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-   -   How can I choose a good dojo? (http://www.aikiweb.com/forums/showthread.php?t=2115)

erminio 07-01-2002 03:02 AM

How can I choose a good dojo?
 
Hi, everybody.
I'm the guy with the problem in "Can Aikido help me?".
I decided to learn Aikido seriously, I'm reading a book on it ("Aikido and the dynamic sphere) and I'm going to subscribe to a dojo on September.
Now the question is: how can I choose a good dojo? It's the fame of his sensei (here in Milan we've got Fujimoto sensei: what about him?), the "look" of the dojo (it's big, clean, many showers, new tatami and so on), the number of people who follow the dojo..
and, last but not least: how many hours of lesson for week should I expect?

Thanks a lot

Erminio

Duarh 07-01-2002 03:44 AM

I think there's only one good way - go to dojos, watch a class, see if you like it - and then decide. Make sure that you'll enjoy training with the people training @ the particular dojo.

as to hrs/week - in most cases, it's your choice, as far as I know. Two practice sessions per week is sometimes mentioned as a minimum for improvement, but I don't know about that.

PeterR 07-01-2002 04:03 AM

Re: How can I choose a good dojo?
 
Quote:

Originally posted by erminio
I decided to learn Aikido seriously, I'm reading a book on it ("Aikido and the dynamic sphere) and I'm going to subscribe to a dojo on September.
Please don't make the mistake of basing your idea of Aikido on any one book. The best place to learn about Aikido is from an instructor and they might either praise the book or use it as firewood.

I don't know your reasons for putting it off till September but if I were you I would take the time and visit a number of dojos, hopefully take a class or two, and then come September, make an informed decision.

Might I also suggest http://www.aikidofaq.com

As Tom's pointed out it is as important to check out the other students as it is the instructor. If you really do get serious about it you will spend a lot of time with these folks.

Doshu 07-01-2002 04:53 AM

Dojo
 
When choosing look at the slight variations in the styles. Perhaps more sparring or more Ki exercises.

For me it was the Sensei that was the most important thing. Luckly the dojo had everything else. But if you have a good Sensei then everything else will fall into place. You will enjoy it more and therefore go to more lessons. If there is a good Sensei then the other Aikidoka there are more likely to be very nice. As the pupil is a reflection of the Sensei.

If you are into reading books, try in my opionion Aikido by Koichi Tohei. In my opionion the best of the oringal "disiples" of Aikido. Gozo Shioda's books are good, but a little complex. It feels a little squahed in. All of these can be got from Amazon.co.uk or where ever you are from. Also Kissmaru Ueshiba book is very good which is also called Aikido and the current Doshu is releasing his first book soon called "best Aikido" which looks very promising.

Oh the "Aikido and the dynamic sphere" is one of the best books, you really wont find many better.

Hope this helps

Chris

Genex 07-01-2002 06:00 AM

if you really want to get scared read angry white pyjama's, this ones still giving me nightmare's but if you can read that and not blink you will be ready for anything a dojo can throw at you.
which to me honest at times will seem like the mat! your outlook on life will change from 90' to 0' in about a second, its the most fun you can have lying on your back (With the exception of one or two things)
and then you get to do it to your partner (gee this sounds bad)
btw if you find yourself cringing when sensei shows a move to the class dont worry its normal hands and arms actualy *DO* bend that way honest ;) :D :D :D :D :D :p :D

i think whatever dojo you goto you'll have a blast

pete

Aiki Teacher 07-01-2002 06:13 AM

School
 
Make sure you check the credintials of the instructor. Although you should be okay, there are people out there who claim to be teaching Aikido who can show no proof of their rank or lineage back to the founder. I studied at on Dojo where the instructor claimed to have studied under a direct decendent of O' Sensei, but had no rank certificate, nor could he even tell where the sensei was now. After checking in AikiFaq as well as through other sources, the instructors sensei seems to not even exist! There are people out there who will claim they are doining Aikido because it is popular and there may not be anyone who can refute what they are doing as being Aikido or not.

Hanna B 07-01-2002 06:19 AM

Sensei/students
 
Don't look so much at the teacher that you forget to look at the students. If the teacher has not managed to build good students he can not be such a good teacher after all, can he? Maybe you can't judge if the senior students are good, but you can decide if you like their attitude - and if there are any. Of course there could be reasons for no very senior students around - if the dojo is brand new, for instance. I would certainly ask.

