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DGLinden 08-18-2002 03:45 PM

New Aikido Dojos (New Senseis)
I recently realized that in the State of Florida we have not had a new Aikido Dojo, at least in ASU, in almost 10 years. I am not counting Hooker Sensei's move accross town or Messores Sensei's move to his new location, I mean a student with the hair to sign his name to a lease, telephone book ad, insurance agent, etc. and open doors to a real dojo. To invest in his future and the future of the art takes a real warrior spirit. What is going on out there? Can anyone tell me? Is it liability? Is it too much trouble? Is the art losing momentum? I'm interested. Or is it just Florida?

Dennis Hooker 08-20-2002 10:14 AM

I hate to think that Aikido has hit saturation. I do think that the public has hit a saturation point with the martial arts. It is no longer mysterious and alluring to many people. Through special effects it seems every action hero and heroin of movies and television possess skills to which we pale in comparison. What was offered to us was unique at the time, and at the time to many of us mysterious. Today's public is burned out on hype. What we offer, what budo offers, does not seem to be mysterious, unique and most of all necessary in their lives. Perhaps I am just cynical but for the most part people today wish to live a virtual life. How the hell can our martial skill compare with The Matrix, the Ninja Turtles, The Power Puff Girls and the WWF. I go to seminars and see old faces that were young when I started , but not many young faces. Sure there are a few new fasces but compared to 25 or 30 years ago it is a drop in the bucket.

George S. Ledyard 08-25-2002 11:46 AM

Well I have to say that Seattle represents the opposite trend. When I first arrived about twenty years ago, fresh from Saotome Sensei's DC dojo, there were three dojos that I know of.

Today there are at least fifteen in the immediate metro area. Pam Cooper, Joanne Veneziano, Kimberly Richardson, Fran Kialpha, and myself all trained under Mary Heiny Sensei and now have our own places. Martha Levenson, Lee Crawford and Bill Gray were all at my school early on and now have their own schools. Bookman Sensei came back to the states from Japan and set up shop here... His dojo has had offshoots. MacEwen Sensei from New Jersey has a student here named David Morris. There are some Seidokan folks whom no one seems to have met... I am sure that I am forgetting some others.

I think that the biggest obstacle to more dojos opening is the maturity required now. Most of us opened our dojos when we were Sandan. In those days there simply weren't folks who were senior to us in the area. We had between ten and fifteen years experience.

Now most of these folks are Fifth Dan and even Sixth Dan. We have between twenty five and thirty years of experience, most have been teaching Aikido in one form or another for twenty years or more.

So now if you are looking to start a dojo and have any credibility you'd need to have a lot more experience than what was required fifteen years ago. Not that we need more dojos here. Anyone interested in Aikido should be able to find a dojo that is compatible with their preferences within a twenty minute drive.

But there is also the dedication factor. When I started with Saotome Sensei he flat out stated that he was training professionals. The people training in the dojo were all folks who saw themselves as Aikidoka, they had jobs that supported their training. It was the same at Mary Heiny Sensei's dojo as well, which is why so many of her students now have their own schools.

These days I have to say that it is much harder to find people who want to go the distance and make the commitment to become Aikido teachers. I have a very healthy dojo size wise but I have only three people who I think are going to end up teaching. The rest are regular, middle class folks with families and demanding careers and lots of other priorities. Maybe the times have really changed and the generation that came out of the seventies looking for alternative everything had been replaced with people who are generaly content with the way things are. Anyway, I find it difficult to find the kinds of students that used to populate the dojos in which I trained years ago.

Peter Goldsbury 09-20-2002 11:28 PM

I think some of the observations made in this thread follow from the fact that aikido has become a mass martial art, available to anyone and, in fact, desirable for everyone to practise because of the advantages it offers.

I think this is an enormous paradigm shift, with implications that we are still learning about. Now others will correct me if I am wrong, but my understanding is that Morihei Ueshiba was not entirely happy with this change.

Nevertheless, even Morihei Ueshiba needs to be understood on his own terms. His family had the money to support his training in the martial arts and all the dojos he opened relied on the financial support of powerful backers. It is not as if he simply opened a dojo and waited for recruits. Even the Iwama operation was made possible through supporters from Omoto-kyo. So Morihei's experience was really that of the small dojo with regular, dedicated students.

