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ikkitosennomusha 03-16-2004 06:07 PM

Ethical Question
If the dojo you train required setting up the mats and you were the only one to show up to practice, do you think sensei is still obligated to train you?

If yes, what are your comments for your reasonning? If no, please justify your answer.

Brad Medling

ikkitosennomusha 03-16-2004 06:57 PM

After answering this, feel free to discuss your own story where integrity was comprimised.


Noel 03-16-2004 07:35 PM

We're in shared space, setting out and taking up mats is SOP. Typically, if the class is that small, we either set out fewer mats, or do jo kata.

I guess I'm kinda puzzled by your other questions, Brad. Your instructor, or whomever happens to be teaching has no more obligation to teach you than you have to dragging your butt to class, IMO.

If you're the only one besides the instructor, you are just as necessary as she (he) is, if practice is going to happen.

I'm not seeing how this feeds into compromised integrity, though. Were you refused the chance to practice?

Let me know, I'm curious,


Qatana 03-16-2004 07:41 PM

i think it well worth the ten minutes to set up 1/2 the mats for a private lesson.

Erik 03-16-2004 08:07 PM


Noel Kurth (Noel) wrote:
Your instructor, or whomever happens to be teaching has no more obligation to teach you than you have to dragging your butt to class, IMO.

Well, if he's collecting monthly dues then it seems to me that he does have an obligation.

ikkitosennomusha 03-16-2004 08:10 PM

Hi Noel:

The scnerio I proposed was from my own experience in the early days. There was many occasions I would drive a one hour trip, one way, to train and since I was the only one to show up, sensei felt like cancelling class! Therefore my desire to train was rejected.

The scope of the thread is to see how some of you feel about that from a sensei/student perspective. I was hoping that some of you'alls responses might enlighten folks should they come across this situation and may be better prepared to react. Thanks.

Brad Medling

ikkitosennomusha 03-16-2004 08:15 PM

I agree %100 with Eric and Joel! Preach on Eric!

Erik 03-16-2004 08:54 PM


Brad Medling (ikkitosennomusha) wrote:
The scnerio I proposed was from my own experience in the early days. There was many occasions I would drive a one hour trip, one way, to train and since I was the only one to show up, sensei felt like cancelling class!

Brad, in fairness to the instructor, it sucks when one or none show up. It can, in fact, be extremely discouraging. I was teaching one night a week at a school that was extremely small and starving for students. I never knew if anyone would show up and I have no idea how it's stayed open. It must be a financial disaster.

One night I got caught in traffic and was late, first time that year as I'm rarely late, and it so happened that a new student had shown up. He came by later and mentioned it as I worked out by myself. After he left I realized that I was starting to hope that no one would show up because I was mostly doing private lessons, or nearly as often, no lesson.

When I realized that I closed the class for a couple of reasons. One is that while the dojo was open every night they might be better off if they taught fewer classes. Get more people on the mat at the same time and make it seem busier than it was. Secondly, if the teacher isn't wanting to teach there is nothing worse for the student. Larger classes can build a nice energy that can cover a less energetic teacher but one-on-one there is just no way.

Anyways, you asked.

By the way, it's Erik and Jo. I've met Jo and she's not a Joe.

Qatana 03-16-2004 09:07 PM

Thanks Erik.

I do have to say that on the nights i Have been the only student my teacher & i would discuss cancelling class, or going for a beer, anything to make the hour he just drove to teach worthwhile.Usually we just set up the mats & maybe someone else will show up late.

As he teaches from the goodness of his heart, my monthly dues are moot.

ikkitosennomusha 03-16-2004 10:00 PM

Great comments!

Sorry about the typo Jo. To get further into detail. The sensei, at that time, was teaching is a university gym for free. Our old mats were even donated. He was collecting $45/month pure profit with no overhead. There were sevearl occasions that for some reason or another I would be the only one to show up. I was dissapointed the whole hour trip back as it was a waste of an afternoon. It was known that I was a poor college student that made great sacrifices to be there. The sensei and the other students lived about 5-10 minuites away and took practice for granted, whereas I did not.