Regards
Hanna

George S. Ledyard 07-01-2002 06:28 AM

Re: How can I choose a good dojo?
 
Quote:

Originally posted by erminio
Hi, everybody.
I'm the guy with the problem in "Can Aikido help me?".
I decided to learn Aikido seriously, I'm reading a book on it ("Aikido and the dynamic sphere) and I'm going to subscribe to a dojo on September.
Now the question is: how can I choose a good dojo? It's the fame of his sensei (here in Milan we've got Fujimoto sensei: what about him?), the "look" of the dojo (it's big, clean, many showers, new tatami and so on), the number of people who follow the dojo..
and, last but not least: how many hours of lesson for week should I expect?

Thanks a lot

Erminio

My own recommendations about how to find the right teacher / dojo for you are as follows.

1) Visit all of the schools which you might reasonably get to at the time classes take place. This is usually rush hour so don't just visit on the weekend. See if you would be willing to put up with the commute several times per week.

2) If he or she is available to chat, talk to the Chief Instructor. They may not be willing to chat with prospective new students, that job might be delegated to some senior student. That might be fine but it does indicate how approachable the Sensei might be for a beginner.

3) No matter how impressive the Sensei might seem, look at the senior students for your real impression of what is being taught. They are a direct reflection of what that teacher is putting out, not what he says to you. If the practice seems abusive, if the seniors seem arrogant, if they do not look like folks you would like to model yourself after then keep looking for a dojo.

4) Chat with some of the white belts and get their feedback. Once again, these are the folks that are happy with the school, otherwise they would have left. Do they seem to be people of like mind with you?

5) Try to be clear in your own mind what you are looking for in your training. Are you interested in energy work, conflict resolution, moving meditation? Is the martial art side of Aikido an important factor to you? Maybe you want one or the other or maybe you want to have a balance between the two. If the martial side of the dojo is important to you see if there are many students with substantial backgrounds in other martial arts training at the school. They tend not to congregate at schools where they can beat up the Chief Instructor. Do you want to do weapons training? If so ask how much they do.

I would also like to know whether the Teacher has a background in any other martial arts. This can be good in the case of someone with a lot of Aikido experience who has done a bit of extra training in other arts to expand their horizons or it can be an issue in the case of someone who has a deep background in some other art and only superficial exposure to Aikido. Then you tend to get a version of Aikido filtered through their experience and it may not be as sophisticated as you would like. There are schools that claim they are teaching Aikido and the Sensei is simply a Karate teacher who does some wrist locks taken from Aikido.

If you are serious about Aikido find out who their teacher is and who that person trained with. Check out those people on the web. Are they well known respected instructors or are they people no one has heard of? There are great teachers who are not well known but if you check in to their backgrounds you always get to some one who is a solid, reputable instructor with some verifibale credentials under his belt. Rank of the teacher is not always a good indicator but since there are plenty of folks around teaching these days who have trained for 25 or 30 years you might be able to do better than a 1st or 2nd Dan instructor if you are an urban area with a number of dojos.

6) What is the background of the Chief Instructor? There are still a fair number of direct students of O-Sensei teaching. Is this instructor one of hem? Did the instructor train under one of them? Or possibly he or she might have trained under someone who is a student of one of these Deshi. Generally, the closer the connection with the Founder the more you can be sure of getting the Real Meal Deal. But even with direct connection to the Founder there is a big range of personality and focus. I would still use the above criteria for evaluationg whether this guy is for you.

7) Even after all of this you won't really know until you give it a serious try. By this I mean a minimum of three months training at three times a week. My experience is that most adults need three times a week to get anywhere. Would the schedule of the dojo make it possible for you to do this? Try to jump right in on the life of the dojo. Attend any extra trainnig they offer. Volunteer to help on seminars. Go out after class with the students and have a beer or whatever (assuming they do this). Whether the folks at he dojo seem to socialize together is also something to look for. If you get serious about your training these folks will be an extended family of sorts so you want to be sure that they seem to be a group of folks that enjoys each others company.