I think it is difficult to know to what extent Morihei Ueshiba and his son Kisshomaru thought aikido would survive WWII. There is some discussion of this in Kisshomaru's books, but in any case I think that the economic and political consequences of Japan's defeat made a return to a prewar style of dojo impossible. So now the Aikikai, like other organisations, pours out a stream of books and videos and relies on marketing techniques to attract practitioners. Morihei Ueshiba's books were privately printed and presented to dedicated students, both as a reward for past efforts and a spur to future efforts.

It is hard to make any judgements about the merits or demerits of this. Kisshomaru and a few close associates like Kisaburo Osawa and Shigenobu Okumura made a crucial decision and people like us were able to benefit from the consequences. But the idea of aikido as a mass martial art also carries the possibility that it will lose its mystery.

Rocky Izumi 11-11-2004 11:33 PM

Re: New Aikido Dojos (New Senseis)
Coming from a business research background, I always used the following formula for the western world communities and estimated draw of a dojo I started (within a 10 year period):

10% of the general population in an area will be seriously interested in martial arts.
10% of those will be interested in Aikido if there is a good selection of martial arts in the area.
25% of those will actually start Aikido.
10% of those who start Aikido will stay in it for the long term.
20% of those who stay in Aikido for the long term will want to become instructors.
20% of those who want to become instructors will end up with the resources, time, and freedom to start and maintain a dojo.

That means, if you take a city with 200,000 people in it, and you start a dojo, you are lucky if you get 2 people who are able to start satellite dojos out of that group. So far, I have found this formula to work quite predictably.

Like any marketing situation, a lot depends on population density. It seems the bottom limit for the general accuracy of this model is a city with a population of about 75,000. That would make sense because anything below that, is a result of one or less. A city of 75,000 cannot support more than about 10 martial arts dojos. Oh, this only applies to Aikido, of course. Depending on the martial art, you get different percentages of draws. In Kendo I found that only 1% of those interested in martial arts were interested in Kendo and only 5% stayed, etc.

I've come to Barbados during the past four years and found a population ripe for two aikido dojos and with a population of about 275,000. I expect to get perhaps two or three people who will open up dojos on this island but no more than that. This island couldn't support any more than that in just Aikido.

I don't expect to get more than about 750 people through the dojos over a 15 year period if there are three dojos. In fact. I think for this culture, I will have to drop the percentage of those likely to start Aikido to about 10% due to the lack of money for fees and the high cost of do gi. I think I will end up with one person who will actually start a dojo and keep it going here.

Florida may be saturated do to the population characteristics. If too much of the population are above 60 years of age, that will reduce the percentage of those that are interested in MA as an activity.

If you go to a location where the population is getting younger, you will automatically incease the percentage of those interested in MA.

If you go to a location like Guyana where much of the population is poor, you will have a much lower level of percentage in those that can afford to do Aikido.

The percentage have to change depending on the location but the numbers I have up there seem to work in general with some modifications. It is similar to the business models for sales of a product when building business proposals.


Rocky Izumi 11-23-2004 03:32 PM

Re: New Aikido Dojos (New Senseis)
Hey, how does my model work for your dojo? Anyone out there? Any person help me with my formula? So far I got one affirmative.

George S. Ledyard 11-23-2004 09:35 PM

Re: New Aikido Dojos (New Senseis)

Hiroaki Izumi wrote:

10% of the general population in an area will be seriously interested in martial arts.
10% of those will be interested in Aikido if there is a good selection of martial arts in the area.
25% of those will actually start Aikido.
10% of those who start Aikido will stay in it for the long term.
20% of those who stay in Aikido for the long term will want to become instructors.
20% of those who want to become instructors will end up with the resources, time, and freedom to start and maintain a dojo.

According to the martial arts industry mags I get, the demographics on who has any interest in training in the martial arts more like 1% of the population (this includes kids who are by far the bulk of the students in most martial arts schools. Aikido is usually different with the majority of students coming from the adult population. So the adult figure may be less than 1%).

Your other figures are pretty spot on I think.

Rocky Izumi 11-24-2004 05:46 AM

Re: New Aikido Dojos (New Senseis)
Thanks George. Actually, I don't differ from the MA mags very much since they defined interested in training as actually going into the training rather than just interested. If you go to the point of actually enrolling in an Aikido class over a ten year period according to my estimates, the percentage of any population would be down at 0.25%. That means we are rather close. I just started at a different point and took a slightly different route to the assessment.

Glad you pointed that out. I better make sure I clarify my points of reference next time.


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