Also, I had alot of problems with basketball practice in the gym. I would show up and the universtity would be practicing ball either because sensei (who works at that university) either did not reserve the gym in time or basketball sometimes took prescidence. In either case, he knew what a trip I have to make to train and could have checked in advance to see if things were kosher so at least I could get the proper courtesy call if we were not going to have practice.

Yes, with one person it is hard to get in the mood but when we are not in the mood to go to work, do we have the luxury to deny our employer? Would a preacher turn away those who sought his sermon? I could live with this on occasion but there were time this would happen 3-5 times a month!

Like the point that was made earlier, if he is collecting dues and just one person made the effort to show up, then that person came to learn some aikido! Many people train aikido alone as in another thread, so what would be terrible about 2 people? It could be that one seeks gratification among the masses and is not in a humble state of mind to accomodate the few??

Brad Medling

batemanb 03-17-2004 01:26 AM

We have to set up and dismantle the mat before and after keiko. More often than not, there are only two of us to set up, one if either of us are absent or late.

Occasionally. we will only get two or three students to class, we don't cancel, but we may shorten the class, and reduce the mat fee for the night.

If someone has made the effort to show up, I'm more than happy to work with them, we'll both get something out of it.



happysod 03-17-2004 03:50 AM

I'm with Erik & Jo, if you've already paid, then yes the sensei has an obligation. If you haven't then no, there's no real obligation, just general courtesy and manners.

This has happened to me as both teacher and student. As the teacher I have always taken the class, but do plead guilty to sometimes finishing a bit earlier (20 mins - half an hour) if the student was relatively inexperienced as I find I had ran through all I intended to teach quicker with just one student and we were both soggy messes on the mat. (I also state my intentions prior to the start of the class and adjust the cost accordingly)

As the student I was happy to accept a beer waza on one occasion instead as I was feeling a wuss that day anyway and the dojo was bloody freezing.

Mary Eastland 03-17-2004 05:17 AM

There is also liabilty to be considered. If only one student shows up and something happened and someone was hurt or made accusations about sexual harrassment there is no one else there to give their point of veiw.

For me it would depend on who the one student was and how I felt on that particular day.

Mary Eastland

Berkshire Hills Aikido

rachmass 03-17-2004 05:40 AM

Like Erik, I have (and am unfortunately often still) been in the situation where only one person shows up for class and I end up doing a private class. Because of this, I have cut down on the classes I offer in order to hopefully boost the attendance in the other classes. In the 1.5 years I've been running the dojo, I've cancelled once (or twice) when someone showed up alone, and it was only because I was too depressed by the situation to teach (it was the third or fourth time in a row). Otherwise we do bokken work, or a particular aspect of ukemi, or whatever. I feel I have an obligation to my students, no matter what. But if I am not in a state to teach, then it is really hard to do! I have one student who drives 45 minutes to class, and I would NEVER cancel on him; he's made a huge effort to get there. The class I did cancel the student came about 20 minutes drive, and in retrospect, I should have taught anyway.

This is my feeling of obligation to the students who put their trust in me. I feel very honored that they have done so, and would never conciously do anything to compromise that trust (and not teaching when they have come for class would do just that).

SeiserL 03-17-2004 08:09 AM

IMHO, since "ehtical" usually refers to the stndards sets by some professional organization, and there are very few professional organizations in Aikido that set and police those standards, and your instructor would have to belong to that organization for them to have jurisdiction over him, this may not be an "ehtical" question.

OTOH, if they agreed to teach a class at a certain time for a certain fee, and you paid that fee and showed up at that time, IMHO your agreement with them would require them to teach.

Qatana 03-17-2004 08:41 AM

Just to clarify, once more, for me, personally, i believe it is my teacher's decision whether to have class or go to the movies.