8) Generally speaking stay away from people who refer to themselves as Masters, Grand Masters, O-anything, and High Dan Ranks for guys in their early thirties or even twenties. (There are a very few exceptions for a few folks who trained since early childhood; you can find a sixth dan in his thirties but they are rare). If they claim to have founded their own style and are not affiliated with any reputable teacher or organization and they are under sixty stay away. There are a few folks like Karl Geiss Sensei and Chuck Clark Sensei who are Americans heading their own organizations and have ranks of Tenth and Eighth Dan respectively. They are for real. They have also trained for forty five plus years. They can be easily verified. Check it out on the web.

9) If it seems cult like it probably is. Stay away unless surrendering your identity is what you are looking for.

erikmenzel 07-01-2002 07:15 AM

Re: Re: How can I choose a good dojo?
 
Quote:

Originally posted by George S. Ledyard
1) 2) 3) 4) 5) 6) 7) 7) 8)
As an addition to George's briljant list:
Basic counting skills can be helpfull, but are not absolutely necessary in aikido (at least not beyond 6 anyway). :p :p :p

SeiserL 07-01-2002 08:01 AM

Its all been nicely said. Welcome to origami with people and learning to blend by becoming one with the mat. Relax, breath, and enjoy yourself.

Until again,

Lynn

akiy 07-01-2002 08:43 AM

George's suggestions above are excellent (as usual). I'll just include my "form letter" on the subject when people ask me about finding a "good" dojo near them.

-- Jun

I can't give you a recommendation for any dojo in your area, but here are some suggestions to help you choose a dojo.
  • Go visit all of the dojo in your area within a reasonable driving distance and observe a few classes at each of them. As aikido is not just something to be taken up and tossed away like some brief hobby, I think it's worth the time to do this -- especially if you're thinking about enrolling your child in a class, for instance. Never go by the "reputation" of a dojo alone.
  • Watch how the teacher interacts with his/her students. Watch how the students interact with their teacher. Watch how the students interact with each other. See if you feel comfortable with the way all of these interactions play out. It's often said that you can tell the quality of any kind of school by its students...
  • Don't be afraid to ask questions. Ask about the school's history and affiliation. Ask about the teacher's aikido history. Ask about the teacher's philosophy in doing aikido. See if any of their answers feels "different" than what you see being practiced and taught.
  • Do some research on aikido. Some good sites on the Internet include the Aikido FAQ <http://www.aikidofaq.com> and AikiWeb <http://www.aikiweb.com>.
Basically, a good yardstick to use if to think if the dojo itself is some place you want to be practicing for the next five years, probably at least two to three times a week.

In any case, you may want to try using the AikiWeb Dojo Search Engine to look for a dojo in your area:

http://www.aikiweb.com/search

Hope this helps.

Jun

Lyle Bogin 07-01-2002 08:45 AM

The only thing I can add is you may want to ask what their policy is on lateness to class. I find this questions reveals a lot about the character of the school.

Abasan 07-01-2002 09:27 AM

Above all, when you ask to join, see if the Sensei checks YOUR background or not. If he accepts you at a whim...hmm. I think its more important for the sensei to study the prospective student then the other way around. If not he could be teaching potentially dangerous techniques to a bunch of loonies or maybe he's just in it for the money (yeah rite, rich aikido senseis, that'll be the day).

But if he seriously gives consideration to take or not to take students, then I guess he has more then just materialistic concerns when he runs the dojo.

Oh... and try not to have any excess 'baggage' when you go there.

Erik 07-01-2002 12:31 PM

A few things to add. The first is that it's ok to switch teachers. You aren't taking and oath to your teacher. Although I'd love to have had the one teacher, at least for me it has not worked that way. You may find that even though you checked everything out you didn't click with your teacher for some reason. It's ok, you'll live, they'll live and you won't be expected to commit suicide with a bokken.

You should stay away from contracts. Probably not an issue for you but it can be here in the states. I don't know of a single mainstream dojo which uses them. I'm sure there are some that do but be warned that the contracts I've seen are a note payable here in the US and can be factored. So a dojo can sell them on you, go broke and you may wind up paying for time you didn't get.

