options are for a training venue, but I don't think we would expect a student to contribute more than the generally accepted $70/month; we will, of course, try to minimize cost to the student, especially considering that, for the time being, we would be operating as more of an informal club than as a formal dojo. The cost components which tend to vary more widely would be the overall rent, utilities, mats, and maintenance, but these would be more of a concern to those managing the school; as a student, costs would likely be as stated above or less.

I any case, we'll see what we can do; I'm pretty confident we can get the school up and running again. Given current market conditions, we may be able to buy a building for our club/school more cheaply than we could rent space.

Looking forward to rebuilding the dojo,

Robert Calton 04-27-2009 06:21 PM

Re: Dojo in southern Indiana?

I was excited to talk to Kulhanek Sensei the other day on the phone, and he had nothing but wonderful things to say about you and the dojo. Since you're coming down, perhaps we all can meet up for some sushi or something, sit around and talk Aikido. Both you and Kulhanek Sensei have my number, and I have his saved in my mobile.

Hopefully we can work it out and have a nice lunch or something!

Ron Tisdale 04-28-2009 07:39 AM

Re: Dojo in southern Indiana?
Best of luck here guys...I am impressed at the way you've gone about this.

Couple of quick suggestions...gymnastics studios often already have mats, and often are looking to fill time slots. Cheaper than trying to go right into your own space. One group I train with occationally here in PA is in a gymnastics space right now, and as long as a LOT of little girls running around doesn't faze you, it's actually a nice place to train. Good for focus! :D First time I've ever done aikido to really loud music... :eek:

Also, YMCAs will often make accomodations for local groups. Always good to check with the ones in your area.


Joshua Sloan 04-28-2009 09:02 AM

Re: Dojo in southern Indiana?
Thanks for the suggestions, Ron. It probably wouldn't have occurred to me to look into gymnastics schools, but we do have a couple in the area which could probably spare the space and time. The YMCA is also a good idea... We'll just have to call around and start getting some concrete options on the table.

In my experience, the problem lies not in opening the dojo, but in keeping it open long term and in keeping enough students to support a new school over the long term; I think a conservative estimate from my experience would be around a 75% attrition rate, with only one of every four new students becoming at least semi-dedicated to the way and continuing to train long term.

Although it seems counter-intuitive to purchase a building knowing the difficulty inherent in maintaining a school long term, I think it's a reasonable option as long as the circumstances are appropriate. The benefits can be substantial: no landlords to keep happy, no need to work around the schedules of other groups in a shared space, a mortgage is often considerably cheaper than rent for a comparable space (in our market, at least), and, at the end of the day, one owns the property. Of course, one certainly stands to lose more when buying the building. I've known schools which own their buildings and supplement their mat fee income by accepting uchi deshi or, in cases where the building was purchased by the head instructor, by his relocation to the dojo as his primary residence so as to avoid paying both home and business costs.

Beyond opening the school, would you (or anyone) have advice for maintaining a school financially over the long term and suggestions for how best to weather periods of low student enrollment when the dojo is consistently losing money? Thanks!


Robert Calton 04-28-2009 10:55 AM

Re: Dojo in southern Indiana?
A while ago, I contacted the local YMCA to feel out possibilities, and they are unable to accommodate Aikido training in their facility. That option is out. Kulhanek Sensei mentioned that mat space was at one point rented at Morris Dynamics, the judo dojo here, so if rental is the preferred option, that may not be a bad choice.

There are several gymnasiums here, so that's also an interesting idea. Thanks for hopping in the thread, Ron!

Josh, I think it would be pretty great to have a dedicated Aikido space, its own building, but I don't know if that's realistically doable. I don't know how much local support we would get, if the old students would come back and support the dojo or whatnot. I would imagine the cost over time would be less than renting, but the upfront cost would be harsh if there wasn't membership numbers to support the purchase of a space. However, as you mentioned, our market down here is ripe with commercial realty options. There are strip malls on the west and north sides that have closed and are since renting commercial space in one of their many building areas, and I would imagine that would be a cost-affordable option for a smaller space. There are open "office" spaces aplenty, as well. But you really should definitely check out the scene whenever your down here.

You mentioned long-term financial maintenance. I think the most difficult thing is in this case, as you said, is membership support at times of low enrollment. I don't know if any other dojos have done this, but has anyone had any luck with, or heard of, offering local students of other martial arts (at other facilities) a discounted rate for Aikido instruction? I know in the beginning this is how it was at Morris, but how about outside of that? To other local groups? I'm thinking go into a place, do a demo, explain how Aikido can contribute to their martial training, and then make the offer of a discounted training rate. Even though it won't be as much as standard membership, a bunch of discounted students are better than no students. That could be something that would definitely help a dojo, low-enrollment times or otherwise.