The man is 74 years old, he drives an hour to the dojo in each direction, and i have not yet had him cancel class due to only having one student show up.

philipsmith 03-17-2004 09:26 AM

I have rarely cancelled classes and never just because only one student turns up. I started an Iai-do class with one student; just me & him for two years but now it's 10 strong.

I look on it as a chance to train for myself, after all time to train is limited particularly when you teach.

aikidocapecod 03-17-2004 10:00 AM

I have been on both student and as instructor.

As a student, when Sensei and I were the only people on the mat, out of respect to Sensei, I asked him if he would rather forgo class that evening. As it was a very infrequest occurance, I did not see it as finacial loss.

Indeed, I would take the opportunity to discuss an area I was lacking....most areas!!

and also to do some dojo cleaning.

As an instructor, if the student wished to practice, then practice we did. I learn something each time I step on the mat as student or instructor. So I find a class of 2 or a class of 22 is always a learning experience.

But to the Sensei obligated to teach to a class of one? Much Aikido is learned from the fine art of "carefully watching". It is very difficult to see what Sensei is doing as you are flying through the air. If a class of one occurs often, then that is an expected class size and Sensei should teach. If a class of one happens once or twice a year.....give Sensei a break...and give her/him a Heineken

Erik 03-17-2004 10:03 AM


Jo Adell (Qatana) wrote:
The man is 74 years old, he drives an hour to the dojo in each direction, and i have not yet had him cancel class due to only having one student show up.

Bob Noha? 74? Really?

ikkitosennomusha 03-17-2004 11:06 AM

Very enlightening comments from all! Yeah, I would't fret over one or two occurences of this situation but for a while it was happening frequently. I can see everyone's point of view! Thanks! This will help others also when they come across this as a teacher/student. Perhaps the right thing to do is ask the student if he/she wants to train? You never know, some days when I don't feel like training turns out to be some of my best days of training!

Brad Medling

Hanna B 03-17-2004 01:40 PM

I have been the only student showing up for class once. At that occasion, it was perfect because I really needed to discuss my upcoming shodan test - so we skipped the class, to talk instead. Don't remember who suggested it first.

I have taught classes with a single student - not so many times, maybe half a dozen times. I saw two very different reactions in the student:

1) Wow! Private lesson.

2) I really, really hate to get this much attention, with the instructor looking at me and talking to me all the time. (This despite the fact that I really tried not to overteach, but to mainly train with the student and not comment on everything he or she did).

If you have seen version 2 a few times, then maybe you prefer to cancel the class. I would think, though, that a student with this attitude is a probable dropout anyway, while the "wow! private lesson" is someone who will stay, at least for a while. I wouldn't talk about "ethics", well maybe if there is any amount of money involved as others already have pointed out. It seems to me that the teacher who cancels a class where he has one eager student, does not care much about his students. If you & the teacher agree to do something else together, that's fine but I would feel really lousy having spent my time travelling to class if it just was cancelled. If that happened repeatedly, I would quit showing up myself and if possible find someplace else to train.

I must strongly disgree with Larry Murrel. I find it extremely worth while to feel my teachers techniques, not just watch them. I really like being one of three students on the mat, and having the teacher training with the students.

Qatana 03-17-2004 01:44 PM

Bob Noha? 74? Really?


No, i wasn't referring to Bob! I would refer to him as Sensei anyway. No Bob is 53. Training 40 years this year!

My teacher for the Monday night beginners class is Bill Misson, also a long-time student of Nadeau Sensei.

ikkitosennomusha 03-17-2004 03:48 PM

Excellent comment Hanna! I totally agree!


Erik 03-17-2004 04:19 PM


Jo Adell (Qatana) wrote:
No, i wasn't referring to Bob! I would refer to him as Sensei anyway. No Bob is 53. Training 40 years this year!

That's better! You had me wondering what they put in the water up there. Ok, I can guess that one! ;)

Qatana 03-17-2004 06:38 PM

Shall i say i resemble that remark?

Uh-oh, looks like we're in danger of hijacking this thread...

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