George S. Ledyard 07-01-2002 01:05 PM

Discrimination
 
Quote:

Originally posted by Abasan
Above all, when you ask to join, see if the Sensei checks YOUR background or not. If he accepts you at a whim...hmm. I think its more important for the sensei to study the prospective student then the other way around. If not he could be teaching potentially dangerous techniques to a bunch of loonies or maybe he's just in it for the money (yeah rite, rich aikido senseis, that'll be the day).

But if he seriously gives consideration to take or not to take students, then I guess he has more then just materialistic concerns when he runs the dojo.

Oh... and try not to have any excess 'baggage' when you go there.

It would be a problem for any teacher to attempt to be selective about who gets admitted to a dojo if they advertise for students and the impression is created that the dojo is open to the public. We have ads in the yellow pages, we post brochures, we have a website on the Internet. All of that sets up an expectation that the dojo is a business that offers a service to the public.

Trying to weed out "bad apples" before they start would open you up to charges of descrimination and potential law suits. If I wanted to be exclusive about who I trained I would have to set up the dojo on a different model (which would probably mean we would have a much different, read smaller, dojo than we have). On the other hand you should see my "negative" sales pitch when I get someone trying to enroll about whom I am uncomfortable (the last guy was the guy with the nervous eye twitch who had apparently trained and had problems with several other martial arts schools before arriving at my doorstep).

Also, be careful of the guys who make it appear that they are exclusive. If they make you feel that they are doing you a favor by accepting you you are often seeing one of the oldest ploys in the world at work.

Ben_t_shodan 07-02-2002 12:46 AM

Re: How can I choose a good dojo?
 
Quote:

Originally posted by erminio
Hi, everybody.
how can I choose a good dojo?
Erminio

Well… I think to find a good dojo is go by your feelings. Watch a few classes and check out the different instructors. Find one you like. Try class, some dojo give a free class or something.

After practicing a little ask your self; Do I like how the "Sensei" teaches?, do I like your fellow students.

At first you will feel uncomfortable (you will periodically through out your training, even as a black belt). aikido should be fun and enjoyable. And very important, are you learning.

You will go through stages that you will think you are not learning any thing….that is the "you don't know what you know". you will feel like you haven't learned much. That is normal.

Thank you

With Ki,
Ben Doubleday

Take your time, Aikido will be there when you find it (or dose it find you?).

Peter Goldsbury 07-02-2002 01:25 AM

Re: How can I choose a good dojo?
 
Quote:

Originally posted by erminio
Hi, everybody.
I'm the guy with the problem in "Can Aikido help me?".
I decided to learn Aikido seriously, I'm reading a book on it ("Aikido and the dynamic sphere) and I'm going to subscribe to a dojo on September.
Now the question is: how can I choose a good dojo? It's the fame of his sensei (here in Milan we've got Fujimoto sensei: what about him?), the "look" of the dojo (it's big, clean, many showers, new tatami and so on), the number of people who follow the dojo..
and, last but not least: how many hours of lesson for week should I expect?

Thanks a lot

Erminio

I have nothing to add to the general advice given above. However in your post, you mentioned Mr Y Fujimoto and asked about him. I have known him for many years and often met him when I trained at the summer camps held in Italy. These used to be held in Firenze (Coverciano), but now they are held in La Spezia. They are usually led by Mr Hiroshi Tada (9th dan), who was Mr Fujimoto's own teacher (and who also teaches me here in Japan).

So, by all means look around and see what there is. Milan is a large city and so presumably there are quite a number of dojos. Of course, I am giving you my personal opinion, but I think if you finally choose to train under Mr Fujimoto, you will not have made a bad choice.

Yours sincerely,

erikmenzel 07-02-2002 02:40 AM

I have followed some seminars with Fujimoto sensei.
I found it very interesting and stimulating. Besides that, I found that Fujimoto sensei is a kind teacher who is able to bring a sense of humor to the mat.
So I agree with professor Goldsbury: Training with Fujimoto sensei will not be a bad choice at all.

erminio 07-02-2002 02:48 AM

Thanks to Peter and Eric
 
Thanks a lot, guys.

I do appreciate that you've shared with me your experience about Fujimoto sensei.. I'm going to see some courses in his dojo and, I guess, to follow starting from September.

Have a good day!

Erminio


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