7/08/2002 12:16pm [from Jun Akiyama]
I just put up a new article by Bill Witt (7th dan, shihan, Takemusu Aikido Association) entitled, "Evaluating a Dojo" that he wrote regarding a conversation that he had with his teacher, Morihiro Saito sensei, about evaluating a dojo. Hopefully, this will help newcomers to the art as well as those who have been training for a while, too!
There are other articles and more to come soon at http://www.takemusu.org/taa_articles.html .
Attitude and what works
The simplicity of Attitude of the students, and what works should be the obvious for many training sessions and dojo's, but sometimes the overwhelming restrictions of emotional damage are felt from our private lives even though we are supposed to leave them at the door when we train. This is sometimes the worst enemy of a students attutude when practicing with newer students, or visitors to the dojo.
I know that I have visited different dojo's, and trained with both the more experienced practitioners and the new student to find that their attitude to training based on what they have brought through the door from their private lives.
Sometimes I get the dominant attitude from law enforcement professionals, or the student with a hakama knows more than the student without the hakama, but I usually blow it off as ego working itself out as they are learning Aikido. This is the nature of our society creeping into the Aikido forum which we try to recorrect with giving in to nage by being uke, or readily exchanging roles in practice.
Sure, I see the deeper martial application within the practice and its roots reaching into the arts of warrior combat, but our focus is to improve our baser instincts into a more civilized art that heals and brings harmony to our world, our society.
Maybe I am going about this the long way around, but having one or two people who are long time practitioners and are motivated by their own self ego really makes an impression when you visit different dojo's. I am none the less impressed with Saito Sensei's insight to practicing what we preach in entering a dojo.
I would guess, the simplicity of "What you should look for in a dojo" is elegant in its simplicity and practice to guide us to be better human beings.
Excellent article! As one who is an active instructor in other fields, and who intends to someday have his own dojo, I really appreciate articles like these!
The thing I like the most is the simplistic approach - it's really not that hard to keep students (although that may be different for Aikido, but I'm not sure why it would). Getting them, yes - keeping them, no. If I may, I'd like to drop my own 3 rules in to be picked over. ;)
(OOPS - QUICK EDIT! The article was about looking for a dojo. I wrote 3 rules for instructors when dealing with newcomers. Me bad!)
Rule number one in my book is make it fun. (Actually, Rule Number One is 'Make it safe', but that should be so basic as to not need mentioning.) Students need a reason to stay, and while a desire to learn is very important, if a student isn't enjoying him or herself, he or she (I'll stick to one gender from now on) will NOT return.
The Sensei's third point I personally consider a corollary to the first: care for (i.e. involve) the newcomer. Nothing's more boring for a newcomer than to just sit and watch, he wants to learn! If I had a dojo, I would introduce a newcomer to the ki exercises 1st, reason being, you provide the "that's COOL!" hook right away; showing the student (and having him try) things 10 minutes ago he would have sworn were impossible. Get him up right away, get him involved, get him saying "Oooo!" (worked for me, at least - I spent 5 minutes trying to bend our Sempai's Unbendable Arm. She's half my size, half my weight and has about 15 years on me. I had to just walk away for a minute shaking my head, speechless. I was hooked! :D )
Of course, involving newcomers immediately may divert more experienced students away from their own levels, but it's a worthwhile cause - gets the newcomer moving and gives a higher level student good practice at instruction. There are always exceptions, of course, but my rule # 2 would be "The newer the student, the higher the priority for training".
Rule number three is almost always forgotten while a new instructor is refining his trade: A newcomer is a person outside the dojo! I'd better explain: The one trap almost all new instructors fall into is "I am the instructor, you are the student. I know all, you know nothing". Sometimes, an instructor will sort of seem to think that the newcomer just materialized outside the dojo's doors with no knowledge, experience or ideas of his own. I've done it, my instructors all did, I'm sure many reading this have as well. It's something we can chuckle over once we've learned better. Thing is, if a newcomer is faced with this, he may well decide the attitude isn't worth it, and look elsewhere.
NOTE - I've yet to see this at all in Aikido from an actual instructor. It seems the generous, tolerant nature of the art prevents this mistake from happening - kudos to aikido!
So, to sum up, my 3 rules:
1) Make it fun.
2) The new student gets training priority.
3) Respect the newcomer's life/knowledge outside the dojo.
Hope this rambling post helps. :D
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