My .02 today. :)


Ron Tisdale 04-28-2009 11:55 AM

Re: Dojo in southern Indiana?
Also, if you purchase make sure you look into non-profit status and how that works. Makes a big difference when it comes to taxes.

The judo dojo is a great idea too...often the two groups can share ideas and training sometimes, and membership as well.

Hoping you guys pull this off!


Robert Calton 04-28-2009 04:28 PM

Re: Dojo in southern Indiana?

Ron Tisdale wrote: (Post 229116)
...look into non-profit status and how that works. Makes a big difference when it comes to taxes...

That's a good idea! I would imagine that an Aikido organization can easily meet the 501(c)(7), or "Social Club" requirements.

If the organization is also part of a "statewide or nationwide organization that is made up of individual members, but is divided into local groups," then it would help the cause. I think most local dojos belong to a greater collection of Aikido-related organizations, like a national Aikido group or something along those lines that issues member cards. If not, I don't think it would be terribly difficult to hook up with one of these groups.

But yeah, I don't think it's an unrealistic idea. Josh, have you had any experience with this when you were first setting up the dojo?

Joshua Sloan 04-30-2009 07:31 AM

Re: Dojo in southern Indiana?
All good ideas... It's unfortunate to hear the YMCA is out, but we should still have plenty of options. I really like where this is going with the not-for-profit idea, and the 501(c)(7) classification seems like it would easily apply to an Aikido club, with or without national affiliation; it might just be a matter of shuffling around the proper paperwork. With the first dojo in Evansville, we didn't bother seeking any special tax status and simply ran it as a small business, so this level of organization would be new territory for us. However, it seems very feasible. Our first try at it was fairly unorganized, which was probably part of the problem. We didn't care about the business side or tax status; we just wanted to practice Aikido.

I spoke with the Shihan who technically "owns and operates" the Aikido Club of Lafayette where I currently live and train (which is currently incorporated as an LLC) regarding the 501(c)(7) classification. He said his crew of accountants and lawyers had shot him down on 501(c)(3) classification for the club, but he had never heard of 501(c)(7) and is going to look into it. It seems that upon filing for such exempt status, one needs several years of club records to verify your club's aims and activities, which could be a problem for a start-up. I'm just beginning the tedious task of reading through IRS Pub 557 which seems to have a lot of the details.

We can figure it out when we meet up, but the most realistic short-term scenario is probably renting space and re-building the student body while establishing the necessary club history for exempt status and potentially developing funds and a strategy for purchasing and maintaining our own facility.

Joshua Sloan 04-13-2010 02:26 PM

Re: Dojo in southern Indiana?
Howdy, folks!

For anyone who might happen across this thread, I just thought I'd post an update. It has taken a while, but we have a small group coming together now in Evansville to train periodically. At the moment, since the weather's nice, I'm just hauling portable mats down from Lafayette and we're training in a park when I happen to be in Evansville, but we hope to have something a little more regular and a little more indoors lined up before next fall, as well as a more regular, locally-based instructor.

If anyone else out there in the greater Evansville area is interested in training or helping to organize and develop the school, please feel free to send me a message here and introduce yourself and I can give you contact information and keep you updated as to when and where we'll be training. I'll post another update once we have a more solidified training schedule and venue.


Janet Rosen 04-13-2010 07:43 PM

Re: Dojo in southern Indiana?
Congrats! and thanks for the update.

Joshua Sloan 05-30-2010 11:19 AM

Re: Dojo in southern Indiana?
Hello, everyone!

I thought I'd post another update and let anybody interested in the Evansville Aikido scene know that Aikido classes are now being taught each Saturday and Sunday from 2pm-5pm at Roth's Karate, 825 South Green River Road, Evansville, IN 47715. Tuition to help cover rent is either $60.00/month or $15/class. Please feel free to join us or, for more information, feel free to contact me at or here through AikiWeb.

Unfortunately, we still don't have a regular locally based instructor (although I'm still hoping Kulhanek Sensei will come out of retirement to fill this role soon) and I'm still commuting from Lafayette to teach these classes. So, if there's another Aikido instructor around Evansville in need of a place to train and who might be interested in teaching some classes, feel free to get in touch!

Thanks, and have a good day!

Joshua Sloan 03-03-2011 07:54 AM

Re: Dojo in southern Indiana?
Hello, everyone!

I just wanted to leave another quick update. For better or for worse, I no longer teach regularly in Evansville and have gone back to teaching and training full-time in Lafayette for now. However, the good news is that this is because there is another Aikido instructor in Evansville who is locally based and holds regular classes. Please see for the details, schedule, etc.

If anyone has any questions or thoughts regarding Aikido in Evansville, please don't hesitate to contact me; however, please realize that it will likely be some time before I am available to teach regularly in Evansville again, so Watkins Sensei, whom you may contact through the above website, should be the primary contact for those seeking Aikido instruction in the Evansville area.

Thanks, and have a good day!

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